This is something of a counterintuitive idea: Comments should be meaningless What, I hear you ask, are you talking about? Comments should communicate to the reader! At least that is the received conventional wisdom handed does over the last few centuries (decades at least). Well, certainly, if you are programming in Assembler, or C, then yes, comments should convey meaning because the programming language cannot So, conversely, as a comment on the programming language itself, anytime the programmer feels the imperative to write a meaningful comment it is because the language is not able to convey the intent of the programmer. I have already noticed that I write far fewer comments in my Java programs than in my C programs. That is because Java is able to capture more of my meaning and comments would be superfluous. So, if a language were able to capture all of my intentions, I would never need to write a comment. Hence the title of this blog.
Someone recently asked me why I was working on the particular topics that I was interested in. I am afraid that in the heat of the moment I had a reasonable but ultimately lame answer (something about reducing friction in the marketplace). In fact, the true answer is simpler and much more powerful. I want to be part of a 'professional' industry, and I believe that we are not really there yet. It is a constant source of amazement to me that there have not been any class action lawsuits against certain high profile software companies. I like the phrase safe and effective , which describes the basic requirements for medicines of course, but should be equally applicable to software. What would the benefits of being able to label a system safe and effective? Primarily it means that someone using the system has some assurance that the software will do what it is supposed to do, and that it wont lead you into trouble. Of course, if you take too many aspirin, or if you misuse a softwar
I have long been frustrated with all the different text mark up languages and word processors that I have used. There are many reasons for this; but the biggest issue is that markups (including very powerful ones like TeX) are not targeted at the kind of stuff I write. Nowadays, it seems archaic to still be thinking in terms of sections and chapters. The world is linked and that applies to the kind of technical writing that I do. I believe that the issue is fundamental. A concept like "section" is inherently about the structure of a document. But, what I want to focus on are concepts like "example", "definition", and "function type". A second problem is that, in a complex environment, the range of documentation that is available to an individual reader is actually composed of multiple sources. Javadoc exemplifies this: an individual library may be documented using Javadoc into a single HTML tree. However, most programmers require access to multip