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unix morality applied to art

Post #322 • July 14, 2004, 5:09 PM • 2 Comments

Maxims from the world of computing sometimes seem like they might be useful to apply to the world of art. The following is from The Art of Unix Programming by Eric S. Raymond (available at Amazon).

  1. Rule of Modularity: Write simple parts connected by clean interfaces.

  2. Rule of Clarity: Clarity is better than cleverness.

  3. Rule of Composition: Design programs to be connected to other programs.

  4. Rule of Separation: Separate policy from mechanism; separate interfaces from engines.

  5. Rule of Simplicity: Design for simplicity; add complexity only where you must.

  6. Rule of Parsimony: Write a big program only when it is clear by demonstration that nothing else will do.

  7. Rule of Transparency: Design for visibility to make inspection and debuggingeasier.

  8. Rule of Robustness: Robustness is the child of transparency and simplicity.

  9. Rule of Representation: Fold knowledge into data so program logic can be stupid and robust.

  10. Rule of Least Surprise: In interface design, always do the least surprising thing.

  11. Rule of Silence: When a program has nothing surprising to say, it should say nothing.

  12. Rule of Repair: When you must fail, fail noisily and as soon as possible.

  13. Rule of Economy: Programmer time is expensive; conserve it in preference to machine time.

  14. Rule of Generation: Avoid hand-hacking; write programs to write programs when you can.

  15. Rule of Optimization: Prototype before polishing. Get it working before you optimize it.

  16. Rule of Diversity: Distrust all claims for “one true way”.

  17. Rule of Extensibility: Design for the future, because it will be here sooner than you think.




July 15, 2004, 4:35 AM

Franklin ... Nice bit of trivia that is anything but trivial. Thanks for posting it.

#2 (contra cleverness) should be heeded by both artists and art writers. Mister Wordsmith needs this.

#6 (contra wordiness) is something we all need to be careful of.

#10 and #11 (contra surprise) surprised me. Not that it doesn't make sense in programming interfaces (it is self evident there). But its application to art writing is so long overdue I no longer think about it.

These shine a light on things that is very welcome.


that guy in the back row

July 15, 2004, 7:19 AM

#4 Separate policy from mechanism. You can be the most militant formalist, or the most diluted postmodernist. In the end there is always the question of how best to make the art. Anyone who attempts to unite these notions whilst making art. Starts out with a built in handicap.



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