What Programming Has Come To - Copy & Paste
Written by Mike James   
Thursday, 01 April 2021

A new April Fools joke is no joke as it reveals what others think of us. In particular Stack Overflow should know better than to bring its own programming methodology into disrepute...

The joke is that a programmer's keyboard needs only three keys C, V and Stack Overflow. Of course, you get the joke - but it it funny or sad?


The presentation of The KeyTM, and really we all know it isn't the key to anything, says:

"They say good artists copy, but great artists steal. They were wrong. Great artists, developers, and engineers copy. Then they paste"

If there ever was a quote that caused more chaos in the world it's this one. Even for artists it's a misleading excuse and for programmers it's a preplanned road to hell.

It is a good joke, but one that really should have you cringing in horror that Stack Overflow feels the need to make public our dirty little secret. Yes we all do it - even great programmers, but the difference is how we do it. Great programmers reuse code, but they copy it to their brain understand it and then paste something new into their own code. 

This raises another question - why do we rely on so much boilerplate code? One possible reason is that the languages that we use have lost their way. We now learn a language and then learn a framework which has nothing to do with the structure of the language. To use the framework we copy multiple lines that achieve just one thing and should be something much, much simpler.

If we stopped visiting Stack Overflow perhaps we would put these essential idioms where they belong - in the language or in a standard library. Python used to do this, but it is now far less successful at the "batteries included" approach than it once was.

There are more snarky comments about the way programmers behave. Yes we do elevate our keyboards to the position of  exquisitely honed instruments:

"Our keyboard is made of 100% machine milled plastic sourced from the rarest polyurethane plants."

And yes, feel and sound is often important:

"Our click’s volume and tone were crafted by sampling the natural wonder of song bird chirps. We run that audio data through cutting edge deep learning systems to produce a sound that is optimized to improve productivity and mood."

Whoa - no blockchain to record our keypress sequence and sell it as an NFT?

Funny yes -- but a sad reflection on the state of programming as perceived by an organization mostly responsible for the shameful decline in our average intelligence and creativity.

I say copy and paste no more....


More Information

Introducing The Key

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Last Updated ( Thursday, 01 April 2021 )