on coding style
By John.Rose-Oracle on Nov 30, 2011
Maxim M1: Observe, respect, and imitate the largest-scale precedents available. (Preserve styles of whitespace, capitalization, punctuation, abbreviation, name choice, code block size, factorization, type of comments, class organization, file naming, etc., etc., etc.)
Maxim M2: Don't add weight to small-scale variations. (Realize that Maxim M1 has been broken many times, but don't take that as license to create further irregularities.)
Maxim M3: Listen to and rely on your reviewers to help you perceive your own coding quirks. (When you review, help the coder do this.)
Maxim M4: When you touch some code, try to leave it more readable than you found it. (When you review such changes, thank the coder for the cleanup. When you plan changes, plan for cleanups.)
On the Hotspot project, which is almost 1.5 decades old, we have often practiced and benefited from such etiquette. The process is, and should be, inductive, not prescriptive. An ounce of neighborliness is better than a pound of police-work.
Reality check: If you actually look at (or live in) the Hotspot code base, you will find we have accumulated many annoying irregularities in our source base. I suppose this is the normal condition of a lived-in space. Unless you want to spend all your time polishing and tidying, you can't live without some smudge and clutter, can you?
Final digression: Grammars and dictionaries and other prescriptive rule books are sometimes useful, but we humans learn and maintain our language by example not grammar. The same applies to style rules. Actually, I think the process of maintaining a clean and pleasant working code base is an instance of a community maintaining its common linguistic identity. BTW, I've been reading and listening to John McWhorter lately with great pleasure.
(If you end with a digression, is it a tail-digression?)