Rob Pike’s 5 Rules of Programming
Rule 1. You can’t tell where a program is going to spend its time. Bottlenecks occur in surprising places, so don’t try to second guess and put in a speed hack until you’ve proven that’s where the bottleneck is.
Rule 2. Measure. Don’t tune for speed until you’ve measured, and even then don’t unless one part of the code overwhelms the rest.
Rule 3. Fancy algorithms are slow when n is small, and n is usually small. Fancy algorithms have big constants. Until you know that n is frequently going to be big, don’t get fancy. (Even if n does get big, use Rule 2 first.)
Rule 4. Fancy algorithms are buggier than simple ones, and they’re much harder to implement. Use simple algorithms as well as simple data structures.
Rule 5. Data dominates. If you’ve chosen the right data structures and organized things well, the algorithms will almost always be self-evident. Data structures, not algorithms, are central to programming.
A bit more can be found at the source here: http://users.ece.utexas.edu/~adnan/pike.html
In my experience, I’ve come across Rule 1 enough times to know how to avoid the lesser obvious bottlenecks (which for me generally focus on data merging). I’ve definitely come across Rule 4. Rule 5 trumps them all, as it were. A deep understanding of the appropriateness of data structures is core to good code. Rules 2 and 3 don’t generally impact my day-to-day programming.
Via Hacker News, which I’m sure will lead to a killer comments thread.