05 July 2013

On a discussion at HackerStreet about the quality of new talent cropping up, I found @nutanc’s comment.

…I have been dealing with students for almost the past 10 years. Teaching them. Every year, year after year, the normal distribution holds. You will find a small set of students who do not want to be/cannot be in engineering. The vast majority of them are average joes, who with the right kind of inspiration can do more. And a small set of students who are extraordinary…

In the last few months, I’ve been helping a few new graduates get started with programming. This is close to what I’ve observed too.

The standard for those he refers to as average joes seems to be a lot better in recent times. A couple years ago, they would be the ones who have only done their lab exercises in college. Now the lower bar seems to be that everybody’s comfortable with writing a bit PHP or Java. If these people are made aware of other tools or languages they can try out, I believe they would be even better.

Once they are informed of tools that exist and keywords to find similar ones online, I noticed that the choices pique their interest. I let them tryout things for sometime and choose what they want to work on.

The result is evident in a few days. Ofcourse, some require a bit of hand-holding in the beginning. The one thing that most of these guys miss in their work is polish. With enough stress on that, I’ve been able to get them to write good readmes for their repos, work on simple but neat interfaces for their apps and write code that’s easier to re-use. Take a look at this project’s readme for example.

All of the above wouldn’t have been possible, without pushing them to rely on the internet. Be it for examples, tools, ideas or help.

The HackerStreet thread also reminds me of a blog post titled “The best programmers are the quickest to Google”, which is very right. Unlike what some people in the thread say, there’s nothing wrong with relying on the internet.

We’ve accumulated a lot of technical literature in the last few decades. Expecting someone to learn everything from scratch, is as good as asking them to start programming with Punched Cards first.

So if you are stuck with a problem, please google your way out.

If you are getting started with programming and need help, feel free to mail me. I’m also available as @HashNuke on Twitter.

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