Archive for November, 2011

Clouds, lava, and the golden rule of programming

by on Tuesday, November 1st, 2011

During my early levels of computer scienceyness, I happened upon a quest that lead me to take AP Computer Science from Biga. Biga is unconventional. Your grade was a cloud, until you got the answers right, or were properly able to convey your understanding. Yes, you could actually present the wrong answer to the question at hand but demonstrate your understanding of the material and be fine. It was fun. Naturally, some parents were not pleased with this methodology of teaching. Somehow they came to the conclusion that the lack of a grade somehow meant the XP was poor. Little did they know.

I had eighth hour APCS with five other friends. It was a small group, which meant it was very focused. I remember hand waving on the whiteboard every sort using a dozen or so magnets with numbers on them, and creating a sweet Roman numeral fractional calculator. It was my introduction to C++ as a language, which, to date is still my favorite language to program in. I got the opportunity to come back and talk to a class about my experiences as a CS major. It just so happened that Biga was getting rid of the text book I had learned from as they were moving to Java *shakes fist*, so I totally picked that up!1.

I am often reminded, at work, of one of the more memorable sections, okay, the only section of the book I remember. It had a number of programming rules. One is particular has stuck with me to this day, though I often forget which number it is. Lucky for me I have this book to tell me things. Book, tell me what the fifth rule of programming is. Book? Damnit book.

Never be afraid to chuck it all and start over, especially at the design stage. If your organization is a mess, patching it generally will produce a patched-up mess, at best.

Rule number five is a concept that people have a hard time following through with. After all, once you have done all that work, you can’t just really scrap it all, can you? It’s, well, your precious. And you don’t want to just go chuck it into lava. If Minecraft has taught us anything, it’s there’s no coming back from lava. But sadly, the precious is created from evil, and <bleep!?> gotta go. There becomes a point where you are dealing with such a poorly designed program flow, that trying to maintain, improve, or even use it is such a time sink that you are literally throwing time away, into lava. Twice.