Subject: Re: 8-space indents considered harmful
To: None <>
From: der Mouse <mouse@Rodents.Montreal.QC.CA>
List: tech-kern
Date: 01/23/2000 19:02:14
> I don't think there was a resolution to my proposal to change KNF
> from 8-space indents to 2-4 space indents.  [...]

> As I see it, what we have here is academic research that tells us
> that 2-4 space indents are superior to 8-space indents.

Severely flawed - "broken", even - research.  I have yet to see you
answer any of these criticisms of it:

- It started out trying to show what it ended up showing.  (If you look
   for evidence to support a conclusion, you can usually find it even
   if the conclusion is wrong; look at all the studies on smoking
   funded by the tobacco companies, for example.)

- It was done for a very different language (Pascal).

- There were apparently no expert coders involved (this inferred from
   the observation that even their supposed experts had nothing bad to
   say about completely unindented code).

- The deeper-indented code was not written that way, but rather was
   mechanically generated by reformatting code written with smaller
   indentation levels.

Perhaps some of these do not actually describe the research in
question; all I know about the study is what I've read here.  But if
they are, why haven't you said so, instead of just ignoring the
criticisms and hammering on the conclusion?

> And as I see it, we have two choices:

> 1) Adopt 2-4 space indents;

> -or-

> 2) Ignore the research, damn the torpedos, if it was good enough for my
>    grandaddy, then it's good enough for me! approach.  
>    The hell with the research, we don't give a damn about research, we're
>    gonna stick with the old way because we're a bunch of incorrigible
>    curmudgeons.

Oh, stop it.  If you can't conjure up any better argument than casting
emotionally loaded aspersions on anyone who disagrees with you, why
should anyone pay any attention?

More like, it seems to me, why should we pay attention to badly flawed
research that's not very applicable anyway, in the face of (a) a
notable lack of support from more than one person and (b) a huge
codebase of the existing style?

If you really want, slanted language can cut the other way too:

	> 1) Adopt 2-4 space indents;

	Full steam ahead, always follow the latest fad in `research'
	that finds what it set out to find, who gives a damn about
	actually looking at its relevance, never mind the upheaval this
	would mean for the existing codebase, retraining hundreds of
	developers' fingers...

	...only to do it all over again next time some such study comes
	out.  Or do we do this only when the study reaches a conclusion
	that happens to agree with what you think our coding style
	should be like?

					der Mouse

		     7D C8 61 52 5D E7 2D 39  4E F1 31 3E E8 B3 27 4B