The Mind of a 20+ Year Developer

I've been coding a long time, and it has definitely had an impact on how I think. I also have an uncanny memory for things that I've built, and can usually describe the inner workings of something I wrong long ago, I think simply by imagining how I would do it today.

I'm not sure how long I've been coding. Let me see... I started with GWBasic in my senior year of high school, so approximately Fall of 1996, so 22 years fully, but I didn't know jack then. I don't know jack still, so by that measure, I've not been developing at all :)

But computer science started in college in Spring of 1998, so it's been over 20 years since I actually started to learn some things. Those were exciting times! Anyway...

As a developer of 20 years, really into learning everything I could, having dealt with many different languages and coding paradigms, frameworks, ideas, projects, protocols, etc. at some point, a lot of solutions started to seem obvious to me. For a recent example, I've been working on my Go Sitecore API. Sitecore is a hierarchical system for storing content. Content is a broad term in the Sitecore world. As they say, "Sitecore is built on Sitecore". It stores all of your data structures (templates), content, ways to render the content (layout and renderings for all intents and purposes), system data, etc. Everything is a node. A node is an instance of a "Template".  The "Template" node is a node. Etc. And it's all tree based.

So in writing the Sitecore API, you don't necessarily want to deal with the entire tree. Also being a tree, the nodes have a "Path" property, like /sitecore/templates/User Defined/My Template. I wrote a simple way to build the tree from the database, then filter out the tree by a set of paths ( paths []string). This would simply go through the tree and the result would be a map of Guid -> Item (a node), where the nodes returned would all reside within the path specified. You could provide a path like "-/sitecore/system" (beginning with a hyphen) to say that you want to exclude those items. That code is here. So I found myself needing the opposite.

Give me all nodes in these paths, then give me all nodes NOT in these paths. You could write a set operation, an XOR or something like that. But I needed to do it by path. Knowing I had the path operations like "-/sitecore" (starting with hyphen) to exclude items, I quickly said to myself, "why not use the same paths, and where it starts with -, remove it, and if it doesn't start with -, then prepend it, and use those paths?"  So that's what I did. You can see that code here.

Of course, now I'm thinking the XOR operation might be a better idea! Give me all of the nodes in those paths, then loop through the base tree and add any nodes where the ID is not in the resulting filtered tree... that might be a little bit better, I think... although it does result in two loops through the entire tree contents, my original idea may actually be the better one.

So you can see how the mind of a 20 year developer works. Also I'm not afraid to say "Oh, yeah, that can be done much better, I'm going to rewrite it."

An Uncanny Memory

Another thing that I've noticed is that I know how pretty much everything I wrote works. For every project, if someone asked me, "Hey, there's a component in this project you worked on 5 years ago, I have to make an update to it, can you tell me how you wrote it?"  "Sure! It works like this" and then I'd spout off all the things it does. And any thing to watch out for. Sometimes I'm amazed at how I have retained that information through all I've worked on in the past 20 years.

I might benchmark those two methods and see which one is faster. Happy Coding!

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