Many it people think it’s a matter of style. One person writes poems, another likes to write really boring prose, but in the end of the day, both chunks of code do the same. They don’t. The first law of programming: code is read more than written. While functionally speaking, both chunks might look identical, functionality is only one of the many aspects of code. Robustness and maintainability, to name a few. Your code is not a black box, as it will be read and modified in the future, possibly by different people, maybe also by yourself. By coding without paying attention to style, you essentially make your code a black box, undecipherable for anybody.
Programmers are functional artists
Programming is an art and therefore, we are artists. However, we’re not the kind of artists that create purely for beauty. We are functional artists. We have a functional task as well as the duty to write beautiful code, because it is effective and thus lasts. Writing elegant code is our job. In a sense, this makes us similar to magazine lay-outers. Their job is to make articles readable, yet in the most pleasing way. This helps people find their way to the contents of those articles, just like great code helps people find their way to places they need to enhance.
Don’t pat yourself on the back because you can write complicated code. It’s likely you’re doing it wrong. Programming is understanding a problem well enough to be able to explain it as simple as possible to a machine. Defending sloppy code by claiming effectiveness is trying to hide what you don’t understand: the problem.
21 February 2013