Saturday Morning Reads #4

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I read so many good articles during the week, stuff that’s so much better than anything I could dream up. Every week or two, I’ll share some of the more thoughtful and inspiring ones on here. :)

Changing perspectives on your job – Will you renew your boss for another season?

I read this one from Scott Hanselman a year and a half ago, but I stumbled on it again recently. It’s a short one, just a challenge to look at things differently. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard people say they wished their company would let them go, so they’d finally have to look for something else.

“[T]he Annual Review is my time to decide if I want to renew my Employer for another season. This is a small brain trick, or trivial change in thinking, but changes in thinking are the first step in changing your world view.”

I would not interpret this to mean we should be cocky about our jobs, but that we should remember it’s a mutual arrangement. I changed jobs about 8 months ago, after spending 8 years at a company. I liked the people I was working with, and I grew a lot as a programmer, but eventually I didn’t like the work I was doing. It was scary to make a change, but I’m thankful I did it when I could, and not when I was forced to by circumstance.

What It Really Means to Niche Down

I’ve heard this term often, and never really understood it. I assumed that to find your niche, meant to find some esoteric corner of the development world, and become the best at it. But then I thought, what if you picked the wrong technology, and no one was interested in your niche? Could you spend loads of time on something, just to back yourself into a corner?

“Do you know who Troy Hunt is?  He’s the guy that can fix your group’s security woes.  Do you know who Bob Martin is?  He’s the guy that will help your team clean up its messy code.  Do you know how many years of Node.js either one of them has?  Me neither.”

For me, Erik Dietrich’s analogy finally clarifies the idea of “finding your niche”. It’s not about a particular technology, but about *how *you apply your expertise. For “Uncle Bob” Martin, it’s his push for agile and “best practices”. For Troy Hunt, it’s his in-depth knowledge of security issues (check out his awesome site, “have I been pwned?“).

Let’s Talk About Rock Stars & Egos

A rock star developer is someone who management loves because of their I-can-do-anything-myself attitude, but the rest of the team hates because they’re like a bull in a china shop in a tornado… in a train wreck. Actually, the term is a bit overused, and it’s a bit of a straw man argument at this point.

David Haney makes some really good analogies though, pointing out undesirable traits you might find in a plumber that hits a bit close to home. After all, there’s a  bit of “rock star” in all of us, from time to time.

“A few minutes of inspection later and Luigi is telling you that all of your plumbing is wrong. None of the pipes are plumbed how he’d plumb them, so they’re wrong. He needs to rip out the whole plumbing system and do it all again from scratch, which will cost you thousands of dollars.”

I worked with a Luigi. He was a really nice guy, but absolutely would have ripped all your plumbing out and reworked it. And he tended to do it about once a week. Drove the team nuts, trying to make the new plumbing work nicely with the rest of the systems in the house.

One does not simply learn to code

We’re inundated with the idea that “everyone should learn to code”! Thinking logically is good. Having a healthy interest in technology is useful, and having a willingness to mold it to fit some new idea can be beneficial. But we’re inundated by “learn in 24 hours” books, 6-week courses and goofy advice about teaching tots everywhere to code early.

“One does not simply learn to code. Because coding isn’t easy. Coding is hard. Everyone knows that. Anyone who’s scoured a stack trace — or git detached their head — can tell you that. . . . When someone tells you that coding is easy, they are doing you a huge disservice.”

This is an extremely good article by Quincy Larson, and worth reading, especially if you or someone you know would really like to start programming, but found it harder than promised and gave up.

If I had to pick a pictorial representation of his article, this would be it:

learn c++ in 21 days

Did you enjoy any of these articles? Did you share them with someone who needed to hear what they said?

Feel free to leave a comment below with your thoughts. Better yet, hit the authors up on Twitter and let them know how much their article inspired you. I’m sure they’d appreciate it!

Have a great weekend!


Grant Winney

I write when I've got something to share - a personal project, a solution to a difficult problem, or just an idea. We learn by doing and sharing. We've all got something to contribute.

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