Monday Jan 21, 2008

Have you done your homework?

Having worked with the NetBeans platform for a year now, I am a happy coder. The most pleasing aspect of things is that if I am stuck, I can look at the sources and find out how to go about things. Don't know how to use an API? Just dig into the NetBeans sources and find out how it is implemented and presto, your doubts are gone. Yes, sometimes I have been stuck and needed to ask questions to other NetBeans wizards, who were ever ready to help me, but the rule of the thumb in asking such questions is that you should have done your homework before putting your question across. And this is true for any open source software. However, time and again I see some extremely stupid questions on the mailing lists.

Would you go and ask Linus Torvalds, what is an operating system on the Linux kernel mailing list? Even if he or other kernel commiters were patient enough to answer such a question, instead of writing a tome in reply, they would ask you to grab a book and try to understand yourself what an operating system is. Isn't it really stupid to ask questions whose answers could have been found if you had just bothered to look around a bit? Don't you feel an 'AHA' moment when you have deciphered how something works, all by yourself, after sweating it out?

Whenever I have conducted a training course for students in my home town, I have always been appalled at the awareness index of these would be computer engineers. And if you think India is a low bandwidth country, I don't agree. These youngsters have all the bandwidth at their disposal to download the latest episodes of "Heroes" or tonnes of wallpapers and songs. But the bandwidth suddenly dries up magically when it comes to visiting sites like openoffice.org, opensolaris.org, netbeans.org or even sourceforge.net.

Sun made an attempt in the right earnest to get these students in India out of their slumber. We launched the Code For Freedom contest specially for Indian students, and we have discovered some real gems. But in general I have to admit, an average Indian student wants to be spoon fed again and again. It's a sad thing. I hope this changes some day.

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Rohan Ranade's musings on anything and everything.

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