A “Good” Programmer

What is a “good” programmer? How does one judge themselves, or more importantly, portray themselves in interviews?

So many interviewers are looking for “rock stars” but they don’t really understand programming. Rock star programmers do exist, but searching for them is like waiting to live your life until you win the lottery.

I read this on the C2 wiki (the original wiki) and it really resonates with me:

It is like the definition of a good pilot: one who uses his/her superior judgement to stay out of situations in which he will need his/her superior skill.

You might be asked how to reverse a string in Java without using StringBuffer#reverse() or similar functions. Why? Why is it not good judgement to use proven code? Cleverness for cleverness sake is just stupid and dangerous. And re-engineering solved problems is usually a waste of time. It reminds me of the all-too-common thinking that using well-known and proven cryptographic functions is somehow dangerous so “I’ll just write my own”. Ugh. I shudder to think how many security breaches have been caused by that line of thought.

So, “good” requires skill but also good judgement. I like it. But also:

…programming is an attempt to compensate for the strictly limited size of our skulls. The people who are best at programming are the people who realize how small their brains are. They are humble.

from Edsger Dijkstra

Honestly, I feel I suffer in interviews far too often as I realize I’m still working toward that “good pilot” definition and try to stay humble about it, while interviewers are looking for (over?) confident “rock star” programmers.

I mean, I wrote a distributed caching system that ran in production for 6+ years with zero bugs, so …

Oh yeah, humble … right. Still working on that part, too, I guess.

It’s A Mystery


The FBI show up with a Blackhawk helecopter and the people working at the observatory were immediately evacuated. Local law enforcement were asked to help but were told nothing about what was going on.

In all likelihood there’s a reasonable and boring explanation. However. A mountaintop observatory in New Mexico doesn’t seem like a strategic target that would need protection from a terrorist threat, or anything like that, nor would there be risk of hazardous or toxic materials to protect the public from. So to evacuate the people in a hush-hush tactical operation sure does make the imagination wander.

How fascinating would it be if ….

Ridiculous Real Estate


The world’s biggest man cave includes:

  • A spa
  • 7,300 sq. ft. indoor hockey arena
  • Indoor sports court with massive sound system
  • Pizza room with wood fire pizza oven
  • Ugly back yard

Or, how about this gem in the first photo here:


Looks like a disaster area, but sold for $1.23 Million.

Git Masters

… some of the weirdest things in the Linux kernel’s git history. There are 1,549 octopus merges, one of which has 66 parents. The most heavily diverged merge has 22,445,760 lines of diff, though it’s a bit of a technicality because it shares no history with the rest of the repo. The kernel has four separate “initial” commits, one of which was a mistake.

This stuff goes to the point I usually make where if you think you’re an expert at something because you’ve worked with it for a decade, you might be surprised that you’re not.

“All-In” with Open Source

Microsoft Acquires GitHub For $7.5B

“… today the company is “all in with open source,” and requested people to judge the company’s commitment to the open source community with its actions in the recent past, today, and in the coming future …” – Satya Nadella, CEO, Microsoft

It may take decades to undo all the burned bridges caused by DECADES of ridiculing, vilifying, and desperately trying to completely eradicate Open Source. To expect people like me to simply forget is just naive. Given their track record of hostility, this could be a long game where they just shut Github down tomorrow. Time will tell.

The Halloween Documents

And don’t get me started on the ever-increasing problem of the corporate oligarchy which truly runs this country.