Does source code have feelings?


I was having lunch the other day with a longtime member of the open source community, when i happen to mention, "well, it isn’t like source code has feelings.  it doesn’t care how it gets used, modified or cloned. it’s just code."  Um, yeah, talk about awkward moments.

It wasn’t necessary an "open mouth insert foot," moment,  but more of a "whoa, i’ve never really thought about it that way before…"  Over here at the keyboard, the jury is still out whether source code has feelings, but it makes for such an interesting lunch time conversation.

Oddly enough, I’m brought back to the Seaseme Street skit with the muppets playing in a rock band as objects moved along a conveyor-like belt.  If the object was a living thing, like a plant or a frog, they band would play, "It’s alive, na na na na…." and if the object were an inanimate thing, like a rock or a phone, it would play "Not alive, na na na na…"  Maybe someone will find this clip somewhere on the web…  I think Freakonomics also calls this particular skit leaving a lasting impression on young children… 

The best analogy that i’ve been able to come up with is one of a teddy bear or a similar stuff animal.  Does that stuff animal really have feelings?  Or is it because we have such strong emotions connected to it that the stuff animal has feelings vicariously of us?  Maybe that’s why letting go of code you’ve written is so tough.  It’s hard to give your teddy bear or <insert sentimental object here> to someone else, hoping they’ll appreciate and take care of it as much as you did when you wrote the code / received the bear or sentimental object.

Or maybe trying to figure out how shared and open source works within Microsoft and Visual Studio has finally caused me to lose my mind =)

What do you think?

Comments (8)

  1. Peter Ritchie says:

    I don’t know about feelings; but I’m sure I’ve encountered source code that’s had it out for me…

  2. saraford says:

    lol, that’s a good one =)

  3. Gideon says:

    lol… i like your anology , i myself am a complete computer geek and even i love my source! *wishes he could hug his source code*

  4. You’re not loosing your mind.

    The new relationship SP1 creates for VS 2005 is simply nirvana, soooooo groovy.

  5. Matt Green says:

    Code is kind of like a plant to me. Though I helped grow it, I know it needs to be pruned sometimes. And I don’t really talk to code, though I like to put snarky comments near code for it to hear.

    Major bonus points for referencing that Sesame Street skit. It will forever be in my brain:

    "if it lives and eats and grows, then THAT is how you know, (oh oh oh) it’s alive!"

  6. It certainly functions like it has feelings. Go ahead and write some "bad" code and see how it behaves.

  7. Source Code says:

    Well it’s pretty obvious that programmers don’t have feelings.  If they did, they’d think twice before hurting mine.

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