Tag Archives: musing

Unusual solutions to avoid a breaking change

In the 1990’s and early 2000’s, I spent a lot of time travelling between London and Yorkshire. Much of that was spent driving on the A1. I recently repeated the journey and was taken aback at the lack of roundabouts (yes, this national 70 mph trunk road was regularly interrupted by roundabouts) and I missed Grantham Services, my usual halfway stop (being on a roundabout, it used to be convenient and hard to miss).

Happily, the services are still there, it’s just that they moved the motorway:

Grantham used to be built on the A1 southbound, with a roundabout to the north allowing northbound traffic to access it and a loop road back to the roundabout allowing them to get back. Recently the Highways Agency brought the A1 to the west of this interchange, with the old road becoming the southbound sliproads and a new bridge being constructed for northbound traffic.

In other related commuter news, London’s Docklands Light Railway recently solved a problem with short platforms by moving the station:

The station was constrained by sharp curves at both ends and could not therefore be further extended on its former site. The DLR’s plans to operate 3 car trains on this line therefore included the relocation of this station some distance to the east.

Incredibly, they built the new station and dismantled the old one without any disruption to the railway!

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Qualities of Uber-Productive people

Great article on how to achieve high productivity.

Productive people aren’t braver than others; they just find the strength to keep moving forward. They realize fear is paralyzing while action creates confidence and self-assurance.

I subscribe to the school of thought that, in order to finish a project, you have to keep starting – to get over the fear of imperfection, you don’t focus on completion, but focus on beginning again and again.

Think about a time you put off a task, finally got started, and then, once into it, thought, “I don’t know why I kept putting this off–it’s going really well. And it didn’t turn out to be nearly as hard as I imagined.”

Read more: http://www.inc.com/jeff-haden/7-qualities-of-uber-productive-people.html#ixzz2KoR5fDv8

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Software code should read like well-written prose

I’ve long felt that well written software should not only be human-readable, it should be a good read. It’s a view held by Robert Martin who describes clean code as elegant, efficient, readable like well-written prose.

This came to mind when I finished reading a thriller, “The Lion” by Nelson DeMille. I’ve read several of his books, not least “The Charm School” which was brilliant. Now, The Lion didn’t have a great plot – in fact, having read a couple of his John Corey books already, I could pretty much predict the finale after the first couple of chapters. But it didn’t matter, because the story was so well told I enjoyed the journey. The next book I picked up is a science fiction tale set around the time of World War II but with a time-travelling twist – it has an exciting plot and I haven’t a clue what will happen. Yet it’s less enjoyable, the prose is stodgy and I’m struggling to get to know the characters.

Now, to me, the plot in a novel is analogous to software design, whereas the story telling is analogous to the implementation code. Whilst I’d prefer good story telling with a weak plot to a great plot with poor prose, the opposite is true of software – good design trumps good implementation code every time. That’s where software and fiction are so different – software is alive and will be maintained and extended throughout its life, whereas a novel is frozen in time the moment the author deems it finished. You can always re-implement badly implemented pieces of code – but it’s a much bigger task to re-work an entire design.

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