The General (on names and naming)
Remember Romeo and Juliet? Never was there such a tale of woe …
I think there is a quote in that play about names. Something like “What’s in a name”?
I sometimes have a problem with names. Not only do I have difficulty remembering peoples’ names, I take lots of time figuring out what to name things– objects, classes, function calls and variables.
I wish I could share the carefree attitude of many of my coworkers who just pick any old name out of a hat. I don’t mean that I care about things like an iteration variable name. I is just as good as J or K or Q. But some names are better than others. Ishmael for example was a good name. Astyanax is another. Carl the Greenskeeper was perfect. And don’t get me started on the Bond Girls’ names…
It took my wife and me a long, long time to name our son. I think we were filling out his birth certificate name card as we were checking out of the hospital after the delivery. The nurses would bug us for a name every chance they got during the three days we were guests at the maternity ward.
This naming story is about a developer I once knew. His name is Peter. (Ironically enough he’s aptly named, though he was actually promoted far beyond his competency level)
Peter was one of those people who wrote things like “for all intensive purposes” and then would defend its use when someone pointed out that perhaps he meant to write “for all intents and purposes”. He also did a great many horrible things trying to write code and manage developers. He is likely to figure prominently in my blog posts, and not in a good way.
Peter was a busy developer. He had lots of code to write – well, when I say write, I mean he kept busy copying and pasting. And pasting. And pasting. Sometimes he had to rename the things he pasted. After a particularly busy day of copying and pasting, he wrote a class that did something “generic”. He also generalized that. Being the extremely bright guy he was, he named his creation GenericGeneral. And it was good. And on the seventh day he rested. (thankfully)
From that day on, whenever Peter walked by in the hallway, Alan and I would salute “The General”.
Please avoid being mocked like we mocked Peter; it is not a good for anyone. Do your team a favor and take the time to name things properly.