Category Archives: CS-448

Concrete Skills

Having knowledge is not the same as having the skill and practical ability to apply that knowledge to create software applications. This is where craftsmanship comes in.

—Pete McBreen, Software Craftsmanship

This chapter presents the scenario where you are trying to join a talented team of developers that will provide you a great opportunity for growth and development as a developer. The problem is that the team has no obvious net benefit to hiring you and there most likely will be a net loss for a while as the team attempts to get you up to speed on your skills and ability to mesh. There is also a chance that you are not able to indirectly contribute to the group with things such as automating simple manual tasks.

The solution presented in this scenario is that we should acquire and maintain concrete skills. Having a solid grasp and fluency in a specific language, framework, etc. will help demonstrate to the hiring team that you have value to bring to the team. If you are unable to contribute directly in the beginning, you can contribute indirectly while you transition into your role with the team utilizing your concrete skill/s.  Having concrete skills will reassure future coworkers that they will not need to hold your hand and walk you through all your work every step of the way.

The action plan set forth in the reading, is that we should look at the CVs of people whose skills we respect and identify which skills listed on their resume would be useful for us to have on ours. Although I am familiar in knowledge of bash script, javascript/vue, C++, and SQL. I would benefit from solidifying this knowledge into skills that can be easily demonstrable in an interview without requiring any google searches. To further solidify my grasp on these concepts into concrete skills I feel confident about, I can practice leetcode problems, and create websites for small businesses that do not currently have one.

From the blog cs@worcester – Coding_Kitchen by jsimolaris and used with permission of the author. All other rights reserved by the author.

Reading list

The most valuable thing you can get out of any book is a list of other books worth reading. Over time, you will find that certain books keep popping up from the “bibliography”, and you should move those books to the top of the reading list. Other books will sink. Since the reading list is essentially a priority queue, you’ll eventually find that some books sink so far down the queue that you may never read them again.

Start by picking a broad book to give you a general idea of the subject you are aiming for. Then choose a few specific books to master the aspects of the topic that interest you.

Reading the right book at the right time will have a better effect. A lot of reading can improve your reading ability. You will also improve your knowledge of the outside world through reading. For computer science, reading a lot of the latest information will be of great help to your future work and research. Reading will improve your horizon and enrich your spare time.

Even if you read a good book on programming every two months, which is about 35 pages a week, it won’t take long for you to gain a deep understanding of our industry and differentiate yourself from everyone around you. — Steve McConnell, Code Complete

Focusing on the classics also carries a risk: you devote too much energy to them, at the expense of more pragmatic knowledge and information that would improve your everyday skills. Make sure to mix classics with modern, more pragmatic books and articles on your reading list.

In practice, algorithmic problems do not appear at the beginning of a large project. Then, all of a sudden, they appear as subproblems when the programmer doesn’t know how to proceed or when the current program is clearly inappropriate. — Steven S.Skiena, Scenario Analysis of The Algorithm Design Manual

From the blog haorusong by and used with permission of the author. All other rights reserved by the author.

The Long Road of Progress

Photo by Anastasiya Vragova on Pexels.com

The long-term development of a career and set of skills is something not often focused on when discussing professional fields, rather the immediate benefits of that career (money, prestige, the conceptual notions of ‘success’) are more often discussed than not. While succeeding and generating an income are both important aspects of a career, the process of acquiring new skills and knowledge over the span of that career is just as important, if not moreso.

In chapter 3 of Apprenticeship Patterns, (link: https://learning.oreilly.com/library/view/Apprenticeship+Patterns/9780596806842/ch03.html#the_long_road), Walking the Long Road discusses the idea of focusing on the journey (learning) rather than the destination (money/success). While the authors acknowledge that these things can often come together with the acquisition of knowledge, the main idea is that learning itself should be (or should become) a rewarding process over the course of a career in software development/programming. Rather than focusing on the “goal” when trying to improve, the goal rather should be trying to improve indefinitely.

This idea of constantly learning and focusing on the process of improvement rather than a high-paying position is appealing to me, as it focuses more on the creative and constructive possibilities of programming rather than on simply turning a skill into profit outright. While income is a necessity and a benefit overall, oftentimes many of the best paying jobs seem to be “manager” type positions where you might spend more time delegating tasks to others than working on those things yourself. The benefit of having higher income is unfortunately offset by the downside of being unable to accumulate practical experience in the process.

I would estimate then that the best positions relative to constant improvement would be ones where creative solutions are possible, or maybe even encouraged. Open-ended problems often seem to involve improvisation or learning new skills by necessity, and in many cases software development does seem to involve this kind of thinking. I would imagine that active development jobs are best when operating with these goals of self-development, since they so often involve open-ended problems which require learning new concepts.

While I do think that focusing on knowledge for the sake of it is a good way to approach things in relation to career development, finding a balance of learning and exercising known or learned skills is important as well. This pattern focuses on the long-term journey, but I think the shorter term “refinement” of maybe more familiar ideas is similarly important. A healthy balance between these two areas is likely best in practice.

Text Referenced: https://learning.oreilly.com/library/view/Apprenticeship+Patterns/9780596806842/ch03.html#the_long_road Apprenticeship Patterns: Guidance for the Aspiring Software Craftsman

From the blog CS@Worcester – CodeRoad by toomeymatt1515 and used with permission of the author. All other rights reserved by the author.

Reading List

This week I took a look at the pattern “Reading List”. According to this pattern, you should keep a list of books that you intend to read. By making a list of the books you have read and the are going to read, you give yourself an easy way to reflect on your own patterns of studying. As you read you will probably come across more books in the references or bibliography sections. You can add those books to your list as well. Your reading list should also be somewhere online and publicly available. Others may benefit from it or you may benefit from their suggestions.

Despite always being assigned at least one book for every CS course I have taken, I have never (at least until now) considered really using a book to learn about programming or computer science. It seems like a no-brainer to use the internet for anything computer related. Modern search engines allow you to ask extremely specific questions and get almost exactly what you are looking for. Maybe this is because as a student I always know what I need to learn.

As the author points out, it is hard to know where you need to go next or what you need to learn next. I am a student, so I always have a professor who provides a curriculum to follow and assignments to complete. I always know what I need to learn. This is all going to change now because I am graduating in a few weeks. I will have to take the initiative to set my own course of study if I want to improve as a programmer. Without any direction I should probably turn to books.

It is probably time I start reading more books about software development, especially if that is the field I am going to go into. Reading the “Apprenticeship Patterns” book has made me realize books do have a lot to offer aspiring programmers. They are a good way of forcing material in front of you. Because books are restricted by their physical form, authors have to put a lot of material in the book to make it worthwhile. You don’t have to figure out what to learn next; books are carefully curated sections of study, at least textbooks are. It’s about time I start my own reading list too, starting with all the books I neglected to read in the past few years.

From the blog CS@Worcester – Half-Cooked Coding by alexmle1999 and used with permission of the author. All other rights reserved by the author.

Apprenticeship Patterns Blog – Learn How you Fail

For this week’s blog post, I read the section “Learn How You Fail” from chapter five of the book Apprenticeship Patterns by Dave Hoover and Adewale Oshineye. The quote beginning of the section is what stood out to me the most. It says, “Ingenuity is often misunderstood. It is not a matter of superior intelligence but of character. It demands more than anything a willingness to recognize failure, to not paper over the cracks, and to change.” The section talked about how sooner or later you may face failures but the right thing to do is push forward at the boundaries and learn to overlook the mistakes you have faced. In our field, we face many failures but that is not holding us back to accomplish the goals we have set for ourselves. The author mainly talked about becoming conscious of the things that trip you but allow yourself the choice of working to fix the problems that are cutting the losses.

One of the most important things to do when you face failure is to accept it and investment of time and effort to make a small improvement. Allow yourself some time and the “goal is to gain self-knowledge about the patterns, conditions, habits, and behaviors that lead you to failure.” I liked the example the author provided regarding Ade. Ade keeps a set of private wikis listing all his current skill set and limitations, this enables him to pick challenges to push outwards and to stop wasting effort on the wrong things which can lead to failures. This is a great example of something that I need to do for myself. Especially keeping a diary or a blog is helpful as I mentioned in the previous blog post that talked about the “Record What You Learn” apprenticeship pattern. This pattern was very true to me. Leaning from failures is important and you cannot excel at everything but accepting these limitations and learning from the failures or mistakes forces you to acknowledge them and focus on improving them so you do not make the same mistakes again.

From the blog Derin's CS Journey by and used with permission of the author. All other rights reserved by the author.

Practice, Practice, Practice – Apprenticeship Pattern

This apprenticeship pattern might be one of the most important ones in the book because it is something that can be applied to any aspect of life, especially for software development. You need to practice your craft and work on improving it by practicing it each and every day or at least the times when you can in an environment without interruptions or deadlines to help you focus. Software architects need to make mistakes to learn and they need to practice in order to learn. The mindset for this type of approach is to always be ready to perform and be as prepared as you can. If you don’t take action on what you need to know, then you will just be stagnant and stuck in the same place. The pattern doesn’t only talk about practice to improve, but talks about practicing in the best way. You need to try and practice in the best way possible by getting periodic feedback or getting more analysis on your mistakes. Practice will be come permanent in the wrong if you don’t constantly focus on way to improve the way you practice to learn in a more efficient way. This is why it says to practice in a relaxed environment so when you make mistakes you are comfortable with making mistakes and not burdened by it.

I think the biggest takeaway and thing I would add to this pattern is that the only way to learn is by doing and not focusing immensely on theoretical. Anyone can learn the theoretic aspect of software in a short period of time, but there takes more effort and practice to learn the practical aspect since you learn by doing. If someone were to learn all the rules and basics of a sport, but not practice actually playing the sport, then they will not be good at the sport. This is very similar to developing software, since you need to learn the theoretical aspect, but in order to be good you need to keep on practicing and learning. It is essential to always be prepared and up to date with how to learn and the most efficient way to learn a specific software. Overall, the end goal is improvement and to learn to adapt and adjust as time goes on for the most out of your software journey.

From the blog CS@Worcester – Roller Coaster Coding Journey by fbaig34 and used with permission of the author. All other rights reserved by the author.

Familiar Tools

The section “Familiar Tools”, found in chapter six in Apprenticeship Patterns by Dave Hoover and Adewale Oshineye focuses on the tools a craftsman uses. Focusing and familiarizing oneself with a particular set of tools will help increase productivity since there won’t be any need to go over the functions or specifics of said tools. This also allows one to more accurately know how long a task will take using these sets of tools. However, overreliance on one set is discouraged as there will likely be other tools that are either better suited to a particular task or are an outright upgrade. There are also situations where one will have to either choose your familiar tools and personal efficiency or less familiar tools and the overall team’s efficiency. Regardless, familiar toolsets will become obsolete and have to be replaced over the course of a software developer’s career.

The concept of having to swap familiar toolsets overtime is something I’m experiencing in real time despite my relatively small experience. For example, the first program that I used to develop and edit code in was BlueJ. It’s a fairly simple IDE that focuses entirely on the Java language and is mainly used for educational purposes. I got comfortable with it pretty quickly but then I had to learn C language which lead me to switch to Code::Blocks if I’m remembering correctly. The IDE I’ve been using for over a year now is IntelliJ which I mainly use to code in Java. I used all these different IDEs over the course of around three to four years and in the case where IntelliJ becomes obsolete or I need to code in a different language, like Python for example, I’d have to change IDEs again. This process is going to repeat again and again for as long as I use IDEs; though it doesn’t mean that I lose out sticking with one IDE for a period of time. Like the book states, I’ll be saving a significant amount of time coding in Java since I’m already familiar with IntelliJ and I’ll also have a frame of reference when estimating how long a task will take to get done.

From the blog CS@Worcester – Rainiery's Blog by rainiery and used with permission of the author. All other rights reserved by the author.

Sprint 2 Retrospective

Links:

https://gitlab.com/LibreFoodPantry/client-solutions/theas-pantry/reportingsystem/community/-/issues/40

This was for designing how the database would look and the schemas for all the different fields required.

https://gitlab.com/LibreFoodPantry/client-solutions/theas-pantry/reportingsystem/community/-/issues/30

This was for the implementation part of the reporting database that I designed.

https://gitlab.com/LibreFoodPantry/client-solutions/theas-pantry/reportingsystem/community/-/issues/26

This was for reviewing css and html using tutorials online.

https://gitlab.com/LibreFoodPantry/client-solutions/theas-pantry/reportingsystem/community/-/issues/23

I worked on designing the API for some of the backend endpoints by playing around with swagger.

https://gitlab.com/LibreFoodPantry/client-solutions/theas-pantry/reportingsystem/community/-/issues/80

We worked on creating an open api yaml file that will be used in the next part of the sprint.

The thing that worked well in this sprint for our group, the reporting system, was that before we started the sprint we were able to break down more efficiently what everyone’s role would be. For this sprint we added one more person, and they were responsible for their iam system and each of us had our roles. However, this time I was able to work separately on my issues and then meet with them team for issues that are related to the whole team and how we can help each other out. A lot of the database stuff I was working on was related to the backend aspect, so I worked on that with the other teammate who was assigned the backend role.

Some things that didn’t work well was that we had problems with some of the things we were supposed to do with the report. It was unclear in the beginning what aspects would go in the report and which teams would be sending what. So for this sprint there was a lot of meetings to figure out more of the aspects of the report and not as much as being able to implement the features required.

A few changes we could have made as a team for future sprints are to have the meetings with other teams or product owner about the specifics earlier on in the sprint. This way we can focus on creating the different schemas and backend as well as frontend implementations that are required for the overall pantry and not be stuck on the details. With this procedure, we can get more work done and if there is any confusion we can meet and clear it up after we have done some more implementations on our parts.

Changes I can make as an individual to improve the sprint is to figure out all the details of my role first, then start working. There is not point in getting confused on what to do and start working without a clear grasp. This is where I can work with my team more and ask more questions about a certain issue I have. Instead of working independently on all my tasks, I can ask my team for certain things that there are issues on.

Overall, I think the second sprint was really helpful managing confusion with the project and sorting it out to a solution by meeting with the team and others. I think we helped each other out with the details by meeting with other teams and the product owner who had more details about the product we were supposed to make. I think it was a good learning experience and successful sprint and I am looking forward to the next sprint.

From the blog CS@Worcester – Roller Coaster Coding Journey by fbaig34 and used with permission of the author. All other rights reserved by the author.

Record What You Learn

            The learning pattern “Record What You Learn” from the Apprenticeship Patterns book is mostly self-explanatory from the title. The main concern of someone who gains a lot of knowledge quickly, such as a new software developer, or, in my case, a software development student, is retaining that knowledge. The chapter describes some good ways to track this learning, like with a wiki or a blog (hey!). Having to relearn or continuously practice concepts or bits of skill is time consuming and wasteful, especially if you don’t have something to quickly reference. This is a solution to that problem.

            Recording and retaining my learning has definitely been a problem in the past, although I’m trying to get better at it. At the start of my sophomore year, I realized I had forgotten a solid chunk of the programming skills that I had learned at the end of my freshman year. I had to work a lot over that summer, so I didn’t have a ton of time to practice these skills through personal projects or places like LeetCode. Getting back into the swing of things, especially as difficulty was ramping up, was a struggle. Luckily, I haven’t hit a patch like that since, but there have been plenty of times that I found smaller, but still useful concepts, escaping me.

            Some things in this department might be like remembering some concepts, but forgetting the implementation, or even just one key part of implementation. This is exactly where a wiki/blog would be super useful. I find I usually follow my own train of thought best, as I assume is the same for everyone, so having something to reference in my own writing, in a way that I find is useful in understanding a topic, is best as well. Just in recent memory, I had some trouble trying to remember how to create a custom comparator for two objects. I had just done it last week, at which point I had to look it up. It was excusable the first time, but just a pain the second time. So, even after a week, I still face these troubles. I definitely need to get better as recording my learning, so this learning pattern is a great point of emphasis for me.

From the blog CS@Worcester – Marcos Felipe's CS Blog by mfelipe98 and used with permission of the author. All other rights reserved by the author.

Apprenticeship Patterns: Passion

I decided to once again choose patterns that cover related issues, this one being about passion. This is something that I find myself struggling with on and off between projects, where I have moments of excitement starting a project and successfully implementing a function, but often encounter issues that can stifle this passion. Beyond this I simply have times where I lose the drive to work on personal projects and struggle to find the desire to continue working with software design of any sort. Thus for this post post I chose to focus on the Nurture Your Passion pattern.


There are a few key points mentioned to help with this issue. The first mentioned is that you might just have to put any current work you are struggling with aside if possible to focus on another aspect that interests you. This can be in the form of a different part of the system you are currently working on or even just a breakable toy that will help you learn and grow, rather than stifling this advancement. Additionally, you should try to find a community that you can participate in. More often than not there are others in similar situations, and if you look online you can find discussion boards or even whole websites that have a variety of programmers discussing with each other. Getting different perspectives on the craft from others can reveal new insights to you, reigniting your interest in what you do. Furthermore there are even online study groups if you need particular help with specific issues. Beyond this you can also try reading some of the classic, well-regarded books in your free time. This will allow you to learn in a very low risk environment, removing the immediate stress of having to have functional code and allowing you to enjoy the intricacies of whatever is discussed in the book. Finally, if you are in a professional setting, you have to set work environment standards ahead of time. This can mean setting a hard time for when you stop working to ensure any toxic conversations are steered towards a productive topic.

While I am not in a professional setting yet, this information has helped me. I have never really thought about having to set standards for myself going into a job and will keep that in mind for the future. Many of these tips, as always, sound like they will be very helpful in the future and i have nothing to disagree with.

Source

https://www.oreilly.com/library/view/apprenticeship-patterns/9780596806842/ch03s04.html

From the blog CS@Worcester – My Bizarre Coding Adventures by Michael Mendes and used with permission of the author. All other rights reserved by the author.