viernes, 25 de diciembre de 2009

Programmers, improving productivity and salaries

Hello dear reader,
Today you'd better be prepared for a mashup post of several sites and articles about programming (in the most generic sense of the word), improving your programming skills, and what people think about how to divide the programmers set into two subsets: good ones, and bad ones {disjoin,complete}. Lots of links, yeah. It all depends on the time/willingness at your disposal.

Learn to program
Learning to program is not an easy thing, nor something that can be achieved in 21 days (see Peter Norvig Teach yourself programming in 10 years). But the nice thing about programming is that you can learn by practice, and start with babysteps, and improving little by little, learning about new paradigms(lisp,Io,haskell are nice tools for that), reading highly recommended books (you can get lots of them legally for free on the internetz), or joining a Opensource Project to learn from others.

Little by little, I feel how I get the knowledge, sometimes through slow readings, and sometimes with sudden "OH FUCK!, AHAHA!". This moments when your brain 'clicks' (mostly in functional programming) are priceless. I hope to have achieved a good level of programming skills in a couple of years. For the moment: keep learning.


Keeping the interest for something is very difficult nowadays, with so many potential distractions (beer,friends,girls).

What can keep you motivated to keep learning? I've no f*cking idea. For me, it's a mix of several things:

  • Keeping in touch with good hackers. This really pushes me to keep learning. I've found it priceless. After someone told me about Barcelona Perl Mongers, I joined them, there I met great programmers (now friends), and we could even start collaborating. Nowadays I'm at Barcelona.PM , GTSmalltalk and flibug.
  • Collaborating in some project is good to keep hype on something.
  • Open a new project to play with it.Even if it's nothing serious, but you'll get in touch with git/mercurial, and can try things as you learn elsewhere.
  • Be humble. Keep reminding yourself that everything you do, can be improved. Having a (false) feeling of superiority makes you lower the bar. However, of course, if you think you did something well, you can give yourself a cookie, pat your shoulder and show the code to your friends :)
  • IRC. yeah, ircing on freenode has teached me lots of things.
  • Keep it fun. please
Listen to the masters
Masters are so for a reason. foreach problem you may have now, they have "been_there_done_that", so listening to what they have to say it's very valuable.

I'll just paste some links, about guidelines to improve your coding. They tend to be very general (and language agnostic), from the well known "comment code", to "follow idioms". For me, knowing the idioms of a language has been a great improvement to feel more self confident when writing and reading code. Reading reddit and hacker news from time to time can show you new people to follow. (ALERT!: Addictive)

there are guidelines that can be splitted in small chunks and read a paragraph on a daily basis. I've been doing this for some time, and I think it's very useful. I've doing this TipOfTheDay style reading with "Perl Best Practices" and "Pragmatic programmer" too.

Other are more like checklists. Anyway, there are lots of similar lists.
Hire programmers
Here are some essays about recognizing a good programmer. It's interesting how most points in theese latter essays match with the points on the upper links in this thread. I guess we're on the right track.

UPDATE (09/12/30): In HN there has been linked a site with a programmer competency matrix according to knowledge of a given programmer. I don't know how useful or fair it is, but it matches quite good with my ideas. I'm glad to be between level 1 and 2 (mostly 2, and hey, there's level 0 ;) ) and I am in some level 3 situation, or will be in couple months (estimated time). I think it also leaves it misses some other important points, and eventually, real productivity can only be measured after the work is done. Mind you it's not easy to measure productivity (see "office enabler" below)


But, do great programmers (that can be 10x more productive than average ones) earn that proportional money? Clearly no. Read the complete article by John D.Cook.
It reminds me of the "office enabler" role I talked about last august.