Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Too Many Toys?

I sometimes wonder do developers have too many toys? In Java, we have a plethora of open source frameworks to choose from for our next or current project. There are so many options that it can literally make your head spin right off! I've been on several Java projects in my career and every single one of them has used a different technology stack. In fact at my new job, I didn't know a few of the frameworks that were being used at all. With all of these technology choices, it would seem our life should be a piece of cake, right? Well, guess what? It's not.

There's one thing that hasn't changed. Good design and thought. Frameworks are only amplifiers in this regard much like languages. They can make our life easier if we apply them to good sound design principles. But, I think that's what is missing in our field. Go to any Border's and Barnes and Noble bookstore. Hell, go to any coder's shop and what you will find are rows and rows of books on the latest "cool" frameworks and languages. It's all vocational. You might find a little section on design if that. And it's not like we don't have great books on design. Hell, I can list several and still have more to recommend! These are the books that will stay on my shelf long after the latest framework fad or language has gone to the legacy island of old technology. It amazes me how many developers are up on the latest technology, but have never read a book on design (or maybe just one).

It shocks me. Knowledge is our most treasured asset. I strive to understand the core concepts and to go beyond. I'm always trying to learn from anything I can find (even non-software books) if it can give me a glimmer of understanding more about our field. Sometimes, I think though, we get so caught up in the flavor of the month, that we neglect the knowledge that will survive after the fads are dead.

Do we have too many toys? We're spending all of our time playing with them and not learning the core concepts that's behind them. I think that's sad. I love solving hard problems, but I want to spend my learning the problem domain. I want to learn the business of my users so I can solve their problems in elegant ways. The world of business is one of the most fun beasts to tame. I don't get excited anymore about applying the latest technology to a problem, but by solving it period. The tools needed are in your head. The frameworks only amplify what is at the core. When push comes to shove, it's still takes thought to do a good design.

So, here's my solution: read one non-vocational technical book per year. Understand it. Become it. Or at least be able to argue why you hate it. I read more books about design that any other every year. It's time well spent and it only makes you a stronger developer. Rock on, brothers!


Dan Rozenfarb said...

I can't resist to add a book to your recommended list. The one I like the most:

Unknown said...

How could I forget! Another classic in my opinion. Gosh. I'm going to have to create a list of great books ain't I? Too much great knowledge out there and there's still so much that I haven't even experienced! Life is too short!