Words to work by

Posted by Joe Hamman on December 24, 2015

Research code, especially in academics, often sucks. It’s written hastily by folks, like myself, with no formal training in software development. Here are two sets of words that have rung true during my Ph.D.:

Best Practices for Scientific Computing

Write programs for people, not computers.
Let the computer do the work.
Make incremental changes.
Don't repeat yourself (or others).
Plan for mistakes.
Optimize software only after it works correctly.
Document design and purpose, not mechanics.

The Zen of Python

Beautiful is better than ugly.
Explicit is better than implicit.
Simple is better than complex.
Complex is better than complicated.
Flat is better than nested.
Sparse is better than dense.
Readability counts.
Special cases aren't special enough to break the rules.
Although practicality beats purity.
Errors should never pass silently.
Unless explicitly silenced.
In the face of ambiguity, refuse the temptation to guess.
There should be one-- and preferably only one --obvious way to do it.
Although that way may not be obvious at first unless you're Dutch.
Now is better than never.
Although never is often better than *right* now.
If the implementation is hard to explain, it's a bad idea.
If the implementation is easy to explain, it may be a good idea.
Namespaces are one honking great idea -- let's do more of those!


  • dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pbio.1001745
  • https://www.python.org/dev/peps/pep-0020/