Saturday, April 25, 2015

aging memory for a developer ... is an attitude

I noticed my colleagues (typically a few years younger) are faster at code reading. I seem to remember less and forget more than them. Also I'm possibly slower at solving problems in my projects...

Many more small tidbits of anecdotal evidence all seem to point to the same explanation -- an aging developer.

My dad had really good memory until age ... 70? His work requires him to read lots of research papers and books, and remember lots of details. After he turned 70 (or 75?) he told me a few times that his memory had become less sharp.

There are many types of memory capabilities like forgetfulness, reading and learning, short term vs long term memory .. The important memory task for a developer includes things like
* solution we tried a while ago ---- for a recurring problem at work. An effective or ineffective solution
* handy tricks and how-to's ---- in a language, on an IDE, on the command line, in an OS etc. A bit similar to spelling for Chinese – I used to write and remember them well.
* important details in my own code ---- I often forget them, including code I debugged or struggled with
* where to find some useful info ---- If you found it once only a while back, you may not remember it and may not bother to write down the steps.
* who said what during a meeting between departments ---- The numerous "less important" details are often skipped in the meeting minutes, if any.
* explanation given by some colleague verbally ---- I often forget, so I often ask again -- annoying:( Most of the verbal explanations I get are not 100% fully understood, not as clearly explained in an email.
* verbal answers I give to other people -- I often forget what I said -- embarrassing:(
* jargon terms used at work ---- including the large number of standard procedures associated with the jargon
* all the details needed for a tech interview.
* past IV questions and answers

(I'm also becoming more forgetful at home -- a different story.)

I won't try and give a well-defined list of these memory tasks. What I really want to say is, active learning delays aging. Challenging ourselves to learn new things, beyond our comfort zone (familiar territories like Java and SQL) stretches our "memory muscle" and keep it in better condition. Memory is like a muscle - the more we use it the stronger it gets.

We first need to believe in our memory capacity, while recognizing all the negative evidence.

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New York (Time Square), NY, United States
http://www.linkedin.com/in/tanbin