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22 insults no developer wants to hear

Peter Wayner | April 12, 2016
Flame wars in the bug tracker might be exactly the right (harsh) feedback your code needs


Funny, there’s a whole department bent on relating what’s human in us to the economic term "resource." It seems vital to our employability to at least appear to be resourceful. But if a programmer calls you a resource, he might as well call you a Lego brick in the wall or another cog in the machine. You’re not even a piece of meat -- you're an automaton or function call that spits code.


Crufty: A design that’s tossed together, often with leftover detritus from other projects. A cobbled-together mess assembled with little foresight or intelligence. A sloppy, stitched-together Frankenstein that barely works. Take your pick, when you see the word “crufty.” Likely, it’s not only your code they’re commenting on; it might be you and your ideas.


In Unix world, the null device is a black hole that forgets all information sent to it. It’s mainly used to test device drivers and other code that processes data. As a metaphor, it’s a perfect offhand way to say the memo you wrote isn’t worth storing on disk or sending to the printer.


Sometimes you don’t have time to polish that side project you put together on the weekends, only to find 2,000 other devs suddenly depend on it. With the second wave of interest come the insults. What is this thrown-together repo in a single file? A solution that’s expedient, not elegant. A cob job. A virtual collection of baling wire and duct tape designed in an instant because that’s all the time there is. This is how your code gets to wear a badge marked “kluge.” At best your programming is seen as a fix that may succeed temporarily but will eventually fail because it isn’t thorough enough to solve the problem correctly -- even if it stands the test of time.


Code will generally start to fail as the operating system, libraries, or other systems are updated. The newer versions have more features, take different parameters, or sometimes make different assumptions. In other cases, the programmers have fixed a bug that your code assumed was there. The old code doesn’t fail completely, at least at first. But it starts to get creaky as more and more calls to the OS or the libraries begin to fail. If you don’t invest in renewing your knowledge and improving your code, you start to rot like an old fish. Folks can be harsh when pointing this out.


Electricity travels through a stream of electrons. Light travels via photons. Stupidity? The bogon particle is responsible for bogus behavior and general bogosity. You'd better hope the bogon flux through your fingertips and the keyboard isn’t measurable. (Note: Opposite of a cluon.)


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