For the last year, I’ve had the opportunity to interview some of the best known people in C++ and other circles as well, which have appeared in the Cvu magazine, as well as my blog (only once it had appeared in the printed medium)
So for my lightning talk this year, I thought I’d share some of the stuff I’ve learned from the various people I’ve managed to interview.
Since last year, I’ve actually had to give proper C++ technical talks to various teams at my place of work. Especially concerning C++ 11/14. One of the interesting things in Bjarne Stroustrup’s interview was that he commented that he wished he travelled more and improved his interpersonal skills. He admitted that he didn’t think he’d spend so much time communicating in English.
And as developers our code is also our communication is it not? The compiler can read any old jumble of code, as long as it’s syntactically and semantically correct, but what about the poor human? Indeed, we write simple, clean code for humans to be able to understand it. Pete Goodliffe writes in his book Becoming a Better Programmer, that we write code primarily for humans to read.
This is truly awful code. Let’s assume that whoever wrote this was sick, and had a warped sense of humour, but also didn’t want anyone touching his code! And let’s also assume that he overloaded or rolled his own versions of most of the C++ standard library. Unless you’d seen his code, you wouldn’t stand a chance of understanding this.
One of the things I’ve learned in doing these interviews is that you shouldn’t be scared to ask. After all, what’s the worst that can happen? They say no! In the grand scheme of things, that’s not a disaster is it really?
I’ve had a few refusals for an interview, and that’s ok. Programmers are busy people, especially the ones doing the conference circuit and writing the standards.
But if you ask something of someone and they come through, then be sure to thank them for it, because you never know where that will lead you. It led me to be asked to review the Kindle version of Scott Meyers’ new book, purely because I’d been polite, and that I happened to own a Kindle…which may have helped as well I suppose.
Last year, I had the chance to interview Scott Meyers face to face. So rather than spring the questions on him, I e-mailed them over before hand, and fettled them as the day drew closer. The other thing I knew I’d need was a tape recorder, so I got a digital one, because otherwise I’d be focussed on typing everything rather than actually interviewing Scott.
The key point here is to be prepared. As you can tell, I’ve toiled over this talk for hours and hours on end ;-)
One of the things Seb Rose mentioned in his interview was that he wished he’d read more books, and bought fewer. I wonder if I asked for a show of hands how many people had more than 20 technical books on their shelves, and then how many have read all of them?
I’m not sure about you, but I love buying books, the thing is I never have time to read them all! Sadly. However the one thing I’ve started to try and do is to make sure I have an evening a week, or an hour at the office where I sit down and read a book off my reading list. I’ve even written a list of around 8 technical books and 8 soft-technical books (e.g. Pragmatic Programmer) and will try to read 4 from each pile by next year.
So if you see me looking at buying a book, you have my full permission to rugby tackle me to the floor…I will thank you for it eventually.
I’ve been a member of the ACCU now for two years, and I’m constantly amazed at the spirit of community there is and it’s inspired me to try and start something where I work. (we’re a pretty disparate bunch really)
And the fact is, that the community is there for all of us, and if we take from the community, then it’s only right that we give something back. That’s one of the reasons I started interviewing people, as a way of giving something back to the community.
And more than that, it’s well worth joining the community, it’s brilliant, and you meet some awesome people. So for the first timers here this year, we’re a friendly bunch, so no need to be afraid at all.
So what do I have planned for the next year?
Well I’ve got a few awesome interviews lined up, so watch out for that, I missed this month’s deadline as I was slow getting the questions out, so that’s my fault. But got some great people lined up. And if you would like to be interviewed, then please give me a shout. I don’t want to e-mail just the famous folks, I think it would be awesome to have regular members of ACCU interviewed as well. So please come and grab me after, and we’ll swap e-mail addresses.
I also plan to actually do a technical talk at the ACCU Oxford group as well, for 90 minutes!! So avoid that one if you can.