Practicing Programming

I was able to entice Ron Jeffries to speak at the Colorado Springs Agile Users Group (cosAgile) a few months ago. As usual, the talk was very entertaining. Ron, deck of 3×5 cards in hand, went through a number of topics, talking about “why software development is easy.” Or not.

One of the central messages was about practicing the craft of programming. Musicians do scales, professional sports teams have scrimmages, and firemen run drills. But most programmers I know don’t seem to practice much.

Or maybe they do, but I just don’t hear about it. There are gobs of open source projects out there, and geeks who just sit at home working on pet projects. Do these count as “practice?”

Ron is one of those guys who practices the bowling game, over and over, to see how his solution improves each time. I’ve done the same thing, working on building a database interface layer. It comes out a little differently and a little better each time. The last place I was at, we used this database interface layer as the basis for a weekly lesson in TDD.

CosAgile meets weekly to work on a password manager application, PeakPassMan. While the result will be a functional, usable product, that’s not the primary goal. The goal is for programmers to get together, share ideas, and work on a common source base while trying to learn more about things like test-driven development. CosAgile is certainly not the first group to promote the idea of getting together weekly to practice building code, but it sets a good, shining public example.

Practice makes perfect! Well, there is no “perfect” in programming, but honing your skills by practicing a problem is a great idea.

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