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As my profile will tell you, I am in my second year of a 4-year Software Engineering program.

(Long post, skip to the end for the short version)

First, a little background. I started coding in C++ about 5 years ago. Ever since then, I was sure that I wanted a life in code :) In my last 2 semesters, I wrote quite a bit of code which included about 30-40 algorithmic problems along with some basic AI code each semester, all of this other than my coursework which also was somewhat code intensive.

For the past 2-3 months though, I have not written any code. I have been reading others' code, reading about code, finding bugs in code, exploring libraries, going through documentation, exploring different languages and spending considerable time on SO, but i have not written any code. Either due to a lack of motivation or gasp, interest, I am not sure.

Now, I am feeling even worse, as none of this is stuff that I can write on a CV (internship season is round the corner in my college, which is critical for getting a job next year). Plus, I also think I havent developed my skills as much as i should have in the past few years.

  • So, essentially, is reading about code rather than coding actually helping me develop ?

  • Is there any way it can help me in my current short-term career prospects ?

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closed as not a real question by Jim G., Walter, GlenH7, Glenn Nelson, JeffO Jan 26 '13 at 19:20

It's difficult to tell what is being asked here. This question is ambiguous, vague, incomplete, overly broad, or rhetorical and cannot be reasonably answered in its current form. For help clarifying this question so that it can be reopened, visit the help center. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

You've been finding bugs without writing a line of code? If you've contributed patches then those would be something to point to –  jozefg Jan 26 '13 at 4:08
Small bugs, mostly in the algorithmic stuff. A few in incorrect use of language features. Nothing too big. –  AsheeshR Jan 26 '13 at 4:09
Perhaps you could look into doing some FOSS software? You don't have to start ground up and it gives you something to point to on your CV –  jozefg Jan 26 '13 at 4:10
Yeah, I started working on bugs in some applications in Ubuntu, but i haven't really been successful. In my defense, I started just 2 weeks back. –  AsheeshR Jan 26 '13 at 4:13
Yes, doing anything relating to coding will help you develop one way or another. Reading, writing, talking, dreaming and thinking and living code. They all help. –  dreza Jan 26 '13 at 6:38

3 Answers 3

up vote 5 down vote accepted

First of all, throw away that feeling. Everything you learn will be helpful to you in the long run. I hope you were genuinely interested in what you were reading. So, you learnt stuff. If you enjoy doing it, keep doing it. But beware, you will never run out of code/content to read. So, limit it depending on your needs.

Second, by 'developing skill set', if you mean you want to solve more problems and practice more coding, you need to practice more coding. Because you have already seen quite a bit of code, you will be writing better code and will not have trouble finding any thing you want.

Summary - if you want to code more, code more.

Simple Logic - You just can't measure reading against writing. Reading 100 books/articles might make you more knowledgeable, but you'll never know until you code. Similarly, only writing tons of code might not make you a better programmer, you will need to read and discover new things. So, strike a balance between both and you will be golden.

Is there any way it can help me in my current short-term career prospects ?

The answer is both Yes and No. But, I would lean towards No if you need an answer in strict sense. Yes because - having read so much, you will have a better outlook than others who didn't read those. So, if your hiring manager some how sees that in you, he will prefer you over others(Chances of this happening is one in a million, So, don't get any false hopes!). No because, your learning cannot be articulated or evaluated.

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Thanks for the detailed answer. I had somewhat similar thoughts, although not as clearly. –  AsheeshR Jan 26 '13 at 14:08

As far as foreign code forces you to watch problems and solutions from unusual sites and a look on other ways showing how tasks can be handles (or should possibly not) will sure help in own development. Moreover, it forces more attention than writing code on your for well known tasks. But getting out of practice should be avoided in my opinion.

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Yes; all knowledge that you can absorb is going to help you. Some people learn best by reading, some by having a concept explained and demonstrated, some by experimenting and practicing themselves. All are valid ways to learn, and you just need to find the one that works best for you.

Reading is always good, but getting some practice in will probably help too; it will likely assist you in better understanding the issues/concepts, their limitations, their practical implementations, etc.

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