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Discussion on: Three Books

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drbearhands profile image
DrBearhands

I for one really dislike books.
Am I a senior software engineer? I don't know. I consider the term to be meaningless dribble used by managers and recruiters to feign competence at the evaluation of candidates. Though if slow and big thought are what you're after I'm fairly certain I qualify.

I bought only a handful of books at university because they generally turned out to be a colossal waste of time. It was far more efficient (for me) to review slides and make exercises.

More than anything else, if you select by books read you will be selecting people based on how they learn, rather than what they know. There's some categorization of how people learn, but I'm not familiar enough with this branch of psychology to say something useful about it. Either way, a lot of developers learn by doing, the subject lends itself really well to it, you'd be needlessly excluding them.

Basically, you're trying to learn about stored data (domain knowledge and expert opinions) by measuring one particular input (read books), rather than querying the data directly (e.g. "tell me something interesting and deeply technical"). Admittedly, the later does require the interviewer to be rather knowledgeable about the subject matter as well.

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gypsydave5 profile image
David Wickes Author

Ah. Good - dissenting opinion!

And I can't dismiss this position out of hand - I really enjoy your writing, and I'd always assumed a writer was a reader.

Yes, the idea of "seniority" could be parked - more meaningless drivel. Although I always like a yardstick of "can make other developers better developers".

I bought only a handful of books at university because they generally turned out to be a colossal waste of time.

I would've put money on you picking Barendregt.

a lot of developers learn by doing

I agree. I'd say every developer learns by doing. It's a practical subject. Book learning ain't no good unless it gets applied to a real problem. But are you concerned that the inverse might also be true; if you're only ever learning by doing, aren't we limiting ourselves to repetition of the same pathways that we've seen before? (I find the idea of praxis useful here - theory applied in practice (and then generating more theory)). What's a sufficient input to break habit and start building new pathways. I say "book", but maybe I could take "lecture series", as well as "paper".

But, I suppose, I should throw this back to you. How do you learn something new? Something, as we've said, "big and slow"?

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drbearhands profile image
DrBearhands

if you're only ever learning by doing, aren't we limiting ourselves to repetition of the same pathways that we've seen before?

Yes, but that's an extreme. Generally I expect somebody hears about something, reads up a bit, then tries something out. There's reading in there of course, but a book takes that to the other extreme, taking exploration and the practice out of the loop. That's always seemed to passive to me.

Now if you include papers and lecture series then I have read quite a few things, but most were not all that important on my knowledge and beliefs. Certainly not individually.
Of the three most influential things, I would name 1 lecture series (Bartosz Milewski's series on CT), a conversion I had with a teacher once about why functional programming was interesting for concurrent programming, and a disagreement I had about orthogonality with a presenter at a meetup one time.

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gypsydave5 profile image
David Wickes Author

I was just thinking about the Milewski lectures/blog/book in relation to this. It's definitely a big "blob" of influential learning, whichever way it is consumed!