three software proverbs

Today I was late for lunch. As I walked to the cafeteria, pondering my work, this haiku came to me:
It will take more time:
If you touch it, it will break...
Software is wily.
Relaxing the syllable count limit in favor of word count gives each epigram a fuller and more independent expression:
Somehow it always takes longer:
If you touch it, it will break...
Software is a wily opponent.
Those latter three lines express the way I feel about my chosen craft.

I think of the middle line as Kempf’s Law of Software. It was a favorite expression of Jim Kempf, who was on the Sun Common Lisp team with me, long ago.

The last line expresses a stance I call “defensive programming”, which is what we programmers do when we take Murphy’'s Law seriously.

Comments:

i do not understand this poetry. please can you explain it to me so that i can understand.

Posted by Tosin Komolafe on December 09, 2008 at 06:13 PM PST #

That's the belief I had always. Quite apt I must say. Great poem.

Posted by Emmanuel Toko on December 10, 2008 at 01:24 PM PST #

Tosin: Sometimes poetry is subjective or meaningful only to people with relevant common experiences. Most software people have had to double a time estimate, or have made a "trivial" change that broke their program, or have found their code misbehave in surprising ways.

It may help to remember that "wily" means "tricky" or even "maliciously clever".

Toko: Thank you.

Posted by John Rose on December 10, 2008 at 04:24 PM PST #

The first version is better -- making the second line delightfully self-referential.

Posted by Jim on March 20, 2009 at 03:16 PM PDT #

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About

John R. Rose

Java maven, HotSpot developer, Mac user, Scheme refugee.

Once Sun and present Oracle engineer.

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