New Python User Question about Python.

Peter Hansen peter at
Fri Aug 24 06:46:12 CEST 2001

Paul Rubin wrote:
> "Steve Holden" <sholden at> writes:
> > > > Python programmers tend to adopt a philosophy of making code work
> > > > rather than making code fast.  Given a choice of doing one or the
> > > > other, any reasonable person would pick the former.
> > >
> > > That is a platitude.  To paraphrase Jon Bentley: whatever computer
> > > system you're currently using to surf the web has hundreds of known,
> > > but minor, bugs.  If a fairy godmother appeared before each user and
> > > gave them one wish, and they had to choose between eliminating the
> > > bugs or making their surfing experience 100 times faster, do you
> > > really think every reasonable person would decline the speedup?  SPEED
> > > MATTERS.  From a user's point of view it sometimes matters even more
> > > than correctness.

I seem to be missing a lot of news messages these days.  The one to 
which Steve was responding, for example, never arrived at my server.  
Apologies if I missed any key points which were edited out above.

> The original claim was "any reasonable person will choose correctness
> overr speed".  If you narrow it from "any reasonable person" to
> "accountants", it's more valid.

I have to correct you here (no pun intended).  I did NOT make that
statement, and by misquoting you have changed the meaning of what
I said.  I specifically said "making code work", not "making code
correct".  There's a big difference, especially if concern over 
"correctness" implies a pedantic approach to programming.

> I just mean it's inappropriate to make sweeping statements about what
> "any reasonable person" wants.  It depends on the specific situation.

As you say, it depends on the specific situation, and in this 
situation I'm quite certain it *was* appropriate to make the 
claim I did.  Do you really deny that "any reasonable person 
will choose making code work rather than making it fast"?

Think about what "not working" means.  Not that when you surf the 
web (your example), you get some mouse droppings in the window, or 
the image background of the page is misaligned or truncated.  

It means you don't get the right page.  Or your browser crashes.
Or clicking on the links doesn't do anything at all.  Or your
personal files are exposed to some nefarious web-site operator.

I really think it's fair to say any reasonable person would
prefer that their browser "work" than that it exhibits one 
of these failure modes, but does it 100 times faster...

Peter Hansen, P.Eng.
peter at

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