Old dependencies are your second biggest technical debt

Written by: Florian Motlik

Image by Mark Setchell

Being able to introduce changes into your application is incredibly important. Having outdated dependencies slows you down in various ways.

Stay fast, stay up to date

First of all new versions often include new features that help you build a better product. Staying up to date with the latest version and features will reduce the effort when you eventually have to update all your dependencies. The second problem will appear when you have to fix a bug caused by one dependency.

If you stay up to date, it is easier to fix the bug by updating the one dependency. Due to the complexity of software updating one dependency may require you to update others as well. If that pile of outdated code grows, the time you need to update it increases exponentially. We know this pain very well. Even though we update regularly only a slip of 3 months for some of our libraries caused a big pain to bring everything up to date. If we did it immediately it would have taken far less time to get all the tests to pass again.

No tests are your biggest technical debt

Your biggest technical debt is and always will be not having tests. Not being able to verify that the latest change didn't break some other part of your application will cost you endlessly every single day.

You can rewrite any part of your application to make it better, as long as you have a way to prove that your application still works. But you can't prove it without tests. This is especially important if you update your dependencies regularly. After each update you can automatically test that your application still works.

With this workflow in place you are one stop closer to building a great product quicker than ever before. We have recently written about how to get started with testing. It pays off immediately.


In our team speed and being able to change our application frequently and quickly is one of the biggest assets. By using tools like Versioneye,Gemnasium or simply bundle outdated we make sure that we are up to date and keep moving fast building the best product we can. We've seen many teams struggle with taking the time to update regularly and write tests.

Having a process in place that takes care of this helped a lot of teams, e.g. updating all dependencies every two weeks. Taking care of the small steps today can go a long way in preventing you from taking a huge hit to your development tomorrow.

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