Programmers and Small Things

So often we are so fixated on big things that we don’t pay attention to supposedly small things. We realise it too late that those small things have hold us back all these years. I will talk about some of such small things in this post.


Nobody says it better than Jeff in his Coding Horror blog – “We Are Typists First, Programmers Second”. He quotes Steve Yegge in his post,

“I can’t understand why professional programmers allow themselves to have a career without learning to type. It’s like being, an actor without knowing how to put your clothes on. It’s showing up to the game unprepared. It’s coming to a meeting without your slides. Let’s face it: it’s lazy.”

Now my practical take on importance of typing is like this – If you can’t type fast enough, you would try to type less, you will avoid coding a long piece of code, you will skip writing comments or documenting you logic.

I always advise programmers to write comments with the code, but often hear excuse that code is still not finished and they will comment once its finished. My suggestion is comment and code simultaneously, if you change your code, change your comment as well, there is no harm is typing a few extra lines. Why risk waiting and forgetting to finally write comment?

Not only this often programmers have to exchange emails with clients or chat with them. Slow typists will take shortcuts here as well. They will skip answering some queries, will never give a detailed response on chat and I can go on and on.

There are many good websites out there where you can learn to type and even test your typing speed. is one such site.


Now this is not just for programmers but almost everybody in today’s information age. We all need to read a lot these days and it takes a lot of time. The more you go up the ladder in any organisation, you realise that a considerable portion of your time is spent reading something or the other. You read emails, artilces, news, books etc. Just imagine if you can somehow double your reading speed you will actually manage to save half of your reading time. That can make a huge difference.

In case of us programmers, we often read SDK Documentation, Technical Articles, blogs, and ofcourse code. Now here too like typing if you are a slow reader, you avoid reading. You will skip reading complete definition of a class and thus forgo understanding it completely before beginning to use it. There are numerous little examples I can quote here. I often see a few guys hitting OK whenever an alert message or an error message pops up on the screen. Reason: They are too lazy to read all that text, but to a reader who can read faster, he will probably find it easy and would probably have read complete message before dismissing the dialog.

Speed Reading can help you learn more and do more in whatever you do in these times. There are many websites to help us in improving our reading speed and is one of them.

Communication & Logic

Programmers probably don’t realise this but programming is nothing but communication with computer. You communicate with computer in a language it understands. If you can’t communicate clearly with your peers, you probably won’t be able to communicate well with the computer.

You have to have ability to put your thoughts clearly and you have to have ability to understand what others say. A good understanding of requirements of client will often lead to a good Software. In most case a good communicator will be able to understand a bad communicator but vise-versa seldom works.

A good communicator would know to break down a complex problem into a set of simpler problems and solve them and thus finally solving the complete complex problem. A good communicator would know to ask right questions. Something which I find fascinating is that all programmers usually write Queries to get understandable data from Databases and when a query does not work, we say we don’t know the solution. However we don’t realise that ‘Query’ means a question in literal sense. So if our query is not returning the desired result then it means we are asking the wrong question. We can’t solve problems in most cases because we have never understood what the question is or what the problem really is.

This really holds true for life as well, we can’t solve a problem because we never know what the problem really is? Ability to understand the problem, ask the right questions and break the complex problems into smaller manageable problems is what communication and logic is all about.

You may also like to read – “communications 101 for programmers” to read an interesting post about importance of communications for programmers.

Email Etiquette

Now last but not the least a programmer writes a lot of emails. In most cases if you are not lucky enough to get selected right from the placement camp at your college, you will be soon shooting your resume in email to prospective employers. Now sample some of these real emails I got from some real candidates looking for a job.

  • I want to know whether there is vacancy for .net developer . just reply soon.
  • R/s, i m a passout student of batch 2011. i m fresher and want a job of software developer.If u have any vacancy then please inform me
  • applying in ur company for the vacancy in .net field, plz find my attached resume. Sir/Mam I am waiting for ur +ve response…

As you can see some are ordering me to just reply soon, some think they are having a casual chat with a buddy and that’s why their email is filled with all those chat slang and short forms. List is endless, I have misplaced a few very interesting emails which gave me a good laugh when they arrived. Unfortunately that’s the only purpose such emails serve, I have a good laugh and then just delete them.

If you can’t write a detailed email in a professional language it shows how serious you really are with your career.

Not only that I keep getting emails from candidates where they put email ids of all the Nagpur IT companies they can think of in the ‘To’ field. They may be thinking of themselves as smart people having achieved so much with a single email. Why write multiple emails when one is enough, right? NO COMPLETELY WRONG. You just proved that you are lazy and irresponsible and in most cases your email was deleted as soon as it arrived.

I would like to mention Apple here because it became the world’s biggest company by paying attention to details, details which other companies overlooked as being just small things. Small things do matter.

(Also Published in Hitavada Future Supplement dated 9th Oct. 2012)

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