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"The Best Programming Advice I Ever Got" with Eric Lippert

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Noted C# developer Eric Lippert shares some advice that has been useful in his career—not to mention his role in developing the first Lord of the Rings fan page back in 1993!
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Name:

Eric Lippert

Programming and Job Experience:

I am a Principal Developer on the C# compiler team and a member of the language design committee; previously at Microsoft, I worked on the design and implementation of VBScript, JScript, Windows Script Host, and Visual Studio Tools For Office.

Most Notable Achievement:

I was the first person to put a “The Lord of the Rings” fan page on the Internet; it was hosted on a Gopher server in 1993.

Most Frequently Used Programming Language:

C# of course!

Advice:

When I first started full time at Microsoft in 1996, I was a fresh-out-of-college junior developer on the team that owned the VBScript and JScript compilers. I already had a pretty decent understanding of Visual Basic, but I knew nothing about JScript and I needed to not only learn the basics, but become an expert. My manager advised me to pick a relatively narrow area, say, JScript language semantics, and then find questions on the internet and within Microsoft that other people had on that topic. If I could answer the question, I’d answer it. If I couldn’t, then I’d research the question until I could definitively answer it. This paid off in more than just my increased expertise: I was learning a lot about JScript semantics of course, but I was also learning what problems our customers ran into most often. Moreover, I was improving our relationship with customers, some of whom were themselves experts. In fact, we ended up hiring one of those experts, who ended up being a fantastic asset for our team.

Back in 1990s, USENET newsgroups were the best source for customer questions; nowadays of course, we have resources like StackOverflow, which is a veritable firehose of high-quality questions and answers.

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