In a hologram, information about each small area of image is scattered throughout the holograph. You can’t say this little area of the hologram corresponds to this little area of the image. At least that’s what I’ve heard; I don’t really know how holograms work.
I thought about holograms the other day when someone was describing some source code with deeply nested templates. He told me “You can’t just read it. You can only step through the code with a debugger.” I’ve ran into similar code. The execution sequence of the code at run time is almost unrelated to the sequence of lines in the source code. The run time behavior is scattered through the source code like image information in a holograph.
Holographic code is an advanced anti-pattern. It’s more likely to result from good practice taken to an extreme than from bad practice.
Somewhere along the way, programmers learn the “DRY” principle: Don’t Repeat Yourself. This is good advice, within reason. But if you wring every bit of redundancy out of your code, you end up with something like Huffman encoded source. In fact, DRY is very much a compression algorithm. In moderation, it makes code easier to maintain. But carried too far, it makes reading your code like reading a zip file. Sometimes a little redundancy makes code much easier to read and maintain.
Code is like wine: a little dryness is good, but too much is bitter or sour.
Note that functional-style code can be holographic just like conventional code. A pure function is self-contained in the sense that everything the function needs to know comes in as arguments, i.e. there is no dependence on external state. But that doesn’t mean that everything the programmer needs to know is in one contiguous chunk of code. If you have to jump all over your code base to understand what’s going on anywhere, you have holographic code, regardless of what style it was written in. However, I imagine functional programs would usually be less holographic.
Related post: Baklava code
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