What is Code?

If you’re confused at all about how the chaotic world that is modern-day software development works, I’d recommend reading Paul Ford’s What Is Code?. It’s a masterfully-written, hilarious take on why coders and programmers do what they do — a playful, informal psychoanalysis of the entire industry. Sure, it might be 31,527 words long, but it’s so very worth it.

I first stumbled upon it in the summer of 2015 when it was first published by Bloomberg, and recently had the chance to re-read it, to my great reading pleasure. I’ve included some highlights:

Paul Ford’s first foray into programming: “I began to program nearly 20 years ago, learning via oraperl, a special version of the Perl language modified to work with the Oracle database. A month into the work, I damaged the accounts of 30,000 fantasy basketball players. They sent some angry e-mails. After that, I decided to get better.”

The power of programming libraries: “Or if you need to do very complex numerical analysis and statistics work, you can download NumPy, and suddenly an enormous range of mathematical algorithms are available to you, hundreds of years of science and research boiled down.”

Edge cases: “Everything is edge cases,’ he says. ‘Testing and edge cases.’ You come to the conclusion: The world is broken.”

For more memorable quotes, I’ve compiled my favorite quotes in the piece, some selected for their lucid explanations of concepts and terminology, and others for more humorous reasons — you can find the file here.

Piece from Nicholas Chow's websitehttp://nicholasachow.com/paul-fords-what-is-code/

Nick Chow