Aesthetics and the Evolution of Code

Accepted Session
Short Form
Scheduled: Tuesday, June 23, 2015 from 11:00 – 11:45am in B302/303


Elegance is an aesthetic experience. It’s about perfectly conforming to a set of imperfect standards, meeting a need with no extraneous lines or rough edges. Elegance in code is the result of a mysterious process, just as elegance in nature is— in the case of nature, the process is evolution.


Symmetry. Simplicity. Elegance. Patterns.

Much of how we understand, describe, and value code is based on subjective criteria that are easy for us to grasp intuitively but almost impossible to define or communicate objectively. Can advances in applied aesthetics and theoretical neurology provide insights into the advantages and disadvantages of relying on such elusive criteria? This talk will explore the role that concepts such as beauty, sublimity, completeness and simplicity play in the way that we model reality in software, relate to our own and other people’s code, and ultimately measure the value of our work as professionals.

Speaking experience

I've spoken at over a dozen conferences, including RailsConf, RubyConf Australia, and Madison+ Ruby. This talk was previously given last year at Nickel City Ruby. You can find a list of my talks with links to videos at


  • Coraline laptop portrait


    Coraline Ada Ehmke is a speaker, author, teacher, open source advocate and technologist with 20 years of experience in developing apps for the web. As a founding member of LGBTech, and and, she works diligently to promote diversity and inclusivity in the tech industry. Her current interests include refactoring, code analytics and artificial intelligence.