Friday, 9 October 2009

Maybe it is rocket science...

Be a Blogger Day 1 of 30: I was struck by the power of accumulated experience this morning while working on a website. I bet X would really enjoy doing this, I thought. He's a smart guy, he wouldn't be phased by this, it's easy enough, it has structure and patterns that make it easy to see what it does. I was staring at a page of XML.

To me it did look comfortingly easy and clear. But last week my Mum pointed out I've been programming computers since I was 16 - as near as damn it 30 years. So I paused for a second, looked at the code again and thought about it. I tried to remember how it felt to first look at a language I didn't understand. I tried to recall that "first driving lesson" feeling - but I don't have it. I remember struggling really briefly - seems like a day or two - but my youthful enthusiasm battered it down like a balsa wood door. Though I rather suspect I struggled a lot more and that time has dulled those memories.

Those memories are viewed through the lens of 30 years of accumulated knowledge. I've learnt five 3GLs, four or five 4GLs, half a dozen scripting languages, several dozen tools for designing, coding, testing, debugging, version control and documentation. I also realised the best skill of all is the skill of acquiring new skills. I haven't had any formal training in XML but, as part of a Joomla! template, its purpose in the larger picture is as plain to me as what I've just written

I have to conclude I really shouldn't use the phrase "It's not rocket science..." or "It's quite straightforward..." to people who are just starting out. I'm incapable of seeing it from their viewpoint now. With regard to X, he's 22 and could shower the world balsa fragments if he chooses to, but I shouldn't tell him it'll all be easy, because it won't.

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