Monday, April 28, 2008

The Zen of regular expressions

I'm a proud owner, and sometimes wearer, of this (scroll down to Regular Expressions Shirt). On my way home from work today I started to think about whether I really know regular expressions. Sure, I can write expressions that match fairly complex patterns... but do I really know them? I came to the conclusion that I know regexp in the same sense as most seven-year-olds (i.e., first graders) can read and write: they know letter and short words, but not much more.

The funny thing is that if I had been asked this question a few years ago I would have answered of course I know regexps without much thought. Does that mean that I know less about regular expression now than I did then? No, I know more. I now know enough to know that I don't know them.

The Zen of regular expressions:
The first step towards knowing regular expressions is to realize you do not know them.

Since I'm just starting to reach this first step, I cannot tell what the next step will be... or how many steps there are. :)


Martin said...

"One thing only I know, and that is that I know nothing." -- Socrates

Togge said...

Right you are... Or, rather, that Socrates fellow is right. :)