The passionate programmer

Posted by steve | Smalltalk | Monday 26 October 2009 3:29 am

I was thinking about how you can tell if someone is really interested in something. Sometimes you will hear it described as being passionate. “He is passionate about musicianship”, for example.

Dictionary time. Passionate: having, compelled by, or ruled by intense emotion or strong feeling.

It has been my observation that being talented is not what it takes to be exceptional about something. It’s passion. The lexicon of those individuals who have created products, companies, or content, seem to always include that those individuals were passionate about it.

To follow the musicianship idea, the outstanding examples of musicians you can think of are probably all individuals who are passionate about their craft. Somewhere in the equation we probably assume that genius or innate natural talent is also required. I believe that passion in a subject also drives someone to a high level of focus and detail. A passionate guitar player will never have to be reminded to practice their craft to become better musicians. Passion can also make up for genius. Although I think talent, is required.

If someone is passionate about something they think about it a lot. Morning, noon and night. Perhaps the passionate amongst us are even seen as “unbalanced”.

If you are interested in creating an excellent orchestra you would think a lot about having passionate musicians included. Your First Viloin is probably going to be someone with a lot of passion about playing the violin. You don’t have to remind them to practice.

I’ll bet your First Violinist is not a “9 to 5” musician. Doing only what it takes to complete the work. They are probably not in it just for the money either. We’ve all met those folks.

To carry the orchestra metaphor along, a successful orchestra has the full range of musicians. People will demonstrate different levels of passion about their craft. It doesn’t work if all your Violinists are First Violin. Everyone should be passionate, but they also need to play well together. In an orchestra a skilled musician is listening to what the others are doing while playing their own instrument. They both know and can hear where they fit in.

Obviously I’m also writing about software development teams. The metaphor works.

I think it works when you interview someone to join your little software development orchestra. I pay attention to the level of passion the individual demonstrates. Do they practice their craft after hours? Do they read, write, and talk about their craft all the time?


Uploaded some pictures on Flickr

Posted by steve | General Commentary | Sunday 25 October 2009 5:40 pm

I added pictures of my wife, Melissa, and a few photos from Mother’s Day 2009.


Updated the LaserGame Squeak tutorial

Posted by steve | Smalltalk | Sunday 18 October 2009 2:08 pm

I continue to receive emails from students new to learning programing, object oriented development, Smalltalk and Squeak, as they go through my tutorial LaserGame.

Recently I was reminded again that I misunderstood my target audience when I wrote that tutorial.  My original goal was that this would be a process showing development through-to-completion of a delivered application all written in Squeak using Test Drive Development and generally sound everyday development practices.  And I thought the tutorial would be utilized by students having already learned the basics.  That turned out to be way off base.  I get letters all the time from complete newbies telling me thank you.

And earlier this week I was asked by one of these less experienced students about how I did what I thought was a very basic step in the process.  But of course, someone new wouldn’t know that.  My mistake.  So I just published another update with a clarification in that section.  I’m so grateful for the positive feedback that I get.

Here’s the updated page:

I’ve made a lot of noise about doing a complete rewrite of the tutorial, in the past.  Yes, I have not completed that work.  First there were health concerns interrupting my work, then some health issues within the family.  Lately it’s just been too many other projects.  It’s amazing that I was able to carve out a clean free-time space and create that tutorial in 2007 like I did.  I think the whole thing was written and published over 4 weekends during that summer.

When I get back to the project I have several new goals in mind.  First off the tutorial will account for the inexperienced motivated student.  I’ll have more detailed notes and examples.  I’ve already started rewriting much of those parts.  I’m also uncomfortable that I gloss over some design considerations in a few places and want to amplify upon that work.  I’m also intending to make the tutorial available in book form, probably through  Two other goals are worth mentioning.  I intend to have a version of the tutorial support the new dialect of Squeak called Pharo.  That actually complicates things considerably since the tutorial relies heavily on screenshots and the two dialect look so different.  I’m guessing I’ll have to create some of the Morphic objects that LaserGame uses but do not exist in Pharo too.  Lastly, I think the tutorial could easily be extended to take the student as far as making Laser Game an iPhone app.  That would increase the audience for Smalltalk development too.


Drinking the water

Posted by steve | General Commentary | Friday 16 October 2009 5:12 am

At the office they have these large ice machines and chilled water dispensers. There’s 2 on every floor.

The Ice Machine

The Ice Machine

It seems that these machines need frequent servicing. Well the other day I noticed that I never see the service guy take a sample of water and drink it after working on the machine.


The real reason Windows systems crash

Posted by steve | General Commentary | Thursday 15 October 2009 7:20 pm

So these scientists have published a white paper describing how they think the problems with the Large Hadron Collider might be because of sabotage from the future.

It does sound like material for an episode of Fringe, a TV show I enjoy watching.

But this got me to thinking. Hey, if these guys are right that might explain all the problems with Windows. Maybe scientists from the future have learned that a well working Windows system could doom the world. So they go back and insert bugs and other…

Nah. Occam’s Razor gives us the right answer. It’s probably just bugs.