DaedTech

Stories about Software

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Happy Thanksgiving, 2018!

Hello there, DaedTech readers!  In what has sort of been an annual Thanksgiving tradition (I do it some years), I’d like to wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving!  As in this past years, please enjoy this drawing by my wife and business partner, Amanda.  And please enjoy your holiday.

For those outside the US, Thanksgiving is a federal holiday that celebrate on the 4th Thursday of November that sorta celebrates colonialism… but is really mainly an excuse to see your family.  This is not to be confused with “Black Friday,” which is a more recently conceived, unofficial holiday that celebrates the joy of bludgeoning people at Walmart to get discounts on IPads.  Black Friday occurs the day after Thanksgiving.

The more I think about it, the less I want to delve into the history of this, and the more I want to enjoy a day of not working and seeing family.  So, enjoy the drawing of a cat’s take on Thanksgiving, enjoy your celebration, and know that I’m thankful to have so many engaged readers.

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Staff Augmentation is as Staff Augmentation Does

I’m in the process of drafting a post entitled “What Do You Know That People Would Pay You For?”  But what I’ll put here in this post, combined with the material for that one, are shaping up to be long.  So I think I can carve off an initial, coherent point here about staff augmentation.

That one figures to be uplifting.  This one?  Perhaps not so much.  But I think it’s important to establish a premise.

If you write code in exchange for a salary, you’re either staff or staff augmentation, depending on who signs your paychecks.

Now, for those of you that have worked for product/service companies with a software component, you’re probably shrugging and thinking “yeah, no kidding, I’m staff.”  Ditto those of you who have toiled in a cost-center capacity, maintaining some internal software the company would sooner eliminate.

But those of you that work for custom app dev agencies are probably feeling a little huffy, since most places that sell custom app def (i.e. staff augmentation) go out of their way to state righteously that they most certainly DO NOT do staff augmentation.  Bear with me, though, all of you.

I don’t actually think there’s anything wrong with staff augmentation.  In fact, I think it’s a substantially better model, in most cases, than staff.  In accordance with the spirit of Developer Hegemony, I think we, as an industry, should strive to move from staff to staff augmentation, at least as an initial step.

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DaedTech Digest: The Long Road Home

In late September, I started a little digest series with this post about packing for a slow travel stint.  From there, we got settled, hiked, battled US border patrol, rolled with the punches, and packed to go.  So I should probably book-end things with our glorious return home.

What’s a Return from Slow Travel Like?

So you’ve been on the road for a month or three.  What’s it like to go home?  (Or, in the case of Amanda and me, back to a lake house that functions as our primary legal residence)?

In this case, it was… tiring.

We left Vermont on a Wednesday at about noon, drove through two days of driving rain, and arrived in Michigan Thursday night after spending Wednesday night in Buffalo, New York.  I did all of that driving, so I was pretty wiped out.

But, when we come home from extended car travel, I don’t like to leave a car full of stuff for the next day.  Hauling cats around for a couple of days is dirty business, and I like to clean everything out of the Jeep and try to make it a normal car again.  So a 9 PM arrival time is usually followed, first and foremost, by unpacking the top loader, carrying everything in, and cleaning out the back.

For me, I also then tend to unpack almost immediately.  Everything out of its suitcase and back to where it belongs.  My desktop rig set up, the Amazon echoes plugged back in, and everything somewhere familiar, so that I can wake up the next day to normalcy.  I believe this is a habit I acquired in all of my years of management consulting, always wanting to create some semblance of normal in a hotel before I woke up the next day.

Settling Back in… Or Not

So that was Thursday night.  8 hours of driving, followed by several hours of unpacking.  You also do other things, like turn the water heater back on, wonder why the hot water smells strange, sweep to see if strange bugs or other things have infested your house in the last month, make sure everything works, etc.  And, strangely, if you’re anything like me, you completely forget where all the silverware goes.

And then you settle back in.  Or, at least you would, if you didn’t have to leave again 36 hours later.

As it turned out, our Michigan-time was short lived.  There was fun to have in Chicago, where we had some overdue family plans to attend to.  So not 36 hours removed from a month on the road, Amanda and I packed weekend bags and got back in the Jeep to head to Chicago.

And we had some fun, including going with my mom to see Hamilton and then to have dinner looking out at the Chicago river.  Pictured here is Amanda, enjoying a swanky adaptation on the corn dog — a lobster dog.  The lobster dog is something you’d have assumed we’d encounter out East, but, no, we had to come to Chicago to find it.

Just goes to show you, if you never stop moving, you never stop experiencing fascinating things.

Picks

  • I sometimes make pretty corporate picks, and this will be one of those times.  I’m picking Chase Bank, particularly for business.  As Hit Subscribe grows, we’re moving our banking over to Chase, and getting set up with them was insanely easy.
  • As I was re-promoting old blog posts this week, I discovered one I’d written in favor of SemanticMerge, which has only gotten cooler since I wrote about it.  If you want a tool that understands your code well enough not to destroy your diff when you move a method around in a class, this is the tool for you.
  • And finally, I really enjoyed Hamilton.  It’s a play that swaps the traditional show tunes for hip hop numbers while chronicling the life of founding father and federalist, Alexander Hamilton.  And if that seems an odd juxtaposition, it is — in all of the best imaginable ways.

The Digest

This is a pretty thin digest.  Between traveling from Vermont to Michigan to Chicago to Michigan, I’ve kind of not produced much content.  Don’t worry, though.  I’ve got several more things coming out in the next few weeks.  In the interim, though, here are some videos:

  • In this Facebook live, Amanda and I talk about a day in the life of a location-independent, remote business owner.
  • And in another Facebook live, one of Hit Subscribe’s authors, Casey, and I, were on a business trip in San Francisco.  I interviewed Casey.

And, as always, have a good weekend.

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You Should Change the Reason People Pay You

Quick — what’s the reason people pay you?  Don’t ponder.  Just freeze the first thing that comes into your mind.

It’s probably something like this, especially if you’re a salaried programmer.

I have a valuable skill that’s in high demand: programming.

On a surface level, I can’t really argue with that.  Recruiters pester you constantly, and companies regale you with the superficial perks that can be yours if you just jump ship and come work for them.

But your skill and the demand for it aren’t the whole story.  In fact, I’d argue, they’re not even precisely the right story.

Why Do People Give Programmers Money?

Let’s tweak your prognosis slightly, without changing the economics around it.  You think of yourself as a knowledge worker that has a skill in high demand.  But your employer views you as a commodity in short supply.

What’s the difference?  Isn’t this semantic quibbling?

Not at all.  Inadequate supply can create excessive demand (or vice versa).  But they are not the same thing.  To understand what I mean, think of runs on grocery stores for canned goods before major storms come through.  Cans of baked beans are budget, commodity goods that nobody would generally call “valuable.”

But that all changes when a hurricane appears on the horizon and people hoard canned goods for the aftermath.  Gougers can charge way more for canned baked beans because it’s a commodity in short supply.

As a salaried programmer, you’re a can of baked beans.  Don’t confuse short supply with intrinsic value.  The world is starving for efficiency, and it anticipates even more starving later.  Employing you is a hedge.

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DaedTech Digest: Up and Leaving

For the last few weeks, I’ve paused with my normal Q&A about slow travel, in favor of writing about actual adventures.  I’ll do that one last time here today.  I’m sitting in Michigan right now, fresh off of a month in Vermont.  But we only just got in this evening, having left Wednesday morning.

And that made me think about the subject of leaving.  Nobody has asked, so it’s not Q&A.  But I figure, while it’s fresh in my mind, it’s worth talking about the end of a slow travel stint.

What happens when it’s time to go?  How do we prepare to leave?

Leaving from a slow travel stint tends to be easier than getting ready for one.  Amanda typically sets about packing a few days ahead, but I mostly stick to “night before and morning of” in some combination.  Packing is pretty easy, since it just involves rounding up everything that’s yours and leaving everything that isn’t.  For us, that’s mostly clothes and electronics.

But packing is only one part of the equation.

There’s also concluding any local business.  For us, this usually means going and closing out with a place like FedEx Office, where we’ve opened a local mailbox for forwarding.  But it might also mean wrapping up other things, like a local gym that Amanda has temporarily joined.

We stay in AirBNBs or VRBOs, which means we’re staying in individual people’s properties.  Sure, they’re optimized for vacations or stays, but they’re still other people’s places.  And unlike staying there for a few days, stuff goes wrong or weird when you stay places for months.

For instance, we accidentally cracked a bowl the other day.  So we bought the owner a new set of bowls at a local store, hoping that this would make up for the trouble.  We also re-stocked his carousel with K-cups, since he was nice enough to leave it stocked for us.  Getting ready to depart generally involves this sort of courtesy accounting.

Here’s another consideration.  As I’ve mentioned before, we take our pets with us.  And, as any pet owner knows, they’re messy.  So there’s always a pass to see if the cats have been doing anything horrible while we’ve been there, and remediating any issues we find in this sense.  They’re generally fine, but if they’ve puked on the hardwood somewhere or whatever, best not to leave that for anyone else.

What about having fun?

And then, finally, on the fun side, there’s last hurrahs.  You go to your favorite food spot one last time, take one last stroll through town, do one last jog… you get the idea.  For our last weekend in Vermont, we wanted to do some serious outdoors-y stuff, but the weather didn’t really cooperate.  So, instead, we did a lot of driving, ranging out into New Hampshire and Maine.  It wasn’t plan A, but it did yield some lovely views from the car, like this one.

Picks

  • Amanda and I listened to most of the book “It Doesn’t Have to Be Crazy at Work” on the drive from Buffalo to Michigan today.  It’s sliced into a lot of bite sized chunks and has some good wisdom in there.  If you like a lot of what I have to say about the corporate condition, you’ll like this book.
  • We don’t watch much TV these days, but we had an awful lot of rain in 35 degree weather over the last week.  So we binge watched Ozark on Netflix.  It’s about a money launderer who — look, it’s hard to describe.  But it’s pretty interesting and engaging, so give it a watch if you’re looking for something.
  • Here’s where we stayed in Vermont.  It was a great place, for anyone finding themselves with reason to be in far northern Vermont.  You could go for the lake in the summer, the leaves in the fall, or ice fishing/skiing in the winter.

The Digest

And, as always, have yourselves a great weekend.