Use the Source Luke – Apprenticeship Pattern

In this post I will be discussing the apprenticeship pattern, “Use the Source” written by Adewale Oshineye and Dave Hoover in the book Apprenticeship Patterns: Guidance for the Aspiring Software Craftsman, 2009. This pattern is for people who have not developed in environments that have stressed the importance of the ability to read source code. Developers often spend much more time reading source code than actually writing it. Often times developers cannot understand the code and have to rewrite it themselves. As stated in the book, Bill Gates once said, “one of the finest tests of programming ability is to hand the programmer about 30 pages of code and see how quickly he can read through it and understand it”. People who can absorb design patterns, algorithms and data structures through real code become great programmers because they are learning from every good programmer each line at a time.

The authors suggest picking an algorithmically sophisticated open source project and take note of the algorithms, data structures, and design decisions made in the code that are new to you. Then, write a blog post for each new idea you learned. While doing this, download the lates version of the project and try to work out why the developers made certain decisions in the design and architecture and try to work out ways you would have done it. Figure out if your way wouldn’t work or would actually be a better solution. This will cause you to think deeper about the reason the project is coded the way it is.

I found this design pattern very interesting because I would agree that the ability to read code is very important and my lack of experience doing so has caused me lots of problems in the past. Often times I have had to rewrite code I was not able to understand or attempt multiple times to understand a piece of source code before finally getting it. I would say that I have improved, but there is still lots of room for improvement in the future. I like the idea of examining open source projects and I think I will do so very soon.

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