Scott Hardie | September 8, 2004
Here's something that's been on my mind recently.

As I recently described, I'm a slow driver, and by that I mean that I usually obey the speed limit. This apparently puts me in the slowest 3% of the state population. On an empty back road last week, I was doing 42 mph in a 30 zone, and the two drivers tailgating me made very clear their dissatisfaction with my tortoise-like momentum by twiddling their thumbs on the steering wheel, jerking their head back pretending to fall asleep, and so on. Neither of them chose to go around me, and we were less than half a minute from our mutual destination. I happened to know the drivers in the other cars, and when we arrived, I walked up to engage in dialogue about it rather than let it go ignored. I was gently berated for my slowness with comments like "Where's Miss Daisy?" and decided to let it slide. I hadn't gone up to apologize, since I had done nothing wrong; I was following the law and had the logically defensible position. All I wanted was to smooth things out, and apparently it worked, so it's water under the bridge, though I do still get an occasional ribbing for it.

All summer, I've been having an ongoing discussion with a developer friend who quietly supports coding standards. Myself, I reject many coding standards, partly because I disagree with them and partly because they're a pain in the ass. For example, HTML coding standards demand quotation marks around every attribute, such that you might designate an image as having width="100", even though every browser on the planet recognizes the simpler width=100. When you generate HTML using PHP, however, the PHP eats the quotation marks and so you have to apply virgules to preserve them, as in width=\"100\". It gets even more complicated if you're drawing the value from an array, such as width=\"".$aWidths["x"]."\". That many quotation marks can be a nuisance when you're combing through your code trying to find the typo that's causing your glitch, so I defy the standards whenever I can get away with it, such as here on my own site. However, today a third developer entered the conversation with even stronger support of the standards. Though he understood my desire for simple, effective code, he was correct in pointing out that my methods break the officially agreed-upon standards of the web community. I put up a fight, but I found myself agreeing with him after I compared myself to the tailgater who was mad at me for obeying the speed limit.

Am I a hypocrite? I drive that speed because it's the speed that I am comfortable driving, not because of the legal limit; I merely use the law as an excuse to continue. When it comes to the coding standards, I genuinely disagree with them in principle, but the reason I disobey them is because I am lazy and prefer efficiency. I don't mind finding out that I'm being a hypocrite; it would only mean changing my position to the logically defensible one. Is it worth it?

Erik Bates | September 8, 2004
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Scott Hardie | September 8, 2004
Ergo. Concordantly!

Anyway, I was being too vague. What I meant was, I almost always follow the speed limit, and in this case I was going as much as 12 over the limit just to appease the tailgaters and it wasn't nearly enough for them. (I was sarcastically called a "rebel" for going 42 in a 30.)

Thanks for the comment. It has given me more to think about.

Anna Gregoline | September 8, 2004
Erstwhile! Ergo! Concordantly!

That is all. =)

Scott Horowitz | September 8, 2004
Speed limits are merely suggestions.

Mike Eberhart | September 8, 2004
Stop signs with White borders are optional.

Anna Gregoline | September 8, 2004
All I have to say, Scott is: You drive as slow as you want.

I think your two examples are very different from each other. I mean, you should drive where you feel comfortable, first of all, and obey the laws. You're doing that, and you're in the right. The second example is an example of something you don't want to do - but I think as long as you did it in your job or whatever, you shouldn't have to defend a personal decision to not use the code at home. Maybe I'm missing the point?

Kris Weberg | September 8, 2004
From a nonconsequentialist standpoint, you're a hypocrite -- in both cases a commmunity standard has been set, and your response is different in each. A moral universalist like Kant would waggle his finger at you.

From a consequentialist ethical standpoint, you're not a hypocrite. Speeding can have physical consequences, do a great deal of damage in extreme cases, and in any case, your using nonstandard coding can have none of those consequences, and so the harm that is possible in the speeding example outweighs the relative lack of harm possible in the codign example, making them different entities altogether. A utilitarian ethicist likeJohn Stuart Mill would agree with you, and probably call Kant a name.

Scott Hardie | September 10, 2004
Damn, you're right. I could only imagine a web forum between philosophers. :-)

I guess I just see it as a matter of intellectually agreeing with the speed limit and intellectually disagreeing with coding standards. But do I only disagree with them because I don't like to code that way? Most people who claim the speed limit is too low (I think Sammy Hagar had a few comments on the matter) only say so because they enjoy driving faster.

After eight years of coding on my own, I'm just now getting a real look at the standards. I mean really, <br /> instead of <BR>? Am I the only one who sees how annoying that is? (Don't answer.)

Anna Gregoline | September 10, 2004
I think they are vastly different because of safety issues, like it was said above. The way you code won't kill anyone. Driving too fast might.

Erik Bates | September 10, 2004
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