I am almost finished reading a paper by Donald Knuth (about which another blog post will be forthcoming) and I must say that it is a breath of fresh air. Something about reading this simple paper in front of me is exhilarating in a way that I seldom feel and it is because of something so very simple: Donald Knuth cares. He cares about computer science, he even cares about programming. He sees it as a fresh art. Those little things that seem to get brushed off like beauty, both algorithmic and typographical, actually matter to him. He cares about the human beings reading the code as much (dare I say more?) than the ones using the code. He clearly has some fun while he does this (the system WEB is made up of TANGLE and WEAVE, echoing Scott's "What tangled webs we weave / when first we practice to deceive"). One does not crank out code or even write a program. One composes a program.
Perhaps I am showing my geekdom here, but it is a real pleasure to read someone who does care about these things. When we are programming, we are usually working with people who would rather have an impacted wisdom tooth than hear about what we do--ephemerally referred to as users. Then, with usability receiving its due as of late, we have a nice chunk of programmers who are trying to live as Spartan coders, thinking naught of their own pleasure but only of "the user." Then, we have the majority of those in the field who are punching a clock and do not care about the job either. In short, the world is crammed full of people who just do not care about programming as art and literature and something beautiful and pleasurable in its own right. It is nice to read someone who does.