Sam Newman's site, a Consultant at ThoughtWorks

Archive for ‘August, 2003’

Reading the “Register”: recently, I’ve been slightly surprised by not-so-sly digs at some Bloggers as a whole and specifically on their use of Trackbacks on a couple of their recent articles (see text in “Max OpenOffice Delay Debunked”: and “Webloggers deal Harvard blog-bores a black eye”: Now as a long time register reader I’ve learnt to take their occasional rants with a heavy pinch of salt – indeed I’ve long suspected the register journalists are incapable of NOT having an opinion about something. In any case, their problem with Trackbacks (over and above the fact that they believe developers using them would be better served developing a port of OpenOffice for the Mac) was the problems it has been causing Google. Not really knowing too much about Trackbacks despite having them enabled myself, I decided to look into them in a bit more depth.
Continue reading…

It seems that either a very bored individual or some new kind of bot has been spamming my comments. Two identical comments advertising a Hotel have appeared on this Blog, which is mighty annoying. In an attempt to stop this kind of thing I’m now going to have to require that people leave email addresses (which will not be displayed) when making comments.

I’ve been interested in XP for a while now. Whilst many of the rules outlined in XP have always made perfect sense to me (simple design, frequent unit testing), the one that really made me sceptical was the notion of “Pair Programming(Extreme Rules – Pair Programming)”:, which forms much of the focus of a recent “Wired article(Wired – The New X-Men)”: For the uninitiated, pair programming has two programmers working at the same desk – one programmer ‘drives’ whilst the other watches. The idea is that they can bounce ideas of each other, and while the coder doing the actual typing can be quite focused on a single line, the other can pick up simple mistakes such as missing semi-colons and the like. The net result is that despite the apparent upfront loss in productivity bugs occur less frequently, and when they do appear they are fixed more quickly.

Although the practice adds 15 percent per programmer to the time it takes to complete a task, the lost productivity is offset by having fewer bugs to fix. “Pre-XP,” says Kevin Yu, “an eight-hour debugging session wasn’t unusual. With XP we spend about half an hour.” Meanwhile, 90 percent of the 41 coders in the study enjoyed working together more than alone, and almost all were “more confident in their solutions.”

My main reservation concerning Pair Programming is the issue of finding someone compatible to work with – I often find it frustrating to try and explain my ideas to people who take longer to understand the concepts being discussed than I do. Likewise trying to reign the enthusiasm of a colleague who completely understands how their one line obfuscated beyond all recognition Perl script works long enough to work out whats going on can really make a dent in my patience. That said maybe I should follow Kent Beck’s (the father of XP programming) advice:

“Extreme programming is an emotional experience,” he maintains. “When you feel it, you understand.” Then he adds a typically cheeky metaphor. “Talking about XP and trying it are two different things – like reading The Joy of Sex versus losing your virginity.”

Perhaps when it comes to looking for my next job XP should be on my “would like to have” list along with reasonable working hours, time for training and decent pay!

* “David Raynes'”: “MTSubCategories plugin”: for MT lets you use subcategories in MovableType, as you’d expect. Thanks to “Brainstorms and Raves”:
* Another “link(Brainstorms and Raves – BBC News Styleguide”: from Brainstorms and Raves, the BBC has published its “style guidelines(BBC News Styleguide)”: for news journalism. I doubt it’ll help with my spelling.
* has an article by Tom White entitled “Memoization in Java Using Dynamic Proxy Classes”. It details a design for a transparent caching layer for functions.

I’m off to the “Leeds Festival”: this weekend, and I was supposed to have the first draft of my second article on Java and RSS done before I go. Whilst no-one was waiting for it especially, I’m very annoyed at myself that I didn’t get it done it time. All the background research is done, I just have to write it up – its 4 hours work at the most, and I’ve had two weeks to do it since I set this self-imposed deadline. I am supposed to be going to see “Beck”: at the “Brixton Academy”: tomorrow, but between a potentially long day at work and the need to get things ready before I head “up north(Guardian online – It’s grin up north)”:,7521,1014134,00.html on Friday, I might give it a miss – if so I’ll attempt to get something done.

web standards, noun

A large stick or cudgel, used by the slightly more anal-retentive to beat the slightly less anal-retentive.

Just a quote from “The Devils Dictionary”:, courtesy of Tom Coates’ “”: At least it was until the dictionary seemed to vanish – the domain homepage then being replaced with the following:

The difference between

find /local/www -print | grep error_log | xargs rm


find /local/www -print | xargs rm

is subtle,

but very, very important.

Another gem from the “oh sh*t” school of Unix administration!