Starting up a CoderDojo in Metuchen, New Jersey…

I’ve got a new personal project that I’m pretty excited about – CoderDojo Metuchen.

A guy in my town put out the call recently for anyone who was interested in working on this project. I jumped on it.

The idea is, you find ways to encourage and mentor learning to program (code!) in kids and teens.

I like mentoring, so that’s a plus. And I think getting youths involved in interesting activities and projects is another good thing. And, I’ve been looking for good volunteer opportunities for a while but always wanting to find something I had a passion about – not just something that someone else could be doing just as well as me.

This, I think I can do better than most. And that’s a good way for me to spend my time, in my humble opinion.

We shall see. 🙂



The Downside of Claiming “Done”

I’ve been seeing some posts going around lately about an inspirational essay written by a guy who said “done” is a magical word that can cause all sorts of happiness in you and those around you.

I’m simplifying. I should look-up the original essay and provide a link – sorry, just wanted to get these ideas out now.

“Done” is a great feeling – sure. Heck, I’ve been doing the “Getting Things Done” methodology in various forms since around 2005 or 2006. It’s good to feel progress and be able to point to a specific result that ensures you aren’t just kidding yourself.

But… in the hapless world of everything moving quicker than anyone can perceive… it’s a little too easy to claim “done” when in fact you are just frustrated with the challenge and don’t want to go on.

It’s hard to get to done. Harder than many people realize. And, of course it’s a murky territory because there can be all sorts of opinions about what “done” means.

But it’s easy to say you are done when you really should still be working on the thing. Many people won’t notice a premature “I’m done” simply because they are so caught-up in their own mess that they have no time or mental space to think about the mess you are working on. Maybe they’re just happy to know that somebody in this crazy world is done with something, so they’re happy to put their stamp of approval on what you said you did.

Next time you say you’re done, try to look at it from the perspective of someone who has all the time in the world to work on the thing. Would that person really come to the same conclusion that you just did?

I’m good at paperwork, but…

… I hate doing the stuff.

If I could teach one lesson to the world today, it would be to make it so the administrative stuff in our lives takes less time, so that the real, true, and important stuff can take more time.

Notice I said one lesson “today”? That’s because I’ve got another lesson for tomorrow! 😉

Product Development Is Not My Thing

flowchart of agile software product development
It’s been about eight months since I started working for a software product company. Prior to that, I’d spent a lot of time writing software for various audiences – but always for internal use. At my current gig, I’m not working directly in software product development – my role is quality assurance and testing.

I’m not directly influencing the software product output. I am influencing primarily the software development process which causes that output – by finding bugs, finding process problems, and recommending improvements. It’s an internal support service role.

Probably my most natural role in technology is in the areas of support and service. That can mean many things, and in the case of my current job role it means I provide a service to help ensure high quality in the product that the company sells. I’m not sure if I would want to work directly on the product side – even though that’s the revenue generator, it is also the area where the work can get bogged down in a lot of details that don’t necessarily lead to creative solutions to technology problems.

True, in an ideal world product developers would always be primarily focused on innovating and providing the most creative solutions, but in the end the constraints of working within a product framework mean there are a lot of limits on what can be done. Every decision must keep in mind not just the problem at hand, but also the generalized problem that the anticipated product audience has. There is naturally a constant struggle to retain innovation.

When you work directly in service or support, you also have these sorts of constraints but the decisions and actions you take have a little more wiggle room because they aren’t getting baked into the product. There’s a little more chance to be flexible, find new and promising solutions, and move freely.

But of course that only matters if you find ways to take advantage of that flexibility.

Purge Day: The Power of Making Space

purge files

[Tweet “Soak it in. Enjoy the space.”]

Today is Purge Day. In fact, it’s a whole Purge Weekend. And for a guy like me who has some nasty anti-purge tendencies, that can be a struggle.

But, nothing like a nice, cold weekend in the northeast to inspire hunkering down, staying in, and sorting through one’s “stuff” with a harsh eye.

It’s an early spring cleaning, I suppose.

My Purge Manifesto

Top on the list:

  • Get rid of anything within main sightlines in the main living space that doesn’t immediately evoke delight. Either put it away or put it to trash.
  • Toss my current task list in the trash. If it’s important, it’ll make its way back into my brain soon enough.
  • Soak it in. Enjoy the space.

I’m a guy who needs space in order to do my best work. Whenever I find that’s not happening, it’s time to purge and take back the empty!

Nowadays It’s All about the Outsourcing

You should be outsourcing!

Lately, I’ve been outsourcing a lot.

Not necessarily in the traditional sense – for example, I haven’t started hiring folks in a far-off call center to accept my calls and deal with my problems. But I have been putting a prime focus on assigning the caring about various things in my life to someone or something other than me.

It’s all part of my massive purge campaign. This is the purging of my mental life, putting the caring and worry someplace other than on myself.

That all sounds very dramatic, eh? It’s actually pretty basic, boring, and mundane. The examples of “outsourcing” are probably even ones that you wouldn’t think of that way.

Managed WordPress Hosting

Here’s one: I moved my blog’s hosting service from a do-it-yourself vendor (DreamHost) to an all-inclusive they-do-it-for-you vendor (WP Engine). Sure, I can host and administer my blog myself, but I decided that the cost of giving that small care over to someone else (about $30 per month) was well worth the freeing up of my mental house so that I am just a little less tempted to waste away an afternoon fiddling with admin stuff when I should be writing.

So that’s one.

Purging and Tidying

Another, a little more abstract perhaps, is that I’ve outsourced my personal organizational system to a book I read recently. It was a book about “tidying” and the basic take-away for me is that now I have to throw everything out. Now, I’ve spent years arguing with my wife about why I absolutely need to keep various little items stashed in closets and on shelves around the house, so outsourcing this decision to a book I just read is a huge step for me.

But the truth is, the book “spoke” to me, and I decided to trust it wholeheartedly.

Now I no longer worry about whether or not I can toss in the trash all the stuff sitting on my basement shelf – you know, the stuff that just nags a little at me mentally every time I pass it and think to myself that I really should “organize” it someday. Now I have the freedom to just get rid of it all. And really, there’s probably nothing on that shelf that I need, want, or will ever care about again once it is gone.

So that’s another example.

Outsourcing Other Personal Productivity Stuff

The list goes on and on. More concrete outsourcing like we are planning to have an accountant do our taxes this year. And more abstract outsourcing like “I will do anything Tim Ferriss tells me to do” because I think he’s cool and I just want to be like him.

This post here is one of my rambling posts. That’s because I’ve been at a standstill as far as how to move forward with this blog.

So… I decided to outsource the problem of the standstill – by putting thoughts down and publishing out to the world, I’ll come to decisions about next steps as I see how my posts are read by the world and/or how I think about the posts once they are out there.

The point is, I am taking a problem that could remain internal (and stagnant), and I am finding a way forward by assigning some aspect of trust in its solution to something outside of myself.