Strange Phrases You Might Hear at Your Software Job

I’ve been a professional web developer for a couple years now, but I still remember the first time I heard the phrase “reason about” in some tutorial I was watching. My first thought was “what did he just say?” So I played that part of the video again to make sure I heard what I thought I did. Yes, he did say “reason about”. After doing a quick google search, I realized it’s a pretty common term in the industry. This post is about the strange phrases used in software engineering that you might want to know.

Reason about This generally means understanding the way the code works just by looking at it, what (if any side effects it has), and understanding it well enough to rewrite it if you need to. Used in a sentence: “The code should be easy to reason about.”

Spin up

This usually means “to start a server”, but can also mean to quickly start something small, like a meeting or a piece of code. Used in a sentence: “We’ll need to spin up a Docker instance.”


This term is usually used when a team is spending too much time on unimportant details. It can be a sign that the problem being discussed is too complicated, which causes the people on the team to focus on relatively minor details because they are easier to grasp. Imagine trying to solve a massive problem like how to build a stadium, but since no one knows where to start, the conversation turns to something everyone has an opinion on, like what color the bikeshed should be. Used in a sentence: “I’m guilty of it too, but the bikeshedding in that meeting was off the charts.”


This is when an organization makes its employees use its own products in order to test their quality. The term probably came about when management at dog food companies would eat their own dog food to ensure it was up to par. Used in a sentence: “We need to dogfood this for the next few weeks since the release is only two months away.”

And that’s it! By the way, if you think your interview will give you an algorithm question to solve, check out my YouTube channel Terrible Whiteboard where I have solutions to a ton of algorithms.

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