On Apr 30, 2006, at 11:39 AM, Logan C. wrote:
front of the word “convention” for the last couple of posts? I
think Mr. Klemme was wondering how a coding convention can be wrong.
How can a (coding) convention be wrong, instead of just less
useful, less practical?
The same argument applies to other conventions. Why is Sati wrong,
instead of just a less useful, less pleasant way to live?
Ideas have broad consequences that can’t be arbitrarily restricted:
they reach out to other fields. The full answer to the Sati case
should include whether anything is wrong at all, and whether
practical considerations have moral consequences. Those issues are
important to the question about coding.
We can even take a dialog about Sati, and then use some of the ideas
to argue about coding. Most of them will work just as well about
Jim: “Sure, Sati sounds horrible to us, but they are accustomed to
it, and would be unhappy to live another way. It has practical
consequences, like reducing how many women are available to knit, but
wealth is only a convenience.”
Chloe: “Medical textbooks are a kind of wealth, and medicine matters.
With less knitting, they won’t be able to buy as high quality medical
So, back to coding. This medical textbook argument will work great.
Some programmers write tools for doing page layouts, and for making
diagrams. Those tools help us make better medical textbooks. The more
convenient and practical the coding conventions of the programmers,
the sooner we will have higher quality medical textbooks.
The idea that medical textbook production is a practical issue with
moral consequences can be transplanted just fine between the two
cases: it has reach.
This isn’t conclusive, of course. Maybe you don’t see the moral value
in medicine. But I think it’s getting somewhere, to tie those things
together. Most of us are probably persuaded by now. And if we were to
continue on, about Sati, or coding conventions, we’d continue on in
exactly the same way – discussing medicine – because it’s all tied
to the same issue now.
– Elliot T.