Monday, June 8, 2009

BOOK: Pragmatic Thinking and Learning: Refactor Your Wetware

[This was originally posted at]

I'm fascinated with learning how to learn, so I was excited to finally read Andy Hunt's Pragmatic Thinking and Learning: Refactor Your Wetware. Recall that Andy is one of the co-stars of the hit The Pragmatic Programmers.

This is a good example of a higher-level, "non-syntax" book, something that transcends the "How to program XYZ" genre. (Shameless plug: I had written my own book: A Crash Course in Reasoning, but I can see why Andy's is in the top 3000 Amazon sales rank, and mine is barely in the top 3 million).

My favorite chapter was "Journey from Novice to Expert", as there is such a huge productivity gap here. He also continually emphasized the differences between the two parts of the brain, comparing it to a dual CPU, single master bus design.

It was an enjoyable read, similar to picking desserts out of a buffet. He had a lot of good quotes throughout the book:

  • "... software development must be the most difficult endeavor ever envisioned and practiced by humans." (pg. 1)
  • "... it's not the teacher teaches; it's that the student learns." (pg. 3)
  • "Don't succumb to the false authority of a tool or a model." (pg. 41)
  • "If you don't keep track of great ideas, you will stop noticing that you have them." (pg. 53). This is huge. The "slow times" during the day (driving, waiting in line, burping a sleeping baby) are great for mulling over random ideas. It's almost like collecting raindrops. I used to do this, but got lazy the last few years. Andy's chapter inspired me to go out, get some pocket-sized notebooks, and start jotting down random thoughts again (read: future blog entries).
  • "Try creating your next software design away from your keyboard and monitor..." (pg. 72). It's ironic, but often sitting in front of the computer, with all the internet distractions, can kill one's creativity.
  • "So if you aren't pair programming, you definitely need to stop every so often and step away from the keyboard." (pg. 85). I've seen many shops that effectively forbid pair programming, so this at least is a way to partially salvage a bad situation.
  • "... until recently, one could provide for one's family with minimal formal education or training." (pg. 146)
  • "... relegating learning activities to your 'free time' is a recipe for failure." (pg. 154)
  • "... documenting is more important than documentation." (pg. 179). The act of documenting forces you to think through things, where design costs upfront are much cheaper than implementation costs later.
  • "... we learn better by discovery, not instruction." (pg. 194).
  • "It's not that we're out of time; we're out of attention." (pg. 211)

Perhaps the best effect from reading this kind of book is that it makes you more aware, such that your subconscious mind is constantly thinking about learning.

No comments:

Post a Comment