Knife programming

June 25th, 2003 Comments Off on Knife programming

Ned Batchelder commented today in his blog about his need to develop some quick code on top of a technology he doesn’t yet understand under a tight schedule. Humorously he calls this developing in the “machete mode”, comparing a programmer to a man dropped in the midst of a jungle and left to fend for himself with only his wits and a knife.

I guess every programmer can relate to that situation. (In truth, sometimes I think that is a programmer’s modus operandi.) Not much coincidentally I endured a similar experience at work in the past few days. In the project I’m currently working on I had to learn a lot about Active Directory to create an interface between it and the application I’m developing. I never had worked with that technology before, and, although it’s not very complex, there are some things you can only learn when you do it — like, for instance, translating names between two different Active Directory namespaces. Needless to say, I got some new scars. However, I was able to complete the interface, and now I can only hope it will work correctly on the customer’s machines.

Something I think it’s essential in those moments — as John Topley mentioned a few weeks ago — is to be able to tap into the collective wisdom contained in the Google Groups databases. It’s nearly impossible to find some problem that has not been already dealt with there in some way — even if it’s a simple confirmation that a certain course of action is not feasible.

All in all, it’s like Batchelder also said: programming in the “machete mode” can be funny and rewarding in its particular way even if the resulting code is not something you are proud of; there is always new things to learn and use in the next time.

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