Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Code considered harmful

As developers, we often glibly talk of code and coding.

These words do us a tremendous disservice, as they imply that the source documents that we write are in some way encoded, or obfuscated, and so only interpretable by the high priests of the technocracy.

This might give us a moment of egotistical warmth, and provide fuel to our collective superiority complex, but in the long run it does a tremendous amount of harm to the industry.

We would be better served if we insisted (as is indeed the case) that a source document, well written in a high-level programming language is entirely legible to the intelligent layperson.

Whatever view you take on linguistic relativity; whether you believe that our choice of words actually affects our attitudes or not, I think (event from a purely aesthetic point of view) that the word "code" is as ugly as it is arrogant.

Perhaps, rather than talking about "code", we should talk about source documents, process descriptions, executable specifications, procedures or even just logic.

Let us acknowledge, in the words that we choose, that a central part of our jobs is to craft formal descriptions that are as easily interpretable by the human mind as by the grinding of an automaton.