TITLE: Experience Happens When You Keep Showing Up AUTHOR: Eugene Wallingford DATE: February 16, 2014 10:48 AM DESC: ----- BODY: You know what they say about good design coming from experience, and experience coming from bad design? That phenomenon is true of most things non-trivial. Here's an example from men's college basketball. The University of Florida has a veteran team. The University of Kentucky has a young team. Florida's players are very good, but not generally considered to be in the same class as Kentucky's highly-regarded players. Yesterday, the two teams played a close game on Kentucky's home floor.
Once they fell behind by five with less than two minutes remaining, Kentucky players panicked. Florida players didn't. Why not? "Well, we have a veteran group here that's panicked before -- that's been in this situation and not handled it well," [Patric] Young said.
How did Florida's players maintain their composure at the end of a tight game on the road against another good team? They had been in that same situation three times before, and failed. They didn't panic this time in large part because they had panicked before and learned from those experiences. Kentucky's starters have played a total of 124 college games. Florida's four seniors have combined to play 491. That's a lot of experience -- a lot of opportunities to panic, to guess wrong, to underestimate a situation, or otherwise to come up short. And a lot of opportunities to learn. The young players at Kentucky hurt today. As the author of the linked game report notes, Florida's players have hurt like that before, for coming up short in much the same way, "and they used that pain to get better". It turns out that composure comes from experience, and experience comes from lack of composure. As a teacher, I try to convince students not to shy away from the error messages their compiler gives them, or from the convoluted code they eventually sneak past it. Those are the experiences they'll eventually look back to when they are capable, confident programmers. They just need the opportunity to learn. -----