Sunday, February 1, 2009

Why Jeff Atwood is one of my programming heroes

There are a lot of high IQ's in this world, and a proportionately high number of them are in the programming field. But IQ isn't enough. An unfortunately high proportion of the smarties don't have high EQs when it comes to what we're actually trying to accomplish in this field. Jeff Atwood is one of those people whose blog I follow that really, really gets it. Here's a snippet from a podcast between him and Joel Spolsky, where he absolutely nails this concept right on the head.

The longer I think about this, the less I care about code hygiene issues (laughs). Because the unit of measure that really matters to me is, how quickly you can respond to real business needs with your code. And by that I mean, how well are you serving the people that are using your code. To me that's what it's all about. Anything that gets in the way of you fixing your code or improving your code in a way that your customers can appreciate, is a negative. If that means using Ruby, or having lots of unit tests: whatever's working for you: do that. But if it's getting in the way, if it becomes friction, like, "I'd love to have this great new feature but I'd have to have 1000 unit tests," that's a negative.

In my opinion, this is the difference between a journeyman programmer and a master. A journeyman has all the mechanical skills that a master has; he knows all the patterns and most of the anti-patterns. But what he lacks is the wisdom to know when to use them, and most importantly, when not to use them.

Maybe someday I'll be able to give Jeff a coke, and he'll smile and throw me a smelly old jersey he used during the project :)


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