By Frank Wales
Crossword puzzle solving is now a spectator sport, with computer programmers joining left-handed people in disproportionately high numbers to take part. At least, this is what that relentless purveyor of downbeat news, Failure magazine, reports as part of its coverage of the annual American crossword puzzle tournament. No doubt programmers attend these tournaments to get away from all the XML work they have to do since (as far as I can tell) no-one is writing crosswords in XML yet.
It seems to me that there is clearly an opportunity here for writers of I.Q. tests to create similar sporting fervour among programmers and other problem solvers with excessive cerebral enthusiasm, and perhaps even for some research to be done in the process. I've provided some really hard I.Q. puzzles to get you started, but you need to be quick; the BBC already thinks I.Q. tests make good television, despite being unable to provide any convincing explanation of what they measure.
When our puzzle-solving programmers return from battle, they'll no doubt be reassured that new paradigms await them, along with even more languages whose names start with 'X' or end in 'L'.
They can enjoy 'aspect-oriented programming', and can ponder the "completely new approach" to programming inherent in COLAG (which is built upon XML). They can then use their new ways of thinking about programming to create whole new user interfaces with XUL (which is built upon XML). They can ponder programming language design lessons from the things that can't be done in XSLT (which is built upon XML). And they can distribute everything they learn in eXchangeable Faceted Metadata Language (which is built upon XML).
Spoiling the optimistic air is the discovery of mathematical limits to software estimation. Still, with Donald Norman apparently having an epiphany on aesthetics in design, with philosophers deciding that they can throw away everything except the integers in their pursuit of clarity, and with people constantly finding new things to create with programmable LEGO, it's clear that it's never too late to start again.
I suspect we're stuck with XML, though.
By Chris Douce
I received an e-mail message that contained a mostly serious and partially humorous anthology of programmer riddles that could be used in interviews used to determine whether programmers have the necessary aptitude. I found it particularly interesting, given the earlier review and papers presented at this years PPIG regarding programmer aptitudes:
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