[thelist] OT - do programmers/designers know *everything*?

Oren Levin lists at pinetree.net
Tue Jul 23 16:22:00 CDT 2002

To add my two cents...

1. Yes, I make my living coding as a Web developer for audible.com. I
started in grad school freelancing  as a computer instructor helping people
get online and surf. I've worked on an Illinois State Board of Education
grant at Northwestern Univ. teaching K12 teachers and students how to do
research online, as a grunt building parts of GE's Web sites, and as the
Webmaster for Ricoh copiers. All told, I've been a Web professional for 6
years or so.

2. Do I know in my head what I need? For the things I do day in an day out
(Perl coding mostly), yes. Even so, I have a fairly large library at work as
a source of reference and as a trigger to think about new/better ways to
code. Right now my Library at work (not counting more at home) consists of:
Perl for Dummies
Programming Perl
Network Programming in Perl
Advanced Perl Programming
Inside Internet Security
Effective Perl Programming
Web Client Programming with Perl
Data Munging with Perl
UNIX for Dummies
XML for Dummies
Java Programming for Dummies
UNIX in Plain English
XML in Plain English
Active Server Pages 2.0
ASP Techniques for Webmasters
Practical Algorithms for Programmers
Algorithms in C++
Applied Cryptography
JavaScript the Definitive Guide
Dynamic HTML the Definitive Guide
Learning XML
Mastering Regular Expressions
Mastering Algorithms with Perl
Oracle SQL the Essential Reference
Learning Oracle PL/SQL
Oracle PL/SQL Programming

Do I use all of these every day? No. Depending on what I'm working on I may
not open any of them or I may have 3 or 4 open at once.

Bottom line:
 - figure out what your core skill-set is and be good at it. Push yourself
to be better at your core skill-set every day so that you look up less and
less. Spend the time you save adding new skills to your core.

- You say you're comfortable with  Perl - learn how to use the standard Perl
modules (CGI.pm can be your friend when you have to build a script on demand
in an interview).

- Learn how to build your own module and put the functions you use in
all/most/many of your scripts there so that you don't have to recode them
each time.

- Learn how to read someone else coding style. Everyone has their own style
of writing code - it can be as good as a fingerprint when you're trying to
tell which one of 6 coders wrote what you're looking at.

- Take an existing script (your own from a while ago or someone else's) and
rebuild it from scratch. Make sure your know what it's doing and how. See
where you can improve it.

Hope that helps,

Oren Levin, Web Developer
olevin at audible.com, 973.837.2811
Give the gift of audio - http://www.audible.com/giftcenter

-----Original Message-----
1. Are most of the folks on this list (for example) actually making a decent
living programming, coding, design etc? Whether it be free-lance, or working
for other companies etc?

2. For the folks that ARE doing well enough to not have to work a 'real' job
(you know...as in retail, services...etc etc,...anything NOT to do with
their web passions)...do you folks actually know in your head most of the
skills you need to perform? For example, PERL/CGI programmers...can you
actually, basically write working code that without having to rely on your
notes, code snippets, manuals, etc? Or is that just silly? Do almost ALL
hardcore designers/programmers use some sort of 'help' when working on

Does that question even make sense? Personally, I get a little nervous that
maybe I don't really have the "stuff" to make it in this business, as I
really can't even do a basic JavaScript roll-over script without referring
to either my books, or at least previous work. And while I DO seem to be
getting a handle on mysql-PERL stuff, I couldn't put a working web-based
database together from the top of my head, if my life depended on it. Ya

Sorry for taking up so much space for a probable WAY off-topic question, but
this thing has been nagging at me for a while. Usually everytime I look at
the job market and see all the skills required. If they pulled me in for an
interview, and told me to make a working CGI form, I'm pretty sure I'd just
totally embarass myself.

Anyways, thanks for time, and again, sorry for taking up so much of it.


-Roger Harness

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