Month: January 2017

Stop Starting and Start Finishing

One thing that I’ve always struggled with is a short attention span; I tend to get bored pretty easily. One thing I like about my current job is that I get to work on a lot of different stuff, which helps keep me interested, but it’s still difficult to maintain focus, and I’ve been looking into different systems to help with that. Earlier this month my son was born, which is awesome but means I have less time and energy, more expenses, and less income (due to my wife staying home to take care of the baby), which adds that much more pressure to try to be really good at my job. One of the things I tried last year was KanbanFlow, which is a free (and paid, though I haven’t felt the need for the paid features) tool for tracking your work; I liked the ease of use but didn’t really feel that I was getting that much out of it and more or less stopped using it. Recently, however, I’ve been reading the book Kanban in Action, which clarified for me what I should be doing, and I’ve started using my Kanban board again. I’m actually feeling more productive, so I thought I’d document what I’ve been doing. My Kanban board is set up like this: One of the big things in Kanban is the Work in Progress (WIP)...

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On Writing [and Editing]

Warning: rant ahead. Probably most software developers have at least heard of Donald Knuth’s The Art of Computer Programming. Supposedly a 12-chapter book in seven volumes, the first volume was published in 1968 and we’re now partway through volume four (the fifth portion thereof expected to release in June). I’ve never read a significant amount of the work, but over the years I’ve occasionally dipped into it when researching a particular topic; it’s written as a reference book, and it works well for that. I bring up these books not because they are particularly readable (they’re universally acknowledged as...

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Roles, titles, and growing into expectations

Last week, I found out that I’ve been promoted to senior developer. From a practical standpoint, this doesn’t actually affect me at all; the titles system was put into place to deal with immigration requirements, and the ‘promotion’ doesn’t signify a change in my responsibilities or compensation. In fact, this actually happened over a month ago; it’s just of so little import that nobody bothered to tell me about it! Still, this seems as good a time as any to reflect on where my career has been going, where I’d like it to go in the future, and what I need to do in order to get there. Over the last year I’ve spent less time working on code (although that’s still what I’m usually doing) and more time doing project management-type activities: setting priorities, writing designs, explaining things and providing feedback to other developers. I’ve said in the past that I’m not interested in become a team lead (partially because I want to focus on becoming a better developer and partially because I don’t want to spend all day in meetings) but I find that I actually do enjoy overseeing a project. I’m now feeling that I’d like to move into more of a software architect role. I’ve seen this defined as the person who takes the blame for the quality of the software; he sets the overall...

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The daily accomplishment, or, did I get anything done today?

Today I installed a new faucet. Not a big deal – I’ve done it before and it’s not that difficult, just a bit of a pain (and hard on my back). But I’m still counting it as my accomplishment for the day. When I was a kid, I always planned to get stuff done over the summer – learn Java or whatever – but more often than not it didn’t happen. When your primary focus is on big projects, it’s easy to have days when you’re not seeing any progress, or worse, actually not making any progress. I had that problem with my dissertation – it was so involved that it was difficult to sit down and write out the next lemma. I have that problem still; I’m working on a new book, but it’s such a large project that it’s difficult to just work on a small part of it. It’s no secret that the way to get a big thing done is to break it into a lot of little things; sometimes it’s just hard to work up the motivation to do the little things. What I’m trying this year is simple: at the end of every day, I want to be able to look back and say that I accomplished at least one thing. If it’s getting towards the end of the day and there’s no...

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