Monday, November 28, 2005

Does Tookie Williams Write Unmaintainable Code?

I had written a grand analysis of “Tookie” Williams, the death penalty, and what it means to earn clemency. I had driven deep down into my anti-death penalty soul to come to the conclusion that while I, private citizen, would happily argue against the death penalty, I, pretend governator, would not rise to commute the sentence.

If I were Lord Ruler of Californialand, Tookie would die, and I would feel extra guilty for a bit.

Of course, it took thousands of words to get to that point. When I’d arrived, I looked around at that pile of political thought, and said, “Screw it.”

Even I wasn’t interested in my views on capital punishment and Tookie Williams today.

So, instead, for all my geek friends, I offer a link to a rather lengthy essay:How to Write Unmaintainable Code.

A taste.

To foil the maintenance programmer, you have to understand how he thinks.  He has your giant program.  He has no time to read it all, much less understand it.  He wants to rapidly find the place to make his change, make it and get out and have no unexpected side effects from the change. 

He views your code through a toilet paper tube.  He can only see a tiny piece of your program at a time.  You want to make sure he can never get at the big picture from doing that. You want to make it as hard as possible for him to find the code he is looking for.  But even more important, you want to make it as awkward as possible for him to safely ignore anything. 

Programmers are lulled into complacency by conventions.  By every once in a while, by subtly violating convention, you force him to read every line of your code with a magnifying glass. 

Notably, I’m pretty sure that most programmers would support the death penalty for anyone who actually follows the guidelines suggested in the essay. And they would be fully justified.


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