Christian Heilmann

Hearing about the problems of implementers and maintainers of libraries

Sunday, September 16th, 2007 at 1:35 am

Sometimes you get across referers in your log that make you wonder why these people are not more known or their messages are not heard. Eike Pierstorff is one of those. His post about the problem with JavaScript libraries is a wonderful insight into the world of the people who use the stuff we produce and has some very nice imagery to boot:

I often take over maintenance for sites that have been deserted by their original programmers, and usually when one of these web geniuses spontaneously combusts he burns with him all documentation.

He hits the nail on the head when it comes to comments you find in already developed code:

One of the sure signs of a web prodigy is that comments in the frontend code usually fail to tell anything useful. Instead I find little essays on why “Javascript sucks�, which is why they have used this amazing library (usually nebulous 0.1 or the promiscuous 0.0.5 pre-alpha) that allows for otherwise unsurmountable tasks like adding a rollover to an image or toggle display of a named element.

And vents his frustration about the overuse of libraries:

So instead of programming in the one language javascript, [...] I suddenly have to look up documentation for a dozen or so libraries. And sometimes I wonder why my predecessors bothered at all to include a couple of hundred kb worth of Javascript

The sad thing about it is that Eike is not alone, the main difference is that he bothers to tell the world about these frustrations. These are the people we should be listening to when we develop libraries or write documentation as most of what gets produced these days will go through the hands of developers like Eike. It is not at all about how cool your script is or what new trick you found, it is about how much of a mess you leave behind when you leave it to someone else to maintain.

This will also be the biggest topic of my talk at @media Ajax and I am happy to have found this post.

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