This post on men writing code from Mars while women write more helpful code from Venus caught my attention this morning — must be a sign that it’s Friday of a long week.
“Emma McGrattan, the senior vice-president of engineering for computer-database company Ingres–and one of Silicon Valley’s highest-ranking female programmers–insists that men and women write code differently. Women are more touchy-feely and considerate of those who will use the code later, she says. They’ll intersperse their code–those strings of instructions that result in nifty applications and programs–with helpful comments and directions, explaining why they wrote the lines the way they did and exactly how they did it.
The code becomes a type of “roadmap” for others who might want to alter it or add to it later, says McGrattan, a native of Ireland who has been with Ingres since 1992.
Men, on the other hand, have no such pretenses. Often, “they try to show how clever they are by writing very cryptic code,” she tells the Business Technology Blog. “They try to obfuscate things in the code,” and don’t leave clear directions for people using it later. McGrattan boasts that 70% to 80% of the time, she can look at a chunk of computer code and tell if it was written by a man or a woman.”
The post then goes on to tell of Ingres’ effort to instill coding standards to make the code “more user-friendly and gender-neutral”. Now, I can clearly recall being in a code review of developer who defended his use of binary-addition to decrement a loop in COBOL as “intuitive to him” and “the only way he thought of doing it”. Needless to say, we (a mixed gender group) asked for a change to make the code “intuitive to everyone else”. But, this was clearly an exception — and why I remember it from long ago — and I never considered it “a guy thing”. Just a “that guy” thing.
So, my question is what do folks think of the above? Is the need to prove code cleverness a geek thing? Or, a guy geek thing? And is understandable, maintainable code a girl thing? Or, is it all a matter of style, time and environment?