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REVIEW: "The Productive Programmer", Neal Ford

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  • Rob, grandpa of Ryan, Trevor, Devon & Han
    BKPRDPRG.RVW 20091004 The Productive Programmer , Neal Ford, 2008, 978-0-596-51978-0, U$39.99/C$39.99 %A Neal Ford nford@thoughtworks.com %C 103 Morris
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 23, 2009
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      BKPRDPRG.RVW 20091004

      "The Productive Programmer", Neal Ford, 2008, 978-0-596-51978-0,
      %A Neal Ford nford@...
      %C 103 Morris Street, Suite A, Sebastopol, CA 95472
      %D 2008
      %G 978-0-596-51978-0 0-596-51978-8
      %I O'Reilly & Associates, Inc.
      %O U$39.99/C$39.99 800-998-9938 nuts@...
      %O http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0596519788/robsladesinterne
      %O http://www.amazon.ca/exec/obidos/ASIN/0596519788/robsladesin03-20
      %O Audience a- Tech 2 Writing 1 (see revfaq.htm for explanation)
      %P 206 p.
      %T "The Productive Programmer"

      The preface states that this book started out as a book of tips for
      the use of the command-line, but developed into a more general work
      identifying factors that make programmers productive. (This audience
      description is later modified to individual programmers, ratehr than
      teams.) Chapter one is an introduction to the book.

      Part one contains the mechanics of productivity, in terms of specific
      tips (divided by category). Chapter two deals with acceleration, but
      of the interaction with the computer, rather than the computer itself.
      This material is very useful, and feels somewhat like that contained
      in the O'Reilly "Annoyances" series of guides and particulars, save
      that Ford does not always fully explain how to set up or implement the
      functions he is recommending. The ability to focus on work, and avoid
      distraction and clutter, is addressed in chapter three (although much
      of the text is concerned with searching for files). Chapter four
      exhorts you to automate small, repetitive tasks. The actual tips,
      however, are unlikely to be of much assistance unless you want to do
      those specific functions, or already know the tools being displayed.
      The advice on limiting the number of copies of an item, in order to
      reduce spurious "versions," is good, but the author seems to go
      overboard, in chapter five, regarding complex ways to achieve this

      Part two provides general concepts and practices to promote
      productivity. Chapter six recommends "test-driven design," whereby
      the tests are created first, and the application written to meet those
      tests. While there is merit in this approach, security professionals
      know that the presence of desired functions does not preclude the
      existence of unwanted vulnerabilities. A few code static analysis
      tools are described in chapter seven. Proper object behaviour is
      encouraged in chapter eight. In chapter nine Ford recommends that
      programmers not build code or functions that they do not need.
      (However, as one of the illustrations shows, knowing what you need is
      not easy.) Chapter ten notes a few "ancient philosophies," mostly to
      do with maintaining simplicity. Having told us to learn from the
      past, though, the author turns around in chapter eleven and suggests
      that we dispense with received wisdom. Chapter twelve is about meta-
      programming: writing code to write code. In chapter thirteen, Ford
      seems to implement modular programming in an object-oriented
      environment, as he recommends programming everything at a single layer
      of abstraction. Somewhat in contradiction to the concept of
      simplicity emphasized elsewhere, chapter fourteen stresses using a
      variety of programming languages, each where it is most useful.
      Chapter fifteen describes some of Ford's favourite editors and other
      tools. An odd one-page "this is what I told you" closing makes up
      chapter sixteen.

      Parts of this book are excellent and helpful, other parts are less so,
      presenting contradictory positions without guiding the reader to find
      a proper balance. In addition, Ford writes pretty much exclusively
      from his own experience and perspective: some of the advice is
      general, but a great deal will be helpful only to those who are doing
      the same type of programming in the same scale of operation with the
      same application intent.

      copyright Robert M. Slade, 2009 BKPRDPRG.RVW 20091004

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