Great Programmers

The criteria that identify a great programmer vary—some times speed being the objective, other times clarity, reuse or extensibility.

One of my own most important criterion has to do with succinctness.

A programmer is great (in a given programming language) if s/he can write the shortest program (in that language) that is at least as effective as all other programs in achieving a certain task. S/he writes the program in such a way that little commentary is necessary. A programmer is great if a look at the program says what it does.

Doing with little commentary is actually possible in higher-level languages such as Java. Some length might be given up to make the program more "clear" but that juggle is what can destroy good programs if taken too far to any extreme.

Good, tight programs are self-explanatory because they do not have spurious material.

O.K. Just as I was writing this, a friend wrote back and said: "For me, a truly great progammer is the one who everyone but (her/his)self thinks they are one"—beauty in the eye of the beholder.

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