Thursday, February 12, 2009

Developers and Writers

When I worked at Blackboard, one of the things that people frequently groused about (myself included) was the requirement that we write a certain amount of posts on the internal blog (we used Confluence by Atlassian, which had some blog/journaling-type functionality.  It was hard enough finishing the never-ending assignments that often ran concurrently in groups of five or six, so how could we possibly jump out of the IDE once or twice a day and write something about all this work?  Isn't that just a waste of time?!!?  

Looking back, the answer is unequivocally "No".  

Anyone, including the lowliest junior foot soldier developer, should be able to elucidate their work in plain language, so that someone who is not technical can read and understand it.  This is an important skill that has to be constantly developed.  It's another thing that must be treated as part of a complete developer arsenal, just like learning programming languages, libraries, important protocols, database servers, and operating systems.   Next time you are asked to draft a design document or blog about what you are working on, don't look at it as a black hole of timewaste.  Look at it as a way to get better at your job.  Any dummy can code - it's the people that can explain what and why they are doing it and make sense that are actually valuable.

Often writing something down and then reading it can help you realize that what you have done is a monstrocity, or unnecessary, or doesn't actually fulfill the requirement.  Even more often, if you don't see something after reading your own work, someone else who reads it might have a 'light bulb moment' themselves. Either way, you have a) learned something new, b) made your product better, c) gotten some valuable writing practice.  

If none of the above has inspired you, how about the fact that you get to do something other than completely nerding out for a little while?  Isn't that reason enough?

Go write, developers!  Life isn't all bits and bytes.

blog comments powered by Disqus