Virtues of a Programmer

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We will encourage you to develop the three great virtues of a programmer: laziness, impatience, and hubris.” – Larry Wall, Programming Perl (1st edition), O’Reilly Media

Recently, I’ve come across those remarkable words by Larry Wall, creator of Perl, again. When I first read them many years ago they made quite some impression on me. I think those virtues subsume pretty well what it means to be a good programmer. Besides, I just like Larry Wall’s witty, sometimes quirky, way of putting something into words (State of the Onion Address, Artistic License, to name but a few examples). Here’s what he wrote about each of the virtues in more detail:

The quality that makes you go to great effort to reduce overall energy expenditure. It makes you write labor-saving programs that other people will find useful, and document what you wrote so you don’t have to answer so many questions about it. Hence, the first great virtue of a programmer. Also hence, this book. See also impatience and hubris. (p.609)

The anger you feel when the computer is being lazy. This makes you write programs that don’t just react to your needs, but actually anticipate them. Or at least pretend to. Hence, the second great virtue of a programmer. See also laziness and hubris. (p. 608)

Excessive pride, the sort of thing Zeus zaps you for. Also the quality that makes you write (and maintain) programs that other people won’t want to say bad things about. Hence, the third great virtue of a programmer. See also laziness and impatience. (p. 607)

About the author: Bjoern
Independent IT consultant, entrepreneur
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