Failing

When I’m reminded of the demand for creatives, my mind wanders to the cause.

“All children are born artists, the problem is to remain an artist as we grow up.” - Pablo Picaso

This quote has been extrapolated in every possible dimension for many different theories.
Sir Ken Robinson speaks about it in his seminal talk on how schools kill creativity. He briefly mentions that children have a great capacity for innovation, and that as we get older, we’re taught that mistakes are the worst thing in the world. It’s easy to see that the greatest innovators have a healthy respect for failure.

I’ve always subscribed to the principal of fail fast and fail often. And by always, I mean since just over a year ago. Nathan from Inspire9 had just taken us under his wing on a few projects, and mentioned this gem during a brain-storming session.  My understanding is that this ethos holds a premium on failing early and learning something, so that improvements can be made moving forward. While this sounds obvious, try and think of a time during your schooling or career when you were encouraged to fail.

This was raised in the context of whether to persue a particular feature for a web app, but it resonated with me in a much broader sense; applicable to any area in life.

Some failures can be expensive or emotionally draining. Others can make you cringe late at night in bed when you’re trying to sleep. While the cost may vary in both measure and degree, the resultant is always earned knowledge. A good ol fashioned fuck-up can be character building or soul destroying, depending on how you face up to it. Old habits die hard, and I’m not expecting anyone reading this to be rid themselves of a worthy late night cringe, but they say your windscreen is bigger than your rear-view mirror. This whole school of thought is a glass-half-full perspective on fucking up. While conceptually we try and mark failures in the red column, they are never a loss.

As empathetic creatures, it’s an instinct to try and learn lessons vicariously through the mistakes (and successes) of others. This can be effective on occasion, but sometimes you need to make mistakes first hand. I certainly hope that in the future, this movement continues to gain momentum and the stigma towards failing can find itself a home in the history books.

 

I Fucking Google Everything

I was reading Neil deGrasse Tyson’s AMA today and when explaining why he thought he would suck at Jeopardy, he cited a ripper quote.

“Never memorise what you can look up in a book”
Albert Einstein

It was a famous response by Einstein when a colleague asked him for his phone number and the physicist had to look it up in a phone directory. It reminds me of uni exams, especially programming ones which consist largely of trivial syntax traps. The real world is like one big never-ending open book test.

It’s not an unfamiliar quote, but I wonder if anyone forecasted its relevance entering the new millenium. Had Einstein been born a century later, he would of been a googling maniac. Sometimes I google the time, because I can. In fact every week, I do the following almost a hundred times:

  1. COMMAND + T
  2. google search
  3. scan excerpts of results on page 1
  4. COMMAND + W

Answers are extracted within seconds. We don’t sustain wonder anymore. This isn’t a blog post expressing how nifty it is that Google has pretty much indexed everything in existence. It’s me wondering how it will affect the generations that know no other way.

My generation is in the middle; we’ve been exposed to it from our early teens. It wasn’t a complete monopoly back then, you would have to go through Excite, Yahoo or AltaVista until you found what you were looking for. This was before you could ask search engines questions, and definitely before the Jedi mind-reading autocomplete feature. At first the wow factor was in access to information. Now it’s generally regarded that if you can’t find something by googling it, it didn’t happen.

I’ve heard whispers of a time when people could talk shit at pubs and not be audited by wikipedia on the spot. Where cognitive energy would need to be spent to work out your bug, instead of copying and pasting the error. Where you had to actually call your friends or family to see what they were up to.

I wonder what it was like.

 

Neighbour

Recently we’ve been having some late nights at the office (thanks to our supreme estimating skills) and been arriving home at a late hour. The byproduct of this has been the dismissal of afternoon runs watching the sun come down, and the introduction of midnight ninja jog sessions. As I was finishing up one particular session this week, I saw a silhouette under the light post next to my house. It was my neighbour, whom I’ve lived next to for two years with an aggregate conversation tally of maybe 20 minutes.

Out of the darkness and in my black skins and hoody ninja apparel, I cautioned a “G’day mate” to let him know I was friend- not foe. As he recognised me he walked over for a chat. He was seemingly social for this odd hour and his opening line was a quip juxtaposing his slight tipsiness, the result of some work drinks, and me sweating it out in the name of fitness.

He and his wife have been eying off our house (that we’re renting) for some time. It’s the only rental property on a street resided by tycoons. I assume everyone living on our street have been itching to have this property bought to purge the area of renting scum that mow their front-yards quarterly. But he was all smiling assassin tonight.
**editors note, this is fake vitriol. I can’t defend the eyesore that is our front yard. 

He asked what I did and I gave him the quick speil on being a small business owner and he nodded enthusiastically. It turns out he is the CEO of a very large public mining company. My ears pricked up when he revealed that he had grown it from 6 employees to 200 in just over 4 years.

I’ve always been confident on the tools with my work, but felt my managerial skills were perhaps lacking. This being the case, I’m usually opportunistic around natural leaders and managerial types. I began probing my neighbour for some of the gems he had picked up along the journey.

In between steering a company, handling the media coverage on the mining boom, serenading shareholders and voicing opinions on the carbon taxes, he maintained that his number one role was managing people. And that this hadn’t changed from day dot. I was curious in particular about attracting talent, and keeping employees happy. We spoke for nearly an hour; my heart-rate and his blood alcohol level dropping in sync. He finished by saying something that evoked an almost epiphanic moment and I’ll never forget it.

“Some people just need to be told that they’re loved”

I imagine that this gem isn’t just scoped to business.

The Art of Idea Embargo

Photo by aenimation

My first encounter with the concept of embargo occured when working part time at JB HiFi as a student and a mysteriously sealed shipment had arrived. There was a notice attached to the meter-high package clearly stipulating that this shipment was not to be opened until later that month on a specific date. Rumours began circulating that the package contained none other than the first copies of Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, a prophecy foretold by Activision. The note may as well have been a persuasive serpent such was my temptation to sample it’s wares.

The concept of idea embargo is knowing what stage to reveal an idea to a colleague, client or collaborator.

Ideas are visions to be sold. And not in the way that would contradict my earlier post on iPhone app ideas, but sold in the sense of attracting emotional investment. While most good ideas sell themselves, some need a little work.

It’s easy to get excited by an idea or solution, only to have it dismissed before the last syllable even departs your lips. I’ve worked with people whose fear of judgement when collaborating in teams larger than three prunes their input. Fuck that. The cost of not putting everything on the table is larger than that of a slight ego bruise.

The reason this fear exists is because we’re conditioned to poke holes in new ideas, or stress test them with hypotheticals. There’s no reason not to harness this internally in order to make your idea easier to sell.  I don’t have enough fingers to count the times I’ve spontaneously come up with an idea and scribbled it in its rudimentary form on a whiteboard only to rotate back to a cross-eyed client.

It’s taught me to know when to jump the gun, when to hold back and build context, and when to flesh out more fidelity in a mockup.

As a designer, I’m paid to have a vision. Sometimes I feel inspired and vision is falling out of my pockets. But then there are times where I feel like I’m clutching at straws and turn to browsing dribbble aimlessly in the hope of sparking something. Creativity is anything but consistent, and I’ve added it to the never ending list of uncontrollables in life. When it does flick on, what I’ve learned to do is not hit the buzzer straight away.

After all I know all my ideas kick ass and the only hurdle is anyone who disagrees.

Ode to the King

I’m currently in the process of finding some new wheels after my last car spontaneously combusted while I was overseas. It’s a taxing operation that many of us can relate to. It also happened to trigger the memory of the first time I bought a car.

Buying a car is marketing’s quintessential example of a high-involvement purchase. You spend weeks researching, evaluating alternatives and eventually selecting your beast. There are factors for this process, some more obvious than others; make & model, kilometers on the odometer, interior condition, colour, service history and street cred.

My first car was a Holden HZ Premier wagon. To help paint a picture for those unfamiliar with Kingswoods, the primary factor in selecting a Kingswood was to find one that had spent the majority of it’s life away from the degenerative salt-winds of the ocean that accelerate rust. I was only to buy a Kingswood from the country. A few weeks and a half-dozen road trips later, I had found the one.

They say it’s hard to put a price on beauty. However John from the town of Cockatoo managed to round it up to an even figure of $1800.

She had many dints. She was on gas, but thanks to a V8 engine, she had a fuel-economy that was on par with driving four Corollas concurrently. In her glory days, she was advertised as Bronze Pearl, but over the course of three decades faded to a dull fecal colour. The starter motor was on it’s way out and would often get stuck. The tailgate had been replaced by an ill fitting after market solution that was covered in primer, a reminder of the disproportionate expense to get it matching the rest of the vehicle.

She was beautiful. And like all signification emotional relationships, I loved her because of these quirks, not despite them.

As part of my consumer psychology, I will often give my posessions names, in an attempt to humanise things I interact with often. Below are some examples:

  • Macbook is named Samantha
  • iPhone is named Wesley
  • My wireless home network’s name is Gandalf

The naming process of this particular asset item was as follows:

HZ -> Zed -> Edward -> Ted

I was aware (and repeatedly reminded) of the masculine nature of the name Ted for an inferred female entity. Titling this post as an ode to the King hasn’t helped either. But her majestic existence transcended any gender naming convention.

Ted recieved many irrational upgrades. I had keyless entry installed that always managed to get a chuckle from bistanders when they would see this rust bucket light up to a ‘beep beep’ and the door locks spring up. Extractors drastically improved her note, enabling her to purr like a honeymooner. The sound system installed would wrestle with the rattlings of every interior component.

I saw my first Kingswood wagon when I was 16 at football training. One of the senior players owned one and I’ll never forget the impression it had on me as it rumbled around the oval. It would park on top of the scoreboard hill, music blaring with the tailgate dropped behind bench seats. It represented everything that was glorious about the Australian 70s. It was a way of bringing back the biff.

Ted, although you were welcomed into the afterlife via an ebay bidding frenzy, no car will outbid my love for you. Here is a limerick that best expresses the love we shared.

There once was a kingswood named Ted.
Her weight suggested construction of lead.
Forced me to befriend a mechanic,
A turning-circle like the titanic,
When she dropped dead a tear I did shed.

Ted

 

Nothing. (Blogging and lessons learnt)

I actually have nothing to talk about today. I knew the well of subject matter would run dry at some point this month. I hadn’t figured it would happen after the first week. There was a contingency plan in place for this, and that was to write an introspective ‘What I have learnt so far’ post. This makes me feel like the MC at a concert after having been signalled to by the roadies that I need to fill an hour. My concert would be similar to a Nickleback one though.

You might have already noticed I’m big on reflection, and always trying to extract a lesson to be learnt after experiences good or bad. St Kilda losing two grand finals back-to-back still has me scratching my head. Anyway, here goes.

  1. I’ve explored various writing styles with each post thus far. Statistically speaking, provocative tone positively correlates with page traffic. I now understand why technology commentators (who get paid per hit no doubt) slag off nearly every single Apple product launch.
  2. It’s no surprise that feedback from various online sources has been distinct. I view my twenties as a decade long self-funded market research campaign. And I feel I have a greater understanding on the differences between Facebook, Twitter, Hacker News, Reddit and Digg. I may elaborate further on this in a future post.
  3. The more spontaneous posts have been less gruelling.
  4. Posts evolve. Why WordPress (or any blogging platform for that matter) puts the title input box above the article textarea is beyond me. Writing is different to thinking. You start writing about something, and it triggers thoughts that digress. (using the word evolve just bought this article an extra thousand hits as provocation against creationists)
  5. Getting things out there is better than keeping them inside.

One of the big reasons I’ve held off blogging for so many years was that I wasn’t sure what topic I would stick to. My favourite blogs had rigid topics; satire, coding or photography. Like the articles in those blogs, I wanted my posts to be thought out pieces that would stand the test of Internet time. I’ve since realised the crux of my participation in this blog-each-day-of-march challenge was to get things out there and to stop over-thinking it.

Done is better than perfect

It’s hard to know how everyone else is wired, but this is very much out of my comfort zone.

To my future me, that will no doubt be reading each and every one of these post at month’s end, it was a struggle to write something tonight. But I was able fight the urge to regurgitate a TED talk and actually write about nothing.

P.S. Another thing I learnt is don’t post a facebook status questioning the timbre of this Kony 2012 movement. Fuck me, I had every single social circle in my life at each others throats in the comments. Google plus would of blown it’s o-ring.

My Coworking space

When my business partner and I left our previous jobs, we worked from our respective homes to get the ball rolling. This revealed our strong distaste for working on a desk next to the place you sleep. We began fervently searching for cheap office space. We stumbled across a site called Desks Near Me and Inspire9 was the first result. This was our introduction to Coworking.

“Coworking is a style of work which involves a shared working environment. Unlike in a typical office environment, those coworking are usually not employed by the same organization” - Wikipedia

Google image searching the term, you get an accurate representation of the look and feel for most Coworking offices. You could be forgiven for thinking that Coworking might refer to an interior design style, alongside Tuscan or Contemporary Classic. The staples appear to be floor-boarded converted warehouses with red brick walls, ceiling-drop electrical looms, an eclectic collection of Ikea desks and colour clashing couches. There is no style guide for Coworking spaces, so perhaps these curated inclusions target those that reside or frequent the spaces; creatives, freelancers, contrarian thinkers, doers.

Inspire9 Coworking office

Inspire9 Coworking office. Photo taken by @irldexter

But Coworking is much more than it’s visual aesthetic. This veneer encapsulates an open and tight-knit community. The fact that Coworking spaces are popping up everywhere alludes to the appreciation coworkers have for social stimulation. The value for us isn’t the desk or free WiFi. It’s the opportunity to immerse yourself in an environment with like-minded people and nurture the potential to collaborate.

What stuck out for me, especially after having worked in a corporate office, is the complete absence of typical office politics. The lack of a corporate pecking order seemingly allows the inhabitants to just get along. It takes a bit of getting used to. There’s no gossip, or bitching about managers, or backstabbing to ascend the ladder. Water cooler conversations aren’t contrived and an airTunes democracy means that the Backstreet Boys will seldom pollute the air.

You don’t have to look back very far to see how this community in particular rallies together. Last week Kealey, an integral part of the Inspire9 community, had her iPhone stolen at approximately 10pm while an event was being held at the office. The next morning, another resident organised an online fundraiser account via Pledgie and shot off a few emails. Within three hours the target amount was reached and by 4pm that day, Kealey was surprised with a new iPhone on her desk. This was collectively referred to as restoring the balance.

This behaviour isn’t advertised as a selling point. It’s not stipulated in a Google document as an expectation, nor is it asked of anyone that walks in through the doors. It is simply the aligning of values amongst those that are attracted to the space. I personally have never experienced anything like it.

Photo taken by irldexter

Adioso co-founder Fenn Bailey asking coworkers for feedback

I’ve always felt that if Peacock Studio was to grow substantially, I could never see it leaving a coworking scenario or opting for a stand alone office. Peacock Studio didn’t have a website for it’s first year, such was the workload generated from within Inspire9′s walls. So apart from being a place that makes me spring out of bed every morning, It’s also a large reason that we’re still around after two years.

He ain’t heavy

I met a set of triplets on Saturday night. This was a 1 in almost 8 thousand chance (I know this because I googled it at the time) so I felt compelled to make the most of the opportunity and ask silly questions. I bypassed the predictable ESP related scenarios and got to the more practical issues.

The sibling hierarchy truisms held firm. The two elder triplets felt the the youngest was the favourite and got away with everything. The eldest carried the burden of responsibility. The middle triplet felt she was often overlooked. Frugal parents made sure the middle triplet dreaded the forced entitlement of hand-me-downs. Everything was either too big or too small.

This discussion was jovial in nature and despite the spot-fire arguments that ensued, it was very apparent how close these sisters were. In their mid 20s, they were currently house hunting in the hope that they could continue living together.

I’m familiar with the almighty triangular prime number. It’s a dynamic I understand well having grown up with two older siblings and often share-housing with two other housemates. Arguments come down to allegiances, loyalty is a mythical concept and a swing vote can ruin your week or ignite a victory dance.

Whilst it was only 9 minutes that separated these triplets, 9 years was the spread with me, and my older brother and sister. I found that this was the length of a full fashion cycle, because my brother’s hand-me-downs were so old that they were resurgently cool again thanks to vintage retro appeal.

Others will relate to the inclination of modelling your life on your older brother’s. Admittedly, It’s a pretty sweet ride. A lot of spectating and learning takes place. You get to work out the two standard deviations (within the mean) of behaviour that you can get away with. You don’t have to endure the coming-of-age mistakes firsthand, and your folks have softened in their older age by the time you host your first forbidden house party. It also helped that my brother was the only child that burnt the kitchen down.

His interests were a blueprint for my life. We share the same sense of humour and nearly every hobby that I nurture stems from his strong influence or direct tutoring. He taught me algebra when I was 9,  got me into NWA when I was 10 and showed me how to play Wonderwall when I was 11. These were obviously formative years in my life.

It wasn’t all blue skies though. He once dacked me in front of all my friends. He also took a hanger frisbee grab over me during a friendly game of ultimate on what was supposed to be a family bonding holiday. I have never beaten him at table tennis and he still mops the floor with me on guitar.

My brother has just gone through a pretty challenging year. I felt helpless as a younger sibling, knowing that almost a decade of life experience separates relavent advice to what I could offer. But while we mightn’t have shared a womb concurrently Phil, I want you to know that you’ll always be the Arnold Schwarzenegger to my Danny DeVito.

Phil & Dan

Awesome iPhone app ideas

When people ask what I do, I used to tell them that I build apps. I soon learnt that this short-sighted response is a common segue to that person’s ‘awesome iphone app idea’.

Every man and his dog has an earth shattering idea for a ‘game changing’ app. Apparently these ideas escaped thousands of extremely talented and bright Apple iOS developers; yet the proverbial apple fell on your mate’s head while they were sinking beers at a pub. After making your ears bleed, this person then generously offers to ‘go you halves’ in this aforementioned venture. Cheers.

A recent taxi ride saw a cab driver (with Honours in Software Engineering no less) peppering me with questions on costs and timelines in regards to iOS apps. I’ve never even pushed a pixel on a mobile app, I focus more on web, but as a keen conversationalist I reciprocated. Out of curiosity I asked him a few questions on his idea. He became cagey. I’m not actually sure what fuels this fear, but people seem to think that idea’s are something that can be jotted down on a napkin and turned into a million dollars. Maybe this scene from Italian Job helped it along.

Shawn Fanning 'stealing' Napster from Seth Green's character

Shawn Fanning 'stealing' Napster from Seth Green's character

What springs to mind is a question on stackoverflow where someone asked how long it would take to build a typical iPhone app. Twitterrific was the app used as an example. Readers began estimating the piece of string and 160 hours quickly got voted to the top. This thread started to get some coverage which lead to an actual developer from the Twitterific development team putting in his 2 cents.

“I can tell you everyone who upvoted the estimate of 160 hours for development and 40 hours for design is fricken’ high.” – Chockenberry

Chockenberry went on to ballpark the cost of developing Twitterific at 1100 hours + existing code base for a conservative total of $200,000. It’s important to remember that most of what this app does is echo out what’s already coming from Twitter. It’s no Angry Birds or Bejeweled. Mark this cost down not as development, but execution.

The notion that ideas are worth nothing has been written about to death. Derek Sivers gives this movement some metrics in his seminal blog post, Ideas are just a multiplier of execution. The article suggests that a brilliant idea with poor execution is worth $2000, whilst a brilliant idea with great execution is worth $2,000,000. You can see why I felt like I was getting my pants pulled down in the opening paragraph’s offer.

Ideas don’t have to be original. First to market is not a stand alone strategy. Facebook wasn’t the first social networking site. Google wasn’t the first search engine. And Steve Jobs was more of a tweaker, or curator, than an inventor.

Apps that go gangbusters certainly get romanticised and there’s no doubt the story travels far and wide. The App Store took three years to reach 15 billion downloads. From that point it only took 8 months to hit 25 billion, which takes us to today.

App Store sales

The market is getting saturated. And it’s accelerating. It’s getting harder to replicate that user experience of Shazamming your first song, and there’s only so many ways you can warp your friend’s faces. As this happens, I can’t help but agree with the notion that idea’s are worth nothing and that execution is everything.

 

Why I love the NBA

I recently got back from a month in the states. I had never previously considered travelling to the land of opportunity. If I was ever to fork out the funds and time to travel, Europe or South America strike me as much more appealing. But a childhood friend was getting married in Dallas, and the stress of work was beginning to weigh down on me, so it was time to take a long break. It turned out to be a life-changing trip, aided by the fact that they love their sport over there.

I’m big on sports. It’s a running joke with those that know me that I can be a little too competitive; and that I can’t stand losing. Within minutes of touching down in LAX, I made it a priority to get to a news stand and soak in as many sporting headlines as possible. Like a sponge, I was already forming an opinion on the nation-polarising Tim Teebow, and beginning to become a fan of the affable Drew Brees. Brees’ speech upon beating Dan Marino’s record of yards gained in a season was like an excerpt from Any Given Sunday.

It then occurred to me the stark difference between Australian sports stars and American sports stars. This is anecdotal evidence at best, but bear with me. I watch at least 4 AFL games a weekend. My expectations of how Aussie Rules footballers behave and hold themselves has never changed. Neither has my view on how the public scrutinises them. You hear of the colourful characters back in the 80s, but those personalities have been completely stamped out of the game.

When a player from the winning team is interviewed straight after a game, what follows is usually a sterile, almost rehearsed conversation with a boundary rider in which he will regurgitate clichéd footyisms. Here’s a few:

  • “Just taking each game as it comes”
  • “We’re not worried about other teams, just focusing on our own game plan”
  • “It was a team effort”
  • “One week at a time”
  • “A week is a long time in football”

Or on the losers table:

  • The better team won on the day
  • We did our best but came up short
  • we gave 110%

The closest thing we have to a player with personality and eccentricities is a fictional caricature named Strauchanie.

Bryan "Strauchanie" Strauchan

Bryan "Strauchanie" Strauchan, arrogance and self-belief personified.

 

This mentality is becoming more ingrained within AFL culture as the sport becomes bigger and more professional. I wouldn’t be surprised if players are actually being PR trained. It seems their only outlet to be human might be a cheeky tweet about a teammates new haircut. None of this is a bad thing, it’s just the current state of affairs.

American Basketballers on the other hand are a completely different kettle of fish. The first thing you notice is the confidence. It’s not stifled or trained out of them. Kobe Bryant will tell you why he gets first look and can win a game by himself. Michael Jordan was infamous for sledging opponents on what he was about to do before he did it. This of course isn’t exclusive to the modern era or even basketball, think back to Mohommad Ali or Michael Johnson. It’s a fine line between arrogance and pride, but I find this unwavering belief in one’s own ability fascinating. People trying to get into basketball may however draw the line at players referring to themselves in the third person.

The short answer to why this was such a cultural shock to me is because of a little thing down under called Tall Poppy Syndrome.

Tall poppy syndrome is a term to describe a social phenomenon in which people of genuine merit are resented, attacked, cut down, or criticised because their talents or achievements elevate them above or distinguish them from their peers. - Wikipedia

Not only is this term unfamiliar to Americans, when trying to explain it to a few I had met, it was received with confusion. “Why would people do that?”. Dang, good question. Others might explain that it’s the attitude and not the success that evokes this cultural reaction. I’m not so sure.

Individualism, talent and skill are things that are celebrated in the US. I found it a breath of fresh air. In terms of sport, it’s much more entertaining. And isn’t that after all the reason we follow teams and vicariously live through our favourite sport stars? I’ll be eagerly awaiting the reaction from Lebron James if and when the king gets his ring.

Having fun with language

Yesterday’s post got some coverage, and it caused a few people to tell me what they really thought. If you write an article in that style, you’ve got to own your shit. It helps you grow. The beauty of the internet is that you’re exposed to hearing some pretty blunt truths, not by childhood friends or close colleagues, but from strangers you will never meet. This is not the first time the internet has taken this tone with me, and I doubt it will be the last.

A few people however, got in touch to compliment me. Someone late in the day called me a wordsmith, which was pretty rad. This was only my second ever post, and if I were being completely honest, my process is quite elementary. I just brainfart raw ideas onto a text document, then fine-tooth comb it with my dictionary widget handy. It’s cohesion that I find tricky. Our brains don’t naturally package trains of thought with a beginning, middle and end. And they don’t include a defined moral to the story; or explosions to engage the audience. That’s all done via post-production. It helps that I find it fun.

“People seem to be able to find sensual and sensuous pleasure in almost anything but words these days.”  - Stephen Fry

My dad raised me on a steady diet of Monty Python, Black Adder and Fawlty Towers. I would say that from an early age I was encouraged to have a freedom with words, to enjoy and play with language. Living with an English teacher has helped me maintain.

Much of what humours me relates to how situations can be represented in various ways. Sometimes you don’t realise how ridiculous a situation is until you reenact it as a sketch. Freedom with ideas and words helps you see the funny side in more situations.

If I could make one point, it would be to use more words. Try new words in the wrong places. Look up antonyms. Check the meaning of words you’re confident on; even ones you learnt when you were 10 years old. Experiment with sentence structure and tone. Help others get over their fear of failure. Teach them to fail and fail often. You’ll get pulled up by a few nazi’s every now and then. But it’s extremely liberating to realise it’s not as bad as you thought, and it affords you the confidence to explore.

Between my dad signing up to Facebook and hell freezing over, I’m sure we can change the attitude towards rebellious and adventurous aspiring wordsmiths. Hell, I’m going to need some slack if I’m bashing out one of these every day for the next month.

What I learnt pretending to be a programmer

It took me an Advanced Diploma and a Bachelor’s Degree in programming to work out that I’m actually a designer. My HECS bill makes me nauseous. However, observing programmers closely over the years has taught me one valuable thing.

“Being a programmer means committing yourself to a life of continued education. ” -frustrated software engineer

Nothing is linear about technological progression. Only 66 years seperated the Wright Brothers from the Moon landing. Da Vinci’s Ornithopter flying machine sketches were hundreds of years before that. Take that speed of advancement, put it on steroids, and you have a landscape that represents the internet. This looks good on graphs and presentations when pitching to investors, but it’s the cause of much angst between passionate programmers and their tools of choice. By the time they get really good at using a hammer, the hammer is a screwdriver.

The masses cry out when facebook rearranges a few buttons or widens a sidebar. They stop whinging after 10 minutes of self-training and then they’ve forgotten what the old layout looked like in the first place. Languages, frameworks, plugins and libraries are continuouesly maturing. Pretend they are teams; the players are software engineers. It’s very competitive and most of them think they are backing the winning horse.

My first (and current) office is a co-working space which happens to be the home of some of the world’s best rails developers. Rails is a modern web application framework that is characteristic by its ‘convention over configuration’ ideology. It’s referred to as oppinionated software. This means that the programmer only has to write new code for the areas in which their application differs from the standard. In theory, it allows the programmer to focus on solving the interesting problems instead of doing repetitive mundane crap. It’s not so much the benefits or drawbacks of the rails framework that interested me, it was the community.

They don’t teach rails at uni. So straight off the bat it eliminates that large segment of people inspired by the dot-com bubble to get IT degrees to earn good bucks. Java and .NET developers are a dime a dozen. Also the barrier to entry with learning rails is a little tricky. PHP by comparison is fairly easy to get up and running. Some view this in the negative, or as arrogant elitism. I tend to think the high barrier to entry is innocuous and unintentionally weeds out those who arn’t committed to their craft.

After frequently meeting lots of rails devs, you start to see the correlation between the demands to learn this discipline, and the personalities that are attracted to it. If I had only a few words to generalise them, it would be curious, determined, intelligent, and collaborators. They also tend to be musically inclined; as in, a lot of them play instruments. These traits mean that I see the community as a fellowship of full-time learners. These traits also breed entrepreneurialism, and it’s no surprise that Twitter, Groupon, Hulu, Github and Yammer all enjoyed early success on the back of the rails ethos.

9 tenths of the things I learned in my degree have little to do with what I do now. Apart from proving to my early employers that I could stick something out long term, the real value I gained from tertiary education was the ability to stay focused and quickly learn things. I love my job but it often requires arduous crash-course tutorials and monotonous reading.

Never underestimate the importance of your ability to self motivate and learn. Even the most exciting projects contain mind numbing tasks.

Getting started

This is my first post. Ever.

Well sort of- I once installed wordpress locally on my macbook back in January 2010. I really wanted to blog, but was unsure I had anything to tell of any value. I was 23, still at uni, and my ambitions about the future were only just starting to take shape. My first post (that never saw the light of day) was about the summer road trip to Byron Bay I had just come home from. It consisted mainly of drunken anecdotes, a couple of quips about hippy stereotypes and some in-jokes for the 5 people I travelled with.

I stared at this draft post for days and tore it to shreds. It underwent almost a dozen rewrites, until I pulled the plug and deleted the blog.

It hadn’t occurred to me how inconsequential the subject matter was. It was just fodder for over analysis and negative criticism. These personality quirks were working against me, and I gave up on this outlet and pushed it to the back of my mind. In stark contrast, a month later I set up a blog for a friend, who was bashing out posts with no apprehension. To say it propelled her opportunities would be an understatement. The blog eventually scored her a dream job, a growing audience and a creative outlet to express her thoughts on one of her passions. Some people would cite this as smoking gun evidence that saying no to things can suck balls. But old habits die hard.

A lot has happened in the 2 years since suffocating that post. I finished my degree, scored a good job earning my chops as a designer, and eventually quit to start my own business. Over this period, I’ve experienced a lot of anxiety, fear, joy, excitement, stress, pride and growth.

I now feel more confident that I have something of value to write about. I also see the potential to reach out and connect with like-minded people. That’s why I’ve joined the March (pun shamelessly intended). Having to blog that frequently will ill afford me the time to continuously tweak and over-analyse things. Also, writing with the notion of worrying about it later, or “fixing it in post production”, might produce interesting results.

I’m hoping that by the end of March, I’ve got a better grasp on the forces that stop me from putting things out into the world.

At the very least I had to manage my expectations and google one thing before I started.

Breaking a habit

I hope your right midiman7; that leaves me a day to spare at the end.

If not, we’ll just fix it in post.