Tuesday, 11 June 2013

A Haunted House

Virginia Woolf published a collection of short stories entitled “A Haunted House”.  The eponymous opening story of the collection is among the first things I ever read by her as an author and it took me about 15 minutes to get off the first page.  Why is this relevant to my study of Scala? Without spoiling anything about the story itself, it gave me the exact same impression of repeatedly sliding down the surface of the words, never really understanding what was going on.  Scala in Action or a ghost story, both could leave me similarly stumped.

But in both cases I really wanted to grasp what was going on. I needed, I realised after a few attempts (each having ended with my looking blankly at the line of words in front of me, realising I’d missed something in the words just a few lines above), that all I needed to do was read very slowly, and very carefully.  The problem was, in this information-everywhere age, with Facebook status update streams, and Twitter firehoses, and RSS, and bookmarks, and email, and …, and … it is easy to become accustomed to glancing over things; simple to say “Yup, I read it” when in fact we merely cast our eyes in it’s general direction, smiled at and only subconsciously digested the pretty pictures, checked there were no actions for ourselves and then moved on. 

I’ve become so used to this way of reading that I can read an entire work of literature in this trance, not really paying attention to anything at all very much.  And so here is why A Haunted House (and everything else by Woolf that I’ve managed to read) is like Scala in Action. Because, to really learn Scala, and to become a better developer, I can’t just consume all the source texts in a cursory way.  I need to pick my way through them, line by line sometimes, just like Woolf has taught me to do. I need to always be aware, to keep my mind from wandering, and to stop when “my buffer overfloweth”, but plough on when I still have some mental capacity spare.  And I need to enjoy myself as I go.  Because challenging yourself is fun.