Intellectual stimulus

After a year of doing freelance programming/consulting, I have a better understanding of why some people choose academia or research as a career path: Intellectual stimulation. I have been working mostly with website and webshop backend programming and on a day-to-day basis, the recipe is basically the same:

  1. Create a datatable in a database.
  2. Create a webpage form so userdata can be put into this table.
  3. Display this userdata in various versions on the website/webshop.

Over time, I see myself writing the same or very similar code over and over again for every new feature that needs to be added even when I try to reuse the same code — and it bores the hell out of me sometimes.

Actually, while studying, I was not particularly interested in theory. I always liked the programming more than the theory and the latter is usually more emphasized. It is ofted noted that college is not preparing students with proper programming skills for “the real world” and that a dedicated software development education might be a good idea. I agree.

But now I’m going of at a tangent. My point is, when I was in school, I was displeased with theory (because “hated” is such a strong word) and I fell asleep while reading any research paper or computer science book (this still haunts me. Reading CS books seems to be important for developers. I just cannot do it). But now, I miss the intellectual stimuli from academia. This is one of the reasons I have been pushing myself to find time to work on Antecons, a project that has forced me to dig into a number of research papers on association rule learning. (By the way, the recommendations made by Antecons are actually being added by the users to the shopping carts at I can thus assume that it is raising profits. This is a great success, given its currently limited and quite crude functionality)

This blog post does not have a particular message or opinion. This is thought flow and I have just been wondering what other people do to cope with boredom in their jobs. Sometimes, boring work is inevitable, I know. But when more than half of one’s work is boring, is it then time to start rethinking one’s situation?


  1. If you find yourself writing (almost) the same code over and over, it may be time to consider whether you can design a system to generate that code for you. But here is where you must put a little theory to use … you must essentially build a small theory of the family of systems you are building, and you may apply some CS theory in designing a higher level language to specify systems in the family, parsing that language, and generating code for it.

    1. And then the question is: What takes longer time? 1. Writing the same code or
      2. Coming up with an advanced, code-generating system that probably won’t work very well in many cases (most of the examples I have seen have been cool but in the end, I always go back to coding many things bottom-up).

      However, with respect to avoiding boredom in my work, your suggestion would indeed provide lots of intellectual stimuli.

      1. I should add that as an undergraduate, I had a professor that strongly believed in a purely model-driven approach within the near future. Tools like the Eclipse Modeling Framework are indeed powerful to a certain extent but they fall short in many other places. We were shown how to make a working petri-nets editor using only UML modeling. That’s cool but it does not create a webform and even the tools that do, based on some datatable perhaps, usually need to be tweaked anyway. I almost always find that things are implemented faster if they are implemented from scratch — but maybe I’m just doing something wrong :-)

  2. Yo dude! Just popped in to say…

    I’ve been working as a developer for two years now, and I’ve never once been bored at my job. Not that my job is anywhere near perfect – but I’ve never been bored. I’m sure you could find a job at an existing company that would keep your attention much better; of course, then you wouldn’t get to be your own boss. Food for thought, anyway. Cheers!

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