The Five Virtues of a Great Programmer

In Programming Perl Larry Wall (in)famously suggested that programmers had three great virtues: Laziness, Impatience and Hubris. Over the years I’ve kept coming back to those because there’s a real truth to the idea as he originally presented it, but it’s limited, and his definition of “Hubris” has no relation to the actual word. I believe that those may be aspects of real programmers, a great programmer goes beyond that. Building on Larry’s idea, I present you The Five Virtues of a Great Programmer:


The quality that makes you go to great effort to reduce overall energy expenditure. It makes you write labor-saving programs that other people will find useful and document what you wrote so you don’t have to answer so many questions about it.


The anger you feel when the computer is being lazy. This makes you write programs that don’t just react to your needs, but actually anticipate them. Or at least pretend to.


The belief that you can do a better job than the people who came before you.


The belief that despite your hubris, there are more talented coders than you, and anything you produce could be better. This leads to well tested code, because you might have screwed up.


The quality that makes you document your code, and leave helpful comments and commit messages, so that others don’t have to puzzle out what you’ve done. It makes you take the time to help coworkers understand things, and change your code to take their needs into consideration.