Category Archives: Week 8

Breakable Toys – Apprenticeship Pattern

The “Breakable Toys” apprenticeship pattern, written by Adewale Oshineye and Dave Hoover in the book Apprenticeship Patterns: Guidance for the Aspiring Software Craftsman, 2009, is about creating projects on your own in order to learn from them. Experience is more often built through failure than success.

Sometimes, in the workplace, it is not acceptable to fail when people are depending on you. This places a pause on your learning. As the book explained, 3-ball jugglers will not be able to step up to juggling 5-balls without trying and failing first. Only the jugglers who keep trying and failing will be able to move up to juggling 5. This is the same with software development and why the authors recommend you make “breakable toys”. This means creating your own projects on your own time that are fun to work on. During the development of these projects you can fail and not hurt or let anyone down. This allows you to grow and improve your skills.

The authors recommend building a wiki as it helps you “record what you learn” (see my other post) and also teaches you a deeper understanding of web development such as HTTP, REST, data migration and concurrency. This is a great way to learn about web environments. It recommends starting small with just an interface, then as your skills improve you can experiment with things such as tagging and ranking algorithms. Another recommendation is to build a new game every time you learn a new language. These are simple games such as tic-tac-to, Tetris, or Snake. This will help solidify your knowledge of the new language. These projects are meant to be low risk to allow room for failure, and also to be fun. If it is not fun, another project will gain your attention and the one you are currently working on is going to gain dust.

The main point of this pattern is to create opportunities to venture outside your boundaries. If you are stuck only doing what you know then you wont learn anything new. When learning something new, often times you will fail. It is the best/only way to really learn.

From the blog CS@Worcester – Austins CS Site by Austin Engel and used with permission of the author. All other rights reserved by the author.

Practice, Practice, Practice

Last semester I had to learn a new programming language for a class. It was a short time of period to learn it and I had to use it in a project. I really wanted to learn how to code in R and it was something that I enjoyed it. But the thing that helped me become better in it is practice. Take the time to practice your craft without interruptions, in an environment where you can feel comfortable making mistakes.

The book describes an ideal world where a mentor would assign you an exercise based on her understanding of your strengths and weaknesses. When you finished the exercise, the mentor would work with you to rate your performance using an objective metric and then work with you to devise the next exercise. Even though this is a good practice and would really help a lot of people, we do not live in an ideal world, and must fall back on our own resources to achieve the same effect. So we have to practice to understand our weakness and transform them.

The key to this pattern is to carve out some time to develop software in a stress-free and playful environment: no release dates, no production issues, no interruptions. Now that I’m more free to practice R I can see the benefit of this pattern. I usually find exercises, small projects, books online and practices my knowledge on those. It is more fun and I’m not worried about meeting a deadline or missing any instructions. As Dave Thomas says of practicing, “It has to be acceptable to relax, because if you aren’t relaxed you’re not going to learn from the practice.”

There are some things that you have to keep in mind when you practice though. Practice makes permanent, so be careful what you practice, and constantly evaluate it to ensure you haven’t gone stale. A good way to ensure you have interesting exercises to use in your practice sessions is to trawl through old books. I personally like to get my information in different sources and then compare. I feel like you learn more this was. Take that knowledge and try to find or devise a new exercise that will have a measurable impact on your abilities. Repeat.

References:


Apprenticeship Patternsby Adewale Oshineye; Dave Hoover, Published by O’Reilly Media, Inc., 2009

From the blog CS@Worcester – Tech, Guaranteed by mshkurti and used with permission of the author. All other rights reserved by the author.

Rubbing Elbows-Apprenticeship Pattern

In this post, I will be writing about the “Rubbing Elbows” apprenticeship pattern from the book Apprenticeship Patterns: Guidance for the Aspiring Software Craftsman by Adewale Oshineye and Dave Hoover, 2009. This pattern is for people who typically work alone when it comes to developing software and feel as if they had reached a plateau, not learning superior techniques and approaches.

The Rubbing Elbows apprenticeship pattern suggests that in order to cure this, you should work side-by-side with another software developer to complete hands on tasks. This can help you learn things that cannot be taught in a classroom or online. This is because you will pick up on certain micro-techniques that you can only really obtain through experience or being around/working with another developer. These techniques can add up, providing a significant increase to your skill. An example of this pattern given in this book is pair programming. When used correctly, it can be one of the best ways to learn. Pair programming (especially with a mentor) can help you pick up other skilled developers’ habits and lets you observe how they polish those habits to improve their own skill.

If you do not have this opportunity at your workplace, the book suggests that you find someone who is interested in contributing to open source projects. It suggests you should take one night a week to work with this individual on the project in a sort of pair programming manner, learning from each other as well as motivating each other.

I completely agree with what this pattern says. Working together with someone on a project or tasks, side-by-side, especially with someone with greater skill can greatly boost your skill, and exposes you to certain things that you cannot be taught directly. Not only with coding, but with other hobbies in my life, being around others really helped me pick up on things quicker. For example, I started snowboarding last year. I had three friends who I would primarily ride with, two extraordinarily better, and one the same skill level. I had been motivated by the one the same skill level, and learned from him by observing certain techniques and habits that helped him improve. I had also picked up certain styles, techniques and habits of the ones already at a high skill level, boosting my knowledge and understanding. Now a year after starting this new hobby, I am more skillful than 70% of people on the mountain(not to be smug). This is greatly because of going with my peers.

Hoover, D. H., & Oshineye, A. (2010). Apprenticeship patterns: Guidance for the aspiring software craftsman. Sebastopol, CA: O’Reilly.

From the blog CS@Worcester – Austins CS Site by Austin Engel and used with permission of the author. All other rights reserved by the author.

The Long Road – Apprenticeship Pattern

What this apprenticeship patter talks about is that this journey of a software developer and that of a software craftsmen is all about the long- term. You have to have the long-term mindset and vision to always be learning and realize that you will never be done. People now a days are looking for ways to quickly do everything and have the ability to do something overnight. Well, when it comes to software development and the journey that needs to be followed, this won’t be realistic. In order to build the skill of the best software developer, you need to realize that this will take time and years of practice and learning. I think this is a good mindset to have in order to not give up and keep on pushing yourself when times get tough. One thing that I have seen over the years with coding is that when people start to have a tough time with it and can’t seem to figure something out, they give up and self-declare that programming isn’t for them. They didn’t even realize that with just a little bit more effort and time they would have figured and become better coders, while also increasing their confidence. This shows to me that no matter what adversity you face, that you need to keep on going and not give up at a time where you need to put in the most effort. Once you past that barrier, the road just starts to get a little bit easier and you will become more capable of dealing with problems, that just a while back you thought was impossible.

Taking the long road is a key in the software world and is also a key in our everyday life. I’m sure there were times when we did not want to do something and thought of something as hard, but looking back at it seems silly to us. This is why when you keep a long-term vision, the issues that come in the present time won’t seem so big because you know at the end it will all be worth it. The software craftsman is striving to keep on improving and learning because they know it will all be worth it and the journey will be a great one. Overall, the message is to keep on striving to learn and build up skills and work hard to break through barriers by not giving up.

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.

Concrete Skills

This week I chose to look at the “Concrete Skills” pattern. This pattern explains that you need concrete skills to be able to get a job and contribute to the team you are joining. Concrete skills mean discrete abilities you can demonstrate using specific technologies. Something like understanding and being able to apply a certain framework or being able to write docker compose files. Things beyond soft skills like being able to learn quickly and having a good attitude. Creating a toy project can help show your concrete skills to employers and comparing your CV to the CVs of people whose skills you respect can help you take stock of where your own abilities stand.

I found this pattern interesting because it is a very helpful thing to think about when writing a resume or CV. Especially in a technical field like software development, you need to have very specific skills to be able to do the job you are hired for. Thinking about what concrete skills you have and making those specifics clear can really help you when looking for a job and it is definitely something I will be thinking about as I enter the workforce.

I also found it interesting when the author wrote about “buzzword bingo”. If you do a quick search for software development jobs, you do see a lot of these buzzwords and that can sometimes be really intimidating. Having ultra-high standards for software developers in kind of a meme now too (10+ years of experience in Swift required!!!). Making a list of these concrete skills helps make that a little less intimidating as you realize how capable you really are. That or it can help you see how far you need to go. Taking stock of your abilities is a good thing.

I know I am lacking a bit in the concrete skill area. A lot of the work we are doing with the project this semester will help fix that deficiency. We are working with so many new tools and I feel like I am learning more about software development than ever before. Putting myself in the uncomfortable position of creating something complex using brand new languages and technologies is pushing me towards becoming a better programmer.

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 – Nurture Your Passion

For this week’s blog post, I read the section  “Nurture Your Passion ” from chapter two of the book Apprenticeship Patterns by Dave Hoover and Adewale Oshineye. The section talked about how the work environment can stifle the passion for the craft. For example, you might be a software developer with a passion for the craft, but unfortunately the daily activities, “demoralizing corporate hierarchies, project death marches, abusive managers, or cynical colleagues.” Can become hard for your passion to grow by staying in such hostile conditions. I think this is true for the majority of the people that work in the IT field. I have seen especially my family members whose having such a hostile situation at work especially when there is a deadline that is approaching, or a software release is going on.

The author goes further into project death marches in which he explained how they are the most damaging of the hostile situations, it takes your time and energy, preventing you from taking any significant actions to protect your passion as more important issues like physical and mental health can take a toll. Now that I think about it, work pressure and stress can significantly affect one’s mental health.  I think it is important for people to take a break from sometimes and focus on something else for a little time. Identify what u like, find something at work that interests you and you enjoy doing. I liked the solution that was given to this problem which was: to grow your passion, set clear boundaries that define the sort of environment you are willing to work in. I think that creating some sort of boundaries helps and necessary to have a free hostile environment. One of the statements I do not agree with the author is how walking out of a meeting or refuse to distribute code that doesn’t meet your minimum standards will help your passion however this type of behavior can cause a conflict between your colleagues or your boss. I think the best solution if you want to follow your passion is just to do it, nurture your passion or find a job that suits well for your passion.   

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

From C to Shining Sea

The Snake

As of recently, I’ve been spending most of my personal coding time in Python. I enjoy a lot of languages and Python certainly isn’t for everything, but when you can use Python, boy is it a joy. As someone who strictly indents in any language, I love the indentation style of denoting blocks. Curly braces have their use, but the vast majority of the time, they’re purely redundant. The same goes for semicolons. I completely agree with the movement of programming languages towards spoken language. The main downfall of Python, comes from how high-level of a language it is.

Being a high-level language allows for it to be as convenient to write in as it is, however you are completely unable to use low level features. It also means Python’s performance is often much lower than that of C++ or other languages. Of course, everyone says that each language has its own use and Python isn’t meant for performance-intensive programs. But why not? Wouldn’t it be nice if there were a single modular language that had Python-like simple syntax with the features of JS, Python, C++, etc.

The Sea

Before I take on the task of creating such a language, I want to start smaller. Introducing Sea- It’s C, just written differently. I am currently working on a language called Sea which is effectively C, but with Python-like syntax. I say Python-like because much of the syntax of Python relies on internal data types. My goal is to keep Sea true to C. That is, no increase performance penalty; all of the penalty should be paid at compile time. That’s phase one. Start off with a more concise face for C. Then, I want to create libraries for Sea that take it one step further – introducing data types and functions innate to Python like range, enumerate, tuples, etc. Lastly, I want to use the knowledge I’ve gained to create the language to end all languages as described above.

I’m starting off with a Sea-to-C Transpiler, which is available on Github. In its present state, I am able to transpile a few block declarations and statements. I’m currently working on a data structure for representing and parsing statements. Once that’s made, I can add them one by one. The final result should look something like this:

include <stdio.h>
include "my_header.hea"

define ten as 10
define twelve as 12

void func():
    pass

int main():
    if ten is defined and twelve is defined as 12:
        undefine twelve
        // Why not

    c block:
        // Idk how to do this in Sea so I'll just use C
        printf("Interesting");

    do:
        char *language = "Python"

        print(f"This is an f-string like in {language}")

        for letter in language:
            pass

        break if size(language) == 1
    while true and ten == 11

    return 0

Once the transpiler is done, I want to create an actual compiler. I’ll also want to make a C-to-Sea transpiler eventually as well. I’ll also want to create syntax highlighting for VS Code, a linter, etc. It has come a surprisingly long way in such a short while, and I’ve learned so much Python because of it. I’m also learning a good amount about C. I’m hoping once I create this, there will never be any reason to use C over Sea. There are reasons why certain languages aren’t used in certain scenarios. However, I see no reason why certain syntaxes are limited in the same way. Making indentation a part of the language forces developers to write more readable code while removing characters to type. Languages should be made more simple, without compromising on functionality. That is my goal.

From the blog CS@Worcester – The Introspective Thinker by David MacDonald and used with permission of the author. All other rights reserved by the author.

Your First Language: How it Affects Everything Else

The Your First Language pattern, discussed in chapter 2 of Apprenticeship Patterns, concerns the idea of someone picking their first programming language, how they should choose it, what they should do with it once they become proficient, and how it might affect future efforts to learn other languages. I thought that this aspect in particular was very relevant to my own experiences. I first started learning to program in Java, and as a result I find that I tend to look at things in relation to how they might work in Java rather than from the perspective of whatever language I might be working in.

Regarding the text, Apprenticeship Patterns discusses the idea in terms of how it might play into someone’s career over time. If you learn one language first, and put a majority of your development time into that language, then it makes sense that this would impact your views and understanding of other languages. Various techniques are offered in terms of actually learning the language, including building of toy programs (similar to those discussed in the breakable toys pattern), learning through testing frameworks (implementing test cases and using them to understand how the language works), or finding mentors who are already experienced in the language to provide guidance and advice.

In terms of how this is relevant to myself, I certainly feel that starting with an object oriented language has made me more predisposed to prefer this style of programming over others. This can at times make me feel out-of-depth when working with other styles of programming language (functional, scripting, procedural) as object oriented programming is the most familiar to me. The authors of Apprenticeship Patterns recommend trying to learn as many different style of programming language as possible to avoid getting “stuck” in one language.

Going outside of the “comfort zone” so to speak, is a good way to broaden your range of experience relative to any topic in a general sense. In terms of using this approach myself, I would likely first start by taking a smaller step away from more familiar Java-similar languages (python, ruby etc) before moving on to something completely dissimilar to Java (F#, Lua, R etc). This would help broaden my area of knowledge and allow for a greater range of potential solutions when developing software.

Text referenced:

https://learning.oreilly.com/library/view/Apprenticeship+Patterns/9780596806842/ch02.html#your_first_language

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

Apprenticeship Patterns Blog Post #6

With the semester nearing its end, I do not have many more apprenticeship patterns to review on here. Because of this, I am trying to choose patterns that have the most relatability to me. For that reason, I chose to review the pattern in the book entitled Sustainable Motivations. It is all about developing your technical skills in order to maintain your ability to work well given different project goals and situations. The problem that I am trying to solve by learning this skill/pattern is the fact that this line of job is often rigorous, difficult, and stressful. I need to learn to love what I do and be good at what I do when I am not loving it. The book explains how there are many days, weeks, and months where my job will be extremely fun and enjoyable, but that there are also many times when it will be quite the opposite. The important thing is for me to keep moving and working through the not-so-good times and continue to stay motivated as much as I can throughout the process. The book has some great tips and examples of how to stay motivated during the harder times. First, I should be working hard to move up in the ladder of my jobs rather than just fulfilling my personal duties. This is especially apparent when I am not enjoying what I am working on and mainly working for the money aspect. The second example is when I could possibly want to quit and I decide to pull through and finish what I am working on. It proves valuable and exciting to finish things whether you liked the process or not. Lastly, the book shows that pulling through the tough and hard times will help your reputation as a worker and a programmer immensely and that in doing so, more opportunities with open up. This whole pattern resonates with me so much because of how ominous real life jobs feel to me at the moment. I know that if I follow those three examples/tips, I will not regret it! Bad times will happen, and pulling through will only help me grow.

From the blog CS@Worcester – Tim Drevitch CS Blog by timdrevitch and used with permission of the author. All other rights reserved by the author.

Retreat into Competence

            The learning pattern “Retreat into Competence” from the Apprenticeship Patterns book is something that gave me great comfort to read. The idea is that, when overwhelmed by your ignorance in the face of a complex problem or task, it can be beneficial to temporarily fall back onto what you know. This can boost your confidence, refresh your mind, and/or reveal relevant applications of the knowledge you do have. All of these things can make tackling your ignorance easier, or at least a little more manageable.

            As the book points out time and time again, it is very beneficial to accept what you don’t know and face it head on, but sometimes this can leave you stranded. There are many times that learning new concepts can feel like reading a different language or can make my eyes glaze over for 10 minutes before I realize that I haven’t been paying attention and need to start again. In times like these, I believe this learning pattern is very beneficial.

            For example, in the current course, I needed to learn Vue.js for the project. It’s a pretty straightforward task, but doing it was not very easy. I still wouldn’t call myself comfortable with Vue.js, but I definitely made some substantial progress in the face of feeling totally overwhelmed. When there were times that I didn’t know how to approach the sub-problems of learning that I faced, I found it supremely useful to take time off and look at other parts of the project which I felt more comfortable with. I retreated to things like looking over the backend API endpoints and practicing them a little bit before returning to Vue.js. These breaks allowed my mind to refresh as I could read over materials again with a better understanding and then practice the problems I was facing.

            I think the main difference in what I was doing was that I did not set blocks of time for my retreats into competence. When I returned to my real work, I sure felt more confident and had less of a sense of imposter syndrome, but sometimes these breaks were too long and help me back from real progress. I think measuring some finite time will help greatly in picking myself back up without being a hinderance to progress. There are plenty of times I know I will become lost in the capstone, as well as down the road in every project I work on, so I predict this learning pattern will be a very helpful tool.

From the blog CS@Worcester – Marcos Felipe&#039;s CS Blog by mfelipe98 and used with permission of the author. All other rights reserved by the author.