This is the first in a series of short blog posts I will be making about the book “Apprenticeship Patterns” by Dave Hoover and Adewale Oshineye, discussing individual patterns from the book. This week I am looking at the pattern called “Read Constantly” from chapter six.
The scenario this pattern covers is one in which a programmer is feeling overwhelmed by new information. This is happening even in spite of a good amount of proficiency and enthusiasm. The proposal here is to read constantly in order to catch up on old developments in the field and stay ahead of new ones as much as possible. This also means prioritizing denser sources of information such as books or occasional research articles over things like blog posts, for example. The authors also suggest keeping a small (and thus easily portable) book on your person at all times to read whenever you have downtime.
I don’t really read as much as I would like to. It’d be good to do more reading, especially about the software field, so I think that is useful advice. I have some issues with the framing of this pattern, though.
I don’t fully agree with the outlook of “catching up” to people like Linus Torvalds, who the authors namedrop here, or with how the authors view people like him. I don’t think, taking Torvalds for instance, that he got where he is purely through effort. This isn’t to say that he’s lacking in talent in any way – rather that he got where he was through a combination of being a highly motivated person and being in the right place at the right time in the industry. I don’t think you can make up the latter part through sheer effort alone. I view it as sort of like the lottery – it’d be nice, and you could increase your chances by buying tickets regularly, but it’s misguided to have winning the lottery as a goal when it’s ultimately out of your control.
I think it’s good to read more, of course. I just don’t agree with constant reading specifically as a way to stay “competitive” in the software industry. I do not have the background to make this kind of claim, but I also suspect there’s diminishing returns when you try to cram as much information into your head as possible.
Having read this section, I think I will actually read more, or at least make some effort to. I’ll also probably try to read more about programming and technology specifically. I just don’t think I will take it as far as the authors recommend.