Brendan Murty

More Than Writing Code

17 Dec 2013

Looking to further my knowledge in my web development career, I recently bought Effective Programming: More Than Writing Code by Jeff Atwood.

Jeff has had a successful career as a developer and you probably know of him as the founder of Stack Overflow, the question and answer site for programmers. He's been blogging about technology since 2004, so it's pretty obvious that he's knowledgable in his field.

In short, I found this book insightful and refreshing, especially in a field filled with with overly technical books. Instead of concentrating on specific programming languages or techniques, this book outlines the related skills required in today's programming jobs.

I found the sections about working in programming teams quite interesting:

If you want to be successful, stop worrying about the great ideas, and contentrate on cultivating great teams.

... at the point where you're actively campaigning against the projects, and working against your teammates - you're a liability to the project

Removing someone from a team is painful; it's not fun for anyone. But realizing you should have removed someone six months ago is far more painful

Jeff also explains how usability testing on a budget is possible:

Usability testing doesn't have to be complicated. If you really want to know if what you're building works, ask someone to use it while you watch... don't tell them what to do. Give them a task, and remind them to think out loud while they do it. Then quietly sit back and watch what happens

Some thoughts on the basic needs of an effective programmer:

I propose we adopt a Programmer's Bill of Rights, protecting the rights of programmers by preventing companies from denying them the fundamentals they need to be successful.

  1. Every programmer shall have two monitors
  2. Every programmer shall have a fast PC
  3. Every programmer shall have their choice of mouse and keyboard
  4. Every programmer shall have a comfortable chair
  5. Every programmer shall have a fast internet connection
  6. Every programmer shall have quiet working conditions

Hear, hear!

This is the kind of book that I think I'll be referring back to at many places in my web development career.

I'd recommend this book to any programmer who is currently part of a programming team or who has a passion for managing programming teams. If this sounds like you, you should just buy it now from Amazon, you won't regret it.