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There's an entertaining anecdote from the early days of the Apple Lisa and Macintosh computers relating to counting lines of code as a measure of productivity. The story involves Bill Atkinson, the creator of Quickdraw and Hypercard. Apple management had asked their programmers to fill out a form each week stating how many lines of code they had written that week:

Bill Atkinson, the author of Quickdraw and the main user interface designer, who was by far the most important Lisa implementor, thought that lines of code was a silly measure of software productivity. He thought his goal was to write as small and fast a program as possible, and that the lines of code metric only encouraged writing sloppy, bloated, broken code.


After completely re-writing Quickdraw's region calculation routines, making them six times faster while saving 2000 lines of code, Bill was asked to fill out the weekly productivity form. So he dutifully wrote "-2000" as the lines of code written.

A few weeks after that, management stopped asking him to fill out the form.

Trying to measure programmer productivity is a hard problem. Any objective metric, like lines of code, number of tickets serviced, bug reports closed, etc., can either be gamed by the programmer or is vulnerable to social manipulation.

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import_that: XKCD guy flying with Python (Default)
Steven D'Aprano

May 2015

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