Weeknotes 08×09: Ping Pot Problems

  • Full speed ahead this week. The head is in full planning mode. No fancy Kerouacian prose this week, but I’ll keep the photos in…

  • My main achievement* this week was to establish a new game to pass the time. Inspired by various throwing games I saw in France recently, some ping-pong balls, flower pots and a low table were dutifully repurposed into a game I’ve come to call “Ping pot”. Bounce the balls off the table, into one of the pots. Simples.

  • not really my main one, but I like it.

Ping Pot: A table, surrounded by ping pong balls

  • (Ping Pot is definitely not just an executive version of Beer Pong.)

  • This is actually a serious exercise, DESPITE THE BALLS EVERYWHERE. I have a theory that problem-solving is – for me, at least – done best when the body and mind are both working together, without undue focus. Any gentle form of exercise is helpful to problem-solving, from going to the toilet, to going for a walk, to darts or tao chi. Firstly, screens are really, REALLY bad to have in front of you – they’re filled with information and all sorts of emotional routine attachments that distract you. And secondly, distracting the body with something simple somehow “greases” the mind – the semi-automated flow of physical energy also gets thoughts flowing better. As I said, it’s a theory.

  • As a result, these week’s photos are also all things from floor level?

  • An oddly unexpectedly “therapeutic” week. A few things I’ve not been so happy about have been playing on my mind, particularly at 11pm or 5am. Writing a draft email to the ether helped – like weeknotes, the act of getting things down clears things out of the brain.

  • I also read this short read on why we’re creative and problem-solving, and why that makes us grumpy, which definitely helped a lot this week. I’m often grumpy, and have written about trying to find the craft in my work some while ago. The article helped me realise that I do see the world as ‘problematic’ (or ‘puzzlematic’?), and I’m split between loving solving problems, and getting annoyed that others aren’t as ‘solvey’. So the perspective is a good one, and I can calm down.

  • Thursday afternoon, a quiet office and some decent work planning for the epic we’re currently on. We’re changing our underlying geographies, and I wonder if this is the most complex thing we’ve done in five years – it touches on all of our code, with no easy answers in some places. The team are doing a good job, up against annual leave, sickness, and Obi leaving.

  • My main aim now is to keep it on track, which means: Structuring the information learned so the work can continue to be distributed; Keeping an eye out for more detailed gotchas; Turning information into a plan with priorities and estimates (that hard part I’ve talked about before; and Keeping people interested in the work as the endurance test sets in.

  • Pace is everything in these things – pace and rhythm. A piece of work spanning multiple (2 week) sprints can feel like a never-ending slog if done badly. We’re over the big initial hurdle of facing an unknowable, chaotic mammoth, like those times you stomp up a huge hill at the start of a mountain walk. Feels like we need to enjoy the view and the refreshing meander now. I wonder how to build this in.

  • Should “pushing back against delivery pressures” be on the list of duties for a tech team lead? How can one value the longer term sustainability of slowing down? (This question of “undemonstrable value” seems to be a recurring theme at the moment.)

  • Behaviour management. This is something I really struggle with, because it’s rarely a clear line. Is there a difference between ‘rude’ behaviour, and ‘annoying’ behaviour? Not triggered by anything specific, other than looking through a feedback and suggestions form.

In links

  • gov.uk on roadmaps:

    ”But getting them right is hard. Roadmaps are born of all sorts of compromises: between committing to a plan while remaining agile; between giving product teams autonomy while aligning their work to business goals; and between improving existing software versus getting new stuff out the door.”

  • Warren Ellis again, in his Orbital Operations newsletter:

    ”I hope for, and fully expect, futures scenarios to get weirder and wilder, hyperlocal and supermodernglobal, very quickly. 2001 to 2018 has been the training ground for the New Next.”

  • Managed to post some minor internet postcards to Disposable Evidence – sign up, for something a little bit different.

In photos

A beer bottle on the street floor

A child's shoe on the street floor

A pink anarchy sign sprayed on the street floor


Also published on Medium.