[webkit-dev] coding style and comments

Peter Kasting pkasting at google.com
Fri Jan 28 09:36:43 PST 2011

On Thu, Jan 27, 2011 at 4:27 PM, Simon Fraser <simon.fraser at apple.com>wrote:

> I think we have a distinct lack of comments that help novices to understand
> the code. I feel that we almost have a "privileged few" mentality in some
> code; if you can't figure it out by reading the code, then you shouldn't be
> messing with it.

Indeed.  This sets a high barrier to entry when trying to learn about any
nontrivial subsystem.

Even when functions are kept brief and well-named, local simplicity does not
eliminate global complexity; in fact it can mask it, making the system
appear saner than it really is.  In this sense, I disagree that
"self-documenting" code is possible on a large scale (even though I am
certainly a fan of making the small-scale units concise, clear, etc.).

Back when we were writing the initial Chromium port, Brett Wilson and I had
to rewrite the Image subsystem three separate times, each time because we
realized we'd gotten the ownership semantics wrong and thought we now
understood things better.  In this case, a simple function that merely
allocates an object is deceptively self-documenting, because it's clear what
it does in a local sense, but not in the larger picture of how it fits into
the rest of the codebase.

No one is suggesting that silly comments like "for (int i = 0; i < 10; ++i)
 // Count to 10." are a good thing, but I have never had any reviewer
objections to adding more detailed comments about subtle bits.  At the very
least I agree with Simon's suggestion of class-level comments, especially
w.r.t. ownership.

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