The Internet, IP

Male, 37

I've worked at multiple Internet startups of different shapes, sizes and ambitions. Now I'm the CTO (Chief Technical Officer) of another small company with big dreams. I look nothing like the picture above.

If you copy and paste your homework question in here, I will answer with something that will, at best, get you an F on your project, and at worst, will get you kicked out of school. You have been warned.

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76 Questions


Last Answer on September 07, 2015

Best Rated

What programming language should I learn first? Is one language acknowledged as better than others for building websites? Are some that used to be popular dying?

Asked by bacon over 11 years ago

Right now most of the people I know who build websites use either the Rails framework written in Ruby (which is what my company uses), or the Django framework written in Python. Django vs. Rails is what we call a "holy war," meaning that it's based on tiny differences in doctrine that to an outsider seem trivial. PHP is still very popular too but has a bad reputation amongst some coders: it's thought of as the tool of choice for hacks (as opposed to hackers), and is said to be virtually unmaintainable. Bigger shops tend to use various Java frameworks, about which I know little and care less. I started learning Java some years ago and quickly decided that it wasn't any fun at all. To anyone who works with Java reading this: learn Rails, you have nothing to lose but your chains. As for languages dying out, sure, they do all the time. Thousands of programming languages have been invented over the years, and at any given time maybe 30 are reasonably popular. In my own career, for instance, Perl used to be the center of the universe, but I haven't written a single line in it for maybe 10 years. There's something wistful and sad about happening across docs for a dead language.

What do your clients or coworkers do that that drives you the most nuts and makes your working life more difficult?

Asked by Tadzilla over 11 years ago

A multi-way tie between: * interrupting me when I'm thinking (see many comments on the subject above); * bullshitting (programmers don't tend to, since you can't bullshit a computer); * calling meetings that don't need to be held for the sake of having a meeting.

Why do programmers wear headphones? How do you concentrate on such complicated stuff while listening to blaring music?

Asked by Roxsolid29 over 11 years ago

It's a hell of a lot harder without the headphones, because then we can hear people talking.

How do programmers deal with wrist problems? I am itnerested in learning but my wrists having been having tingling and soreness problems for years, despite being very healthy.

Asked by JackKelly almost 11 years ago

Hate to do this, but I'm going to have to cop out and suggest you ask a professional about this. Luckily for me, even though I've been programming for decades, I'm apparently not prone to RSIs.

(RSI = "repetitive stress injury", meaning carpal tunnel syndrome and whatnot).

Re: programmers hating synchronous communication, I completely agree, and I'm not talking about impromptu, unscheduled calls. Those suck. In fact, in this day and age, seems like MOST people hate synchronous communication. But what about when there's something that simply NEEDS to be discussed verbally, and you can't even get a dev to take a *scheduled* call? Believe me, as the client, we don't want to be one the phone any more than the dev, but it seems rude/arrogant/diva-ish to just force all communication to be asynchronous b/c that's what the dev prefers. (sorry to be testy, it's a recurrent problem)

Asked by Benjiboo over 11 years ago

Well, yes, that's a different story. Sounds like the problem is your particular developer.

But couldn't ANYONE can claim "My appearance is irrelevant, it's all about the work I produce"? So what makes programmers special in that regard?

Asked by KGB over 11 years ago

I think what we have here are two related questions: why programmers can do this, and why they do. We can because we have a lot of leverage in the workplace (due simply to supply and demand) and this is one of the few ways we use it. Also, we don't deal with the public, or even other people in general, very much. We do because, without a reason to dress up, we might as well be comfortable. I also wouldn't underestimate the lingering effects of the early connections between programming and 1960s counterculture (a book about called _What The Dormouse Said_ is said to be good). Take a look at this old staff photo of Microsoft from 1978, and notice how in bad light you could easily mistake them for the Manson Family:

To what extent do the head honchos of your company involve you, their CTO, in the big strategic decisions? Are you there to offer guidance, or are you expected to just follow their strategic direction?

Asked by Yohimbe Bro over 11 years ago

I'm the voice of reason, or, to put it another way, the wet blanket. I'm Scotty down in the engine room yelling "Ye canna change the laws of physics!" at the head-in-the-clouds bridge officers (*). I mostly don't set the agenda but I do veto parts of it that are impossible or ill-advised. (*) That's my Star Trek reference for the year taken care of.