Monday, April 20, 2009

Regular Geek

This is an excerpt from another blog, I think it has some nice insights:

  • Creation - Some people really enjoy the ability to create something. You start with a blank canvas, or an empty file, and you write code. Eventually that code gets compiled, packaged or whatever and becomes an executable thing. For something like a web site, you actually get to see and interact with your creation.

  • Instant Feedback - Right on the heels of creation is the instant feedback. This is true when you are programming in languages like C++ and Java as well as “really instant” changes like web sites. For programming, you get the code-compile-test cycle giving you the feedback. For web sites, you can change some basic feature and just reload the page in order to see your new results.

  • Puzzles and Problem Solving - Some people, like myself, just love to solve puzzles or various problems. In many cases, this is almost an addiction. These same people probably love to complete puzzles like Sudoku or crosswords. In “modern” terms, you can consider this a “House-complex” (after the fantastic TV show) where solving the problem is the only thing that matters.

  • People - Do you get to meet fascinating people in the software development industry? Yes, absolutely. However, many people get into software development because they do not like people. In product development companies, the programmers can all be “in the back room” and not deal with business people, customers or users. They get their needed (and limited) human interaction by dealing with other programmers.

  • See a Need, Fill a Need - Some people get into programming completely by accident. They may work in drug development research as a scientist, but they need someone to gather data and run complex analysis or simulations. In many cases, there is no funding in the budget for a new hire so that person learns to program. Eventually, they either become too valuable as a programmer or they “fall in love” with software development and they have a new career. This probably happens more often than you think, as there are a lot of programmers who do not have a formal computer science education. This is also good for the industry as it brings a different perspective into development, instead of all the people learning all of the same theories.

  • Money - There are plenty of people who start a career in software development because they want to make a lot of money. In reality, you can make a very good salary in software development, but that can not be the only reason for joining the field. If one of the previous items is not true in your case, you will hate programming within two years. Also, some people see how much money startups can make and figure they just need to learn to program a little to get there. Well, most startups fail to make any money and most programmers do not work at startups.

  • robdiana in Programming, Regular Geek, Mar 2009

For me the 1st and 3rd reasons are it. They are absolutely my bread and butter. Number two just makes life easier. What about you?

Revamping Old Code

remember that program you had to write for your C++ class... Rewriting your old code can be a great way of learning another language. By rewriting something that you already know in a different way, you can quickly pick up new syntax.

This isn't just a great way to learn a new language; It is also a great way to improve your programming skills. Go back and look at some of your old programs. Chances are, you will find ways to improve their implementation, either in speed or amount of code.

For example, I recently took an old piggybank program I had to write in C++ and converted it to Python. All this simple program did was asked for a dollar amount and turned it into the least amount of change. Back when I wrote it for the first time, I used all if statements. While I was re-writing it in Python, I discovered that I could create a better implementation using modulus arithmetic.

Isn't it great how you can learn new material on your old material. Any other suggestions on re-using old code to teach yourself?