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Wrox Your 2008 with These Resolutions

by Jim Minatel

What would a January newsletter be without New Year's resolutions? In no particular order, here are 9 things every programmer should do to improve his or her work . . . and life in 2008.

1. Contribute to an open-source project. You don't have to start a new project or spend hours every night managing a complete section of code for an open-source project to be a contributor. Start small. Submit a fix for a bug you find. Pick one small component you can make one small improvement to.

2. Get active with your local user group. If you haven't attended your local user group, start going. If you're attending but passively, volunteer to help the organizers. It's a great way to interact face to face with programmers you don't work with. You'll broaden your personal network, learn from a more diverse group, and maybe even make a friend or two. Real socialization, even if it's just over cold pizza, beats Facebook.

3. Reuse code. Yes, I know you could write it yourself, but why? If you're writing something that seems common, start with something freely available. Spend your time on the code that matters to your customers.

4. Learn a new language. Yes, I've written about this before, so I'll just invite you to follow the link.

5. Learn a new coding approach or methodology. I'm not here to advocate agile TDD extreme pair programming. But whatever your current approach, there's something different you can learn and use some aspect of to make yourself a better programmer.

6. Write better code. Don't be satisfied just to be done; make your work good, too.

7. (The corollary to #6): It doesn't have to be perfect. You can probably get by without the 12th refactoring. Your coworkers and customers probably need your next to-do more than they need perfection that you'll never achieve.

8. Give back to your community. As bad as your condition is, someone else is worse off and needs your help. Find a local charity you can make a difference in and commit to helping someone else's life better.

9. Be healthy. Eat salad (tuna salad and ham salad don't count). Get up from the monitor and go for a walk. Stop smoking. Get more sleep. Work fewer hours. Switch to decaf. Stop at two drinks instead of a six-pack. Play a real game of basketball instead of Nintendo. We want to see you back in 2009, so take good care of yourself.