10 Papers Every Developer Should Read

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2021-07-20 11:00:07

I spent most of yesterday afternoon working on a paper I’m co-writing. It was one of those days when the writing came easy. I was moving from topic to topic, but then I realized that I was reaching too far backward – I was explaining things which I shouldn’t have had to explain to the audience I was trying to reach.

When I first started writing, one of the pieces of advice that I heard was that you should always imagine that you are writing to a particular person. It gets you going – you’re automatically in an explanatory state of mind and you know what you can expect from your audience. I was doing that, but I noticed that I was drifting. I was losing my sense of audience. I started to explain one thing, and then I realized that I would have to explain something else to help it make sense. I couldn’t imagine that person any more. How could I know what they know and what they don’t?

The problem I was experiencing is only getting worse. People come into programming from many different directions. Some started in other fields, and others started programming as teens. Some started with BASIC, others started with Ruby or C or Javascript. The industry is filled with knowledge, but it isn’t common knowledge. It isn’t knowledge that we all share. We have to dig for it because of a peculiar fact about our industry: we reinvent our languages and notations every ten years. It’s hard to find deeply technical books and articles which stand the test of time in software: they are all Latin within 20 years.

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