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Chicken soup for the software programmer’s soul

Fans of the inspirational “Chicken Soup” series will already know that these feel-good-factor books are designed to provide the same soulful uplift that a bowl of comforting broth brings us on a cold day with a runny nose. There’s a chicken soup book for over 100 different types of ‘soul’ from parents, to prisoners to NASCAR fans.
Written by Adrian Bridgwater, Contributor on

Fans of the inspirational “Chicken Soup” series will already know that these feel-good-factor books are designed to provide the same soulful uplift that a bowl of comforting broth brings us on a cold day with a runny nose. There’s a chicken soup book for over 100 different types of ‘soul’ from parents, to prisoners to NASCAR fans. But there’s nothing for the software developer.

Now admittedly, the software development community’s food focus (like my own) is rather more angled towards chicken wings, pepperoni pizza and how to fit ten toppings on a hot dog. But it’s a cold wet rainy Friday afternoon, so I figured what the hell.

So what ingredients would typically go into the pot for software development inspiration, revelation, motivation and all round stimulation?

1 – USERS: The Chicken Soup mantra is, ‘Everyone is important and as individuals we should all reach out and touch somebody.’ By contrast, our developer code for life is that this is a really important project thanks and I totally don’t want to be disturbed right now with your requirements document so please go away before I have to start throwing small objects at you.

2 – TEAM LEADERS: The Chicken Soup mantra is, “Any man can be a father, but it takes a special person to be a dad.” Steady on now, I know this is cheesy. So we’ll just say that anyone can be a project manager or team leader but it takes a special person to be an outstanding programmer. Anyone got a problem with that?

3 – A HIGHER POWER: With Chicken Soup, we can read about teen contributors who share personal, heartfelt testimonies about how God has given them strength and courage to deal with the tough times. With developer soup, we know that either James Gosling, Linus Torvalds, Gordon Moore, Bill G the 3rd etc is God and that it’s not Larry Ellison even though he thinks he is.

4 – A CURE ALL PANACEA: The Chicken Soup series was so named because the author’s grandmother said her homemade soup would cure anything. With developer soup we know that debugging a problem can ultimately lead to a final product that still has certain flaws in place – we will now describe this as a “feature that works as designed”.

5 - Here’s something I found on my travels when researching this idea. Advice to young programmers by Alex Stepenov, principal scientist at Adobe Systems: “You should have aesthetic beauty built inside you. You should ‘feel’ uneasy on writing bad code and should be eager to rewrite the code till it becomes up to the quality. To the judge the quality, you need to develop sense regarding which algorithms to use under what circumstances.”

This list could go on – I was actually searching for some tech books online when I came across this series of books and remembered seeing them while out at the shops. If you really want uplift and inspiration then I’d stick to a quick read of Jonathan Livingstone Seagull if you absolutely must and a few cans of Red Bull.

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