You Are Bad at Things

Posted by Jonny Arnold on 18th February 2014

Have a think about the things that you aren't good at. Are you forgetful? Are you often late?

If you haven't thought of anything yet, then you're lying. Go and find a close friend and ask them after a few drinks.

Cue a reference to Alistair Cockburn's clinically-titled paper "Characterizing people as non-linear, first-order components in software development". After an empirical analysis, Cockburn distils 20 years of case studies into several characteristics of people. Make a note of the characteristics you see in yourself.

There's a lot more than this in the paper, so I encourage you to read it.

Now, working through that list you may think to yourself, "You're right - I do that, but I'm trying to stop." However, as just stated above, getting people to change their habits is hard. Think about people giving up smoking, OCD or the reasons why you buy the same brand of baked beans every week.

Instead, you need to find ways of compensating for how bad you are at some things. Luckily, developers spend their days in front of a computer. A computer is consistently consistent. A computer is a key research tool. And getting a computer to change its habits is surprisingly easy.

There are tools for every language to check you are keeping to style guidelines. My favourite for working in Visual Studio is CodeMaid. Unlike StyleCop which whines at you when your code doesn't fit its style guidelines, CodeMaid can fix your code for you as soon as you save the file. Nifty.

Don't try and change your habits, and don't try to be consistently consistent: get some tools and get your computer to be consistent for you.

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