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Comment translation scripts are the key (Score 2, Informative) 121

The best way to bring up a newbie in pair programming is to give her simple stuff that she can do reasonably quickly and well enough. The most common highly delegatable by far for text-based programmers like me is translation scripts. It's a breeze to specify; You need to figure out what other programs you are going to interface with and then just tell them what you need in and out. Best to have real files to work with. For example, in my field I use a lot of distance matrixes that consist of an array of labels and a 2-dimension square of numbers that is diagonally symmettric; but there are many different formats for these and my CompLearn system only supports one text matrix format. So already there are a bunch of simple translation programs that I can easily delegate by saying "see this distance matrix output from program X?" Translate it to something that works with CompLearn! This is also useful for the output side of most programs that need to work with the real world. And of course the venerable and highly useful HTML screen scraper is a great subtype of this big class of programs. The reasons this is so good to delegate are as follows:

  • It only needs to work, it doesn't need to interface to the rest of your program, so if they really mess up the interface or have bad style it is probably no big deal.
  • It is usually simple enough to dispense with all custom objects/classes and sometimes even functions are unnecessary for these things. the goal should be to get it working as quickly and easily as possible with a minimum of fuss: perfect for agile goal-oriented development and extremers.
  • Once they write a half-dozen or a dozen of these they are ready to start playing with lambdas, functions or maybe small classes. As a scientific programmer, half my coding is translation scripts and as I get more and more into text-based systems the percentage seems to go up. text goes a long way and the skills are very composable with existing unix utilities and pipelines without any hassle at all.

My favorite language for this kind of thing is Ruby, but I think Perl or Python would be fine too; anything that supports regexp and decent strings is a winner.

Happy Pair Programming and good luck! Rudi

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