This is the 57th episode of the StackOverflow podcast where Joel and
Jeff discuss the relationship between speed and skill, iPhone development, and the value of programming fundamentals.
- Joel comments on the surprising correlation between how fast you can solve a simple problem, and your overall skill level as a programmer. This is why giving even a very experienced programmer a simple problem can still work. If you can't truly master the fundamentals, it's hard to work at higher levels of abstraction.
- We agree with Paul Graham: in general, there tends to be a correlation between the length of a response and its quality. We've also observed this pattern on Stack Overflow. It isn't always true (TL;DR), but it's a verifiable pattern. Either be the first and quickest, or be the best and most comprehensive!
- Due to high demand, five new cities were added to the Stack Overflow DevDays: Boston, Austin, Los Angeles, Cambridge (UK), and Amsterdam.
- I was quite impressed with the striking design Mike Kus put together for the Stack Overflow DevDays website. He breaks it down step by step for us. Like most programmers, I'm a terrible designer, but at least I know what's good enough to steal!
- As promised, we released a creative commons data dump of all the Stack Overflow data including all questions and answers. We're excited to see what the community can do with this data; Brent Ozar put together a data mining video to get people started.
- Stack Overflow has become a very popular destination for iPhone development. This is completely accidental, but it is a valid reflection of the vibrant and growing iPhone development community. If you're an iPhone developer, check out the Mobile Orchard website and podcast, which even has a best of Stack Overflow for iPhone developers!
- Joel and I are tremendously impressed with Apple's development push for the iPhone, including the App Store. It is remarkably Microsoft-like, in a good way -- it's completely driven by developers, developers, developers! "If you want to be a mobile developer, your #1 choice has to be Apple."
- One downside of discussing questions on the podcast is that it leads to the Hawthorne effect, and sometimes radically changes the state of the question.
- Joel recommends SICP, The C Programming Language, The Unix Programming Environment, and Introduction to Algorithms as solid books for programmers who want to brush up on their fundamentals and potentially do well at programming interviews.
- We recommend checking out Jason Calacanis' podcast, This Week in Startups.
We answered the following listener questions on this podcast:
- Josh Hunt: "The first answer to my question, the answer that got the higest number of votes, was not correct -- has Stack Overflow failed in the 'first answer is best' aspect?" and "We've been taught algorithms in our high school using pseudocode. What do you think of this?"
- "If I've applied for a job at Fog Creek (or anywhere else) and didn't quite make it, what can I do to improve myself as a programmer and have a better chance next time?"
Our favorite Stack Overflow questions this week are:
- Bubble Sort Homework. Homework questions are frowned upon on Stack Overflow, but there is a right way to ask them -- and a way to get the community to help you while helping each other.
If you'd like to submit a question to be answered in our next episode, record an audio file (90 seconds or less) and mail it to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can record a question
using nothing but a telephone and a web browser. We also have a
dedicated phone number you can call to leave audio questions at
The transcript wiki for this episode is available for public editing.