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Malcolm Anderson blogged about “Einstein’s Razor” yesterday, which reminded me of my favorite software development “law”, the name of which I can never remember. It took much Wikipedia-ing to find it (Hofstadter’s Law – see below), but along the way I compiled the following list:

  • Amara’s Law: We tend to overestimate the effect of a technology in the short run and underestimate the effect in the long run.
  • Brook’s Law: Adding manpower to a late software project makes it later.
  • Law of Demeter: Each unit should only talk to its friends; don't talk to strangers.
  • Einstein’s Razor: “Make things as simple as possible, but not simpler” is the popular paraphrase, but what he actually said was “It can scarcely be denied that the supreme goal of all theory is to make the irreducible basic elements as simple and as few as possible without having to surrender the adequate representation of a single datum of experience”, an overly complicated quote which is an obvious violation of Einstein’s Razor. (You can tell by looking at a picture of Einstein that the dude was hardly an expert on razors or other grooming apparati.)
  • Finagle's Law of Dynamic Negatives: Anything that can go wrong, will—at the worst possible moment. - O'Toole's Corollary: The perversity of the Universe tends towards a maximum.
  • Greenspun's Tenth Rule: Any sufficiently complicated C or Fortran program contains an ad hoc, informally-specified, bug-ridden, slow implementation of half of Common Lisp. (Morris’s Corollary: “…including Common Lisp”)
  • Hofstadter's Law: It always takes longer than you expect, even when you take into account Hofstadter's Law.
  • Issawi’s Omelet Analogy: One cannot make an omelet without breaking eggs - but it is amazing how many eggs one can break without making a decent omelet.
  • Kaner’s Caveat: A program which perfectly meets a lousy specification is a lousy program.
  • Liskov Substitution Principle (paraphrased): Functions that use pointers or references to base classes must be able to use objects of derived classes without knowing it
  • Mason’s Maxim: Since human beings themselves are not fully debugged yet, there will be bugs in your code no matter what you do.
  • Occam's Razor: The simplest explanation is usually the correct one.
  • Parkinson’s Law: Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.
  • Quentin Tarantino’s Pie Principle: “…you want to go home have a drink and go and eat pie and talk about it.” (OK, he was talking about movies, not software, but I couldn’t find a “Q” quote about software. And wouldn’t it be cool to write a program so great that the users want to eat pie and talk about it?)
  • Raymond’s Rule: Computer science education cannot make anybody an expert programmer any more than studying brushes and pigment can make somebody an expert painter. 
  • Sowa's Law of Standards: Whenever a major organization develops a new system as an official standard for X, the primary result is the widespread adoption of some simpler system as a de facto standard for X.
  • Turing’s Tenet: We shall do a much better programming job, provided we approach the task with a full appreciation of its tremendous difficulty, provided that we respect the intrinsic limitations of the human mind and approach the task as very humble programmers. 
  • Udi Dahan’s Race Condition Rule: If you think you have a race condition, you don’t understand the domain well enough. These rules didn’t exist in the age of paper, there is no reason for them to exist in the age of computers. When you have race conditions, go back to the business and find out actual rules.
  • Van Vleck’s Kvetching: We know about as much about software quality problems as they knew about the Black Plague in the 1600s. We've seen the victims' agonies and helped burn the corpses. We don't know what causes it; we don't really know if there is only one disease. We just suffer -- and keep pouring our sewage into our water supply.
  • Wheeler’s Law: All problems in computer science can be solved by another level of indirection... Except for the problem of too many layers of indirection. Wheeler also said “Compatibility means deliberately repeating other people's mistakes.”.
  • Yourdon’s Rule of Two Feet: If you think your management doesn't know what it's doing or that your organisation turns out low-quality software crap that embarrasses you, then leave.
  • Zawinski's Law of Software Envelopment: Every program attempts to expand until it can read mail. Zawinski is also responsible for “Some people, when confronted with a problem, think 'I know, I'll use regular expressions.' Now they have two problems.” He once commented about X Windows widget toolkits: “Using these toolkits is like trying to make a bookshelf out of mashed potatoes.”
Posted on Friday, June 18, 2010 9:50 AM | Back to top


Comments on this post: An Alphabet of Eponymous Aphorisms, Programming Paradigms, Software Sayings, Annoying Alliteration

# re: An Alphabet of Eponymous Aphorisms, Programming Paradigms, Software Sayings, Annoying Alliteration
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Interesting Post.
Left by N.H. DWI GUY on Aug 09, 2010 4:41 AM

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