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Old 11-19-2012, 03:20 PM   #16
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Oh I've seen a good portion of so-called professional programmers that couldn't code their way out of a paper bag. I've worked both with them and for them over the last 30 years.
Agreed 100% - the majority of the programmers I've interviewed throughout my career (30-ish years and counting) have no clue - complete lack of fundamental understanding and skills - the "craft" of programming is totally absent. (And those are the ones who've made it through the screening process before they get to interview - I dread to think what the rest are like.)

That's true of recent graduates as well as experienced candidates - I'm getting heartily fed up of university Computer Science departments which (at least here in the UK) don't regard programming as worth teaching. The focus is on formal logic, lambda calculus etc. which, while clearly interesting and worth study, on its own misses the point - computers have to be programmed, and without the basic skills the rest is fairly pointless. I have interviewed graduates with first class degrees from top-class universities who have proudly proclaimed that they've never written any code. What's the point in that?

/JB
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Old 11-19-2012, 03:42 PM   #17
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Do address the original question from the other point of view, I think most good programmers would make very poor creative writers.
They would present facts clearly in short declarative statements, there would be no art to their writing at all.
Good code is clear and easy to understand.
Good writing uses a huge variety of tricks and methods to give more than the just facts contained in a sentence, but also to add colour and depth, to create a particular feeling in the mind of the reader.
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Old 11-19-2012, 04:01 PM   #18
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Agreed 100% - the majority of the programmers I've interviewed throughout my career (30-ish years and counting) have no clue - complete lack of fundamental understanding and skills - the "craft" of programming is totally absent. (And those are the ones who've made it through the screening process before they get to interview - I dread to think what the rest are like.)

That's true of recent graduates as well as experienced candidates - I'm getting heartily fed up of university Computer Science departments which (at least here in the UK) don't regard programming as worth teaching. The focus is on formal logic, lambda calculus etc. which, while clearly interesting and worth study, on its own misses the point - computers have to be programmed, and without the basic skills the rest is fairly pointless. I have interviewed graduates with first class degrees from top-class universities who have proudly proclaimed that they've never written any code. What's the point in that?

/JB
No programming courses at all, wtf?

I'm not even CS major, but in Communications Engineering-program, and we have at least 2 mandatory courses(Java/Python and C). I think the CS-program have some more here. Personally I have taken around 5 courses on coding, two with some assembly coding in it and now on applied course...

And even with my experience I think I'm not near anything professionally required...

Some of the stuff does help, like language theory and data-structures and algorithms, but I have no idea how one would use them in meaningfull way without knowledge of atleast basics in programming...
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Old 11-19-2012, 04:03 PM   #19
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Do address the original question from the other point of view, I think most good programmers would make very poor creative writers.
They would present facts clearly in short declarative statements, there would be no art to their writing at all.
Good code is clear and easy to understand.
Good writing uses a huge variety of tricks and methods to give more than the just facts contained in a sentence, but also to add colour and depth, to create a particular feeling in the mind of the reader.
I'm in two minds on that one. You're very probably right that *most* good programmers would make poor creative writers, but I'm not convinced that it's as cut and dried as you might think. Many of the best programmers I know write prose very elegantly (though of course many do not!) and the science fiction field in particular has many very successful authors with science/engineering/maths backgrounds.

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Old 11-19-2012, 04:09 PM   #20
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No programming courses at all, wtf?
That was pretty much my response! To clarify, it appeared that they had done some programming courses, but that passing those courses hadn't actually required them to do any programming. Bizarre!

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I'm not even CS major, but in Communications Engineering-program, and we have at least 2 mandatory courses(Java/Python and C). I think the CS-program have some more here. Personally I have taken around 5 courses on coding, two with some assembly coding in it and now on applied course...

And even with my experience I think I'm not near anything professionally required...
That sounds like a well balanced course to me. Too many (IMHO) CS courses here in the UK focus, when they do any programming, solely on Java. This leaves huge gaps in the understanding of the machine, memory management, cache efficiency etc. These days for fresh graduates we have to recruit entirely on potential and then teach them from scratch.

Engineering courses, particularly Electronic Engineering, do better and generally teach much more useful programming skills than CS courses, in my experience (again, UK-specific).

/JB
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Old 11-19-2012, 04:09 PM   #21
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No programming courses at all, wtf?.
It's perfectly possible to have a career in IT without any programming knowledge (although not as a programmer, of course).
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Old 11-19-2012, 04:11 PM   #22
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I'm in two minds on that one. You're very probably right that *most* good programmers would make poor creative writers, but I'm not convinced that it's as cut and dried as you might think. Many of the best programmers I know write prose very elegantly (though of course many do not!) and the science fiction field in particular has many very successful authors with science/engineering/maths backgrounds.

/JB
I like to think I'm pretty good at both.

Also, there seems to a high correlation of coding skill and musical ability.

I see coding as just as much a creative, expressive endeavor as writing or playing music.

And on the original point (as gleaned from skimming the thread, not reading the linked article) I definitely think that skills involved in writing a clear thesis or organizing a plot have to overlap the skills in coding clear procedures and organizing control structures.

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Old 11-19-2012, 04:15 PM   #23
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It's perfectly possible to have a career in IT without any programming knowledge (although not as a programmer, of course).
That's certainly true - no argument there. I would expect, however, a CS course to require programming - these courses should be teaching a fundamental understanding of computers, and programming is an essential part of that.

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Old 11-19-2012, 04:18 PM   #24
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That's certainly true - no argument there. I would expect, however, a CS course to require programming - these courses should be teaching a fundamental understanding of computers, and programming is an essential part of that.

/JB
Yes. I absolutely agree with you. Even if you go on to a career in IT that doesn't require programming skills, an appreciation of such skills is definitely advantageous.
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Old 11-19-2012, 04:19 PM   #25
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It's perfectly possible to have a career in IT without any programming knowledge (although not as a programmer, of course).
I've managed a career in programming quite happily without any programming (or CS) courses whatsoever. Some people learn better by doing.
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Old 11-19-2012, 04:20 PM   #26
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Also, there seems to a high correlation of coding skill and musical ability.
Ask a programmer what instrument they play. Very few will reply "none."

I used to work for a company that preferred hiring programmers with a musical background/aptitude.
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Old 11-19-2012, 04:29 PM   #27
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I've managed a career in programming quite happily without any programming (or CS) courses whatsoever. Some people learn better by doing.
Maybe I have read too much thedailywtf.com but that doesn't apply to everyone in the field... Formal training might lead to at least some things which are helpful for coding. Like thinking is there better way to do do something (standard libraries...) and is the way really efficient...

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It's perfectly possible to have a career in IT without any programming knowledge (although not as a programmer, of course).
Still for CS major I would expect at least some very basic experience, the stuff don't even need to be overly complex with more modern languages like Python.

There is some fields which don't require it, but for others I think at least some grasp of actual process would be very helpful.
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Old 11-19-2012, 04:35 PM   #28
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I've managed a career in programming quite happily without any programming (or CS) courses whatsoever. Some people learn better by doing.
That's certainly true, and as I've said I hire inexperienced candidates based on aptitude rather than existing knowledge. My gripe isn't about such candidates, it's about CS courses which give the impression that programming isn't a fundamental part of what computers are about.

/JB
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Old 11-19-2012, 04:41 PM   #29
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Still for CS major I would expect at least some very basic experience, the stuff don't even need to be overly complex with more modern languages like Python.
This is probably just the grumpy old git that I am revealing itself, but while I really like Python and similar languages, I get quite annoyed when that is all that is taught CS students. (And don't get me started on Java :-) ).

Those languages are great for getting stuff done (in appropriate application areas), but they leave huge gaps in understanding about how computers actually work - the programming model they present is significantly divorced from real machine architectures and my experience with students who've been taught primarily languages like these is that they have to "unlearn" a lot of stuff before they can become truly good programmers.

/JB

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Old 11-19-2012, 04:50 PM   #30
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Maybe I have read too much thedailywtf.com but that doesn't apply to everyone in the field... Formal training might lead to at least some things which are helpful for coding. Like thinking is there better way to do do something (standard libraries...) and is the way really efficient...
I think a subscription to O'Reilly's Safari service should be part of the induction of any new programmer. There is so much information out there than can be absorbed. I've always learned better by reading how to do something and going away and trying it out, than being told how to do it.
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