A Quote, after a long time.

A few friends were having a discussion on modesty and my opinion was called for. This is what I had to say:

I don’t blow my own trumpet. Never. There are people who say things about me, though. So I feel compelled to correct them every now and then so that What They Say Is What I Am (TM).

Some people label me immodest.

update: Some background info added. In all modesty, a few people thought this post sounded arrogant and they were quick to point out that I really am not. I thought labelling this post as ‘humour’ would suffice…

Quote by Nat Friedman

I recently got to meet Nat Friedman of Gnome fame. Thanks Moshe for the opportunity.

While Moshe and Nat did most of the talking (about entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship), I just kept listening and learning. I had an interesting story to mention, though. A couple of ex-colleagues from Codito had witnessed a live coding session on-stage by Miguel and Nat, and have come out impressed by their style.

I got to hear the story behind such sessions. Nat had this to say (not the exact words, I’ve sadly forgotten them):

“What I’ve come to know is that in India, you can actually get a degree in computers without actually doing a lot of coding”

I just kept laughing as this was the reality! Back in college, there were a few who really liked the subjects and who liked to code. The others coded just to get through the exams (and in cases, managed to get through without even coding).

Nat says he’s never had as many people coming to him after a talk as in India. They don’t ask questions during the talk, but after the talk. And the kind of questions they ask prompted him to ask “So how many lines of code have you written?” The reply is usually in the range of 3000. I’m not sure if his reaction was as animated in front of the crowd, but he said “that’s the kind of number you should be coding every day if you’ve got to be decent coders!”

So true. It’s a pity, since we have a lot of people entering this industry.. a lot of youngsters being churned out by colleges. What’s painful is that everyone is misguided. Some take up the course just because “there’s more money”. Some are here there are colleges mushrooming everywhere, which can accommodate many such people. It’s not for passion that many join the course and the industry.

Those few who, in spite of the extremely tolerant and greedy industry that we’ve managed to create here, can’t make it to the industry post-college (for obvious reasons), become lecturers at these colleges. Doesn’t help students at all. Of the talented lot, a few get disillusioned, a few don’t get proper guidance… and that marks the sad start to an already finished career.

I particularly remember the nice anecdotes we used to have during lectures and practicals. A few gems:

– While doing the Kirchoff’s Voltage and Current Laws: two currents flow through a resistor in the same direction. They’re supposed to add up. The lecturer says it’s I1 – I2. We’re of course in the mood to have fun, so one guy points out the mistake and another one says there’s no mistake. So we pass time debating this. At the end of the hour, the lecturer says “According to my logic, it’s right. You go home and check with your books.”

– The same guy, in a lab session. My unfortunate friend‘s allotted power supply doesn’t work. He asks for a replacement. This lecturer says “why do you need a different power supply? Use this multi-meter, set it to 5V DC and use it.” Atul couldn’t control his laughter. The lecturer took offence and that might’ve reflected on our performance. (Hope you don’t get into such trouble at CMU! ;-) )

Back to Nat: I was very impressed by him. Though I’m not a Gnome-fan, I still like all the work they’re doing and from my interaction, I’m sure he’s taking the Linux desktop to the masses.

Quote: Greg Kroah-Hartman on Linux development model

“It is a web of trust. Linus trusts 10 to 15 people, I trust 10 to 15 people,” Kroah-Hartman said. “I trust that they’ll be around to fix the problem. And that’s more important than getting it right in the first place.”

This is from the OLS Day 1, covered here.

Also of note:

In the latest kernel release, the most active 30 developers authored only 30% of the changes, while two years ago, the top 20 developers did 80% of the changes, he said. Kroah-Hartman himself is now doing more code reviewing than coding. “That’s all I do, is read patches these days,” he said.

Quote: Change things about you

“Unless you have the passion, unless you hate the current state of things so much, you won’t do something different” Amit Shah

This came off when discussing a new idea and when I was asked to tone down my comments made on the existing state of affairs. Thanks to the conversation with Abi.

Quote on Advice

While talking to a friend, I came up with this:

“It’s advice; if you take it, you’ll be better off. If you don’t, I’ll pray for you.” — Amit Shah

On Debates, Quotes and Good Workflow Management

“Just because you can’t think how it can be done doesn’t mean it’s impossible to do” – Amit Shah.

Happens each time I get into a debate. People, with their limited knowledge, can’t think of ways a particular thing can be done by a particular way.

Slightly off-topic: I’ve finished reading “I Sing the Body Electronic” a few weeks back (review pending). It talks about one of the projects that Microsoft took up. The developers don’t have patience to explain the nitty-gritties of their work to designers. Similarly, designers would have a tough time goading developers to create a “simple” widget that looks like an ellipse instead of a standard circle.

So how do you really explain stuff to people? They don’t open up their minds. They’re just not ready to accept that things could happen in a different way. They just go by what they’ve learnt till now and what their brains are capable of extrapolating.

Seemingly bright people stay in their own nutshells. They impress their colleagues / managers by talking at length about what they know and how things could get done. But hold on, cowboy… Don’t you think it’ll be better if we did things this way? Uh-oh.. how’s that possible? I don’t think it can be done. <Does some research on the ‘net. Finds one or two sentences which of course don’t talk about specifics. Comes back with them as proof. I think we’re over the episode and I’ve made my point. But hey, now we’ll have to start an email debate. Great!>

Engineers are meant to doubt everything they hear and see. I used to do that. But I’ve realized over time that to be communicative, you have to be receptive as well. If you just go around flouting everything that seems impossible to you, hold back. Think about it. No doubt, challenge it. But also give it some credence and consider it could be possible. Will make your life easier because the people involved (at the other end of the argument) will be willing to share more with you just because you’re more receptive.

If you don’t agree to something, people might not tell you things, which means you won’t get to learn new things and you’re out of loop on possibly very important new developments (happening in your own group, perhaps). What’s better is to just nail it down in a second meeting. First meeting, carry points home. Research. Send mail. Research more if there are replies. Second meeting, things are automatically sorted out.

Yeah, get out of the notion that you’ll always be right. And that you’re the first person in the world to think of a particular solution. There are bright minds everywhere. Beside you, in the next building, in next city, the next country, the next continent and so on.. Take credit for what you’ve said. But don’t expect others to not have said / thought of the same thing.