Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Marc Andreessen Speaks At Berkeley

Sorry for not posting in a while, I am once again in release crunch mode.

I listened to Marc Andreessen speaking at the UC Berkeley Distinguished Innovator Lecture series the other day (webcast link, podcast feed), talking about career decision making, the fallacy of working in large corporations and how tech startup venture capital funding changed within the last ten years. He also mentions that after graduating - while expecting to be a programmer for the rest of his life - he only worked as a software engineer for about three months (supposedly referring to his short interlude at Enterprise Integration Technologies before founding Netscape together with Jim Clark). Supports my impression that he didn't really do any coding on Netscape Navigator.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Jeff Atwood On Egoless Programming

Jeff Atwood quotes Gerald Weinberg's Ten Commandments of Egoless Programming (from his 1971 book "The Psychology of Computer Programming"):
  1. Understand and accept that you will make mistakes. The point is to find them early, before they make it into production. Fortunately, except for the few of us developing rocket guidance software at JPL, mistakes are rarely fatal in our industry, so we can, and should, learn, laugh, and move on.
  2. You are not your code. Remember that the entire point of a review is to find problems, and problems will be found. Don't take it personally when one is uncovered.
  3. No matter how much "karate" you know, someone else will always know more. Such an individual can teach you some new moves if you ask. Seek and accept input from others, especially when you think it's not needed.
  4. Don't rewrite code without consultation. There's a fine line between "fixing code" and "rewriting code." Know the difference, and pursue stylistic changes within the framework of a code review, not as a lone enforcer.
  5. Treat people who know less than you with respect, deference, and patience. Nontechnical people who deal with developers on a regular basis almost universally hold the opinion that we are prima donnas at best and crybabies at worst. Don't reinforce this stereotype with anger and impatience.
  6. The only constant in the world is change. Be open to it and accept it with a smile. Look at each change to your requirements, platform, or tool as a new challenge, not as some serious inconvenience to be fought.
  7. The only true authority stems from knowledge, not from position. Knowledge engenders authority, and authority engenders respect—so if you want respect in an egoless environment, cultivate knowledge.
  8. Fight for what you believe, but gracefully accept defeat. Understand that sometimes your ideas will be overruled. Even if you do turn out to be right, don't take revenge or say, "I told you so" more than a few times at most, and don't make your dearly departed idea a martyr or rallying cry.
  9. Don't be "the guy in the room." Don't be the guy coding in the dark office emerging only to buy cola. The guy in the room is out of touch, out of sight, and out of control and has no place in an open, collaborative environment.
  10. Critique code instead of people—be kind to the coder, not to the code. As much as possible, make all of your comments positive and oriented to improving the code. Relate comments to local standards, program specs, increased performance, etc.
Those statements are of timeless truth. Hey, and I got a copy of "The Psychology of Computer Programming" on my bookshelf, but it has been quite a while since I read it.

Friday, May 05, 2006

The Pragmatic Programmer / Tip 11

Use the Power of Command Shells
Use the shell when graphical user interfaces don't cut it.

More at the pragmatic programmer list of tips.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Performance Tuning

I recently spent something like two days performance-tuning someone else's code. This included a handful of SQL statements and visualization stuff in C#. Several things had gone wrong, some missing database indices here, suboptimal SQL queries there, and a lack of understanding for what happens on under the hood of certain .NET framework methods. Performance penalties which might not hurt on a resultset of some hundred rows (or even occur unnoticed when no one pay attention), will cause disaster once database tables grow to some hundreds of thousands or millions of rows. And you don't want your customer to find that out in a year or two. Your goal is to avoid things like that from happening from the very beginning on.

In larger projects there should be at least one person solely responsible for testing and improving performance. Those are the guys who will rap the developers' knuckles when they chose wrong approaches. They normally have their test automation tools along with a set of load and stress cases at their disposal. And they know how to tune performance.

Small to medium size projects often don't carry that kind of luxury. Anyway, raising the developers' grasp for runtime issues is important in either case.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

The Pragmatic Programmer / Tip 10

Iterate the Schedule with the Code
Use experience you gain as you implement to refine the project time scales.

More at the pragmatic programmer list of tips.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Monday, May 01, 2006

The Pragmatic Programmer / Tip 8

Use Tracer Bullets to Find the Target
Tracer bullets let you home in on your target by trying things and seeing how close they land.

More at the pragmatic programmer list of tips.