22-02-2020: Optimising for Grumpiness

Notes taken, synced, grepped and woven into a single file like a
patchwork quilt formed of half-formed thoughts. I’m getting odd scraps
of notions feeding into these weeknotes at the moment, probably from
being divided between deliverables, people stuff, bigger pictures,
half-term holiday and time off and time with kids. This post is an
attempt to cobble some coherence together? It’s a good time to write,
and even better time to hold off posting until a second read-through.

What’s happening, G?

Lots I can’t really post, or don’t want to. Lots of thinking going on,
navigation – sensing, processing, letting scenarios play out. Not great
practice for sleeping, especially when you get woken up at 4 or 5am.
Probably explains why I’ve been feeling grotty for at least a week.
That, and storms always seem to blow in grot these days. I should
probably do some private note-taking, but I’m reading some Chuang Tzu again which
is helping me out.

Scaling up: Show, don’t tell?

Lots of scaling and optimisation work going on this month. It’s a nice
problem to have and I’m secretly proud of nursing our tech to this
point. Optimisation is a double-edged sword, though – on the one hand, I
really enjoy it; it’s challenging, something to sink the teeth into and
inherently complex, as in there are no easy or direct answers. I like
complex – it takes coding and technical engineering to a much more …
organic level.

But on the other hand, it’s really hard to explain that complexity to
people that want results but aren’t involved, or that don’t understand
the complexities and interactions – even within the tech team. It makes
it hard to fit into sprints, to set out clear and tidy plans, to handle
multiple ongoing but parallel work. In my head, I’m pretty sure that a)
we’ll be ok, and b) the proof will be in delivering the work. Waaaaait a
minute. Agile principle number7, ‘Working software is the
primary measure of progress.’ Do I just need to remind people of that,
rather than spending hours trying to explain the intricacies of complex
sofware management which will be obsolete in 2 weeks?

I need to finish off some work to make our testing stats clearer, but
it’s time to get back on the case and push through some incremental
improvements to show off what the team have been working on.

Grumpy programmer

Some arcane infusion of the common cold, central heating, and the
lifting of the dark is making me a bit grumpy lately, I think. I’ve been
feeling disjointed, tetchy. Little frustrations have been getting to me
a bit more. The fresh sunlight has kicked me into getting back into
running 1-1s though. It’s important time to work through some of those
niggles and reactions – in both directions.

My notes reference a book I had when I was a kid. It had an article on
‘How to be a Chess Grandmaster’, which basically consisted of playing 8
games of chess at the same time, and winning half – by ferrying moves
between pairs of tables, effectively becoming a pure medium. I’m feeling
like that a lot of the time. The downside is you only win half the matches.

Probably time to lift the foot off the throttle a bit, let the world
play out for a little while.

The week ahead

I’m mostly on support duties for the tech team as they dig into various
ideas, with a few little tasks to keep my hand in alongside that. The
longer term other stuff will continue to need some attention and phone
calls, so need to make sure I’m properly prepped for these. Attention in
the right place and at the right time, goes a long way.

Meta note: Posting via email/markdown partially working now. Excuse the line breaks though.

11-02-20: Rules of blogging | Context | Trust and Doors

HI BLOG. There, that feels good. Sooo, following on my first post, here are my initial "rules of engagement" for me and this blog. And this is a very personal set of rules. This blog is for Me, capital M. If that’s not working out, then it’s not A Right Thing.

Rules of blogging engagement

  1. I can post via EMAIL, using MARKDOWN. (This is currently in very experimental stages. procmail is involved.) This may mean less GIFs, boooo.
  2. I can post whenever I like. Sorry #weeknotes crew – Friday just doesn’t work for me 😉 Since October, I’ve moved to not working on Fridays – but, as it’s not quite the weekend, there’s a limbo zone between finishing ‘Head of Tech’ duties for the weekend, and actually relaxing.
  3. Posts should pick up on things I am finding either a) interesting, or b) challenging. Probably both, but not always.
  4. Writing must be fun.

That’s it for now.

RSS fan? I’m not sure if I’ll post these on Medium in the future, but the best source feed is probably this Atom feed on the original blog. Go easy, it’s hosted right next to my front door, under the phone and coats. Yes, I’ll post a picture soon.

Where am I at?

Context is everything, so here’s a bit of a recap. Oh yeah, I did a plain-text intro dint I?

  1. I have gone 3 days a week since October, split over 4 days, with Fridays off. Did this mainly to cover school runs, and take the stress off my partner who has an appreciated, flexible job, but this also meant she was doing more share of the school dashes, which is no good. It also means I get a chance to do more house stuff, and more of my own personal side-lines, because these things are Important too.
  2. Back in Sept/Oct, I set out a bunch of aims for the Tech side of things for the company. Broadly speaking, these lined up some work on … actually, maybe that’s a whole separate post?
  3. I’m now looking back over the last 5 months to see how all this has worked out, as well as the ongoing day-to-day stuff.

What one thing should I mention here, to make it look like an Actual Weeknote?

Looking back over my hastily-diarised notes (this is also another post…), the main exciting thing which has happened is clearly:

  • "Broke a door"
  • "The door got fixed"

Needless to say, I’m a little concerned about our building. Not to mention the flies over winter.

In the background, I’m really trying to figure out where the best place to involve myself is, in a lot of work. If you have junior staff, then you know you need to direct and support them quite directly. If you have senior staff, then you know you can (should) hand over a lot of responsibility to them. And honestly, I don’t know if I’m struggling to give up some control as the tech team have got more capable over teh years, or if I do still have a much … keener? sense of risk and awareness of Things What Can Go Wrong.

I think it is always better to keep people advancing, which does tend towards keeping them out of their Comfort Zone ™, which has its own tensions – even if you agree the "right" levels of support up front, I think it’s easy to collectively miss things in hindsight. I don’t want to get into a position where my own ‘step back’ approach, confirmed with one team member, has unconfirmed knock-on effects for others. That’s a tricky conflict,and I hadn’t really appreciated that before. Thanks, weeknoting practice.

I also keep coming back to a phrase in the Tao Te Ching: "People are difficult to govern, because they are very clever." Hmmmmm, so true.

What else is in my notes?

Warren Ellis on notebook processing: "It’s always worth running tests on the way you work."

Which bits of my work process should I test out?


A Fresh Blog Start – but what do I want?

Tentative test, caught up in technical bravado…

Old blog got destroyed in a maelstrom of corruption. The
lesson here is don’t worry about it. Probably something
about keeping backups too, but mainly, don’t worry. There
was some good stuff in there though. Never mind.

New blog, up-to-date WordPress, plug-is rapidly being added
in to keep maintenance to a minimum. Running on a Pi by the
phone at home. (I should really offer to help people set up
blogs more. Get in touch if you’d like to step into the
wonderful world of self-hosting.)

Posting this via email,via IFTTT. Experiments
with email-to-blogs
have been pretty mixed, often glitchy,
so far. This one will be interesting. How is text still so

But also a chance to work out what I want to actually do
with my weeknotes, or maybe monthnotes,
like James
, or maybe slow
week notes, like Giuseppe
. Feels like a lot of people
are reflecting on the weeknotes process. Good. Reflection is
the only thing that will save any of us. Obviously this
isn’t a new thing – Sam
has some great meta
back in 2017. (This is also a
great place to start if you have no idea what weeknotes are.
Also, the

I think I want to carry on my own, personal “style”, which
is not really a style. (Or, the ‘Anti-structure’ style, as Sam
describes it as
.) There are times when structure is
great – for setting out shared standards and expectations,
and for making sure you’ve covered everything you want to

My own style is a bit more free-flow than though. If I’m
using writing to reflect, then it’s most valuable
when there’s something I’m trying to figure out. And I find
my figuring-out process is just to … ‘prototypical’ and
chaotic to fit neatly into structures. I end up thinking
more about hitting the lines set out by a frame than being
honest and working through a problem.

The challenge for me is not unique to weeknoters, but is
still a very real one – how much can and should one delve
into issues in a public way? Should I move to smaller,
semi-private and more focused groups as I
mooted on Twitter

Anyway, I’m going to hit send on this and see if it reaches
the world, or vanishes into the dark matter of the invisible
internet. That place where digital monsters swish their
tails that circle the globe, and feed off solar storms.

(Update: Not quite first time success. This is actually the
second third fourth time
I’m sending this.)