times have changed. welcome ...

29 October 2001

times have changed. welcome to a world where the programmer who knows how to tap into other people’s brains and experience using the internet has a decisive advantage. shussssssh, joel! you’re giving my secrets away! i heard a quote a long time ago; i can’t remember quite how it went, but the gist of it was “good programmers plagarise”. before i heard that, and a story to go with it, i had an idea that i’d be a better programmer if i learned to do everything from scratch. then i realised that i didn’t have to invent the wheel myself. i can use other people’s wheels and i can see how they work and so i can make better software myself because i’ve tapped into their knowledge.

i googled for the quote without getting anywhere. i’m sure “plagarise” was the word used in the original. i found stacks of computing courses with warnings to students not to commit plagarism in the execution of their labwork. but the real world differs from the world of the student lab. if i find a tool that does the job i want then i try to use it rather than rewrite it. if i find a piece of code in the public domain that solves the problem i try to understand it and use it. sometimes one has to trust in black magic but, as joel rightly points out, it’s the ability to tap into brains and understand that’s useful not just the ability to help yourself to those brains.