Podcast #57

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This is the 57th episode of the StackOverflow podcast where Joel and Jeff discuss the relationship between speed and skill, iPhone development, and the value of programming fundamentals.

  • Joel comments on the surprising correlation between how fast you can solve a simple problem, and your overall skill level as a programmer. This is why giving even a very experienced programmer a simple problem can still work. If you can't truly master the fundamentals, it's hard to work at higher levels of abstraction.
  • We agree with Paul Graham: in general, there tends to be a correlation between the length of a response and its quality. We've also observed this pattern on Stack Overflow. It isn't always true (TL;DR), but it's a verifiable pattern. Either be the first and quickest, or be the best and most comprehensive!
  • Due to high demand, five new cities were added to the Stack Overflow DevDays: Boston, Austin, Los Angeles, Cambridge (UK), and Amsterdam.
  • I was quite impressed with the striking design Mike Kus put together for the Stack Overflow DevDays website. He breaks it down step by step for us. Like most programmers, I'm a terrible designer, but at least I know what's good enough to steal!
  • As promised, we released a creative commons data dump of all the Stack Overflow data including all questions and answers. We're excited to see what the community can do with this data; Brent Ozar put together a data mining video to get people started.
  • Stack Overflow has become a very popular destination for iPhone development. This is completely accidental, but it is a valid reflection of the vibrant and growing iPhone development community. If you're an iPhone developer, check out the Mobile Orchard website and podcast, which even has a best of Stack Overflow for iPhone developers!
  • Joel and I are tremendously impressed with Apple's development push for the iPhone, including the App Store. It is remarkably Microsoft-like, in a good way -- it's completely driven by developers, developers, developers! "If you want to be a mobile developer, your #1 choice has to be Apple."
  • Some comments on the sad state of Windows Mobile (rumored Silverlight reboot), Google Wave (go HTML 5!) and the Palm Pre (is HTML/JavaScript/CSS a viable development platform)?
  • One downside of discussing questions on the podcast is that it leads to the Hawthorne effect, and sometimes radically changes the state of the question.
  • Joel recommends SICP, The C Programming Language, The Unix Programming Environment, and Introduction to Algorithms as solid books for programmers who want to brush up on their fundamentals and potentially do well at programming interviews.
  • We recommend checking out Jason Calacanis' podcast, This Week in Startups.

We answered the following listener questions on this podcast:

  1. Josh Hunt: "The first answer to my question, the answer that got the highest number of votes, was not correct -- has Stack Overflow failed in the 'first answer is best' aspect?" and "We've been taught algorithms in our high school using pseudocode. What do you think of this?"
  2. "If I've applied for a job at Fog Creek (or anywhere else) and didn't quite make it, what can I do to improve myself as a programmer and have a better chance next time?"

Our favorite Stack Overflow questions this week are:

  • Bubble Sort Homework. Homework questions are frowned upon on Stack Overflow, but there is a right way to ask them -- and a way to get the community to help you while helping each other.

If you'd like to submit a question to be answered in our next episode, record an audio file (90 seconds or less) and mail it to podcast@stackoverflow.com. You can record a question using nothing but a telephone and a web browser. We also have a dedicated phone number you can call to leave audio questions at 646-826-3879.

The transcript wiki for this episode is available for public editing.

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