code and prose

I’d be interested to know from any of the developers who read this whether my piece in yesterday’s Guardian made sense.

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9 Responses to code and prose

  1. Geoff says:

    I assume you are talking about CSS/HTML coding not programming as such. CSS is a nightmare, I just coded some new sites in CSS – arggghh! Old style HTML (tables, fonts etc – ie very easy and readable and predictable) is very intuitive and easy once the basics are grasped.

    A lot of older HTML coders despise CSS – it was devised by sadists who don’t make web sites, for standards purposes (separating style and content) and to make pages more machine-readable. Which is fine. But the implementation is very poor, not cross browser, entails work arounds – so the high-minded point of it is lost. Type ‘I hate CSS’ into Google. The people hating it are not newbies. For instance, I am looking at using transparency for various effects, this is different in every browser, and unreliable.

    But to me it looks like CSS/HTML was never ‘usablility tested’ – on developers, the end-users. So classic top down computer design – designed by ‘them’ for ‘us’ to suffer under. XHTML/XML is even less sensible.

    Things like CSS Zen Garden etc are not real world examples. Also, clients will think you are stupid if you say ‘well you used to able to have this site up in 10 minutes, sorry, it’ll be a day or two…’

    If paranoid, you might think ‘they’ decided HTML was too easy and so replaced it with something fiendishly complex and unreadable.

    (Of course since you didn’t mention in the Guardian piece which language/markup you were using, perhaps all the above is just a rant…!)

  2. Addi says:

    it made me subscribe to your blog, so it did make an impression.

  3. GBUK says:

    Hi Andrew! Nice piece indeed, this makes total sense… except that you are missing the point when you bang and scream about your building blocks: this is not the creative part of programming! The creative part is deciding what it is going to look like; the twisting and turning and swearing part is actually the necessary action of binding the creative thought to the machine.

    Consider building a house: the architects designs it (the creative part) and the bricklayer does the binding. If the architect wants to do the mortar, he’s going to sweat and swear a lot! 🙂

    Don’t you think you should have given this task to someone who’s job is precisely to do what noone else wants to do? It probably would have saved you a lot of time… and with online offshoring it can even be cheap!

    Best of luck next time!

  4. Ian says:


    Your analogy between programming and making music is informative. Fluent composition and performance are immensley satisfying in the way they combine intellectual complexity with instinctual pleasure. The first word of that sentence is important to its understanding: the practitioner must work long and hard on technical detail in order to achieve the fluency that allows him to transcend it. It’s just so with programming in a particular language or idiom.



  5. Geoff says:

    Yes outsourcing works very well, and there is a company that does a service to make one page perfect, then of course anyone can knock up a site based on that (
    I have never used them tho so I am not recommending them.
    South Africa is good for outsourcing as timezone same, reliable and very good value. RentaCoder etc can be a right pain.

    Of course, symphonies, music, mortar, whistling, art, design, culture, and a bricklayer. Very good! Programmers often wonder why they are doing it.

  6. Robert Nowell says:

    Yes, it did make sense, even to an intellectual dinosaur like myself for whom the concept of computer programming lies somewhere beyond the concept of the square root of minus 1.

  7. acb says:

    Geoff: yes. I was trying to rewrite the stylesheet of the WordPress theme so that it looked like the old layout. I can only see two nasties left: the recent comments box looks wrong; and I used to have the first entry on the page styled so that the headline was actually printed over the grass on the bank of the river.

    I don’t know when I’ll have time to fix trhose, and I don’t suppose anyone cares but me.

    in re outsourcing — I’d rather do things myself than try to get other people to do them, which tends to require just as much effort and even fewer skills learned at the end of it.

  8. Geoff says:

    Yes outsourcing is more for big jobs than private sites. I have just done a css site which took much longer than a trad tables layout, hence my ‘pain’.
    I totally agree with your comments on anti-creativity of these markup languages. Even ‘proper’ programming can be like that, if things don’t quite work.
    When I first started programming COBOL in early 80s, we used to write the code in pencil on paper, and other people (data operators) typed it into the mainframe. Then it was run, and all the errors were printed out on the output paper (those big old green striped continuous sheets). Then more pencil editing.
    ie debugging the hard way. Eventually we might get some time on a monitor (4 shared between about 12 programmers).
    But these weren’t graphical programs – they just processed some dumb old data.

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