Are code editors making me dumb?

We are in the process of hiring an architect and another developer and a couple of us started putting together our technical interview questions to prepare for the first round of interviews. While wading through all of the questions, something occured to me. I couldnt answer some of the questions myself!
The questions that were giving me the most trouble were the syntax related questions and picking the right function name out of a group. Come to find out, I wasnt the only one that was having trouble with them. Out of all three developers we have, the one with the least amount of experience has about 4 years of ColdFusion development experience. The next one is about 6 years and I have been developing in ColdFusion for over 8 years now. So why are we having so much trouble with what we considered to be simple questions?As we sat there and talked about the questions and how we actually code, a light bulb went off. Even though we all use different tools for coding like DreamweaverMX, Homesite+ and my favorite CFEclipse, there was one fundamental feature that we have come quite accustomed to using. The pop-up syntax insight! Now, I can remember back in the day of CF 4 spending hours of my free time actually reading the CFML Language Reference that came in the box with ColdFusion. Yeah, thats right, I actually read the entire function reference from front to back. I know, I know. I need a hobby right?
Now that many years have passed and I’m not so much into reading books on programming, has the tag insight function of most editors made me dumb? I agree that its a very great feature and my harmless use of this feature for timesaving when writing code seemed like a great thing at the time, but at what expense?
Typically in CFEclipse I will set the tag insight feature to a delay of 0ms so that it comes up automatically as Im typing. This allows me to only type a few characters of a tag or function before hitting enter and having the tag/function automagically written out for me. The same goes for the attributes of that tag. Im just trying to save myself some time while coding but I feel like years of doing this has made me lazy!
I guess everything is a trade-off. I just hate feeling like Im relying on a feature rather than just utilizing it for timesaving. Maybe I’ll turn that off for a day and see how bad it really affects me.

4 thoughts on “Are code editors making me dumb?”

  1. For me, it’s not a matter of lazy, it’s a matter of efficiency. I rely on the editor’s tag insight, and consequently, I don’t have all the syntax memorized anymore. But I’m just as efficient as I was back in the day. Call it dependency, call it dumb, call it what you want, I know that I’ll never have to code without my editor, so what’s the concern?

    The day I’m kidnapped and force to build a CF app in notepad or I’m killed is the day I’ll consider disabling my tag insights, but not before!

  2. I think that those are terrible examples of interview questions. If you want to see how someone codes, then get them to code something for an hour or two. Don’t ask them to pick syntax erros on paper, or worse yet, write code on a white board. Those don’t give any indication of the person’s skill as a developer, and just make them selfconcious of their handwriting.

    Sorry if I sound a little over zealous, but if someone asked me to pick code syntax errors on paper during a job interview, my first question would be, "why?"

  3. I went though something similar awhile ago. When I started a new job I had to new a new text editor for the language I work in and I was used to having an IDE do all the function completion for me. There was quite a learning curve going back to remembering what the real names of functions are. Now I have lots of cheat sheets lying around because there is now way to much stuff to remember when working on the web.

    So I don’t think they’re making us dumber because we can still get the job done. It’s just making life easier.

  4. By asking someone to pickup syntax or logical error from a program and fix it, is a good way to find who can debug code.. But to find someone who can solve a problem from scratch, you need to give a problem and sometime to candidate to solve it. He/She might not be able to finish it in short time but approach of solving problem gives very good idea…

    I have seen developers who are great at debugging someone’s code but when it comes to write an application from start, that means requirement-analysis, architecture, code etc., they are not good.

    Whether it’s algorithmic or architecture problem, approach to solve the problem in elegant manner is enough data.

    I agree with the person above, asking someone to write on whiteboard while all interviewers are watching him/her, well that makes someone nervous? He/she is not going to write code in your presence if s/he is hired?

    I would test for following thing:-

    1) Approach of attacking a problem
    2) Ability to work in a team (attitude, understanding others code, coming up with right ways)
    3) Good at debugging
    4) Not necessary, but if this guy has some sense of usability or use-cases? This helps in writing a good API, UI, code because programmer knows why certain thing is being done and who is going to use it. That also allows a programmer to test code for all use-cases before it goes to QA…

    my 2 cents..

    -abdul

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