Archive for July, 2010

Programming and caffeine. Productivity vs. Health.

I’m sure this is the last thing most people are thinking about as the deadline for an important project approaches.  Well that’s why I’m thinking about it for you!  I’ll start out with the plain and simple answers.

  • Productivity – YES!
  • Health – Yes, No, and Maybe.

There are three ways to get your caffeine.  Daily, almost every day, and occasionally.  Which one am I for?  Daily.  Here’s why.

  • Caffeine can result in headaches in some people if you “skip” occasionally.  Headaches are not fun.
  • Using caffeine occasionally has other side effects which are negated by drinking it often.  You might get a bigger pick me up that one time, but more bathroom trips isn’t the best thing in the world either.  And besides you shoud want to experience The Brief Chemically Induced Happiness of a Programmer as often as possible.

Positive Side Effects:

  • Improved mood.  **REAL WINNER**
  • Increased alertness.
  • Better contextual memory recall.

Negative Side Effects:

  • Tip of the tongue syndrome.
  • Increase heart rate.  I haven’t seen this to be a big deal unless you have medical problems. (Bad heart, High blood pressure, etc.)  However, I would not recommend exercising while using caffeine. An extra 20-30 bpm added on to 160 during high intensity training is not healthy for most people.  There are, of course, the extremists who scream caffeine is liquid stress.  He even takes it one step further by implying that if you drink coffee, you are supporting child slavery…
  • Caffeine isn’t for everyone, and there are side effects depending on your genes.  Most of the world has built up a great tolerance for caffeine.

These effects are also very temporary, but the positive mood that gets the ball rolling is NOT temporary.

Ok, you want caffeine, you’re addicted to caffeine, and you want it now and don’t care how.  Just stop right there.

People today should care a little bit more about what they put in there body and pop is evil. Diet soda isn’t much better for several reasons.  The only reason to drink diet soda instead of real thing is it doesn’t make you fat.  WRONG, Diet Soda Makes you Fat! When I eat something sweet and sugary I don’t want my brain thinking I just ate 0 calories.

Personally I recommend either coffee (black for me), or tea (Earl Grey for me).  In fact, luminosity recommends coffee or tea as part of the regular diet.  Go ahead, take the brain grade test and see if it recommends it for you.  (I wasn’t drinking coffee or tea at the time.)  However, it doesn’t say one way the other about caffeine, because its benefits are more then debatable.

I’m for caffeine, how about you?

Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by Derek Litz - July 22, 2010 at 2:30 pm

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Are Software Developers Bad Communicators?

No, no, no and NO! Maybe there’s an expert programmer in the corner of some software shop who does a very specific task and has done it for years.  In fact this guy probably doesn’t do anything but nobody is the wiser.  That guy probably doesn’t communicate well.  But, that guy is not a software developer.

A software developer has to take some of the most technically complex systems and communicate them in ways average people understand.  A software developer has to:

  • Translate business needs into software requirements.
  • Constantly educate those who make business decisions so they have a realistic idea of what is possible, while keeping it understandable.
  • Read minds of people who do not communicate perfectly and come up with good approximations to work off of.
  • Write detailed documentation.
  • Write detailed comments of difficult to understand parts of working code.
  • Come up with good naming schemes to write self documenting code.
  • Create diagrams, charts, paper prototypes, etc etc… need I go on?

In fact, almost all of what we do is communicating things so that other people can understand (usually our future selves).

Code that cannot be understood is worthless, and we are writing in languages that don’t express what they are trying to accomplish without a serious amount of effort.  In fact nearly half of my education was spent looking at ways to bridge this gap.  YES, over half my college education was spent on communication strategies.

As a developer, who doesn’t like an enthusiastic customer who’s willing to communicate their ideas and participate in the evolution of there software?  We are constantly looking for better ways to understand the needs of the target audience for the software we are developing.  In fact, as developers we go above and beyond and use our skills to get a sort of direct, mind to mind communication from consumers by developing tools to track their actual behavior.  And we listen.

Every non-trivial project I’ve worked on involved a huge amount of communication, and the better the communication, the less work the project seemed to be.  No true businessman is going to tell a developer to go do what he does without first being able to understand what-in-the-hell he is doing.  There are no black boxes when a company’s reputation is at stake.  They’ve got to understand or there is no way we’re going to convince them that what we are developing will be a good investment.

HOW CAN SOMEONE SAY SOFTWARE DEVELOPERS DO NOT HAVE GOOD COMMUNICATION SKILLS? Well, someone did, and that man is Andrea Di Maio and we’re pissed off.

Here is a summary of some of the ridiculous things being said right now:

  • “Perhaps they can develop some program to help them master communication.”
  • “Good programmers are often shy, self centered, geeky. I can’t see how they could be particularly skilled to communicate complex political platforms.”
  • “Politicians need to be able to balance positions, seek compromise, communicate effectively, being transparent but up to a point, not taking sides too strongly while being passionate about certain topics on their constituents’ behalf.” (Assuming we can’t)
  • “Developers would be better communicators? This is quite laughable.”

Below is a petition you can sign or leave a comment on his blog.  Thank you.

Jim Gilliam July 21, 2010 at 9:53 am

If you find Andrew’s bigoted mocking of developers tiresome and counterproductive, you can sign this Twitter petition:

http://act.ly/27f

1 comment - What do you think?  Posted by Derek Litz - at 12:42 am

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Best Grammar Checker

Well today I decided it’d be fun to do a little honing of my typing skills, which in turn sent me wildly out of control a path I could not have foreseen.

Today it went something like this.

www.typeracer.com -> a book -> www.geraldmweinberg.com -> weinbergonwriting.blogspot.com -> www.ninc.com/blog/index.php/archives/meet-dean-wesley-smith -> quest to disable all automatic grammar checking -> quest to find the best grammar checker.

The first quest was easy.  In Firefox its in preferences->advanced->check my spelling as I type.  Then you can just right-click to active the spell checking.  Why would you want to do this? Well Dean Wesley Smith has it off because it is simply, “Too disruptive on the creative flow.”, and he seems to know something about writing efficiently.

It boils down to these three steps when writing.

  1. Creative writing.  Let the information flow!
  2. Spell Checker, Grammar Checker, Proofread.  Yes by hand. I’ll get more into to that later.
  3. Have someone else read your work.  (If its important.  I’m gonna skip this step for this blog post).

Now, I simply didn’t stop here, I had my second quest, to find the best grammar checker.  Firefox only has a built-in spelling checker, while Safari has a built-in grammar and spelling checker.  Certainly there had to be a plug-in!

Despite the mixed reviews I ended up going with After the Deadline out of the two grammar checkers available because it seemed like it was their specialty and the idea is great.  When it finds a grammatical error it doesn’t just fix it, it tells you why it did so and teaches you little something.  AWESOME.  Except it doesn’t work… at least not very well.  In fact, I’m attempting to use it as I write and it simply isn’t working.  So I won’t be able to show you their awesome idea, but I think you get it.  They do also offer a WordPress plugin, which I’ll try some other time.

Anyways, I also looked at several other grammar checkers testing them with a tough sentence I came up with, only to find none of them fixed it how I would fix it.  Some did better than others.

The sentence: Tis is the stuff I luv abut yous I like you. I really would, like this, too works good.

  • Built-in browser (Safaria, Firefox).  Ok…
  • Microsoft Word.  Pretty good.
  • But the winner is!  WhiteSmoke.  This one did very well.

However, after looking at their video I noticed something not quite right.  She sent her manuscript to a big NY publishing house, but it rejected it. I felt it should be: She sent her manuscript to a big NY publishing house, but they rejected it. Now, it wasn’t enough that I felt it should be they, I had to prove it to myself.  At first I was in a dilemma, I could only find references that said to use singular pronouns to refer to singular nouns…  until this!

If we refer to the individuals that compose that unit, we use a plural pronoun.
My family is very warm and supporting. I love them all.

Read more…

Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by Derek Litz - July 21, 2010 at 11:37 pm

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Hello world!

Goodbye, cruel world.

1 comment - What do you think?  Posted by Derek Litz - at 3:54 am

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