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Up Front

It’s All About Context

by Michael Swaine

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In putting together these monthly issues, we try to hit the right balance. We always want to give you hands-on examples of how people solved programming problems, but we also want to challenge you with thoughtful essays on subjects every software developer needs to think about. We want to address the issues you’re dealing with on a daily basis, but also season the dish with new languages and paradigms that you haven’t yet tasted. And along the way we hope to entertain and inform.

Our lead article for this issue is a thought-provoking essay by Pragmatic Programmer Andy Hunt on the ways in which your context influences you.

“You are a product of your times,” Andy explains, “perhaps much more so than you think. The attitudes, philosophies, and values of your parents and your cohorts have a tremendous impact on your values, attitudes, and perceptions. Folks born at different times will experience the world in very different ways.”

In another assumption-challenging essay, Ben Scofield argues that we may be setting ourselves up for disappointment by reaching for mastery in areas where it is not appropriate. Sometimes, as computer executive and philosopher Adam Osborne famously said, “adequacy is sufficient.”

We have two code-rich articles, too. Adam Goucher brings the Page Object pattern to Python programming. And Paul Butcher shows some clever techniques for automated testing, coding them in both Ruby and Scala.

Dan Wohlbruck takes us back to the early days of the space program with an article on the first computer in space. And John Shade reflects on the propensity for software developers to issue manifestos—and concludes that they aren’t going far enough.

As always, we include a calendar of events and a collection of odd things overheard in twitterspace.

We think we did a decent job of hitting that balance with this issue. But let us know what you think.