I’ve been reading and listening to various books about the attention/surveillance economy, the rise of fascism in the Anglosphere and beyond, and have decided to disconnect from the daily outrage and the impotent swiping of “social” “content”. The most immediately actionable advice came from Cal Newport’s Digital Minimalism. I will therefore be undertaking a digital declutter in May.
Specifically this means:
- no social media. In fact I haven’t been on most of them all of April, so this is already in play. By continuing it into May, I intend to do a better job of choosing things to do when I’m not hitting refresh.
- alerts on chat apps on for close friends and family only.
- streaming TV only when watching with other people.
- Email once per day.
- no RSS.
- audiobooks only while driving.
- Slack once per day.
- Web browsing only when it progresses a specific work, or non-computering, task.
- at least one walk per day, of at least half an hour, with no technology.
- Phone permanently in Do Not Disturb mode.
It’s possible that I end up blogging more, if that’s what I start thinking of when I’m not browsing the twitters. Or less. We’ll find out over the coming weeks.
My posts for De Programmatica Ipsum are written and scheduled, so service there is not interrupted. And I’m not becoming a hermit, just digitally decluttering. Arrange Office Hours, come to Brum AI, or find me somewhere else, if you want to chat!
Remember this? It’s the last day for the stack today. Buy today for $47.95 within six hours and get my APPropriate Behaviour, along with books on running software businesses, building test-driven developers, and all sorts of software stacks including Ruby, Node, Laravel, Python, Java, Kotlin…
Remember remember the cough 6th of November, when APPropriate Behaviour joined a wealth of other learning material for software engineers in a super-discounted bundle called the Ultimate Programmer Super Stack?
It’s happening again! This is a five-day flash sale, with all same material on levelling up as a programmer, running a startup, and learning new technologies like Aurelia, Node, Python and more. The link at the top of this paragraph goes to the sales page, and you’ve got until Monday, when it’s gone for good.
I already wrote about the Ultimate Programmer Super Stack, a huge bundle of books and courses on a range of technologies: Python, JS, Ruby, Java, HTML, node, Aurelia… and APPropriate Behaviour, my book on everything that goes into being a programmer that isn’t programming.
Today is the last day of the bundle. Check it out here, it won’t be available for long.
There’s a great bundle of polyglot learning taking place over at the Ultimate Programmer Super Stack. My book, APPropriate Behaviour – the things every programmer needs to know that aren’t programming – is featured alongside content on Python, Ruby, Java, JS, Aurelia, Node, startups, and more.
The bundle is just up for a week, but please do check it out: for not much more than you’d probably pay for APPropriate Behaviour you’ll get a whole heap of stuff that should keep you entertained for a while :).
Is it that a month in the laboratory will save an hour in the library, or the other way around? A little more conversation, a little less action?
There are things to learn from both the library and the laboratory, and that’s why I’m launching the Labrary, providing consulting detective and training service to software teams who need to solve problems, and to great engineers who want to be great lead engineers, principal engineers and architects.
The Labrary is also the home to my books and other projects to come. So if you want to find out what a consulting detective can do for your team, follow the @labrarian on Mastodon or book office hours to talk things over.
You think your code is self-documenting. That it doesn’t need comments or Doxygen or little diagrams, because it’s clear from the code what it does.
I do not think that that is true.
Even if your reader has at least as much knowledge of the programming language you’ve used as you have, and at least as much knowledge of the libraries you’ve used as you have, there is still no way that your code is self-documenting.
How long have you been doing your job? How long have you been talking to experts in the problem domain, solving similar problems, creating software in this region? The likelihood is, whoever you are, that the new person on your team has never done that, and that your code contains all of the jargon terms and assumptions that go with however-much-experience-you-have experience at solving those problems.
How long were you working on that story, or fixing that bug? How long have you spent researching that specific change that you made? However long it is, everybody else on your team has not spent that long. You are the world expert at that chunk of code, and it’s self-documenting to you as the world expert. But not to anybody else.
We were told about “working software over comprehensive documentation”, and that’s true, but nobody said anything about avoiding sufficient documentation. And nobody else has invested the time to understand the code that you just wrote that you did, so the only person for whom your code is self-documenting is you.
Help us other programmer folks out, think about us when avoiding documentation.
Words change meaning.
Technical words change meaning.
Sometimes, you need to check out a specific commit of a word’s meaning from the version control, to add context to a statement.
“I’m talking about Open Source in its early meaning of Free Software without the confusion over Free, not its later meaning as an ethically empty publication of source code.”
“I mean Object-Oriented Programming as the loosely-defined bucket in which I can put all the ills of software that I’m claiming are solved by Haskell, not the earlier sense of modelling business processes in software with loosely-coupled active programs communicating by sending messages.”
“The word Agile here refers to the later sense of Agile where I run a waterfall with frequent checkpoints and get a certification from a project management institute.”
The problem is that doing so acts as a thought-terminating cliche to people who are not open to hearing a potentially valuable statement about Open Source, Object-Oriented Programming, or Agile development.
If your commit is too early in history, then you can easily be dismissed as etymologically fallacious, or as somebody who won’t accept progress and the glorious devaluation of the word you’re trying to use.
If your commit is too recent in history, then you can easily be dismissed as a Humpty-Dumptyist who’s trying to hide behind a highfalutin term that you have no right to use.
What I’ve come to realise is that my technique for dealing with people who use these rhetorical devices can be as simple as this: ignore them. If they do not want to hear, then I do not need to speak.
We have a whole load of practices in programming that only really work well if you’re already good at whatever the process is supposed to help with.
Scrum is a process improvement framework, but only if you already know how to do process improvement. If you don’t, then Scrum is just the baseline mini-waterfall process with a chance to air your dirty laundry every fortnight.
Agile is good at helping you embrace change, but only if you’re already good enough at managing change to understand which changes should be embraced.
#NoEstimates helps you avoid the overhead of estimates, but only if you’re already good enough at estimates to know that you always write user stories that take 0.5-2 days to implement.
TDD helps you design your APIs, but only if you’re already good enough at API design to understand things like dependency injection and loose coupling.
Microservices help you isolate modules, but only if you’re already good enough at modularity not to get swamped in HTTP calls.
This is all very well for selling consultancy (“if your [agile] isn’t working, then you aren’t [agiling] hard enough, let me [agile] you some more”) but where’s the on-ramp?
I think the last technical conference I attended was FOSDEM last year, and now I’m sat in the lobby of the Royal Library of Brussels working on a project that I want to take to some folks at this year’s FOSDEM, and checking the mailing lists of some projects I’m interested in to find meetups and relevant talks.
It’s been even longer since I spoke at a conference, I believe it would have been App Builders in 2016. When I left Facebook in 2015 with the view of taking a year out of software, I also ended up taking myself out of community membership and interaction. I felt like I didn’t know who I was, and wasn’t about to find out by continually defining myself in terms of other people.
I would have spoken at dotSwift in 2016, but personal life issues probably also related to not knowing who I was stopped me from doing that. In April, I went to Zurich and gave what would be my last talk as a programmer to anyone except immediate colleagues for over 18 months.
During this time, I found that I don’t mind so much what I’m working on: I have positive and negative opinions of all of it. I have lots of strong opinions, and lots of syntheses of other ideas, and need to be a member of a community that can share and critique these opinions, and extend and develop these syntheses.
Which is why, after a bit of social wilderness, I’m reflecting on this week’s first conference and planning my approach to the second.