[svlug] ACCU tonight 'They Call It Code for a Reason: Code is Not Literature' Peter Seibel

Walter Vannini walterv at gbbservices.com
Wed Jun 8 07:52:38 PDT 2011

When:      Wednesday, June 8, 2011
Topic:     They Call It Code for a Reason: Code is Not Literature
Speaker:   Peter Seibel
Time:      6:30pm doors open
         7:00pm meeting begins
Where:     Symantec
         VCAFE building
         350 Ellis Street (near E. Middlefield Road)
         Mountain View, CA 94043
Map:       <http://tinyurl.com/334rv5>
Directions: VCAFE is accessible from the semicircular courtyard between Symantec buildings <http://tinyurl.com/2dccgc>
Cost:      Free
More Info: <http://www.accu-usa.org>

Computer scientists as eminent as Donald Knuth, have argued that computer programs are a kind of literature: "Programming is best regarded as the process of creating works of literature, which are meant to be read." Abelson and Sussman strike a similar tone in their classic Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs: "programs must be written for people to read, and only incidentally for machines to execute".

But do programmers really read code like literature? We read code when we have to: to fix a bug, to add a feature, or, occasionally, to learn some specific technique or algorithm that is used in the code. But it is the rare programmer who regularly sits down with a piece of code to read just for fun.

Peter Seibel explores why reading code is so hard, whether we should actually expect to be able to read code like literature, and what the answers to those questions tell us about how to write better code.

Peter Seibel is either a writer turned programmer or programmer turned writer. After picking up an undergraduate degree in English and working briefly as a journalist, he was seduced by the web. In the early 90s he hacked Perl for Mother Jones Magazine and Organic Online. He participated in the Java revolution as an early employee at WebLogic and later taught Java programming at UC Berkeley Extension. He is also one of the few second generation Lisp programmers on the planet and was a childhood shareholder in Symbolics, Inc. In 2003 he quit his job as the architect of a Java-based transactional messaging system, planning to hack Lisp for a year. Instead he ended up spending two years writing the Jolt Productivity Award–winning Practical Common Lisp. His most recent book is Coders at Work, a collection of Q&A interviews with fifteen notable programmers and computer scientists. When not writing books and programming computers he enjoy practicing Tai Chi. He live in Berkeley, 
California, with his wife Lily, daughters Amelia and Tabitha, and dog Mahlanie.

Meetings are open to the public and are free of charge.


The ACCU meets monthly. Meetings are always open to the public and are free of charge. To suggest topics and speakers please email Walter Vannini via walterv at gbbservices.com

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