the codist - programmerthink

The Problem With Angieslist.com and Ratings In General

Published: 07/30/2014

I have been trying to hire a landscaping company since the late spring to work on my house, and so far I haven't had any luck in getting people to call me back, even when they say they will call. I paid one company for a design and I had to chase them down nearly 6 weeks later to even deliver what I paid for. Then they promised to give me an estimate but never called back.

Two others said they would call me and I never heard from them again either. Yet all three show up as solid A companies on angieslist.com on a search for recent grades. If you actually dig into the details of their ratings you often see patterns where there are a whole slew of C, D and F ratings of these A companies.

So how are these ratings meaningful? They aren't. I have found some really good people that gave me awesome service and I would use them again in a heartbeat, and I do give A ratings. But I intend to rate the company in the first paragraph with a F as soon as I can find someone to actually do the work since I am not sure how easily companies can tell how many F's you give (note I haven't given any yet).

Read the rest of the article...

I'm Sick Of GOF Design Patterns

Published: 07/29/2014

In the famous 1994 book "Design Patterns: Elements of Reusable Object-Oriented Software" the authors covered a number of classic object-oriented design patterns in addition to covering some basic design concepts. It's a nice book in some ways.

But what people have done with it is beyond tiring. It's not the be all and end all of how to write software. It's not a recipe book to be followed slavishly like some kind of paint by number template.

People always ask if you know design patterns in interviews. Job descriptions list "familiarity with design patterns" like it is some kind of secret knowledge only real programmers know. Instead of a book with some useful concepts you might read once, it became the Programmer's Bible to be paraded around like Chairman Mao's Little Red Book.

Read the rest of the article...

Tilting At Windmills: Adventures In The US Healthcare System

Published: 07/28/2014

I once worked for a healthcare company owned by three US health insurance companies, and a consulting firm I worked for had a customer building clinic management software. I am in the middle of two surgeries on my feet. Don't worry, it's all related and has a coding angle (and that's a pun).

If you are reading this from another country please feel free to laugh at any of this.

First a little overview. Then stories.

Read the rest of the article...

The Lesson My Dad Taught Me That Directly Influenced My Success As A Programmer

Published: 07/24/2014

A couple of years before he passed away at an age only a few year older than I am now, my Dad and I went for a long walk where he told me that in anything I do, I should do it Zack Zack. This slang he learned when he was a kid in Germany before the war meant to do everything exactly right.

When he was a young teenager he went to work as an apprentice to a cabinet maker who built things out of wood, including coffins. They had mostly human powered hand tools and built everything out of raw wood with only a little hardware. My dad learned the importance of making sure every design, part, finish and assembly had to be correct or the end result would be of poor quality; basically the quality of what you put into a project was the quality you got in the final result. This, therefore, was the meaning of the enigmatic slang (I never saw it written down so the spelling is a guess).

After the war my Dad got a degree in architecture and spent his life managing in the furniture industry in the US. Growing up we remodeled every house we ever lived with me as the #1 helper. In one house we replaced every single thing in the kitchen while still using it full time. I envy the people who live in those houses today.

Read the rest of the article...

Everything Is Insecure

Published: 07/21/2014

In security the zeroth rule is "your security will fail eventually." What gets me angry is when people ignore this rule and claim otherwise.

Doing security right is very difficult. Yet even the most knowledgeable, paranoid, genius security expert knows that they only need to make one mistake, not know one tiny fact, or face a determined foe for long enough, and all their careful plans will fall apart.

The trick is to find make it as good as you can, as deep as you can, and anticipate as much as you can without making things so impossibly locked down you can't do anything. A joke I heard a long time ago was that "the only secure computer system is one with no I/O". Of course the joke is that it's useless if nothing can get in or out.

Read the rest of the article...