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September 18, 2013

Programming Jargon

Fun with words…

Jacob Emerick

Programming terms may sound like a daunting topic for the nontechnical. Words like abstraction, inheritance and design patterns have very specific meanings for programmers even if they sound like unrelated gibberish to most ears. There is an easy way to understand some terms by realizing that a programming language is just that – a language – and that correlations can be made.

Languages

Just like the wide variety of languages in today’s multicultural world there are a ton of different programming languages out there. German, French, PHP, C#, are all just different ways of communicating an idea or an intent. Also, once you pick up a few languages and start to get the underlying structure it is that much easier to learn additional ones.

Rules

Whether you are a fan of MLA or APA for writing papers, there are certain rules that you follow for proper citations and references. Programming languages also have restrictions, though they often vary by project (internal coding standards). An exception includes PHP, which has an emerging set of global standards that FIG (Framework Interop Group) has been setting forth.

Structure

One of my personal favorite coding practices involves utilizing different design patterns or methodologies to structure a piece of logic. The easiest comparison to common languages would be prose. Prose is the aesthetic look and feel of a piece of literature, the flow of sentences to form a cohesive thought throughout a single paragraph. Similarly, a design pattern is an elegant and predictable way to handle a particular coding solution.

CMS

This is simple. A CMS (Content Management System) is a CMS. Whether you are writing documents in Microsoft Word or chunks of code for a website, a CMS handles the content. It actually has very little to do with the underlying code design.

Now, that being said, many CMS platforms do have a lot of built-in functionality that can be extended. Whether they call them plug-ins or modules or components, you can either add logic to a site or build custom pieces with raw code. Speaking of frameworks-

Framework

Coding frameworks are composed of large sets of commonly used utilities and functions that are designed to help you along with a development project. A correlation could be made to the research paper/essay relationship. Someone spent a lot of time building out and proving a lot of ideas within a research paper, a lot of solid and dependable ideas, and the essay can skim a few points and summarize without redoing all of the groundwork already completed. Similarly, a framework does all the heavy lifting and an application built off the framework references a few key spots to complete a specific task. This comparison also illustrates one of the problems with using frameworks: you still need to call the full (and often bloated) codebase even if you only plan on using a small subset of it.

This is just a few examples of programming jargon and their related counterparts and normal languages. Hopefully the next time you run into a technical conversation you’ll be able to pick up and understand a bit more now!