20 million lines of code…

Almost every time I go to a presentation for a new big product/software/web site, I can just count the minutes till some smart executive says those words I, in a bittersweet manner, dread to hear.

You know, they’re so proud over what they have done and they want to build a hype about it, so they make the intriguing choice to say something like this:

And it contains 20 million lines of code!

As soon as I hear that, I know that they don’t know what they’re talking about. For some weird reason, a lot of people seem to be of the understanding that the more lines, the better the code.However, as most skilled programmers know, less code (smart written, reusable parts etc) is almost always better.

Then, to be fair, it’s of course always a delicate balance between good semantic, readable and understandable code and as few characters and lines as possible. But at the end of the day, a lot of lines is never something to brag about nor to aim for.

I don’t know if it’s a penis thing, or what it is; that they actually think they’re more men because of more lines… It’s like bragging about a high electricity bill:

Yes, we pay $1000 a month for electricity.

Yeah, ok. But unless you own some gargantuan mansion, isn’t it more likely that at least half of it is superfluous? Maybe you don’t need to turn all the lights on, have the heating cranked up to that of Bora Bora and have your five flat-screens running in all rooms all the time?


  • And here I was, naively thinking you came up with a geeky version of "99 bottles of beer on the wall" 😉

    I completely agree with you. Statements like that are laughable.

  • Well you could always hope that whoever is clueless enough to be proud of that is also clueless enough to pay their developers per line.

    And if such a person/company exists, can I have a job? And I take it that using quadruple line spacing is acceptable? 😉

  • AndrÃ&A says:

    Do you know what's funny? When we were learning about project management at college, the teacher said this is not an effective measurement because–among other things–there's always the question whether lines of code (LOC) include comments or not.

    My point of view is that if he had said "It contains 20million lines of comments!", I would definitely think the code was very well written… I've never seen a poor programmer write good documentation.

    Although, there's always the case of writting 20 lines of comments (garbage) for each of CRUD operations… haha

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  • BlogReader says:

    Another version of this is the "company X spend $Billions making this product" (the one in particular is WebSphere) implying that it must be good. I can almost excuse the lines of code one as it is said by people that don't know anything about software, but the dollars spent one can be shot down by anyone that's seen a bad major movie or seen some of the junk coming out of Detroit.

  • Nancy says:

    At one of my last employers we interviewed a guy who bragged on his resume: "Coded over 10,000 lines of pure JavaScript by hand."


  • That's great if it makes 20 million people happy and each one is paying you a $1. Success is measured by the return divided by the investment (ROI), not the investment.

  • Robert Nyman says:

    Thanks for your comments!


    Maybe I should do a geeky version of that, one day… 🙂


    Wow, payment per line. That would be…eh… nice, I guess. No more tight scripts. 🙂


    Well, we could always hope it's commented, or at least well documented. 🙂


    Oh, definitely. Even more common.


    Wow, really? By hand?! 😉


    Oh, absolutely, ROI is what counts at the end of the day (at least for for a private business, public sector web sites are a differendt deal).

  • Some muppet who does work for us sometimes always uses that statement to show how complex certain parts of his code is – on examination over 300 lines where used on a hand coded select box!!!!!

  • Robert Nyman says:


    He he. 🙂

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