Suscreen > Debugging

I delivered this speech to the crowd at Boston University's WinDev West conference in September of 1999.

Ladies and gentlemen of WinDev West 1999:

Debug your code.

If I could offer you only one tip for the future, debugging would be it. The long-term benefits of debugging have been proven by scientists, whereas the rest of my advice has no basis more reliable than my own meandering experience. I will dispense this advice now.

Enjoy the power and beauty of your development system. Oh, never mind. You will not understand the power and beauty of your development system until it's obsolete. But trust me, in 20 years, you'll look back at old product brochures and recall in a way you can't grasp now how much possibility lay before you and how fabulous it really was. Your code isnít as bloated as you imagine.

Don't worry about features. Or worry, but know that worrying is as effective as trying to implement a fast Fourier transform by chewing bubble gum. The real troubles in your project are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind, the kind that blindside you at 4 p.m. on some idle Tuesday.

Every day, rewrite some code that scares you.

Smash your mouse in frustration.

Don't be reckless with check-ins. Don't put up with people who are haphazard unit testers.

Build for release once in a while.

Don't waste your time on project estimates. Sometimes you're ahead, sometimes you're behind. The race is long and, in the end, it's only with yourself.

Remember the awards you receive. Forget the bug reports and the negative book reviews. If you succeed in doing this, tell me how.

Keep your old source code. Throw away your old performance reviews.

Scratch, but not if youíre in a cubicle.

Don't feel guilty if you don't know what you want to do with your life. The most interesting people I know are college dropouts and child prodigies. Some of the least interesting somehow got their stupid asses promoted to upper management.

Get plenty of disk space. Be kind to your backup administrator— you'll miss them when they're gone.

Enjoy your monitor. Buy a bigger one every couple of years. Use it every way you can. Don't be afraid of it or of what other people think of it. It's the greatest instrument you'll ever own.

Dance, even if you have nowhere to do it but your server room or wire closet.

Read the fucking manual.

Do not read development magazines. They will either make you feel self-righteous or make you feel stupid.

Get to know your helpdesk staff. You never know when they'll be outsourced. Be nice to your office-mates. They're your best link to your past and the people most likely to give you a ride home or to the repair shop.

Understand that mentors come and go and there will never be one you'll keep your whole life. Invent your own hero to serve your own shortcomings.

Live in Silicon Valley once, but leave before it makes you a pompous prick. Live in Washington State once, but leave before it makes you a granola eatin' protest marchin' bunny-hugger.

At least once a year, get out into the sunshine.

Accept certain inalienable truths: Updates will happen. Memory will get cheaper. You, too, will be obsolete. And when you become outdated, you'll fantasize that when you were on the cutting edge, nothing could touch you, you'd never need more than six-hundred forty kilobytes, and people would still respect your past achievements.

Disrespect your manager. But honor your teamís technical lead.

Never expect anyone else to support you: you have to buy the stock yourself.

Don't mess too much with your registry or by the time you need to update, you'll be totally screwed.

Be careful what consultants you hire, but be patient with those who do join your project. Advice is a form of nostalgia. Consulting is a way of stealing someone's watch, wiping it off, reading out loud what time it is and charging more than the watch cost in the first place.

But trust me on the debugging.


This derivative work is covered by Copyright.
Copyright 1999 Mike Blaszczak, all rights reserved.
The original sunscreen article is available at the Chicago News-Tribune website.
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