Advanced Programming

Today, Hartmut, a colleague, showed me some code written by one of his teammates. He found the code to be very confusing — in fact, he was quite upset about it and the author — and asked me whether I had ever seen tricky code like this.

Oh well, oh well, I had. In fact, I was the one who introduced this particular technique to the author and recommended using it.

Years ago, I had a similar problem on a C++ project. My teammates were not really experienced C++ developers and didn’t know much about templates. As a matter of fact, I like templates and if used with care, they can make the code more readable and maintainable.

But this was just my view — the view of the rest of the team was, well, quite different.

I was shocked and disappointed. I thought I had written great code, but my ignorant colleagues didn’t like it — they didn’t even bother to learn about advanced C++ topics!

Hartmut argued that I’m allowed to use any advanced feature or technique I want as long as the rest of the team understands it. Not satisfied with his advice I countered by explaining that I didn’t want to drive a Ferrari by only using first gear. Hartmut’s response was a complete revelation: “Then”, he said “you have to teach them how to drive a Ferrari using all gears”.

Let me summarize this as ‘Hartmut’s Law of Advanced Programming’:

“You may only use an advanced programming language feature or technique if the rest of the team understands it; if this is not the case and you still want to use it, you have to educate them about it.”

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