The Comment

I have to come clean on something.

I am the author of the following comment that regularly appears on funny sourcecode comment lists:

/*
 * You may think you know what the following code does.
 * But you don't. Trust me.
 * Fiddle with it, and you'll spend many a sleepless
 * night cursing the moment you thought you'd be clever
 * enough to "optimize" the code below.
 * Now close this file and go play with something else.
 */

I wrote this comment in the spring of 2008 for a travel company and this was specifically part of a payment processing system I was building out. The payment processor required a plethora of some insanely obscure requirements for validating data. What immediately followed this comment was a regular expression builder that took data arrays of values which could be easily maintained and would compile them down to a single regular expression to use as the validation comparison check. Back then, doing endless loops and checks was not viable so I had to somehow construct a single compare statement. It was probably 3am when I wrote this comment just out of annoyance while sitting alone in our strip-mall office. I didn't want to be at my desk anymore and wanted some sleep so I decided to have a bit of fun for the others when it came time to review; there were only 3 of us. They loved it, and insisted it remain as a good gag.

For years, long after I left the company, they'd use the code that followed as an aptitude test for potential seniors. Few people in our industry at the time knew what regular expressions were let alone were competent with their construction so it was a great test. When the others eventually left the company years later, the team had grown to well north of 50 and they kept referring to this comment and the accompanied work. The fact this comment is still floating around tells me that I wrote something stable and maintainable lasting long enough for someone to think the comment was worth mentioning elsewhere which is all I can ask for. I get a kick out of seeing this comment pop up from time to time. Someone recently sent me a list of funny comments and I recollected one a few of us had fun with (ie. this one). So then I'm scrolling through the page and see the exact comment I was referencing. I felt the need to try my hand at the lottery immediately after that happened.

Comments can be fun when used appropriately. Everybody needs a laugh from time to time. If you're honestly spiteful about something, don't use comments to vent your frustrations because they can easily leave a sour taste with those around you. Always be mindful of the context of your comments and the audience they're intended for. If they confuse those who follow up on your work, then they're more harmful than anything else.

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