three software proverbs

John Rose
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.

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Comments ( 4 )
  • Tosin Komolafe Wednesday, December 10, 2008

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

  • Emmanuel Toko Wednesday, December 10, 2008

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

  • John Rose Thursday, December 11, 2008

    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.

  • Jim Friday, March 20, 2009

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

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