Into the abyss

Beware that, when fighting monsters, you yourself do not become a monster… for when you gaze long into the abyss. The abyss gazes also into you. Friedrich Nietzsche

Zen and Happiness

There is no need to start happiness after 20 years. You can be happy right now, even when you are not a Partner or don’t drive a Porsche. Things change to easily. You can get sick. You can get fired. You can burn out (if you follow all these items I guess likeliness is low).

Until these bad things happen, just work as well as you can and have fun with doing it. No reason to look at the gains of the colleagues. No reason to think about the cool new position which you didn’t get.

After all, you will reach something. You’ll end up with nice memories, maybe a good position – and 20 excellent years. Every day is a good day.

Zen Monks are not to shy with their work too. They get up at 4am (sometimes earlier, sometimes later, depends on the convent) and start meditation and work (they even consider work meditation practice). They have stuff to do like cleaning the toilets. Or working in the garden. Or as a Tenzo, they cook. They do it with all the care they can get. What ever they do, they do it without suffering and they are (or should be) happy, because every second, even the second where they are cleaning toilets, is a second of their life.

Even pyramids get lost, after a long time. Do you know the names of the people who build up a pyramid? And if you do, is it important that you know? It’s not. Pyramids are there, or not. Nothing special.

From the The 10 rules of a Zen programmer. A post I’ve read many times as there are so many gems within it.

The technical debt of your former self

As we mature and become better developers there’s a funny case of code we previously wrote taking on a certain amount of technical debt purely because we have more experience and knowledge on how to tackle the same problems. We’ve all been there, having gone back to look at code we thought was great at the time to only wonder what the hell we were thinking, or gone back to reduce a long method to a single line. Technical debt is inevitable if we continually seek to improve our skills.

First things first

I have a small check list of things I aim to do every day. This includes things like meditate, write, vlog, foam roll/stretch etc. The problem is I put off the majority of them until late at night and on most occasions end up skipping them in favour of going to bed. While I get to say I got some of the things done, I’m still treating them as an after thought to the rest of my day. Really what I should be doing is putting first things first and getting these things done before I do anything else. Why am I putting things like browsing the news, Reddit and YouTube first? I tell myself “Well I’m just getting started, I need to ease myself into it”, but really that is just an excuse to put things off. So from now on I’m going to start putting first things first.

Films of 2014

In contrast to my Books of 2014 posting, here are the films of 2014.
Quite a lot of re-watches. Stand out films where “Interstellar”, “Secret Life of Walter Mitty”, “The Grand Budapest”, “Her”, “Metro Manila”, “The One I Love” and “The Raid 2”.

  • Zero Dark Thirty
  • Blackfish
  • Hangover II
  • Escape Plan
  • Ender’s Game
  • Homefront
  • Broken City
  • 12 Years a Slave
  • Secret Life of Walter Mitty
  • Wolf on Wall Street
  • Snowpiercer
  • When Harry Met Sally
  • Metro Manila
  • Perfume
  • Olympus Has Fallen
  • The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
  • Apocolypto
  • Godzilla
  • Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit
  • The God of Cookery
  • The Grand Budapest
  • Non Stop
  • Her
  • King of Comedy
  • The Raid 2
  • The Man from Nowhere
  • Sabotage
  • Kill Zone SPL
  • On the Job
  • The One I Love
  • The Morning After
  • Edge of Tomorrow
  • 22 Jump Street
  • Sin City: A Dame to Kill For
  • Camp X-Ray
  • Interstellar
  • The Taking of Deborah Logan
  • Guardians of the Galaxy
  • American Hustle
  • November Man
  • Lucy
  • Fault in the Stars
  • Stonehearst Asylum
  • Gone Girl
  • The Equalizer
  • Chef
  • Dumb and Dumber Too
  • Foxcatcher

Books of 2014

Didn’t read as much as I wanted/hoped this year. This year’s stand out books were “How to Fail at almost Everything and Still Win Big”, “All that is Solid”, “The Obstacle is the Path” and “The Three Body Problem”.

  • The Millionaire Fastlane (3/1/2014)
  • How to Fail at almost Everything and Still Win Big (15/1/2014)
  • Hooked: How to build habit-forming products (26/1/2014)
  • The Power of Habit (23/2/2014)
  • Go for No! (25/2/2014)
  • All that is Solid (31/3/2014)
  • Manuscript Found in Accra (1/4/2014)
  • Fluent in 3 Months (23/4/2014)
  • David & Goliath – Audiobook (25/4/2014)
  • Be Iron Fit (27/4/3014)
  • No Exit (5/4/2014)
  • The Obstacle is the Path (10/6/2014)
  • The 1 Hour China Book (16/6/2014)
  • Beyond Training (10/7/2014)
  • On the Shortness of Life (18/07/2014)
  • Software as a Disservice (7/9/2014)
  • How to fix Your Software Project (15/9/2014)
  • Growth Hacking Handbook (Skimmed) (10/10/3014)
  • The Martian (21/10/2014)
  • How to Get to the Top of Google (Skimmed) (31/10/2014)
  • Smart Calling (Skimmed) (31/10/2014)
  • The Three Body Problem (26/11/2014)

Not so remote

Fostering a team feeling when everyone is remote can be extremely difficult. It’s easy to feel like you are working in a total silo, and can be made worse if everyone is spread across distant timezones. Being able to function as a team is a key component to project success. Feeling isolated and alone when problems come up can make work frustrating and stressful at times. Here are a few ways to try and overcome that:

  • Try and arrange core hours where the whole team is available and together on Skype/HipChat/Slack.
  • A weekly call with everyone to update on work, issues and client feedback.
  • A daily call between project managers and members of the team to chat about current progress and the project as a whole.
  • Code sharing sessions. Show code to other members on the team and explain what features are and how you’ve gone about implementing them.

Move fast and break things

I was thinking about the “Move fast and break things” approach to projects this morning. A few projects I’m currently working have been moving at a snails pace and the longer projects go on and the bigger they get before being launched fills me a certain kind of dread. I feel really comfortable launching with a few half baked features rather than everything in one big bang. When there are so many moving parts in a launch, no matter how much you test, real users are going to find problems, and trying to keep on top of them can drive you insane. It’s the difference between trying to steer a small sail boat vs a cruise liner. If you start small you can probably respond quickly to change and get to where you want to go than if you launch big and try and change course later on.

Now I don’t condone breaking things, but I do agree with the idea of moving fast and staying agile. So just “Move fast”, that’s all you have to do. Accept that things will break and things will need improving.

“A good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan executed next week.” – George S. Patton

Generate a random email address in TextExpander with Ruby

Made this short snippet to help generate random email addresses using TextExpander. Set the snippet content type to “Shell Script” and paste in the following. You’ll need Ruby installed which comes with most modern versions of OSX.

The snippet will generate a different address every minute and copy it to your local clipboard incase you want to paste it in again. It also uses YOPMail which you can check for emails too.

Update: I have a new post on how to do the same using AppleScript.

Hard Deadlines

On almost every single project I’ve worked on, hard deadlines have nearly always been the cause of any stress or frustration that arises. One day you’re asked to make rough estimates and then next thing you know they become pegged to a date in the future that you must meet at all cost (But you said you think it would only take X days!). Even worse is when someone non-technical makes the estimates for you and passes them down from on high (Look, this is the all the time we have, I’m sure you’ll be fine!).

Why do we still insist on having hard deadlines? Yeah I know, we asked for more features but now the project is “late” so you’ve failed to do your job. Yet, if the deadline wasn’t concrete, the project would have more features then initially scoped and delivered in a timely fashion, you’re a success!

New features are always requested, changes are always wanted and bugs will always be found. If everyone just accepted (understood) that writing software isn’t exact science then we’d all have a lot less stress to deal with and we can stop feeling like a failure for not meeting that pie-in-the-sky deadline.