Category: Personal


Skeet “Shooting”

Last year, at CodeMash v2.0.1.4, I really wanted to get a photo with Jon Skeet. Most people who know StackOverflow know that Jon Skeet has the highest reputation on the site by far. On top of that, he is an accomplished author, blogger, speaker, and all around nerd hero.

Jon has been to CodeMash for several years and I could never get up the nerve to interrupt him and ask for a picture. Finally, at last year’s event, I did it. My friend Russell and I got a picture with him… or so I thought. While I was able to take a picture of Russell with Jon, Russell failed to get a picture of me. In fact, he didn’t notice until we were walking away and I wanted to see the picture. No photo in the gallery.

Well, I wasn’t going to go back and bug him again. I felt like I already put him out. I did get to meet him and I had a pretty good story (of Russell’s failure), so I was ready to leave well enough alone. Poor Russell had to endure a year’s worth of teasing by co-workers for being unable to operate a camera.

Fast forward to CodeMash v2.0.1.5. Russell was going to go, but I decided to skip it this year. That meant that I wouldn’t be able to try for round 2 of my Jon Skeet photo shoot. We all decided, though, that it would be funny if Russell got a picture of Jon Skeet holding a picture of me. We were mostly kidding, but we found ourselves hilarious.

Russell was determined to redeem himself, so he reached out to Jon and set it up, tracked him down, and followed through. Somehow, out of the goodness of his heart, Josh allowed himself to be roped into the adventure of stalking Jon. Josh also made sure that a picture was actually taken this time. Russell then got the photo printed out and framed for my enjoyment. So I present to you my new favorite desk adornment:

Jon Skeet and I

This is all way better than if I had just gotten the picture last year! Big thanks to Russell and Josh!


My First Guest Post – a Brief Bio of John W Mauchly

A little over two weeks ago, Matt Groves, my first podcast guest, asked for some volunteers to contribute to his excellent brief bio series.

I jumped at the chance to contribute. I find the history of our industry fascinating and while Matt had already covered one of my favorites, I was more than happy to grab the next name in the list and set out to work.

I read a lot of information and I learned a lot in the process. In the end, I had a lot of trouble even coming close to living up to the Brief label. My subject had done a lot to move computing forward. In the end, I was able to cut enough and still maintain a narrative that made sense and kept the importance of Mr. Mauchly. So, if you would, please go over to Matt’s blog and check out my guest post Brief Bio: John W. Mauchly.


Believe in Yourself

Believe in YourselfI often have no shortage of belief in myself and my abilities. When in doubt, I will always “bet on myself” when the chips are down to get things done. That confidence has allowed me to be very fortunate in professional settings. At times it can be misconstrued and at times I know that people can think that I don’t have any right to be as confident as I am. However, earlier this year, I read Ball Four by Jim Bouton and was really struck by this passage.

I’ve had some thoughts on what separates a professional athlete from other mortals. In a tight situation the amateur says, “I’ve failed in this situation many times. I’ll probably do so again.” In a tight situation the professional says (and means it), “I’ve failed in this situation and I’ve succeeded. Since each situation is a separate test of my abilities, there’s no reason why I shouldn’t succeed this time.”

Then there is also the case of the professional player who is not professional enough. He goes on a fifteen-game hitting streak and says, “Nobody can keep this up.” And as the streak progresses, his belief in his ability to keep it alive decreases to the point where it’s almost impossible for him to get a hit.

The real professional – and by that I suppose I mean the exceptional professional – can convince himself that each time at bat is an individual performance and that there is no reason he can’t go on hitting forever.

He is 100% saying how I feel about my potential for success in any given situation. Why not me? Why not now? Why can’t I do this thing? Why can’t I continue to succeed, or rally to success after a failure?

More importantly, why not you? Why not now? Why can’t *YOU* do the thing you want to do? Why can’t you continue to succeed, or snatch victory from the jaws of defeat?

You can.

Go do it!


750 Words

Recently, I started using a site called 750 words. Its name basically sums up what it is. Basically, you sign up for the site and you just type in daily writings. It does analysis of your words and tells you all kinds of stats about what you’ve written, how long it takes you to write, how many interruptions you typically have, etc. According to the site, 750 words is about 3 printed pages of work, so you are making good-sized chunks of writing each day. Each entry is private, so you don’t have to worry about grammar or spelling (though you’d obviously want that to be improving as you went). Another neat feature is that the creator has made it very easy to export your writings. You own it, you shouldn’t have to worry about being locked in. I definitely appreciate that aspect of the site.

I started 37 days ago and I’ve completed 37 days. I’m a bit of a compulsive person, so once I build up a habit like this, it actually stresses me out to break it. I’m probably the poster child that the site’s founder had in mind when he created the site. Each month, there are also “challenges” that you can participate in. You sign up and commit to write something every day for that month. I’m 13 for 13 in December so far (obviously since I’ve written every day for the last 37). The site even lets you define a reward and a penalty for completing or not completing the challenge. There is no way to enforce it, it is just for fun.

The site is such a simple concept (the best ones are), but I’ve found it really helpful to get into a writing habit. At first, I would just write about my day. I haven’t had a private “general purpose” blog in a while, so I did that. However, that only lasted about 4 or 5 days before I grew tired of it. 3 pages of good stuff doesn’t happen to me EVERY DAY! My original goal was that I’d be able to free write and take notes and use those notes as primers for blog posts. I changed that goal a few weeks ago.

During TekPub‘s Black Friday Sale, I signed up for my own personal annual TekPub Subscription. Two years ago, my employer bought me one, but I work for myself now and I needed to invest a little more in my education. What I started doing was “live blogging” the videos as I watched them. This served three purposes.

  1. Complete my Daily 750 Words
  2. Watch a New TekPub Video Every Day
  3. Create Lots of Very Useful Notes For Future Blog Posts

To date, I’ve watched the entire TekPub Speed Series with Sam Saffron, the Node Series, and all of the Jon Skeet Stack Overflow Question of the Day TekPub TV videos, “live blogging” them all. Along the day, I have paused to journal some incredible days that I’ve had or some interesting projects that I was working on, but I always fall back to the TekPub videos as a great source of content. The bonus is that I’ve learned a great deal so far.

Today’s blog post is a little meta. This post itself is today’s 750 Words. No need to write 1500 words today when a little reuse can do. I’m a programmer, after all, appropriate reuse is the goal.

Why might be appropriate for you? Maybe you don’t have a blog, technical or personal. Perhaps you don’t see the use of writing all of these daily words with no intention of anyone ever reading it. I think for someone like that, the site still has merit. First, one of many developers’ greatest weaknesses is communication. I’ve seen it over and again that clients aren’t happy with the level of communication (particularly written communication) from their developers. And we all know that the best way to build a muscle is to work that muscle, so daily writing will help.

Secondly, you may discover that you have a love of writing. Maybe your words won’t ever get beyond the vault, but maybe you’ll write and find that you enjoy it. If 750 words really is about 3 printed pages, in 3 months, you could have about 270 pages of material. Assuming you kept a consistent theme or themes, you are actually a good deal of the way to having written a book. You could export your posts, edit them into a more coherent theme, and publish them to the world on the Kindle store.

Since book writing is something that I’ve always wanted to do at least once, I’ve certainly considered that route, but for now I’m just trying to build blog posts. Maybe one day soon, I’ll build that into a book. I don’t know now if it would be fiction or non-fiction, technical or not, for now I’m just enjoying the writing process.

So, if you can see any value in daily writing at all, head on over to 750 words and create an account and start writing. At the risk of being a cliché, the journey of 1000 miles starts with a single step. Do 750 Words today, take the first step.


2011 Technology Resolutions

ResolutionsI try to learn at least one new thing every year in the technology field. In 2010, I learned (and build a production application from) Asp.Net MVC 2.0. I also learned Windows Phone 7 development and even got an app in the Marketplace called Nerd News. You can see a little more about it here or by searching for Nerd News in the Marketplace.

In 2011, I’m beginning the year with the goal of learning more about Node.js, Socket.IO, and Git. I had hoped that CodeMash might have some Node stuff this year, but it doesn’t. Maybe I can find or start an open space about it…

Do any of you try to learn a new technology every year? If so, what are yours for 2011?