2008 July : Dragons in the Algorithm

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Metaphorical Programming

Unlike computers, humans tend to think in metaphors. That is, when we want to reason about something new or unfamiliar we reason by analogy with something familiar. This is a great mental trick and it is part of what allows humans to be flexible and to deal with unanticipated circumstances (exactly the kind of thing that computers cannot do), but there is a danger as well: where the analogy chosen is not a close match, our thinking can be led astray. One place where these analogies are often poor is in thinking about the process of programming. more…

Go Easy on the Maintenance Programmer

Maintenance Programmer“: This common, and underappreciated species of programmer is often heard muttering and cursing under their breath. Sometimes bald from tearing their hair out in frustration.

From time to time we all have to do it: simple changes and maintenance to code – often other people’s code. And the truth is that most code spends far more time in maintenance mode than it did in design, coding, or initial debugging. Yet maintenance programming is notoriously difficult (even if it does tend to get assigned to the most junior developers on a team). I will identify the main reason I think maintenance is difficult, and suggest one specific programming practices that can make your code easier to maintain. more…

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