beanz Magazine

How to be a Lousy Programmer

Erich Ferdinand on Flickr

What makes a programmer lousy is a good way to identify what makes a programmer great.

Nobody grows up to be a lousy programmer. However, discussing what makes a programmer lousy is an excellent way to identify what makes a programmer great. Here are some thoughts found online about what makes programmers lousy. Hopefully none of them apply to you or your friends!

First, every programmer starts out lousy. No one is born knowing the right mix of programming languages, debugging skills, persistence, ability to ship code, and all the many details that make a good programmer.

When programmers start out, they first need to learn how to learn. Say you want to learn how to program a small game. Where would you begin? You could post a question online. But good programmers do their research first and see where it leads. Then post questions when they truly can’t find an answer.

For example, there’s a tradition that you should never ask for programming help online unless your question demonstrates that you have looked for help, that you have learned how to learn but reached a dead end. Asking, “how do I do this?” is very different from asking, “I want to do X. In looking online, I see Y and Z are possible solutions. However, in trying both solutions, I find A happens. What are some ways to get around A? What might be the best way(s) to accomplish X?” A lousy programmer often won’t do the research because they have not learned how to learn.


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