Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Your brain is too small - Quote of the Week

This week's quote comes from the classic, Code Complete: A Practical Handbook of Software Construction.  If you're not familiar with McConnell's body of work, I suggest you get on that... as per the quote:

Once you admit that your brain is too small to understand most programs and you realize that effective programming is a search for ways to offset that fact, you begin a career-long search for ways to compensate. In the development of a superior programmer, curiosity about technical subjects must be a priority.

Steve McConnell
Code Complete 2nd Ed. p822

Well, he doesn't say you have to be curious about his books specifically, almost every book he's written could be considered a software development classic, so I'd say that it's definitely a good place to start.

I firmly believe that being a software developer is like walking the wrong way on a moving walkway.  If you aren't consistently working to improve and expand your skills and knowledge, then you're falling behind.  Unfortunately that means that one day you could wake up and realize that you've just been laid off and your skill set is 10 years behind the current state of the art.  Or that the development practices that you picked up in school might not be the best ones in the world.

I've been happy that at my current company we have a department reading program (not as developed as I'd like, but it's a start) where we read a book together as a department and then discuss it in our weekly department meeting.  I think that it's been a real eye opener to some as we've read Code Complete, The Pragmatic Programmer and are currently reading Head First Design Patterns.

But aside from whatever your company sponsors, make sure that you're constantly exploring new programming topics.  This can be via books, blogs, trying new languages, attending user groups or code camps and picking the brains of those around you that have more experience.  If you're not curious about what's going on in your field, you're never going to be a superior programmer.

What do you do to scratch your curiosity itch?

Thursday, October 9, 2008

What a shame. What a waste.: Quote of the Week

This week's quote actually comes from marketing guru Seth Godin.  I love his blog because his posts are usually short, focused and insightful.  This morning I was reading through my mountain of unread posts in Google Reader and found this post from Seth for this week's quote:

Growth is frightening for a lot of people. It brings change and the opportunity for public failure. So if the astrological signs aren't right or the water is too cold or we've got a twinge in our elbow, we find an excuse. We decide to do it later, or not at all.

What a shame. What a waste.

Seth Godin

As I mentioned before, I post this quote outside my office (we've moved to a new space where I now have an office... more on that later) each week so I didn't include the rest of the post (didn't want them getting too nervous that I'm going to bolt) which says:

Inc. magazine reports that a huge percentage of companies in this year's Inc. 500 were founded within months of 9/11. Talk about uncertain times.

But uncertain times, frozen liquidity, political change and poor astrological forecasts (not to mention chicken entrails) all lead to less competition, more available talent and a do-or-die attitude that causes real change to happen.

If I wasn't already running my own business, today is the day I'd start one.

One of my goals is to start my own business.  I've actually done it once (the now defunct DressModestly.com, Inc.) with my friend Rich Arthur and it was a good experience, but I'd really like to work on something I'm passionate about instead of something that just seems like a good opportunity.

In any case, I've been thinking about it off and on for some time but with everything going on in the world started to think "dang, this probably isn't the best time to be doing things like starting a business" but of course Seth proves me wrong.  My recent birthday has caused me to reflect on what I'm getting done with the time I have.  A line from one of my all time favorite movies, The Music Man, came to mind, "You pile up enough tomorrows, and you'll find you are left with nothing but a lot of empty yesterdays."  I don't think today I'll be doing anything :(, but I have been discussing things with another good friend, Jon Turner (also known as theparticleman) and we have a few ideas and we're going to start working on something in the coming weeks.

So, don't be scared of growth, personal or professional.  Don't look for excuses not to do things because you'll always find one.  Don't waste away your career and your life "prudently" wasting opportunities.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Inventory of Software Development: Quote of the Week

This comes from the Poppendieck's book Implementing Lean Software Development under the section on "Eliminate Waste".

The inventory of software development is partially done work. Partially done software has all of the evils of manufacturing inventory: It gets lost, grows obsolete, hides quality problems, and ties up money. Moreover, much of the risk of software development lies in partially done work.

Tom and Mary Poppendieck

I really like the whole idea of minimizing the tasks that are "in process".  If you think about it, if I have 3 tasks that will take me 3 days each and work on them all "simultaneously" there are a few problems.  One, at the end of 3 days you still have nothing done, and if you are truly working on them in parallel you won't see any results until the 7th day.

Even more dangerous is work that is perceived as "done" but isn't really done.  One of the great things about Scrum is that you need to think about what "done" really means.  Many projects out there don't get anything "done" and, as such, end up with the hare's problem and must "declare bankruptcy" frequently to clear out the "excess inventory".

Now this doesn't mean that you "get it right the first time".  Often you will need to redo something that was previously "done", but leaving things undone because they might change is just a recipe for disaster.

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