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by Chris Douce

Patents

The issue of software patents continue to feature in the media. Recently the EU software patent directive has been defeated. I have found two interesting articles by Richard Stallman on this topic, both of which have been published in the Guardian, a popular UK newspaper.

Fashion

As Frank has already mentioned, software development seems to have another fashion at the moment called 'Ajax'.

The Ajax process seems to be spawning many threads:

Here's the bounder who is attributed to coining the term.

A comment on comments

The debate on whether or not to comment continues to rage. I have gone from liberally peppering my code with useful human readable pointers to asking myself, 'is it really necessary?' One view is that, when added, comments are a maintenance burden. When looking at it this way, I have to agree.

I've pulled together a couple of views relating to this hotly debated topic.

The following link takes on a more controversial tone:

On this point, I have to disagree. (Comments alone do not allow you to receive e-mail or browse the web)

On an inspired hunch I searched for a paper entitled 'comments considered harmful'. I was not disappointed. There were at least two:

After finding 'polymorphism considered harmful' I threw caution to the wind and discovered several other variations:

The ACM portal can provide hours of programming related entertainment, often at the expense of ones own code. (I also believe that there is a paper entitled 'considered harmful considered harmful', but have yet to find it).

Returning to an earlier ramble, I performed a related search which made me recall the phrase, 'there's no such thing as an original thought'.

If anyone is interested is interested in collaborating on a 'considered harmful literature review', please feel free to send me an e-mail.

Cosmic Programmers

Whilst reading the handbook of mathematical cognition and finding a chapter on exceptional performance I came across an interesting article by software writer and develper Joel Spolsky

The article describes a study carried out by Professor Stanley Eisenstat at Yale. Here I shameless plagarise Joel's piece (but since I attribute it to him, it should be okay):

There was so much griping among the students about how much work was required for this class that Professor Eisenstat started asking the students to report back on how much time they spent on each assignment.

He has collected this data carefully for several years. The quality of the work and the amount of time spent are simply uncorrelated. The real trouble with using a lot of mediocre programmers instead of a couple of good ones is that no matter how long they work, they never produce something as good as what the great programmers can produce. Five Antonio Salieris won't produce Mozart's Requiem. Ever. Not if they work for 100 years.

Programming and Art (Revisited)

The last PPIG workshop contained some presentations that were rooted as much in the humanities as much as they were in technology. I'm referring to Alan Blackwell's presentation entitled 'the programming language as a musical instrument' and Greg Turner's paper entitled 'Attuning: A Social and Technical Study of Artist-Programmer Collaborations'

Whether programming is art is something that both programmers and artists explore.

Here is another attempt written by John Litter:

Acknowledgements

Many thanks go to the illustrious reviewers of this edition of the newsletter (Frank Wales in particular). Thanks are also extended to all contributors. Your words of wisdom are appreciated.