Personal Development

Back to the Future

"Have you been crammified by too much screensucking in your pilatorium lately? Are you frozoned and multifailing because your work environment’s gemmelsmerch is too high? Worry no more! Reverse that enjambleness, stop that whizilling! Acme Micro-ISV’s got the product for you!"

No, I’ve not lost my mind, nor am I channeling A Clockwork Orange, and no, this is not Word 12’s spelling checker running amok. The above is a host of new words recently minted by Dr. Edward Hallowell, a leading expert on Attention Deficit Disorder to describe the host of new information-related afflictions, maladies and crippling diseases starting to spread throughout the Information Society. Pay attention now – what you don’t know can hurt you.

My Week without Internet Access

As I mentioned in my first post, I recently spent 8 days without an Internet connection at home. Now I find that Bob Walsh has stolen a bit of my thunder with his last two posts ("80/20 Your information feeds" and "Signs of Plague"), but there's a broader implication to his last post; Where does all my time go? My week without Internet access, and the increased productivity on my mISV product forced me to, once again, revisit my old friend "the time study" (everybody groan here).

Everytime I mention this technique to people, they tell me "I don't have time to collect metrics on how I use my time". My contention is that you don't have time not to. If you spend an extra 15 minutes each day, it generally won't take long to realize an ROI (Return On Investment - Time is an asset just like money, only scarcer). If you're thinking about the full-blown type of time study pursued by large multinational corporations or the government (and those have their places as well), I'd have to agree. There are however, two methods that will serve the small organization or mISV well. The first is simply a mental exercise and the second is a quick-and-dirty paper study.

80/20 Your information feeds

A few weeks ago I promised to start exploring here the 47 non-coding things you as a programmer have to do to build a successful micro-ISV. I will get to those, but before I do, we need to do some information feed swamp-draining.

Years (many) ago when I started programming, technical information came in the form of things called technical books. If you were lucky, one or maybe two of these items would be produced, published and make it to a bookshelf at Computer Literacy Bookstore in Silicon Valley about the programming language you worked with and flailed at day in and day out.

That was then, this is now.

Now, no matter how obscure the computational subject, API usage, OS bug there's a gazillion web sites, blogs, and especially RSS feeds pumping out info 24/7 on it. Like drinking from a fire hose? Nah. Try like being at the bottom of Niagara Falls, looking up.

Signs of Plague

Have you noticed more and more online people are feeling burned out and unproductive? I am. So are Gavin Bowman and Keith Casey. So is Ryan Carson. So are a lot of people.

One case is one thing. Two are a coincidence. Four? Four hundred thousand? This is no coincidence.

I see two possibilities: brain sucking aliens are draining our minds through the Internet – the ultimate killer app. Or, something else is going on. I’m hoping its something else – better odds.

Burnout, taking a day off, and the 4 day week

While I was away, Keith posted here and on his personal blog about the dangers of burnout, and the benefits of recharging. I was paying close attention; it had been a while since I’d felt like I was in any position to think about my productivity and effectiveness, but I knew it was overdue.

I’m not really counting this last year as a normal year, I’m just happy to have made it through relatively unscathed. In cold professional stats, I’ve made more contacts, improved my software, and been more involved with the online ISV community. I feel much more comfortable with the situation I’m in right now than I was with my situation 16 months ago. Even though that might sound like a successful year, it felt quite different behind the scenes.

Fire your boss, fire your clients!

Keith Casey has asked me join in here, but he may live to regret his decision. That's because I going to suggest something fairly radical: It's time to fire your boss, or your clients. Instead of living in a corporate cube a self-respecting rat would'nt be caught in, or spending your life wandering from contract programming project to project, I'm going to suggest that you - yes you! - can start a top notch, world-class software company.

notes from startup school

Startup school was in session at Stanford University a little over a week ago, on Saturday, April 29th. I commuted six hours to check out the event. If you're at all interested in starting your own company or participating in a startup, you will really benefit from this sort of venue.

Back Home, Back-up

Or, "How I learned to start worrying and love back-ups".

The 8th January 2005 began like any other Saturday, I hadn't quite woken up, and in the distance I could hear a cell phone ringing. My head cleared and I realized it was mine; I must have left it downstairs last night. I thought about letting it ring, I knew the timing pretty well, so I knew it would inevitably stop ringing seconds before I could find and answer it. For some reason, I got out of bed and headed downstairs.

In hindsight I could tell you that it felt a little different walking downstairs, maybe colder, or maybe it seemed slightly darker than usual, but I was too sleepy to notice. It's only when I stepped off the last stair into the room that I finally woke up.

YAPC - NA 2006

Registration is open for the YAPC: NA 2006 being held in Chicago June 26, 27, and 28th. is proud to announce that registration is open for Yet Another Perl Conference North America (YAPC::NA) 2006. The primary conference will occur June 26th through 28th at the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago, Illinois. The conference will feature speakers from throughout the Perl community, as well as, keynote addresses from luminaries such as Larry Wall, the creator of Perl, and guest speakers from the broader dynamic languages and open source communities. The full three-day conference costs only $100, but early registrants can take advantage of a 15% discount and attend the conference for only $85. With such a low cost, YAPC is one of the most affordable and accessible technical conferences available today.

In addition to the conference, three open courses will be offered on June 29th and 30th. These courses are taught by some of the most notable Perl instructors: brian d foy, Randal Schwartz, and Damian Conway. The courses will all run simultaneously during the two days after the conference. Conference attendance is not required when signing up for classes, but it is encouraged.

work, work and life balance

I have been quiet here for the last couple weeks, more a reader than a writer. For me one of the more interesting articles of late was Wife of the mISV - Surviving the Business. When I showed it to my own wife, we shared a laugh and a moment of knowing silence - yeah, this one hits home.

Imagine the following. You're working as a software engineer on some pretty deadline-driven projects. You typically have a lot to do during the regular 9 to 5, enough in fact that you've been known to bring some of it home over the weekend, you know, just in case you got some downtime. You have got a significant other and your combined schedules are such that both of you are really always looking forward to the weekends, when you are both available at least most of the time.

Then, an opportunity turns up. One involving work and circumstances that make it very intriguing for you. The only caveat: The way to make it work is to do both jobs together for a while. Your dayjob (telling yourself, not to bring work home anymore on the weekends) and then the new job, on contract-basis in the evenings and weekends. What would you do? And for how long?