Literacy

I sat in my weekly scheduled meeting today, where each of the devs rehash their projects for the larger team. Each of us lists off the gripes we have about waiting for other departments, or how a simple project that could be completed in an afternoon with some redbull is sitting stagnant in a dark corner because a committee cannot decide wether a site should receive a top-level domain or other.

I informed the group of my current list of projects. I mention the difficulties of moving a site from a near ancient CMS to a new one, and refer to the person who sat at the desk I do now my their first name. I mention the code he wrote, and how I have to rewrite it to better suit the current and future applications it will support. It is good code, and has lasted years, but it will not stand forever.

Apparently I was talking about his code informally, as a¬†colleague¬†does another of his own when I had never met the man. My immediate boss said: “You didn’t even know him!”. It’s true, I have never met my predecessor. But, I have dissected his code, read his electronic handwriting, checked his documentation. Could it really be said that I don’t know him?

When I read a book I can sense who the author is. After all, this is what generally makes for a good author. The authors’ “voice” comes through, and if it weren’t written as it was, it would lose it’s “aura” or whatever else a dirty hippie would call it. The more code I look at, the more an individual is obvious. There are the obvious differences between a novice coder and intermediate, but once you crest past the threshold of the simple repeater you find nuances.

When you read Harry Potter, Robert Jordan, Malcolm Gladwell, you hear the voice fo the author. For someone like Gladwell, you read the book directly in his voice: Before I ever watched a talk from him, I read his books in his same energetic and slightly eccentric voice. While these authors and I have never met, is it so hard to think I have an understanding of who they are just by reading their lines of text? Is it so hard to think you can understand someone just by reading, and deciphering their code?