Friday, April 18, 2014

Code reading (and by extension, code presentation)

Here's an article by Peter Seibel I missed in January: Code is not Literature. Instead of reading code like literature seminars, we should rather consider presentation of code more like what naturalists do: "Look at the antenna on this monster! They look incredibly ungainly but the male of the species can use these to kill small frogs in whose carcass the females lay their eggs."

This really resonates with me, as it's more or less what I've got in mind with exegesis: a list of articles focusing on sections of the code, highlighting interesting techniques and extracting the knowledge embedded in it (and as the technology matures, also extracting some of that knowledge in a reusable form of some kind).

James Hague then weighs in today with "You don't read code, you explore it," saying essentially the same thing, and adding that only by interacting with the code does he feel as though he achieves true understanding (and mentioning Ken Iverson's interactive J presentations, which sound pretty interesting as well).

So there you go. What people are thinking about writing about code.

As practice, I've written two articles on in the past week and am well into a third: one on TRADOS 2007 and its language codes, so far presenting only a prototype script, a list of the codes used in a convenient format, and explaining a little about discoveries I made on the way; and one on Windows UAC and how to use it from Perl, which I backed up by publishing the module Win32::RunAsAdmin to CPAN.

If I can keep up something like this pace, I'll have fifty articles in a year. That's a lot of writing - and honestly, I have a lot of things to write about. I just wish there were more examples of writing about code for me to emulate. I'm still looking for source material.

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