|No such thing as a small change|
Re: Another commenting question,by DeusVult (Scribe)
|on Mar 17, 2001 at 00:24 UTC||Need Help??|
The "why not what" model of commenting is a really good idea, both because it is more useful, and because it prevents the "code and comments don't match" issue. If someone is changing a section of code so fundamentally that what it is trying to do is no longer the same, then they had better damn well add their own new comments anyway. For the most part, changes to existing code will be because it didn't work quite right or they wanted to add a little functionality, in which case the philosophy behind the section will remain the same, and the comments will remain valid.
But what I would really like to do is take a moment to shoot down the "don't comment too much" argument. Where did this come from? Can anyone seriously say that they've ever been reading some code and said to themselves, "Damnit, there are just too many comments in this code!" I didn't think so.
There is simply no such thing as too many comments, only poorly placed or badly formatted comments. Even if you comment every single line, it is only a problem if you do so in an obtrusive and annoying manner.
For example, consider the frequently used "box comment" style:
This is a perfectly good style of comment, and should be used to mark off the beginning of every file, function, and major code section.
However, if you use this style of comment in the second loop of a triple nested while loop, it just breaks everything up. That is annoying and to be avoided. That doesn't mean that the section shouldn't be commented, merely that you need to employ a different style, like this one:
Also popular are the "end of line" comments. The problem with these is that they can clutter things up just like people complain. The key is to use short comments and keep a uniform spacing. For example:
Those are ugly, confusing comments that blur in with the code visually, and thus make the code harder to read. Try this instead:
Now, the comments stand out well, and the code can be read easily. If someone wants to read the code, they stay on the left. If someone wants to read comments, they stay on the right.
However, avoid stupid comments such as:
That's just commenting because you don't know what to do with yourself. Instead, comment it intelligently with:
The moral of the story is: always comment, but comment clearly, neatly, and intelligently. People who warn you to beware of "over-commenting" are arguing a non-issue. Of all of the comment-related problems that have arisen in the history of programming, "this code has too many comments" surely accounts for less than 0.1% of them. If you're worried about cluttered source, simply take the time to format your comments, separate with whitespace and indent liberally, and remember these words of wisdom from a programmer whose name eludes me:
With regards to commenting, I have this to say. Write all of your code so clearly, and with variable names so explicit, that it can be easily understood without comments. Then go back and comment it anyway.
Some people drink from the fountain of knowledge, others just gargle.