Useful and Useless Code Comments

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Chris Coyier on

Take your JavaScript to the next level at Frontend Masters.

Jim Nielsen:

If somebody says a comment isn’t adding any value, I would ask: to whom?

Personally, I’ve never liked the advice that writing obvious comments is bad practice—probably because I write obvious comments all the time.

Jim showed off some examples of “code comments that are at the same level of fidelity as the code itself.” Those are the hardest calls with code comments.

// this function adds two numbers
function add(a, b) {
  return a + b;
}

Easy to point at that and call it not useful. I tend not to leave this type of comment, but it’s fair play for Jim to question that. Comments can be used for a wide swath of people whom may at some point interact with that code, so why gate-keep it?

[…] comments can serve a very different purpose when they’re being read vs. when they’re being written. Those are almost two different kinds of activities.

I’d add they serve a different purpose when re-visiting old code vs actively working. Also different when you’re trying to code review versus directly contribute.

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