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The Art of Unix Programming
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Unix Programming - Basics of the Unix Philosophy - Rule of Clarity: Clarity is better than cleverness.

Rule of Clarity: Clarity is better than cleverness.

Because maintenance is so important and so expensive, write programs as if the most important communication they do is not to the computer that executes them but to the human beings who will read and maintain the source code in the future (includingyourself).

In the Unix tradition, the implications of this advice go beyond just commenting your code. Good Unix practice also embraces choosing your algorithms and implementations for future maintainability. Buying a small increase in performance with a large increase in the complexity and obscurity of your technique is a bad trade — not merely because complex code is more likely to harbor bugs, but also because complex code will be harder to read for future maintainers.

Code that is graceful and clear, on the other hand, is less likely to break — and more likely to be instantly comprehended by the next person to have to change it. This is important, especially when that next person might be yourself some years down the road.

Never struggle to decipher subtle code three times. Once might be a one-shot fluke, but if you find yourself having to figure it out a second time — because the first was too long ago and you've forgotten details — it is time to comment the code so that the third time will be relatively painless.

-- Henry Spencer

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The Art of Unix Programming
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