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November 2, 2006 / Bob Black

Code with Finesse

I totally agree with Jeff Atwood. Some of the code I wrote as little as a couple of years ago looks horrific today. My goal is to continually keep improving. Practice makes perfect, and all that.

Which is why I think it helps to have at least one side project that you do after work. If you’re coding away at something you’re extremely passionate about it rubs off onto your other coding projects (like, say, your day job), in addition to giving you lots of extra practice coding and allowing to you to play with new design patterns, technologies, and so forth. It works for me anyway. It’s fun too.

Coding is an art. Or it should be. No coder likes to open up someone else’s source to see a tangled mess of improperly indented code, sparse or redundant comments, horrible variable names, and so forth. As a matter of pride, a virtuoso coder will take extra care to indent everything nicely, with comments throughout, and will often sign his/her name to the work along with a timestamp and brief explanatory message. OK OK… so this sort of commenting is required in a lot of dev shops, but sometimes it’s not… but the virtuoso will sign his work anyway just so he can get credit for not only the code, but the presentation thereof.

But back to the extracurricular activity example: while working on Code Toaster I’ve been able to play with no less than:

  • Complex data structures (specifically trees, for storing Intellisense)
  • Threading
  • IDE development (trust me – not many people have ever built an IDE from scratch)
  • The WiX toolkit
  • Windows Help integration
  • And probably lots of other stuff I can’t recall at the moment

I’m having loads of fun, hopefully building something that will make a lot of people productive, and learning a lot in the process. And, I would never get the opportunity to do any of this at your typical commodity developer shop plopping DataGrids into web forms all day long. Not that my specific day job is that boring… I’m just saying: a side project is a great way to put a little spice back into software development. 🙂

And for those of you wondering when Code Toaster is ever going to be ready: give me a few more days to finish up the Installer. I’m still learning WiX (and lovin’ it), which will probably be the subject of a few more blog posts.



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