[extropy-chat] Turbulence of obsolesence (was: Anti-virus protection -- problem fixed!)

Emlyn emlynoregan at gmail.com
Fri Apr 22 05:20:05 UTC 2005

I agree on the worthless of MSC* qualifications. But I advise a
different path, if you want to actually be a developer, than what
Adrian has written below.

On 22/04/05, Adrian Tymes <wingcat at pacbell.net> wrote:
> (I hope that's not personally insulting, BTW, if you do hold one.  But
> it's the simple truth from what I see.  If you hold one, do yourself a
> favor, throw it away, and learn how to actually program.  Go for the
> basics first - say, download and install a Perl interpreter, then write
> some programs using nothing more than Notepad to create and edit some
> Perl scripts, and browser windows open to whatever online documentation
> you can find.  A few dedicated days of studying, to where you have
> written and run "Hello World" programs and can do so again from memory,
> will make you far more employable.  

What developers seem to be sorely lacking these days is understanding
of computer science basics. If I say "Algorithm", collegues shouldn't
be rushing to dictionary.com, they should know what that means! A lot
of the languages around these days have a few basic "collection"
classes that work a bit like an array and a bit like a list, however
you want to use them, and subsequently they are used for every
programming situation that requires more than basic database tables.

I guess I'm a degree snob. You can get along doing some coding as an
adjunct to another profession without formal training, but (geniuses
excepted) you cannot be a seriously useful developer without the
groundwork that you get from a computer science degree. As soon as
requirements drift away from "get data from database, put data in
database", which they do surprisingly frequently, a hack coder gets
themselves in trouble. Also, there are of course uncountable examples
of the dismaying "Degreed and Incompetent"; a degree is almost always
necessary but rarely ever sufficient.

I understand why it's like this, though. Excellent programming
requires a particular mindset (quite probably a variant of autism),
which is just damned uncommon. However, the world wants a LOT of
programmers. So, somebody has to fill in the gaps, and the business
world has been trying to do this by providing the best tools it can
come up so that incompetent people can code too.

Uh, off track. Anyway, someone who wants a long term career as a code
monkey really needs a degree, that's the long and the short of it.
It's worth the trouble; hey, it's not a bad way to spend your time,
although I can't help the sneaking feeling that corporations and their
software needs are boring & fucked.

> Or if you'd rather do system
> administration work, try building a Web server - not just by studying
> the docs, but by buying a low-end computer, disconnected from any
> network so you can play around with it without fear, then actually
> installing the OS from CDs and turning on the Web server so you can use
> the Web browser on the computer to go to http://localhost/ .  I
> reccomend Linux, and the Apache Web server that comes with most
> versions of it, but even the versions of Windows that come with IIS
> should suffice here; you might even want to try both, if you've got the
> Windows discs and can download Linux ISOs from
> http://fedora.redhat.com/download/ and write them to CDs.  Of course,
> you may again need the docs you can find online; use a separate
> computer, connected to the 'Net, to look them up.  

Hmm, I noticed that Adrian mentioned system administration below. All
you really need for that is to belt yourself in the head with a brick
repeatedly, say 8 hours per working day and a few extra hours on the
weekend, over maybe two months. If you are still keen and interested
at the end of that time, you are made of the Right Stuff!

> Regardless,
> experience - including and especially experience from practicing the
> skill on your own, outside of work - trumps most other types of
> qualifications.  E.g., instead of spending 40 hours a week looking for
> work and getting nowhere, spend 20 hours a week doing that and 20 hours
> a week finding out what you can about the jobs that are out there that
> you'd like and studying - practicing, if possible - the skills they
> call for.  Improve thyself until you really are among the best
> candidates for the jobs you apply for...or just found your own small
> business, though most people prefer not to go that far.)

Experience is important, but you really need to be a constant learner.
One of the most important skills in IT is the ability to recognise
when your skills are going obsolete, and to be happy to go upgrade
them rather than belly ache and hang onto the old stuff. Good
developers are expert forgetters almost more than expert learners!

> Anyway, thread over.

Oops, sorry :-)


http://emlynoregan.com   * blogs * music * software *
(my real website is back, music, software, everything!)

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