Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login

Have you never seen a piece of code that sucked so much that you could shrink it by a factor of at least 2?

You lucky swine… Much (possibly most) code I have had to deal with was that ugly.

Almost all code except the stuff written by the Masters of Succinctness can be shrunk by a factor of 2. Order of magnitude reduction is the only impressive metric.

I talk about code that I can shrink by a factor of 2. Most often without even understanding what the code does, just applying local correctness-preserving transformations.

I'm talking about horrors such as (this was real, production code):

  bool flag = true;
  if (var1 == const1)
    if (var2 == const2)
      // quite a lot of code
      flag = false;
  if (flag == true)
    // a little piece of code.
Clearly, someone forgot to clean up their code. It doesn't take a Master of Succinctness to realize that

  if (var1 != const1 ||
      var2 != const2)
    // a little piece of code
    // quite a lot of code
is much better (the code represented by the comments didn't touch the flag). Plus, such simplifications tend to compound. After a first pass, I often see more possible reductions that can be used for a second, sometimes a third pass.

I don't know whether code verbosity is a measure of shit (indeed, that is one of those arguable points where one guy likes the single line ultra-functional version, and the other likes the same split into 20 lines).

I'm not disagreeing on the notion that there is some shit code in the world. Of course there is. But if anyone thinks that all or most code is shit, it often says more about the speaker. And I don't mean this as a personal attack on anyone, as it is possible that someone is in particularly dire code straights, but by and large the people who I've known who think all code is shit tend to be of questionable talent.

I have a friend who is constantly regaling the horrors they meet on the roadways because, in their opinion, everyone is a shit driver. Only it's my friend who is the shit driver, and their reactionary, panicked driving technique puts them in such constant peril that they can only imagine that everyone else is to blame.

I like your driving analogy. It's very true. Those who talk the most shit often are shit, like how some men call women bad drivers even though women are actually less costly to insure.

Bad driver stereotypes piss me off because they often work under the assumption that cautious drivers are bad drivers and aggressive drivers are good drivers. Hell I bet Asian women are really the safest drivers.

There are a number of experiments that suggest that overall, the best predictor of shit (mostly, cost and bugs) is size. Once you account for size, almost every other predictor tend to be more noise than signal.

So, while there are ways to make code so short that it becomes incomprehensible (code golf?), most of the time, less code is almost always a good thing. A case in point would be the factorial in Haskell:

  fac i = product [1..i]

Applications are open for YC Winter 2022

Guidelines | FAQ | Lists | API | Security | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact