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From Rich Bowen <>
Subject Re: Moving on
Date Fri, 20 Apr 2012 13:46:44 GMT

On Apr 20, 2012, at 7:47 AM, Dr Stephen Henson wrote:

> Personally I like humorous or thought provoking comments in source files it
> shows the human side of the authors.
> If we want to make the whole thing bland and faceless then so be it. I think it
> will be lessened as a result.
> If that's "sentimental" then I suppose I am.
> I'd like to hear other peoples opinions on this.

My comment on this is that humorous comments can be good, and they can be intimidating and
confusing - particularly for people who don't get the joke, and in particular for those whose
first language is not English or other related languages or whose culture is not conducive
to humor in a technical context. People who are in the know, and get the jokes, don't see
this as a problem because, well, they get the joke.

I'm reminded of the Python documentation, where every other thing is a monty python joke.
All well and good if you get the joke, but if you don't, it's just baffling. This separation
often occurs between those of us from either the US, or western european nations, and people
from the rest of the world (i.e., most of humanity.) and serves, in part, to perpetuate an
under-representation from those cultures. (Not sure what's up with those Sri Lankans! ;-)

Humor in the code, and in the documentation, does indeed provide a human side, and inside
jokes are something that binds together communities. However, it can also be the thing that
makes people reluctant to change existing code, because it's so clearly "owned" by one particular

This is something of a soap-box for me, so I suppose I'm not speaking just about mod_ssl,
but documentation/comments in general.

Comments like:

   Abandon all hope, ye who read this code.  Don't believe the name:


   Open-Source Software: generous programmers from around the world all join forces to help
you shoot  yourself in the foot for free.


    Where's the spoons? Where's the spoons? Where's the bloody spoons?

for example, contribute nothing to the code, and serve to confuse, intimidate, and generally
discourage people who want to contribute to the effort, and aren't inside the joke yet. It
may be that they should just get over it and that I'm being overly sensitive, but, well, you
asked for other opinions. That's mine.

This simply one small example, in one project, where I see this problem. It's not an enormous
problem, and I'm sure that most folks don't even think it's a problem. But it's something
that I've been thinking about for a few years.

Rich Bowen :: @rbowen

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