The career arc of most software developers looks something like this:
- Very little knowledge. Write very simple code.
- Learn enough to be dangerous. Write dangerous code.
- Learn advanced topics. Make the dangers hidden and hard to find.
- Learn about architectures. Make hopelessly complicated code.
- Learn from experience. Gain wisdom. Write very simple code.
Personally, I'm transitioning from step 3 to 4. I'm smart enough to know I should be skipping straight to step 5, but I'm not wise enough to actually do it.
The good news for you is that I can at least point you in the direction of someone who has achieved this nirvanic level of enlightenment.
The Zen Master of Microsoft Access
Karl Donaubauer, lead coordinator of the two largest annual Microsoft Access conferences (DevCon Vienna and AEK), gave a presentation to the Denver Area Access User Group (DAAUG) recently on the "Design Patterns" he uses in Microsoft Access.
The beauty of Karl's approach is that you don't need to be as smart as Karl to maintain (and expand!) the projects he works on.
A lot of the work Karl does is helping other Access developers improve their projects. It's what Jonathan Stark would refer to as "head" work as opposed to "hands" work. And the key to Karl's success is that the developers who work with him do not need to rely on him in perpetuity.
Karl's mantra of Keep It Simple, Stupid, belies the clever beauty of his approach.
Doing a Few Things Really Well
As Bruce Lee said,
"I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times."
That quote best sums up Karl's approach to Microsoft Access.
He has a handful of finely tuned functions, form designs, and navigation concepts. With few exceptions, he does not deviate from them. His code and forms have no dependencies, so they integrate easily into existing Access projects. Error handling is hardly needed, as the bugs have been worked out through years of fine tuning.
In short, Karl Donaubauer is the anti-Mike Wolfe (in all the best ways).
Video of the Presentation
Someday I'll join Karl on his plane of enlightenment, but, alas, my time has not yet come. And so, as the great Al Yankovic might paraphrase the great Robert Frost, I leave you this:
Stopping by Words on a Denver Evening
With sincerest apologies to the late Robert Frost...
Whose words these are I think I know.
His house is in the YouTube though;
He will not see me stopping here
To hear his words that help me grow.
My little wife must think it queer
To watch me gaze without a beer
At Karl's code...a piece of cake!
The finest evening of the year.
He gives his custom code a shake
To prove that there is no mistake.
The only other sound’s my yearn
Of Karl's knowledge to partake.
The wisdom's lovely to discern,
But I have hours yet to burn,
And miles to go before I learn,
And miles to go before I learn.
I'll see myself out now...