Words of wisdom for programmers

As the title suggests, this thread will contain some real wisdom came from experience. Please add something meaningful than fancy looking useless quotes.

I’m starting the thread with three of the tweets by Shawn Swyx Wang @swyx.


Engineers are supposed to be practical but we do so much ineffective bullshit.

There’s no point creating a reusable abstraction if it ends up hard to use.

There’s no point arguing about perf if you don’t have a representative benchmark.

Hold your own beliefs accountable, please.

We’re too busy dealing with our own BS. and HEAVEN HELP YOU if you just conclude anyone who disagrees with your particular brand of bullshit is wrong or junior or whatever.

We don’t have time to do it for you thanks to the Bullshit Asymmetry Principle.

Brandolini’s law aka the bullshit asymmetry principle: “The amount of energy needed to refute bullshit is an order of magnitude bigger than to produce it.”



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Great thread!

I am not sure if these qualify, but they are just some tips on things I found useful:

  • When you’ve decided on using a new technology, read a book or two about it. I’ve found it incredibly beneficial getting a good overview of what’s possible with a language or framework as it helps you picture how you could use it. Doesn’t matter if you don’t remember every little detail, you’ll be able to find the details when you need them. (I’ve stolen this last bit from @chrispine and his Learn to Program (2nd edition) (PragProg) book - he made me feel completely fine about not remembering everything!)

  • Find a language, framework or tech that you enjoy using - we generally excel at things when we enjoy them. Also means you’ll be less likely to get bored or burnt out.

  • Don’t worry about asking questions or appearing like you don’t know something - because it helps others, both by the answers you might get to the questions you ask but also by showing others it’s ok not to know something, or that you have experience with something (when it appears everyone else might!) or even that you are struggling to grok something. This can help others who may be feeling similarly, but also could help language and framework maintainers improve their projects, docs etc


I have a few words of wisdom I’d like to share.

  • When asked to modify something, we so often get a suggested solution instead of a stated problem. Seek the goal; seek the “why”. :thinking: Often times what’s being asked isn’t what’s needed. And besides:

    • a goal statement invites everyone’s brainpower
    • a suggested solution usually invites only (premature) critique
  • When programming, resist the urge to “clean it up later”. Either avoid the situation in the first place or spend a little more time and do it now. :broom: The task at hand will never be fresher in your mind, and “later” is likely to never come. Your future self and colleagues will thank you (or at least not curse you).

  • Stuck on a problem? Drink some water, take a walk (outside if possible), and carry the problem lightly in your mind. :deciduous_tree: At least you’ll be refreshed, and the odds are better for having a eureka moment. :bulb: Being frustrated and/or having hurry-brain hampers problem-solving skills.

Agreed. I’ve found a lot of value in getting fundamental exposure to a new tech without trying to remember it all, and reading a book is my preferred method.

Time and again, I’ve discovered that having this initial context has made life easier:

  • finding additional information
  • asking good questions
  • discerning bad / outdated advice

For example, I think I would have had a much tougher time learning functional programming without reading a few books (okay, a lot of books) and gaining a foundation. Otherwise, I don’t think I would have appreciated how much of a paradigm shift the jump from imperative to pure FP really is (well, for me, that is). I might have ended up frustrating both myself and others by asking poor questions. (So now I ask slightly better questions and only frustrate others :stuck_out_tongue_closed_eyes:).


Great advice Ted!

I’ve definitely been guilty of this in the past and you are right, later never comes :laughing:

I think I hate the feeling of feeling lost or not knowing where to start, and I’ve found I can avoid that feeling by getting a good overview of things.

Like @DevotionGeo (and I guess many others) I also used to think I needed to remember everything, but it was Chris Pine who made me realise I didn’t - because there he was this professional developer who said very loudly and clearly that he didn’t and that he constantly had to Google things. That was just what I needed to hear because after that all my self-doubt vanished. Every would-be programmer needs to hear that!! :innocent:


My mentor at my first ever software job taught me the Five Fs of good software:

  • Functional
  • Fast
  • Friendly
  • Flexible
  • Fixable

They’ve served me well for nearly 20 years. :slight_smile: