DAVES – Signed

DAVES Coding – S is for Signed

By David C. Walley. First placed in the public domain 2012 Jun 20, in the hopes that you will help improve it.

Developers should be proud to sign all of their work, preferably down to the individual line.

This is not meant to replace copyright or a code repository system or anything else, it is an additional mark of pride-of-craft.

Historical examples, such as the signing of paintings in Europe, indicate that quality improves when work is signed.

1300 – Paintings not signed

In Europe around 1300, painters did not sign their work. The recognized master of the time, and an undisputed genius to this day, Pietro Cavallini pioneered perspective in this fresco. We know he created this through other documents, such as letters from the pope.

1400s – Names on frame

We know the brothers responsible for this folding masterpiece, and we know their names were on the original frame. However, we do not know exactly who did what, and it is possible that Jan did the painting and Hubert created the elaborate frame that is now missing.

There is some upside-down text on the painting, indicating that it is a message not for us, but for God and the saints above. It was also a comercial venture, making money through admission fees for
the church where it was displayed. Albretch Duerer was among the tourists who went to see it.

1500 – Paintings signed, dated, explained

Albrecht Duerer was the recognized master of his age, partly because of self-promotion. He made a point of signing and dating everything he did, using what we would recognize today as a logo. The message he put on this self-portrait is clearly a message for us, and for the ages.

Comparing the quality of this painting to the one 2 centuries earlier, it does not take an expert see clear progress. During these 2 centuries in Europe, the act of signing paintings went from never to Duerer\’s example of always.

1900s – Explanation mismatch

René Magritte caused a stir in the art world by allegedly lying to his viewers with “This is not a pipe.” He claimed innocence because it is not a pipe, it is a painting of a pipe. You are probably looking at something like an electronic display of an encoded digital file, of a scan, of a photograph, of a painting, of an imagined idealized pipe.

Nonetheless, we have a strong feeling that there is something wrong. The text seems wrong, but is also indispensable to what the painting is about.

2000s – The Name’s the Thing

KAWS became the hottest artist of the new millenium after getting recognition for his street art. Whatever your thoughts on his earlier activity, his works are now seen in the
world’s most prestigious galleries, and Macy’s Thanksgivings Day parade.

KAWS is not his real name, of course. He chose it because he liked the way the letters looked and fit together, and he felt he could do a lot with them.

Sign It!

We have progressed from no names on paintings, to a name being the central subject. In the process, the quality of work increased noticeably. If the latest
trends are not your cup of tea, there are now many different styles to choose from, and you can be certain from the signature that the artist is proud of their work.

The version control system you use (you use one, right?) can probably keep track of who wrote each line of code in your project. For example, in GIT, it is called the “blame” feature. Just as we can track down some early painters\’ names from other documents, GIT keeps its own records, to be revealed when things go wrong. This is the exact opposite of what pride-of-craft signing is about.

As programmers, we can only count the history of our craft in decades. Without a background of time-tested lessons, we can either flounder for a century or 2, or we can learn now from other disciplines. Painting provides the lesson of signing your work, not as a legal or technical requirement, but as a mark of pride and driver of progress.


David C. Walley

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