Week 1 Mistakes and Lessons

Topics: Git/Github, Environment Setup, Objective-C basics (loops, methods), unit testing, NSArray, NSDictionary

Mistakes and Lessons

1. Mistake: Going directly into Xcode with a half-baked plan leads to a lot of spinning my wheels and rabbit holes.

What happens here is that I think I know what I want to do in my head, sort of, but I don’t have the steps explicitly worked out yet and so as I write, I concentrate on one part of the program and forget details that I hadn’t accounted for in the other parts. Any thing that I find myself doing is just spamming different code and praying for it to work. I’m using the computer to validate for me instead of having a plan and running code that I think will work.

Lesson: Know how to do a task without a computer before trying to tell a computer to do it.


2. Mistake: not paying enough attention to spelling.

Spot what’s wrong with this for loop:

for (NSinteger fiboCounter = 1; fiboCounter < numberInFiboSequence; fiboCounter++)
{
    NSNumber *currentFiboNumber = fiboNumbers[fiboCounter];
    NSNumber *previousFiboNumber = fiboNumbers[fiboCounter - 1];
    NSInteger nextFiboNumber =  [currentFiboNumber integerValue] + [previousFiboNumber integerValue];
    fiboNumbers[fiboCounter+1] = [NSNumber numberWithInteger:nextFiboNumber];
}

Yeah, that’s right. It’s the NSinteger in the first line. It should be NSInteger.   I was getting missing identifier errors for the fiboCounter, which totally didn’t make sense, because I had already initialized it (I thought).

Lesson:  Misspelling sucks, listen to Xcode.


3. Mistake: thinking that doing everything by myself is more original and superior to copying other people’s way of doing things.

First of all, pretty much nothing is completely original.

Everything is a remix of previous things made. Why would you want to ignore how other people are doing it anyway?

“If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” 

-Isaac Newton

Even this quote proves my point. Newton was a smart guy, probably on of the few that actually did make significant advances in science. Despite that, the idea of “shoulders of giants” wasn’t original to Isaac Newton. He was preceded 500 years earlier by Bernard of Chartres.

When I first approach a problem, multiple ways of solving the problem will appear in my mind. If I was working alone, I might implement one and then try another one. The benefit of having a class of people who are working on the same problems means that I can crowdsource other solutions from them. They can teach me smart methods that I didn’t even know existed and I can learn 19 new methods in the time it would take to learn one.

Pair programming is another great way to learn from classmates. I might have my way of doing it, but pairing means that I must contemplate another person’s way as I am still solving the problem and can follow it all the way through. An additional benefit is providing motivation to finish and having someone to celebrate with when we’re done.

Lesson: Solve the problem one way and then rely on my classmates to give me other ideas for solving the same problem. Even better, pair with another person to program it, especially late at night. 

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