The following two books contain a wealth of pragmatic advice and philosophy for maturing programmers:
- The Pragmatic Programmer, Andrew Hunt and David Thomas, Addison-Wesley, 2000. (Some of the mentions of the Internet or popular languages in it might seem quaint by now, and occasionally the masculine pronouns might grate on modern ears, but the rest is solid.)
- Extreme Programming Explained, second edition, Kent Beck with Cynthia Andres, Addison-Wesley, 2005. (Note that the first edition is not acceptable as a substitute. Though “Extreme Programming” might come across as a buzzword, the philosophy contained in the book is widely applicable.)
You will write a short essay on the first book (Hunt and Thomas), Anyone who wishes bonus credit may likewise submit an additional essay on the second book (Beck and Andres). This essay assignment is not meant to be burdensome. What’s important to us is that you read the book and reflect on the ideas in it; we believe doing so will plant seeds that grow to influence you for years to come.
Deadlines. The first essay (on Hunt and Thomas) is due by Friday, October 5. The second essay, should you choose to do it, is due by Friday, November 30.
Format. Your essay should be three pages, in 12 point Times Roman font, and double-spaced. That’s only about 750 words—not long at all.
Content. The theme of your essay should be how the book reinforced, challenged, or changed your own philosophy of programming. Assume that the reader is someone who is at your own level of programming knowledge, but has not read the book. Here are some specific prompts that you are welcome but not required to use:
How has your programming already changed because of the book? How do you think it might change in the next year? The next five years?
What situation or idea described in the book reminded you of a time a programming task had gone badly for you? Describe the task. Describe what you would have done differently if you’d already read the book.
What do you profoundly disagree with in the book? Can you offer a well-reasoned argument against the book’s advice?
Has the book awakened an interest in you to learn more about a particular topic? Describe that topic, why it fascinates you, and provide some citations that you could read next.
Can you summarize the most important ideas of the book in just one paragraph? What do you think the authors would want every reader of the book to learn or to think?
Assessment. Your essay will be graded on this rubric:
2 points: The essay is clear and focused. The writing is appropriate for the audience. The author’s knowledge of the contents of the book is evident. All sentences are well constructed. There are no errors in grammar, mechanics, or spelling.
1 point: The main ideas are unclear. The author seems to have little knowledge of the contents of the book. There are numerous errors in grammar, mechanics, or spelling.
0 points: No essay was submitted, or the essay was clearly a token effort.