The story of Mel, the Real Programmer is one of the myths in the discipline of programming. Written and published in 1983 on a Usenet board, it recounts the tale of Mel Kaye, an individual who wrote software on the 1959 ACT-1 compiler and has become a recurring reference in programmer’s lore, partly due to Kaye’s ability to write both excellent and inscrutable code. This obfuscating aspect of a code that only its writer can read, while being considered in this context a laudable feature of model programming work, and informing ideals of programmers, slowly began to phase out in the 1960s. With the extension of the market for commercial software, more and more companies started to constitute what is today a large part of the technology industry, composed of teams of multiple programmers working on the same codebase. This mutation, from the individual programmer implementing ad hoc and personal solutions to group coordination to build and maintain large, distributed pieces of software, brought with it a necessity to harmonize and standardize the way in which code is written. Today, style guides and style guidelines are a recurring topic in both the software development and computer science research; particularly, debates about programming style implementations and best practices remain significant, if under-examined, parts of a given programmer’s practice in a commercial context.
In the first part, I will address the needs for style and, consequently, style guides in contemporary, commercial programming practices, inscribing it further into both the sociology of style and the sociology of organizations. In particular, I will highlight continuities and breaks between style guides for human languages and style guides for programming languages. Building on this dichotomy, the second part of this article highlights the specific technical intermediary objects involved in those discussions and implementations. Both GitHub and linters are significant component of the creation and implementation of style guides and therefore will occupy a central role in this analysis. After developing on the research methods used in this study, as qualitative discourse analysis of issues and pull requests, I will develop on the findings of this research, highlighting discursive and structural differences between the three targeted repositories. Finally, I will conclude by highlighting the findings of such an analysis, focusing on the place of tools, read-only documents and read-write documents, as well as invisible communities in the development of style guides.
question: what are some of the discursive strategies in place regarding style guide adoption and modification? how are these connected to, and affected by github?
hypotheses: the socio-technological milieu in which these discussions happen affects the argumentation
in the end it’s affected by github’s:
: Nather, Ed (2003-09-12) [1983-05-21], The story of Mel, a Real Programmer, FOLDOC
: ref needed
: ref needed
: ref needed - formal institutions (goody?)