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Sign Your Work: Individuality

Mark Mzyk | January 29, 2008

Previously, I wrote a post advocating that programmers sign their work.

I accidentally left out a good reason to sign your work. Maybe it was implied in my previous post, it it wasn’t until I read about Jens leaving Apple that it hit me.

Individuality

Signing your work instantly makes it individual. Even if you write the exact same code as someone else, just the act of signing makes it yours. This is important. In Western Culture, it is drilled into us from day one that we should be individuals; but once we hit corporate culture all individuality is sucked from us.

Picking on Apple a bit, although they are by no means the only culprit, this is from Jens:

It’s deeply ironic: For a company that famously celebrates individuality and Thinking Different, Apple has in the past decade kept its image remarkably impersonal. Other than the trinity who go onstage at press events — Steve Jobs, Jonathan Ive, Phil Schiller — how many people can you name who work for Apple? How many engineers?

Fight back. Sign your name. If you’re daring, hide an easter egg in the application with your name in it. Even if your name is only in the code, at least the next programmer to come along will know it was written by you. If you don’t sign it, nobody can ever know it was written by you. Well, maybe if they check the source control, but that only happens when they want to curse you for a bug.

Why is it that programming continues to march toward a soulless place? Programming is often compared to writing. Yet authors are expected to sign their work. Why aren’t programmers? Have we become so much like the automotive industry that it’s all just manufacturing, no signature needed? Even if we have, I say sign your work. I think even the automotive workers should be allowed to sign their work. Nothing major. It can be on the steel frame that then gets painted over. What matters is that it’s there – and that your signature is uniquely individual, making your work uniquely individual.

Mark Mzyk

2 Comments

  1. Comment by noah:

    Umm… they are expected to sign their work. Just because you don’t comment your code correctly doesn’t mean you’re not supposed to.

    January 29, 2008 @ 21:01
  2. Comment by Mark:

    Do most programmers actually sign their work? I tend to think that most actually don’t. Certainly there are those that do.

    Also, consider the Agile context, where the code is supposed to be its own comments. When it is done correctly, the code can be self explanatory, so there isn’t much need for many comments – but I still think programmers should sign their work in this case.

    And ultimately, it comes down to having pride in your work and taking ownership. That’s really what signing it is all about. Not just about dry comments explaining what is going on.

    January 29, 2008 @ 22:50