Resolutions for 2016

I’ve written up a list of career-related resolutions the past few years. I’ve been pretty successful meeting those goals, so I’m going to continue the tradition.

Coding

I want to increase the Open Source code I write this year. That’s basically everything I write that’s not directly related to work.

I took over maintenance of Virtus late last year, but haven’t done a good job at finding the time for that. That’s probably more responding to issues on GitHub and merging pull requests. But eventually, I’ll likely add some features and do some refactoring.

My goal is to work on 6 apps and libraries this year. That’s a pretty aggressive goal, but I want to focus on both learning new things and building some simple but useful things. Think MVP — focus on getting a lot of bang for not too much effort.

I want to work on a new Rails app, to familiarize myself with Rails 5. I want to get some experience with some more modern gems. I also want to see if I can use some new techniques with a Rails app, especially things that might help us get closer to a hexagonal architecture. I’m also hoping to work with some different web frameworks — maybe Lotus, Rodakase, Trailblazer, or Phoenix. Or maybe one of the Crystal web frameworks.

I also want to work on a couple Elm apps. I started the STL Elm group as an excuse to learn the language. I’d like to work on a Twitter client, that might eventually turn into a more general reading app. Beyond Twitter, it would keep track of things I want to read. The other Elm app I’d like to write is a game, based on the old Space Taxi game I loved to play on the Commodore 64.

I wrote a micro-ORM last year called Ruby Preserves. I’ve started converting that from working with raw SQL to sitting atop the awesome Sequel gem. The simplicity is still there so far, and basing it on Sequel has so far gone easier than I expected. But I haven’t figured out how to do relationships (JOINs) yet; that will be the real test.

Conferences

I’m pretty happy with my 2015 conference experience. I want to keep my conference level about the same. I don’t really want to commit to more talks than I gave last year. Conference presentations take a lot of time and energy to write and practice.

I’m planning to go to RailsConf, RubyConf, and Strange Loop. I’m hoping to give a talk at each of those, if I can. But I’ll probably attend all of them even if I’m not speaking. I’m also submitting a talk to Agile 2016. I’m unlikely to go to any other conferences, and even more unlikely to give more than 4 conference talks.

Writing

I really want to finish my Effective Agile book this year. I’m going to try to pull Amos in to pair with me on it occasionally, to move it forward. If I’m able to get it done, I’d also like to maybe write a book on Elm.

I actually want to do less blogging this year. Well, sort of. I want to put coding and book writing ahead of blogging. If that means less blogging, I’m okay with that. So my goal for blogging is more like every other week. And when I do write a blog article, I’d rather it be related to some code I’m working on, something that I could use in my book, or some more in-depth thoughts about programming language design.

Job Hunting

The contract I recently started at CenturyLink Cloud is open-ended, so I’ll likely be there for the entire year. I’m enjoying it so far; it’s a challenge, but I think I can make a significant impact. However, I’m really interested in moving to San Francisco in 2017. So I’m going to work on preparing for that in several ways.

I’m going to resurrect my LinkedIn account. I’ve neglected it for a few years now. I’ll make sure everything is up to date, and make some connections I’ve been putting off. I also want to reclaim my Stack Exchange and Hacker News accounts.

I’m going to pay a an expert to help me revamp my résumé. I think it’s pretty decent, but it could use some freshening up. I want it to stand out. I want to do a better job of explaining what I really do — which is to join a team to help them improve their processes and their technical skills.

I’ll also need to clean up all my web sites, so they look nice when people come to take a look at them. This includes my personal site, consulting business site, wiki, and blogs. I should also upgrade my server to the latest version of Debian, and use Ansible and some other tools to provision it using the principles of Infrastructure as Code.

2015 Year in Review

It’s that time of year again — time for a retrospective on how I did on my goals for the year. I had 5 main goals for 2015:

  • Job Hunting
  • Conferences
  • Blogging
  • Programming Language Design
  • Writing an Agile Book

Job Hunting

I got pretty lucky on this one. My main contract with Mercy got extended several times. Amos and I must have been doing a good job of keeping the customer happy. We even made it through a couple rounds of layoffs. I’m wrapping up the gig at Mercy now. I’m working one day a week there, as the project winds down.

I also started a new gig this month at CenturyLink. I’m working on a cloud development team. Our current project involves selling WordPress as a service. The manager had been courting me for most of the year. I’m excited about my new role; I’ll be writing about it in a blog post soon.

Conferences

I set a goal in 2014 to give my first conference talk. I accomplished that, giving an ambitious talk at RubyConf. I enjoyed having done that, and vowed to do more conference speaking.

I gave 3 conference talks in 2015. I gave a workshop on HTTP at RailsConf. I talked about immutable infrastructure at Madison+ Ruby. At RubyConf, I gave a talk on a micro-ORM I wrote. I also gave a lightning talk about Agile estimation (#noestimates).

I was an alternate speaker at Windy City Rails, but did not give my talk on Alternatives to ActiveRecord. I also went to Strange Loop, mainly to see several friends and acquaintances speak.

Blogging

I wrote 24 blog articles this year. That’s about one every other week. What really kept me going was participating in a writing pact. When the pact was going, I had a 75% blogging rate. That’s pretty good.

I’m not so sure about the quality of my blog writing though. I know that practicing writing is supposed to make you better. I know I wrote some really good articles over the past year, but I think I also wrote some articles that weren’t very good. I think sometimes the deadline has caused more harm than good. I’m not really sure what to do about that; perhaps just pushing on is the right answer.

Programming Language Design

I’ve taken a lot of notes on the design of my programming language. Any time I learn something interesting about another language, or come up with another idea, I write it down.

But I haven’t worked on the implementation. (I last worked on the implementation in 2014.) I should be experimenting with some ideas, implementing them to see how they work out. I’ve even kicked around the idea of starting with a Forth variant, just to get something working quickly.

I haven’t written any articles on my ideas this year either. My notes are pretty extensive, and it would be good to write some articles to help get my thoughts straight.

Writing an Agile Book

I’ve got some things to say about Agile, and want to write a book to express those ideas. I’ve made a start — I’ve got the chapters outlines, and have started on a few chapters. But I haven’t made as much progress as I’d like to. I shared what I’ve got with Amos, and he showed some interest in pairing with me on the writing. Hopefully we’ll work on it together in 2016 and publish it.

Other

There were a few other accomplishments that weren’t explicitly on my list, but I’d like to call attention to.

I’ve continued participating on the This Agile Life podcast. I was in 12 of the 33 episodes that were recorded in 2015. I hope to participate in more in 2016. We’re considering scheduling a standard recording night each week, which might help us record more regularly.

I recently took over as maintainer of Virtus, a library to declare attributes for Ruby model classes. I haven’t done a lot yet, since I’ve been busy with travel, vacation, and holidays. But I hope to catch up with all the pending pull requests and issues in the next month or so.

The accomplishment I’m most proud of is mentoring for the Roy Clay Sr. Tech Impact program. This is a program begun as a result of the Ferguson protest movement. We’re helping teach kids (from 14 to 25) web design and development. My personal goal was to give these kids an opportunity that they would not have otherwise had. But it turned out that some of them have actually started a business building web sites for small companies. I’m so proud of the progress they’ve made in such a short time; it’s a challenging program.

Conclusion

I’m pretty happy with my accomplishments this year. I made at least some progress on each of the goals I set. I’ve been thinking about my goals for next year; I’ll write that as a separate blog article next week.

Resolutions

January kept me pretty busy, so I’m a little late to this. But better late than never. And as an Agile practitioner, I don’t think personal retrospectives should be limited to one time of year.

Review of 2014

Last year I wrote a blog entry listing my goals for 2014. As far as New Year’s resolutions go, I was relatively successful — about 50% of my goals accomplished. Unfortunately, my Open Source contributions weren’t as strong as I had hoped; while I released some of my own work, I didn’t do much else. I did increase my blogging; getting in on a weekly blogging pact helped immensely. I also increased my participation on the This Agile Life podcast to a level that I’m happy with. But the accomplishment I’m most proud of was giving a presentation at RubyConf.

Plans for 2015

I’d like to keep things rolling from last year, but crank up a few things. My plans are quite ambitious, so I don’t expect to get everything done by any means. But I think by setting the bar high, I’ll end up with a lot I can be proud of.

Job Hunting

Late last year, I took the jump into independent consulting. So far, I’ve really enjoyed it, and I’m booked up through April. My wife graduates in May, so we’ve got the possibility of moving if that makes sense. So I’ll be looking for consulting projects in town, but I’ll also be looking at jobs in San Francisco and Chicago. The possibilities are exciting, and I’ll be taking my time to find something just right.

Conferences

I was incredibly nervous leading up to my RubyConf presentation. Part of that was just the common fear of public speaking. For me, that only kicks in at around 100 people, and this audience was around 250. I think another reason was that I chose a really ambitious topic, and I kept finding more that I wanted to talk about, but wasn’t prepared for. But I think I did a pretty good job presenting an advanced topic. And I was so pumped by the sense of accomplishment as soon as I finished. So I’m hoping to do it more. I’ve already submitted a couple proposals, and plan to submit several more.

Blogging

I believe that blogging is important for me to get my thoughts down — for myself and to share with others. I was really successful last year when I had a partner to keep me honest, via a pact. So I’ve started up another pact this year, which will hopefully ensure I’ll keep things going. I’ve got a really long backlog of topics, so as long as I keep at it, I’ll have plenty to write about.

I also want to move away from WordPress to a static system — probably Middleman. I’ve got 2 major problems with WordPress. First, I no longer trust its security, nor the security of any application written in PHP. Second, it generates HTML every time someone requests a page, instead of when the content is updated. I find that to be a waste of resources, and problematic from a security standpoint. The main problem with moving to a static blogging system is that I really want to allow comments, pingbacks, and tweetbacks. So I’ll have to find a way to integrate those.

Programming Language Design

Last year I started thinking about programming language design, and started implementing a language tentatively called Brilliant. I’ve done a lot more thinking on the topic, and have a lot of notes. But I haven’t implemented much more yet. This year, I’d like to get my thoughts more organized, and write a series of blog posts on various aspects of language design. The most interesting part seems to be the trade-offs involved in the ways that various language features interact. So I’d like to make some progress on the language implementation, but more importantly, I’d like to get a lot of my design ideas written down.

I’m also going to spend a lot of time learning a bunch more programming languages, so I have a better understanding of possible features, combinations of features, and their interactions. I’ve already start with Elixir, Clojure, and Racket. I’m hoping to also look at OCaml, Factor, and Haskell. I’ll probably also take a look at the 2 “Seven Languages in Seven Weeks” books.

Agile Book

I think people often have trouble getting started with Agile. I started on a book last year, and got down quite a lot of good ideas. But I realized that I’m going to have a hard time organizing all those ideas into something coherent. Still, I’d like to try to get something out there that lets people get started with Agile. My idea is to present a toolbox of practices to get started with and build on that foundation over time with additional practices. Sort of a playbook on how to get started over the first 6 to 12 months and be successful. I want to make some progress on the book, at least enough to decide whether it’s worth the effort to finish it and self-publish it.