Writing Documentation


Time and again, I figure that writing documentation is so important. But citing Michael Stevens of Vsauce: … or is it?!?

I have a small library of functions/algorithms in Perl on GitHub, named cglib-perl. I coded it specifically as a tight library of copy-and-paste functions, which is not the best in terms of good coding practices but is basically the only thing you can do when you solve problems in CodinGame.

I’m partly proud and partly ashamed of that library. On the one hand, it is (hopefully!) correct, very compact and… useful. The code is on the brink of becoming the despised line noise that much took from Perl, but I daresay still readable and understandable when you already know what the specific function is supposed to do. On the other hand, it’s terribly under-documented.

So I happened to complete the documentation for one of the modules/functions, namely DepthFirstVisit. The documents are here, by the way. And I happened to notice that the whole function fits in a screen in both my editor and in the GitHub page at DepthFirstVisit, while the docs definitely don’t!

Is it still worth writing docs in this case? Wouldn’t it just be easier to read the code? Remember, the way these functions are supposed to be used is by copy-pasting them!

I would argue that it still makes sense. If anything, it makes total sense to provide a few things:

  • a working example that shows the function in action, in true SYNOPSIS spirit

  • a few words to explain the underlying data model where the function works on, so you don’t have to re-figure it out from scratch.

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