Sunday, May 31, 2015

Github anemia, or How my activity is hidden from view

For just under two years now, I have worked for a company that exclusively uses Github for source control management.  I'd had a Github account prior to that, so I used that account for contributions.  I didn't really think very much about it until recently, when I started standing up more of my own repositories in Github using that account.  It occurred to me that my public account and "private" account tell very different stories about me as a developer.

Here's a snapshot of my public activity over the past year:

If you believe what this graph says, I haven't been very busy as a developer this past year.  I've been busier over the past couple of months, but all things considered, still not very busy.  Only two commits a day?  Most of the activity happening during the week of April 15th?!

Juxtapose that with a snapshot of my overall activity (including contributions to private repositories) over the past year:

This graph seems to tell a better story.  I've been relatively busy over the past year, averaging about three commits to repositories per day.  As a side note, I was especially busy this past January, around the time of our Guest Stay project launch.  I know it's hard to imagine, but not all software launches go exactly as planned.  ;)

Granted, I'm not nearly as busy as lots of other developers.  As it turns out, my hobbies for the past year have not included many software development activities.  For regular readers of this blog, that won't be a surprise.  For all you new folks, most of my free time is spent with my family, gaming, reading, and working towards physical and mental fitness in general.

My working hypothesis is that I'm a better all-around person, and as a result a better worker, when I'm growing along different vectors.  Focusing all of my time and effort toward improving my software development prowess would yield growth in that direction, but not as much overall fulfillment.

This is not just my hypothesis, by the way.  A CEO at one of my prior jobs, after he discovered I'd been working 16-hour days for about 6 months and wound up in the hospital, told me that life wasn't meant to be lived that way.  He recommended the 8/8/8 approach: 8 hours sleep, 8 hours work, and 8 hours "play," where "play" was everything else that helped me grow as a person.  Another VP at another company once told me that nothing we were working on was life-or-death (which isn't true of everyone, but is definitely true of the type of software I typically work on), so I shouldn't be killing myself in order to do my job.

My sincere hope is that I've finally learned about that balance, about how it contributes to the well-being of not only me but all the people around me, coworkers included.

There are certainly a lot of software developers that do software development purely for fun, that would (and do!) do it regardless of resource constraints, and that use it as a way to let of steam.  I sincerely wish more power to those people, because they make my professional life easier, and I greatly appreciate being a part of the teams those folks are on.  I just hope they won't judge my Github anemia too harshly in return.  :)

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Book review: 'Salem's Lot

Another book done!  This time, it was 'Salem's Lot, by Stephen King.  While I'm not a Stephen King fanboi, I do like his style quite a bit and marvel at his productivity.  I can only recall one book of his that I've read that I didn't care for very much: The Eyes of the Dragon.  I won't cover why here, except to say that I liked it OK but didn't think it compared well to his other works.

Back to the subject at hand.  This.  Book.  Is.  FANTASTIC!  Stephen King calls it his "coming out" book, being the first lengthy novel he'd written immediately after Carrie.  As usual, I won't give you any spoilers that aren't in the forward itself: this book is a vampire story, combining the characterizations of both Bram Stoker's lead and more pulpy villains from comics from Stephen King's childhood.  As always, there's a writer as one of the lead characters, as well as a younger character that resembles the writer as a child.  Given that most of the Stephen King stuff I've read is out of order from the chronological publishing date perspective, this is probably one of the first appearances of this mechanism.  It doesn't bother me at all.  :-)

Content: 5 out of 5 stars.  Yes, you read that correctly -- 5 stars.  You should read this book if you haven't already.

And also as usual, I "read" the book via  The narrator (aside from Stephen King's reading the forward himself) was Ron McLarty.  I thought his handling of the accents as well as the intonations used to distinguish the characters was great.  It got a little muddy at times where four male characters were in the room speaking to each other, but I didn't stumble too much.

I don't recall much production value beyond the narration itself -- no background or transitional music at all, no sound effects, etc.  Given that most of the time the sounds are more a distraction than anything else (this isn't a radio program, after all), this is absolutely fine with me.

Narration/Recording: 4 out of 5 stars.

TL;DR - you should read this book.  Even if is your only reading option, read it!

Sunday, May 10, 2015

All day, every day!

I'm finally back to life and reality.  The past couple of weeks have been interesting to say the least.  To begin with, at the end of April we took a trip to Utah.  Specifically, we took the REI Adventures trip to Arches and Canyonlands national parks.  Hopefully before too long we'll finish processing all of the pictures and publish some of them for your edification.  In the meantime, take my word for it that it was a fantastic trip, full of remarkable sights.  I also learned a few things.

First of all, you should start getting fit early in life and keep that habit forever.  Ten out of twelve of the other people on this trip were older than us, most of them having already retired.  All of them were in better hiking shape than we were, and we thought we'd prepared at least an adequate amount.  These folks hike regularly for the fitness and fun of it.  The life lesson here is that fitness is far more important than most people realize.  Don't continue to give it lip service.  Make it as important as everything else you do regularly.

Secondly, the people you vacation with are just as important as the destination itself.  The folks we met were interesting, funny, and kind to a person.  Our guides, Chris and Ashley, worked 16 hours a day to make the trip as enjoyable for us as possible, and they succeeded.  Well done, everyone!

Two other interesting things about the trip: one of the guys there was a Joseph Campbell fan, so I got to talk about that with someone.  I also nabbed a really neat Chinese poetry book while in Utah, and have been going through that bit by bit.  (Aside: Tanya doesn't understand why it's considered poetry, since in Russian there are REALLY strict rules about what can be considered poetic --big surprise! ;) )  Both of those reminded me that I need to spend a little more time extending my spirit (as well as my mind and body).  Make the most with what you have, then stretch a little farther!

After returning to the real world, I took on the role of "lead/point person" for our development group at work.  You might recall that a month ago we had an event that I was struggling to deal with.  I still struggle with it, but I'm moving forward at this point.  Hopefully my taking this position will keep the really talented technical people solving the hard problems while allowing me to facilitate, coordinate, communicate, and any other "-ate"s that are necessary to help make us successful.  I'll still do technical stuff too, but probably not as much as the other devs.

Another good thing that we discovered last week is that we're closing deals at work that will keep cash flowing.  While these deals aren't moving our product offering forward much, they are keeping the doors open and the lights on (so to speak).  It sounds like we'll be viable until at least the end of the summer, and very likely the end of the year, if nothing else changes.  This might sound scary to a lot of people, but it's actually really good news from a start-up perspective.  It gives us runway to sell our products and help define our niche.

I feel better about where I am in this world than I have in a month, and I'm very glad to feel this way.  The moral of the story here: remember to live life!  All day, every day!