Commonplace Expertise

Cedric Chin talks to David MacIver, who pushed the boundaries of property testing, and now helps programmers with soft skills, self improvement, and emotional debugging.

Show Notes

David MacIver is most known for pushing the adoption and ergonomics of property testing in software with his testing library Hypothesis. Hypothesis is well regarded and widely used in the Python programming language community, and it introduced a handful of innovations that are now quite widespread in the practice of property testing. You’ll hear more about Hypothesis during the podcast, as we talk about what he’s learnt pushing the boundaries of a domain. Then, we shift gears to talk about his coaching practice. David specialises in helping programmers with self improvement, more effective learning, and developing soft skills, which many computer programmers are likely to struggle with, in ways that may limit their careers or their personal development.

David’s Substack —
David’s Twitter —
Hypothesis —, docs:
Ethics of False Negatives in Interviewing —
Life as an Anytime Algorithm — 15:52.html">
If You’re Stuck, Try Something Different (on chopsticks) —
How To Do Hard Things —
Stargate Physics 101 (fanfiction) —
David on why people struggle with mathematics —
How to Explain Anything to Anyone —

0:00 Introduction
1:09 What Hypothesis Is
3:47 The Story of Hypothesis
6:43 Hypothesis’s Contribution to Property Testing
12:51 Exploring the Design Space for Hypothesis
17:24 When David Knew He Was On To Something with Hypothesis
20:35 From Hypothesis to Coaching
25:21 Emotional Reactions as Legacy Code
29:08 Why David’s Approach to Self Improvement Works for Programmers
31:15 Ethical Problems with Optimising False Positive in Hiring
37:44 Ways that Programmers Harm Themselves in Their Careers
43:28 What Non-Technical People Get Wrong when Dealing with Programmers
48:00 Applying Lessons Learnt from Hypothesis to Coaching
50:03 Rigour in Self Improvement Writing
56:30 Explaining Computers to Non Technical People
01:02:55 The Nature of Mathematical Expertise
01:11:32  David’s Practice with Teams and Organisations
01:14:23 Getting Better at Sprint Planning

What is Commonplace Expertise?

The Commonplace Expertise Podcast is about the expertise that exists in the heads of the most interesting people around us. We interview guests with the goal of helping you make better business and career decisions in your life.