Apprenticeship Patterns – Practice, Practice, Practice

The focus of this pattern is the simple idea that practice makes perfect. The problem arises from the fact that every time we code, we’re practicing. We try new things, we make mistakes, and we learn. However, when the majority of our code is for work, making all of these mistakes is sub-optimal in numerous ways.

Similar to previous patterns, the proposed solution is to practice outside of work. Do coding exercises for fun and learn from them so when you go to work, you can make fewer mistakes. I would mostly agree with this. My biggest criticism is the same as in a previous pattern; not everyone has the time outside of work to keep working. Depending on the job, it would require a person to live and breathe programming. They would need to use their free time, which is intended to keep the individual sane as well as give their mind a break so they can keep coding the following day. This could have overall worse consequences. For example, I’m capable of coding for virtually eight hours straight and I have on occasion. However, I almost always feel brain dead afterwards. Sometimes, I need a few days off afterwards to be able to think about coding again. As an athlete as well, I can say do not underestimate the importance of rest.

That said, I fundamentally agree with the notion of purposeful practicing. I started teaching myself programming in middle school and it was really slow and hard. The times I learned the most were when I could follow a well-made guide to create something simple. As I developed as a programmer, however, I was more easily able to guide myself through these projects. When I learn a new language, I often create a primality test. It introduces me to io, iteration, efficiency, data types, etc. in a language. Often, I’m unsatisfied with the maximum size of a 64bit integer and I start trying to create a larger integer object that can run efficiently and store large integers. This leads to learning even more skills in a language. However, there are books of prime numbers that go into absurdity. These projects aren’t really meant to have a utility outside of making them. This is what the author means by deliberate practice. I’ve spent years teaching myself different technologies and the most successful ways have always involved some sort of practice project. If nothing else, they make you really good at researching.

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