Saturday, December 31, 2005

Educated Plumbers

Joel Spolsky just released one of his excellent piece of wisdom, this one explaining how the great bargain of IT courses makes his life difficult when trying to select smart recruits. He is of course fully right but I feel like adding a few words.

First, the sabotage of education is not limited to IT: my wife being a math teacher, I can tell you that the level of what she is teaching is constantly on the down curve. It is like the attention span of young generations has narrowed so much that it is not an option anymore to dare exposing them to problems that need several minutes of reflection to be solved.

Second, it is certainly not wise to focus on a particular language when teaching the fundamentals of software development. In fact, when I recruit someone, I do not particularly care about what language she studied at school, the courses is more important: evaluating if the candidate has learnt to learn is the key point. Then I focus on language and frameworks only for particular projects.

Then, yes Joel, Java can be learnt in two days (like C#): what takes a lot of time is mastering the whole SDK, dealing correctly with multi-threaded environment and thinking object oriented. This takes years to learn, even for a master of C.

Finally, nowadays 90% of the programmers will spend their day on plumbing jobs: connecting beans to cryptic frameworks and deploying them on fussy application servers. They will not deal with writing core algorithms, so the average mind will show some convincing signs of success, until confronted to some serious problem. Then the difference between an educated plumber and a seasoned craftsman will show.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Rediscovering Verne

I am reading Jules Verne again: last time I was too young and got overwhelmed with his long descriptions and the usage of incredibly exotic units (I was raised as a metric-system mind).

It is a true pleasure to rediscover this author, both in his famous books and in the less known ones. I do not consider Jules Verne as a visionary: he has not foreseen anything like the heavier-than-air vehicles or the usage of oil as a source of energy. He is not such a scientist as well: you can see that he hardly explains what system allows the space travelers to survive the enormous acceleration of the bullet that carries them to the Moon.

But he is very well informed on the state of science and technologies of his time, and extremely good at imagining what could be the most advanced versions of what he was seeing around him. For me, he is more an extrapolative mind than a prophetic one!

But there are of course some interesting coincidences, like the fact that he estimated a lift-off to the Moon would happen either in Texas or Florida, when actually it was from Florida controlled from Texas!

Globally, it is a rejuvenating experience to read his books: his faith in science and engineering, his depiction of righteous men, his fascination for nature are communicative: it makes the grey and gloomy days of winter a little brighter and hopeful.

Moreover his true admiration for the United States, which he considers the land of bold endeavors and true democracy, is also refreshing, because full of genuine tenderness. Can Jules Verne help rediscovering America?

Thursday, December 08, 2005

The other David does not like you too

I really have a problem with tailgaters, like David Lynch. Not only the jerks could not avoid crashing into my car if I have to do an emergency braking but they won't make me drive any bit faster because the cruise control does not care about how close is the car behind.

I think that tailgaters lack consistency: if they do not want to respect the speed limit (which I usually exceed of 5%) then they should overtake, whether we are in town or the line is plain, because why would they bother of one regulation (passing prohibited) and not another one (speed limit).

Finally, unless tailgaters sign an agreement where they would pay the tickets I would get if I drive faster to please them... they can stick to my fender!