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Thread: Reading Proficiency and Programming

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    Post Reading Proficiency and Programming

    What Jobs Require: Literacy, Education, and Training, 1940–2006 (PDF)

    The data used to examine educational requirements of occupations was obtained from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The BLS has long had the Occupational Outlook Handbook, and makes available, in table format, the statistics it collects (or projects) for each of 510 occupations.

    The BLS identifies, for each occupation, “the education and training needed by most workers to become fully qualified.” It shows the employment in that occupation in 1996, and projects it to 2006.
    While the fastest-growing jobs, in terms of percentage increases, have higher literacy requirements than those decreasing, the numbers are relatively small. However, it is in these growing areas that new opportunities are being created for young labor market entrants.
    Page 7 describes:

    • Prose Literacy
    • Document Literacy
    • Quantitative Literacy

    And it gives the score ranges assigned as Level 1 through 5, though those levels aren't used in the occupation tables which give more fine-grained score average.


    "Section 3: Education, Training, and Occupations" starts at page 21.


    "Appendix A" goes into proficiency required by occupation for 1986, 1999, and projected to 2006. I haven't found a newer update to this paper but I doubt the figures have changed much since then.

    Sadly they don't list common occupations:

    • VBA Plinkers
    • Grunt Coders (Cobol, PHP & ASP.Net "fool stack" coders)
    • Copy/Paste Cowboys
    • Mud Slingers ("Agile" teams)

    But they do list (under "Computer, mathematical, and operations research occupations" page 45):

    • Computer engineers
    • Database admin, support specialists, and computer scientists
    • Systems analysts

    And (under "Technicians, except health and engineering and science" page 47):

    • Computer programmers


    The occupations relating to most computer programming jobs they list seem to fall into:

    "Level 4 - scores from 326 to 375"

    Going by Section 3 that means a bare minimum of a high school graduate (or GED) in the 90th percentile and above, or at least "some college" in the 75th percentile and above.


    I suspect this might help explain levels of success. Literacy goes two ways: ability to read and to write. Asking a forum question goes much better when one is better at expressing the problem.

    This becomes that much harder for those who aren't native speakers in the forum site's language. Folks in that boat are overcoming some amazing headwinds. I only wish I could read and write in a second language as well as many of them do.

    As the saying goes: "Reading is FUNdamental!"

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    .NUT jmcilhinney's Avatar
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    Re: Reading Proficiency and Programming

    Non-native speakers aside, I find it genuinely scary how bad some people are at explaining their problems. I think that a big part of that is that they don't really spend much time thinking about their problem or at least thinking about it in the right way, but it's also that people are just terrible at using words to describe things. I lost count long ago of the number of threads where someone said that their problem was hard to explain, provided some garbage explanation and then I guessed what it might be and described it clearly in a couple of sentences and they confirmed that that was it. Certainly, having programming experience can help to a degree in some cases but, in a the majority of cases, the description of the problem is from a user's perspective, not a developers, so development experience is irrelevant. They can't even bring themselves to say things like "I enter this text here and I click that button and then something specific happens". When you correct someone's grammar or vocabulary and they suggest that it doesn't matter how garbage what they said/wrote is as long as the intent gets through, this is evidence that that is simply not true. If you train yourself to be a bad communicator, there are times that your communication will be so bad that you're just not really communicating.

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    .NUT jmcilhinney's Avatar
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    Re: Reading Proficiency and Programming

    On the subject of non-native speakers, one thing that does bother me is that some seem to think that not being a native English speaker is a good reason to use fewer words, which the exact opposite of the case. If your words are garbled and there's fewer of them then you're doubly unlikely to get your intent across. If you try a few different ways to express the problem then there's a much better chance that one of them or bits of each will coalesce into a coherent explanation. I'm not saying that it's necessarily easy but you're not owed it being easy.

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    Re: Reading Proficiency and Programming

    I think we're getting more non-native speakers recently for a couple of reasons.

    One is probably that forum traffic is way down, so for many programmers they come here because there is still some activity.

    Another may be the recent shift in China, opening more Internet access and encouraging people to "learn to code."

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    Re: Reading Proficiency and Programming

    When I went school (don't ask - we still had coal fires!), we were taught to express ourselves. Not just in English lessons, but in most subjects. eg. In Chemistry we had to describe our experiments and draw labelled diagrams. In metal work, we had to describe in detail the processes we were going to undertake to produce the required result (such as a double ended coat hook). For programming, we had to produce a program design describing input, output, data structures, file layout, processing, function descriptions etc etc - before the code was written. Nowadays program design seems to be all but forgotten.

    So we were schooled in providing explanations. From what I know of current teaching, most of this seems to have gone. Which is a pity. Rigour that gave us a framework seems to have 'gone missing' - and IMO today's people are the poorer without it.
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    Re: Reading Proficiency and Programming

    Quote Originally Posted by jmcilhinney View Post
    I lost count long ago of the number of threads where someone said that their problem was hard to explain, provided some garbage explanation and then I guessed what it might be and described it clearly in a couple of sentences and they confirmed that that was it.
    AND, the thing that is almost worse-> "I've got an easy question for You."

    Two days later you ask them to never say that again.
    "I have been wanting to grow my own food but I can not find any bacon seeds."

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    Re: Reading Proficiency and Programming

    Quote Originally Posted by jmcilhinney View Post
    Non-native speakers aside, I find it genuinely scary how bad some people are at explaining their problems. I think that a big part of that is that they don't really spend much time thinking about their problem or at least thinking about it in the right way, but it's also that people are just terrible at using words to describe things. I lost count long ago of the number of threads where someone said that their problem was hard to explain, provided some garbage explanation and then I guessed what it might be and described it clearly in a couple of sentences and they confirmed that that was it. Certainly, having programming experience can help to a degree in some cases but, in a the majority of cases, the description of the problem is from a user's perspective, not a developers, so development experience is irrelevant. They can't even bring themselves to say things like "I enter this text here and I click that button and then something specific happens". When you correct someone's grammar or vocabulary and they suggest that it doesn't matter how garbage what they said/wrote is as long as the intent gets through, this is evidence that that is simply not true. If you train yourself to be a bad communicator, there are times that your communication will be so bad that you're just not really communicating.
    I think you have hit on a fundamental issue with how a lot of programming courses are taught and how a lot of "programmers" see programming - they are all focused on the mechanics of writing code.

    Understanding the problem is the main part of the job though, being able to think through a problem and express it in a clear and simple fashion should be the first step in any attempt to write code; after all if you don't understand the problem how on earth can you solve it. Expressing things clearly in a more tradition language is a good first step to expressing yourself in a programming language.

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    Re: Reading Proficiency and Programming

    @PlausiblyDamp I totally agree. When I did programming at University, half of the total marks for coursework were for the design - which had to include a written description of the program - before the program was coded. The design was marked before you started coding. Also up to 10% of the total marks were for evidence of testing including bad/incorrect/edge cases of data.
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    Re: Reading Proficiency and Programming

    Quote Originally Posted by PlausiblyDamp View Post
    I think you have hit on a fundamental issue with how a lot of programming courses are taught and how a lot of "programmers" see programming - they are all focused on the mechanics of writing code.
    I lost count years ago of the number of times I've told people that they can't write code if they don't know what that code has to do. So many people clearly have no idea what their code is supposed to do other than the result it is supposed to produce.

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    Re: Reading Proficiency and Programming

    All I really have to add at the moment is that I see bad communication and a poor grasp of English on other websites too. Also, foreigners come to work in the Netherlands, some of whom can barely say “good morning” in Dutch.

    Fortunately the opposite also happens.
    Last edited by Peter Swinkels; Jul 4th, 2021 at 02:41 PM. Reason: I myself can improve my English even more.

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    Re: Reading Proficiency and Programming

    Quote Originally Posted by PlausiblyDamp View Post
    I think you have hit on a fundamental issue with how a lot of programming courses are taught and how a lot of "programmers" see programming - they are all focused on the mechanics of writing code.

    Understanding the problem is the main part of the job though, being able to think through a problem and express it in a clear and simple fashion should be the first step in any attempt to write code; after all if you don't understand the problem how on earth can you solve it. Expressing things clearly in a more tradition language is a good first step to expressing yourself in a programming language.
    This is why some places are getting away from asking interview questions that are memorization type of stuff... like "which is an example of an iterator..." etc... and asking questions more designed to test critical thinking skills. A favorite we used to ask a couple life times ago was "If you had to count all the gas stations in the world, how would you go about doing it?" It's funny because I see some of these then posted on Reddit with "I didn't know how to answer it and wanted to know what you all think." ... and usually the replies are "it's a crap quesiton" or "it's a bad quesiton, don't work there." Only a few will recognize it for what it is and explain that there isn't a right or wrong answer, but it's a test of your logic and reasoning sills.

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    Re: Reading Proficiency and Programming

    I think the most irritating questions asked on interviews is:
    If you find you colleague doing something illegal or stealing information, how would you react.
    This is by default an HR question.
    Back in the days I responded with the usual "copy paste" , I would report it to the appropriate department blah blah blah.
    But now the answer is, IF your trained stuff are stupid enough to let people steal information then you are doing something wrong.
    Of course there is an exception if the person is an administrator but then again, you and your stupidity are responsible for hiring him.
    .

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    Re: Reading Proficiency and Programming

    Sapator, I think you misunderstood the topic. As far as I understand this whole thread it's about communication and the quality thereof. Not about hiring staff or how to deal with theft.

    And I see I missed a post by Techgnome. I still maintain you went a little off topic though.

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    Re: Reading Proficiency and Programming

    If you read the linked article, "literacy" isn't just reading and writing. That ("prose literacy") was only one aspect of literacy it addresses. They use the word more broadly than its simplest dictionary definition.
    Last edited by dilettante; Jul 6th, 2021 at 10:53 AM.

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    Re: Reading Proficiency and Programming

    Quote Originally Posted by Peter Swinkels View Post
    Sapator, I think you misunderstood the topic.
    Now THAT would be irony.
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    Re: Reading Proficiency and Programming

    Quote Originally Posted by Shaggy Hiker View Post
    Now THAT would be irony.
    Okay, it seems I fixated on a side note about non-native english speakers and completely forgot the real topic is coding skills and understanding code. Okay, I admit defeat, I too went off topic.

    Here’s a hopefully more on topic statement:
    Reading other peoples’ code I think the way they document their code, if at all, is telling of how much they really understand about what they’re doing.

    EDIT:
    @dilettante, you are correct, I should have read the linked article and not just focus on side notes by other people.
    Last edited by Peter Swinkels; Jul 6th, 2021 at 12:47 PM. Reason: I must learn to better read topics and reread my posts before submitting them.

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    Re: Reading Proficiency and Programming

    Quote Originally Posted by Peter Swinkels View Post
    Reading other peoples’ code I think the way they document their code, if at all, is telling of how much they really understand about what they’re doing.
    I'll second that. When all the identifiers are obscure and there's no comments, it really makes me lament that there's no feature where you can send a small electric shock to someone's keyboard.

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    Re: Reading Proficiency and Programming

    Quote Originally Posted by PlausiblyDamp View Post
    I think you have hit on a fundamental issue with how a lot of programming courses are taught and how a lot of "programmers" see programming - they are all focused on the mechanics of writing code.

    Understanding the problem is the main part of the job though, being able to think through a problem and express it in a clear and simple fashion should be the first step in any attempt to write code; after all if you don't understand the problem how on earth can you solve it. Expressing things clearly in a more tradition language is a good first step to expressing yourself in a programming language.
    I really agree with that also...I'm guilty of, more than once, trying to code for business solutions I really didn't understand. It never worked out very well. Now I'm known for asking questions until I can state in my own words what is required.
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    Re: Reading Proficiency and Programming

    Quote Originally Posted by jmcilhinney View Post
    I'll second that. When all the identifiers are obscure and there's no comments, it really makes me lament that there's no feature where you can send a small electric shock to someone's keyboard.
    At the risk of dragging this thread off topic again... It seems one of the most fundamental aspects of this topic is attacking a problem without being to properly describe it in any shape or form which results in poorly implement solutions. Why did I quote this particular message just to put this observation into words? Yes, it's a joke, but even to consider causing minor harm out of frustration appears to be the result of not really understanding what causes someone to not understand how to code/comment properly.

    In short, do those who know how to code and describe problems also really understand how to properly deal with those who don't understand?

    Or did I just write a load off-topic nonsense? Again?
    Last edited by Peter Swinkels; Jul 8th, 2021 at 04:32 AM. Reason: Perhaps minor electric shocks would motivate me to spellcheck my posts. ;-)

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    Re: Reading Proficiency and Programming

    Peter, het is inderdaad compleet off-topic, maar los daarvan wordt het tijd dat de engelstalige forum leden zich eens gaan verdiepen in andere talen en culturen. Ze vergeten hoe lastig het is voor startende ontwikkelaars om je probleem ook nog eens in het engels te beschijven.
    Of is dit nog meer off-topic?

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    Re: Reading Proficiency and Programming

    Dat is ook compleet off-topic, maar een terechte opmerking, des al niet te min. Ik las net een andere thread over hoe vreselijk het is dat alles tegenwoordig kwetsbaar aan het internet gekoppeld zit. Hah, hebben ze er eigenlijk wel eigenlijk enig echt benul van in welke eeuw wij leven?

    Begrijp je deze forum post niet? Dan zou ik maar eens gaan zoeken naar de oplossingen die je zo op dat internet kan vinden.
    Last edited by Peter Swinkels; Jul 8th, 2021 at 11:37 AM. Reason: Ik moet ook bij mijn eigen taal beter opletten met wat ik schrijf..

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    Re: Reading Proficiency and Programming

    I'm going to be a maverick and advocate for not commenting code. This isn't about just not bothering, it's about writing code that doesn't need comments and that takes more work than writing a comment does.
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    Re: Reading Proficiency and Programming

    That reminds of this quote
    If I had more time, I would have written a shorter letter.
    https://intenseminimalism.com/2010/i...horter-letter/

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    Re: Reading Proficiency and Programming

    Quote Originally Posted by FunkyDexter View Post
    I'm going to be a maverick and advocate for not commenting code. This isn't about just not bothering, it's about writing code that doesn't need comments and that takes more work than writing a comment does.
    I'm all for that. That's why I mentioned the obscure identifiers first. Sensible names for everything removes the need for comments to a significant degree. Apart from that, I generally say that comments should indicate why you are doing something when what you are doing doesn't make that obvious. If you need to comment about what you're doing then, in the majority of cases, you're writing bad code.

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    Re: Reading Proficiency and Programming

    One problem with comments is how easily they can become obsolete and incorrect when people maintain even their own code.

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    Re: Reading Proficiency and Programming

    comments should indicate why you are doing something when what you are doing doesn't make that obvious
    I even go one stage further than that and embed the explanation in a procedure name. I wouldn't be above writing a class to implement IApplyTax called "ApplyTaxAt20PercentDueToTheGovernmentSmallBusinessSetUpScheme". There's almost nothing you can't embed in a method/class/variable name.

    To be honest, about the only time I write comments is 1. for auto-documenting software if it's being used and 2. If I'm basically writing a mini-essay to describe what I'm doing and it becomes completely impractical to state it as an identifier.

    One problem with comments is how easily they can become obsolete and incorrect when people maintain even their own code.
    There's other issues but, yeah, that was the biggest driver for me to get into comment free code.
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    Re: Reading Proficiency and Programming

    @funkydexter:
    Most of the time I feel code should be properly commented, there are exceptions such as with quick throw-away code.

    @Arnoutdv:
    Interesting, but I don't feel like reading that right now.

    @jmcilhinney:
    I tried telling that to someone who insisted I should document my own code for personal use after briefly showing it to him once. If he had had a rule-book he would have probably tried to force me to read it.

    @dilettante:
    I know. My own code tends to get so long-winded it's more about formatting than function at times.

    @FunkyDexter:
    I suppose the trick is knowing what's appropriate when and where. Just remember, when sharing code it's a nice gesture to at least try to make it readable.

    That's it for my quick read and commenting streak today.
    Last edited by Peter Swinkels; Jul 8th, 2021 at 11:36 AM.

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    Re: Reading Proficiency and Programming

    Quote Originally Posted by TysonLPrice View Post
    I really agree with that also...I'm guilty of, more than once, trying to code for business solutions I really didn't understand. It never worked out very well. Now I'm known for asking questions until I can state in my own words what is required.
    Some 20 years ago, i had a chat with a guy in a bar.
    Turned out he was the "commercial competence" of a software-company (in the late 90's in Germany it was a big company selling ready-made solutions for smaller shops/companies to manage accounting, invoices, orders blablablabla)
    What i remember him saying was: "What use is the best programmer in the world, if he doesn't understand the difference between an assets-account and a liability-account"

    That said, and in regards to the "commenting code"-thing:
    I'm one of those never/rarely commenting their own code
    OTOH, you'll never see a "Public Sub Button1_Click()" in my code.......

    I agree with the general sentiment of the thread, that the degree of literacy (reading and writing, but IMO especially writing) has gone downhill.
    Personally, i blame it on all those "auto-correction"-Bugs (some call it a Feature) in all those Text-Processors. It's one of the first things i switch off after a vanilla-install of an Office-Product
    Either i have command of a language, or i don't. Simple as that. If i don't know how a word is written, i don't use auto-correction, i use a dictionary and look it up.
    In a dictionary it is shown how it is written, what's its meaning and how to use it in which context

    Now translate my statement above to a "programming"-language......
    .... how many of those script-kiddies would welcome an "auto-correction"-feature for the programming language of the day......
    (Yeah, some might argue it's called "Intellisense"....)

    Thank the Lord there is still no feature out there calculating/creating/correcting the business-logic as/in code for the programmer....
    Yeah, the programmer is forced to think ("But i thought that..." - "Does it hurt much?") about the logic before putting pen to paper....errrr......fingers to keyboard.....
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    Re: Reading Proficiency and Programming

    From the paper linked to above:

    Prose literacy - the knowledge and skills needed to understand and use information from texts that include editorials, news stories, poems, and fiction; for example, finding a piece of information in a newspaper article, interpreting instructions for a warranty, inferring a theme from a poem, or contrasting views expressed in an editorial.

    Document literacy - the knowledge and skills required to locate and use information contained in everyday materials such as job applications, payroll forms, transportation schedules, maps, tables, and graphs; for example, locating a particular intersection on a street map, using a schedule to choose the appropriate bus, or entering information on an application form.

    Quantitative literacy - the knowledge and skills required to apply arithmetic operations, either alone or sequentially, using numbers embedded in printed materials; for example, balancing a checkbook, figuring out a tip, completing an order form, or determining an amount of interest from a loan advertisement.

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    Re: Reading Proficiency and Programming

    I too tried to write business software and “helpful” utilities for others. It never really went anywhere. I think intellisense and auto-correction have their place. If used responsibly, they can help lighten the workload so the user has time for other things than having to do every little thing manually.

    AI is advancing rapidly, I won’t be surprised if someone is going to try to auto-generate business software. Whether that’s a good thing, I can’t say.

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    Re: Reading Proficiency and Programming

    Quote Originally Posted by dilettante View Post
    From the paper linked to above:
    Thx dilettante for condensing it down.
    I admit i haven't read the links/articles, but it actually reflects my own experiences regarding "literacy" i see in other people
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    Re: Reading Proficiency and Programming

    One thing that paper doesn't appear to mention is the skill to obtain useful information from video's and images. Too modern?

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    Re: Reading Proficiency and Programming

    Quote Originally Posted by Peter Swinkels View Post
    One thing that paper doesn't appear to mention is the skill to obtain useful information from video's and images. Too modern?
    Not having read it, but seeing the title, i'd guess that paper is from the late 90's (1999?) since it "projects" to 2006.

    To the question: The problem is the amount of crappy "tutorials" out there, so the really rare gems drown in it, and the user just misses them.
    Nevermind the quality of such a video/image depends on the creator, and let's be honest: 99% of those people are amateurs, who might have a really good grasp of the topic they are on about, but have no clue how to "teach" it.
    And i'm saying this from own experience, since i am an instructor at the company i work for (wholesaler for fasteners, i teach processes, how to do your daily job using our ERP etc.), as well as an instructor in my field of passion: Skydiving

    I've had my fair share of instructors, good and bad.
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  34. #34

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    Re: Reading Proficiency and Programming

    So, like that saying they have in Missouri? "Heeyuk! Ya gots ta shows me."

    Last edited by dilettante; Jul 13th, 2021 at 06:58 AM.

  35. #35
    PowerPoster Zvoni's Avatar
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    Re: Reading Proficiency and Programming

    Quote Originally Posted by dilettante View Post
    So, like that saying they have in Missouri? "Heeyuk! Ya gots ta shows me."
    Never been to Missouri. I'll take your word for it

    The thing is: As an instructor i find myself sometimes in situations, where i have to explain something, a process, a concept, some logic (believe it or not!), and i struggle to explain/teach it in a way, so the other(s) actually have a chance (!!) to understand it, since for me it's completely obvious.

    The best compliment to an instructor is the success of his student.

    If a student fails to learn something, most times it's the fault of the instructor.

    For the "others", i don't take responsibility for a student, who is not interested in what i have to teach (Luckily, the minority)
    In that case i tell him/her:
    Me: "Right. No Problem. But don't come running to me, when you get introduced to the most efficient Instructor in the World"
    Student: "Yeah? Who's that?"
    Me: "His Name is Professor PAIN......"
    One System to rule them all, One IDE to find them,
    One Code to bring them all, and to the Framework bind them,
    in the Land of Redmond, where the Windows lie
    ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    People call me crazy because i'm jumping out of perfectly fine airplanes.
    ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    For health reasons i try to avoid reading unformatted Code

  36. #36
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    Re: Reading Proficiency and Programming

    I have bought and owned several books about programming and what not. Very few actually turned out to be truly helpful. Occassionally I would find an interesting tidbit that led somewhere. Knowing how to teach is one thing, knowing how to actually learn from what is being taught another.

  37. #37
    PowerPoster techgnome's Avatar
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    Re: Reading Proficiency and Programming

    Quote Originally Posted by Zvoni View Post
    Thank the Lord there is still no feature out there calculating/creating/correcting the business-logic as/in code for the programmer....
    Yeah, the programmer is forced to think ("But i thought that..." - "Does it hurt much?") about the logic before putting pen to paper....errrr......fingers to keyboard.....
    Quote Originally Posted by Peter Swinkels View Post
    I too tried to write business software and “helpful” utilities for others. It never really went anywhere. I think intellisense and auto-correction have their place. If used responsibly, they can help lighten the workload so the user has time for other things than having to do every little thing manually.

    AI is advancing rapidly, I won’t be surprised if someone is going to try to auto-generate business software. Whether that’s a good thing, I can’t say.
    I give you Github Copilot...

    -tg
    * I don't respond to private (PM) requests for help. It's not conducive to the general learning of others.*
    * I also don't respond to friend requests. Save a few bits and don't bother. I'll just end up rejecting anyways.*
    * How to get EFFECTIVE help: The Hitchhiker's Guide to Getting Help at VBF - Removing eels from your hovercraft *
    * How to Use Parameters * Create Disconnected ADO Recordset Clones * Set your VB6 ActiveX Compatibility * Get rid of those pesky VB Line Numbers * I swear I saved my data, where'd it run off to??? *

  38. #38
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    Re: Reading Proficiency and Programming

    "Something that can think for itself!? Black magic, I say!" *runs for the hills*

    -PS

  39. #39
    PowerPoster Zvoni's Avatar
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    Re: Reading Proficiency and Programming

    Quote Originally Posted by Peter Swinkels View Post
    "Something that can think for itself!? Black magic, I say!" *runs for the hills*

    -PS
    They should rename it to "Skynet".......or "The Architect" (Would there be an "Oracle"? Oh, wait. That one exists already......)
    One System to rule them all, One IDE to find them,
    One Code to bring them all, and to the Framework bind them,
    in the Land of Redmond, where the Windows lie
    ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    People call me crazy because i'm jumping out of perfectly fine airplanes.
    ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    For health reasons i try to avoid reading unformatted Code

  40. #40
    Wall Poster TysonLPrice's Avatar
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    Re: Reading Proficiency and Programming

    Never been to Missouri. I'll take your word for it
    Obviously...Someone from Missouri would never say something like that
    Please remember next time...elections matter!

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