One Day Of Advent Of Code


This year I finally accomplished a dream of mine - I only did a single day of the annual Advent of Code (opens in a new tab) challenge. While most people aspire to complete the entire 25 day exercise, I've learned Advent of Code is as much about me wrestling with my own perfectionism as it is about solving coding puzzles.

I've been doing Advent of Code for 4 years now. 3 years ago, I did the most I had ever done and I was miserable. For 13 days AOC was eating up what little time and energy I had after work. I was caught in a cycle where I was ashamed of myself for not solving the problems more easily. But, I was unable to step away because I felt like I was so close to finishing. This made me invest even more time which made me even more ashamed.

Last year, I only did 4 days of puzzles but I also stopped trying to solve as many problems as I could. Part of this is because I stopped feeling like I needed to use AOC to prove my programming ability to myself and others. This allowed me to start using AOC as a sandbox to try new (to me) Python tools and features like type hints, mypy, and to build out workflows in Make. I had way more fun working this way and ended up with some tools and patterns I was able to use for the rest of the year.

I discovered that last part, up-to-date knowledge of how to build complete modern python projects, is really valuable to me. As a then manager and now executive, I'm not coding regularly. So when I do have a chance to get my hands dirty, for fun or for profit, it's a huge accelerator to have a go-to template to quickly build out a project with up-to-date tools and practices.

I don't mean "template" metaphorically. I have a cookiecutter template (opens in a new tab) I use to build my projects and now I use Advent of Code as my chance to give it an annual refresh.

This year, I leaned even more into "doing more with less" and only did one day's worth of puzzles. I then spent the remaining time making updates to my solution workflow including switching from flake8 to ruff (opens in a new tab), adding mypy (opens in a new tab) into my workflows, and adding a template documentation page with Sphinx (opens in a new tab) driven by docstrings and typehints with autodoc (opens in a new tab). With the exception of Ruff this was all stuff I'd done before, but had never taken the time to systematize.

I then started porting the ideas I enjoyed into my template. Checking for bugs in your template can be tricky because the template itself is full of jinja-style template variables (e.g. {{project-name}}) so you can't run it directly. To help with this I created a new project (opens in a new tab) with a Makefile that pulls my cookiecutter template and runs a "hello world" build to check for obvious bugs.

I really wish I had the time to do all 25 of the AOC puzzles every year, but the truth is I don't. Instead, I'm glad I've gotten to the point in my life where I have the confidence to make use of something in the way I want to.

This work by Alex C. Viana is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 4