April 11, 2020

Thoughts On the State of Tech & Life in 2020

I have never kept up with a blog, yet I have found that I always enjoy looking back on things I have written. I feel I get good value from this, using it as a track-marker on a route of my thoughts and beliefs. I’m going to make an effort to get this writing thing back on track, and oh boy, we’re starting off with a biggie.

I’m writing this for me. If you enjoy what I have written too Hooray! I made content! If not, press that downvote button but don’t forget to follow me on (RelevantVanityPlatform2020)

This is a weird juxtaposition on my personal views on Existence and the weird niche views of the culture of software development. I can see how these two flavours don’t seem to go together, but for me - I can feel a connection. Computer stuff is just who I am, I like knowing about it, talking to people about it and growing with it. It’s my deal, so then, Here’s how I feel about everything:

Let’s start of lite, Here’s

Sam’s View of Existence in 2020

as of April 2020

  • I don’t think I’m “Right”. I don’t think my advice is “Right” for you, it’s just documentation of what works for me.
  • Value time above all else. Even people. Think of the term ‘spending time’ as literal. I’m not talking about budgeting or going deep onto time tracking apps. Just always put whatever you are worried about in context of: “How much time is this going to take, is this how I want to spend my time?”. This is not to say you should value your time higher than others, just recognize that it’s a precious resource. Also “Wasting” time is not necessarily a bad thing, try and consider it as “down-time”, “Relaxing”, “recovery”, “tech-debt”, whatever. You are not a machine that can be 100% all the time. Attempting to do so will kill you, and that’s not a good use of time. Consider maximizing most amount of fun you can have in a given timeframe, rather than that usual metric - productivity - our work/life society has done so well to make us desire.

  • We (humans) are big dumb monkeys. The ‘Better Idiot’ is you. Cut yourself and others some slack. Even people you disagree with, you don’t have to get along, and you don’t have to ‘hate’. You Will do thing you regret, move past it, try to do things less regretful. Consider types of mistakes, ‘honest’ mistakes (good?) vs ‘malicious’ mistakes (bad?). People make objectively bad choices based on their honest view of the world. This is’t good, but is it their “fault”?: yes, can you blame them? : “Depends”, you’re now in a moral philosophy kerfuffle. I don’t like kerfuffles so I’m content with saying “big dumb monkeys make a dumb dumb” as long as I feel I’m tying to become a better monkey and aid those around me to do the same.

  • Further to the monkey brain point, your monkey brain will work against you. It’s a complex electro-jellyfish that developed via trial and error. It’s also has some awesome subroutines that exist in the subconscious that we don’t appreciate. The Biggie - Emotions. We need them, they’re valuable, they are also misleading. Recognize this. Sometimes you have to become a logical unfeeling vulcan to get through some things. Stay in control of yourself, it’s not a 2 party system of logic:feeling, you are some meta-thing above this, feelings, emotions, reasoning, memory are inputs to the system. Treat them like this. (Machine learning 101 anyone?)

  • I’m no physicist. The Universe is very very complicated. You can’t know all things. You can’t experience everything there is to experience. There simply isn’t enough energy in the universe to accommodate being with unbounded expectations of what it’s entitled to see and do. Human life is limited - this is a bummer but we didn’t get a bum deal. Animals, Rocks, Planets, Solar systems have the same worry. This isn’t a conclusion, If you really want to get complicated and bring “all energy is conserved” into this so “nothing really dies” or “Extra-dimensional” scifi fun stuff I’ll come back to debating table. But I’m alright with how I’ve left it for now. Live fast die young, or Live Slow Die old, or Live average maximize fun and enjoyment, Or Live dangerously eat many hotdogs, all good outlooks. If you choose to live by a set of rules either of your creation or those written by others in anticipation of some judgement at the end of your time, sure. I think everyone does this, me included, but the what and who of the rules and judges change.

  • Other people have other outlooks on things. Sometimes this is going to cause friction. My truths are not their truths. Learn from other people, experience the world through their eyes. Help them if you can and if they want you to. Be different & be together.

Wow, some light reading today. Anywho… I’m a nerd and my life is about nerdy stuff, here’s some thoughts on that.

The software industry has a work:life issue, and so do I.

A hard distinction I’m having trouble with as of right now, is separating how much I care about software as an interest vs, as a job. To the outsider, it’s difficult to see where the fun community vibe starts and stops with software. I have trouble with that too.

Picture the movie Hackers. That’s the fun community vibe. Picture the TV show MadMen, or Halt&Catch Fire; that’s the work part.

Working in this industry is a marriage of creative outlet and engineering satisfaction. I want to have a healthy work:life balance, but I don’t think I can get away form the face that the ‘life’ bit looks indistinguishable to work. To further this point I have the need to clarify that I’m referring to hobbies. I’m not some monster who doesn’t value friends, family, going to the pub, and doing normal things. But my idea of chilling out is usually means being near a computer and that’s just what I like doing. I think the culture of the industry is struggling with this too. People don’t know how to be when interacting with others. Should you be in work mode when talking to others on github if you only doing it as a hobby? Good question, it leads onto community expectancies, which I will cover after this bit:

Communities have changed

  • Software culture is in it’s second age, or third, whatever, a new age. The easy name would be “gihub era”. Here’s what I feel are the new features:
    • computers are better than ever
    • almost everything is free
    • knowledge is more accessible
    • Communities are so large you almost can’t see the wood for the trees
    • Social responsibilities are now a constant valid concern
    • Your data is being harvested by everything and sent to everyone.
    • If you can dream it, the tech stack exist to make it. The limitation is you and others now.

How do we function as a community, rather than exclusive clubs?

Take a large opensorce community project. In the days of old it would be mainitaned by a sect of wizards, worked on and discussed by a niche community of software developers. The limitations were always “need more people” and “need more hardware/resources” to keep this project going. Now look at the landscape of software today: Development resources are abundant, free and awesome. You can be a fulltime software developer and have never even seen a computer. Also people, we have so many more people, and so many many more places training people (We’ll get into that another time). So surely this should be the “Golden Age of great free software”.

To some, this is true. The Web Ecosystem is feeling looking that, but also kinda insane (futre post on this). I feel what has actually happened was we have hit a new bottleneck, Organizational ability. People rightly expect more from communities. Without getting to drawn into it, I believe most people are aware of the friction between “Old timers who liked their kingdom of goons and old ways” and people who want to be treated as reasonable people with a solid community guidelines in place. Mostly because the “old” ways don’t fit with our more connected, less-anonymous and more social internet culture of 2020. I see this a good thing. I also see how the old ways were effective, much like a dictatorship would be. To make good software that works for everyone it must be built in a way that anyone can join the process.

The elephant in the room here is diversity. Which I think is somewhat ironic. The internet is a great place for people to be themselves and be weird. It always was. No expectations. Then the fun came to the end when we realized that being yourself is ok, being a dick to others is not. Freedom of speech is valid, you can say what you want when all you are doing is shouting it into the void. That’s what online used to be, an anonymous void. The Internet is no longer. When you interact online you are not shouting into a void. What you say, where you say it, matters. This is Good. Just not everyone has comes to realise that internet is real and so are the interactions on it now. There are still places you can go to shit-talk. It’s just software development groups are no longer that place, and it’s taking a while for that to propagate.

So, diversity aside. It’s a logistical challenge also. Heading that many cats as the scratching posts keep moving. People want paid for their time,and maintaining anything more than a single file library is now a significant time commitment. It’s Still fun however and I salute the people out there that want to devote their time to this stuff. For me, The reality is I’m spoilt for choice when I need to find a library that does what I need, only the choice is spoilt as none of them work and the bugtracker is a quagmire. I think we will need to figure this out. I don’t know what the answer is, but once it’s obvious we’ll know we’ve got to the next era. Both in terms of a wider community, and ourselves. How do we move to something that was exclusively a hobby for rich people with computers, to a mass-employment industry and market, and now to something that is now steering the very evolution of our culture? I’m caught up in this journey too, and I am because it’s fun and I like where it is going. A community is a bunch of people, and I’m one of them.

Keep on keeping on you wondrous code monkeys and don’t let the man get you down, also be inclusive and be nice to people.

The running theme throughout this post is “time is valuable” & “compassionately considering yourself and others is valuable”. It feels good that as I’m coming to terms with this as my own views, and it seems like my culture and world is doing the same. The world is changing, we are adapting. Life is good. Here’s to the next decade.