Subject: Re: How accurate is Metcalfe's law? (Was: Ximian software)
From: Bernard Lang <>
Date: Mon, 14 Jan 2002 12:30:29 +0100

On Tue, Jan 08, 2002 at 12:55:22PM -0800, Ian Lance Taylor wrote:
> "Stephen J. Turnbull" <> writes:

> I don't think so, although I don't know how to prove the point.  I'm
> considered to be a highly productive programmer.  But I've never found
> a diamond in my life--and you can verify this by looking at my code.
> My productivity is mainly the result of applying the same old tricks
> over and over, plus I never get stuck, and I don't make very many
> mistakes (when I program, not in general).  I also happened to start
> programming in machine language pretty early on, so I got a good
> understanding of all the layers--new programmers who start with Java
> have a different view of the system.
> I've worked with many good programmers and many bad programmers.  If I
> were to pick one characteristic of a bad programmer, it would be that
> they work on things without fully understanding them.  A good
> programmer is someone who understands the system at hand well enough
> to get the job done, and recognizes when they don't know something
> they need to know.  Therefore, I would say that a productive
> programmer is someone who is able to quickly develop a high level of
> knowledge of a programming system.

I think, most of the value and difficulty in software is in
understanding and design.  Not in ideas ... or at least not in
patentable ones.
   Of course, there are occasionally important techniques discovered,
but I doubt it plays a major role.

> > [1]  AFAIK the biggest software innovation of any of them is the Emacs
> > idea of writing a whole editor in a real programming language.  The
> > others are definitely incremental processes.
> The basis for Emacs is arguably TECO.

This is typically one such idea ... or principle: anything that can be
done by a user should be doable by a program.  That is the power of
emacs, and of the widely accepted scripting concept.  I do not think
it originates with emacs (or did I misunderstand your statement about
 I remember when we bought our first alphanumeric CRT screen in 1974
(a tektronix).  We paid some extra to have the harware modified so
that anything that could be done from the keyboard was doable by


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