Charles Pillsbury III

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Mediocre programmer confessional

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I’ve been enjoying Chad Perrin’s blog (I think I linked to something else on there recently).

The reason this got me thinking about my (lack of) “formal” education in programming is point three — practical recursion. See, I’ve never really had to use recursion in the real world, and it sure didn’t come up in introductory courses in C, C++, and JavaScript

[From Chad Perrin: SOB » recursion confessional]

I typed this up as a reply to his post, and because I was offline and have blogging software I moved it over here so I don’t lose it.

I’m glad to know I’m not the only person who didn’t go for the degree. Granted, I sort of fell into programming as a day job, and there are a ton of skills I’m greatly lacking in. I’m actually in a similar boat with “need a reason to learn it”, though mine is because I’ve had people take a chance on me as a programmer when I came in with just the basic logic skill set and baseline understanding of how to think in a programatic way, and because of that I do a lot of learning as the problems come up. It’s tough to bother learning the butterfly stroke when they dumped you in the middle of the lake with a rudimentary swimming ability, and bass with lasers on their heads… no time to get fancy with the swimming till you’re on the shore.

Somewhere I read a piece on somebody’s blog about the difference between managers and programmers in their technical ability (managers generally know a little about a lot, and programmers know a lot about a little… I think wide vs deep was the terminology used). I tend to have the issue of having the managerial “width” sort of knowledge, and the programmatical “depth” level of interest. ADD doesn’t help much there.


Written by cpillsbury

May 2nd, 2008 at 10:19 pm

Posted in Blog Entry

One Response to 'Mediocre programmer confessional'

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  1. Hey, it’s Chad — thanks for the link.

    I remember you recently linked to something at SOB, too. Off the top of my head, I don’t recall what. Perhaps the bit about insomnia.

    I seem to have some of the width of knowledge plus depth of interest problem, too. I tend to be excellent at learning principles quickly, and bad at finding time to learn the practical skills to go with the principles except when I find myself in the midst of a project that requires them. Then, of course, it’s time for cramming.

    I’m working on rectifying that, though. For instance, I should be tackling *The Ruby Way* in the near future, and I plan to complete it cover to cover in a fairly short period of time, during which I hope to be writing more Ruby code more quickly than ever before in my life, followed by a refamiliarization with C via *Practical C Programming* and the K&R book, finally followed by a language-agnostic textbook I’ve acquired on the cheap called *Simple Program Design* — all in a manner of just a few months. After that, I’ll surely need a break from the dedicated cramming, to practice and let it sink in.

    I did something similar in end 2006 and beginning 2007, getting through three Perl books in short order — which basically just cemented what I already knew, but it was a “cementing” that I needed. The upcoming months-long cramming will be complicated by the fact that I have to keep up my professional writing and security-related reading at the same pace as I have been, however, which is a tighter schedule for these pursuits than I dealt with during my Perl cramming.

    It’ll be challenging — but also probably a lot of fun, at least until I get to *Simple Program Design* (the only book on the above list about which I’ve heard *nothing* with regard to its quality).

    I’ve tried organizing some autodidactic “study group” projects of sorts via the Internet to help me keep up with cramming projects in the past, but the tendency of people to flake out in the middle has served to hinder me more than help. So much for a “best of both worlds” (the “self-taught” and “classroom” worlds) approach.

    Best of luck to you in your own pursuit of knowledge. Please share any deep secrets of learnin’ you pick up along the way.


    3 May 08 at 8:23 am

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