the codist - programmerthink

Programming Without A Net

Published: 05/18/2015

I must admit that the thing I enjoy most in programming is doing something no one knows how to do, something that no query on stackoverflow.com finds an answer, something that's completely befuddling everyone around.

Today that's harder to find, everything is public, everyone posts descriptions of even the most trivial ideas and Google finds them. In the 80's almost everything you did was new, and unknown, and there wasn't anywhere to get help or anyone to ask. No Google, no open source, nothing.

Yet working on something that seems impossible, at least to anyone you know, is a real rush. It's your brain, your creativity, your imagination against an immovable problem. If you fail it was inevitable; if you succeed an awesome feeling.

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Requirements Is A Word That Needs To Go Away

Published: 05/11/2015

Every time I hear the word requirements these days, I always think of the scene in 12 Years A Slave where they were told how much they had to pick that day to avoid being beaten. I don't know why exactly, but that word drives me nuts.

As a software team, our job is to find out what the customer needs, not what they ask for up front. One of my first lessons as a programmer in 1981 was that people ask for all sorts of stuff, but if you just implement that, they never like what they get. What they actually need is something you only learn over time, usually by showing them stuff along the way and getting feedback.

Requirements is a word that usually results in some detailed list of things you must do, often delivered and "signed-off" on up front. In all of my experience in enterprise companies (both working there and as a consultant) this is usual practice both for in-house development and for working with external development. People do this out of fear that if everything isn't listed in excruciating detail, they will be ripped off.

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Never Be A Programmer In A Suit

Published: 04/30/2015

Military people wear uniforms to enforce the idea of unity. Business people wear suits to show they mean business. Yet I've only worn a suit one day as a programmer and that was my first day ever back in 1981.

I got a migraine and had to go home at noon. Not a great start to a career. But I came back the next day sans coat. Over the next few months I ditched the tie as well. For the next 3 years I worked at a defense contractor as a programmer but the only one without a suit or tie. Somehow they tolerated me, probably because I did a good job at everything. Or maybe they forgave my youth. Or thought I knew someone important.

I've always said that if a computer would work better if I was splendidly dressed then I would go Armani. Of course that's stupid, it doesn't care, and neither should anyone. It's not that I am some kind of stereotype ponytailed geek who rarely changes clothes either (these days I have little hair anyway). I prefer to wear jeans and a golf shirt. At my current contract they only allow jeans on Fridays.

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What Makes a Programmer Good?

Published: 04/04/2015

If a baseball hitter succeeds at least 30% of the time in getting a hit they are considered good. If a golfer routinely plays under par they are considered good. A shooter should hit the center of the target. A banker I suppose should roll in money.

All of these are relatively easy to measure as to whether they are good or bad or at least compare them to others in the same field.

Measuring the qualities of a programmer is much more difficult. Even describing what those qualities are is almost impossible. Yet there are clearly programmers who are good and those who suck terribly and a lot of average ones.

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Wanted: Dead Or Alive Programmer

Published: 03/19/2015

Like many programmers, my email inbox is filled every day by an assortment of random recruiter emails, many of which are baffling, bizarre and often completely unrelated to anything I've ever done.

Sometimes I wonder how my resume winds up in so many people's hands. I am sure they get sold from place to place like laundered currency.

Today I got an email for job as a registered nurse trainer. At least once a day I get a job for a help desk person. How do these folks come to these conclusions? I wonder if the resumes are not only sold but altered in the process, like some kind of telephone tag process.

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