Kyle writes from Sri Lanka with his stats programming tips for the new PBFs. It’s all things that old PBFs and even old young professors can benefit from:
• It’s taken me 2 years to jump on the version control bandwagon (~18 months after your PToW on git….), so I certainly can’t claim to be an exemplar myself. But I think the main themes would be:
• Location, location, location! Can you find your code? Can others find your code? Do both the directory and the filename make sense?
• Replicability – even of the mistakes. If you do something right, you want to be able to do it again.
o But often, even if it’s wrong, you want to do it again. Chris will say, let’s go back to the broken version from 2 months ago, I liked that better. So if you change your code, keep a record of the old parts (and maybe even why you ditched them).
• If others can’t look at your code and figure out quickly what each “chunk” of code does, it’s not well documented enough. If you can’t even tell within 30 seconds what a particular piece does (and you wrote it!), that’s a problem.
• On the other hand: Yes, a few PBFs were lit majors, but that doesn’t mean your code should be in novella format. Concise, readable code is often more understandable than a few sentences of explanation.
• Whitespace! Headers! Tab and Enter are your close and personal friends: “Without negative space how would we appreciate the positive in our art and in our lives?” – Dyan Law (some artist I’ve never heard of)
• Good exercises: Take someone else’s raw code, figure out what it does, and comment it. Read through a program you wrote and haven’t used in months – how long does it take you to figure out? Have someone else comment your own raw code; did they explicate things you left implied? did they misinterpret anything?
All good advice, and I often regret it when I don’t follow it. Anything else that should be on this list?