DaedTech

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DaedTech Digest: The Results of Our Winter Destination Lottery Are In

Last week, I asked for everyone’s help in picking a refuge from winter cold for Amanda and me.  And that went well!  Thanks, everyone, for your comments through the various media.  It was fun to read and discuss.

This week, we’ve arrived at a decision.

I carefully took all of the input from last week, aggregated it, and thought “wow, I’m insanely busy this week, so I’ll think about this later.”  And, that went well.  The part where I didn’t think about it, I mean.

In the meantime, Amanda went on AirBNB and fell in love with a place near Austin, Texas, on a lake called Travis.  It’s affordable, it’s spacious, it’s got great scenery, and it kind of looks like a tree house.  What’s not to love?

So, by the time I had a few spare minutes, our path was all but chosen.  And, that’s actually perfectly fine with me.

In fact, I’ve historically been the one more likely to feel the allure for a particular locale and pick it.  It was about 3 months ago that I said, “hey, let’s go to Vermont for when the leaves change.”  So, she’s overdue to have the whim and decide our fate, and I was more than happy to ride shotgun on this decision.

This winter will be a bit different, though.  I think we’re going to think about it month by month, rather than laying everything out until Memorial Day.  So, it’s going to be a month near Austin, and then, wherever we feel like heading next.

In honor of that, here’s a picture of Amanda eating Mazapan in El Paso (the last time we were in Texas, which was about a year ago).

Picks

  • I might have mentioned that I’ve been listening to an audiobook called the Pumpkin Plan.  Well, that audiobook has a companion site, and that companion site includes a pretty helpful worksheet for evaluating your book of business in order to 80/20 your client roster.
  • For all of you Diablo 2 players out there, I just stumbled across this recently.  I haven’t actually tried it yet, but if you ever get the nostalgic itch to revisit an old favorite, this might spice things up.
  • And, finally, I don’t have a specific link for this, but Amanda and I received an air fryer as a gift recently.  We did an inaugural run with breaded chicken strips, and it was quite good.  All of the texture, none of the grease.

The Digest

  • I participated in an interview this week, around the general topic of software engineering management.
  • For the make me a programmer blog, I soldiered on with introductory topics, this time addressing what programmers do at work, day to day.
  • Here’s an episode of the freelancers show, where we talk about dealing with contracts.  Should you have your own?  Should you sign clients’ contracts?  How does all of this work?
  • And, finally, here’s a Facebook Live we filmed in Vermont, talking about how our lives had changed since the founding of Hit Subscribe.  (If you view the Thumbnail, you’ll see probably the worst still image of me ever taken.)

One bit of housekeeping here.  Hit Subscribe is officially on company holiday the week between Christmas and New Years, and we’re going to try to do a little R&R.  So there’s a pretty good chance of a quiet DaedTech the next two weeks.

And, with that, as always, have a great weekend.

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The Developer Hegemony Vision for 2019

This evening, I found myself staring at my post topics Trello board, uninspired.  I have a lot of post topic ideas there: rants, screeds, opinion pieces, helpful how-tos.  None of it really inspired tonight.

Usually, when that happens, I can dig into the backlog of reader questions.  You awesome folks ask me more of those than I can possibly answer, but it’s always fun to do as many as I can.  But I wasn’t even feeling that tonight.

Maybe, for the first time in my life, I had something resembling whatever this thing I’ve heard of, called “writer’s block,” is.  I thought about just skipping a week.

My Unfortunate Neglect of the Developer Hegemony Facebook Group

As I contemplated this course of action, I started wasting time on social media.  An errant click here and a cleared notification there, and I found myself staring at the neglected Developer Hegemony Facebook group.  It, in turn, stared back at me, like a dying succulent that only requires water once every 3 months, a meager commitment that I still couldn’t manage.

So I started to think.  What can I do with this group and this idea?  What should I?

And then, it occurred to me.  I should do the things I wanted to do all along.  The only difference is that I need to adjust for my own lack of bandwidth.

The Last 18 Months Have Looked Nothing Like I Thought They Would

It was about a year and a half ago that I published Developer Hegemony.  The launch went better than I could have hoped, and I was pleased by the reception and flattered at the sales.  And, what’s more, is that the sales have increased since then, instead of leveling off.

These concepts resonate with people.  I thought — hoped — they might.

So when I released the book, I had some grand plans.  I was leaving the traveling management consultant’s life, envisioning a future where I pursued a few things in parallel.

  1. A much more focused, lower touch (non-travel) consultative offering around codebase assessments.
  2. Building on the Developer Hegemony momentum, perhaps with info products or by creating some kind of community.
  3. Working with my wife to start a little agency, creating blog content for dev tools companies.

My prime focus at the time was (1), which would represent infrequent work and big paydays.  I viewed (2) and (3) as good ways to supplement that, providing more stable income for us.

But what I didn’t anticipate was that (3) would take off like someone had strapped a rocket to its back.

Far from a side interest, Hit Subscribe, 18 months later, now has 4 full time employees and something like 40 contractors doing a lot of varied work for a lot of clients.  And, as you might imagine, this prompted a re-ordering of my original priorities.

What This Means for Developer Hegemony

This re-ordering has been pronounced and profound.  I still do specialized consulting around codebases, but I do zero outreach for it.  Instead, I work only with a subset of the people that reach out to me for help.

And, regarding info products and a community around Developer Hegemony… well, I haven’t done much of anything.  It’s hard to justify from a purely financial standpoint, even given the success of the book.  Why would I build an info product that might sell, when I have one business exploding and another one that drops occasional, highly lucrative gigs in my lap?

But here’s the thing.  It’s hard to justify financially, but I still want to.  So from time to time, I stare morosely at the beginnings of what could be an awesome community, wishing there were 30 hours in each day.

The Way Forward in 2019

But that really doesn’t solve anything for anyone.  I’d like to keep the cause of developer empowerment moving in the right direction, even if I only have the capacity to give it nudges, rather than shoves.  And this means re-thinking my approach.

I need to enlist help.

Here are some ideas I have for what that might look like.

  • As I’ve mentioned in the Facebook group, I’m contemplating the idea of opening DaedTech up to guest contributions in and around the subject of developer empowerment.  I’d probably look to compile a list of topics that we should cover to help people get going.
  • A lot of you ask me about career coaching and the like, often offering to pay an hourly rate.  I always demur, since, apart from my books, everything I do is B2B.  Unless I know specifically how I might help your financial situation, I don’t really want to charge you consulting rates.  But, that said, I am thinking of having maybe a monthly call/coaching session that amounts to office hours.
  • I could solicit volunteers to help me drive the community and Facebook group.

I’m also open to other suggestions.

So that’s what I’m thinking of implementing at some point in the new year.  I’d love to hear from you about what you’d find valuable.  Please feel free to comment, tweet at me, email me, comment in the Facebook group, or whatever you want.

And wherever we take this, I’d like to thank you all for reading.

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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.

Read More

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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!