[NetBehaviour] Code Is Not Literature

marc garrett marc.garrett at furtherfield.org
Thu Jan 23 13:29:13 CET 2014

Code Is Not Literature - or is it?

I was browsing Slashdot as one does and found a link to an article 
called ‘Code Is Not Literature’.

As I was reading this I was thinking of Mez and Alan Sondheim, and 
thought to myself - surely, if someone turns it into literature, then it 
is literature?

Anyway, have a read and see what you think…

"Hacker and author Peter Seibel has done a lot of work to adopt one of 
the most widely-accepted practices toward becoming a better programmer: 
reading high quality code. He's set up code-reading groups and 
interviewed other programmers to see what code they read. But he's come 
to learn that the overwhelming majority of programmers don't practice 
what they preach. Why? He says, 'We don't read code, we decode it. We 
examine it. A piece of code is not literature; it is a specimen.' He 
relates an anecdote from Donald Knuth about figuring out a Fortran 
compiler, and indeed, it reads more like a 'scientific investigation' 
than the process we refer to as 'reading.' Seibel is now changing his 
code-reading group to account for this: 'So instead of trying to pick 
out a piece of code and reading it and then discussing it like a bunch 
of Comp Lit. grad students, I think a better model is for one of us to 
play the role of a 19th century naturalist returning from a trip to some 
exotic island to present to the local scientific society a discussion of 
the crazy beetles they found.'"

Here’s Seibel’s original text on his blog

wishing you well.


More information about the NetBehaviour mailing list