Understanding the professional programmer

is an excellent book by Jerry Weinberg (isbn 0-932633-09-9) (I've blogged a snippet review of it before.) As usual I'm going to quote from a few pages:
In the past, we depended on meetings because little was written down.
There are very few ways to measure the quality of a programmer's work unless you are a competent programmer yourself.
How do I work on those aspects of my own personality and problem-solving approach that are so personal I can't even see them, even though they may be the most important factor in my effectiveness as a programmer?
The next generation will come when we outgrow our adolescent fascination with toys and develop an adult interest in people.
I believe the first manager failed because she thought that to manage change you must interact directly with the employee.
If you want people to change what they're doing, make sure they are fed back the consequences of what they're doing.
90 percent of all illness cures itself - with absolutely no intervention from the doctor.
It's sometimes hard to know when someone is listening - rather than merely waiting to seize control of the conversation. One way everyone knew Mack wasn't listening was by noticing how seldom he allowed other people to finish what they were saying.
The secret to all good writing is re-writing.
Our tests have shown that certain implanted errors take fifteen minutes for one person to find, fifteen hours for another, fifteen seconds for a third. A few more people can't find the error no matter how long they search. This kind of variation hardly forms the basis for estimating.
The situation is hopeless but not serious.
Rules are not made to be broken, but neither are they made to be not broken. Rules are made so that the organization operates more efficiently.

nothing new ever works

Jerry Weinberg's latest blog is a guest entry from me!
It's an email I sent detailing a personal example of his New Law...

Hi Jerry,

I just had a moment of enlightenment about the New Law I wanted to share with you... I was giving Patrick, my son, some calpol (liquid paracetamol - he's ill off school today). The bottle had a new plastic widget in the top. With the bottle there was a new small syringe with a new plunger. This was a new design - instead of simply pouring the calpol onto a teaspoon you clearly had to fill up the syringe. Try as I might I could not get the syringe through the hole in the plastic widget in the neck of the bottle. So was it The New Law - Nothing new ever works?

My beautiful wife Natalie came to my rescue. It did work and she showed me how.

I just re-read The New Law from your book. I noticed that all the examples, the coffee maker, the pills, the car-battery, the car, the hospital procedure were examples where the new thing was genuinely not working. But in my case the new thing WAS working. It was ME that was not working!

From this I have realized that

1) It's easy to think the emphasis in "Nothing New Ever Works" is on the word "new" but it's equally on the word "works"!

2) Something being new is a relationship

3) Something working is a relationship

4) When I say "it's not working" what I always mean is "I can't get it working"

Also, it might give some insight into the question you pose at the end of the New Law...

"Everyone knows that new things never work."

"Then why is everyone obsessed with changing everything for something new?"

"If you answer that, you'll have something worth writing about"

Well, when things go wrong we can look for the cause outside of ourselves, or we can look for the cause inside of ourselves. But, looking for the cause inside of ourselves would mean WE had failed. Which is unthinkable. Therefore the cause must be outside of ourselves. Viz, if it's a choice between changing the world around us, or changing the world inside us, outside wins. And that's one reason why we create new things!



Alice in wonderland

is an excellent book by Lewis Carroll. As usual I'm going to quote from a few pages:
It was labelled ORANGE MARMALADE, but to her great disappointment it was empty.
Down, down, down. Would the fall never come to an end?
She generally gave herself very good advice (though she very seldom followed it).
Alice felt so desparate that she was ready to ask help of anyone.
Why, said the Dodo, the best way to explain it is to do it.
It sounded like an excellent plan, no doubt, and very neatly and simply arranged; the only difficulty was, that she had not the smallest idea how to set about it.
Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?
That depends a good deal on where you want to get to, said the Cat.
I don't much care where - said Alice.
Then it doesn't matter which you go, said the Cat.
Have some wine, the March Hare said in an encouraging tone.
Alice looked all round the table, but there was nothing on it but tea.
I don't see any wine, she remarked.
There isn't any, said the March Hare.
The chief difficulty Alice found at first was in managing her flamingo.
Alice soon came to the conclusion that it was a very difficult game indeed.
Take off your hat, the King said to the Hatter.
It isn't mine, said the Hatter.
Stolen, the King exclaimed, to the jury, who instantly made a memorandum of the fact.
I keep them to sell, the Hatter added as an explanation: I've none of my own. I'm a hatter.
Begin at the beginning, the King said gravely, and go on till you come to the end: then stop.