Monday, 28 September 2009

Literate Programming

A while back I wrote a rather lengthy entry about the significance of strong and clear naming conventions, and I spent some time explaining how well-defined, unambiguously named methods with to-the-point parameter names end up reading like sentences out of a book.

Today a friend pointed me to the Literate Programming website, where the following snippet can be found:

"I believe that the time is ripe for significantly better documentation of programs, and that we can best achieve this by considering programs to be works of literature. Hence, my title: 'Literate Programming.'

Let us change our traditional attitude to the construction of programs: Instead of imagining that our main task is to instruct a computer what to do, let us concentrate rather on explaining to human beings what we want a computer to do.

The practitioner of literate programming can be regarded as an essayist, whose main concern is with exposition and excellence of style. Such an author, with thesaurus in hand, chooses the names of variables carefully and explains what each variable means. He or she strives for a program that is comprehensible because its concepts have been introduced in an order that is best for human understanding, using a mixture of formal and informal methods that reinforce each other."

When I read this I immediately thought: YES! This is exactly what I've been trying to say. Code should not be a language for a select 'elite' that prides itself on obscurity. It should be something that can be read with ease and even by someone with very little technical understanding. I dare say that if you achieve that, you've achieved maintainable code.

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