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professional-programming

by charlax

A collection of full-stack resources for programmers.

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Table of Contents

Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe. (Abraham Lincoln)

A collection of full-stack resources for programmers.

The goal of this page is to make you a more proficient developer. You'll find only resources that I've found truly inspiring, or that have become timeless classics.

This page is not meant to be comprehensive. I am trying to keep it light and not too overwhelming. The selection of articles is opinionated.

Items:

  • 🧰: list of resources
  • 📖: book
  • 🎞: video/movie extract/movie
  • 🎤: slides/presentation

Contributing to this list

Feel free to open a PR to contribute! I will not be adding everything: as stated above, I am trying to keep the list concise.

Must-read books

I've found these books incredibly inspiring:

There are some free books available, including:

Must-read articles

  • Practical Advice for New Software Engineers
  • On Being A Senior Engineer
  • Lessons Learned in Software Development: one of those articles that give you years of hard-earned lessons, all in one short article. Must read.
  • Things I Learnt The Hard Way
    • Spec first, then code
    • Tests make better APIs
    • Future thinking is future trashing
    • Documentation is a love letter to your future self
    • Sometimes, it's better to let the application crash than do nothing
    • Understand and stay away of cargo cult
    • "Right tool for the job" is just to push an agenda
    • Learn the basics functional programming
    • ALWAYS use timezones with your dates
    • ALWAYS use UTF-8
    • Create libraries
    • Learn to monitor
    • Explicit is better than implicit
    • Companies look for specialists but keep generalists longer
    • The best secure way to deal with user data is not to capture it
    • When it's time to stop, it's time to stop
    • You're responsible for the use of your code
    • Don't tell "It's done" when it's not
    • Pay attention on how people react to you
    • Beware of micro-aggressions
    • Keep a list of "Things I Don't Know"
  • Signs that you're a good programmer
  • Signs that you're a bad programmer
  • 7 absolute truths I unlearned as junior developer
    • Early in your career, you can learn 10x more in a supportive team in 1 year, than coding on your own
    • Every company has problems, every company has technical debt.
    • Being overly opinionated on topics you lack real-world experience with is pretty arrogant.
    • Many conference talks cover proof of concepts rather than real-world scenarios.
    • Dealing with legacy is completely normal.
    • Architecture is more important than nitpicking.
    • Focus on automation over documentation where appropriate.
    • Having some technical debt is healthy.
    • Senior engineers must develop many skills besides programming.
    • We’re all still junior in some areas.
  • How to Build Good Software
    • A good high-level summary of fundamental engineering practices.
    • The root cause of bad software has less to do with specific engineering choices, and more to do with how development projects are managed.
    • There is no such thing as platonically good engineering: it depends on your needs and the practical problems you encounter.
    • Software should be treated not as a static product, but as a living manifestation of the development team’s collective understanding.
    • Software projects rarely fail because they are too small; they fail because they get too big.
    • Beware of bureaucratic goals masquerading as problem statements. If our end goal is to make citizens’ lives better, we need to explicitly acknowledge the things that are making their lives worse.
    • Building software is not about avoiding failure; it is about strategically failing as fast as possible to get the information you need to build something good.

Other general material and list of resources

List of axioms:

  • Precepts - Urbit
    • Data is better than code.
    • Correctness is more important than performance.
    • Deterministic beats heuristic.
    • One hundred lines of simplicity is better than twenty lines of complexity.
    • If your abstractions are leaking, it's not due to some law of the universe; you just suck at abstracting. Usually, you didn't specify the abstraction narrowly enough.
    • If you avoid changing a section of code for fear of awakening the demons therein, you are living in fear. If you stay in the comfortable confines of the small section of the code you wrote or know well, you will never write legendary code. All code was written by humans and can be mastered by humans.
    • If there's clearly a right way to do something and a wrong way, do it the right way. Coding requires incredible discipline.
    • The best way to get the right answer is to try it the wrong way.
    • Practice tells you that things are good or bad; theory tells you why.
    • Not being qualified to solve a problem is no reason not to solve it.
    • If you don't understand a system you're using, you don't control it. If nobody understands the system, the system is in control.

Courses

Topics

Algorithm and data structures

Let's be honest: algorithms can be a pretty dry topic. This quora question lists some funnier learning alternative, including:

Example implementations:

API design & development

Attitude, habits, mindset

  • Mastering Programming, Kent Beck.
  • The traits of a proficient programmer
  • The tao of programming: a set of parables about programming.
  • Taking Ownership Is The Most Effective Way to Get What You Want
  • Finding Time to Become a Better Developer
  • Ten minutes a day: how Alex Allain wrote a book in less than 200 hours, by writing 10 minutes every day.
  • The care and feeding of software engineers (or, why engineers are grumpy)
    • In the triumvirate of software, product managers, designers, and software engineers, only the engineers are expected to turn off their creative minds and just produce.
    • Both engineers and product managers tend to think, incorrectly, that product specifications or requirements are equivalent to the furniture manual from Ikea.
    • This is one of the top things that make engineers grumpy: constantly shifting priorities.
    • Even though many engineers will complain that product managers change their minds, almost none will account for that in their time estimates.
    • Computer science programs aren’t about preparing you for the tasks you’ll face in industry.
    • When there are more engineers than can be used, engineering time ends up going away from developing and towards planning, synchronization, and coordination.
    • Involve engineers in the creative process
    • Give engineers opportunities to be creative.
    • Encourage time off.
    • Let 'em code
    • Express appreciation
  • The Product-Minded Software Engineer, Gergely Orosz
    • Great product engineers know that minimum lovable products need the right depth
    • Product-minded engineers quickly map out edge cases and think of ways to reduce work on them: often bringing solutions that require no engineering work
    • Engage in user research and customer support
    • Bring well-backed product suggestions to the table
    • Offer product/engineering tradeoffs
  • 40 Lessons From 40 Years, Steve Schlafman
    • If you want to make progress on the things that matter most, you need to decide who you’re going to disappoint. It’s inevitable.
    • The best investment you can make is your own education. Never stop learning. The second best investment you can make is building your network through authentic and meaningful interactions. It is what you know and who you know.
    • You’ll never get what you don’t ask for or actively seek out. Go for it!
    • It’s not about the light at the end of the tunnel. It’s the tunnel. Show up every day and enjoy the process.
    • A great teammate always puts the organization and its purpose ahead of their own self interests.
    • Pick your spots. We have limited time and our brains can only process so much. Focus is key. Choose wisely.
    • Every person is likely struggling with something. Be kind. Be helpful.
  • On Coding, Ego and Attention
    • Beginner’s mind accepts the fact that absolute knowledge is infinite and thus keeping score is a waste of time.
    • Mastery is simply the accumulation of momentum, not the accumulation of knowledge.
    • Dealing with ego distraction has taught me to love the problem solving process. It’s taught me to love and respect the learning process. As a result I’m more productive. I’m less anxious. I’m a better teammate. I’m a better friend and a better thinker.

Automation

Biases

Biases don't only apply to hiring. For instance, the fundamental attribution bias also applies when criticizing somebody's code written a long time ago, in a totally different context.

Career growth

Characters sets

Code reviews

Coding & code quality

Computer science

Configuration

Databases

Data formats

Data science

Debugging

Design (visual, UX, UI)

I highly recommend reading The Non-Designer's Design Book. This is a pretty short book that will give you some very actionable design advices.

Articles :

  • 10 Usability Heuristics Every Designer Should Know
    • Visibility of System Status
    • The Match Between The System And The Real World
    • Every system should have a clear emergency exit
    • Don't forget that people spend 90% of their time interacting with other apps
    • Recognition Rather Than Recall (recognition = shallow form of retrieval from memory, e.g. a familiar person, recall = deeper retrieval)
    • ”Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.” – Antoine de Saint-Exupery
    • Help Users Recognize, Diagnose, And Recover From Errors

Design (OO modeling, architecture, patterns, anti-patterns, etc.)

Here's a list of good books:

One of the absolute references on architecture is Martin Fowler: checkout his Software Architecture Guide.

Articles:

I maintain a list of antipatterns on another repo. This is a highly recommended read.

You can use an eraser on the drafting table or a sledge hammer on the construction site. (Frank Lloyd Wright)

Design: database schema

  • A humble guide to database schema design, Mike Alche
    • Use at least third normal form
    • Create a last line of defense with constraints
    • Never store full addresses in a single field
    • Never store firstname and lastname in the same field
    • Establish conventions for table and field names.

Design: patterns

Design: simplicity

  • Simple Made Easy 🎞, Rich Hickey. This is an incredibly inspiring talk redefining simplicity, ease and complexity, and showing that solutions that look easy may actually harm your design.

Dev environment & tools

Tools

Diversity & inclusion

Check out my list of management resources.

Documentation

Dotfiles

Articles

Editors & IDE

Engineering management

Checkout my list of management resources.

Exercises

The best way to learn is to learn by doing.

Incident response (oncall, alerting, outages, firefighting, postmortem)

  • Incident Response at Heroku
  • My Philosophy On Alerting
    • Pages should be urgent, important, actionable, and real.
    • Err on the side of removing noisy alerts – over-monitoring is a harder problem to solve than under-monitoring.
    • Symptoms are a better way to capture more problems more comprehensively and robustly with less effort.
    • Include cause-based information in symptom-based pages or on dashboards, but avoid alerting directly on causes.
    • The further up your serving stack you go, the more distinct problems you catch in a single rule. But don’t go so far you can’t sufficiently distinguish what’s going on.
    • If you want a quiet oncall rotation, it’s imperative to have a system for dealing with things that need timely response, but are not imminently critical.
  • The Google SRE book's chapter about oncall
  • Writing Runbook Documentation When You’re An SRE
    • Playbooks “reduce stress, the mean time to repair (MTTR), and the risk of human error.”
    • Using a template can be beneficial because starting from a blank document is incredibly hard.
    • The Curse of Knowledge is a cognitive bias that occurs when someone is communicating with others and unknowingly assumes the level of knowledge of the people they are communicating with.
    • Make your content easy to glance over.
    • If a script is longer than a single line, treat it like code, and check it into a repository to be source control and potentially tested.

Postmortem

Dan Milstein, “Let’s plan for a future where we’re all as stupid as we are today.”

Internet

Interviewing

Note: this is about you as an interviewee, not as an interviewer. To check out my list of resources for interviewers, go to my engineering-management repository.

See also the exercises section in this document.

Learning & memorizing

Learn how to learn!

  • How I Rewired My Brain to Become Fluent in Math: subtitled the building blocks of understanding are memorization and repetition.
  • One Sure-Fire Way to Improve Your Coding: reading code!
  • Tips for learning programming
  • You can increase your intelligence: 5 ways to maximize your cognitive potential: forgive the clickbait title, it’s actually a good article.
  • How to ask good questions, Julia Evans.
  • Stop Learning Frameworks
  • Learning How to Learn: powerful mental tools to help you master tough subjects
  • Why books don’t work, Andy Matuschak.
    • "As a medium, books are surprisingly bad at conveying knowledge, and readers mostly don’t realize it."
    • "In learning sciences, we call this model “transmissionism.” It’s the notion that knowledge can be directly transmitted from teacher to student, like transcribing text from one page onto another. If only!"
    • "By re-testing yourself on material you’ve learned over expanding intervals, you can cheaply and reliably commit huge volumes of information to long-term memory."
  • Strategies, Tips, and Tricks for Anki: those advices work for any tool actually
    • Add images. Our brains are wired visually, so this helps retention.
    • Don't add things you don't understand.
    • Don't add cards memorizing entire lists.
    • Write it out. For wrong answers, I'll write it on paper. The act of writing is meditative. I really enjoy this.
    • Keep on asking yourself why? why does this work? why does it work this way? Force yourself to understand the root of a topic.
    • Cornell Method: when reading a topic, write out questions on the margins to quiz yourself.
    • Pretend you have to teach it
    • Use mnemonics phrases like PEMDAS for lists and other hard-to-remember topics.
    • Delete cards that don't make sense or you don't want to remember anymore.
  • Effective learning: Twenty rules of formulating knowledge
    • Build upon the basics
    • Stick to the minimum information principle: the material you learn must be formulated in as simple way as it is
    • Cloze deletion is easy and effective: Kaleida's mission was to create a ... It finally produced one, called Script X. But it took three years
    • Graphic deletion is as good as cloze deletion
    • Avoid sets
    • Avoid enumerations
    • Combat interference - even the simplest items can be completely intractable if they are similar to other items. Use examples, context cues, vivid illustrations, refer to emotions, and to your personal life
    • Personalize and provide examples - personalization might be the most effective way of building upon other memories. Your personal life is a gold mine of facts and events to refer to. As long as you build a collection for yourself, use personalization richly to build upon well established memories
    • Provide sources - sources help you manage the learning process, updating your knowledge, judging its reliability, or importance
    • Prioritize - effective learning is all about prioritizing.
  • How to Remember Anything You Really Want to Remember, Backed by Science
    • Quiz yourself
    • Summarize and share with someone else.
    • Connect what you just learned to experiences you previously had.

Richard Feynman's Learning Strategy:

  1. Step 1: Continually ask "Why?”
  2. Step 2: When you learn something, learn it to where you can explain it to a child.
  3. Step 3: Instead of arbitrarily memorizing things, look for the explanation that makes it obvious.

Most people overestimate what they can do in 1 year and underestimate what they can do in a decade. – Bill Gates

Frankly, though, I think most people can learn a lot more than they think they can. They sell themselves short without trying. One bit of advice: it is important to view knowledge as sort of a semantic tree — make sure you understand the fundamental principles, ie the trunk and big branches, before you get into the details/leaves or there is nothing for them to hang on to. — Elon Musk

"Experience is something you don't get until just after you need it." ― Steven Wright

Low-level

  • Back to Basics, Joel Spolsky. Explains why learning low level programming is important.
    • I think that some of the biggest mistakes people make even at the highest architectural levels come from having a weak or broken understanding of a few simple things at the very lowest levels.

Network

  • The Great Confusion About URIs
    • A URI is a string of characters that identifies a resource. Its syntax is
      <scheme>:<authority><path>?<query>#<fragment></fragment></query></path></authority></scheme>
      , where only
      <scheme></scheme>
      and
      <path></path>
      are mandatory. URL and URN are URIs.
    • A URL is a string of characters that identifies a resource located on a computer network. Its syntax depends on its scheme. E.g.
      mailto:[email protected]
      .
    • A URN is a string of characters that uniquely identifies a resource. Its syntax is
      urn:<namespace identifier>:<namespace specific string></namespace></namespace>
      . E.g.
      urn:isbn:9780062301239

Observability (monitoring, logging, exception handling)

Logging

  • Do not log dwells on some logging antipatterns.
    • Logging does not make much sense in monitoring and error tracking. Use better tools instead: error and business monitorings with alerts, versioning, event sourcing.
    • Logging adds significant complexity to your architecture. And it requires more testing. Use architecture patterns that will make logging an explicit part of your contracts
    • Logging is a whole infrastructure subsystem on its own. And quite a complex one. You will have to maintain it or to outsource this job to existing logging services

Error/exception handling

Monitoring

Problem solving

Project management

See Project management section on my engineering-management list of resources.

Programming languages

I would recommend learning:

  • JavaScript and maybe another interpreted language (Python, Ruby, etc.). Interpreted languages are useful for quick one-off automation scripts, and fastest to write for interviews. JavaScript is ubiquitous.
  • A compiled language (Java, C, C++...).
  • A more recent language to see where the industry is going (as of writing, Go, Swift, Rust, Elixir...).
  • A language that has first-class support for functional programming (Haskell, Scala, Clojure...).

A bit more reading:

There are only two kinds of languages: the ones people complain about and the ones nobody uses.

-- Bjarne Stroustrup (C++ creator)

Python

For Python feel free to checkout my professional Python education repository.

JavaScript

JavaScript is such a pervasive language that it's almost required learning.

Functional programming

  • Jargon from the functional programming world
  • Goodbye, Object Oriented Programming
  • Functional Programming & Haskell: some good reasons to learn FP!
  • Functional Programming Fundamentals: short introduction to FP and its advantages.
  • OO vs FP, Robert C. Martin, The Clean Code Blog. A pretty interesting take on the differences between OOP and FP from an expert in OOP.
    • OO is not about state. Objects are bags of functions, not bags of data.
    • Functional Programs, like OO Programs, are composed of functions that operate on data.
    • FP imposes discipline upon assignment.
    • OO imposes discipline on function pointers.
    • The principles of software design still apply, regardless of your programming style. The fact that you’ve decided to use a language that doesn’t have an assignment operator does not mean that you can ignore the Single Responsibility Principle.
  • Parse, don’t validate
    • Use a data structure that makes illegal states unrepresentable
    • Push the burden of proof upward as far as possible, but no further
    • Let your datatypes inform your code, don’t let your code control your datatypes
    • Don’t be afraid to parse data in multiple passes
    • Avoid denormalized representations of data, especially if it’s mutable
    • Use abstract datatypes to make validators “look like” parsers

Programming paradigm

  • Imperative vs Declarative Programming, Tyler McGinnis.
    • I draw the line between declarative and non-declarative at whether you can trace the code as it runs. Regex is 100% declarative, as it’s untraceable while the pattern is being executed.

Over-engineering

“A complex system that works is invariably found to have evolved from a simple system that worked. A complex system designed from scratch never works and cannot be patched up to make it work. You have to start over, beginning with a working simple system.”

John Gall, General systemantics, an essay on how systems work, and especially how they fail..., 1975 (this quote is sometime referred as "Galls' law")

"Software engineering is what happens to programming when you add time and other programmers."

Rob Pike, Go at Google: Language Design in the Service of Software Engineering

Reading

  • Papers we love: papers from the computer science community to read and discuss. Can be a good source of inspiration of solving your design problems.
  • The morning paper: one CS research paper explained every morning.

Refactoring

  • The Rule of Three, Coding Horror
    • Every programmer ever born thinks whatever idea just popped out of their head into their editor is the most generalized, most flexible, most one-size-fits all solution that has ever been conceived.
    • It is three times as difficult to build reusable components as single use components.
    • A reusable component should be tried out in three different applications before it will be sufficiently general to accept into a reuse library.

Releasing & deploying

Security

Shell

System architecture

Scalability

  • I already mentioned the book Scalability rules above, but there's also a presentation about it.

Stability

  • I already mentioned the book Release it! above. There's also a presentation from the author.

Resiliency

Site Reliability Engineering (SRE)

Books:

  • Site Reliability Engineering 📖
    • Written by members of Google's SRE team, with a comprehensive analysis of the entire software lifecycle - how to build, deploy, monitor, and maintain large scale systems.

Articles:

Reliability is the one feature every customer users. -- An auth0 SRE.

Technical debt

Testing

Tools

Version control (Git)

Work ethics, productivity & work/life balance

  • Your non-linear problem of 90% utilization, Jason Cohen: why constantly running at 90% utilization is actually counter-productive.
  • Evidence-based advice on how to be successful in any jobs: most self-help advices are not research-based. The ones listed in this article are.
  • The Complete Guide to Deep Work
    • The ability to perform deep work is becoming increasingly rare at exactly the same time it is becoming increasingly valuable in our economy.
    • Choose Your Deep Work Strategy
    • Build a Deep Work Routine
    • Discipline #1: Focus on the Wildly Important
    • Discipline #2: Act on the Lead Measures
    • Discipline #4: Create a Cadence of Accountability
    • Our Ability for Deep Work is Finite
    • The Craftsman Approach to Tool Selection
    • Stop Using Social Media
    • Get Your Boss on Board With Deep Work
  • Every productivity thought I've ever had, as concisely as possible
    • Context intentionality as the key difference between home and every other place on planet earth
    • Rules are about exceptions
  • Makers, Don't Let Yourself Be Forced Into the 'Manager Schedule'
    • Research shows that it takes as long as 30 minutes for makers to get into the flow
    • Use maker-manager office hours
    • Communication can happen at a quieter asynchronous frequency in the form of thoughtful, written discussions rather than soul-sucking meetings or erratic one-line-at-a-time chat messages
    • Build a team knowledge base to minimize repetitive questions and allow self-onboarding.

Web development

Writing

➡️ See also my engineering-management list

  • Undervalued Software Engineering Skills: Writing Well
    • From the HN discussion: "Writing a couple of pages of design docs or an Amazon-style 6 pager or whatever might take a few days of work, but can save weeks or more of wasted implementation time when you realise your system design was flawed or it doesn't address any real user needs."

Write like an Amazonian

Writing for performance

Resources & inspiration for presentations

Concepts

Glossary

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