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Second rate programmers and my confession

by Ovid (Cardinal)
on Jun 05, 2002 at 19:43 UTC ( #171968=perlmeditation: print w/replies, xml ) Need Help??

tilly recently shared a quote with me that I think serves as a good starting point for some interesting discussion regarding differing levels of ability regarding programmers:

First-rate mathematicians want to hang around first-rate mathematicians. Second-rate mathematicians want to hang around third-rate mathematicians.

My translation:

$quote =~ s/mathematicians/programmers/g;

I should perhaps amend the first line to read "First-rate programmers and those who aspire to be first-rate programmers...".

As for myself, a quick read of the Seven Levels of Perl Mastery reveals that I am somewhere between Expert and Hacker, but with some glaring omissions in both categories. However, knowing Perl does not make me a first-rate programmer. I can know everything there is to know about Perl and still write bad code. I claim to be a second-rate programmer, but I aspire to be a first rate programmer.

Recently, our company hired two more programmers. One of them doesn't know Perl very well, but he knows programming theory very well (to be fair, his work rarely involves Perl). The other programmer knows programming theory well and I think falls in the Guru category.

Prior to their being hired, I was the top Perl dog. Everyone came to me with questions about Perl specifically and programming in general. I found myself terribly bored at work and I was stagnating in my development as a programmer.

Now, I am very clearly second choice for Perl questions and third choice for general programming questions. At first, this was a huge blow to my ego. I felt challenged by them and tried very hard to overcome my resistence to what they had to say. However, in trying to be a first-rate programmer I discovered something interesting: I was learning again and enjoying my job. I probably could not have written Sub::NamedParams and I certainly wouldn't be doing automated testing. Even now, I can look at code I wrote only a couple of months ago and point to all sorts of issues that I would probably mark "wrong" on a code review.

To my coworkers: thank you. To everyone else: swallow your pride and learn. Learning to program well means taking the time to care about your work and learn "quality" programming. I would much rather maintain a well-written, but broken program, than a working mess of spaghetti code (which I probably wrote, though my code isn't quite that bad :)


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Re: Second rate programmers and my confession
by George_Sherston (Vicar) on Jun 05, 2002 at 20:05 UTC

    You can generally tell the people who *really* know their stuff because they'll talk about it a transparent way, using ordinary language and not afraid that you'll see flaws in it, nor upset if you do. Plus, they don't feel the need to make themselves feel good by hammering on (as opposed to modestly correcting) the weaknesses of others.

    The preference for natural language among the Truly Great - not just a programming phenomenon. I came down with Bell's Palsy in Pittsburgh once (I'm fine now I hasten to add... and I don't *think* it was Pittsburgh's fault). The first doctor I saw was a nervous resident who said "it's an idiopathic self-limiting condition". Later, through a friend of a friend, I talked on the telephone to the top neurologist in California who said "we don't know why it happens but it gets well on its own".

    Conclusion: the best doctors (s/doctors/programmers/) don't speak Greek.

    George Sherston
      You can generally tell the people who *really* know their stuff because they'll talk about it a transparent way, using ordinary language and not afraid that you'll see flaws in it, nor upset if you do

      Perhaps they really know their stuff because they've had this attitude since long before they were really good at what they do.

      As BUU points out, there are reasons to use advanced technical language (if you can call it that) but often people fail to consider the knowledge level of the person they're speaking with. Being able to talk about a subject in terms anyone can comprehend is a very valuable skill and definately shows a strong understanding of the subject.

        Perhaps they really know their stuff because they've had this attitude since long before they were really good at what they do.
        Excellent. I wish I had any votes left. :-)

        Makeshifts last the longest.
      I fail to see why using 'higher level' terms is symptomatic of a lack of ability. Perhaps the first doctor felt that "idiopathic self-limiting condition" gave you the most succinct and explanatory description. Perhaps it does so for him, and he would consider "it gets well on its own" a poor statement because it does not explain or teach as much as the previous one. My point being, that people will use what ever terms come naturally to them to explain their project. If you had to describe something, and there was a 5 syllable word that exactly explained it, you could use that, or perhaps you could use 4 or 5 sentences of 'lower level words' and still not have fully explained it.

      We could go even further in this analyzation, and say that perhaps the first doctor respected you and your intelligence, so he used advanced terms that precisely defined the problem, where as the 'top surgeon' did not feel the same level of respect and felt he had to "dumb down" the explantion for a "lay man".

      Or of course, i could be wrong. But people use whatever language they feel comfortable with, unless they are making a deliberate effort to reach a different level, either higher or lower.

        BUU wrote: I fail to see why using 'higher level' terms is symptomatic of a lack of ability.

        It may not indicate lack of ability, but oftimes, it is often indicative of communication problems. One company I worked at had a programmer who would deal with problems like this:

        Customer:    Why didn't I get my reports?
        Programmer:  I just checked and you got a SOC7 in GLJ0430R and I'm going to
                     have to reload the dataset and start from the top.

        That programmer was technically correct. Of course, he didn't answer the customer's question. Learning to target your message to your audience is important. I would have simply said "looks like we got some bad data. I'm going to fix it and have the report to you in an hour."

        Now, does the previous person have a "lack of ability"? I remember one professor who said "if you can't put it in writing, you don't know it." Quite often, if I find that I can't explain something in clear terms that anyone can understand, I really don't understand what I'm trying to explain.

        What's a SOC7? Well, it's a SOC7. It''s... it's a data exception. What is a data exception? Well, it's, uh, you know...

        You see my point? If I can't explain something clearly, I probably don't understand it. Of course, I may understand it very well, but simply be a poor communicator. I tend to be suspicious of those who want to use high-falutin' terms.

        Hope that helps :)


        Join the Perlmonks Setiathome Group or just click on the the link and check out our stats.

        Using "higher level" terms is, if not symptomatic, then at least strongly related to having "a lack of ability", as you put it.

        There is a theory of skill development which goes something like this:
        • Unconciously Incompetent
        • Conciously Incompetent
        • Conciously Competent
        • Unconciously Competent
        This is very similar to many Eastern philosophies regarding the path of learning.

        I have a feeling that when one progresses to the fourth step, there is no reason to talk in scientific terms or to use fancy words. Since a master understands the subject matter in a complete sense, that it is really an integral part of them, there's no reason to use symbolic references to advanced concepts, such as the example of "idiopathic". It's not "dumbing down" so much as not making it sound more complicated than it is.

        It is a natural tendancy for some people, especially those of intermediate skill, to start talking technical nonsense just to sound important. Anyone who knows what they are saying will find it devoid of real meaning, and anyone who doesn't will find it useless. It's only those that have an idea of what they are saying that will be impressed.

        PROGRAMMER A: Your hash reference buffer has no entries, so that must be why you're not getting any program output.
        PROGRAMMER B: I think what he's saying is that your document is empty, so that's why the page is blank.
        update poop scoop - this was meant to be a reply to the reply to my first reply...

        It's possible. But my take on that particular situation, and my generalisation from that and other observations, is that obscure jargon often (though by no means always) goes with weak thought and insecurity.
        (A) using a technical term gets one off the hook of explaining what one really means - maybe one does in fact know; but maybe one doesn't want to find out that one can't put it more simply. Certainly, if I can put my concepts into terms that the intelligent generalist can understand, then I can be fairly sure I have understood them, rather than merely having learnt to say their names in a convincing way.
        (B) In any event, if I really *am* uncertain about what I'm doing, then one way I may want to hide this, and make myself feel cleverer, is by dressing up the little I know in language that distinguishes it from ordinary knowledge.

        I'm often reminded of Richard Feynman, whose ability to put complicated concepts into everyday language seemed to me to be part of his genius - certainly an outworking of his ability to understand.

        George Sherston
        There's also the chance the first doctor didn't really know what he was saying exactly, he might've just remembered a term from a book and couldn't explain the true cause (neither could the second doctor ofcourse)

        ... Quidquid perl dictum sit, altum viditur.
        This is off-topic Perl-wise, but does relate to the discussion at hand.

        I don't think "best doctors" necessarily means "doctors with best medical ability"; however, there's more to being a good doctor than knowing a lot about medicine. IMO, the best doctors are the ones who not only have good medical ability, but can relate to patients, tell them what's wrong with them in terms they can understand, explain the treatments and how they work, and basically make the patient feel like a human being rather than a collection of symptoms. That's how I'd interpret it, anyway.

        "Abby-somebody. Abby-normal."
        Young Frankenstein
        I fail to see why using 'higher level' terms is symptomatic of a lack of ability

        In lieu of the discussion about this, I'd like to throw in my own ammendment to the original statement.

        Very learned persons, in any field, can be detached in a certain sense. To them, these complex and lotsa' syllable words aren't big or confusing, so it is a detached language. With Perl, however, a true expert can see the beauty of the language is in it's simplicity. Sure, it looks like hell from time to time, but the concepts are extremely simple, to the point of common sense. This holds true for almost anything; math, science, computers - it all comes down to ones and zeroes.

        Take science, for example. Someone told me they had no idea of the point of Quantum Mechanics. I could have gone into big words or explanations, but instead I asked, "How wide is that doorway?". They answered something in the range of 4 feet, and I corrected them: "No, the doorway is (closed one eye and held up two fingers) this wide. It would only be that wide if I was standing over there, but I'm not. And if I went over there, I'd have to ask again". I think this is what I think the original post intended...there's no ego, no pretension, just pointing out what persons were trying too hard to see (and are fully capable of seeing). Everything can be simple, you just have to know how to look.

        But I do agree with this parent's main point: assuming a lack of expertise based on any generality is wrong. We should, however, strive to see how easy and basic we can make anything we take on...after all, isn't that the point of Perl? ;)

        complexity kills.

        Concisely put, someone who has a deep knowledge of something gains, as a result, the capacity to appropriately hide its complexity through simple metaphor.

        When someone doesn't understand as well, he or she cannot as easily extrapolate a simple metaphor, and can only give a technical answer.

        When someone doesn't understand at all, he or she might simply hide behind impressive-sounding words.

        This is largely because the knowledgeable individual is much more confident about leaving out technical details, because he or she knows which details are unimportant for a given context. The less-knowledgeable has not not yet developed a feel for which technical details are really important in understanding a given concept.

        So, while an explanation filled with technical detail doesn't automatically mean the speaker/author is not knowledgeable, it does tend to work out that way.

        A collection of thoughts and links from the minds of geeks
        The Code that can be seen is not the true Code
        I haven't found a problem yet that can't be solved by a well-placed trebuchet
Re: Second rate programmers and my confession
by footpad (Monsignor) on Jun 05, 2002 at 20:08 UTC

    I would certainly agree with this. In my last job, I was the only programmer on the team and it wasn't very fun. Up until that position, I'd worked for four other organizations where there programmers and other technical types that were far more experienced and talented than I. While there was the periodic ego blow that you mentioned, there were more times where the knowledge sharing and collaboration led to some dynamic (and occassionally frank) discussions about how to code, design, document, and support things properly.

    One of the things that really annoyed me in my last job was the fact that I was the only "talent" (to borrow a phrase from the TV production world). That's a lot of pressure, for you're always critical path and there's no one to keep you on your toes. (Also, it's difficult to get support for things that need to be done when management has different priorities.)

    In my current position, I'm the only programmer on my project, however that project is part of a larger set of projects, all tied for a given goal. This means that while I'm the only one using the compiler, we're still able to collaborate on design, development issues, and so forth.

    In other words, I too like having good people around. Even if only to keep me honest.

    This is, of course, why I keep hanging about here, even though I do very little Perl these days. There are a lot of more experienced people hanging about too. Sure, there are the ego blows (as well as the blow hards), but in general, the regulars are a decent bunch who don't mind sharing their experience. It's slipped a bit in the last few months, but I think part of that has to do with the change that's constant in any online community (as well as a certain non-voluntary retirement).

    As long as there's more to learn and other monks willing to help that process, I plan to keep hanging about.


Re: Second rate programmers and my confession
by Beatnik (Parson) on Jun 05, 2002 at 20:39 UTC
    One of the great advantages and disadvantages of a community, being it something like perlmonks or some IRC channel, is that you are surrounded by people who know a lot more than you, people who THINK they know more than you and ofcourse people just wanting to know more than you :)

    I'm not involved in any kind of project, other than school stuff but that's mostly in COBOL, so I dont know what it is to work with collegues... YET

    I am however, surrounded by people (friends, family) who don't know a thing about programming in general or programming in perl specifically. Whenever I get stuck, I try to explain the problem in plain english to an unsuspecting victim (the whiteboard is just great for that stuff) and that gets me thinking. In fact, I might just explain my problem to an empty chair if I can just step thru the program and think about it in logical steps.

    One of the other great things about communities is that everyone has a different perspective on problems and solutions. If someone asks a question on a topic you dont master yet (and you have time for it), you look it up, experiment with it and give your opinion (at least, that's what I try to do). While helping others, you help yourself. When someone else provides a solution different than yours, you should wonder how come this solution is better/worse than mine and what can I learn from it. I always try to ask myself... What can I learn from this?

    I spent houres a day on IRC sometimes, usually answering newbie questions and I noticed my answers have changed throughout the years. For example, I used to provide newbies with the classic %FORM based form parser but at one point I started answering those questions with If you're not using, you're on your own (something like clean your room).At some point, you automatically start tossing more advanced terms at a poor newbies head and he calls for mommy... so you work on your approach, you learn how to do it differently (you look for more than one way to do it).

    My point being, respect and acknowledge the people that know more than you and consider what you could learn from them. At the same time, respect and acknowledge the people that know less than you and consider what you might learn from them too. In one way or the other, everybody's learning from everybody :)

    Knowledge is not reflected by your XP or by the status in an IRC channel, it's not reflected by funky stickers on bumpers or laptops, knowledge is the key to learning from and to others.

    ... Quidquid perl dictum sit, altum viditur.
Re: Second rate programmers and my confession
by VSarkiss (Monsignor) on Jun 05, 2002 at 20:13 UTC

    Eh, maybe I'm just getting old, but I feel like I learned a really long time ago that I knew more than many programmers and less than many others. It took several years after that to learn to keep good relationships with both groups, because I would encounter them repeatedly, like when they moved from the "know-less-than-me" group to the "know-more-than-me" group (or vice versa ;-).

    At one of my former work places we used to say "Check your ego at the door, please", and it's still relevant, particularly in the monastery. There's a lot to learn, so don't be upset when somebody unexpectedly knows more than you. And if you know more than the other person, teach graciously. Two paraphrases:

    Learn from others as you would have them learn from you.
    Teach others as you would have them teach you.

Re: Second rate programmers and my confession
by perrin (Chancellor) on Jun 05, 2002 at 21:02 UTC
      ++, this article has been referenced before.. I think all programmers should have a copy of it. :)

      - Moon
Re: Second rate programmers and my confession
by Maclir (Curate) on Jun 05, 2002 at 20:06 UTC
    I was reminded of the quotation that may have been attributed to Einstein:
    If I have seen further that anyone else, it is only because I was standing on the shoulders of giants.
    Of course, I have probably not got the wording exact. But what he ws saying (assuming it was Einstein), is that our knowledge / expertise / whatever is built upon that of others.

    What Ovid is saying about one's skills is very true. I thouhg I was a good racing sailor until I started to race on offshore boats. After two years on one boat, I moved to a larger, faster boat. With each change in environment, my skills improved dramatically.

    Update: As a number have said, it was Issac Newton who said the above statement. Maybe Einstein said it as well, since by his time there were many more giants whose shoulders he could have stood on.

      That quote is actually attributed to Isaac Newton and may, in fact, have been an insult. Apparently, some of Newton's work was discovered independantly by another individual, named Hooke (I forget his first name). Apparently, in a polite email feud, Newton made his comment. Hooke, however, was apparently rather short and Newton's comments may have been a nasty reference to Hooke's height and, presumably, his intellectual capacity.


      Update: ROTFLMAO :) Of course Newton didn't have email. I meant "mail". Heh ...

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        Newton was not a nice person. He had a big ego, always tried to make him look better than his peers. He got real nasty in his long standing argument with Leibnitz, (Newton's "fluxions" vs Leibnitz' derivates), dividing the Western scientists into two camps. Newton also made his Principae (spelling?) hard to read, on purpose. He didn't want to be bothered by remarks and questions from "lesser scientists".

        Does that mean Newton didn't understand his stuff? Or that he wasn't a first class scientists? I don't think so.


        Newton had email?
      I've heard the quote attributed to Einstein too; it's no surprise that he'd quote Newton, though, since Newton was one of those giants.

      "Abby-somebody. Abby-normal."
      Young Frankenstein
Re: Second rate programmers and my confession
by chromatic (Archbishop) on Jun 06, 2002 at 04:43 UTC
    In the preface to the Perl Cookbook, Larry says:
    I have to confess that I learned quite a few things I didn't know before I read this book.
    Any "guru" who doesn't say that on occasion (or 'fess up to mistakes in public) isn't worth listening to. :)
Re: Second rate programmers and my confession
by Steve_p (Priest) on Jun 05, 2002 at 20:31 UTC
    Rarely is there better motivation than competition. However, in the job market today, I consider everyone to be my competition. Staying ahead and staying motivated are part of the load we programmers have to bear. Whenever I've been bored in my job, I've found that that is the best time to start looking into new technologies, methodologies, and theories regarding programming. I don't mean just Perl either. I made it throught one large period of system testing at work by learning Python. Another round, lead me to PHP (I'm still finding security holes in PHP-Nuke). Recently, frustrations in using Parse::RecDescent have lead me to the long journey of plugging the holes in my CS knowledge.

    I have always worked under the assumption that there is always someone smarter, faster, and cheaper than me, and that my boss knows them personally. Keeping food on the table has always been all the motivation I've needed to keep working to improve my skills.
Re: Second rate programmers and my confession
by Dog and Pony (Priest) on Jun 06, 2002 at 09:34 UTC
    I know exactly what you mean. Sadly, I am now in a job where I work alone, while I at my earlier place had a team I worked in. One in that team was better than me and the others at most things, and I probably came in second in most areas. That meant that I could learn from this "Guru" (not perl Guru, mind you), develop my skills, and generally have a good time while at the same time be sort of a "Guru" to those that needed my help. It was great.

    Here, I've found that I lack lots of motivation, I do not give it my full attention, and my concetration drifts. I just want out, or at least have a long vacation.

    It took me a while to realize that this is mainly due to the fact that I work alone, or am top dog in those cases where it applies. I have two other people working around me here, which are "programmers" in the very broadest sense of the word - which means they have gone some unemployment crappy course where they didn't learn anything, got jobs and then refuse to be curious and learn. It is horrible. How can they not want to be better programmers? But I digress.

    Point is that this place is not so nice to begin with, but I thought it was that, and crappy PBH:s, and lying scumbags that was the problem. It turns out that the big thing is just that - a) having someone, anyone, that you can remotely connect with, to work together with, and b) even better, someone that is better than you at something.

    My old guru and I have started to go out and grab a beer fairly often nowadays, and frequently bounce stuff via email. We live pretty close to each other after all, and while he has a family and all, we truly enjoy getting together and "geek out", so to speak. :) I think we both need someone to talk to about such, and compare code, strategies, ideas and such.

    Still, this is probably not enough. I've got a classic case of bosses and the likes that will buy anything, as long as the seller shares the same taste in shirts. It doesn't make for a healthy climate, especially not for a programmer in and around the open source register.

    Yes, the company will be moving to dotNET. So far, noone can explain why. But "everyone" knows what it is. Upon question what exactly it is, noone can explain what. I could probably think to work with dotNET, or at least give it a try - I am really curious and just want to see it in action.

    But I am out of here as soon as I can.

    That turned into quite a long rant, which wasn't really intended. But something about your post really struck a nerve, because I could identify myself totally with the whole situation, and would do anything to get such collegaues, here or anywhere else.

    To some extent, PM has filled a small such role (thanks guys!) where you can "geek around" in the CB, and code some fun stuff, get advice and give advice. I've definetely had PM as some kind of a meta-collegaue at times. :)

    Btw, I didn't re-check, but I think I was good solid "Perl User" according to the Seven Level thingy. In case anyone wonders. :)

    You have moved into a dark place.
    It is pitch black. You are likely to be eaten by a grue.
Re: Second rate programmers and my confession
by simon.proctor (Vicar) on Jun 05, 2002 at 23:01 UTC
    My work experience over the last 18 months has run the flip side of what you now have and I can only sit here in polite envy ;)

    I used to head up a team of programmers who were, in many ways, much better at various aspects of programming than I. My talents were in finding a quick solution, letting them pick it apart and then leading them to the final product. This lead to many breakthroughs in my own talents and drove me to learn more and more (Perl especially).

    However, I changed companies and now I am the sole expert in my team and the sole programmer. I've learned more languages (Java, VBScript etc) but I could write any old code and the only one doing the review is me. You can imagine how that works out :P.

    From my standpoint I can truly appreciate the position you were in and are now and wish you all the best :). Why not let us know how it goes six months from now?
Re: Second rate programmers and my confession
by webfiend (Vicar) on Jun 06, 2002 at 07:01 UTC

    Definitely ++ on this and most of the followup comments!

    Most of my programming jobs have been of the "lone coder" variety, where somebody handed me a task and left me alone except for weekly checkins ("Looks cool! Does it parse Japanese and Chinese yet?"). Good for the ego, but poison for learning more than the occasional tidbit.

    I've had exactly one development job where I worked daily on the same project as another programmer. In the 6 months there, I became comfortable with CPAN, references, OO Perl, HTML::Template,, use strict, and the -w flag. I also learned a lot of non-Perl things: Apache configuration, code reviews, and the technique of swearing loudly at the computer as a stress release mechanism. Mind you, this was my first full-time development position, but I suspect that the learning rate would be similar in another job working in a close team.

    I am very happy to note that Perlmonks is a comparable environment. Every day I come in and see people doing things in Perl that never even occurred to me. And it doesn't stop at Perl, either. Reading tilly's old comments sparked an interest in LISP, which I've started playing with today - mostly to take a break from re-reading Programming Perl :-).

    Anyways - I'm definitely "aspiring", and it's nice to be around others who are aspiring or already there.

    "All you need is ignorance and confidence; then success is sure."-- Mark Twain

      I'm in the lone coder role now. Perlmonks is a great resource for taking up the slack left by the absence of other programmers.

      I also recommend checking out code that's available online. Even crap can teach you. Once, I found an idiom I used often in a piece of frighteningly bad CGI off the net--this discovery caused me to carefully analyze what I was doing in that code, and I found that it could generate some obscure errors. Other code has been education for the complete opposite reason.

      I have also been addressing the issue by training a few of my coworkers. This has helped me by forcing me to clarify my understanding of various bits of 'elementary' perl. One of my proteges has matured into a programmer capable of using OO Perl. We need to start doing code reviews for each other. I've got two more pupils coming along, with another person expressing interest. One of them looks like he may surpass my level of ability fairly quickly. It will be good to have someone on hand to bug with questions.

      TGI says moo

Re: Second rate programmers and my confession
by Cybercosis (Monk) on Jun 06, 2002 at 00:05 UTC
    I would not say that habitual usage of complex language/jargod is indicative of incompetence. (Wow. Just *look* at my proof of example! =-)) It may, however, indicate a lack of confidence, which can make all the difference.
    Thinking back to Cryptonomicon, when Stephenson digresses to describe Randy's hunt for an oral surgeon, Randy finally settles on a particular "brilliant" surgeon who is completely socially inept and, rather than insisting upon Randy signing a large waiver or explaining precisely why a minor mistake could remove all intellectual distrinction between Randy and a marmoset, he simply says "Okay." and walks out of the room.
    I have to say, when Things Need to be Done, I've always preferred precisely this sort of person. They're usually socially inept because they're busy doing other, more interesting things (though it *could* be an indication of general ineptness) and they don't bother with excuses. They either can do it, or they can't, and they'll say so.


Re: Second rate programmers and my confession
by amarceluk (Beadle) on Jun 06, 2002 at 13:10 UTC
    Thanks for giving me something to think about. Just yesterday I was having that "toes-stepped-on" feeling because a new guy in the office was trying to write a regex to solve a complicated problem no one else in the office has been able to figure out a quick solution for. (Thus challenging my status as the go-to person for regexes in our office.) However, you've helped me see that rather than be annoyed, I should take advantage of the knowledge of others, and, if someone else does come up with a solution to this problem, look at what they did and how they did it and learn from them. Or, if I still feel challenged, rather than just seethe about it I should challenge myself to develop a better solution.

    Note to self: Getting problems solved is more important than ego.

    "Abby-somebody. Abby-normal."
    Young Frankenstein
(zdog) Re: Second rate programmers and my confession
by zdog (Priest) on Jun 06, 2002 at 05:39 UTC
    I can't help it!! (It's like I'm on a mission or something.)

    tilly recently shared a quote ...

    It's "quotation." :-)

    Petruchio sums it up best when he says, "zdog may be a one-trick grammatical pony, but he does get to play that trick fairly often."

    ++Maclir for using it correctly.

    Zenon Zabinski | zdog |


      At least they spelled 'quote' correctly.

      On the other hand, -- (if I were the mean-spirited school teacher type) to all those who definitely don't know how to spell independent (or variations thereof).


      Who said it above, there are some who know less, some who know the same, and some who know more? Ah, it was VSarkiss. I agree. If only we could get the management to check their egos at the door too...

Re: Second rate programmers and my confession
by tjh (Curate) on Jun 06, 2002 at 19:28 UTC
    ++ Ovid

    Not having had a single source of helpful mentoring, I became jealous while reading your post. Having skilled people around to ask the stupid questions, without the political or social fears that go with asking some of those questions, is really desirable.

    There are many reasons why I haven't and don't have that, not pertinent really, but I've begun to substitute PM and a couple of other places for that. It isn't the same, but it's as close as I'll probably get.

    Then as I read this thread and found George_Sherston's reply and it's sub-thread, it dawned on me that having a mentor or someone to review or help me - who couldn't communicate with me in ways that were useful for me - would be useless, regardless of their ability level. I feel the same way about doctors, my CPA, lawyers, etc... Maybe someday I would be competent enough to not need things to be 'dumbed down' for me, but hey.

    It's that need for clear, antagonism-free explanations that keeps me here at PM, and keeps me lobbying for easy-to-experience answers.

    We're all different, and the level of 'dumbing-down', or the simplicity of the language, will be different for all of us. Interesting problem, and an interesting experiment for those learning to explain things in written form. (I wish I could vote on the clarity or usefulness of some module documentation for this reason...:)

Re: Second rate programmers and my confession
by stefp (Vicar) on Jul 18, 2002 at 18:21 UTC
    Almost all this thread confuses two things: 1/ being competent on one field 2/ being able and willing to share knowledge especially with newcomers.

    To be a good teacher requires both abilities plus the skill to assess the knowledge and interests of ones audience so as to start from the know to lead to knowledge of the unknown. Having both abilities is more the exception than the rule.

    I studied maths with teachers who were imposed the Bourbaki style (formal maths). They were good teachers but they were required to teach stuff that they did not really understand. Too bad.

    Later, in engineering school (not a math-only cursus) I had as teacher who was a moron who will stay unnamed. He was certainly mastering topology but was unwilling to give examples because it was betraying the generality of the theory. Most people learn from concrete examples and later see in what generalization differs from these examples.

    Also, the art to hook an audience without getting off topic is a rare ability. See Conway and Dominus.

    -- stefp -- check out TeXmacs wiki

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