20 Feb 2007 logic   » (Journeyer)

Kata

The musical and martial arts worlds have a history long enough to learn something from when thinking about new (which is a relative term, of course) fields of study. Something they both got right was the idea of "practice"; repetition of basic tasks so as to both reinforce the basics, and to prevent the student from "practicing" on the job (how embarassing to deliver that B as a b flat during your on-stage solo).

Let's apply that to the IT world. If you're a programmer, when is the last time you sat down and worked through some of the basics in your current development tool of choice? Written a b-tree implementation from scratch lately, complete with sorting and searching? How about just a basic list or queue? If you're a systems administrator, when is the last time you tried working through a simulated emergency, so that you're better prepared for the next fire you have to put out on the job? How quickly could you get the company's website back up if the database server needed a major component replacement? How about if that component was the complete disk array?

I wish this was my idea, of course, but I'm really just re-telling an excellent concept from Dave Thomas, one of the fellows who wrote The Pragmatic Programmer (I talked about it a long time ago over on Advogato back when I originally read it; if you haven't ever picked it up, I highly recommend it). He coined the term Code Kata in a bow to the Japanese concept of (Kata) in the martial arts. Literally "form", it could more practically be called "practice"; most forms of martial arts have a series of pre-determined forms, or Kata, that the student memorizes and exercises until they can be performed essentially from muscle memory.

Similarly, Dave Thomas suggests 21 Code Kata for programmers to tackle during the practice sessions he thinks we're all missing out on. I've had a rudimentary form of this that I've tackled over time, but that was targetted mainly at the acquisition of new skills, not at practicing existing skills. So, I decided to start working on at least a few of these as time permits; having just started, it's amazing the amount of knowledge from back in my university days is still there (and how much trouble I seem to be having recovering it ;-)).

Practice is good.

Syndicated 2005-12-05 16:09:00 from esm

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