June 9th, 2004

Hacking codes is an Art


A couple of days ago, an old friend William sent me an IM saying he is “surprised to see me coding again” (refering to Drupal for Bloggers). I suppose the real question in his (and many others) mind is “Why are you still coding!?”. I suppose “programmer” is no longer as prestigious a title as it used to be, since it can be cheaply outsourced. I shouldn’t be surprised since I blogged about the how programmers are just factory workers last year.

Well, the answer is simple: Hacking code is my hobby. While other play tennis, do calligraphy and paintings, I play golf and hack codes. To me, hacking codes isn’t just instructions to do tell the computer what to do (thats just programming); Hacking codes is an Art. There are beauty that lies in the codes and elegant in the design. I could admire a well-written code like a Van Gogh’s painting1.

Just compare Drupal codes to the more popular phpNuke. Both are written in PHP but Drupal is a beautiful masterpiece, neat and elegant whereas phpNuke looks as if it get pasted together by some kids who don’t know how to indent.I also marvel at the simple and elegant algorithms, like Bayeisan, just barely 10-15 lines in LISP, yet so powerful in dealing with spam. Compare this to Blacklist which is essentially just “if-is-in-blacklist-drop-it”. It is insulting to even call it an algorithm!

I would occassionly lost sleep just thinking about code design (and bridge). Finding an elegant solution to a problem is challenge, very much like doing a crossword puzzle or bidding 7NT. It is not about solving the problem…it is more important to do it with style.

I started programming when I am 10 years old and 20 years later, I am still loving it.

1 My favourite been “Starry Night”. I wish I could see the original someday…(No, it is not in the Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam)

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