Refocus on the Basics

Most of what I learned about programming was during my first year at Yahoo!. I wrote so much Perl code and dove into naive attempts at distributed computing, and the like.

I was pretty proud of my code and that I put in hard work, and was vindicated when I went back to meet old friends at Yahoo! and one of the new recruits actually praised my Perl code (because he was now maintaining it). I was taken aback. Why? That was probably the only time in my life I was proud of the code I wrote and someone actually commended on it.

But I’ve stagnated in the past three years and have not been adding to my knowledge even though I’ve been working, meeting deadlines and earning my bread. On the surface, I’m adding skills to my resumé but inside I know I should be learning more.

My theme for the next 8 months is to focus on getting back to the basics, to relearn the fundamentals and get back the joy of programming.

Ever since I’ve been working for myself, I’ve been very happy to take technical decisions and seeing it right through to the code. I get a kick out of it. I need more of that.

I’m hoping to read more books like Ship It! and The Pragmatic Programmer vs. spending time on blogs.

I’m hoping to spend more of those-moments-when-you-need-distractions at Stack Overflow and technical mailing lists vs. reading opinion / “news” sites.

Of course, it’s not just about more information but rather about getting into the flow, getting into the mood.

I will try to be at the bottom of things rather than on top of things, although its hard to let go of the addiction of trying to be “inbox zero.”

In the big picture, there’s no reason to have this goal. I can just keep on going as-is. But my life is so empty without having something to work on. That’s the thing about goals.

Let’s see how far it goes.

Do you find it useful to have a time-bound dominant theme for personal development? Have you thought about what will you learn this year?

Of course, ideas are cheap, execution is everything. So I’m getting back to coding right now.

6 thoughts on “Refocus on the Basics

  1. I understand exactly what is happening. This is something that has been happening to me for some time now. I go to sites like and news.ycombinator to see the hip new stuffs, but end up just glancing through a lot of different useless things and waste time. I am a big PG fan, and found this( essay useful and was happy to know that even the successful have/had a (lot of) distractions.

    I guess the best thing to do is probably just give up the internet for a few days, except the mail. And, read a lot of good books. I am currently reading Code Complete which is pretty awesome. And, ofcourse, the other big factor is coding. You’ve gotta code everyday and try to build cool stuffs.

    And, yes, I found your Python and vi books pretty useful. Thanks and good luck.

  2. I do agree with you on most of the points. But I feel in today’s world there’s no problem in being the jack of all trades. Going to “news” sites and seeing something on the link you follow might actually give you an idea for a product or may help you have a different approach on a feature you were working on for the past 3 weeks. “Narrowness of experience will lead to narrowness of imagination” according to Rob Pike. Programming isn’t only about using your theoretical knowledge to the fullest, it’s also about having multiple approaches towards a problem. Don’t get me wrong, it is important to get your basics right first, but it is also important to have the right tool-set and keep adding to it. All the stuff around us can be related if we try to make sense out of it.

  3. Hey Swaroop,

    Let us know how it goes. I am in the same boat – wanting to get back to some serious programming and cease becoming a lazy rut.

    Good luck!

  4. @Strider : We have similar experiences there. And yes, you gotta code. An element that I’m working on.

    @Mr.Purple : Oh, there is nothing wrong with that. It’s just a matter of priorities. My priorities have now changed. As long as the reading is beneficial and is your conscious priority (not just a compulsion), it is perfectly okay.

    @Sridhar : All the best to you too! :)

  5. No more blog reading? nooooooooo. Haha seriously though, I think this is a good step, you could plan up a calendar sorts. You should also write books about non programming stuff ideals like 37 Signals’ Get Real. I think those were one of the best reads targetted at both non and programming related people.

  6. @Karthick “Calendar sorts” – what’s that? … Writing a non-programming book, isn’t that sort of defeating the thing I was talking about in this post? :)

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