Archive of published articles on October, 2012

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How to deal with being a negative developer


There was a recent AltDevBlogADay post about Negative Developers and Team Stability¬†that hit home. It’s not that I think the advice was particularly interesting (good, standard stuff), it’s that it reminded be that¬†I’ve been a negative developer.

I don’t know what I could have done differently. I just wasn’t happy at work, and there was little I could do to change it. The quality of my work was apparently very good, I was just terrible for morale, because I was either 1) pissing people off or 2) encouraging people to be pissed off at the problems I/we saw. Eventually I got the best advice I’ve ever gotten (which deserves its own blog post), and left the company. I went to the right place and became a positive developer.

And that’s sort of what struck me about the article and about how we typically deal with negative developers. Some developers are just not a good fit, regardless of how amazing their work is. If someone is negative because she is “culturally incompatible”, because there’s nothing you or your manager can do to fix it. And it is worth it to have a frank discussion about whether that person can ever be happy without changes to the studio, and if that person says ‘no’, you should discuss plans to part with mutual respect at a mutually agreed date.

I had to put in my two weeks at my last job to have this advice given to me by the President (GM? Can’t remember) at the time. It convinced me to un-quit, and to stay on another year. It ended up being a miserable year in many ways, but it was the right thing to do and worked out for the best. As managers- and friends and team members of negative developers- we need to keep this advice in mind when dealing with negative developers (and ourselves).


Decisions, decisions


Some people can find me a bit over-earnest in my quest for automation. I’ve finally figured out how to know whether something is worthwhile to automate.

Are you making any decisions when you do this?

And if someone is making decisions that may be unnecessary:

Can we get from A to B without making any decisions?

I value the people I work with and I want them to be more effective. Sometimes people are afraid I’ll automate them out of a job, or they like a manual part of their workflow. More often they take pride in being the manual bottleneck behind a tricky or brittle process.

Humans are valuable because we can make complex decisions very quickly. When I automate an area someone isn’t immediately comfortable with, it’s not because I don’t value what he or she does. On the contrary: because I value their skills and time, I want to see them doing something that requires their unique abilities.


Python for programmers?


Writing up some performance reviews reminded me of my opinionated fact that a minority of people programming python really understand python. I think in statically typed languages, this is somewhat more acceptable. I think of how interesting “CLR via C#” was. It helped me understand the CLR and IL, as well as some much more general design patterns (damn you, properties!), but had minimal impact for how I used C# (except perhaps regarding performance and GC).

But in a fully dynamic language that has so much power- not understand how the language itself works puts you at a severe disadvantage. I’m not just talking about the one thousand aspects of meta-programming, but even just taking advantage of duck-typing (ie, instead of creating/passing a type, can you just pass a callable that returns a new instance?). Or how decorators work, or how importing works.

I am pretty sure I asked this when I started python but, are there any books (or courses) about python, written for more-or-less experienced programmers (even python programmers), that aren’t about ‘teaching python’ in the normal introductory (or cookbook/reference) way? More along the lines of CLR via C#, or some of the better python guides out there (Idiomatic Python). I am sure there are a large number of people out there who would get huge benefit from such a book or comprehensive guide.