Monday, February 13, 2006

Frustrating Recursion

I thought I made a mistake once, but I was wrong. For some reason, this happens to me all the time when programming.

I was working on AutoSummary this weekend, adding a contextual framework using hypernym (superordinate) information for individual senses of a given word. In order to do this I needed to create a b-tree data structure. I thought I had set everything up properly, except the tree wouldn't populate past the second level. Weird crashes, etc. I tried everything, checked all of the functions and methods, testing everything I could think of. Nothing.

Tonight, I started checking everything over again, trying some different approaches. I did some digging and determined something was generating a null pointer exception. I checked everything all over again, and again... nothing. After a period of insufferable aggrivation, I discovered by trial and error that the exception was caused by the fact that I had forgotten to initialize the data container (an ArrayList). I was so worried about getting all the "hard stuff" figured out that I had overlooked a beginner's error.

The moral of the story? The simplest answers are often the hardest to find.