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Is it hard to read or hard to understand ? Generally when we say "hard to read" we mean both. Especially because as you said, you read the code for a purpose, and that purpose is very often business related rather than purely aesthetic.

Making the code easy to read is simply a technical matter, an intrinsic quality of the code. However, your code cannot be easier to understand than the business it models.

To convince yourself, have a look at some (good) framework like a HTTP Server, ORM, or browser, ... Their code is generally miles away from what you expect and hard to read if you do not dedicate days or weeks to them. But it is not due to bad code but due to the fact that you are aware of only a tiny fraction of the problem they solve.

EDIT: (I realise I didn't make a point) My point is that it is not a hard rule. If you are experimented with the business, familiar (a bit) with the code and it is still hard to read that is the sign of trouble.




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