Programming Litmus Tests

The other day I read another great article on Coding Horror on programmers that can’t program. It’s a pretty short post that adds more to a current discussion on the need and legitimacy of coding tests for programming job perspectives. Apperantly there are many self proclaimed programmers that have issues writing small simple programs.

It’s common place for entry level programming positions to have coding questions because of this problem. These questions, or FizzBuzz questions, are simple enough, asking the test taker to write code that uses simple structures such as loops and apply simple logic to the loop variable. To quote from the original poster:

An example of a Fizz-Buzz question is the following: Write a program that prints the numbers from 1 to 100. But for multiples of three print “Fizz” instead of the number and for the multiples of five print “Buzz”. For numbers which are multiples of both three and five print “FizzBuzz”.

The funny thing is that upon reading that part, I had to make sure that I passed this litmus test of entry level programming - just to make sure I didn’t suck at what I had decided to make a living on. So I took out my legal size pad, and wrote a 10 or so line javascript loop that would do that particular FizzBuzz question. Sure enough, it didn’t take me very long to get the basics down, though I did take a little longer trying to bring the number of lines down. What is it about trying to use the least number of lines?

I wasn’t the only one that needed to prove that they could do FizzBuzz. Several people felt compelled to write a solution to FizzBuzz and post it on the comments. Which leads me to a corrollation that made me smile: FizzBuzz: the Programmer’s Stairway to Heaven. The key thing to remember is this:

I’m invoking the Wayne’s World rule here: Please, No Stairway to Heaven.

Internally I responded with: No Stairway? Denied?!

It made me a feel a little ashamed, while I had not gone and publicly shown my FizzBuzz solution, I was still guilty of coming up with one.

February 28, 2007 11:28 PM Programming


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