In his excellent book (and equally great NOVA mini-series), The Elegant Universe, physicist Brian Greene outlines the history of "the search for the theory of everything," the elusive, unifying theory that will explain the universe in all of its manifold glory.  The interesting thing about this theory, however, is that it's primary characteristic is not soaring profundity nor escaliting complexity.  To the contrary, Greene is convinced that the theory of everything, when finally discovered, will be characterized primarly by simplicity–or in his words, "elegance."  

To Greene, the "theory of everything" will be elegant because it will bring together what are now disparate theories that describe the nature of the universe.  It will be a theory that cohesively weaves together an understanding of the micro and macro universe; will unify the known physical laws; and will fundamentally "feel" right because of how it describes the infinitude of life in a simple theorem.

So what in the world does this have to do with writing JavaScript?  Well, it's somewhat of a stretch, but as I continue to grow in my JavaScript skills, the principle of "elegance" which Greene so eruditely describes resonates with me. 

Let me explain.  In no way do I wish for anyone to be confused in thinking that I somehow produce "elegant" JavaScript.  I am still a terrific JS noob, and experts would probably scoff at most of what I pump out.  However, I think the pricinple of elegance can still be a helpful rubric when self-critiquing the code that you create.

What do I mean by this?  Think about the code you've produced.  If you're like me, you probably start off by trying to get "x" to work.  However, as the code progresses, you soon realize that more functions need to be added, better methods need to be developed, and the code eventually gets a complete overhaul.  Sometimes, the rework simply creates a bunch of bloated code that is loosely strung together and works to an acceptable level.  Honestly, this is probably how I'd describe most of what I've done so far (I'm still learning, of course!).

But every once in a while, things come together.  You know the feeling–the function you've created is airtight and fits snugly in with the other code you have running.  Every piece is necessary and makes sense in light of related and non-related content.  Your code is free from hacks and every test you run works perfectly.  

In my understanding, this is "elegance."  It's not so much that every line of the code has been crafted as perfectly as possible–such is really impossible.  Rather, it's elegant because it works organically and fluidly; everytime you look at it, you get a small tingling in your spine because it feels natural–it feels right.

So in conclusion, elegant JavaScript is not something that can necessarily be "shown"; you can't drop a snippet of code on a page and hand it from one person to another.  Rather, it is an assessment that is external to the code itself, the fusion of the creativity of the programmer and her personal experience of the code.

Agree, disagree?  What is "elegant" JavaScript to you?