Writing Code

Here is a link to Writing Code, my presentation from the 2009 ATTW conference, as a PDF with slide images and speaker text. (Some slides have been updated slightly to account for differences in media.) It's about 880 KB.

Writing Code argues that writing (software) code — programming — is writing, specifically technical writing; that most programmers don't recognize that it's technical writing; and that most programmers don't do it well. It also suggests that technical-writing scholars (with few exceptions) also haven't noticed that writing code is writing, but that they ought to.

Acknowledgements

I'd like to thank Bill Hart-Davidson for encouragement, feedback, and suggestions, particularly for pointing me to Clay Spinuzzi's essay “Towards a Hermeneutic Understanding of Programming Languages”.

A number of people responded generously to my query on the Usenet newsgroup alt.folklore.computers with anecdotes, impressions, theories, and other useful information on this topic. See the thread history of comments and source code annotations. I'd particularly like to thank (in no particular order) Stan Barr, Barb Huizinga, Tim Shoppa, Joe Morris, Charlie Gibbs, Larry Weiss, Joe Pfeiffer, Jorgen Grahn, Michael Roach, Lynn Wheeler, Morten Reistad, Tim McCaffrey, and Charles Richmond.