I have written on here before that I did not get to play video games as a kid. The closest I got to a Nintendo was watching my daycare owner’s kids playing Super Mario Brothers on the NES from the couch because I never got to join them.
When I watched them play, they knew where all the hidden shortcuts were. They knew to jump in certain places to hit invisible boxes and to travel over the side of a wall to get to a pipe that allows them to skip a bunch of levels.
I wondered as a kid how they found all these short cuts. I realized at a certain point that someone else showed them. Someone created a guide that talked about where all the easter eggs were and people either found them through reading that guide or watching someone else play.
There are speed records where someone can get all the way through the game from beginning to end in just over five minutes. It became a thing to try to get through the game as fast as possible.
As a kid I didn’t really understand that. I thought the point of the game was to play the game. I was told by people rolling their eyes that the point of the game was to beat the game.
I wrote a post yesterday talking about my being upset about the algorithm questions that are asked at programming interviews.
I have gotten a lot of push back on this.
I have been accused of being incompetent and not being a real programmer. I am confronted by people who are angry with me for not just accepting that if I read an algorithms and data structures book that I will be a better programmer.
I feel I am being misunderstood.
I feel like a a lot of people telling me this are like the people who I watched playing Super Mario Brothers as a kid. I think that they have been told there is some bible of short cuts that get you through the game faster. They don’t look around on their own or explore the game. They’ve been given a set of instructions that gets them through the game faster and they can’t comprehend why someone would not take a short cut that they know is there.
The impression I am getting from people is that they are blindly accepting that these are strict rules that we are supposed to follow and if we don’t follow them then we’re ignorant and wrong.
I think about all of the levels that the game designers created that no one ever looks at because everyone is in such a hurry to get to the end and beat the game.
I don’t care about beating the game.
I care about playing the game.
I don’t want to accept that there is only one way to be a programmer. I like to find things out for myself. I want to explore more than one way to do things. I don’t want someone telling me my code is wrong because it’s not the way they would do it because they only know one “right” way. I think there are a lot of right ways.
I did not mean to imply there was no point in learning algorithms. I am sure they have their place. I’m sure the right algorithm in the right place would completely change the way I think about my code. It’s just that over the last two years I have seen so many people implement lots of terrible code that they think is “best” because they read in a book somewhere that things have to be a certain way.
I had someone try to create a protocol around a class that would never be subclassed because it’s what he thought Apple wanted him to do because he didn’t think critically about how to use polymorphism properly. I have had people suggest I simplify my code by doubling the code base and add three or four data structures to get around using an if statement.
There was a lot of push back against Swift when it first came out because it was different. People lashed out at it because it was not what they were expecting or familiar with.
I feel like sometimes we over-engineer things instead of looking for simple solutions. We think we have to place a thing in another thing and guard against the possibility that someone in the future will do. We have to force a tool to act like another tool in order to conform to some protocol rather than using it how it’s supposed to be used. We want everything to be one size fits all because it makes life easier to think that way.
Right now I am trying to see if a simple solution will work for me before I implement a more complex one. I don’t want to just blindly apply something because a stranger on the Internet tells me to.
Just reading an algorithms book doesn’t make you a good programmer. Understanding a problem and when to implement the right algorithm makes you a programmer.
I want to figure that out for myself rather than having a bunch of people talk down to me about how I can beat the game in five minutes. I am actively refactoring my code to implement better solutions, but I don’t want that to be my first step. I want to screw up and do stupid shit so I can learn from it and figure out how to do it better. Sometimes when you think you know all the answers you don’t look for new ones and if you’re not learning anything new then what’s the point?
I’m sorry for people misunderstanding my desire to figure things out for myself as being willfully ignorant or contemptuous for good software development. You learn more from your own mistakes than you do from other people’s. The last time I checked, thinking for yourself was still allowed. I don’t care if you hate me, or think I am wrong or ignorant or stupid. I am entitled to my own reality and you are too.