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9 years ago
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Paul Ford: What is Code?

“You can write elegant, high-level code like F. Scott Fitzgerald, and the computer will compile you into Ernest Hemingway. But compilers often do several passes, turning code into simpler code, then simpler code still, from Fitzgerald, to Hemingway, to Stephen King, to Stephenie Meyer, all the way down to Dan Brown, each phase getting less readable and more repetitive as you go.”

“When people started talking about conference behavior, they also began to talk about the larger problems of programming culture. This was always an issue, but the conference issues gave people a point of common reference. Why were there so many men in this field? Why do they behave so strangely? Why is it so hard for them to be in groups with female programmers and behave in a typical, adult way?”

“Being an advocate for Smalltalk is a little like being very into Slovenian cinema or free jazz. Some of its advocates are particularly brilliant people. I’m not one of them.”

“Coding is a culture of blurters. This can yield fast decisions, but it penalizes people who need to quietly compose their thoughts, rewarding fast-twitch thinkers who harrumph efficiently. Programmer job interviews, which often include abstract and meaningless questions that must be answered immediately on a whiteboard, typify this culture. Regular meetings can become sniping matches about things that don’t matter. The shorthand term for that is ‘bikeshedding.’ (Who cares what color the bike shed is painted? Well …)”

“A great program is a letter from current you to future you or to the person who inherits your code. A generous humanistic document.”