Being the thoughts and writings of one Gustaf Erikson; father, homeowner, technologist.

This category contains capsule reviews of books I've read

Saturday, 2005-02-05

“The only methodology is common sense”

The Pragmatic Programmer by A. Hunt and D. Thomas.

There’s a lot to like about this book. The authors advocate a pragmatic approach to developing software: use what works. Don’t get bogged down in methodologies, communicate effectively, test ruthlessly.

The edition I read was pretty Unix-centric, which is fine by me. But if you’re working in a MS environment you might be forgiven for being mystified by Makefiles and Emacs.

I myself enjoy using Emacs for day-to-day editing, but I think a well-designed IDE can leverage a language in way that a text editor cannot. MS Visual Studio.NET was very nice, and the authors talk a lot about the browsers available in the Smalltalk world. There are advantages in both approaches. I’d rather write documentation in Emacs than in Word, for example.

I’ve been inspired to use a few of the principles expounded in the book in this very weblog. For example:

  • The DRY principle (“Don’t repeat yourself). Earlier I had a list of links in the sidebar that was duplicated in my Bloglines setup. So I wrote a script that fetches my blogroll from Bloglines and puts it in its own post. Now I only have to maintain my blog links in one place. The same principle applies to my reading list and the data of what I’ve listened to on Audioscrobbler.

  • Decoupling. I’m trying to keep the internal links of this weblog consistent and decoupled from the current implementation (i.e., that it’s situated on That way I can set it up somewhere else with little or no effort. (This is in no way a vote of non-confidence in the team who very generously let me have some space on their server. It’s just that I’m planning on getting my own server sometime and I want to be prepared for that eventuality.)

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