Out of Hanwell

August 18, 2006

Reasoning Is Reusable

Filed under: Uncategorized — Matthias Miller @ 6:57 am

I have often wondered, “What marks intellectual maturity?” One thing is clear: the ability to reason, even when the “correct answer” is unknown, sets apart an adult from a child. How many times were you frustrated by an essay question in grade school because you didn’t know what the teacher wanted?

I now realize what I didn’t understand then: You can learn a lot through rote memorization. But when it comes to making dependable decisions, you’re going to need more than just that. Today, although I’m interested in other people’s opinions, I’m even more interested in their reasoning.


Reasoning is reusable.

My best example comes from my profession. My boss and I were once discussing our reporting feature, which I had implemented incorrectly. Whenever you wanted to modify the report (change the title, add a column, etc.), you had to save the report to file before viewing your changes. My boss, however, told me that doesn’t work–the user needs to be able modify reports and run them without saving.

That could have been the end of the conversation. But it wasn’t. Rather, he immediately had a business reason defending this. During a sales demonstration, users often ask, “Can this report show this piece of information?” When the salesperson adds the column, it’s quite distracting to save it, especially if you need to specify where and how it should be saved! The ease evokes an oh-wow-that’s-easy response. And it’s not limited to sales, either. When people modify reports, they frequently only want to tweak it slightly. Saving their report is only a distraction from their goal, which is analyzing information, not building reports. What could have simply have been a statement of opinion was instead an explanation of the reasoning. Rather than fixing this single inconvenience, I was now equipped to look for other problems that kept the user from his or her task.

It’s worth something to have a programmer read your mind during the interview, but there’s a lot to say about a programmer who solves a problem in a suboptimal way but is able to defend his decision. That he’s thought through the reasons is a good sign. That, I think, clearly marks intellectual maturity.


August 14, 2006

JavaScript Member Functions

Filed under: Uncategorized — Matthias Miller @ 8:39 pm

A JavaScript Lint user recently pointed out that JavaScript Lint does not support the following code:

function window.onload() {
window.alert('Hello World');

Surprised, I pointed out that this is invalid JavaScript. However, it turns out that Internet Explorer supports this unusual syntax. Internet Explorer allows this on any object:

var foo = {};
function foo.bar() {
window.alert('Hello World');

It also allows this:

function Foo() {
function Foo.prototype.bar() {
window.alert('Hello World');
var o = new Foo();

Just for fun, I tried this, which it refused:

function Foo() {
function this.bar() {
window.alert('Hello World');

It also refused this:

function foo['bar']() {
window.alert('Hello World');

Does anybody know where, if anywhere, this is documented?

August 2, 2006

Amazon.com Savings

Filed under: Humor/Mental Leisure — Matthias Miller @ 9:13 am

I was a bit surprised when I saw Amazon’s breath-taking offer while shopping for a DVI adapter for my MacBook:


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