Tag Archives: programming

Zawinski’s Law

I was reading Finish your stuff by Martin Sustrik (creator of ZeroMQ) today and stumbled upon Zawinski’s Law from The Jargon File.

“Every program attempts to expand until it can read mail. Those programs which cannot so expand are replaced by ones which can.”

Emacs comes to mind (you know what they say, it’s “a great operating system, lacking only a decent editor”).

However, we see that a lot of bloated software being replaced by leaner and minimal products, which might seem to be in contrary to this rule. Lots of people moved from WordPress to much simpler Medium. But Medium, in turn, has become a bloated piece of JavaScript by now, which aligns with Zawinski’s Law.

Quoting the Wikipedia article on the subject:

Eric Raymond comments that while this law goes against the minimalist philosophy of Unix (a set of “small, sharp tools”), it actually addresses the real need of end users to keep together tools for interrelated tasks, even though for a coder implementation of these tools are clearly independent jobs.

Re: Tools are not the Answer

I quoted Uncle Bob’s post two days back and Hillel Wayne has written a much comprehensive response to the original post. In summary, it says:

Uncle Bob gives terrible advice. Following it will make your code worse.

I see nowhere in the original article where it says the tools are bad for you. In fact, it maintains that:

I have nothing against tools like this. I’ve even contributed money to the Light Table project. I think that good software tools make it easier to write good software. However, tools are not the answer to the “Apocalypse”.

There’s a very interesting discussion on Hacker News as well and I urge you to go read it. Uncle Bob Martin himself has left a few (albeit succinct) comments. It’s very interesting to listen to all parts of the story, especially from people who have far greater experience than you.

Tools are not the Answer

Uncle Bob responds to an article in The Atlantic titled “The Coming Software Apocalypse”. The Atlantic article apparently proposes better tooling to avoid software bugs.

I disagree. Tools are fine; but the solution to the software apocalypse is not more tools. The solution is better programming discipline.

We have fancy IDEs, sophisticated build systems and what not, but a sloppy programmer is a sloppy programmer. If tools can make her a good programmer, probably this is a field that robots can fill up easily.