Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Fwd: pure language complexity ^ tool complexity


You asked me why my manager likes to beat me up. I thought about it. Here's one reason.

My manager complains I'm slow with my development projects. In this job (as in many other jobs), people don't say my code quality or design is bad. I think most of the code they write isn't great either. We are just hoping to churn out working code on time. I do hope to but won't try too hard to make my code beautiful, low-maintenance, testable, easy to change, easy to understand. Implicitly, that's the unspoken agreement with the boss. One quality where I exceed minimum requirement is error-condition handling -- i want my code to behave reasonably under any conceivable condition. I don't want "undefined behavior". I don't want surprises. Anyway, my boss only complains about how slow I complete projects, not about quality. Invariably it boils down to troubleshooting skill like googling, asking around, understanding logs, and diagnostic tools. Sometimes not easy for anyone. Most of these technical problems involve more than code complexity in my c# codebase, and now I realize that's the key.

Now I believe my c# language skill is perhaps better than the average c# developer. For eg, I'm confident taking on technical challenges involving threading, linq, complex data structures, complex delegates+events. (The toughest coding interviews on the west coast sometimes cover nothing but a little tight/dense algorithm. These can be extremely IQ-intensive, more than I can handle but I feel comfortable that I can beat most c# developers at this game.) In a nutshell, if the problem is purely about c# language, I am confident. Most real world technical problem-solving goes beyond that. There are too many of these problems to enumerate. Below are just a few examples.

When the same code works in one environment not in another environment, I feel 30% of the time it's due to some permission or security issue. Error message is usually misleading. Even worse when nothing happens, without any error msg. Can take ages to uncover the root cause.

GUI troubleshooting always involves some tool and some infrastructure that's not written by me...

GUI system is invariably a client to some server-side. There's always some networking involved.

Async communication might be considered a pure language complexity but in reality troubleshooting often involves some vendor-supplied infrastructure code which sets up the communication and threading.

WCF and remoting always involves tools to generate proxy, network layer, serialization...

My biggest source of troubleshooting headache is VisualStudio... I had many problems with debugger, with build, with project references...

In order to reproduce a problem, I often need to check out and build many projects, configure many modules, hunt down all the required libraries, set up all the dependencies, install a bunch of infrastructure software... The set-up can take days for the uninitialized, and is error-prone and not fully documented. This happens everywhere so I'm not complaining, but this often leads to a lot of delay and complaint from boss.

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New York (Time Square), NY, United States