The Long Road

 When working on an open-source project, get in the habit of downloading the latest version of the code (preferably from their source control system) so you can review its history and track future developments. Take a look at the structure of the codebase and think about why the code is organized the way it is. Take a look at the way developers organize their code modules to see if it makes sense, and compare it to the way they might have used it. Try to refactor the code to understand why its coders made the decisions they did, and think about what the code would look like if you were the one coding it. Not only will it give you a better understanding of the projects; Also make sure you can build those projects. If you've found a better way to do something, you're ready to contribute code to the project. Inevitably, as you go through the code, you'll come across decisions you completely disagree with. Ask yourself if the developers of the project might know something you don't or vice versa. Consider the possibility that this is a legacy design that needs to be refactored; And consider whether making a toy implementation for the relevant feature would help clarify the issue.

You end up with a toolbox filled with all sorts of quirks that you've collected from other people's code. This will hone your ability to solve small problems more quickly and quickly. You'll be able to tackle problems that others think are impossible to solve because they don't have access to your toolbox. Take a look at the code for the Git distributed source control system written by Linus Torvalds, or any code written by Daniel J. Bernstein (known as DJB). Programmers like Linus and DJB occasionally make use of data structures and algorithms that most of us have never even heard of. They're not magicians -- they've just spent their time building bigger and better toolboxes than most people. The great thing about open source is that you can look at their toolbox and make their tools your own. One of the problems in software development is the lack of teachers. But thanks to the proliferation of open-source projects on sites such as SourceForge. Net and GitHub, you can learn from relatively representative code examples from the world's programmer community.

In ODS, Bill Gates says: "The most subtle test of programming ability is giving the programmer about 30 pages of code and seeing how quickly he can read through it and understand it." He realized something very important. People who quickly learn directly from the source code will soon become better programmers because their teachers are the lines of code written by every programmer in the world. The best way to learn patterns, idioms, and best practices is to read the open-source. Look at how other people to code. It's a great way to stay relevant, and it's free. -- Chris Wanstrath at Ruby 2008 [

Pick an open-source project with deep algorithms, such as Subversion, Git, or Mercurial source control system. Browse through the project's source code and jot down any algorithms, data structures, and design ideas that seem novel to you. Then write a blog post describing the structure of the project and highlighting the new ideas you've learned. Can you find a situation in your daily work where the same idea can be applied?


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