Monthly Archives: July 2013

Disney’s Ratatouille applied to programming

There is a great quote in the movie “Ratatouille” from Disney. It is made at the end of the movie when the food critic, Anton Ego, has an epiphany.

In the past, I have made no secret of my disdain for Chef Gusteau’s famous motto, “Anyone can cook.” But I realize, only now do I truly understand what he meant. Not everyone can become a great artist; but a great artist *can* come from *anywhere*.

I would like to apply that to writing software code. “Anyone can code”. I do not mean that everyone can write great code, but that a great coder can come from anywhere.

We have all met him/her. The person that decided to become a computer programmer because they want to make a lot of money, or they want to write apps, or they want to program games (‘cuz hey, if I can play games, why can’t I program them?)

Then they come to your project and throw all standards to the wind: readability; maintainability; thoroughly tested; formatted. They turn your work of art into a soup sandwich. You spend half your time trying to figure out what the heck they did that blew up the home page.

My real life example:

I recently am having the “joy” of going through some existing code on a Grails project that was written by an independent contractor. I will not mention who that individual is, but needless to say, I would not request a connection on LinkedIn.

This individual has been an independent contractor for over 10 years, according to his website, and has done work for some rather large and big name companies. I briefly met him about 11 months ago and was at first impressed that he managed to get a contract with this famous company and thought that he must be pretty good. In the couple weeks that I worked near him, my opinion of him was that he was a little unprofessional and a little too chatty. By “chatty”, I mean someone who has way too many ideas floating around in his head that are based on opinion and not fact so he fills the space around him with random subjects. When I was introduced as someone who primarily works on Java Enterprise applications, he seemed offended somehow and asked what made me an enterprise developer and him not (even though nobody said he wasn’t).

So here I am, almost a year later and I was brought in to do some maintenance. As my profile states, I am primarily a Java guy so I have a slight learning curve for Grails. This doesn’t mean that have no idea what good Grails code should look like. The first thing I noticed was a lack of standard formatting. It seems like his coding style was like his talking style… it just flows any which way

As I delved deeper into the code, I noticed a lack of organization. Single blocks of code that were in excess of 1000 lines and did several different things. Other places a single line would actually be a combined if/else statement separated by semicolons. I groaned inside when I saw that one.

So clearly, anyone can write code, but not everyone can become a good programmer. If anybody actually reads this blog post. Feel free to post your “favorite” piece of horrible code you have run across.

Don’t “like” me on Facebook, “like” me in real life

It has gotten to the point where you can’t watch a commercial, walk past a store or even open junk mail without seeing the words “Like us on Facebook”. What does that mean? It has become a mindless sentence said by everyone in an attempt to get some sort of social media score that says they are popular. So what do we do? We mindlessly click the “Like” button akin to the simple minded Alice drinking a mysterious liquid simply because it was labeled “Drink Me”. Does this mean we truly “like” these things? Are we doing a quid-pro-quo of “if you ‘like’ me then I will ‘like’ you”? More likely, the answer is no.

Facebook is not original or unique. It is the same as Myspace, Friendster and many of the other social networking sites. People are out there to do whatever they can to collect as many “likes” and “friends” on their website. They feel a false sense of belonging. But they don’t truly belong to many of those networks, they just have a digital connection to them through some database link. That is it. It isn’t Facebook, it is Fakebook.

So, that is why I say don’t “like” me on Facebook, “like” me in real life. Get out there and say “Hi”. You may never physically see me, but I am the person that you pass on the street, or at the bookstore, or at the beach. Quit pretending to like things in a feeble attempt to inflate your sense of self-worth. You are not valuable because of your 500+ “friends” on Facebook or followers on Twitter, you are valuable because you are a human. Get out there and share your worth.

So, if you want to trade your fake life for a real one. Try some real networking sites like http://www.meetup.com/ that allow you to go out there and make real friends and like real people. You will find it more enjoyable than reading posts on someone’s wall about what they ate today.