Write Better Software : Embrace your Humanity

This is a bit of a stream-of-conciousness post about thought processes-vs-time.

As a software developer, I invariably encounter new challenging problems, algebraic, database, mathematical. I spend time working through these problems, and the larger more complex ones take significant time, hours, many-hours, days. The day problems are the frame of reference that is interesting here.

How do we solve our problems? How much subconcious thought is involved in brainstorming solutions, testing them against the constraints and requirements of the problem-set, and ultimately encountering a solution that fits?

I believe every human, in and out of technology work, encounters a situation to “sleep on it”. In the developer community, I have discussed with many many colleagues about problems and how a colleague solved it while eating breakfast, in the shower, in their dreams, etc. I have solved computing problems in every one of these ways, and I’m sure many more. I recall solving a problem while watching the sunrise once… and computing was not on my mind in the moment.

The fact is that every living moment of our life colours the work that we do in technology. These complex computing environments that we are implementing in technology today easily defy our abilities to immediately grasp the full-breadth of the design, the implications of design decisions, and the constraints, requirements, and responsibilities of components of the design at various levels of abstraction. Every time we are introduced to a new application design, it takes time to fully absorb that information and be able to make new hypotheses, suppositions, corrections, enhancements, and improvements upon that design. Our brain, though, is not as compartmentalized as we belive (or sometimes wish!). All those moments “off-hours”, spending time with family or friends, eating a meal, watching TV, reading a book, sleeping, dreaming… change the connections in our vast computational grey-matter. Those changes then directly affect the way we consider and imagine the technological problem-set that is also at hand over the time of days.

Our humanity colours everything we do and think about as computer scientists. It is extremely important that we embrace this aspect of our humanity, and embrace our colleauges humanity as well. Take time and give our wet-ware the computational time it takes to gain our insights and understandings of our common problem-sets.

“Sleeping on it” could be the best thing for your career you could do.

It has done wonders for my career!