Steal this JavaScript code!

Steal this JavaScript code!

We’ve all done it. We’ll all do it again. It’s a time-honored tradition that is both simultaneously revered and reviled, often by the same person depending on the context. I’m talking of course, about copying and pasting code.

We’ve all done it. We’ll all do it again. It’s a time-honored tradition that is both simultaneously revered and reviled, often by the same person depending on the context. I’m talking of course, about copying and pasting code.

There exists an interesting dichotomy among programmers whereby we’re both prone to detail bordering on obsession and a practical streak that can cause us to say “screw it, it works, ship it!”. Conversations amongst coders concerning the evergreen argument about needing to understand every inch of your codebase as well as not reinventing the wheel often end at loggerheads and an understanding that we each draw our own lines.

Jokes about the subject abound. The O’Reilly book covers for the fictional title “Copying and Paste From Stack Overflow” will go down as an all-time classic for me personally, but it also throws a spotlight directly on the crux of the issue. Derisive attitudes around the practice have existed for a long time. A decade ago, coders would refer to the copy/paste developers as “Script Kiddies”, with all of the intentional condescension the term implies.

Everything is contextual though. For a weekend warrior developer creating a personal website, copying and pasting a chunk of code that they will never possibly understand, but accomplishes a goal for them is completely understandable and acceptable. If that same weekend warrior charges his buddy $50 to do it for their website, however, the perception changes dramatically. So when, if ever, is copying and pasting code ok for a professional developer?

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