Computer programmers at work.The Programmer’s Stone is a theory and training course on how to think as an effective and adaptable computer programmer. Alan Carter and Colston Sanger wrote the guide with the aim to explore, recapture and celebrate the programming art form.

The reader is positioned to become a better programmer, understand the struggles confronting inexperienced programmers, and communicate well with experienced programmers.

Here is a summary of themes.

Mapping versus Packing

Mappers apply the cognitive strategy of populating and integrating mental maps, then reading off the solution to any specific problem. They find methods for achieving objectives by consulting internal mental maps.

Packers are practised at retaining large numbers of knowledge packets. They aim to perform the ‘correct’ action in any given situation. Their strategies for dealing with ambiguous circumstances, where there is no satisfactory correct action, are ad hoc.

Mappers experience learning as an internal process which adapts to external and self-generated stimuli. Packers experience learning as a task to be performed using appropriate methods. Efficient mapper learning uses intuition to explore conceptual relationships and recognize truth. Efficient packer learning relies on memorization of knowledge packets, such as standard programming techniques.

Differences and Conflict

A trait of packer thinking that frustrates mappers is that packers appear to have no interest in finding the flaws in their own logic. Worse still, they may be happy to accept flaws when they are pointed out to them on the basis of convenience – so what? The evidence that is tangibly before them is less important than behavior ingrained through repetition.

This is one example of problems arising from the different approaches. To summarize further deviations and points of conflict:

  • Packing is the social norm and the world is set up for packers
  • The results of mapping are called `common sense’, which isn’t so common
  • Mappers think packers are cynical or intellectually lazy
  • Packers think mappers are unfocused and irrational
  • Packers spend much of their time playing politics, where reason matters little
  • Packer psychology is usually understood by packers but less so by mappers
  • Mapper psychology is often understood by mappers but never understood by packers
  • Mappers are guides by reason rather than culture
  • Mappers teach themselves, which packers struggle with, but also learn from others.

Information Systems

Information is the data which have been processed into a form which is meaning full to the recipient and which is of real or perceived value for the intended purpose which, as for as the management is concerned, is likely to be for planning, control or decision making. Thus data are the raw materials from which information is produced.

An organization’s information systems might be used to perform a number of tasks simultaneously (NILS):

  1. Initiating transactions
  2. Recording transactions as they occur
  3. Processing data
  4. Producing reports.
  5. Responding to enquiries.

Nature of Information Processing

The term “information processing” is more appropriate than the outmoded term “data processing” as it recognizes that it is information which is important to the management processes of business planning, decision making and control (techopedia). The preparation of the reports containing information involves subject to the basic facts, i.e. the data, to a number of processing operations which typically include: verification (when data has been subjected to data conversion into a machine sensible form), validation, sorting merging, computing, comparing, updating and printing.

Source of Information

It is important to become aware of all of the potential sources of information available. Decision making efforts can be hampered if you do not know where to get the information you need or fail to realize that certain information exists. Observation is the method of obtaining information about tangible things as well as statistics from government agencies, trade publications, and research reports. Information can be acquired from two basic sources – Internal and External.

Internal sources are with in an organization. Common internal sources are internally generated documents, observations, and internal surveys. Internal documents found in most businesses include a balance-sheet, an income statement, employ files, schedule and unscheduled and other files and reports. Such documents can supply a great deal of information about how a business operates and what its financial condition is.

External surveys are similar to internal surveys except that the individual surveyed are outside the organization that is conducting the survey. Government agencies compile large amount of information about a wide variety of topics, including gross national product (GNP) and population estimates, which can be very important to some businesses. Most of the information collected by the government agencies is available on request.

Types of Information

There are three types of information: operational, tactical and strategic.

1. Operational Information (OI)

Operational information (OI) is used to ensure that specific tasks are planned and carried out properly with in a factory or office and may feed directly into operating systems. In the office of payroll, for example, operational information might include the time worked each week by each employ, time each person spend upon individual jobs during the week. More urgent operational information such as the amount of raw material being put to a production process, may be required daily, hourly, or in the case of automated production, second by second.

2. Tactical Information (TI)

TI is used to decide how the resources of business should be employed, and to monitor how they are being, and have being employed. Such information includes productivity measurement budgetary control or variance analysis, and cash flow forecasts, manning levels and profit results with in a particular department of the organization, labor turn over statistics with in a department and short term purchasing requirements.

Tactical Information therefore: Is primarily generated from internal sources; Is summarize although a report might include raw data as backup; Is relevant to the short and medium term; Describes or analysis activities or departments; Is based on quantitative measures.

3. Strategic Information (SI)

SI is used to plane the objectives of their organization and to access whether the objectives are being met in practice. Such information includes over all profit ability, the profit ability of different segments of business, total manning levels and capital equipment needs.

Strategic Information is therefore:

  • Derived from both internal and external sources
  • Summarized at high level
  • Relevant to the long-term
  • Deals with the whole organization
  • Often prepared on an “ad hoc” bases
  • Both quantitative and qualitative
  • Uncertain, given that the future cannot be predicted.