The Nature Of The CardBoard Programmer


You: Afternoon Chewy.
Chewy: {silence}
You: I have been context switching all morning but I am still stuck on one issue. Getting this segmentation fault when I run this python script against larger data sets. Doesn’t happen on my Mac with 10GB mem 3GB swap given to my minikube setup.

Chewy: {stares back, in silence}

You: I know! And when I deploy in my Kubernetes cluster in IBM Cloud I am getting the same segmentation fault.
Chewy: {looks puzzled}
You: Anyhow, it’s a resource issue of some kind. There are C modules in place within the python runtime on ubuntu … files ….
Chewy: { stares … silence}
You: Hang on… what’s my ulimit value. “ulimit -n” … 1024 …still has default values in the running container.

andy@ubuntu:sudo vim /etc/sysctl.conf # add the following line to it fs.file-max = 65535 # run this to refresh with new config andy@ubuntu:~$ sudo sysctl -p

You: Its fixed!
Chewy: {alway’s helpful in a pickle, stares back silently}

The Cardboard Programmer

Sometimes all you need is a cardboard cutout of your famous chosen Guru! When trying to move forward on a problem, or overcome a blocking point it’s easy to go down paths that are not going to yield results. Maybe you have X amount of things to do before you think you can get to the point where you will have some result you can analyse. Maybe you already did them. Maybe you are at a dead end. You already stood up and went for a coffee. Slept on it. But there it is, still a problem.


Rubber Duck Debugging suggests a rubber duck as per the book The Pragmatic Programmer which goes into what do you do, as an individual and as a team, if you want to create software that’s easy to work with and good for our users.  Whether its a colleague, a rubber duck or chewy, it’s a technique you probably are well aware of not only as someone in software but as a living breathing human being!


Becoming Chewy and Active Listening

I suggest actively seeking opportunities to be that cardboard programmer….or…be that active listener. It is at once a learning experience, a nice thing to do, and has a mushroom effect on one’s communication style.




I set you that challenge!

Try it for a day.

Then try and stop doing it.



Attributed to the Dalai Lama is the quote

“When you talk, you are only repeating what you already know; But when you listen, you may learn something new.”

This is the advantage of the active listener. I always equate it to reading. People absorb books and get lost in the worlds they create. We are at the height of active thinking/listening when we read. We may interpret, have different thoughts on what is happening or agree/disagree with sentiments made, but we are always learning.

An opportunity and the challenge.

Author: Andrew Penrose

IBM STSM, AI Applications Member, IBM Academy of Technology. IBM Master Inventor.