Code Is Not Literature (2014)

The author has started code reading groups at Etsy and Twitter and has been asked for advice on running these groups. However, the author argues that code reading groups should not be started and instead proposes a new approach. Based on the author’s background as an English major and writer, they initially believed that code is like literature and should be learned through reading good examples. However, through interviews with programmers and conversations with experts, the author realized that most programmers do not actually read code regularly. Instead, the author proposes a new model where code is treated as a specimen and the presenter plays the role of a naturalist, helping the audience understand the core ideas of the code. The author’s code reading group at Twitter has adopted this model and has found it to be effective in promoting understanding of code.

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