A pleasant walk through computing

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One Sheet Summary: Leadership is Language

I make these to post on my wall and help me learn the subject. Be sure to read the book!

Seriously, read Mr Marquet's entire excellent book. It's so packed that this summary doesn't do it justice.

Download the PDF Version

NuGet 5.7+ Ignores NuSpec CSProj Replacement Tokens - and other weird behaviors

A stellar sleuth discovered that the error messages are related to whether the nuget.exe executable's "Unblock" attribute is checked. When it is (i.e. the file is unblocked), the error message doesn't occur. While it's still a bug, at least there's a solid workaround.

I submitted this issue in on 2020-08-28. It's had some comments and confirmations, but the moderators are having trouble reproducing it. I'm hoping this will help.

Source Code: ClassLibrary1.zip


Here's the link to the issue.

NuGet again throwing exceptions "authors is required" "description is required", ignoring csproj/nuspec replacement tokens · Issue #9954


Windows 10 Pro
Visual Studio 2019
.NET Framework 4.8

More Info

There are multiple failures being reported below. The fundamental one is that NuGet 5.7 and above ignore token replacements in .nuspec files from .NET Framework project .csproj files.

Steps to Reproduce


Check the Windows PATH environment variables (System Properties > Advanced > Environment Variables) at the user and system levels and be sure that no version of nuget.exe is on the path. One way to verify is to open a new command window and type nuget. If there's output, nuget is on the path.

A reboot may be required for the computer to recognize the path change. Normally, it only takes closing completely out of the System Properties editor.

Remember to open a new command window after PATH changes so the environment variable is reloaded.


  1. In Visual Studio, create a new .NET Framework Console Application.

  1. Open Properties\AssemblyInfo.cs add the values that are substituted for $description and $author:
    [assembly: AssemblyDescription("Desc")]
    [assembly: AssemblyConfiguration("")]
    [assembly: AssemblyCompany("Name")]
  2. Download NuGet 5.7 https://www.nuget.org/downloads
  3. Copy to the project folder
  4. Rename to nuget.exe.

It's important that the file be named nuget.exe.

  1. In the ClassLibrary1.csproj project folder, run

    nuget spec
  2. Reduce the resulting ClassLibrary1.nuspec file to the minimum required properties

    <?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-8"?>
    <package >
  3. Build the project or solution.

  4. In project folder, run nuget pack

Expected: Successful build of new package

Actual: Error that Author and Description are missing:

Attempting to build package from 'ClassLibrary1.csproj'.
MSBuild auto-detection: using msbuild version '' from 'C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft Visual Studio\2019\Community\MSBuild\Current\Bin'.
Packing files from 'C:\Users\charl\source\repos\ClassLibrary1\ClassLibrary1\bin\Debug'.
Using 'ClassLibrary1.nuspec' for metadata.
Authors is required.
Description is required.

NuGet 5.6 Behavior

  1. In the above environment, replace the nuget.exe version 5.7 with version 5.6.

    It's important that the file be named nuget.exe.

  2. Run nuget pack

The pack succeeds.

Attempting to build package from 'ClassLibrary1.csproj'.
MSBuild auto-detection: using msbuild version '' from 'C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft Visual Studio\2019\Community\MSBuild\Current\Bin'.
Packing files from 'C:\Users\charl\source\repos\ClassLibrary1\ClassLibrary1\bin\Debug'.
Using 'ClassLibrary1.nuspec' for metadata.
Successfully created package 'C:\Users\charl\source\repos\ClassLibrary1\ClassLibrary1\ClassLibrary1.1.0.0.nupkg'.
WARNING: NU5128: Some target frameworks declared in the dependencies group of the nuspec and the lib/ref folder do not have exact matches in the other location. Consult the list of actions below:
- Add a dependency group for .NETFramework4.8 to the nuspec

NuGet 5.8 and 5.9 preview Behaviors

Both versions exhibit the same bug as 5.7.

Behavior When Renaming nuget.exe

  1. Copy version 5.6 into the project folder
  2. Rename it nugetx.exe (It doesn't matter what it's renamed to, as long as it isn't nuget.exe)
  3. Run nugetx.exe pack

Unlike when named nuget.exe, version 5.6 pack fails with the unexpected error!

Attempting to build package from 'ClassLibrary1.csproj'.
MSBuild auto-detection: using msbuild version '' from 'C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft Visual Studio\2019\Community\MSBuild\Current\Bin'.
Packing files from 'C:\Users\charl\source\repos\ClassLibrary1\ClassLibrary1\bin\Debug'.
Using 'ClassLibrary1.nuspec' for metadata.
Authors is required.
Description is required.

Behavior When Two NuGet files in Path

  1. Copy version 5.6 into the project folder and rename to nuget.exe
  2. Copy version 5.6 again into the project folder and rename to nugetx.exe
  3. Run nuget pack
  4. Run nugetx pack

In both cases, the pack succeeds.

Real World Concerns

Many organizations will, in a continuous deployment environment, use a known path to the latest NuGet package and expect it to be named nuget.exe. As seen above, those organizations will suddenly find themselves with failing package steps.

In order to continue, they must either stay on version 5.6 and accept the potential security issues there, or rework their pipeline.

Tech Debt - You can't put maintenance last if you want to drive a race car

SPYDERMAN360, CC BY 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Originally posted at Clear Measure

The Nurture Bit

When I was growing up, I spent part of my summers with my grandparents in Oklahoma. I was inculcated into the value of maintenance early on. My grandfather did most of his own car maintenance and repair. I'm not talking about just an oil and filter change. Back then, a determined car owner could virtually rebuild an entire automobile.

My grandfather had a car lift in his garage.

Imagine if Danica Patrick or Jeff Gordon was told just before a race "sorry, we didn't fix your brakes because the boss said to paint a new sponsor's logo on the car. Maybe next time." I personally don't have to imagine what happens if you don't replace your tires. I did a 360 on the highway because of balding tires in snow.

To me, paying down technical debt, refactoring, cleaning up documentation, is just part of what a development shop must do. Likewise, operations must keep computers updated. However, I've seen many organizations where maintenance is treated by management as optional, or worse, as a profit obstacle. And I've seen just as many developers and network engineers avoid maintenance. Why? What are the consequences? Do they matter?

The Nature Bit

There are several reasons humans metaphorically--and actually--don't change their oil or replace their Access 97 applications. Among them,

  • It's still working, and "if it ain't broke" . . . well, you know the rest.
  • We're not good at long-term planning and "tend to opt for immediate rewards."
  • We're adaptable. Very. Hedonic adaptation, for example, has its good points, but not when it keeps us from fixing those security holes that we "really should get to someday."
  • We think it's too expensive in dollars, time, effort, or any combination of those. As Mac Smith puts it in this article, "One of the things that has NOT changed very much is the age-old management perception that maintenance is just a necessary evil and unfortunate cost center."

In my experience, maintenance such as paying down technical debt is treated as second-class, something you might have time to do after you're done writing your software and fixing bugs. Management too often sees it as similar to employees reading about business improvement between support calls; "you can do that on your own time." And while we software developers know refactoring is important, how often do we not do it just because (we feel) there isn't time?

Technical Debt is Really Debt

Measuring and reporting technical debt can be challenging. You'll find articles saying it's harder than measuring financial debt. But they all agree that technical debt translates to real dollars. We're talking potentially big numbers.

Based on this definition [the cost of fixing the structural quality problems in an application that, if left unfixed, puts the business at serious risk] and the analysis of 1400 applications containing 550 million lines of code submitted by 160 organizations, CRL estimate that the Technical Debt of an average-sized application of 300,000 lines of code (LOC) is $1,083,000. This represents an average Technical Debt per LOC of $3.61. --Technical Debt Estimation - CAST

Technical debt is unavoidable. Like buying an office building, as soon as you create software you have dollars of technical debt. Business owners pay for regular building maintenance, why not regular software maintenance? The question for organizations is, "does not cleaning up code really affect my profit?" I think unless shown otherwise, you should assume the answer is yes. Here's a list of impacts.

  • Technical Debt increases time-to-market and development costs. How?
    • Increased security risks The best way to increase the chances of your data being stolen every day? Don't prioritize auditing and daily maintaining your software.
    • Time to understand code The "dirtier" the code base, the longer it takes developers to understand an already complex system. I've experienced code that regularly took me three times longer than it should have to figure out.
    • Increased likelihood of introducing bugs The harder code is to understand, the more likely you'll break something when adding a new feature. Automated Testing helps with this, but older code often isn't written to make testing easy.
    • Decreased maintainability Ever tried to find a part for a 1980s appliance you dearly love? Multiply that by a thousand and that's what it's costing your business each day your developers struggle with old or poorly architected code.
    • Harder to replace Software components eventually have to be replaced. But it's not like replacing your car's tires. It's more like replacing all the galvanized pipe in a thirty-story five-star hotel filled with Hollywood stars before the Emmys.
    • Prone to outages The authors of Meltdown found that highly complicated, tightly-coupled systems will inevitably, unpredictably fail. Software is--you guessed it--by its nature prone to complexity and coupling.
    • Employee depression leading to apathy and increased turnover An overlooked cost of technical debt is the health toll it takes, nicely expressed in the article Technical Debt is Soul-crushing
    • The inability to quickly respond to changing requirements and priorities Consider the above points. If it takes longer to understand, maintain, fix, and introduce new features to existing code, how can the developers pivot and respond quickly to new market conditions? It's hard to turn a submarine. Now imagine trying to turn a fleet of subs. Managing technical debt transforms those submarines into James Bond sports cars.

I'm Convinced. I Think. What Do I Do?

Like buying an old house that you learn has plumbing, electric, and foundation problems . . . but you gotta live there so you can't just tear it down . . . technical debt can be overwhelming. The answer to overwhelm is chunking down the work load and choosing tasks wisely.

1. Forget the Blame

It's not anyone's fault. Or it's everyone's fault. Regardless, the way forward is to act like scientists and colleagues. Get curious. Fix the problem, not the blame.

2. Accept Change, Especially at the Top

Technical debt has been created as much from the top of the organization as from the coders. Every time a project was made "top priority," and teams were asked "how do we work around that to release faster?" without also saying "but then it needs to be done right, immediately," executives reduced the abililty to stay fleet-footed. Execs and devs must both change. It'll be for the better.

3. Measure For Reality

How will you define technical debt? How will you discover it? How will you measure it? The answers to these questions lead to facts, and facts often aren't comfortable things to face. You can do this yourself, but I recommend partnering with an outside company such as Clear Measure1, who doesn't share the organization's culture or biases. Be sure they use evidence-based metrics such as the DORA group's four key metrics of high-performing teams.

4. Improve a Little, a Lot

With facts in hand, you have ways of measuring progress. Choose an easy win that the developers agree will help them. Not the executives. Not project managers. Developers. This gives them ownership of their purpose. I again recommend they accept coaching just like a top racer or athlete does. Utlimately, though, they'll find their solution through their autonomy and mastery. Next, repeat. A one-percent improvement each day is realistic and sustainable.

5. Celebrate

Every success needs a reward, especially the little ones. Repeated behaviors with rewards become habits, and that's what we want when it comes to software maintenance and paying down technical debt.

References and Further Reading

  1. Disclosure: I'm an employee of Clear Measure.