Monday, March 16, 2009

Book Review: Pragmatic Thinking & Learning

prag_cover.pngIn what may be become the first in a series of reviews, I thought i'd share some of my thoughts and some insights into various Computer Science/Programming/Developer related books. I am always reading something so I thought i'd provide some thoughts on these books as I read them. Pragmatic Thinking & Learning is a book that I came across in an unusual way, basically Bill Dudney said he was reading it on twitter, posted a couple updates on his progress and then never really mentioned it again. I was getting done reading Predictably Irrational and the book left me very fascinated about Psychology. I have taken Psychology class, but Predictably Irrational brought it down to a practical level and showed how it applied in the real world with behavioral economics. In that same spirit Pragmatic Thinking & Learning is to Programming & Learning what Predictably Irrational is to behavioral economics. It's a fascinating journey through behavioral theory, cognitive science, neuroscience and some psychology, all while you are learning how your brain is wired and how it all works. Don't let these science terms make you think it's some boring study on how our brains work, as the title says it's Pragmatic Thinking & Learning. In essence it takes you through how your brain works and then quickly applies it to the real world and offers more of a framework for how you can begin to apply the principals presented. Through the tips and studies in this book you gain a lot of unique insight into problem solving, for example how do you teach someone how to play tennis with only 20 minutes of time? One of the things that makes this book somewhat unique is that it forces you to stop every so often and do an activity or think about something. For example I meditated for 5 minutes today, where I don't think I've really ever been instructed on meditation, and I liked doing it so i'll probably continue trying meditation for a while and observe what differences it makes in my day. It's also not just the author making a case for an opinion, there are many citations throughout the book to external resources or studies on a particular subject. It offers some very good tips on things from how to keep yourself organized, how to think out solutions to problems, how as a developer you can try and recover from being interrupted when your in "the zone" and many other things like that. I was surprised when I saw the Rubber Duck debugging technique online one day and then came to read about it later that evening in the book. The book presents a case for something and then tries to get you thinking and get you involved in actively applying that to your situations. My only complaint is the author mentions using a personal wiki to keep things organized and keeps showing he is on a mac and never mentions VooDooPad which I use everyday. I got started using VooDooPad as a way to keep my School notes organized and now I use it for a lot more things, including notes about Cocoa, specific Classes, personal things,etc, it's essentially a Wiki in a convenient self contained document. Overall it's a nice collection of information on how our brains work, techniques to solve problems, how you can learn information or a skill faster and find techniques that work better for you individually. It's been a surprisingly good read and I am glad I bought it because Im sure I'll reference it from time to time from now on.

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