How would you describe programming?
Can you describe programming in 5 words? It’s pretty difficult. Even explaining it in a basic and straightforward way can be challenging. You type stuff… and then it turns into something else or makes something happen. Or, as is often the case, something doesn’t happen.
Twitter account @abstractionscon asked its followers “what 5 words best describe programming?” The results didn’t disappoint. There was a mix of funny, slightly tragic, and even poetic evocations and descriptions of what programming is and what it feels like. It turns out that more often than not, it simply feels frustrating. Things go wrong a lot.
One of the most interesting aspects of the conversation was how it brings to light just how challenging it is to put programming into language.
That’s reflected in many of the responses to the original tweet. One of the conclusions we can probably draw from this is that not only is describing programming pretty hard, it’s also pretty funny. And from that, perhaps it’s also true that programming is generally a pretty funny thing to do.
But then why would that be surprising? You learn from an early age that getting a computer to do what you want is difficult, so why should writing software be any different?
Take a look at some of the best attempts to describe programming below. Which is your favourite? And how would you describe programming?
meat telling sand to think https://t.co/FH7Utjx1Mu
— bletchley punk (@alicegoldfuss) April 24, 2018
world never says “hello” back https://t.co/0xAYM1qpCs
— jenn schiffer (@jennschiffer) April 24, 2018
git commit -m "fuck my life" https://t.co/jIocXJj4LY
— Lindsey Bieda (@lindseybieda) April 25, 2018
Probably take about two weeks https://t.co/TcxzueWJmO
— Sarah Mei (@sarahmei) April 24, 2018
For sale: code, never tested https://t.co/QNCuLFxNYT
— tef, (@tef_ebooks) April 24, 2018
public required override convenience init https://t.co/5uW6IEnWy2
— Joe Groff (@jckarter) April 24, 2018
console.log('did this work?'); https://t.co/1NUuxnbNWZ
— Cassidy Williams (@cassidoo) April 24, 2018
I'll write the docs later. https://t.co/K3CrhrWhxY
— Kelsey Hightower (@kelseyhightower) April 24, 2018
— Francesc (@francesc) April 24, 2018
Did it compile? Ship it https://t.co/wgyIyVKBmV
— Scott Hanselman (@shanselman) April 24, 2018
Nobody would ever do that. https://t.co/jrjykMtpnS
— Chris Eng (@chriseng) April 24, 2018
print statements until you understand https://t.co/1ecssr1RDh
— EricaJoy (@EricaJoy) April 24, 2018
undefined is not a function https://t.co/gzCZzF0Z08
— xnoɹǝʃ uɐıɹq 💎 (@brianleroux) April 24, 2018
Denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance. https://t.co/h7WFlR1Qz3
— Paul Ford (@ftrain) April 24, 2018
How did this ever work? https://t.co/nzmaA8aOrb
— Joe Beda (@jbeda) April 24, 2018
But the tests are passing https://t.co/HFEomdUrl9
— kamal (@kamal) April 24, 2018
Use vim instead of emacs https://t.co/ex3uvEWqg0
— Fatih Arslan (@fatih) April 24, 2018
past me is a jerk https://t.co/VT99E5khlX
— moth dad (@innesmck) April 25, 2018
“This is a temporary solution.” https://t.co/EArQlYXXbI
— Franck Verrot (@franckverrot) April 24, 2018
Off by one errors https://t.co/9LBQ1OnKns
— DeWitt Clinton (@dewitt) April 24, 2018
Thank you Twitter for your insights and jokes. It does make you feel better to know that there are millions of people out there with the same frustrations and software-induced high blood pressure. The next time something goes wrong remember you’re really just meat teaching sand to think. Hopefully that should put everything into perspective.