Quiet Programmers

24 Aug 2007

An interesting article about the environment Programmers need to put the design into their heads...

"Ran across a couple of essays that might sound sort of esoteric but are both approachable and useful for us layfolk.

The first is a piece by Paul Graham called “Holding a Program in One’s Head,” and it resonated with me because the optimal conditions for the creative process of writing code sound very similar to those for writing prose. “A good programmer working intensively on his own code can hold it in his mind the way a mathematician holds a problem he’s working on,” Graham begins. “Mathematicians don’t answer questions by working them out on paper the way schoolchildren are taught to. They do more in their heads: they try to understand a problem space well enough that they can walk around it the way you can walk around the memory of the house you grew up in. At its best programming is the same. You hold the whole program in your head, and you can manipulate it at will. … Ordinary programmers working in typical office conditions never enter this mode. Or to put it more dramatically, ordinary programmers working in typical office conditions never really understand the problems they’re solving.” Graham offers eight suggestions to help get into that zone, conditions that not coincidentally are the hallmarks of innovative, off-the-books, labor-of-love projects."