Podcast #81

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In this episode of the Stack Overflow podcast, Joel and Jeff discuss the value of Deep Blue, the Five Whys process, and whether programmers should blog.

  • If you work at a fancy company like Fog Creek, you'll have access to a Latte machine, and you too can create Latte art!
  • Checkers is now a solved problem. Chess is almost solved, in that no human player can beat the best software chess engines. In other news, Joel solved tic-tac-toe.
  • Deep Blue was amazing technology for its time, but what was the value in IBM doing this, and pitching it as the epic man vs. computer chess battle? What other companies could pursue cool, useful computer science spectacles like this?
  • a followup to our GitHub conversation last week, clarifying some things we didn't quite get right in our previous conversation.
  • Joel notes that a random programmer at JFK approached him and told him how much Stack Overflow Careers helped him. We have a number of success stories that have arrived via email, twitter, and in person. Incidentally both Stack Overflow and Fog Creek are hiring, and guess where we look first for candidates?
  • As we partially covered in Podcast #64, it's difficult to find good testers, because it's a related yet different skill from programming.
  • A discussion of Joel's article Five Whys -- we seemed to have the same problem of failed network autonegotiation, but we discovered at least one more Why. Per our Server Fault question on ethernet autonegotiation sysadmins seem to agree that "problems" with gigabit ethernet autonegotiate, at least, are almost always symptomatic of deeper root problems.
  • When setting up a portfolio of your programming work, what you want to do is stand out among the crowd. What are the shiny beacons you can put in that would get employers excited? Don't get too detailed too fast, so feel free to use pictures and diagrams -- there's always room for details later.
  • We don't like take home programming tests, but is it useful to document the process of how you research and solve a problem? Joel maintains the real win is to over-solve the problem to show what a hard worker you are.
  • Some tips from Joel and Jeff about why and how (or if) programmers should blog. Set a schedule and stick to it. And don't be a commodity blogger! It helps to focus on the storytelling aspect of the writing, per Ira Glass. And remember, writing a better article on any topic is usually pretty easy, because so much of the content on the internet is so darn bad.
  • Please submit your audio questions to the podcast -- we have brand new Stack Overflow t-shirts and the best question next week will get one!

We answered the following listener questions on this podcast:

  1. Alison: "I work closely with hardware and firmware, and I have trouble figuring out how to show off my work to my prospective employers. How do I build a portfolio?"
  2. John: "I recently started a programming blog at simpleprogrammer.com. How important is it for a programmer to have a blog, and why?"

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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