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Code Clinic

by arturo (Vicar)
on Nov 09, 2000 at 19:55 UTC ( #40732=monkdiscuss: print w/replies, xml ) Need Help??

A discussion in the chatterbox with kudra who suggested a "hall of shame" gave me the following, slightly more 'remedial' idea. (As she pointed out, we wouldn't want bad code popping up in searches; might confuse some people. But if it were clearly labeled...)

(credit must also go to an article or two on

Why not have a "code clinic" section, where monks take some sub-par code and clean it up, offering explanations of why they make the changes they make? It would sit somewhere in between the Code Catacombs and the Tutorials, in that it would take the material in the Tutorials section and apply it to a real-world problem.

Discussions could, of course, suggest OWsTDI.

Philosophy can be made out of anything. Or less -- Jerry A. Fodor

Replies are listed 'Best First'.
(kudra: clarification) RE: Code Clinic
by kudra (Vicar) on Nov 09, 2000 at 20:13 UTC
    I should point out that my comment followed arturo's description of some horrible code. There've been a few nodes discussing how horrible things can be (I'm too lazy to look up more than one link), but it's probably nicer to try to explain why things are horrible and clean them up (as in Ovid's CGI tutorial spec, and arturo's suggestion). I was actually just commenting on how much fun it is to be cruel sometimes.

    But then arturo suggested making it nice instead of mean. I do like looking at code and reading why it is bad and how it can be improved, I'm not sure I'm completely convinced it warrants its own section...we've got quite a few sections and there could be some confusion. And there's also the question of if anyone wants to correct code that the poster already knows is horrible (I assume anyone whose own code is having problems will post to SoPW). So I'd like to see posts like that, but I don't know that they need a section.

      I could almost write a book; I wouldn't say the code I maintain is downright *horrible*, because it does get the job done, and it does a remarkably complex task. Also, the code author learned Perl as she developed this working code. Quite an impressive feat, IMO.

      One part of this large system (of legacy code) I maintain is replete with globals, some of which get set in various subroutines, not a package in sight, very little thought given to code re-use, and 30-line subs that do things that a routine like

      sub percent { my ($num, $denom) = @_; $denom > 0 ? sprintf("%2.1f%%", ($num/$denom) *100) : "00.0%"; }

      Philosophy can be made out of anything. Or less -- Jerry A. Fodor

RE: Code Clinic
by arturo (Vicar) on Nov 09, 2000 at 20:55 UTC
    I should have put these in the original post. Both are posts on, both are authored by Mark-Jason Dominus.

    They give an idea of what I'm talking about (and I want to emphasize that I think the best place for it might not be its own section, but a subsection of Tutorials )

    One valid worry is that there's enough opinions out there already about "how to do it", and this might end up just duplicating what goes on in the best of Seekers of Perl Wisdom threads; the original post is clear about the goals, and provides some code that does not work as the author wants it to, and various monks chime in with their proposed solutions. I envision rolling up the process a bit, in that the first step would be posted by someone who took "bad" code and generated something he or she is proud of out of it.
    MJD's second "program repair shop"

    MJD's first "program repair shop"

    Philosophy can be made out of anything. Or less -- Jerry A. Fodor

      You guys inspired me, so I wrote another Program Repair Shop and Red Flags article which went up on today. The article takes an old crufty piece of Perl 4 code and tries to improve it. Here's the description from the web site:

      Once again I take a real program written by a genuine novice and show how to clean it up and make it better. This time we turn a perl4 library into a Perl 5 object-oriented module. I show how to recognize some "red flags" that are early warning signs that you might be doing some of the same things wrong in your own programs.


      Those articles were very popular, and I'd really like to do some more of them. The problem is that it's difficult to find appropriate code samples to discuss. I don't want to use anyone's code without permission.

      Does anyone have any suggestions about where I could find some novices who would be willing to contribute brief (20-50 lines) samples of code for review on

      I have always been bemused by the fact that even though both articles were good, neither used strict.

      However the first one in particular is worth reading. Not so much for the information in it as the metrics that he is using. It is not so much, "This is better" as, "This is what I look for in deciding what is better." That is an important step to take.

RE: Code Clinic
by footpad (Abbot) on Nov 09, 2000 at 23:24 UTC
    Um, isn't this sort of what was suggested in this Code Review section, anyone? Granted, this is expressed slightly differently, but the theory's the same.

    Personally, I'm all for whatever form the idea takes.

suggestion : Code Clinic
by boo_radley (Parson) on Nov 09, 2000 at 21:18 UTC
    keeping in line with a clinical theme, and because I haven't been using the " key enough today. People submit code to a "waiting room" queue. A "doctor" admits the "patient" for review. After a week(?), the doctor publishes a write-up. when somebody elects to review code, that code gets taken out of queue/ e-mailed to him/ jammed into a 'code I'm reviewing' nodelet. While it's being reviewed, nobody else can see the code;this reinforces the clinic concept - rather than having 50 people giving suggestions, one person can write a coherent analysis. After the analyst publishes his work, the node becomes open for commentary by the public. I imagine that there be some threshhold at which people may elect to review, Monk or better?
RE: Code Clinic
by royalanjr (Chaplain) on Nov 09, 2000 at 20:31 UTC
    Great idea! I am sure most of can learn a lot by this sort of thing. I'm sure a lot of my code could be thrown out into something like this and improved upon. I have such a ways to go.

    At any rate, as I said, great idea!

    Roy Alan

(tye)RE: Code Clinic
by tye (Sage) on Nov 09, 2000 at 22:05 UTC

    At least in the mean time, I think you should feel free to post bad examples and how to fix them to Meditations.

            - tye (but my friends call me "Tye")
Re: Code Clinic
by dws (Chancellor) on Nov 16, 2000 at 04:31 UTC
    Good article. One typo. It looks like
    $object = Info_File->('');
    should be
    $object = Info_File->new('');

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