“Practice, Practice, Practice” is a pattern which encourages exactly what you’d expect: continuous practice. Like Breakable Toys, the problem this pattern is intended to address is that failure in your professional responsibilities is too costly to risk. You can’t effectively learn without the freedom to fail, though, and for that reason you need somewhere safe to practice.

This is another pattern in which the writers say the ideal application of it would be in a world with formal software apprenticeship, but in reality, software apprentices have to create an approximation for themselves. In their ideal world, a mentor would assign their apprentice practice based on the apprentice’s strength and weaknesses, reinforcing what the apprentice does well and correcting their weaknesses. The writers emphasize the need for objective metrics to evaluate your abilities as a substitute for this; if you practice without getting feedback, you will reinforce bad habits.

One way of making sure you receive regular feedback is to practice in a way that’s public to some degree. The example they give is a group that meets in person to perform code katas, exercises which are meant to help programmers to sharpen their skills through repetition. For some apprentices, an activity like this probably isn’t practical or immediately accessible. Online communities devoted to practice are another option which can likely serve as a good source of feedback. Importantly, any method of getting feedback on your practice should take place in a relaxed and playful setting, since the point is to remove the stress of mandatory success. The practice itself should be something just beyond what you know you can do easily. In having to struggle with a problem, the practice will strengthen your abilities in addition to providing the benefits of repetition.

This is a pattern that appeals to me, because I’ve discovered that I learn the most by actually writing code. To that end, the writers suggest some older books that teach important programming techniques and design principles through fun problems. This seems like a useful, concrete recommendation, and I might look into obtaining one of their suggested books or find one of my own to improve my coding skills.

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