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Do Women Write Better Code?

CmdrTaco posted more than 5 years ago | from the better-than-me-at-least dept.

Programming 847

JCWDenton writes "The senior vice-president of engineering for computer-database company Ingres-and one of Silicon Valley's highest-ranking female programmers-insists that men and women write code differently. Women are more touchy-feely and considerate of those who will use the code later, she says. They'll intersperse their code ... with helpful comments and directions, explaining why they wrote the lines the way they did and exactly how they did it. The code becomes a type of 'roadmap' for others who might want to alter it or add to it later, says McGrattan, a native of Ireland who has been with Ingres since 1992. Men, on the other hand, have no such pretenses. Often, 'they try to show how clever they are by writing very cryptic code,' she tells the Business Technology Blog. 'They try to obfuscate things in the code,' and don't leave clear directions for people using it later. "

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Do women write better code? (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23808849)

I don't know, I've never even seen a woman programmer. And I work in the field. I bet nobody on Slashdot has either. (this is a joke!)

Re:Do women write better code? (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23809261)

I haven't seen a woman (live one that is). Nor sunlight.

Re:Do women write better code? (4, Funny)

eclectro (227083) | more than 5 years ago | (#23809297)

The day I see a female programmer is the day I see my VCR tell the right time.

Remember: Sexism's Only Alright If It Favors Women (5, Insightful)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 5 years ago | (#23808851)

"They try to obfuscate things in the code, and don't leave clear directions for people using it later."
Excuse me? "Try to?" Like, it's on purpose?

I've seen all genders write obfuscated code--but it worked. And every single time it was because we were under the gun for a deadline or there was simply no other way to do it. It's preposterous to even try to sound like you have empirical data supporting this blanket assessment.

There's a big need to fix testosterone-fueled code at Ingres ...
Even in my state of extreme naivete about what is going on at Ingres, I would suggest you first dump efforts into your supporting teams to help your developers out ... like your systems engineers, test teams, database teams, etc. What McGrattan is accusing men of is just bad documentation. Anyone can suffer from this and anyone can do it expertly.

I could combat her anecdotal subjective statements (probably describing herself) with my own anecdotes or go on a rant about how many of the great programmers are men (like Donald Knuth and his 'literate programming') but what's the point? Men can be just as meticulous as women can at providing good documentation and women can be just as sloppy.

It's good to have a healthy mix of diversity and I wish that programmers were 50/50 split on gender (trust me, I really really do) but it's not because women are better than men at coding. Prime example of American sexism in one of the few forms it exists today.

Re:Remember: Sexism's Only Alright If It Favors Wo (4, Funny)

Savage-Rabbit (308260) | more than 5 years ago | (#23808887)

Excuse me? "Try to?" Like, it's on purpose?
I had these doubts to ... then I was introduced to Perl.

Re:Remember: Sexism's Only Alright If It Favors Wo (0, Flamebait)

zappepcs (820751) | more than 5 years ago | (#23809071)

I write PERL like a man, and for a damn good reason. Have you ever tried to get written instructions from a woman? Well, since my wife wrote the instructions for everyone to get to our first few parties, I've been damned happy with how PERL is written, and proud to document my code like a man. I've seen some PERL written like her directions, but not much.

Did I tell you, I directed most people via phone, up to 30 minutes after they gave up using her written directions.

Sure, women have a different way. In my experience, that is rarely the best, most concise, most efficient way of doing something.

Re:Remember: Sexism's Only Alright If It Favors Wo (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23809293)

It's "I had doubts too".

Re:Remember: Sexism's Only Alright If It Favors Wo (5, Funny)

TitusC3v5 (608284) | more than 5 years ago | (#23808901)

This article told me I code like a woman. I knew playing all those female characters in RPGs would come back to haunt me.


Re:Remember: Sexism's Only Alright If It Favors Wo (4, Insightful)

h4rm0ny (722443) | more than 5 years ago | (#23809131)

Bah! I can think of three female programmers immediately who I've worked with closely enough to comment on their code. Two of them were C++ programmers and I don't remember their code being anything atypical in terms of comments, though one wrote very elegant code. The third works primarily in Java and somehow manages to turn out hideously unreadable code. Conversely, I've seen numerous men who program in a variety of ways, readable and otherwise.

It's now well established that the human brain builds negative stereotypes more easily than positive ones and that people see what they are expecting and apply a double standard. This person sees what she wants to see.

Re:Remember: Sexism's Only Alright If It Favors Wo (3, Insightful)

notnAP (846325) | more than 5 years ago | (#23808941)

[It's a] Prime example of American sexism in one of the few forms it exists today.

What's a prime example? The fact that coding is a male dominated workplace? Or that someone can make blanket, derogatory statements against a group of people based on their sex/race/religion and get away with it?

Never mind, actually. I'd agree either way.

Re:Remember: Sexism's Only Alright If It Favors Wo (3, Interesting)

Hyppy (74366) | more than 5 years ago | (#23809075)

Because if the Wall Street Journal put ANY story out that even insinuated that women were less than the epitome of all that is good and right in the world, their offices would be firebombed.

Re:Remember: Sexism's Only Alright If It Favors Wo (5, Funny)

ShieldW0lf (601553) | more than 5 years ago | (#23809317)

Does this mean you need to spend half an hour telling the database how pretty it is and how much you love it no matter what it says before it will give you a straight answer?

Re:Remember: Sexism's Only Alright If It Favors Wo (2, Funny)

Larsrc (1285062) | more than 5 years ago | (#23809011)

I've seen all genders write obfuscated code--but it worked.
Please describe what other genders than male and female you've seen writing obfuscated code. I'm most curious now.


Re:Remember: Sexism's Only Alright If It Favors Wo (2, Funny)

NotBornYesterday (1093817) | more than 5 years ago | (#23809047)

You're just begging to be rickrolled to a NSFW hermaphrodite pron site with curiosity like that.

Re:Remember: Sexism's Only Alright If It Favors Wo (2, Interesting)

stewbacca (1033764) | more than 5 years ago | (#23809199)

"They try to obfuscate things in the code, and don't leave clear directions for people using it later."
Excuse me? "Try to?" Like, it's on purpose?
I'll buy the article's premise, because I see it at work every day. I'm a little more cynical, because I get to hear the "defense" of obscure (i.e., passive-aggressive) code writing practices in meetings. I can't go a day without hearing some sort of gripe from the programmer about how unfair work is, or how under-appreciated, overworked they are, or how unrealistic the demands are. Their response is a natural one...stick it to the man by imbedding self-preserving code.

Re:Remember: Sexism's Only Alright If It Favors Wo (1)

nnxion (964168) | more than 5 years ago | (#23809233)

Straight from her blog: http://blogs.ingres.com/emmamcgrattan/ [ingres.com]

"The one consistent answer I received that resonated with me is that women are more collaborative and, in a time of crisis, will pull a team together to get the problem resolved."
Just like how women are when you want to help them in the kitchen right?

Re:Remember: Sexism's Only Alright If It Favors Wo (5, Insightful)

Atraxen (790188) | more than 5 years ago | (#23809245)

Not only that, but even if the observation (that women write better documented code than men) is true, that would only be a correlation. The gender itself is not causation - if you want to learn something meaningful, find out why the gender is correlated (e.g. women at that company are given more reasonable deadlines, men feel less secure in their positions so they don't care about helping others untangle the 'spaghetti').

well, hire a bunch of women (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23808857)

and see how harmonic they all work together

yeah yeah... (5, Funny)

mactard (1223412) | more than 5 years ago | (#23808861)

Men's code is sexist and demeaning whereas woman's code will marry you for the divorce settlement.

Re:yeah yeah... (1)

kellyb9 (954229) | more than 5 years ago | (#23808947)

Men's code is sexist and demeaning
IF (woman==TRUE){
System.out.print("Get in the kitchen!");

Women aren't good programmers (5, Funny)

larry bagina (561269) | more than 5 years ago | (#23808871)

they freak out everytime they miss a period.

Re:Women aren't good programmers (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23809013)

Believe me, guys freak out when women miss a period also.

Re:Women aren't good programmers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23809097)

That would make them very good for real time multitasking applications. Ain't it? Plus they have boobs.

Wow, What A Revelation. (5, Funny)

blcamp (211756) | more than 5 years ago | (#23808875)

"Men and women think differently."

This is such shocking news. Unbelievable.

Simplistic? True? (4, Insightful)

neapolitan (1100101) | more than 5 years ago | (#23808883)

Inflammatory short article to "sex things up" (pun intended); surprising for the WSJ (or maybe not.) Written by a Rebecca Buckman, quoting Emma McGrattan at database company Ingres.

Any such broad classifications such as this should be taken with a *lot* of salt.

That being said, the article reminded me of a large digital systems design project that I had back in college, writing assembly for a 6502 processor in a device we made. My lab partner was a girl (probably only 10% of the class was female) who really, really thought differently than me in a way. It was weird -- some of the things I thought were impossible or not worth doing she would code in 10 hours; and the reverse was true. It was pretty much pure synergy (forgive the cheesy phrase) and we were extremely productive and got along well.

However, to reduce anything like this to gender differences is almost nonsensical. I could have been good lab partners with any number of people that thought differently than me, male or female. Personality is complex, not binary. I know many girls that code beautifully, and many more that can not code at all. This article is kind of interesting cocktail conversation, but nothing more IMHO...

Re:Simplistic? True? (2, Funny)

PsychosisBoy (1157613) | more than 5 years ago | (#23809115)

Any such broad classifications such as this should be taken with a *lot* of salt.

Pun intended? (I hope!)

Re:Simplistic? True? (2, Insightful)

jgardner100 (559892) | more than 5 years ago | (#23809123)

Hate to burst your bubble, but I get the same thing with my male and female co workers. It's called team work.

Re:Simplistic? True? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23809153)

Any such broad classifications such as this should be taken with a *lot* of salt.

rather a classification of broads

Re:Simplistic? True? (1)

jav1231 (539129) | more than 5 years ago | (#23809189)

It was pretty much pure synergy (forgive the cheesy phrase) and we were extremely productive and got along well.
So you hit it!?

Re:Simplistic? True? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23809203)

"(probably only 10% of the class was female)?

10%? lucky bastard.

Since the whole article is based on anecdotes... (4, Insightful)

Zarhan (415465) | more than 5 years ago | (#23808885)

My friends include a woman who writes 100-line SQL statements embedded in a perl-script. You need a magic decoder ring just to see what's there.

A male colleague, OTOH, likes to write code in style such as

for (unsigned int i=0;ij;i = i + 1) // Loop counts from i to j, with increments of one
    { .... } ...and no, his job does not include teaching basics of programming.

There, I've the counterpoint for the article with my own biased view!

I write code like that guy (4, Insightful)

wiredog (43288) | more than 5 years ago | (#23808957)

Partly because the comments start out as the design, to which I then add code.

I also comment obsessively because I want to be able to come back to the code a year later and know, quickly, what I did and why I did it.

Many years ago I was porting someone else's C code from 16 bit to 32 bit and came across "//Why did I do this?" at the top of a couple hundred lines of uncommented code that had multiple embedded while anf for loops, with a pow() and a couple of sizeof()'s in there. I had to print it out and trace it by hand to figure out what he'd done, and why. Took awhile.

Too many comments can be ignored, too few can give you heartburn.

Re:I write code like that guy (1)

gmack (197796) | more than 5 years ago | (#23809051)

Documenting a for loop like that is simply duplicating work for both the writer and whoever gets to read it later.

Comments should not say what the code does but instead what the result should be unless the code is particularly clever and its not obvious at first site what it's trying to do.

Re:I write code like that guy (4, Insightful)

jmnugent (705421) | more than 5 years ago | (#23809213)

..."and its not obvious at first site" The problem with this line of thinking is that everyone has a different definition of "obvious". (whats obvious to you, may not be obvious to others, and vice-versa) I'm not saying code should be commented until its longer than "War and Peace".. but descriptively succinct comments can go a long way to helping others understand 1.) your code segments overall goal, 2.) the basic logic, 3.) the expected output and 4.) what it means (and what you might do) if you dont get the "expected output" ./grain of salt - I'm not a programmer (but trying to be one), and hate, hate, hate unnecessarily obfusticated code. Its OK to write great code. Its not OK to act elitist and expect others to automatically understand it.

Re:I write code like that guy (1)

Sobrique (543255) | more than 5 years ago | (#23809241)

Indeed. Comments are _not_ for describing that a for loop, is a for loop. It's for describing what your 'for' loop is actually doing, and bits that may need attention drawing to them (like the 'next;' statement 5 lines down).

But hey, males and females alike can be sloppy at writing comments. I'm terrible at times when I'm going at 'full hack' to the point where I come back later, and wonder WTF _I_ was doing, and have to re-do it, to figure out what the hell it does. (And then I comment it)

Re:Since the whole article is based on anecdotes.. (1)

kmsigel (306018) | more than 5 years ago | (#23808999)

>// Loop counts from i to j, with increments of one
>for (unsigned int i=0;ij;i = i + 1)

This loop starts at zero and keeps incrementing by one as long as the variable ij is non-zero. Your male colleague is an idiot.

Re:Since the whole article is based on anecdotes.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23809207)

I don't know what it was (the tone, perhaps), but this post made me crack the fuck up.

Re:Since the whole article is based on anecdotes.. (1)

rdradar (1110795) | more than 5 years ago | (#23809251)

However usually it doesnt increment at all, as most variables default to zero/false

Re:Since the whole article is based on anecdotes.. (2, Insightful)

Speare (84249) | more than 5 years ago | (#23809085)

Your associate uses the programming style that triggers my standard "Tactics in Code, Comments in Strategy" rant.

* Explain your intent, then write your code.

This goes beyond just "put comments in your code." When you want to write a routine, or a program, start by describing the problem in natural human terms. One good approach is to open a new text file, write the problem description in English (etc.), but put comment/remark syntax markers around it. For each sentence in the problem description, you can often insert the real programming code necessary, and leave the English description behind.

Adding translations and comments for every line of code, to explain every single operation, is not effective documentation. Instead, write your intentions for how the routine should work in English, and follow it with several lines of code. Put strategy in comments, tactics in code. This will help you write code cleanly and logically the first time, and it will help your associates decypher the program later. Commenting code shouldn't waste time, it should save time.

If they wrote "// walk the array of customers" (above the loop) instead of "// increment i from 0 to j in increments of one", wouldn't that help you follow the chain of thought so much more? Of course, literate programming would rather you use variable names that conveyed their intent as well.

Re:Since the whole article is based on anecdotes.. (4, Insightful)

Sobrique (543255) | more than 5 years ago | (#23809291)

Repeating what the code actually says, in 'non geek' is redundant commenting IMO - if anyone doesn't know enough about the code to know what that 'for' line says (like the original coder, given the comment is incorrect ;p) then they have no business touching the code at all.

I work on the assumption that the next person to read the code will have at least a vague idea of what the programming language is, and how to speak it, so comments are the subtext to explain what happens, where, and where any obfuscations are. (Deliberately obfuscating is bad; occasionally it's unavoidable, and therefore needs more comment)

Re:Since the whole article is based on anecdotes.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23809267)

Star Ratings by Leah Culver:

# round to one decimal place and
# separate into whole and fractional parts
parts = str(round(star_sum/num_raters, 1)).split('.')
whole = int(parts[0])
frac = int(parts[1])
if frac 7:
___frac = 0
___whole += 1
___frac = 5
# recombine for a star rating rounded to the half
stars = float(str(whole)+'.'+str(frac))

Expert Django web developer at work!

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That's not why! (3, Interesting)

91degrees (207121) | more than 5 years ago | (#23808935)

Often, "they try to show how clever they are by writing very cryptic code," she tells the Business Technology Blog.

Yeah... the advice to add comments explaining why and how is good, but how about you stop telling us what we're thinking and what our motivations are. If I do do something "clever", I'll sure as hell make it clear how it works and why I did it. And the reason for it is because it's the best way to do things. I don't have to prove anything.

Not my experience (5, Interesting)

Hyppy (74366) | more than 5 years ago | (#23808949)

I know the plural of "anecdote" is not "data", but in my experiences this is far from true. I have found female coders in my jobs to be downright malevolent in their coding. All women I have worked with that write any sort of code obfuscate the hell out of it, document absolutely nothing, and will barely explain how to even use their product. If everything is not run "their way", then it seems like armageddon.

Case in point. We have a coder who wrote an application for our office. Because of the fact that she refused to use any variable for the Program Files folder (hard coded as "c:\Program Files\") and she insisted that all workstations need a D: partition (to hold a 100kb support file), we had to rebuild 4 servers.

Say what you will about women coders being "touchy feely." I won't fall for it, any more than the NOW propoganda that all women are natural caring mothers, even the coked out alcoholics.

Re:Not my experience (4, Insightful)

risinganger (586395) | more than 5 years ago | (#23809009)

I know female coders as well and they don't do crap like that. I think your company needs to follow the same advice given elsewhere in this thread and hire better programmers.

Re:Not my experience (1)

Hyppy (74366) | more than 5 years ago | (#23809089)

But the article says we need to hire all female programmers, because only men write bad code!

no question, they code much differently (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23808953)

And if I ever come across a woman programmer, I'll prove it.

Bad programmers methinks (4, Insightful)

tomalpha (746163) | more than 5 years ago | (#23808959)

"They try to obfuscate things in the code"

Forget a male/female issue. I think she needs to hire better programmers period. Anyone in a professional code shop that's deliberately trying to write obfuscated code shouldn't be there and she's not doing her job properly if she's not firing them or getting them into remedial classes of some kind.

Of course (4, Insightful)

pthor1231 (885423) | more than 5 years ago | (#23808971)

If someone wrote an article that was the opposite of this, from a "man's point of view" it would be extremely sexist, and the publisher, writer, and anyone quoted in the article would burn in the ninth layer of hell for being such a terrible person.

Poor observation skills (5, Insightful)

HappyHead (11389) | more than 5 years ago | (#23808977)

This sounds like a severe case of deciding on a problem, and then picking out observations to support it. Let's say you have 1000 coders, and 1/10 of your coders (100 of them) write poorly documented code. Now we'll also consider the gender-split - if 1/10 of the coder population is female, and the statistical 1/10 of the coders writing poorly documented code applies to them as well - this means you'll have 10 female coders writing poor documentation, and 90 male coders writing poor documentation. WOW! NINE TIMES as many male coders who can't document code properly, CLEARLY that means that men can't document code, right? Right?

The same sort of thing applied here at the University I teach at - a certain ethnic minority had a very bad reputation as producing cheaters in Comp.Sci. So for a few years, I carefully recorded every instance of cheating, and kept track of the ethnic background of the people getting caught. You know what? The only reason more people of that background were getting caught is because they represented 85% of the population in the department - the overall percentage of them that were cheating was actually LOWER than others.

Perhaps this McGrattan person should concentrate more on fixing the problems than on blaming them on some group she doesn't like.

Re:Poor observation skills (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23809253)

You actually collected data to support or usurp public perception? What a wonderfully novel idea.

Of course, if the results turned out differently, you'd be marked a racist just for collecting that data.

Ingres needs help (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23808983)

Sounds like they need some real R&D management and processes. I have worked with both male and female programmers for 25 years and they both write code in the style required by the company, period. Maybe people sitting in a basement somewhere write code differently, certainly there is *some* 'freelance' coding going on in smaller companies (vast generalization) but when it comes to application code written by large companies, any R&D manager worth their salt is going to put a stop to people writing code in a questionable style and/or not putting in sufficient comments.

Not true. (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23809003)

If women were intended to write code, there would be more keyboards in the kitchen.

Yet another counter-example (1)

siride (974284) | more than 5 years ago | (#23809019)

My ex-girlfriend wrote fairly male-like code. No comments, not often formatted properly, not always the clearest way of doing things, etc. I, on the other hand, am anal about formatting and logical structure, although I am still pretty light on the comments. And I never try to malevolently write unmaintainable code...quite the opposite, in fact. When I'm writing one-off perl scripts, I will, however, try to be as clever as possible ;).

Oh come on, Slashdot! (4, Funny)

borizz (1023175) | more than 5 years ago | (#23809021)

-those strings of instructions that result in nifty applications and programs-

Why do you need to explain what code is? This is news for nerds, not news for my mother. Give us some credit please.

Re:Oh come on, Slashdot! (1)

GrahamCox (741991) | more than 5 years ago | (#23809161)

The text is quoting from the original article, which was aimed at business users. Seems reasonable to add the explanation to me.

from my experiance. (1)

oliverthered (187439) | more than 5 years ago | (#23809031)

In my department (only about 10 people) the women seem much more willing to learn and have a lot smaller egos than the men. the men do seem better at solving problems though, even if they do do it horribly.

I put in good comments and write nice clean code with lots of documentation unit tests etc... I'm not a woman and I'm the only person in the department that does this women included. I also do all the training so it's quite possible that the women will start to do this just because of their willingness to learn and their lack of ego.

woman aren't as good at men (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23809035)

Women aren't as good as men at anything, if they were then they would be the dominate gender in society, but they are not. Woman are only good for sex, something of which I am sure a lot of /. readers here get little of!

A woman claiming 'women right better code'.... (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23809039)

bias, anyone?

I know where this comes from (1)

ComputerGeek01 (1182793) | more than 5 years ago | (#23809041)

It's easy to see where this writer can get this impression, seriously IDK about YOUR environment but the last time I saw a women write code was in college as part of a mandated computer class. I can easily imagine that the reason the writer sees a 'trend' is because programming is (to the point of frustration) still very much a male dominated world and the only women the go into it are the ones who are interested in the subject enough to do it right. I think we would be lying to our selves if we ignored the "nerd factor" in all of this. This is a generalization people, there will always be exceptions and given how many programmers are foreign and don't necessarily have the communication skills that someone in a 1st or 2nd world country would I am not surprised by this result.

Breaking News (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23809043)

Just in from the department of made up facts and statistics.

Rediculous nonsense (3, Insightful)

proud american (1003577) | more than 5 years ago | (#23809049)

I have lots of coders reporting to me. You can't judge the sex, race, age, sexual orientation, etc of the coder from the quality of the code.

Short Answer: No (2, Insightful)

jaxtherat (1165473) | more than 5 years ago | (#23809059)

Enough with the sexist and discussion provoking (read: flamebait) stories already.

Any programmer (whether male or female) who 'try to obfuscate things in the code' are on a fast tract to sacked-ville, and ignored-for-promotion town.

Beware of Female Programmers (4, Funny)

Idimmu Xul (204345) | more than 5 years ago | (#23809079)

Now that I've lived to see this day,
These are the things I must but say.

Die a bachelor, if your options are few,
Never ever love a female programmer,
they'll make a program out of you.

Don't laugh it away, mine has been an object lesson,
They find syntax errors, even in a romantic expression.

Alas! They search logic in love, where there is none,
Your heart may skip a beat and they just hit return.

You are in for trouble if you persist,
You'll just be a pointer in her long linked list.

Free Playstation 3, XBox 360 and Nintendo Wii [free-toys.co.uk]

Sooo tired (2, Insightful)

Alphasite (1261864) | more than 5 years ago | (#23809081)

I'm so tired of this stupid studies. So if we say "men code better than women do" then it's clearly a chauvinist article that makes unfair or unclear comparisons and undermine females and blah blah blah...

But if the article says "women code better than men" then everything is ok. Is like some spot by Boss (at least in Spain) where the woman could replace the man if he wasn't able to use the stove or the washer ... or those chapters of Family Matters when men always mess up ... Well I'm tired of this.

I think coding is about the person not about the gender. Careful people comment more and make more comments while rush people may make more cryptic code. Sometimes some brilliant people just don't comment but makes the most elegant code ... but you see ... "PEOPLE"

Here's my anecdote (2, Insightful)

stewbacca (1033764) | more than 5 years ago | (#23809091)

I work for a software company. Our female programmers get all the important work because, well, they are good at what they do. Most notably, they have PEOPLE skills and can contribute to the project in meetings. They improve quality in two ways. First, they care about the code they write (as the article states) and second, they aren't afraid to REWRITE code to make it better. They aren't defensive and recalcitrant when it comes to working out the bugs.

Of course, I don't think this is 100% gender related, because the female programmers that act like the stereotypical programmers also kinda suck at work too. I think it's more of an issue of having people skills and my anecdotal evidence supports hiring more female programmers.

They cook it, they write it... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23809103)

The worst pile of spaghetti code I've ever seen was cobbled together by two women "programmers". Single character variable names, 1000+ line functions. The application was discarded and properly _engineered_ and documented by male software engineers. Female programmers... yea, tell me another one.

A pathetic cry for help (2, Insightful)

billcopc (196330) | more than 5 years ago | (#23809105)

Sexism aside, that article reads like a want-ad. Seems to me like Ingres is in desperate need of more estrogen, and that lone female coder has grown tired of chatting up the HR bimbos.

If women write better code, does that mean we shouldn't hire bulldykes ? Talk amongst yourselves!

This code is writen by woman, I want to KILL her! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23809127)

Notice: The indentation and/or formation was NOT lost during this post, it is completely ABSENT!

procedure TDenZazn_f.DenzExecute(i_poby: integer);
if i_poby <> 0 then
PPoby:= TPoby.Create(i_poby,zamok,lgn.Database.DatabaseName);
if Assigned(Ppoby) then PPoby.Free;
Denz := TDenz.Create(0,i_poby,0,zamok,lgn.Database.DatabaseName);
Rezi := TRezi.Create(0,i_poby,zamok,lgn.Database.DatabaseName);
Vita := TVita.Create(0,i_poby,zamok,lgn.Database.DatabaseName);
if Assigned(DEnz)then Denz.Free;
if Assigned(Rezi)then Rezi.Free;
if Assigned(Vita)then Vita.Free;

Gender differences (4, Interesting)

Sobrique (543255) | more than 5 years ago | (#23809147)

Women and men do tend to think differently.

Not worse, nor better really, just ... different

So yes, I can see women writing 'better' code, but I still think that's more likely to be a matter of training and discipline, as much as anything else. Or perhaps the 'female geek' effect - in a word where you'll be faced with massive prejudice and pressure, the 'female techy' is typically (and yes, I realise this is a broad generalisation) even more hardcore than male counterparts - simply because she's there because she _really_ wants to, and has had to face a lot of uphill struggle to get there. This seems to hold true in petrolhead circles too (see, I can do car analogies too) - the few 'girl racers' I've met, have extremely extreme car mods, and rigs, because they're competing against everyone else _and_ the gender stereotype.

Re:Gender differences (-1, Troll)

stewbacca (1033764) | more than 5 years ago | (#23809295)

Racing is a sport that requires physical strength, endurance and spacial understanding. That's why there aren't a lot of women in racing. Take a look at the curbs in any metro area...those black tire marks on all the curbs? Women drivers...and thats at 35 mph. Imagine the damage they'd cause at 135 mph!

Puhlease! God devs comment. Bad ones don't. (2, Insightful)

Bozovision (107228) | more than 5 years ago | (#23809165)

Trying to say it's got something to do with gender is a meaningless generalization unless the author shows us the proof. Pointless and offensive at the same time. Try these substitutions for size:
"Pandas comment better than Gnomes at coding". (I guess it's cos pandas take time to think. Gnomes are just to fast for their own good.)
"Short people code better on average than tall people" (Presumably because their heads are closer to the computer?)
"Hispanics code differently to black people." (I have no idea what I can say about this comparison that won't sound racist, and the point of this comment is to show how STUPID any general comparisons like this are.)

On the other hand, maybe these would be valid comparisons:
"Managers write worse code than developers". Yep, it might come as a shock that on average people who practice are better.
"Good developers comment more than bad developers." Shock! Horror! There's a surprise!

And while I'm at it. The picture that the WSJ used to illustrate their article shows a dramatic lack of imagination. Next time let's have a pictures of a naked coders instead of a half-assed, inappropriate, royalty-free attempt to use a bit of beauty into an otherwise daft article.

Poor science (1)

Larsrc (1285062) | more than 5 years ago | (#23809167)

Apart from the sample size being way too low to say anything this broad, there's also other factors that haven't been taken into account, such as that it takes a special kind of woman to make it into such a male-dominated field, which may reflect on how well they do their job.

What I've noticed is a tendency I've seen for female programmers to be assigned "soft" tasks like documenting and translating. I've seen that in two very different workplaces, I get the (gut) feeling that it's in an attempt to "protect" the women. Stupid. That's exactly what doesn't get more women into programming.

Sexist Remarks (1)

certain death (947081) | more than 5 years ago | (#23809169)

I agree with the sexist statement. We all know that women and a lot of men think that men are lazy disgusting troglodytes, but I have known some women who were far more lazy and disgusting...for example, I had a girl friend who was so lazy and disgusting, rather than get up out of bed to take her morning wiz, she would grab the "Big Gulp" cup from the bed side table and piss in it...now I know that is disgusting!, I was there and seen it.

Both genders are equal (1)

magical_mystery_meat (1042950) | more than 5 years ago | (#23809171)

I've encountered good and bad coders of all genders but I have noticed that they tend to be motivated by different factors. Male programmers are motivated by proving their ability to their peers. Female programmers tend to be motivated more by praise from their superiors. There are of course exceptions to both cases; I don't particularly feel like I have anything to prove to my co-workers myself, but a lot of programmers do, especially young guys.

Sexual orientation and coding style? (2, Interesting)

kurisuto (165784) | more than 5 years ago | (#23809177)

As an additional dimension to this question:

I'm a gay man, and I've been told that my code is unusually clear. I think of my code as a letter that I'm writing to the next person who has to work with it. (Frankly, I consider clarity in code to be a measure of the competence of the programmer.)

Obviously, a pattern can't be drawn from one individual. However, if there's any validity to the claim about a difference in coding styles between the male and female populations, I wonder whether gay men tend to pattern one way or the other.

Documentation (5, Funny)

Ogive17 (691899) | more than 5 years ago | (#23809187)

We all know that even if a woman *appears* to document her code well that what is written isn't what she really means!

Or women don't document at all and just expect the men to know what they are thinking.

Actual comments from woman-code: (5, Funny)

BForrester (946915) | more than 5 years ago | (#23809209)

They'll intersperse their code-those strings of instructions that result in nifty applications and programs-with helpful comments and directions.

If women code anything like they act in real life, then you'd get a lot of helpful comments like this:

/*If you don't why this function isn't returning your expected result, then hell if I'm going to tell you.

Yes but how good are they at statistics? (1)

Michael_gr (1066324) | more than 5 years ago | (#23809219)

I have anecdotal evidence that indicate the opposite is true but I don't claim my anecdotes are indicative of the whole of the human race (or the coder subset of it)

The absolute easiest to maintain code... (1)

backbyter (896397) | more than 5 years ago | (#23809221)

I have ever had the pleasure to work on was written by a woman who also happened to be legally blind.

This was Cobol code. All of her programs were well commented, laid out sensibly, and very easy to work on.

Only Difference I found is... (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23809229)

The only thing I've noticed between the two is females tends to use more descriptive and longer variables names.

int iBlobPermBF;

int iBinaryBitFieldForPermissions;

strategy in comments, tactics in code (1)

Speare (84249) | more than 5 years ago | (#23809249)

One, I have a rule I teach to any programmer under my supervision: strategy in comments, tactics in code. Tactics are what you do to get something done. Strategy explains what you want done. In warfare, an officer focuses on strategy: "secure that hill!" "pick the best two devices!" "find the local minimum!" Don't mention the tools you use to get that job done, soldier, unless you're being fiendishly clever. Comments should be in natural human language, while the code should just accomplish those tasks.

Two, I have a technique I teach to any new programmer, whether they're under my supervision or not: write the comments first. Programming courses always talk about writing pseudocode: why write it on scratch paper, just to throw it away?

# prior server
# next server
# objects

sub process_ring_packet {
# if we have a prior server,
## if this packet was received from the prior,
### if this server created this packet originally,
#### kill the packet, it's completed the trip.
# scan the packet for all object references.
# dispatch packet to object mentioned which we control.
# if any object references remain unhandled,
## if we have a next server,
### send the packet to the next server.

(Pardon the cruddy indentation. Thanks to slashdot's weak formatting features.)

Once the pseudocode is written in human terms, then fill in your actual code in whatever computer language is being employed. Note that I didn't say HOW to do each of the tasks in the comments. I just wrote what needed to get done.

Lastly, as others have indicated, the actual code should not be too clever for your teammates to understand at a glance. Use clear concise words for variable names, without abbreviating them unnecessarily. Use the idioms they're familiar with. Use the language they're familiar with. You shouldn't need any # swap $x and $y comments to explain basic tasks or idioms. If you really find a clever but unusual trick, or you need to hack out something that's not obvious, then you can mention it.

I have configured my editors to highlight tags like #REVIEW: #TODO: #BUGBUG: #HACK: so I can see areas that need more attention. Review things which may or may not be right or done in the best way. List things that are definitely undone but needed. Mark areas where known bugs are located, even if the fix isn't in there yet; give bug tracking numbers if appropriate. Mark code which is overly clever to get around dumb library limitations or which save a lot of processing in obscure ways.

pseudo psychology (2, Interesting)

soulfury (1229120) | more than 5 years ago | (#23809257)

I have my own crack theory. :) In the I.T. field, men greatly outnumber women. The women that decide to work on I.T. are usually intuitive thinkers that don't easily get pressured into accepting the gender roles assigned to them by society (i.e., programming is a man's job).

In general, sensate thinkers (ST) greatly outnumber intuitive thinkers (NT). When someone thinks of "male programmers", they are actually thinking of "male ST programmers" that like to show how clever they are by writing cryptic code.

The NT programmers that I've worked with try to show off by explaining the concepts behind the code through comments and diagrams, which is often a good thing.

Blatant sexism (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23809275)

Basic sexist statement template:

"Because of (stereotype) everything that (gender A) does is good, and everything that (gender B) does is bad."

Note that some combinations of parameters will be rejected by the compiler as obviously buggy, others will be silently accepted.

I don't think so. (5, Insightful)

DougReed (102865) | more than 5 years ago | (#23809277)

One of the better programmers I ever knew was a woman, and also one of the worst. The better one didn't even indent her 'if' statements, much less add comments until I shouted at her and made her review something she had written a few months earlier. The other one, wrote more comments than code... Like she thought she could justify the fact that it didn't work by explaining what it was supposed to do.
Pretty much kills that theory in my book. Men and women often think differently, and even different programmers of the same sex think differently. There are a lot of generalizations one can make about women and men in the world, and argue religiously about whether it is environment or instinct... Somehow I don't think programming style is one of them.

Stereotypes are an ugly thing.... (4, Insightful)

borgheron (172546) | more than 5 years ago | (#23809305)

I think this is a stereotype like any other. You can't say that one group of people always does something in a given way.

I certainly do not write my code in a "cryptic way" to show off. I find it a little insulting to my entire gender to be pigeonholed in that way.

I was taught that when you write code it should be easily understandable and well commented and that's what I do.


Greg C.

Maybe they do (1)

Toreo asesino (951231) | more than 5 years ago | (#23809307)

but there's one thing not mentioned....for example.

Next to me, there's the hottest girl programming some VBA app. Talk about the manifestation of heaven & hell together, but I digress; the point really is, all the guy programmers come over to "help her out", literally whenever they can - blatantly, just to stare down her top. _She_ might be more productive, but I guarantee the rest of the male population of our department isn't.

Even I, I must admit, have dived under her desk just once to check her "power cables were all in place" after one power-cut. Yeah I'm not sure what I was thinking with that reasoning either, but she bought it (did I mention she programs VBA?).

It is a sad day when a grown man combines his sexual fantasy into a coding discussion I know. I'll go now.

i don't know if women write better code (5, Insightful)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 5 years ago | (#23809315)

but i do know that wildly speculative sweeping generalizations provides lots of fodder for utterly useless watercooler chit chat

congrats slashdot for picking a topic everyone feels entitled to comment on and absolutely no one actually says anything useful on
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