inessential by Brent Simmons


I've been re-reading Writing Solid Code, an excellent book about development practices. Highly recommended. Last night the book was reminding me to write very boring code. Don't rely on side effects. Functions should have clearly defined behavior.

In tone and in usefulness, this book reminds me of Strunk and White's The Elements of Style, another book I like to re-read.

It may seem counter-intuitive, but both books are inspirational -- even though they're rule books, or books of guidelines. They get my juices flowing. Maybe because they take seriously the work I do all day without making the work seem heavy. They're fun.

Another thought -- I've always been obsessed with aesthetics. I even have college credits in aesthetics. (I also have credits in interpretive dance, so take that with a grain of salt.) The books could be re-titled as The Aesthetics of Code and The Aesthetics of Prose. Without coming out and saying so, they teach you what beauty is in their respective art forms.

What's interesting are the common elements -- readability, clarity, precision.

Garret asked if Writing Solid Code is useful to a moderate programmer who doesn't know C. Yes, absolutely, even though many of the examples are in C. You don't need to know C to understand what's going on. When I first read it, I applied it to my scripting work. I recommend this book for anybody doing Frontier or Radio UserLand scripting.

It was originally recommended to me by Dave. One of the first things I did when I started working at UserLand was read this book.