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Archive for September, 2007

Tools of The Effective Developer: Personal Planning

September 5th, 2007 7 comments

In the first post of this series I stated that the best tools, the ones that make developers efficient, are the habits that they possess. The habit I referred to in that post was the habit of keeping personal logs. In this post I will tell you about another habit that helps me in my daily work: The habit of personal planning.

When I come to work, the first thing I do after catching up on the e-mails, is grabbing a pen and notebook and start listing today’s tasks. When I’m done listing the ones that are in my head, I turn to my work log and my calendar in search for more things to be done. At this point I usually have a big unordered list of tasks with various degree of importance. It’s always more than enough for one days work so I start prioritizing.

In order to prioritize I rip out the page of my notebook to start a new list. Then I bring the tasks back to the notebook in order of importance. This time I draw a small square in front of every item, turning them into a proper todo-list. When finished I can start the real work, taking on the tasks one by one.

The planning usually takes around ten minutes to do and is worth every second. There are three main reasons for me to do it, listed here in order of importance:

  1. It helps me do the right things in the right order, making me better focused and more effective.
  2. Because of the importance of closure. When I finish a task, the ceremony of checking the square makes me feel good and brings me energy to take on the next task.
  3. It helps me remember what I’ve done during the day. This comes in handy when it’s time to update my work log.

I have tried several applications to help me in my planning, applications like Notepad, Microsoft Outlook and iGoogle’s todo-list. None of them could, in my opinion, compete with the good old pen and paper, so that is what I recommend using. But remember: it’s not the tool that matters, it’s the habit.

Cheers

Categories: habits, software development, tools Tags:

Programmer or Developer?

September 4th, 2007 12 comments

A comment on a recent post of mine made me think more about the distinction between a Software Programmer and a Software Developer. To me there is a subtle, but important difference. Let me give you my definition:

A Software Programmer is someone who really knows the environment he is programming. He knows everything there is to know about the language, the API and the Framework he’s using. He can do low level optimizations because he knows in detail what the compiler does behind the scenes. He is indeed a Wizard and a Guru of his domain. A Software Programmer usually starts with the implementation (probably because that’s what he is doing best) and work his way outwards.

A Software Developer on the other hand is a specialist at giving the customer (user) what he wants and what he needs. He doesn’t waste time on premature optimizations; he prioritize maintainability over performance, unless the performance is proved to be unacceptable; he has great testing skills, designing skills and communication skills; He is empathic, knows his HCI, and cares more about the user than he cares about his code. He cares so much that he usually becomes an expert himself of the users domains. A Software Developer starts with the interface (probably because that’s what he does best) and work his way inwards.

A person can be both, or more of one or the other. In a team you want both kinds but they are rarely found within the same individual. I, for instance, consider myself a great developer but an intermediate programmer. One simple way to test what type you are is to ask yourself this question: Do I care more for the interface (GUI or Programming Interface) than I do for the implementation? If you think the implementation is unimportant as long as it does what you want, and is reasonably maintainable, then you’re probably a Software Developer. If you find the previous sentence a blasphemy, you could be a Software Programmer. Which one is it?

Great use of annotations

September 3rd, 2007 Comments off

C# entered the field of battle some seven years ago as a better version of Java. The one feature that many people referred to when claiming C# superior, was custom attributes. Now Java has them too, but they go under the name of annotations.

The ability to attach meta data to various parts of your program is a powerful way to integrate with frameworks or configure external utilities. Mike Kaufman, for example, used annotations beautifully to configure an Obfuscator. He has posted the details on his blog.

Categories: C#, java, programming Tags:

Rest In Peace Delphi

September 2nd, 2007 28 comments

It’s not without sadness I see that what used to be my favorite language has taken a big dive in popularity recent years. Now Borland Delphi is only the 14th most popular programming language according to TIOBE Programming Community Index as per august 2007. That is five ranks lower than one year ago, and far from it’s golden days in the mid 1990’s.

Delphi was really a great language to work with. In the early days it was a strong, even leading power in the programming community. It gave us one of the first RAD environments, which sure as hell was more visual than Visual C++ and Visual Basic, its competitors at the time.

But the popularity decline didn’t come as a surprise. It started with Microsoft snatching Anders Hejlsberg, the compiler genius who created Delphi’s predecessor Turbo Pascal. Following that, the increasingly lower quality releases and the name changing mess. For some unintelligible reason Borland changed its name to Inprise, only to change it back a couple of years later, most likely due to an internal revolt. Slowly but steadily even the most devoted started to leave for other, obviously better, alternatives.

Last year Borland announced that they were selling all of its development tools, including Delphi. It long looked as if Delphi would be brought back under the name of Turbo Delphi, but the sale was canceled. Instead the development tools were spun off into a new company, owned by Borland. Since then Delphi 2007 for Win32 has been released, the best release in many many many years. They really did shape up, but I’m afraid it’s too late. The magic is gone and I have moved on.

Farewell my friend.