Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Would you like some quotes with that?

I have always enjoyed famous quotations. I think the reason a quotation seems nice to one is that it re-inforces something the person believes in. Some of my favorite quotations are - "Its the journey that matters and not the destination" and "Love like you have never been hurt, work like you dont need the money, and dance like nobody's watching!".
This is because these quotes re-inforce my beliefs that its necessary to enjoy life at every moment and not keep thinking about the future (all the time), and that it is important to have a childlike enthusiasm about a lot of things in life and not be cynical. Cynicism inevitably sets in as you grow older, so one has to swim against the current to hold it off and maintain a vibrant attitude to life.
I have also wanted to see if I can come up with some good quotes on my own. Of course, most of them would be appealing mostly to myself since its a reflection of my beliefs, but I am hoping that some of them are generic enough for other people to appreciate too.
Some of them I came up with are:

"Life is too important to act on advice"

This is a reflection of my belief that an advice given by someone is almost never applicable to any other person. The advice given by a person cannot be viewed on its own, it comes coated with the advice-giver's own character. This is because the same event that occurs on two different people may lead them to completely different conclusions based on the person's character, environment and upbringing.

"Know that a person is secure in himself only if he's able to make fun of everything he stands for"

In my experience, people that are not confident, or secure within themselves manifest it by being a bit too strict, or by taking offense to small things. The real measure that a person is secure is when he is able to laugh at himself, his behavior, religion, culture, etc. It does not mean that he ridicules them or thinks it to be inferior - just that along with his beliefs, he is also able to recognize the quirks in all of them and laugh it off. Because, lets face it, everything has quirks, however minor.

Now ladies and gentlemen, if you think you have already seen the above quotes somewhere else, I assure you, its not a case of plagiarism, just coincidence! Someone somewhere not only has my beliefs, he/she thinks like me too!

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Its all about the attitude!

I have always been interested in learning different computer languages although I havent been able to sit down and work with one long enough....call it laziness or what you will. But then I started to think - is it really important to know many languages? What would be a fairly reasonable evaluation of a "good" programmer? If I were looking for work, would I hire me??
This led me list down what I thought would be winning skills in a programmer. The more I thought about it, the more I got convinced that its not about skills - its about attitude. Attitude comes with experience, something that cant be taught. Armed with the right attitude, the programmer can master any skill or language - and more important, use the skill effectively.

So what are the attitudes that a programmer should have for me to hire him? I came up with 3 for now:
Be solution-oriented: Whatever the situation might be, the first thing that a programmer must aim to do is solve the problem quickly. Given a problem, whats the simplest way to get a solution? Thats what the programmer should aim for. No grand designs, no fanfare. You can do that when you work on a personal project. When it comes to business, make yourself known as a problem-solver.
Code for maintainability: Give utmost importance to making the code maintainable and readable, once you get it to work. This is not only a skill, but is more a reflection of your attitude towards programming. The programmer must ensure that his work is changeable easily in future, because rest assured, its gonna change. As Martin Fowler puts it, "Any fool can write code that a computer understands, good programmers write code that humans understand."
Curiosity and eagerness to learn: Never mind if the programmer does not know some basics that some people think he should know. The important thing is always to want to learn. This applied not only to software but also to people. When you see something or someone behaving differently than you would expect, always say "Why do you think it should be done that way?" rather than "I dont think you are doing it the right way". The reason, more than politeness, is to learn some things that you might have not known before.

If you have the above, you are a winning programmer in my book. And I am sure, in many (winning) managers' books too!

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Just found this gem of an article by Steve McConnell on his site. McConell in a nutshell says that there are different ways to read a technical article. The actual source for the article is a book called "How to read a book" by Mortimer J.Adler, which he summarizes and puts forth some important points. Basically there are 4 types of reading:
Elementary - where one learns to recognize individual words on the page.
Inspectional - where one skims over the article so as to get the most out of it in a given time
Analytical - where one reads the article so as to get the most out of it when one has theoretically an unlimited amount of time
Syntopical - where one reads multiple books or articles on the same subject so that the conclusions that one arrives at is a much bigger picture - much different than what the authors for each individual article intended to convey.

McConnell says that the original author advocates not going beyond "Inspectional" reading if one doesnt have to. This actually makes me real happy because I, like McConnell, often feel guilty about not finishing a book I bought. But from what he says, is okay to skim through it or read it in part. If the need arises for a more detailed form of reading like analytical or syntopical, we can always do it at a later date (I assume you own the book!).

Quoting him from the article:
"Prior to reading this advice in How to Read a Book, I had always felt a little guilty about not finishing a book. But Adler makes a strong case for not going beyond Inspectional reading unless you need to. I found his advice liberating; he told me that it was acceptable to read a book in this way, and gave me a systematic method for doing something I had previously been doing only haphazardly."

My feelings, exactly. Just for this article, I think I should go and buy his book!

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