A Bad Litmus Test

  • Fatal Exception Error

    SSChasing Mays

    Points: 609

    That book loses all credibility for the OP's purpose because of the people they have versus the people they don't. Inventor of JScript are you kidding me.

  • Joshua M Perry

    SSCrazy

    Points: 2655

    I don't know any of the names on that list of 15. How about someone that actually wrote some software that I still use on a daily basis like Paul Allen, Linus Torvalds, Bill Gates, Steve Wozniak, Marc Andreessen, Charles Moore, Vint Cerf, Scott Guthrie, Anders Hejlsberg, Mark Crispin, Larry Ellison and Ed Oates, Guy Steele, Jerry Yang and David Filo, or even Khaled Mardam-Bey? And didn't Dennis Ritchie and Brian Kernighan create UNIX? I've never heard of Ken Thompson.

    Maybe this says it all - the author apparently only interviewed programmers that came from his corner of the world...

    About the Author

    Peter Seibel is a serious developer of long standing. In the early days of the Web, he hacked Perl for Mother Jones Magazine and Organic Online. He participated in the Java revolution as an early employee at WebLogic which, after its acquisition by BEA, became the cornerstone of the latter’s rapid growth in the J2EE sphere. He has also taught Java programming at UC Berkeley Extension. He is the author of Practical Common LISP from Apress.

  • Phil Factor

    SSCoach

    Points: 19913

    By coincidence, one of the 'Coders At Work' listed in the offending list has just been interviewed by Richard Morris for Simple-Talk. This is Simon Peyton Jones, who is is a Principal Researcher at Microsoft Research’s lab in Cambridge. his interview is on http://www.simple-talk.com/opinion/geek-of-the-week/simon-peyton-jones-geek-of-the-week/

    I have to admit that I rather enjoyed reading the interview, and I felt a twinge of guilt that I hadn't known about him before. When asked what his advice would be to ambitious programmers, I couldn't help but agree with his answer.

    "Learn a wide range of programming languages, and in particular learn a functional language. Make sure that your education includes not just reading a book, but actually writing some functional programs, as it changes the way you think about the whole enterprise of programming. It’s like if you can ski but you’ve never snowboarded: you hop on a snowboard and you fall off immediately. You initially think humans can’t do this, but once you learn to snowboard it’s a different way of doing the same thing. It’s the same with programming languages, and that radically shifted perspective will make you a better programmer, no matter what style of programming you spend most of your time doing. It’s no good just reading a book, you’ve got to write a purely functional program. It’s not good reading a book about snow boarding – you have to do it and fall off a lot before you train your body to understand what’s going on."

    I'm going to try to remember his name now!

    Best wishes,
    Phil Factor
    Simple Talk

  • Phil Factor

    SSCoach

    Points: 19913

    Simple Talk has just published Donald Knuth as Geek of the Week[/url] on http://www.simple-talk.com/opinion/geek-of-the-week/donald-knuth-geek-of-the-week/. Donald Knuth is in the list of people interviewed in the 'Coders at Work' book. This is your opportunity to catch up on who he is, and the things he achieved, if your interested, or going to one of those strange interviews where the interviewer asks you about him!

    Best wishes,
    Phil Factor
    Simple Talk

  • TomThomson

    SSC Guru

    Points: 104772

    What a poor list! It has a couple of really good people on it, and rather a lot of over-hyped also-rans. It omits people who are far more relevant to modern programming than many it includes.

    I'm happy to see Donald Knuth and Simon PJ on this list; probably Ken Thompson too (in response to an earlier commenter: I would rather listen to the man who invented B than the man who invented C; and thank heavens Stroustrup wasn't included - few have ever dragged the art of computer programming as far backwards as he did, even Ritchie achieved less damage that Stroustrup).

    I think John McCarthy would have been a better choice than Guy Steele. And I'm very surprised that Zawinski was preferred to Stallman, since the former's work is built on the latter's and doesn'y add all that much.

    Many of the others on the list are, I guess, fashionable - more fashionable than people who contributed far more stongly to the art of programming. it's a pity that no-one like Tony Brooker or Peter Naur is included - either one of those would be worth reading about more than Bloch and Crockford lumped together.

    As a litmus test for employability, I would rate the ability to name someone listed in the book and say what they are famous for as having a negative worth. Changing the test as Phil Factor suggested, to (asking someone for example if they could identify what Don Knuth was famous for) would make a lot of some sense; providing a list of 15 people famous for their contribution to the art of computer programming and asking the candidate to explain for as many as possible why they were famous would be a bigger improvement (provided 15 people genuinely famous for advancing the art were used, instead of this list - and of course that would get rid of the restriction to currently living people). But as a litmus test giving a black and white (OK, I got that wrong, should be red and blue) answer - no way; yes it could start off an interesting discussion; but I tend to agree with Steve - I don't remember the authors of all the good things I read, I don't even know who the authors of most of the tools I use are, and I don't think that makes me a worse programmer.

    Tom

    Tom

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