Top Ten Tips For Programmers

It can be an isolated, frustrating life as a programmer. Working on code for hours and hours, and fighting glitches that almost seem to spring up from nowhere, can make you wish you’d studied rocket science instead. Fear not, here’s a tongue-in-cheek list of tips and suggestions that may change the way you work….

1.       Take care of yourself

Whilst you may not notice just how many hours you’ve spent in-front of your keyboard, without the right amount of R & R, your work and your focus will suffer. Eat well, remember to hydrate, and make sure you get enough sleep. Rather than working into the night to finish ‘this little bit’, waking up early to do it after a decent rest will see you much sharper.

2.       Move around

Sitting at a desk for hours on end can be the cause of posture problems, it doubles your risk of diabetes, and increases your risk of heart disease. You may not think of yourself as the average ‘office worker’, but being desk-bound puts you in the frame for a whole host of problems prolonged, continual inactivity can bring. Get up and walk around for so many minutes each hour, and make sure your posture is as it should be when in-front of your computer; there are plenty of ergonomically-designed chairs and associated equipment available.

3.       Think strategically as well as creatively

The first idea you conjure up to solve a problem is not always the best. Before jumping in and making Idea No.1 happen, take a little time to think of Idea No.2 and No.3, for example, even if this only confirms your first assumption was the correct one.

4.       Make it easy for others

Programmer Livio De La Cruz says, “Part of the reason why programmers tend to have a love/hate relationship with writing documentation is because we’re typically not fans of being forced to do things we think are unnecessary. When people resist writing documentation, they usually say it’s unnecessary because: (1) the code is obvious, (2) everyone on the team already understands it, or (3) there’s no way they’re going to forget what the code does. Instead of asking myself, “Does everyone already understand this?” I instead ask, “What are the chances that someone will ever be confused by this?” If I think there’s even a small chance, that’s usually good enough reason to write something down.”

5.       Learn to record your thoughts and ideas

Writers pin down ideas – often, in the middle of the night – in notebooks they keep by their phone, bed or person. A programmer has the same creative cogs that could whirr into place at any time, which is why having a method of recording them is so useful; memory banks only go so far. Though smartphones have replaced the notebook and diary with their numerous apps to remind us of anything, when explanation of ideas is needed, drawings are often good way to express them – best done with the humble pencil and paper.

6.       Organise your code

Thinking strategically and creatively is harder when there’s clutter in your code. Numerous shortcuts may have produced the mess, but at some point, it needs sorting out. Says De La Cruz, “Aside from the productivity benefits that come with not tripping over messy code, frequent refactoring can often bring useful side-effects. Through the act of re-reading and reorganising code, not only do you tend to get more acquainted with the code base, but you also restructure parts of it to be easier to understand, which is, in turn, easier to remember.”

7.       Become a better debugger

One of the main attributes of a good programmer is being a good debugger. Busting one type of bug undoubtedly helps you tackle it when you next see it occur, which is why experience counts. Knowledge is just as valuable, however; understanding how systems and components work will help you track the offending problem down more quickly. Bugs can sap a lot of programmers’ time, which is why debugging is such an important skill to hone.

8.       Don’t be afraid to experiment

A surgeon knows that cuts are necessary to operate, but that they will heal. Knowing that there’s something wrong with a system, but being hesitant to wade in, in case you do more harm than good, will not boost your learning or levels of experience. Don’t be scared of your code - do the damage, knowing that you’re ultimately setting about restoring the system’s health.

9.       Stay connected

Programming can be something done in isolation, but if you’re continually creating code alone, you never see anything but your own point of view. Don’t forget that what you’re creating will be used by others; having access to fellow programmers can provide you with a valuable sounding board and beta feedback.

10.   Continue to learn

Technology won’t wait around for everyone to catch up before it moves again; you’ve got to put the hard work in to stay ahead of the game (literally). Keep up to date with industry news and developments, take interest in your peers’ work, and look to bag yourself a mentor. Not only does this help you in your day-to-day work, it keeps you marketable.

Gravity Games Recruitment is a leading independent recruitment agency for the video games industry, operating throughout the UK, Europe and USA. We place talent in all areas of video game development. Our partners include studios and publishers covering all major game genres within mobile, social, PC and Console. Contact us on 01302 319 101, or email us at info@gravityrecruitment.com for more information.

(Source: 'Radar' and 'SuperHeroesInRaceCars')

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