Programmatically Irrational - To Code or Not To Code

02 April 2018

We developers love to write code. We go to conferences to learn about the latest techniques and frameworks. Then when we get home we can't wait to apply what we've learned. There is no better feeling in the world than to push some new (working!) code to production and see it run to benefit other people. However, often before we start coding, our bosses - whom have just come back from a trade show - are asking us about buying the hot new product that all their friends have been talking about. According to the whitepaper and the online product demo, it does everything you're looking to build plus more! These days the developers have a significant say in these decisions (We just get stickers instead of fancy dinners). s To code, or not to code, that is the question. As in most engineering decisions "It depends ..." But before we evaluate, it's important to understand the bias at work on both sides: the hidden costs of free software and hidden costs of paid software.

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Programmatically Irrational - Not Imagined Here

14 March 2018

As developers, we pride ourselves on being the Spocks of our companies. We're supposed to be cool and stoic in the face of even the most difficult problems. When we are faced with slow websites, we measure before we optimize. When we are given impossible dates, we deliver what is essential rather than what is perfect. When Product Managers come to us with a flashy new idea, we ask for the data to justify the cost of building said idea. These are all things to be proud of, but it's exactly our belief that we are completely rational that blinds us. Even developers can be utterly irrational with bias, self control, and economics in our decision making. The title of my post is a parody off of Dan Ariely's "Predictably Irrational" that explores the causes of irrational decisions in everyday life. My hope for you as the reader is to be able to identify these situations and make sounder decisions. Hoping to make a bit of a series out of this so enjoy!

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We Were Developers

06 November 2012

I’m a sucker for epic movies. I especially enjoy the epics where regular people are put in extraordinary circumstances. Heroes with no super powers, or unlimited resources, are forced to face off against seemingly insurmountable odds. And after a long struggle, the heroes emerge victorious. These stories inspire me and drive me to be more like the heroes. But how can someone who writes code for a living aspire be a hero or even resemble the people in these movies? Most people see coding as a docile and individual activity occurring in a tranquil setting. There’s nothing epic about typing words on a keyboard…or is there?

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Full Contact Web Development

31 January 2012

As the super bowl nears you can't avoid constant bombardment of advertising, predictions and analysis leading up to the game. You can either fight it or embrace it. I personally love the sport so today I am embracing it in the context of web development.

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Evil Software

01 December 2011

A shocking thing occurred to me the other day while I was reading Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins. I started thinking about ethics in an unexpected way. The book and it's predecessor Hunger Games have themes that touch on a number of moral issues around killing and exploitation that are very troubling. As my mind drifted past those questions I asked myself could this really happen sometime in the future? I felt a gripping terror when I rationalized it as entirely possible. The most frightening aspect for me is the power of big brother watching your every action and the control they could have over everyday life. Much like in Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell people with unprecedented access to your daily interactions have the ability to manipulate you and your peers. This type of control was never possible in the past. Kings could rule with an iron fist, people could be watched and controlled but only to a certain degree. Thanks to technology, mainly software, the rulers in the above stories are able monitor your every move. And right now as we speak in the real world, this type of technology is being developed and could soon become a reality. The potential impact of this technology is frightening.

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Periodization for Developers

29 June 2011

Probably one of the last things a person may associate together is a software developer and a weightlifter (there are exceptions). However there are techniques in weight lifting that I believe can be applied to a software developer’s regime to enhance performance. I’m not talking about steroids although caffeine is probably the closest thing to steroids for a developer. I’m talking about periodization.

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The Black Swans of Software Engineering

21 June 2011

I happen to be rereading The Black Swan by Nassim Taleb and started to thinking about the black swans that I run into in the world of software. Software embodies the essence of the black swan which consists of the following:

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Working With Black Boxes

31 March 2011

I hate black boxes. For folks that don't know what I'm talking about imagine a gumball machine made entirely of steal (no glass). The first time you put a quarter in and the first time you get a gumball. Wanting 2 more gumballs you put in 2 quarters in and out pops a hairball. Frustated the next time you put a dime in, kick it for good measure and out spouts a cheeseball. Blackboxes are frustrating and risky in software development for the same reasons. You input a value in order to obtain an expected outcome then when it doesn't work or even worse works sporatically you're left scratching your head to what to do next. You read the documentation but the thing is not working as you expect it to.

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Older posts are available in the archive.