Wednesday, June 18, 2008, Uh oh?

So I mentioned in my last post that I have began listening to podcasts.  I have a lot of respect for both Jeff Atwood (Coding Horror) and Joel Spoelsky.  So when I saw they were working together on a new project and publishing their conversations regarding their new product, I figured I had to listen.  Now, they've posted around 9 episodes now, but I've only had a chance to listen to the first couple so far.

Honestly, I'm a bit concerned by what I heard.  In their first episode I felt like they gave Microsoft technology based developers a really bad name.  Now it may well be largely true (which is probably part of my concern), but I wish there were more resources to correct this bad name, rather than encouraging it.

Basically, during the podcast you will hear something along the lines that Microsoft technology developers basically resort to the Google-Copy & Paste programming development.  Microsoft technology developers are called pragmatic in that they don't care what the right solution is, or how clean it is, or well it works so long as it does work. 

Now, I'm not saying that using google to find answers to interesting problems is a bad thing.  I'm not even saying that if you ever copy and paste code you're a bad developer, but ideally the developer is learning from the blog post instead of just finding something which seems to work and moves about their business.  Honestly, typically these samples you find in blog posts are not thorough enough for a true production deployment.  The point of these postings should be to educate people about new concepts, not try to do their job for them. from what I gathered wants to be the place to replace google as the first place where you search for doing your job.  Now they stated their goal is to be the first hit on google for all of your searches, but really I think they would be happier if you went straight there instead of google.

Now Stackoverflow is not Microsoft specific, it is meant to appeal to developers on all platforms.  However, they seem to be looking at the Microsoft centric market as their main target.  Honestly, I think these guys will be successful.  They both have large followings, and I think there is huge demand for systems that can essentially do their jobs for them.  I just wish it appeared to be a more helpful resource that helped developers grow, instead of just allowing them to get by.

This all being said, the podcast is worth checking out.  These are two extremely intelligent people, and by listening to these podcasts you essentially get a look inside their heads and how they think.  I don't have to agree with, or the topic which they discuss, I'm still able to learn from it while I listen.  To both Joel and Jeff, thank you for posting your phone conversations as podcasts, it has been a great learning experience for me.

Deep Fried Goodness

So I realize I'm going to look like a bit of a sellout based on my procrastinating, but I really meant to write this earlier.  With my newly purchased iPhone and my increased amount of travel, I've recently started listening to Podcasts.  I honestly never saw the point before.  I rarely get an hour where I can really listen to a podcast.  I have always thought of reading as being a simpler and more effective mechanism for learning.  However, while traveling (especially on a plane) I find that a properly timed podcast can provide a lot of information that otherwise I wouldn't be able to consume.

I saw that Keith Elder (and Chris Woodruff) had a new podcast called Deep Fried Bytes, and I figured I may as well see what it is.  I'm actually one of those people that first met Keith because I recognized his picture from his blog.  Not knowing really what was good for pocasts (besides the obligatory Hanselminutes and DNR) I figured it was worth a shot.

After listening to their episode on interview war stories I was really impressed.  They had some really intelligent people talking about interviewing.  This was a topic, which I have to admit, was not something that immediately peaked my interest.  But what you find is that when many smart people sit down to have a talk, something good will result.  Now, after I picked myself up off the floor from hearing a C# MVP call the using keyword "Obsolete", I realized that they have a winning format.

Plus honestly, Keith Elder is the kind of guy where he doesn't need to have anything good to say.  The way he talks and presents himself can be entertaining almost regardless of the topic.  If you listen to podcasts I recommend you go try these guys out.  If you don't listen to podcasts, I recommend giving them a shot anyway.

As for my contribution to the topic at hand, I suppose I had a little bit of a war story.  From an interviewing side I do remember talking to one guy who's resume really looked great.  He had all sorts of great items written down from projects he had worked on in the past.  While inquiring about these items it became more and more clear that this person really didn't understand the concepts which he had written he had previously implemented.  After a few questions trying to get this candidate to talk about items on his blog he eventually answered that he had nothing to do with those tasks.  They were all completed by other people and he didn't understand how they worked.  He then apologized for writing misleading (or factually incorrect) items on his resume, and we ended the interview.

As an interviewee.  I just remember the Microsoft interview I had.  When I was graduating from Case Western Reserve University I had an on-campus interview with a representative from Microsoft.  I wanted to be a programmer since I was a small child (maybe 12 or 13 years old) and working for Microsoft was always a dream for me.  I had seen their campus (my family lived in Portland, OR at the time, and we saw their campus while visiting the Seattle area), and everything seemed like the perfect opportunity for a young geek in love with software.  From my interview, I really only remember a single technical question which I was asked.  Now keep in mind I wasn't claiming to be an expert at C or any other language at the time.  I had some professional experience working in VB.NET Beta, as well as some experience in developing relatively simple applications in C, C++, Java, PHP, Basic, Perl and the early versions of C#.

Anyways, he asked me "What is the fastest way to reverse a string in C?".  Ok, well I am familiar with C, and I'm familiar with how strings work in C.  I understand pointers, and pointer arithmetic, and immediately I think this must be pointer arithmetic.  Well, before I could even start talking about my response he says "Ohh, and it doesn't use pointer arithmetic.".  Uh ohh, at that point I pretty much froze.  I didn't know what to do.  I'm not a C expert.  I haven't written any C code in a while, let alone overly complex C code, and I need to know what the fastest way to reverse a string is in that language?  Well, lets just say the rest of that apparently didn't go over so well, and I wasn't asked any other technical questions.  I probably didn't handle the curve ball so well, but that was that.

I still remember how dumb I felt when I later learned just how many people from one of my classes landed jobs at Microsoft.  While in a class my senior year I remember the professor asking who was going to work for Microsoft, and there must have been at least 30 hands in the room that went up.  The said part of it to me too was I WAS the curve buster in that class.  I remember taking a test where the curve was so bad that a 68 became an A, yet I had scored a 98.  I was trying to figure out where I went wrong at that point.  Oh well, that's just how it goes.

Well, enough about me and my interviewing war stories, you need to go have a listen to Deep Fried Bytes.

--John Chapman

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