EppsNet Archive: Programmers

Developers Should Abandon Agile

No matter what framework or method your management thinks they are applying, learn to work this way: Produce running, tested, working, integrated software every two weeks, every week. Build your skills until you can create a new fully operational version every day, twice a day, multiple times a day. Keep the design of that software clean. As it grows, the design will tend to become complex and crufty. Resist and reverse this tendency consciously, refactoring in tiny continuous steps, all the time, so that your rate of progress is as steady and consistent as possible. Use the current increment of software as the foundation for all your conversations with your product leadership and management. Speak in terms of what’s ready to go, and in terms of what they’d like you to do next. This is the development team’s best hope for a reasonable life. By keeping the software always ready… Read more →

Teaching Computer Science: How to Get Top-Notch Teachers in the Classroom

I read something every day where educators and/or elected officials are talking about the importance for our kids, our country, our future, etc., of teaching computer science, the sticking point being an extreme shortage of qualified teachers. A person entering the workforce with a computer science degree is unlikely to go into teaching because of the opportunity cost: they can earn a lot more money as a software engineer. The likelihood of getting a mid-career tech industry professional to switch into teaching is even lower. Teacher salaries are based in large part on years of service. A mid-career person switching into teaching is not going to get a mid-career teacher’s salary, they are going to get a first-year teacher’s salary. So here’s the idea: Give CS professionals the opportunity to apply their years in industry to years of service as a teacher. It’s still a pay cut going from software… Read more →

Teaching Computer Science: The Phones Aren’t Helping You

I’m volunteering a couple mornings a week at a local high school, helping out with computer science classes. The way the classes are taught, via an online curriculum, provides a great temptation to kids to get off-task, which they do, usually by entertaining themselves with their phones. They get off-task in other ways too — web surfing, doing homework for other classes — but the main distractor is the phones . . .   “As I mentioned before, I worked with another CS class a couple years ago. No phones allowed in the classroom. “I remember one day the assistant principal was in class observing . . . a student had a phone out, looking at it . . . he was holding it under the table so no one could see it, but this guy, the assistant principal, he did see it. “Oh man, did he hit the roof!… Read more →

Teaching Computer Science: When You Need Help, Ask For Help

I’m volunteering a couple mornings a week at a local high school, helping out with computer science classes. It’s a mixed class . . . most of the students are taking AP Computer Science Principles, and about 10 kids just recently started a second-semester Visual Basic class. The VB kids were pretty inquisitive at first but started to get discouraged . . . in my opinion because of the way the material is presented to them via an online curriculum. The current approach to teaching computer science in American schools, because of the shortage of (I almost said “lack of”) qualified teachers is to use packaged courses delivered to students online. My observation is students assume that because they’ve been put in front of a computer full of lessons, they’re expected to be able to read and understand the material and complete the assignments on their own with no help.… Read more →

Teaching Computer Science: Asking for Help

I’m volunteering a couple mornings a week at a local high school, helping out with computer science classes. This morning, in AP Computer Science Principles, the teacher went through an explanation of the hexadecimal number system, then gave an in-class assignment for students to convert their cell phone number to hexadecimal. Not in two parts, 3 digits and 4 digits, but as a 7-digit number. It seemed pretty obvious from the interaction and the body language and the looks on their faces that a lot of students didn’t get it, but in a class of 25 students, only one student asked for help. Until the teacher finished with that student and asked “Does anyone else need help?” and eight more students immediately raised their hand. I asked the teacher, “Can I address the class for a minute?”   “First off, doing a 7-digit hex conversion is not easy. I know… Read more →

Teaching Computer Science: It’s Not Easy to Teach a Subject in Which You Have No Training

A recent issue of Science has an article on the pipeline for computer science teachers . . . The first sentence says, “It’s not easy to teach a subject in which you have no training.” That could be the whole article, really. That’s about all you need to know about the current state of computer science instruction: It’s not easy to teach a subject in which you have no training. Cameron Wilson, chief operating officer and president of the Code.org Advocacy Coalition, is quoted as saying, “It’s really hard to convince a computer science professional to give up a job that pays up to three times more to pursue teaching. And I don’t think we should.” Wilson’s opinion that computer science classes should not be taught by someone who actually knows something about computer science is probably influenced by the fact that Code.org is one of the leading providers of… Read more →

More Words and Phrases I’m Sick Unto Death Of

Although I can’t claim never to have said these things myself, if I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard someone say either a) “It was working fine 10 minutes ago,” or b) “It works okay on my machine,” I would be comfortably retired by now. Thus spoke The Programmer. Read more →

What Does a Programmer Do?

I was asked to give a talk last week to a high school computer science class on “What Does a Programmer Do?” (I’m indebted to Jim McCarthy for the “lords and ladies of logic” section.)   Programming is problem solving. At the highest level, the problem that programmers solve is that people want to be able to do things with computers that they can’t do. And by computers, I don’t mean just the kind of computers you have on the desks here, I mean phones, watches, cars . . . more and more different kinds of devices are running software. So one good thing about being a programmer is that pretty much every field of endeavor now uses software and data. You can work at a tech company like Microsoft or Google or Twitter or Facebook, but you can also work in healthcare, finance, education, sports . . . you… Read more →

Learn to Code

I’m a programmer . . . Job searches for me go like this: I’m old, I have to compete with people half my age, but I’ve worked in Orange County since forever so I know some people, and I can write good code in interviews, which the majority of programmers who show up for interviews can’t. I was out of work on January 5. It’s now January 24. I have three job offers and picked the one I like best. Moral of the story: Learn to code, kids . . . Thus spoke The Programmer. Read more →

Programmer or Parolee?

Our office building is next door to a probation field office . . . I have a game I play in the parking lot each morning: Programmer or Parolee. I spot someone, guess if he’s here for a programming challenge or a meeting with his parole officer, then wait to see if he shows up in our office. If a methed-out skinhead comes in for a programming challenge, I lose today’s game. Read more →