Review: ‘The Passionate Programmer’

The Passionate Programmer cover It has been a while since I’ve written a book review, or anything for the web really. It would be almost 3 years since I’ve closed my previous blog/wiki for a short refurbish and the rest is history…  Therefore, I needed a really good motive to start putting my thoughts out there (here that is) once again.

For that, I must admit, I have to give ‘The Passionate Programmer‘ credit it deserves. If you have read one of these highly positive reviews of this book, probably it won’t be a surprise. This book got me thinking, even acting! Side effects will be unharmful, as web should handle another blog full of ramblings on various bits and bobs. However, enough about the intro, lets move to the review, shall we?

In my humble opinion, it seems that recently a trend of applying a self-improvement book recipe to specific aspects of our industry it picking up. The certain nomadic approach to reworking how you are getting results and positions tackling similar subject are selling way above niche, heavy, in both weight and content, technical bibles.

After all, it is hard to resist temptation, when a creditable craftsman Chad Fowler, promises us remarkable career in software development. Even-though each seasoned software developer will know that nothing is for free, we read these books looking for silver-bullets, or at least to reassure that what we are doing isn’t that bad.  Advises on how to stay atop, become business savvy, avoid risk of getting outdated and these like, won’t exactly surprise us.
Therefore, it isn’t nothing extra-ordinary, but just nice of Chad to put together a 53-long list of things to go and re-considerate. Among few rather cheesy sections like: ‘Love it or leave it’, ‘A pebble in bucket of water’, ‘Change the world’ or ‘The fat man in the mirror’, you will find superb question: ‘How much are you worth?’ or advices ‘Say it, Do it, Show it’, ‘Eight-hour burn’ and few along these lines.
In my opinion that is all you need, a perfect balance between selling book to hard-core coders (who need to be reminded about business existence) and these of us less fortunate, who happen to fail to learn Haskell and F# during lunch break, just to cover up with OpenCL while watching Doctor Who (and whose need to acknowledge that technical skills earns us bread and butter).

The Passionate Programmer‘ isn’t a book that you need to own and rigorously follow every workday. For most of us, subjects mentioned would be more than familiar. After all it is hard to stay in business these days without delivering a 2pp of business value. What we find on these 200 pages is a bit of common sense mixed with a kind request to do the right thing. You may want to read the book once if you are just starting your career (or studying). However, with few years of experience you probably will be just fine scanning through (so you would know what to recommend you more junior colleagues) and nodding from time to time.

In fact, Chad realised that his work is somehow work-in-progress and sometime ago published his thoughts on career progression (and where it leads) on pages of the superb ProgPub (have I said it is a superb zine? really have I?).
It seems that what we really need is a more detailed prescription on how to asses risk of our career going bonkers. How to pick our ‘next big thing’ to bet on or at least get familiar with? Even the simple, as it seems, assessment of current knowledge & experience seems to be rather troublesome. Sometimes painful, especially during interviews for the dream-job when you realise that last time you have wrote line of STL was in 2002 (2003 or was it last week?), all you have done in Boost recently was a random tutorial (saved to your SDD) or that your WPF/Java/F# knowledge isn’t really up to scratch.

Hope you get the picture, if not feel free to ask questions… one of you might even get the book (in well scanned condition though) 🙂

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