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DaedTech Digest: Where To Go This Winter? Seriously, What Do You Think?

Let’s do something a little different today.

With the digest posts, I’ve been answering questions about slow travel and chronicling our adventures.  But today, I’d like to get a little more interactive.

Where Should We Go for the Winter?

It’s that time of year again, and I don’t mean the Christmas holiday.  I mean, it is that time of year as well, but I don’t really care all that much.  I don’t count myself among the people who mark the passage of time by drifting from one themed holiday to the next.  Holidays, for me, are just a chance to see friends and family and have a good meal.

The time of year I’m referring to is when, for people with a highly mobile lifestyle, the US Midwest becomes unacceptably cold and oppressive.  It’s time to go south.

This year, Amanda and I don’t really have any specific destination in mind, though we’re most likely going to remain in the United States.  But still, even with that restriction, the southern/warm part of the United States is pretty large.

Here are some parts that we’re thinking.

  • Coastal Texas.  We could head to South Padre Island or something there along the gulf coast.
  • Inland Texas.  We could base around the Austin or Houston areas, somewhere like Lake Conroe.
  • South Florida.  Places in the keys can get pricey for the whole winter, but whether inland or on the coasts of the mainland, this is a nice, warm place to be.
  • Gulf Coast.  We’ve spent time in and around New Orleans and in Bay Saint Louis in the past, and we find that coast to be really appealing.
  • Southwest Desert.  Maybe we stay totally away from water and do winter in the desert, somewhere in New Mexico or Arizona.

What do you think?  What would you do or recommend in our position?  The only real criteria for us is warmth this year.  Weigh in below in the comments.  What would you do if you had this kind of open road in front of you?

 

Picks

  • This last weekend was Amanda’s birthday, and I got her a weekend getaway that featured a wine tour.  The hotel we stayed at was great, if you’re looking for an atmospheric getaway within a 2 hour radius of Chicago.  It’s on the lakefront town of New Buffalo, in Michigan.
  • I’ll also pick the wine tour company, which showed us a great day on the southwest Michigan wine trail.
  • Finally, something related to tech.  I’m incorporating more and more stuff into our home automation situation at the home base.  And I’m doing it by and large through this, the Wink hub.

The Digest

  • Here was a fun-to-write post that I wrote for Raygun, featured on the New Stack.  The prompt was about how to use APM to guide architectural changes, an interesting premise.
  • Here’s a Facebook live that we did when we first arrived in Vermont.  Don’t worry about the orientation — we fixed that pretty quickly.
  • And, finally, here’s another Facebook live where I interview Amanda (same thing — we fix the orientation).

And, as always, have yourselves a nice weekend.

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Is It Possible to Have a Company with No Office Politics?

It’s been a little while since my last reader question post, hasn’t it?  Well, let’s do something about that today.

Today’s subject is office politics.  I’m pretty much always game to talk about this subject, as regular readers know.  Except, rather than dissecting them in-situ, I’ll talk about the idea of companies avoid them altogether.

The Reader Question: A Company without Office Politics?

I’ll talk about it because the reader question asks about it.  

Is it too naive to hope that there is that (perhaps small to improve the odds) company out there where a group of technical people work together to solve problems without all the politics and back stabbing? Is politics unavoidable? Is it human nature? I am still hopeful… Part of me thinks when it comes to companies we are still in Feudalism and time will bring about better forms of governance.

There is actually kind of a series of questions in there, and I hope to touch on all of them.  But it really comes down to a matter of defining office politics, for better or for worse, and then seeing if they must exist within a company.  And, if they must, is that okay?  Or must it be an ipso facto problem?

What Is Office Politics?  And What is Politics, for that Matter?

Let’s get down to brass tacks here, and I mean way down to brass tacks.  And I’m not doing this to be pedantic, but rather because it’s important to frame the discussion.  First, a definition of politics, courtesy of Wikipedia.

Politics is the process of making decisions that apply to members of a group.  

Do you see now why I think it’s important to return to this definition?  The word politics carries an amazing amount of baggage in the way of connotations: governmental, interpersonal, etc.  But, at its core, it’s about making decisions that affect participants in a group.  The baggage comes from the means and nature of those decisions, as well as how the members receive them.

I’ve often quipped myself that you have politics anytime you assemble more than 2 people.  And, though I’ve often meant this to suggest that group size 3 is where complex persuasion begins, it applies to the simple, literal definition here as well.

  1. With a single person making decisions, there is no group.
  2. With two people, you either have consensus or stalemate in all cases, so there is no systematic means of making decisions (absent unequal distribution of votes).
  3. But with three people, you have the means for systemic group decision making.

What, then, is office politics?  Well, let’s mark the wikipedia definition up slightly.

Office politics is the process of making decisions that apply to members of a group in an office setting

The Idea of Avoiding Office Politics is a Non-Starter

Through that lens, you can see that the idea of avoiding office politics is an impossibility.  What you probably mean is ways of avoiding toxic (or even unpleasant) office politics.  I especially believe this to be the case, given the specific mention of “back-stabbing.”

To find a company without office politics would be to find a company that made no decisions.  And that wouldn’t be a company for very long.

Now, I can empathize with the desire to avoid office politics, even in a fairly benign setting.  I tend to do a lot of lone wolf work, and I’m not really big on democratic groups or consensus.  In school, my two preferred approaches to group work, in order, were “don’t worry, I’ll just do everything,” and “okay, you guys do everything.”  So I get it.  

But even for an avowed mercenary and lifestyle designer like myself, at least some collaboration is unavoidable, as are companies.  And so, politics are unavoidable.  But I’ll go even further and say that they’re neither inscrutable nor as onerous as they may seem on the surface.

So while there are no companies out there without politics, there are companies without toxic politics.  So let’s look about how you find those.  And let’s do that by looking at heuristics for avoiding bad, stupid, or toxic politics.

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DaedTech Digest: How to Make Money While Vagabonding?

This is an interesting premise for the week’s digest post.  I say this because I think it arose from somebody misunderstanding why and how I have money.

There is a small population segment that slow travels and makes a living blogging about the same.  But we are not part of that segment, weekly digests about our adventures notwithstanding.  We make money in a different way.  Still, let’s answer the question.

How do you make money while vagabonding?

First up, there are some people that don’t.  These include retirees and the independently wealthy.  This ins’t terribly interesting, though, so let’s quickly move one.

Next, you have people that work in some kind of gig capacity.  Do a gig for 3 months, take a new one elsewhere.  This isn’t what most think of as slow travel, per se.  But, depending on the demand for services, people working this way can control their destination and live places a few months at a time.

Alright, now here’s our bucket: the remote worker.  My wife and I own a location-independent, pure-remote business.  We can work from anywhere, so we do.  As we travel, we tend to work schedules that would look familiar to the workaday nine-to-fiver, albeit with more flexibility.  But remote work could also apply to wage employees that are remote, as well as to folks that simply contract or freelance.  As long as you can work from anywhere, you make money doing that work.

And, finally, you have the people that I mentioned earlier, who are travel bloggers.  Sure, they’re a subset of business owners with location independence.  But, for them, the vagabonding itself is kind of a job.  Not so for the rest of us.

So the money itself can really vary.  But what stays consistent is the interesting assortment of destinations.

Picks

  • I’ve been listening to an audio book called the Pumpkin Plan, and it’s about how small business owners can avoid a situation of barely keeping their heads above water indefinitely.  Of particular interest to my audience might be how he talks about ranking clients and cutting bait on bad ones.
  • Here’s a podcast I listen to called The Business of Authority.  It covers a range of topics, but it’s good stuff if you’re an established freelancer or consultant looking for advice on how to grow from there.

The Digest

  • For those of you who are fans of my research posts over at NDepend, here’s another one.  I examined the relationship between code comments and the descriptiveness (length) of method/type names.
  • Hot off the presses!  I recorded a solo episode for the Freelancers show about how to target the C-suite was a freelancer.
  • And, finally, here’s a Facebook Live where Amanda interviewed me while I was standing in a lake.  This was done in the same vein was one of our author spotlight interviews.  Except the lake part.  We don’t normally do that with the authors.

Have a great weekend, folks!

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Employment Teaches You How Not to be a Free Agent: You Have Stuff to Unlearn

Recently, I was doing something that occupies a surprising amount of my time these days: using LinkedIn for lead gen.  This involves researching companies, connecting with people, and, occasionally, consuming LinkedIn.

It was in that latter capacity that I stumbled across this post, from Jonathan Stark.  I nearly spit out my coffee.

It’s funny, right?  But the thing is, it’s also true.

Seriously.  I could probably write an entire post about why telling prospects that you’re “passionate” is a bad idea, both from a positioning and a realpolitik perspective.  But that’s not what I want to talk about today.  At least, not entirely.

When I read this, an idea for a blog post snapped home in my mind.  It had been kind of rolling around, not fully formed.  But then I read this and the basic thesis struck me.

Learning to be a good employee is tantamount to learning to suck at being freelancer/business owner.

Of course, this isn’t exhaustively true.  Very basic qualities like competence, diligence, and “EQ” will serve you well anywhere you go.  But in many important ways, the instincts you develop while advancing as a corporate employee serve you absolutely terribly if you decide to go off on your own.

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DaedTech Digest: Deciding How Long We Should Stay

It’s been a few weeks now since the last DaedTech digest.  In that one, I chronicled the last little bit of our trip to Vermont.

We haven’t gone anywhere since then.  Not really, I mean.  We’ve been back and forth to Illinois a few times, visiting family and taking care of logistics.  But that hardly merits a slow travel chronicle.

So let’s go back to answering questions about slow travel until we embark on our next adventure.

How do you decide how long to stay in the places you go?

I’ve seen a lot of family and old friends of late, so I’m plucking a question that one of them recently asked.  They wanted to know how we decide what amount of time to spend somewhere.

Well, on the short side, that’s simple.  We only go somewhere for at least a month.  If you’re under a month, sites like AirBNB and VRBO charge the sorts of rates per night that you see on the site.  But at a month or more, a monthly rate kicks in, which often cuts the nightly rate in half or so.  This means that such a place, while not as economical as a year lease on an apartment, is somewhere in between that and a hotel.

As for the duration of stay, that’s historically depended for us one one of two things:

  1. When does the weather change (i.e. when does winter end)?
  2. Do we have somewhere to be or something to do?

If we’re somewhere to escape the cold, we leave in something like May, to make sure that we really do miss the cold.  But other stays, like our recent one in Vermont, end when we have something to do.  This might range from some kind of plans with a family member or friend to, well, Christmas.

And that’s really all there is to it.  We stay as long as we feel like or until we have reason to go elsewhere.  And we don’t always know how long we’re going to stay when we leave.  Sometimes we book a month or two and then extend.

That was the case when Amanda took this picture of me in Ocean Beach, San Diego.  It was bonus San Diego time.

Picks

  • I just recently started using a new ad blocking plugin for Chrome called uBlock origin.  I’d been dealing with some flakiness from the Ad Block plugin, and this one has been great.  Lower memory footprint and it blocks more things.
  • We’d been trying forever to sell our townhouse in Illinois, and we finally managed to with the help of a great realtor named Christine.  We’d had the place on the market for almost 2 years without luck.  When we listed with her, she got us an offer that we accepted within 2 weeks.  If you’re in the Chicago suburbs and want to sell, give her a call.

The Digest

And, as always, have yourselves a great weekend.