Posts Tagged ‘expert’

Arm waver or expert?

May 30th, 2013 No comments

I was at a workshop yesterday where one of the speakers claimed his tool supported all of Standard C; needless to say I went over to chat during one of the breaks. Now a lot of the time speakers will immediately admit to implementing a subset when chatting over coffee, but this guy was claiming all of Standard C and had a very favorable opinion of his own expertise. It is impolite and somewhat confrontational to stand in front of somebody with a checklist of questions; what topic should be worked into the conversation to best gauge whether a person really does have a detailed grasp of C?

I tossed the phrase strictly conforming into the conversation and a bit later integer promotions, these resulted in just more huff and puff from him. Now people with a detailed knowledge of C are thin on the ground and an encounter with one usually results in a warm mutual exchange of war stories on the problems encountered during the implementation of some feature or other. Perhaps this guy’s tool had been implemented by a student and this was not part of the message; perhaps this was his first encountered with somebody who also had a detailed knowledge of the language and he did not know how to react (I imagine such people are even rarer in academia than industry).

Thinking about it on the train home I decided that “sequenced before” is the phrase I should have tossed into the conversation. The concept of sequence points existed in C90 and C99, but was replaced by “sequenced before” and unsequenced in C11 (a more complicated memory ordering model was necessitated by the newly added support for sharing objects between processes). Yesterday’s speaker was not there today, so I was not able to reinvestigate whether his knowledge was pre/post C11 or just bluster.

The C++ phrase to toss into a conversation used to be One definition rule, but I don’t know if this is still true today. I once saw an email exchange where a supposed expert had never heard about the “one definition” rule and jokingly asked if it was connected to the “one ring” in Lord of the Rings; oops, he had obviously never read the C++ Standard.

What about other languages? Suggestions for phrases I might use to gauge whether somebody really is an expert in some other language welcome (this would be pure bluff on my part and I accept the consequences of using any suggestion).