SIGAVDI #52: Grit Fritters Edition

Hello friends,

I am mildly out-of-sorts as I write this. The front of my favorite local dive appears to have fallen off, complicating my afternoon plans of meeting my mom there. Entropy is everywhere!

What dismays me about technology is this: not the machine itself but the way its architecture echoes outward, imposing a grid of quantification on everything it touches.

This article about life in Silicon Valley is powerful and a bit painful. I keep saying, you can’t do this shit 8-12 hours a day and not have it warp your outlook.

A programmer spends thirty years in the industry, and one day they designs a beautifully simple and elegant programming language. Or API. Then they go on the conference circuit pointing out the virtues of simplicity, and bemoaning why other developers can’t just keep things simple.

What’s omitted: It took them thirty years to figure out what was “the simplest thing that could possibly work”.

The simplest step isn’t always the easiest step, because simplicity comes from wisdom. Sometimes the most accessible first step is to do the thing you know is overcomplicated, but you don’t yet have the perspective needed to simplify it. Once it’s in use, you’ll start to see where to pare it down.

Example: I kicked off a Patreon recently. I made the tiers too elaborate. I knew I was making them too elaborate. But I couldn’t figure out what to drop and what to keep.

Now that it’s been up for a few weeks, I’m getting a much better idea of what makes sense for the tiers, and I’ll be simplifying it soon.

Example: I usually don’t figure out what the “core idea” of one my talks is until I’ve given it at least three times. Then one day it finally dawns on me what I’m really getting at, and I reorganize the talk to emphasize that core idea.

“Do the simplest thing that could possibly work”. “Minimum viable product”. These concepts are supposed to be enablers of action, but sometimes they are obstacles. We often start out jumbled full of thoughts and only later do we realize which one was central and which ones were peripheral.

Sometimes the most expedient step to take is to start with elaborated complexity, and give yourself license to pare down instead of add.

Last night I went to my first fashion show ever and it was amazing. It was a celebration of embodiment and of the endless conversation-with-past-and-future that is art. I highly recommend attending one if you ever have the opportunity.

More broadly, I strongly endorse adopting the strategy of defaulting to “yes, please” when someone recommends or invites you to something you’ve never done before. I don’t think I realized just how much I’d internalized the philosophy of “oh that’s not the kind of thing I do” until I started deliberately saying “yes” to new experiences.

The problem with “that’s not my kind of thing” is that eventually, you stop seeing other possibilities at all. They become part of the background noise. They become the restaurant you’ve passed so many times that you never think of trying it out.

Let’s see how I did:

  • ✔ Book May travel. Done! Off to St. Louis again in a week and a half, look forward to more livestreams of Jess and I yelling at computers! ????
  • ✔ Update my website. Done! I’m really happy with this accomplishment, for the first time my site actually reflects everything I do.
  • ✔ Invite a half-dozen new RubyTapas guest chefs. More than done! Lots of great new guests coming up…
  • ❌ Go through my stupid mail. Well, I went through all my email. The snowdrift of snail-mail continues to accumulate.
  • ✔ Push consulting paperwork forward. Done.

Bonus points:

  • Catch up on RubyTapas tasks. Done. Intros and promos and edits and tagging, oh my!

This week:

  • Get two me-authored RubyTapas episodes ready for the team. We need to fill some gaps in the schedule, and I have some episodes on async processing just waiting to be written and recorded…
  • Get another episode of The Cache Flush out.
  • Keep working out on a daily basis.
  • Edit that video about building chatbots in Ruby.
  • Ugh can we just leave it at that for now? I want a win.

Until next time… thanks for reading, and feel free to reply!