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Losing my religion

It’s been a while since I haven’t presented a pet project on this site (or really, anything at all), and for a good reason: I haven’t done any. You see, 6 months ago I began a master program in computer science – not software engineering, and as you’ll see the two are quite different from each other. And ever since I started, I hadn’t had any idea of things I could develop in my spare time. I’d like to say it’s because I have too much work to do, but the truth is, I never worked less than since I’m here. Not because there is nothing to do, far from it, but because every day that passes see me losing more and more interest for the computer arts. I’ve lost my fascination for the source code, my thrill at the idea of building from scratch and more globally the curiosity toward the virtual world that characterized me some years earlier.


I can see some reasons for that: first, I, like a lot of people (particularly men, it seems), am a creature of passion. Ever since I was a kid I’ve been frequently victim to sudden strikes of interest toward a particular project or idea, spending a lot of time and energy on it at first, then gradually losing interest until I just kinda pushed the whole thing under the rug and forgot about it. I’ve been doing it for everything: hobbies, software projects, video games – hell, even romance in a way. So I now find myself wondering whether this whole software developer thing was just another fad, one that lived for a very long time sure, but still a fad. I don’t really buy it, but I know myself and that definitely sounds like the kind of things I’m capable of.


Another, more likely explanation come from the lack of inspiration raised by my studies. Last year, I was in what is called in France a professional bachelor programme. That is, a very vocational programme, aimed at producing ready-to-work technicians. That meant a school system that looked more like high-school than academia, with fixed teachers, regular hours, long days, and a small class of only 20 students. The classes focused on real-world technologies, involved actual developers coming to give lectures, and included plenty of hands-on lab work where we built databases, toyed around with android UIs, and studied the inner working of the JVM and other tools. Sure, we didn’t learn about big-O notation or algorithm theory or that kind of stuff, so some might find those studies undignified, but I find it was both practical, inspiring, and still challenging. I mean, it’s still software development. Just because it’s not entirely theoretical doesn’t mean we were breaking rocks with a stick in a carry.

By contrast, my new studies are about real, actual Computer Science, the likes of which you find taught on american campuses and criticized as useless and too removed from the real world on Hacker News. We’re talking automata, tree traversals and compiler construction here. Some might find it interesting, and if you’re pursuing in research in academia it could be the right choice for your, but for people who actually expect to work in software development, it’s almost entirely useless. I’ve heard people saying that it build your mind, but sorry, I don’t see it. I’ve been programming long before I’ve learned what goes into a compiler, and you don’t have to know all about timed non-deterministic automata networks to be proficient in design patterns, software architecture or other actually useful topics, all of which would be a much better use of time than what we’re “learning” now. As a result, my motivation for my studies have really dropped since the first time I started going to school, 20 years ago (we start that shit early over here).


No just… no

Anyway. I’ll have to do it whether I want it or not, since I can’t conceive dropping out, and I don’t have the budgets to add extra semesters to my studies, so I guess I’ll just have to man up and take it. The problem being that it’s what I’ve told myself for months and I’m still almost physically unable to focus on my studies, choosing instead to devote my attention to literally anything else (in this particular case, this blog post, while I should be reading and working on an assignment related to the stuff in that slide up there). My involvement with the VIS is particularly tricky in this regard, as it gives me a lot of things to do, while avoiding the guilt of not working. Hey, I’m still doing stuff! Yeah, except not doing it will not get me kicked out of the school.

I’m going to keep trying and hope that my motivation will come back, but so far, I’m not too confident. We’ll see.