Tales of the Rampant Coyote

Adventures in Indie Gaming!

Insight into the mind of a programmer

Posted by Rampant Coyote on May 13, 2015

Einstein_AsciiEver try to count a large number of things, and have someone walk up to you, see what you are doing, and then say random numbers at you to make you screw up?

After three decades of computer programming (two of ’em professionally), I finally realized that this is a great analogy for the mind of a programmer dealing with interruptions.

Or at least my mind as a programmer dealing with interruptions, when I’m in “the zone” or at least a neighboring zip code to “the zone.” When I’m on a roll, I’ve got a half-dozen connections all in my head. To implement something and to make sure it all works, I need to make multiple changes and additions in three or four different places that all have to work together in coordination for stuff to, you know, work. As long as I can hold it all in my mind – and I usually can – I hit all my marks, make all the changes, and sometimes things will even work more-or-less correctly on the first try.

But if I lose it, I’m going to miss steps, forget what I was doing, and have to backtrack – sometimes a good distance – to remember where I was, what I was doing, and to get the correct picture in my head and the process of everything as it was supposed to connect.

For simple, minor interruptions, it’s no biggie. If people don’t mind me being a little distracted and seeming to be only half-paying attention, it’s all good. I’ve been doing this a long time, and I can keep all the little pieces of thread from getting tangled up for a couple of minutes. But for bigger, deeper conversations… well, there’s a good chance I’m gonna lose my last half-hour if I’m not careful. Please forgive me for being a little terse.

Of course, given the role that I currently hold, I’m about as likely to be the one causing the interruptions as receiving them. So I am my own worst enemy. But when a programmer is kind of terse and distracted with me, I know better than to take it personally.

Filed Under: Programming - Comments: 2 Comments to Read

  • Dave Toulouse said,

    That’s partly why working from home has dramatically improved my quality of life. If I’m the middle of something critical I just leave the phone ringing or ignore the emails. When you’re at the office it’s bit more tricky to try to ignore others without being tempted to yell at them 🙂

  • McTeddy said,

    Hehe, Yup.

    When I’m in the zone I can see millions of pathways interconnecting and crafting a brilliant picture that I can replicate in it’s…

    “Yes, let me talk about this unrelated topic.”

    Where was I? If X == 1 then… no… Y == 1 then I think it’d be… I don’t know.

    I’ve learned not to interrupt other programmers but to leave a message on their desk. “Talk when you are free.”