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So, I'm not a programmer, though I've been writing code all of my life. As is my habit, I attempt to contact well know experts in almost any domain I find of interest, and interestingly, I get a lot of meetings, which I value a great deal.

So, here's the deal -- a meeting has been set for me to meet a very well known programmer and I would like advice on how to make the most of it. They've written a number of books, some of which I've read, but nothing strikes me as a point of conversion; meaning they know I'm not a real programmer, though I am very interested in talking to them about their advice for becoming a programmer.

Should I attempt to have a potential coding topic, set of code to review, etc -- or just show up and get general advice?

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I'm not a programmer, though I've been writing code all of my life... I'm not sure why you don't consider yourself a programmer even though you claim to have been writing code all of your life. Do you mean you're not a professional programmer who gets paid to write code (perhaps you're a hobbiest/enthusiast)? –  FrustratedWithFormsDesigner Aug 9 '12 at 17:21
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What environment are you meeting in? At an office? Dinner? Drinks? –  pdr Aug 9 '12 at 17:25
    
I get a lot of meetings - how did you do in these prior meetings you mention? –  gnat Aug 9 '12 at 17:33
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Hm? Did we setup a meeting? Sorry, I forgot, let me check my calendar and I'll let you know when I'll be available next ;P –  Yannis Rizos Aug 9 '12 at 17:53
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If Richard Stallman happens to give a lecture in your town, you can offer him accomodation in your house. –  mouviciel Aug 9 '12 at 17:58

3 Answers 3

An expert in any field will bring up topics and give advice that you could never even think of asking about. I would tell him/her your interests and goals and see where it flows from there. If you've got a more specific goal than becoming a programmer, obviously bring up questions on that topic.

Also, he/she will likely not want to discuss basics that you can search for over the internet. You'll learn the most by asking about this programmer's personal experiences and what was learned from them.

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As evidenced by some of the comments to your question, you make an interesting set of assumptions that unnecessarily degrade your skill.

When you reached out to this person to meet with them, how did you preface the request? What did you suggest as a topic of conversation? Start there.

You mentioned the person has written some books, probably has a blog or similar, and perhaps even a podcast. What have they brought up in those outlets that wasn't clear for you? Are there any edge cases that you didn't think were covered adequately? What would be the "next level" based upon those other topics? Consider asking about how to get there.

Depending upon how much you know about the person, you can always ask about their hobbies and outside interests. Some folk a single dimensional and only really know / do / live programming. Others have lots of dimensions and would like to chat about a number of different things. Do some research on your subject, and come up with questions that interest you.

I think it would be more practical to stay at a philosophical level rather than trying to dig into a particular piece of code. An exception to that would be Herb Sutter who has some strong opinions on code style. The key is to make sure the topic is within their domain expertise.

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Simply follow your guru

I am not sure where are you located, and can you meet all gurus; however simply following their tweet and posts you may get a good idea where their next speaking event will be. You may also get prepared to this event and ask your question in person.

In addition, i would simple advice to post your question in their blog. Most of well known .NET gurus are kind to reply.

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