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Lunch » Tags » Books » Reviews » The Pragmatic Programmer: From Journeyman to Master » User review

This book will show you how to save time by spending it

  • Feb 10, 2000
As a programmer, I like to think of myself as pragmatic. Programming is the most precise discipline there is and justifies the cynical joke, "How many character changes does it take to turn `success' into `failure'? Answer: Only one if you are a programmer." However, pragmatic is a very subjective word, so the obvious question that any reader interested in this book would ask is, "So what criteria do the authors use to define a pragmatic programmer?"
In listing the criteria and explaining their reasoning, the authors show their depth of understanding of what is both right and wrong with the current state of the development art. Every keystroke or mouse click that we perform has a consequence, not only today, but in the future. When performing them, we should always be looking ahead to the future, whether that be thinking about how the code will be maintained, how the users will respond to what they find or how your current skill set is expanding or contracting. This eye on the future is the primary theme of the book.
The tips are kept simple, which is effective and is consistent with the secondary theme of the book. Complex systems are what we build, but in totality we cannot comprehend them. Only by breaking a project down into manageable parts can we hope to interact with it in an effective manner. Furthermore, the inertia against changes is much less severe when they are small and simple. Whether it be Ockham's razor, Einstein's statement about the simplicity of theories or simply reciting the KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid) mantra, reducing complexity is effective.
Some very good analogies are used to explain the principles, with my favorite being the broken window tale. The basic story is simple, abandoned buildings or automobiles on the street remain untouched until a window is broken. Left unrepaired, this sends a message that the object is fair game so within a very short time, vandals destroy the rest. The same thing happens in software development. Once a subpar feature is passed as acceptable, the signal to everyone is clear, and the quality of the remaining work suffers.
Granted, most of us in development are severely time challenged and have little to spare to either read or perform code clean ups. However, this is a book where the interest paid over the short and long term will dominate the initial investment. Applying even a few of these principles will help reduce the load in the future as you begin spending less time in all phases of the software cycle. It takes approximately a one percent increase in efficiency to save a half hour a week. This is a book that should be read by all programmers, especially those who wish to control their own destiny.

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Charles Ashbacher ()
Ranked #76
Charlie Ashbacher is a compulsive reader and writer about many subjects. His prime areas of expertise are in mathematics and computers where he has taught every course in the mathematics and computer … more
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About this book


Programmers are craftspeople trained to use a certain set of tools (editors, object managers, version trackers) to generate a certain kind of product (programs) that will operate in some environment (operating systems on hardware assemblies). Like any other craft, computer programming has spawned a body of wisdom, most of which isn't taught at universities or in certification classes. Most programmers arrive at the so-called tricks of the trade over time, through independent experimentation. InThe Pragmatic Programmer, Andrew Hunt and David Thomas codify many of the truths they've discovered during their respective careers as designers of software and writers of code.

Some of the authors' nuggets of pragmatism are concrete, and the path to their implementation is clear. They advise readers to learn one text editor, for example, and use it for everything. They also recommend the use of version-tracking software for even the smallest projects, and promote the merits of learning regular expression syntax and a text-manipulation language. Other (perhaps more valuable) advice is more light-hearted. In the debugging section, it is noted that, "if you see hoof prints think horses, not zebras." That is, suspect everything, but start looking for problems in the most obvious places. There are recommendations for making estimates of time and expense, and for integrating testing into the development process. You'll want a copy of The Pragmatic Programmer for two reasons: it displays your...

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ISBN-10: 020161622X
ISBN-13: 978-0201616224
Author: Andrew Hunt
Publisher: Addison-Wesley Professional

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