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Re: Quote by Knuth

From: Jean Louis
Subject: Re: Quote by Knuth
Date: Sun, 18 Jul 2021 14:50:46 +0300
User-agent: Mutt/2.0.7+183 (3d24855) (2021-05-28)

* Christopher Dimech <> [2021-07-18 10:43]:
> > Well, don't we do the very same mathematics as ancient Greeks did, only
> > expressing it in a different language?  (And of course, we now know
> > more, since our knowledge grows.  OTOH, many things in contemporary
> > mathematics are not very trustworthy due to the complexity and high
> > probability of errors.)
> I understand that.  About twenty years ago, I tried it.  It gets things
> even more complicated than they are.  I rather have a number of small
> well contained implementations.  I disagree with Knuth that a practitioner
> of literate programming becomes an essayist, whose main concern is with
> exposition and excellence of style, rather than how to perform the actual
> computation.

If you would be the inventor of such an excellent typesetting system
such as TeX you would have that good idea that other people should
learn and apply it as well.

By all means I do agree with Knuth, though in limited manner and
specifically to context of the work or to specific domains or specific
branches of the work. 

For majority of Emacs packages that is really not necessary as there
are documentation strings or docstrings. That is literate
enough. Print the Emacs package and read the docstrings. Or one can
generate the list of functions in the package and format it it nicer
and get somewhat nicer printout. But Emacs packages do not really
control crucial or very responsible domains of human activities.

Who cares if some frame or window makes a problem, even if Emacs
crashes there are remedies, if some highlighting is not correct,
somebody will need to correct it but it does not impact large number
of people.

Literate programming is highly necessary in crucial and high
responsibility related applications. Let us say applications
concerning handling of nuclear power plants, any other energy related
applications, medical applications, satellite control, communication
control. One simply SHOULD NOT program without good description on
what that program does and how. Literate programming would also help
the programmer easier to solve the problems before the program come to

That I personally just start the function because I write what I think
is far from being understood in some future. It cannot be
demonstratably easily understood on this mailing list even by
experienced and more skilled people. Our thoughts do not align to
other people thoughts and so our programs may look quite different
from one to each other. Then future programmer may need to rewrite
functions or improve upon it. In fact there should be a program that
rewrites it in other new or more powerful programming language.

Project has been programmed, it is finished and years pass, now come
the new generation and that generation of people should be able to
understand all details of the program in general. That understanding
would come from literate programming.

In general, when there are simpler programs why complicate and make it
too much literate? We can see that there is no reason for that in
practice. One README or INSTALLATION file and docstrings and
commentaries are obviously our practical way of literate

The demand for literate programming depends on the importance of the

> I know a few professors myself claiming to work on the dynamic
> properties of everything and the bullshit they say they have
> developed.  They say they develop the theories, they develop the
> computational algorithms needed, they do everything.  Until you do
> some work with them and realise there's not much to their work.
> Welcome to the world of academia in the western world.

That is how it is, among those useless there will be number of useful
inventions. I see that as a ratio and ratio has to be upheld. Maybe
the ratio of useless invention is 80 to 20 of useful inventions, but
if you do not uphold the ratio then you will get less useful
inventions in future.


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