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More Knuth

The other day their was a thread about understanding Knuth.  There is an article over on the Register with a telling quote.

http://www.theregister.co.uk/content/35/30459.html


"Developers inhabit a continuum from just below real Software Engineers (those  that have read Knuth and understood him) down to the burger flippers coding  in VB to a spec someone else wrote. They are the post modern agricultural  laborers AND THEY KNOW THIS really."

Mike
Wednesday, April 30, 2003

Perhaps some "know it" but they are in the minority.  Or perhaps, they don't "know it" but it does not matter. 

Typically, when I come across the "burger flippers" of the coding world, it is after they created a departmental solution that has reached critical mass.  For example my last client had a 400 meg desktop database of all their billing information.  It was backed up, by putting a copy onto the LAN server and the writer's PC.  One person could run it and only one person could be in it.

At this point we have a conflict.  First, they resent that someone is there at all.  If they created such an important application why am we there.    Second, and perhaps more to the issue, they do not like to be questioned about their approach. Mainly because it is rare they had one, as they are self taught, usually by developing this application.  Finally, they do not like anyone being critical of "their baby."  Critical being my team's being there.  If they were good enough to write it, why can't they "enhance it." 

As most of these are emotional issues, they can be dealt with through good communications skills with the "creator." [I mean the application creator, although on writing this maybe talking to god helps too :-) ]

However, with many of them even after converting them to another database, with structure, redundancy, and stability, they still miss the big picture.  As in my example.  At the end, the person said to me "I could have done what you guys did for a tenth the cost."

As I finished writing this, the thought struck me, that is probably what the burger flipper says about the manager too.  So I am more skeptical.  I do not think they do "know it". 

Mike Gamerland
Wednesday, April 30, 2003

"At the end, the person said to me "I could have done what you guys did for a tenth the cost.""

Yup, in access no doubt.  Power to the people at its best.

Mike
Wednesday, April 30, 2003

"...that is probably what the burger flipper says about the manager too"

Too true. 

You just illucidated the fact that a true chef comes off as 'haute' when surrounded by piles of frozen burger patties, and the burger flipper would return a blank stare if given a salmon fillet.

A new perspective on dissing VB and its evil spawn.  I like it.

Mrs. Robinson
Wednesday, April 30, 2003

I don't get the "dissing VB and its evil spawn" part. You're saying that it makes sense to blame ground beef for the lack of employee skills at McDonald's?

Methinks what you want to bemoan is (as usual) the lack of management understanding regarding what makes good software, thus creating an environment that allows untalented code slingers to *stay* untalented code slingers.

Philo

Philo
Wednesday, April 30, 2003

"blame ground beef for the lack of employee skills at McDonald's?"

I'd never thought of that, nor the prior perspectives...  but given the state of ground beef, when is the last time you went out for meatloaf?  Oo-la-la! delicious.

Can't blame the cow, but how about the culture?

Mrs. Robinson
Wednesday, April 30, 2003

Knuth is a computer philosopher. He is a brilliant scholar but his output is so low I couldn't someone to hire him to do any real programming work.

Application Specialist
Wednesday, April 30, 2003

Meatloaf, when properly made, can be quite good!

Scotty
Wednesday, April 30, 2003

What *is* meatloaf?

I imagine it's some sort of conglomeration of meats stuck together and baked...

Pete Robinson
Wednesday, April 30, 2003

And so we stray...

"What *is* meatloaf?"

Think of a custom-programmed pot roast: grab the ground meat of any suitable animal (most use beef, but I use turkey). Mix in something to hold it together and add body (some use generic bread crumbs and a raw egg or two; we like to make our own from different kinds of bread as the mood strikes us and seldom find the need for eggs). Mix in a variety of sauces, spices, etc. to make things taste interesting (and with luck, good). Put the mess in a bread-loaf pan and toss it in the oven. The first try is usually enough to turn people off meatloaf forever, but press on with recipes and/or experimentation and you'll usually come up with something amazing.

P.S. It's just like programming: sometimes you have to throw out the early work and start over :)

Ron Porter
Wednesday, April 30, 2003

If you have a "Rock Bottom" nearby, go try their meatloaf. It's pretty darn good.

Also, even if it's not true, claim you haven't been there before so you get their beer sampler.

Scotty
Wednesday, April 30, 2003

Meatloaf?

Try Bat Out Of Hell, my teenage daughter was most impressed that her mother and I had an original version!

David Roper
Wednesday, April 30, 2003

Now I'm praying for the end of time....

B#
Wednesday, April 30, 2003

Rocky Horror.

Nat Ersoz
Wednesday, April 30, 2003

"Developers inhabit a continuum from just below real Software Engineers (those  that have read Knuth and understood him) down to the burger flippers coding  in VB to a spec someone else wrote. They are the post modern agricultural  laborers AND THEY KNOW THIS really."

What utter nonsense.

What does "those that have read Knuth and understood him" mean?

What about "those  that have read Plato and understood him"?

Understanding "Knuth" is no benchmark of anything, it probably just means you've got too much time on your hands.

Realist
Wednesday, April 30, 2003

... to hurry up and arrive.  Cuz if I gotta spend another minute with you...  I'll try to read Knuth!

B#
Wednesday, April 30, 2003

Just forget about Knuth. He uses some weird notations.

Just take any other GOOD book on algorithms and data structure, read it, understand EVERYTHING in it, implement everything at least twice.

And then, compete (if such a thing is possible) with someone who has read Knuth.

I guarantee you that he will NOT be a better programmer than you. At best, he will be more skilled at maths.

There were many people in IT who did great things (killer apps) without being maths wizards.

The time saved by avoiding Knuth (and sticking with another good algorithms and data structures book) will be significant, and you can learn something else in that time.

John Boree
Sunday, May 04, 2003

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