8 min read

What Lies Beneath A Code Gen Tool And Why It Matters

Navigating the realm of Large Language Models (LLMs) and code generation tools requires a discerning eye. Explore the nuances of data training, tool selection, and integration challenges in software development.
Written by
Jonathan Mitchell
Published on
June 14, 2024

Not all Large Language Models (LLMs) are created equal. That’s an important fact that must be understood. But, what leads to these different types of LLMs? Data is the foundation, the key. The type of data used in training an LLM determines its output. This is important because LLMs enable code generation tools to function properly, and these tools have become commonplace as organizations seek to amplify and enhance developer efficiency and productivity. So, what’s the rub?

The hard pill to swallow is that these code-gen capabilities have been bastardized into a productivity tool. What was meant to be a resource to lean on has become a scheme used by organizations trying to augment developers without understanding the core aspects of the tool and technology being used. When you use an ax to eat broccoli, you have a problem. That’s what led to these curious cases of code generation tools lauding capability while failing to deliver on promises made. If you have an engineer who doesn’t know how to read code or a client who doesn’t know what they want, try adding this tool to the mix. It’s a recipe for disaster. That’s why the type of tool, and really the technology underneath it, matters in software development.

What Are Code Generation Tools?

First, let’s establish a basic understanding of what’s being touted as the next step in developer productivity. Code generation tools have become increasingly popular in the world of software development. These tools automate the process of generating code from high-level specifications, saving developers time and effort. By choosing a code generation tool that utilizes an LLM with advanced optimization techniques, software developers can significantly improve the efficiency and performance of the generated code, resulting in faster and more responsive software applications. However, if the initial investigation into the LLM and the type of data used in its training never occurs, there’s a decent chance the final output will be bug-ridden and unusable.

As the hysteria increases surrounding AI’s ability to replace engineers, ironically, so has the usage of AI tools. Code generation is just one example. However, it’s significant in importance due to its foundational function of software development. You can’t develop a product without code. A series of 1s and 0s that turn visions and ideas into reality. It’s integral and fundamental. So, having something that could help in the rapid and accurate generation of such a cornerstone is a boon. The issue is that even though it may be rapid, accuracy and maintainability continue to warrant scrutiny from users. Serious scrutiny.

Weaknesses Of Traditional Code Generation Tools

A notable shortcoming of traditional code generation tools is their lack of seamless integration with other software development tools. Even though organizations try to avoid having too many options in the toolbox, developers rely on a myriad of tools throughout a typical software development lifecycle. A potential lack of integration can lead to several challenges, including difficulties in automating builds and deployments. It’s not exactly what you want out of something that’s supposed to boost developer productivity and efficiency.

Additionally, the world of software development is constantly changing, with new languages, frameworks, and methodologies emerging seemingly on a daily basis. This dynamism requires tools that can adapt and evolve in tandem with these changes. Unfortunately, many traditional code-generation tools fall short in this respect. Their limited adaptability to the ever-changing technology landscape can restrict their long-term utility. And now the tool touted for reducing development time actually becomes a contributor to delays. A lack of adaptability oftentimes leads to more time spent in the coding process as developers grapple with compatibility issues or resort to manual coding. Again, this is the antithesis of the tool is supposed to be accomplishing.

Shortcuts Lead To Poor Outcomes

So, why do some of these tools fail while others succeed? One common oversight is underestimating the value of a diverse and representative training dataset. A person who’s lived in a small town their entire life has a certain perspective, but that viewpoint won’t be representative of the world as a whole. Taking a similar approach when it comes to data collection and training will only lead to subpar results. In the interest of time, many organizations opt for readily available datasets, developing limited and inaccurate models.

When a model is not trained using a diverse dataset, it can produce flawed outputs. This goes hand in hand with shortcuts in the testing and validation phase. An adequately trained model should undergo rigorous testing under various conditions to ensure its capability. However, in their haste, organizations often skimp on this crucial step, leading to the deployment of models that are prone to errors. That obviously wasn’t the initial vision when starting the process, but it shows the importance of having the right pieces in place that seek quality over a quick solution.

Tools Of The Future

The ballooning space of AI and AI-enabled tools will improve as time goes on. However, it’s integral that best practices and high-quality data lead the way in this process. Otherwise, subpar products utilizing subpar data will continue causing issues. As time passes it’s imperative industry leaders and innovators continue refining and streamlining these models. There’s no point in making an offering if the capability doesn't exist to begin with, and clients only have so much patience for failure.

What Can You Actually Do?

It may be tempting to overcomplicate next steps here, so let's avoid that pitfall. There's a simple way to go about determine the right course of action. If you have a strong engineering team augment them with tools that will help them get better. If you dont have a strong engineering team, you should think of hiring one before you start dabbling in new toolsets. It's important to do this in order, otherwise you'll pay for products that'll never get used and deal with subpar quality when it's all said and done. Be smart about your approach and then reap the rewards.

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