OK so I want to dedicate the next few posts (and probably more in the future) to the subject of hacking things together quickly. No, I’m not talking about hacking as in “hacking into someone’s computer”, I’m talking about getting something working very quickly. In my experience, quickly usually means somewhere between 1 day and 1 week.

Why hacking skills?

Well - we live in a world of open source software that can do some pretty amazing things. There are a crap ton of free tools out there that can make your job much easier. And it’s just a git clone or a pip install away! Also - with everyone open sourcing things these days, its not proprietary software that makes the difference, its how fast can you leverage what is out there and build upon it.

Writing good code is still key!

It’s fine to hack something together quickly, but for the love of God, please go back and clean up and document your code. If someone can’t figure out what your code is doing in 10 minutes or less, you probably wrote bad code. I’m not talking about understanding every tiny facet of the code, but someone should be able to change/alter/maintain the code without wanting to poke their eyes out.

Absolutely essential hacking skills

Programming experience is great, comp sci skills - nice. But, in my opinion it pays to be a complete power user in any way you can. Other than engineering and technical chops, here’s what else I think is important to be successful:

Computer hacks

  • Be a command line ninja
  • Be a Mac OSX and Linix ninja
  • Don’t use the mouse for anything, ever! (keyboard shortcuts)
  • Master your text editors (at the minimum, Vim + Sublime)
    • Vim
    • Emacs
    • Sublime
    • Atom

Life hacks

Well there’s a lot here, probably for another blog post. Quick things that come to mind:

  • Get a high interest saving account that doesn’t charge feeds (Ally Bank for one)
  • Automate all your payments (credit cards, rent, bill)
  • Use credit cards that get you points (separte ones for gas, groceries, dining)
  • Cut the cord with cable TV and just stream everything
  • Use automatic investing and make sure you are getting all of your 401(k) match
  • Speaking of investing, just pick the low fee funds, forget about the rest