Ordnung muss sein


A free-form translation of the above German phrase (orderliness must exist) would be that orderliness is not negotiable. In the domain of information technology I find this motto particularly pertinent.

As a programmer, I want programs to follow a specific style guide (I prefer programs that follow one of the style guides I don't use, to programs that follow no style guide at all.) Identifier names should follow the language's conventions, identation and spacing should be entirely consistent, and lines should never end-up with a space. Orderliness should also be part of other IT endevours: Word documents and Powerpoint presentations should use styles and master slides, directories and files should be consistently named, and backups religiously taken.

When I try to convince others of the need to be orderly in their code, I say that a lack of orderliness in the little details is a sign of larger problems that may lurk beneath. As the following anecdote illustrates, benefits of orderliness may sometimes be entirely unanticipated.

Earlier today I was checking the index for the Greek translation of my book Code Reading. Among the corrections of substance were also minor changes like substituting an en-dash for the hyphen in the number ranges, and correcting Greek capital letters that appeared in English words with their corresponding Latin characters. Both characters looked exactly the same (for example A, E, or O), but to me this was an error I had to correct; as I said in the beginning, this is the way I work.

A couple of hours later I had a phone conversation with the book's editor who was going over my corrections. He thanked me for correcting the Greek characters into English, because these would completely mess up the index's sorting order. This problem did not occur to me at the time I was making the fixes, but Ordnung muss sein.

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Last modified: Wednesday, May 11, 2005 4:25 pm

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