Sunday, June 27, 2010

Short sighted learning

Originally uploaded by Dani Ihtatho
I've been enjoying learning about a number of aspects of the .net world over the last year or so. Recently, I've been creating WCF Services - being new to the service creation world, I had to start from scratch, which is always a good place to start.

My problem, however, is that I wanted to learn enough just to get something up and running. I find that the problem with learning by google (or Stack Overflow, MSDN, blogs) is that there's no one pushing you to get the complete view of a topic - not that people don't offer the information up, it just seems irrelevant at the time when you're working so hard on the basics.

My lack of understanding was highlighted when doing some performance testing. I thought the service would create threads per call, but there are limits to the number of threads (which, of course, makes sense) - but what happens with those that don't get through to the service? Do the requests time out? What happens when the requests are being pased through from a DMZ? A standard request that worked normally as a one off test starts failing under load. None of these issues are problems within themselves, but a lack of understanding about how services generally work, how to queue up requests, how to handle concurrent requests all come crashing back to bite when you get an unexpected problem.

Talking about a different project (one that I wasn't involved in), I was saying to my colleague that I think it's not wise to check something in if you don't understand what it's doing - which I still think is right - but I didn't even know that I didn't know what I was doing!

To help my shortsightedness, I think I need to define some kind of learning plan that outlines all the parts of a new topic that I'm working on, even if it's just a quick read over a msdn article to see what 'bits' are talked about so I'm aware of their existance. I've even been considering buying books! The more I look at it, the more I think a good book is a great basis for learning a new topic - they're usually comprehensive in covering a topic, even if they don't touch on the detail of all aspects - google can come into help then.

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