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Old 11-21-2012, 11:50 AM   #61
kovidgoyal
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I don't actually agree, but I'm a fan of the way you inverted the OP's idea.
Indeed, I was illustrating the absurdity of trying to deduce a simple two point causality relationship in a system as complex as the human mind.

In this case, I consider it far more likely that there are many different underlying skills that go into being a good coder or a good writer.

Some of those underlying skills are likely to be common to both professions, and that is why you often see people that are both good coders and good writers.

On the other hand the sets of underlying skills are likely to be sufficiently large to have significant disjoint sets, that is skills that help one be a good coder but not a good writer and vice versa. That is why you often see people that are good at one and not at the other.

And that is not even mentioning the various people that are good at one, but may not be good at the other simply because they've never really spent any time working on it.
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Old 11-21-2012, 02:52 PM   #62
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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.
While I completely agree with that, it should be pointed out that there's a difference between programmers who are writing code for a client/customer and those who are developing a product and then trying to sell it. The former have to convince their customers via written specs etc., while the latter have to do so via the finished product. While writing skills (for internal design documents etc) may help in producing that product, the customer doesn't necessarily get to see the programmer's prose so it's perhaps less relevant in that case.

/JB

Last edited by jbjb; 11-21-2012 at 02:53 PM. Reason: missing out an apostrophe in a thread about writing skills is not good
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Old 11-21-2012, 05:34 PM   #63
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There's as much difference between the jobs of programmer & coder as there is between programmer & technical writer. If documentation is poor it's because the shop producing the code didn't bother to hire a tech writer. If documentation is plain wrong then it's likely they didn't bother to hire a programmer. They can get by without hiring a coder but production will suffer-as it will if they try to get by without hiring a tech writer while insisting the programmer 'do his job'. The programmer probably can write good documentation if given time-but a tech writer's time is a lot cheaper.
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Old 11-21-2012, 07:13 PM   #64
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I can understand where Meisler is coming from.
He says he's coming from having read and admired Peg Tyre's Writing Revolution article. Many people were impressed by Tyre's article. I know I was. So was my daughter. I interpret the OP article as an attempt to find another reason why education should focus on expository writing skills.

As for whether Bernard Meisler proved his case, well, he didn't. But I think the hypothesis is plausible. Some of the required habits, for good writing and good coding, are similar. Good writing requires rewriting, and good coding requires refactoring.
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Old 11-21-2012, 07:37 PM   #65
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Indeed, I was illustrating the absurdity of trying to deduce a simple two point causality relationship in a system as complex as the human mind.
I agree with what you are saying, but the article was about programmers who write documentation for other developers. In those cases, good writing is critical. Writing that is difficult to understand, incomplete, or (worse yet) written in a matter that allows other developers to draw incorrect conclusions will likely produce more errors in the code.
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Old 11-21-2012, 11:13 PM   #66
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Originally Posted by BWinmill View Post
I agree with what you are saying, but the article was about programmers who write documentation for other developers. In those cases, good writing is critical. Writing that is difficult to understand, incomplete, or (worse yet) written in a matter that allows other developers to draw incorrect conclusions will likely produce more errors in the code.
Where are you getting that from? The heading of the article is

"The Real Reason Silicon Valley Coders Write Bad Software"

The sub heading is

"If someone had taught all those engineers how to string together a proper sentence, Windows Vista would be a lot less buggy."

Neither has anything to do with writing documentation.

In the actual article he says:

"That's partly because coding is not a solitary pursuit." and goes on to explain about documentation writing being important.

But he then goes on to say:

"Most importantly, though, explicit writing instruction reinforces the logic of language -- including the language of technology. "

Judging from the adjectives partly and most importantly, and the articles' headings, I'd say he considers documentation writing a relatively small aspect of his thesis.

And incidentally, I find his sub-heading utterly hilarious. Is he implying that Microsoft sent its engineers for language writing courses between Vista and 7?
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Old 11-21-2012, 11:48 PM   #67
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I admit I never read the article, but I feel there has to be some truth to the idea. Writing a decent sentence involves being able to articulate an idea. Of course, if someone is not proficient in a language, then you can't expect them to be good at the articulation part. But if they are proficient, then the problem is usually in not being clear about the idea. This has to be bad if a person thinks using language to express ideas. I know that I do it that way. I can imagine that, if someone doesn't actually think using language but does it some other way, then they can code without being able to write down their ideas using language. Are there people who think that way?
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Old 11-22-2012, 10:32 AM   #68
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Originally Posted by rkomar View Post
I admit I never read the article, but I feel there has to be some truth to the idea. Writing a decent sentence involves being able to articulate an idea. Of course, if someone is not proficient in a language, then you can't expect them to be good at the articulation part. But if they are proficient, then the problem is usually in not being clear about the idea. This has to be bad if a person thinks using language to express ideas. I know that I do it that way. I can imagine that, if someone doesn't actually think using language but does it some other way, then they can code without being able to write down their ideas using language. Are there people who think that way?
Wow!
If you have ever walked the halls at M$ in Mountain View, you would hear languages and accents from all over the world (+ advanced geek ). String an 'English' sentence together might be hard for some.

Coding requires you understand your tools and think in their processes, not in your native language.

I inherited the maintenance of a few (Paradox DOS) applications where it was clear to me that the coder only understood the syntax, and not how the system really worked (clunky, convoluted code that barely functioned and was a bear to modify. )
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Old 11-22-2012, 01:29 PM   #69
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Wow!
If you have ever walked the halls at M$ in Mountain View, you would hear languages and accents from all over the world (+ advanced geek ). String an 'English' sentence together might be hard for some.

Coding requires you understand your tools and think in their processes, not in your native language.

I inherited the maintenance of a few (Paradox DOS) applications where it was clear to me that the coder only understood the syntax, and not how the system really worked (clunky, convoluted code that barely functioned and was a bear to modify. )
And if anyone has never tried to modify a bear, let me tell you.....
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Old 11-22-2012, 01:32 PM   #70
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Where are you getting that from?
Oddly enough, I was getting that from exactly the same statements that you were using to support your perspective.

Or maybe it is about both. Rereading the article suggests that the author is talking about both documentation and code.
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Old 11-22-2012, 04:45 PM   #71
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Coding requires you understand your tools and think in their processes, not in your native language.
Coding is my job, so I know how I think when I'm doing it. Sure, I have to translate each idea to the coding language as I type each line, but the intentions are manifested as language in my head. For example, I would think: "get the x-coordinate of the side furthest to the left", and then type out the code necessary to do that. So, I have a monologue going in my head in my native language as I code. I was wondering if others could do it without that, somehow understanding the intention without expressing it in their native language, and thus making it harder to verbalize. It sounds like you might, so, can you articulate how you do it? I'm curious because I can't imagine doing it any other way than I how do it.

Edit: I should note that when I said "Of course, if someone is not proficient in a language, then you can't expect them to be good at the articulation part.", I meant a natural language, not a computer language. I'm sorry that I wasn't clearer.

Last edited by rkomar; 11-22-2012 at 05:12 PM.
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Old 11-22-2012, 05:22 PM   #72
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Coding is my job, so I know how I think when I'm doing it. Sure, I have to translate each idea to the coding language as I type each line, but the intentions are manifested as language in my head. For example, I would think: "get the x-coordinate of the side furthest to the left", and then type out the code necessary to do that. So, I have a monologue going in my head in my native language as I code. I was wondering if others could do it without that, somehow understanding the intention without expressing it in their native language, and thus making it harder to verbalize. It sounds like you might, so, can you articulate how you do it? I'm curious because I can't imagine doing it any other way than I how do it.
I do not do that. I think in concepts and structures, and math and logic. Verbalizing things just makes them harder to grasp and also you need powerful concepts for thinking since you can only handle an handful of concepts at a time.

Related to that I have noticed that when I read philosophers writing logical statements using ordinary language it is extremely hard to grasp what they mean but the corresponding logical/mathematical formula is much easier to understand.
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Old 11-22-2012, 06:19 PM   #73
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I do not do that. I think in concepts and structures, and math and logic. Verbalizing things just makes them harder to grasp and also you need powerful concepts for thinking since you can only handle an handful of concepts at a time.

Related to that I have noticed that when I read philosophers writing logical statements using ordinary language it is extremely hard to grasp what they mean but the corresponding logical/mathematical formula is much easier to understand.
Very interesting. I seem to be completely the other way around, in that I find verbalizing the logical statements makes them clearer to me. Okay, I can see now that someone who thinks that way while coding may not find it easy to describe their code using natural language. Thanks.
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Old 11-22-2012, 06:46 PM   #74
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Very interesting. I seem to be completely the other way around, in that I find verbalizing the logical statements makes them clearer to me. Okay, I can see now that someone who thinks that way while coding may not find it easy to describe their code using natural language. Thanks.
Well, if you have to think deeply on things then drawing an image or trying to verbalize can of course help. But in the ordinary task of translating your thoughts to code then I find that there is no need for a verbalizing step.
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Old 11-22-2012, 07:19 PM   #75
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For example, I would think: "get the x-coordinate of the side furthest to the left", and then type out the code necessary to do that. .
You understand your objective and your tools, you native language is only used to form a plan of attack:

You grasp that you need to get x coordinate.
you also know you need the Left-side one, not the right.
The you use the programing Language, not your native one to accomplish this.

(and I have no clue what you can code I drove a Database with my apps. )
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