re: Think Like a Programmer?? VIEW POST

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Maybe I'm not a programmer, more a systems architect, because what I do day to day, the way I think, is more complicated than most of what has been listed.

The way I think is generally 20% "how to make things work" and 80% "how to prevent things from breaking". The happy path is easy. It's the potholes and detours that are hard. I think about the implications of a proposed solution - will it impact other components of the system? What does it imply for edge case? Can it handle the printer catching fire, or the database being hijacked by aliens?

I don't ask "can it fail?" but "under what conditions will it fail?" Then I compare the likelihood of failure to the damage that would cause. If a user enters bad data and gets confusing results, that needs to be fixed. If it only fails once the Java Date maximum value is reached, yeah, I'll live with it.

So, I think this may illustrate the difference: "how do I get to Starbucks from here?"

Normal person:

  • Go East of 1st Avenue to the second traffic light, take a left, go about 1km and it will be on your right

Programmer:

  • Go East on 1st Avenue. If you pass a Walmart, you went West - turn around. At the second traffic light, turn left. That's the side of the Shell station (what? I'm not the only one who sometimes gets that wrong). If you see the school, you went too far. After you turned left, go about 1km. The Starbucks is on the right - after the bookstore, but before the hospital. Are you going now? it's 7:30PM, and that Starbucks closes at 7.
 

The way I think is generally 20% "how to make things work" and 80% "how to prevent things from breaking".

Pareto principle at work.

Under what conditions will it fail?

I think it is as important to ask:

Under what conditions will it succeed?

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