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Old 11-20-2012, 11:49 AM   #46
JoeD
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30 years ago I'd spend all day programming at work, come home, and spend all evening programming at home. These days, programming is the way I pay the bills. When I leave the office, the last thing I want to do is to do more of it at home. Time tends to make you a little cynical about such things.
Yes, but that was precisely my point. Not that you have to keep doing it to be a good programmer, but that good programmers usually have already spent a lot of time doing that in the past, even if they no longer do so.

I'm much the same now, I used to spend a lot of my spare time coding. Now it's mostly coding during work hours and occasionally doing a little research at home.
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Old 11-20-2012, 11:50 AM   #47
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I guess it depends on your definition of a "career in IT". What is your definition?
I always thought if IT as the guy who runs around with a huge spool of Cat5 and a crate of network adapters.
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Old 11-20-2012, 04:18 PM   #48
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My mind is still boggling at the thought of a CS degree that doesn't require any actual coding. I always thought that my own school's CS major went too far in the other direction. It was run by the college of engineering, and required that students write a compiler and lexical analyzer, implement all the categories of sort algorithms efficiently and prove that the code was efficient, write a device interrupt handler, and do at least one term-long project in assembler. None of this directly applies to the kind of coding I actually do since I left school. We did no application coding at all. Some basics on writing end-user applications might have been more useful. But we did end up understanding the guts of computing.

I'm considered a reasonably good writer. I have written readable short fiction, and I have written documentation that clearly explains fairly complex ideas to a wide range of audiences. (I'm told this by the readers of said documentation.) I'm also a programmer. I don't know if my writing skills directly help with programming. It seems to me that both logical skills and creative skills are important, both to coding well and to writing well. And to be a good developer, you also need to be able to frame a problem, break it down into chunks, and see what the key structures are to model it.
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Old 11-20-2012, 05:03 PM   #49
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I have just glossed over some of the replies; But thought I'd throw this out there:

Have you ever noticed that different home languages change the layout and flow of code? This mainly applies to small projects that I've maintained, but over time I think I've noticed a few trends that make more sense in a cultural rather than learned way.

FWIW : I think the largest gain comes not from writing the actual production code, but rather in communicating ideas and implementing them in the intended way. Being able to lay-out code which is both elegant and intuitive to maintainers and the casual glance; This often requires a more verbose understanding of the API/libs, but then again, what is that if not vocabulary.
Then again, I find people spend too much time crying about documentation (which is usually just related to bad tools/workflow - or a matter for delegation) or writing verbose comments which only serve to accumulate bit-rot and point out the obvious.
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Old 11-20-2012, 05:38 PM   #50
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Originally Posted by Angst View Post
The original premise is false.

I've worked with many programmers whose second language is English. The spelling/grammar of their internal emails is often atrocious. Despite this, the quality and clearness of their code far exceeds their ability to craft prose.
But what about their writing ability in their native language?
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Old 11-21-2012, 01:39 AM   #51
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I dont know any coders with inadequate writing skills, I do however know lots of writers with inadequate coding skills. Maybe the OP should have written about how inadequate coding skills lead to bad writing. It would have been just about as persuasive as his original thesis.
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Old 11-21-2012, 04:20 AM   #52
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Originally Posted by kennyc View Post
Do those that struggled with art have trouble coding? What of those that can't carry a tune in a bucket?
Can't draw a cartoon fish and completely tone deaf.

I am a good coder - honestly, people re-hire me and everything .
To me it's more of a logic puzzle.

On the language side I'm a native English speaker who also speaks bad French, worse Italian and awful German.
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Old 11-21-2012, 05:23 AM   #53
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I dont know any coders with inadequate writing skills, I do however know lots of writers with inadequate coding skills. Maybe the OP should have written about how inadequate coding skills lead to bad writing. It would have been just about as persuasive as his original thesis.
I know a lot of them. Me for example. I write like i code. Short, concise and with no redundant information or duplications. Which is a good way to code but not a good way to write academic papers...
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Old 11-21-2012, 06:46 AM   #54
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I know a lot of them. Me for example. I write like i code. Short, concise and with no redundant information or duplications. Which is a good way to code but not a good way to write academic papers...
But don't you think that the ability to write clearly and well is a fundamental part of the job of a programmer? I spend far more time writing requirements specifications, design documents, etc, than I do writing code. If the customer doesn't understand your requirements spec, he's not going to sign it off and allow you to start work on the system.
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Old 11-21-2012, 07:19 AM   #55
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But don't you think that the ability to write clearly and well is a fundamental part of the job of a programmer? I spend far more time writing requirements specifications, design documents, etc, than I do writing code. If the customer doesn't understand your requirements spec, he's not going to sign it off and allow you to start work on the system.
Well, I work at a university and do not write requirement specifications. Writing maximally clearly often requires duplication of information. But it is very bad to have duplication in code or in design documents. Even requirement specifications should avoid duplications.
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Old 11-21-2012, 07:25 AM   #56
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Well, I work at a university and do not write requirement specifications. Writing maximally clearly often requires duplication of information. But it is very bad to have duplication in code or in design documents. Even requirement specifications should avoid duplications.
Absolutely. Each section of the system should be described once and only once. I would still maintain, though, that the ability to write clear and easily-understood English (or whatever language it is you're writing in, of course) is an absolutely essential aspect of the job of a programmer - at least if you want to do well in the customer-facing aspects of the job that are a fundamental part of it for anyone working in a commercial environment. You're not going to be able to win work from customers unless you can present your proposed solution to them well.
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Old 11-21-2012, 08:43 AM   #57
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Absolutely. Each section of the system should be described once and only once. I would still maintain, though, that the ability to write clear and easily-understood English (or whatever language it is you're writing in, of course) is an absolutely essential aspect of the job of a programmer - at least if you want to do well in the customer-facing aspects of the job that are a fundamental part of it for anyone working in a commercial environment. You're not going to be able to win work from customers unless you can present your proposed solution to them well.
To be fair you only need to write the design spec if you are a programmer analyst, some programmers just get instructions.

I have worked with one analyst who laid out the whole design without knowing anything about programming (Surprisingly it was one of the better design specs I've seen).
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Old 11-21-2012, 09:43 AM   #58
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Originally Posted by kovidgoyal View Post
I dont know any coders with inadequate writing skills, I do however know lots of writers with inadequate coding skills. Maybe the OP should have written about how inadequate coding skills lead to bad writing. It would have been just about as persuasive as his original thesis.
I don't actually agree, but I'm a fan of the way you inverted the OP's idea.

I really have no business posting here, since I'm a professional musician and writer/editor who's done a lot more technical writing than actual coding, but the way people have been talking on this thread has made eavesdropping lots of fun.
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Old 11-21-2012, 10:18 AM   #59
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Absolutely. Each section of the system should be described once and only once. I would still maintain, though, that the ability to write clear and easily-understood English (or whatever language it is you're writing in, of course) is an absolutely essential aspect of the job of a programmer - at least if you want to do well in the customer-facing aspects of the job that are a fundamental part of it for anyone working in a commercial environment. You're not going to be able to win work from customers unless you can present your proposed solution to them well.
Writing skills certainly plays a part in many job areas of programming and you may limit your career paths in some areas if you can't convey ideas in a suitable way. However, that still does not imply that to be a good coder you need to be able to write decent documentation.

I've worked on systems where very little documentation was required through to those where complete formal methods were applied and forests probably laid waste to cover the amount of paper generated when the client printed it all out. In some cases ability to clearly convey ideas in written form was crucial, in others the client was only interested in the prototype/mock up of an app.

I do think been able to convey ideas is important for programmers, especially those who work in a team which makes up the majority of business coding. However, just because some programmers cannot write good documentation doesn't imply they're bad coders. Just as been able to write good documentation does not make one a good coder.

Ideally you want people good at both, but I would imagine the real reason most documentation is not up to scratch is that management do not want their coders spending time doing something other than coding. Unless one of the selling points of an app is it's API, there's much less incentive to fully document and maintain it.

This can be compounded by major changes been made on a tight deadline with insufficient time allowed to update documentation. Docs then suffer from either been inaccurate or poorly thought out because they've been rushed.

Obviously this differs on the sector we may be talking about. Some areas documentation is crucial and projects won't go ahead without reams of it. For formal systems it's a key part of identifying potential issues. For other sectors it's mainly as api usage documentation for anyone wishing to extend a product or use a library and may get less attention.

Either way, I think it's wrong to conclude that poor documentational skills is why bad code/software is written.
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Old 11-21-2012, 10:25 AM   #60
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To be fair you only need to write the design spec if you are a programmer analyst, some programmers just get instructions.

I have worked with one analyst who laid out the whole design without knowing anything about programming (Surprisingly it was one of the better design specs I've seen).
True. Analysis is an area which programmers tend to move into as they gain seniority within a company. It's more about seeing "the big picture" and being able to design a solution to solve a problem, whereas programming is the implementation of that solution. Different skillsets.
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