Saturday, March 03, 2012

My reaction to Raganwald's "How to do what you love"

You should buy this book. I know (all?) the content is available online already and if you've been reading raganwald's output over the years, you might have already read the articles collated in this slim volume. I still suggest you should buy the book; my only nitpick was that (at the time I purchased it) the maximum payable price seemed lower than what I would have paid.

I guess for me there were 2 reasons to buy it. One is partly a reflection on my evolving personal philosophy, that people who create great stuff should be somehow rewarded, so that they can carry on creating great stuff. In Renaissance times, this would be patronage. These days, tip jars or similar can be simple, low-friction ways of allowing a much larger potential audience to support an artist. Also, I prefer to buy stuff that is free, because I am fortunate enough to be in a position to do that, and to try to ensure that the supply of free stuff doesn't dry up.

The second reason is that I am grateful to Reg for providing me with so many hours of stimulating thought.

I don't believe I had previously read all of the compositions, and 3 things struck me upon reading this book.

First, I don't have a publicly viewable portfolio demonstrating that I am in any way a competent professional. There are the odd normal bunch of patches littered in various libraries that I use or have used, and one former employer released a large chunk of their code as open source (but with all identification / attribution removed) but there is nothing meaty that is mine (apparently, apart from vbunitfree, which is very dead). I have in the past railed against walled gardens in terms of mobile carriers and their view of the web; in this case I have been working with other walled gardens, in terms of writing code that is proprietary, for corporate entities. My github account needs some TLC to showcase my skills.

Second, in recent years I have neglected communication and other soft skills, choosing instead to focus on technical skills for quite some time. That is a mistake. As I've got older, I've come to think that communication is more important; it's all about the conversations you have with people. Reg certainly seems to share that viewpoint. This blog was initially created since all of my blogging output was going onto an internal, employer-owned blog and I wanted to develop those skills further (and stop putting all of the good stuff in a walled garden!). I need to dedicate some time to this.

Finally, NDAs are evil. In that instance, not only is your professional output (in terms of code at least) locked up in a walled garden so that no-one can view it, but neither can you even talk about it. I agonised for a long time about the last NDA that I signed. No more. If you need me to sign an NDA, I suggest that perhaps you need to examine why you are asking me to do that. Surely you should have confidence in your ability to execute on a plan, and the speed at which you will iterate?

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