Sunday, January 04, 2009

Programming and Literature

Years ago, I cut my programming teeth on Bjarne Stroustrup's seminal C++ book and it was probably the quickest and most painless way for me to figure out that I was not meant to be a serious programmer. That said, it was highly instructive to try my hand at it, work with some exceptionally bright people and after a while learn to write functional even if inelegant code. Stroustrup hits the nail on the head in this article when he says :

Programming is part of software development. It doesn’t matter how fancy your code is unless it solves the right problem and you can explain it to others. So, brush up on your communication skills. Learn to listen, to ask good questions, to write clearly, and to present clearly. Serious programming is a team sport, brush up on your social skills. The sloppy fat geek computer genius semi-buried in a pile of pizza boxes and cola cans is a mythical creature, best buried deep, never to be seen again.

One commentator ( x@y.com) points out to a far more fundamental flaw :

My thought is that for historical reasons, Computer Science has been sadly mis-categorized as an Engineering field. Computer Science is actually a Humanity with more in common with English Literature or History than Math or Electrical Engineering.

At the core, we need programmers who can start with a blank sheet of paper and logically and eloquently express their thoughts to others. Writing and communication skills are the key. The best programmers could easily perform well in an English department. This makes me wonder if there are undiscovered coders in the humanities who are unaware of their potential.

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