Pants on fire: 9 lies that programmers tell themselves

Software developers, like everybody else, aren’t always honest with themselves. Here are some common untruths that they can come to believe are true

Statue of Pinocchio

Everybody lies to themselves now and again (“I can’t weigh that much; my scale must be off”) in both their personal and professional lives. Some professions, however, may be more prone to it than others. Software developers, who often work - alone - for long hours under tight deadlines seem to be particularly susceptible to a little self-delusion. By reaching out to developers on social media and reviewing developer comments in discussion forums and elsewhere online, ITworld has compiled 9 common white lies that programmers will tell themselves. How little these white lies are is left up to the reader.

The bottom of someone foot with a white sock and the words No Comment!

This code doesnt need commenting

Commenting code is, let's face it, kind of a drag, so developers will often find reasons to not do it, or, at least, put it off until later. Sometimes the reasons may be valid but other times, not so much.

"I don't need to comment this, I'll know what's going on. I wrote it for god's sake." Alek

"No one could possibly fail to understand my simple user interface" John Morrow

"I'll remember what I did here without adding a comment to explain it." Avenger

"Code is self documenting." Toby Thain

"I don't need comments because I know what the commands do" Shaun Bebbington

A sign that says We Guarantee Fast Service No Matter How Long It Takes

This shouldnt take long

Whether it's over-confidence, self delusion or a desperate desire to go home, developers will often underestimate the time it will take to get something done. The smallest changes or fixes to the seemingly least complicated code will, more often than not, turn into a bigger project that takes longer than expected.

"This bug won't take too long to fix" Kristina++

"I can do this easy. It should take like what? 2 hours max?" Mita

"This will be so easy to figure out." notgeorgelucas

"There is just one more bug, then it will be fixed." Joe Atiyah

"5 more minutes and I can go home." Evan Wilde

A sign on an easel that says Roll Your Own API

I can do it better myself

The growth of open source has made all sorts of code, tools and applications available to developers for free, but that hasn’t stopped them from often preferring to "role their own." Software engineers are nothing if not confident in their own abilities.

"My homebrew framework will be nimble, lightweight, debugged, and easy to use." Toby Thain

"I don't need to follow the interface norms of X because my way of doing things is better…" Mark Harrison

"I can write assembly that outperforms gcc -O3" Alex Feinberg

"My own parser will do fine." Toby Thain

"My code is better than your code." William Emmanuel Yu

Sketch of a funny looking face that looks anguished with the words Procrastonation Y U No Leave Me Alone

Ill fix this later

Programmers are often faced with the tradeoff of doing something fast or doing it "right," whether it's to fix a critical bug or meet a deadline. Coding compromises are often made in the name of saving time with the intention to fix or clean up the not-quite-perfect code later - often with the knowledge that later will never come.

"I know this is dirty code, I will rewrite it later." GerardYin

"We'll fix this in a later release." notgeorgelucas

"I'll come back and comment this later" schrodingerspanda

"This bug can be ignored for now" makemehumanagain

"I'll refactor this before I release it." Dave Cole

An old sign that says There\'s No Such Things As Small Change

Its only a small change

When making a change to code, either to fix a bug or add some functionality, even the smallest tweak can often turn into a bigger task than expected due to unexpected dependencies. No matter how many time they've experienced this, though, coders can still forget that there are rarely truly minor code changes.

"That is going to be a simple minor change." Hummigbird1

"It's just one line... it won't break anything" bleepster

"it will not affect the rest of the program code!" just cool stuff

"No need for database transactions, nothing can possibly fail here!" Ahmet Alp Balkan

"This minor unrelated change in the code could not possibly be the cause for the unit tests failing." Hummigbird1

Picture of the a Volkswagen Beetle with a license plate that says FEATURE

Its not a bug

Sometimes developers don't like to admit that their code is doing something wrong or has a bug. After all, they wrote it, they tested it (hopefully) and it works fine for them. Either the users are doing something wrong or they just misunderstand how the tool or application is supposed to work. At least, that's what a developer may think.

"It works on my machine" Madsdad

"It's not a bug, it's a feature!" Ron007

"if it compiles, it must be correct!" Philip Guo

"If it passes tests, it must be correct." Michal Pise

"It works" Alec Heller

A whiteboard with the words Genius You Can\'t Spell Genius Without US

I know what Im doing

Programmers' overconfidence can sometimes, wrongly, convince them they know what they're doing which, believe it or not, isn't always the case. It can lead them to cut corners, charge blindly into the fray or generally not be careful, all of which can lead to trouble.

"I can skip design and architecture and leap right into coding." Toby Thain

"I totally understand that legacy code!" Hummigbird1

"I know what the client wants." DutchS

"I don't need version control." Toby Thain

"I know what I'm doing." Kyle

The word TEST

I can safely skip that test

Testing is a necessary part of creating software and not always so much fun. Much like writing comments, programmers can sometimes find an excuse for not writing or performing tests or otherwise properly putting their code through it’s paces.

"Tests are usually redundant, it is working now with this input and it proves that." Ahmet Alp Balkan

"If I write some unit tests, I don't need type checking." Toby Thain

"It's a simple one-line change, we don't need to test it." Sami Kukkonen

Picture of a t-shirt that has Python code on it which reads #! python def  generate(ideas); yield results


Software developers have their favorite programming languages, ones that they come to know well, trust and depend on. Their love of and loyalty to their favorite language, however, can sometimes make them less than honest with themselves about that language’s possible faults, drawbacks or limitations.

"If it's written in C, it will be fast." Toby Thain

"It's written in Python, so it's easy to extend." Alec Heller

"Java runs everywhere." Ahmet Alp Balkan