“Use the Source”

“Use the Source” is a pattern from Apprenticeship Patterns: Guidance for the Aspiring Software Craftsman by Dave Hoover and Adewale Oshineye. This pattern focuses on the need for reading code written by other developers. Some good sources of code to examine are open source projects. By examining source code, a programmer can see what their bad habits are and adopt new, better habits. Another benefit from code reading is learning new algorithms to solve different kinds of problems. Expanding one’s collection of code solutions allows a programmer to be flexible and able to solve more problems.

I found this pattern particularly interesting. Since programmers are constantly required to work with other’s code, it is imperative that they learn to read code efficiently with practice. I do not have much experience with this myself and this pattern has made clear how important reviewing other’s code is. Regardless of what career I pursue after graduation, it will be important to read code effectively. I will need to start looking into some open source projects so I can improve my skills. Now I just need to find some projects that I contribute to and am interested in.

“Use the Source” suggests contributing to open source projects for software you already use. This is very helpful advice to me; I use a lot open source software.

  • Atom: text editor
  • Eclipse: IDE
  • Insomnia: REST client
  • GIMP: image editor
  • Several different game system emulators

I briefly examined some of GIMP’s source code. GIMP has a label on issues for newcomers, allowing for quick access to simpler issues.  After reading through some of the code, I realized that it would take a great deal of time to get an idea of the project architecture.

I looked at this issue, (https://gitlab.gnome.org/GNOME/gimp/issues/4128), and thought it seemed simple enough problem to start with. While the problem seemed simple, I could not navigate the repository and locate where the problem may be. GIMP is significantly more complex than any project I have worked on before. Ultimately, I was not able to make any headway on the issue. I was, however, able to read through portions of the code and begin to see some of the structure behind the it. Though I did not find what I was looking for, I did get a basic feel of the code’s flow.

As stated in Clean Code: A Handbook of Agile Software Craftsmanship by Robert C. Martin, developers read far more code than they write. With that being the case, “Use the Source” is an excellent way to grow your code reading skills.

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