I am grading some verified code submitted by students and observe one interesting fact. The code they have to verify is the classic inefficient bubble sort, they are given an array and need to convince Microsoft Research's Dafny verifier that the returned array is indeed sorted.

Now comes the interesting bit. It turns out that all students have in the precondition that the pointer to the array is not null, but most of them also require that a.Length > 1 or a.Length > 0. That is, their sorting function can only be called on arrays that are either two elements long (in the worst case) or, non empty. This additional requirement helps the verifier going through but most of the time their code actually works for empty arrays! In other words, the requirement is useless but they did not go through the pain of trying to eliminate or understand it. I see this as disdain for small cases and would like to argue it is poor programming practice.

Now that I think about it, it reminds me of a mail I read some time ago, somebody implemented a vi clone and in its first versions, editing commands at the end of the file would crash or misbehave in most cases. To me, it is an indication of poor design. This software is undoubtedly still flawed since the corner case was patched afterwards, good code and data design would have allowed uniform programming and probably made the program safer.

I see going through the thinking to eliminate corner cases as an essential part of programming. The more your function or data structure is general the easier and more comfortable it is to use. By experience, adapting your code to the corner case will not make it unclear but more elegant and easier to read/use (assuming you don't dumbly patch it)! So, next time you write some code, ask yourself what happens when the window is 0 pixels wide, or if the file you are reading contains a nul byte...