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In his new role as head of the computer-science department at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Jim Hendler wants to shake up how computer programming is taught — and share the code. In an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education, Hendler is concerned that the demand for resources is outpacing how fast people can be trained — and that the training is inadequate because of old-school think that programming is a solo sport — and that the product of those efforts is a closely-guarded secret.

Instead Hendler advocates pairing programmers, publicly reviewing code, and bringing in the non-coders to see the process. In fact, Hendler, who has served as a management consultant to many technology firms, said he has observed these practices in the bleeding edge tech companies — and believes they should be elevated to de rigueur.

Here at MarkLogic one of my colleagues Matt Turner started up Demo Jam several years back. This is a chance for anyone in the company to show off present to their peers. A funny thing happened. While one would think that this might be Friday night yawn in Sheldon and Leonard’s apartment — it turned out that this is a dynamic and highly attended internal event. Matt cues up the music and the timer — and the presenter presents. And if s/he wants audience participation just saying a word — and looking up — cues the obligatory echo of “Facets!” or “Triples!” or “Replication!”

It is silly, but it is fun. And you know what, it is educating. The developer gains much-needed presentation skills, and we non-developers are exposed to various technical “building blocks” that make up any application. The Demo Jam serves to demystify while unifying the work teams. And participation is aided because of Matt’s shakedown of executives to ante up a huge cash pot for the top 3 presentations.

Most of us will never be coders but that doesn’t mean we have to stand on the technology sidelines. The more we are all exposed to the steps to creating great software, the more we can imagine — and innovate.

 

 

 

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