18 November, 2008

How To Be A Better Programmer

Glen Wagley, after reading my post on pair programming said to me: "I understand what you mean about cutting corners. But I don't do it anymore; it's not worth it".

That was a slap in the face. Here I am blogging about ways to be a better programmer, yet I still cut corners myself.

All of this lead me to think that the number one thing you can do to become a better programmer is to have courage and integrity: if you see code that needs to be refactored, refactor it; if you know you need to throw away some of your code, don't be hesitant and throw it away; write your unit tests first; write your documentation... you get the idea: do those things you know you should do even though you don't you don't always want to.

I guess what' I'm trying to say, if you're Mormon, CTR. If you're not Mormon, please contact your local LDS missionaries; they'll be glad to teach you what CTR means. Seriously, however, it's sad that we have sites like The Daily WTF were we laugh about the crap we, so called "pros", write. I know that the profession is new, but that should be no excuse; I don't see a site where surgeons laugh about all the times they've left scissors inside their patients (OK, I really haven't searched and there's probably one out there). I realize we all make honest mistakes, but we should draw the line somewhere.

Now that I'm done ranting, and while I'm on the topic, here's a list of other things you could do to become a better programmer (in no particular order): learn other languages & platforms other than the one you currently use; learn to write good prose (in more than one language?); learn to touch type (as Steve Yegge suggests here); read tons of technical books and even more non-technical books; learn how to market your ideas; be humble and learn from others (regardless of their title/position); use a text editor effectively...

I have a ton of these, but I'd rather hear from you now. What do you do to become a better programmer?

Update: Since writing this article, a good buddy of mine wrote a rather inspirational story on standing up for what's right. If you so desire, you can find said story here.


Marius Andersen said...

If you really want to be a better programmer, take a year or two off to learn concrete mathematics. It'll hurt like hell, but you'll be better off with it.

Esteban Araya said...


I totally agree. In fact, I wish C.S. programs in U.S. universities would focus more on concrete math, statistics, etc.

Although I haven't formally pursued more education in math, I normally browse the wikipedia entries for topics such as probability theory, etc.

Thanks for commenting!

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