Surgeons practice medicine when they perform triple bypass or remove an appendix. But surgeons also practice new techniques before operating on patients.
I blog, in part, to practice writing.
Professionals of all kinds practice techniques of their work in order to improve the quality of their work.
Jeff Atwood at Coding Horror points out that programmers, good programmers, practice, too.
To convince yourself, consider a programmer you admire, and you will see that they are always stretching beyond their current abilities to learn something new or do something better.
Atwood considers the ways in which programmers practice. He omitted one very important one: newsgroup posting. I’m sad that newsgroups have become less vital than in years past, because they’re are a great way for new programmers to practice reading other people’s code and to practice techniques.
I started answering newsgroup questions because I’d gotten good help from posts, and the protocol was to post responses, too. I kept on posting, though, because it was excellent practice.
I’d pick questions I didn’t know the answer to. In order to post a reply I’d first have to write an example illustrating the problem, to see if the right problem was being identified, then I’d write an answer that solved it. If I couldn’t find a solution, I’d be sure to watch the thread that developed. I’m indebted to my peers in the newsgroups, for helping me become a better programmer than I would have on my own.
Atwood’s article prompts me to wonder if I still practice as effectively as I once did since I don’t post in newsgroups any more.