“Dig Deeper” is a pattern that I wanted to apply before I’d read about it. Ever since I started taking computer science courses past the 101 level, I’ve had the persistent nagging awareness that the knowledge I’m gaining is superficial, and there is so much more to be understood. I can feel the difference between knowing how to solve a problem and knowing why the solution is the correct one or the best option within the context of the problem. While deep understanding is a goal for its own sake for me, the writers present this as a goal because of the many problems that arise from only having a shallow understanding: being unable to fix subtle bugs, difficulty maintaining your own code, not realizing a problem you’re trying to solve has a well-known solution or is impossible to solve, and people thinking you’ve misled them about what skills you have. In addition, the lack of awareness of how little you know generates problems of its own.
To gain a deeper understanding of the technologies you use, the writers suggest reading specifications and learning from the original sources to see how the ideas came about.
I subconsciously understood this second method was important. My initial intention in studying computer science was to learn the entire history of computers as a way of discovering why things are the way they are now. I felt like I wouldn’t truly understand until I did that. Additionally, I also heard from several sources while learning C that The C Programming Language, the book co-written by the language’s designer in order to introduce it, is still the best resource there is.
The writers warn that if you apply this pattern regularly, you will naturally end up being given the most difficult assignments. This gives you the opportunity to both fail and succeed spectacularly. You will also likely be the one everyone turns to for code magic when they can’t figure out what they’re doing wrong. They advise you to continue searching for opportunities to be the worst one on a team.
This pattern is probably going to be the one that influences me the most, because it gives so many specific examples to look up of resources that lead to deeper understanding. I’m going to immediately go and apply this pattern, because I’ve been wanting to dig deeper in order to better understand the medical app we’re working on in the Software Development Capstone. Roy Fielding’s PhD thesis on REST sounds promising.