Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive


Forgot your password?
Slashdot Deals: Cyber Monday Sale! Courses ranging from coding to project management - all eLearning deals 25% off with coupon code "CYBERMONDAY25". ×

Comment Re: Stupid people are stupid (Score 2) 956

When I was a girl, I was interested in Legos and building stuff, astronomy and science. I was made fun of BY MY PARENTS for playing with non-girly toys like little green army men and Star Trek action figures (this was in the 70's) and strongly discouraged from pursuing astronomy as a career because "girls are bad at math." That's a literal quote from my mom when I was in 4th grade and said I wanted to be an astronomer. Little kids believe what they are told by adults. Why wouldn't they? It's a very strong influence that's hard to escape, even with contrary evidence that I was not bad at math at all, for many years I believed it. I was also good at reading/art/music and so was steered toward that. The same type of thing can happen to boys. I had a friend who was nerdy like me and interested in reading, playing chess, etc. His dad forced him to play football, which my friend wasn't interested in at all (his sister had to be a cheerleader, and I don't think she was all that interested in it either.) My mom forced me to take ballet, a short-lived humiliating experience and something my brothers were never required to do. I would have played sports if there had been more opportunities for girls and if my parents would have allowed/encouraged it. So yes, it's probably true that there are things that the majority of each gender gravitates toward. But it's not all nature, at least some is nurture. There are also a lot of people who are pushed away or toward certain activities and interests based on gender alone, and not what they are good at or want to do.

Comment Re:Over 20 million employees? (Score 1) 71

I've never been a government employee, but I am a contractor who worked for a subcontractor on a project that required a security clearance. So I had to submit a form SF-86 and this means that my data is part of this hacking. I've yet to receive any official notification about it.

Comment Re:Unfortunately, it's still on piano (Score 1) 59

You obviously don't know anything about early keyboard instruments or the physics behind temperament. Peforming this on a modern piano, which is *equal* tempered, defeats the whole purpose of the piece, which is intended for a *well* tempered instrument. If you think period instruments sound like shit, then it's likely your ears that are out of tune, dulled by lack of exposure to anything beyond equal temperament.

Comment Re:I was a victim of the stereotype (Score 2) 493

I don't think that's it. She was always very encouraging of anything I did that fit with the stereotypes she had (reading, art, music, etc.) I know there are uber critical parents, but I really think she believed that girls are bad at math and it just didn't occur to her that it might not be true, or what kind of damage it did. She's not the most logical person. Anyway, I just brought it up as an example of how influential that can be on a kid. I fortunately had a lot of good teachers, and some bad ones of course, but I never recall any who discouraged me from pursuing any subject I wanted to learn.

Comment I was a victim of the stereotype (Score 5, Interesting) 493

Unlike the majority of people here, I actually have experience being female. We moved around a lot when I was a kid so I attended several different school systems in 6 states in the 70's and 80's. I was a nerdy kid, very interested in science. I have never been a math genious but always did quite well in the subject, and enjoyed it, when I had a good teacher. I can't remember one time where any teacher, male or female, discouraged me from science or math. In fact, I remember quite the opposite. My mother, though, she was another story. When I was in 3rd/4th grade I decided that I wanted to be an astronomer. Apparently she had taken astronomy class at a community college, and it turned out to be all math. She failed the class and her takeaway from that was that she is bad at math, and therefore all girls are bad at math, so that meant I couldn't be an astronomer, because it's all math. And of course I believed her. Why wouldn't I? Nevermind that I placed very highly on all standardized tests, including math. In junior high they took me out of regular classes, put me in the gifted & talented program, and I took all the advanced math classes all though high school. I took a CS class in high school, had a Commodore 64 and wrote programs in BASIC. I tested out of my math requirement for my bachelors degree and then after grad school took a couple of calculus and astronomy classes just for fun. All that time believing that I was bad at math. It's very hard to overcome that type of bias, no matter who puts it in your head, even in the face of evidence telling you otherwise. Kids really absorb that stuff. I think it wasn't until I was in my 30's that I realized I was never actually bad at math. I'm now a computer programmer. Can you imagine if my mother had been a teacher? Thank goodness I was the only girl she had influence over.

Comment 46 y/o independent consultant here (Score 1) 376

I have no interest in doing anything in IT besides programming and closely related tasks. Everything else bores me. I've been in several roles where I've had to wear various hats including BA, some project management, architecture, etc. and I couldn't imagine doing any of that in a full time capacity. I suppose if you're working at a company trying to advance your career, eventually you hit a wall where you can't advance any further in a purely technical role, without either going into project management, management, or possibly becoming an architect. If you want to avoid that, and have an in demand skillset, one good option is to become a consultant. Of course it involves more risk, and a willingness to move around and adapt to different environments. But the advantages (besides more money) include having freedom to determine what projects you want to do, having a lot of variety, not having to deal with corporate politics and HR bs, and generally being able to focus more on the technical aspects of the project. Also consultants tend to be engaged because of their experience, so having been around the block a few times can be advantage. If you have the right personality and circumstances for it, then it's definitely something to consider. If going completely independent is not for you, then there's always the option to become a salaried consultant with an established company. You won't have as much freedom to pick and choose projects, but there's more stability, and you can still maintain that technical focus on a variety of projects.

Comment Re:god dammit. (Score 5, Interesting) 521

I agree with your sentiment, but as someone who volunteers with raptor rehabilitation, I can speak from some experience. Actually more raptors than you might think are killed by cats. There are many raptor species which are quite small and easily taken by a cat. And of course all are vulnerable when in the nest or just after fledging, unable to fly or defend themselves. People always ask me if a raptor would take their pet cat, and I always tell them that the raptor is much more in danger from the cat than the other way around. Also there are many endangered songbirds (grassland species, neotropical migrants, etc), and many cats in both low and high population areas.

That all being said, the environmental impact of these supposed "green" energy sources is significant. The production of biofuels like ethanol has decimated habitat, the dangers of wind power to raptors are well known, and now this. There needs to be more study beforehand rather than after the fact. And green energy apologists need to concede that their industry is just as hypocritical about the environment as any other energy producer.

Comment I wrote about this in 1996 in BYTE (Score 2) 608

I was a music major, worked my way through from undergrad to the PhD level in music theory (my favorite topic.) Fortunately those same logical and analytical skills, appreciation of patterns and attention to detail, transfers quite well into becoming a programmer. After my first year in the PhD program, I suddenly came to the realization that being a professional music theorist wasn't going to pay a lot, and made the switch to software engineering, which I have been doing for the last 15 years. Best decision I ever made.

But I disagree with several points in the article (which I did read.) First I don't think that programming is particularly grueling or requires some elite level of dedication. That's not my experience, and my success as a consultant programmer (clients hire me purely for my skillset) is evidence of that. I think the most important thing is to have a predilection for logical thinking and problem solving. Other fields require different skillsets which might attract people with other strengths and personality types. I see nothing wrong with this. I don't understand why the author thinks that someone spending years to master a skill is a bad thing, or that doing so consumes a person's entire life. When I go leave the office, I pursue other interests that have nothing to do with programming. I don't think one must have a brain disorder to be a programmer.

The author shouldn't assume his personality and experience mirrors as a programmer everyone else's. He says "The real injustice of developer inequality is that it doesn't have to be this way." I say, it ISN'T this way.

Comment Native bees (Score 1) 143

Native bees are actually better pollinators than non-native, imported honey bees. You don't have to wait for the government to do something in order to help them, you can do something right now in your own back yard. Simply add plants native to your area and the pollinators will come! These aren't usually available at mainstream nurseries, so seek out nurseries specializing in native species. Native insects rely on native plants. The typical suburban yard is basically a dead zone when it comes to inviting any pollinators, with all the chemicals, invasive and exotic non-native plants that people use in their landscaping. I've been on a 7 year journey in my own back yard to eliminate invasive species and replace with natives. It's been a huge learning experience as I am not a knowledgeable gardener. One of the first things I noticed right away was that suddenly there were so many bees!

Comment Re: You don't need a college degree (Score 1) 287

Hey guess what, there are a lot of smart, hard working and self-motivated people who ALSO attend college. We study AND we do. It's possible to have BOTH academic AND real world experience. Imagine that!!

I love how people who haven't been to college put it down as just a "piece of paper" and assume that college graduates don't know anything about the real world, or are in massive debt. Speaking as someone who worked all through high school, and college, and graduate school... and got a job right away in my field right after college. And I've been working in my field (Java programming) for the last 15 years, mostly as a self-employed consultant. So I've got tons of experience on many projects, probably more than most due to being a consultant. And I make very good money at it.

If college isn't for you, I've got no problem with that. I don't assume that people who don't have a college degree are stupid or have an inferiority complex, etc. Although I do have to wonder about people who have such strong opinions about something they've never experienced themselves, and are so willing to spout stereotypical nonsense about it. Don't presume to know what other people "need."

Comment Re:Answer: No. (Score 1) 404

Almost universally in software development, starting from scratch is a stupid fucking idea repeated by inexperienced developers.

Now a bunch of slashdot will tell me I'm wrong, but that doesn't change the previous statement, just reenforces it.

Obviously you've never worked on a project that involved offshore development.

Comment Re:Personally (Score 1) 655

Speaking as someone with 15 years of software development experience, and who has 2 music degrees + 1 degree in IS, I can say that musicians learn a lot about compositional techniques and quite of bit of a formal musical education is spent writing pieces in various styles, from 16th century counterpoint to 12-tone serialism. The reason is that if you are going to be a musician, not a "singer" or an "artist", then you need to understand what you are doing by studying these styles and then attempting to imitate them as part of the learning process. That's why Bach spent so much time copying scores by composers like Vivaldi, and Mendelssohn later studied scores of Bach, etc. I certainly wouldn't equate touch typing with playing a musical instrument, so I don't agree with the original analogy. But in general, the more you understand the theory and basis of what you are doing, the better you are going to be at it, vs. someone who doesn't study that stuff. And an important part of that is analyzing what others do, which is one reason I enjoy doing code reviews - it's a great way to learn.

Comment Re:Postapocoliptic Nightmare (Score 1) 679

We have two species of eagle here in North America. Bald eagles are primarily fish eaters and so DDT most definitely found its way into their food chain by runoff into waterways. Of course shooting is still an issue, but lead poisoning is probably the main reason for human-caused mortality they face today.

And by the way, "bird of prey" does not automatically mean "mammal eater." Many birds of prey eat fish, amphibians, birds and yes, even insects. Look up osprey, barred owl, peregrine falcon and American kestrel ... learn your raptor facts before dismissing other people's comments as nonsensical.

Comment Look in the mirror (Score 1) 524

This question clearly demonstrates that the OP has no understanding of the software development process. I've been doing software development for the last 15 years, mostly as a consultant, and have been on A LOT of projects at many different clients. I have yet to see one with "excellent product specs" completed up front. Why? Because customers never know what they want until they see it. And even when they think they have defined something well, they don't understand what they will actually get back.

Software is very abstract and unless you are a developer or a technical person (which most customers/users aren't), then it's very difficult to conceptualize how it will work once implemented. Then there's the reality of changing customer requirements and priorities. I'd like to know how the OP is writing perfect specs when such a thing doesn't exist in the real world. And there are many other aspects to development which the OP doesn't seem to understand either. Who is doing the business and technical analysis of these requirements? What's the process when requirements change? Where is QA and user acceptance testing in all of this?

I suspect nobody is doing these things. What's really happening is that he writes something up based on vague requirements (which are likely to change), throws it over the wall to a developer, and expects a polished product to be thrown back over. Meanwhile the customer didn't understand what they were asking for in the first place, changed their requirements, increased scope, got something back that was maybe close to the written spec but actually wasn't what they wanted in their mind, with no analysis or design having been done, that wasn't ever tested by anyone other the developer who wrote it. And all of those scenarios are called "bugs" by the OP. This is a dysfunctional process that is unfortunately all too common. No wonder your developers balk at fixing this stuff for free.

I don't doubt that there are bugs in the code, especially if the OP is trying to do this on the cheap. There is no substitute for experienced programmers, and there's a reason that people who are experienced cost more. So the first problem is that the OP thinks he can get something for nothing or next to it. But the main problem here is the OP's lack of understanding about the software development process.

If you want to improve things and not have your customers complaining all the time, then start with yourself - read up on software development methodology, ditch the waterfall/throw over the wall approach, and pay up for developers who know what they are doing. I'd suggest a more agile method where customers are very involved in the process, are able to get their hands on the product as it's being developed and provide continuous feedback. Otherwise, look in the mirror and expect more of the same. Developers don't need your empathy, they need a competent project manager.

SCCS, the source motel! Programs check in and never check out! -- Ken Thompson