I’m stepping into a role right now, which I announced recently “Career Update: Back to Engineering!“. In that role I have a number of key topics and knowledge specific to the role that I need to attain. Most of this is centered around the current state of teams, members of those teams, work in progress, product, and service status. The following are some of the important steps I’ve taken to reconnoiter the current state of things. These steps I’ve taken to get up to speed as quickly as possible! Continue reading “How to Reconnoiter a New Role!”→
I’ve been putting together a list of conferences that I want to aim to attend this coming year. I made it, then thought, “somebody else could use this list probably” so here it is. If you think of any other specific conferences I ought to add and attend please leave a comment. Enjoy!
Before diving into conclusions, let’s take a look at some answers to questions asked. This is a slice of answers, with totals for the charts and such. After a few months of answers I’ll have another follow up to see how things may or may not change.
Do you like video material?
What specifically do you, or would you like to watch in video? Screencasts, short videos, conversational, or some other type of videos?
I love both screencasts going through big topics and short videos that cover smaller tips and gotchas.
Videos with a specific outcome as the goal, whether achieved or not. Showing the process of something.. like hey, here’s how you building out a Postgres cluster using streaming replication and repmgr and pgpool… Kind of thing.
Bite sized content, maybe 2 minutes, to teach me one thing.
Editing. No jokes, no “hey what’s up guys” with 60 second intros. Discuss the problem, then solve it.
Demos, learning a new way of doing something
Doesn’t matter short or long, but has to be deeply technical with code examples that I can actually apply
I watch videos mostly for fun.
Short videos of say 5-10 minutes each covering different concept of the subject matter
(videos work best in a classroom setting where time/attention is precommitted, or as part of a tutorial)
If it’s too long, it ends up on my todo list forever (not good). So shorter is better. And something that benefits from visuals, rather than something that could just be written.
I also watch LinkedIn Learning when just starting a new tech. to get a general overview and pick up a tip or tow, then I read books and the Internet from there.
What kind of written material do you like?
Do you like other material mixed in that details the reason for the tech, the story, or such?
Is there anything that comes to mind, that you’d like to have me or the team I’m working with (@ DataStax) put together that you’d find useful, entertaining, or related.
Place priorities on designing materials for more depth (i.e., more linked material) as well as less attention-nuisance. That’s no criticism of your work, merely the gestalt of where we work — so less noise is a better way to stand out and make materials useful.
Maybe focus more on written material – code & architecture material (books, articles) rather than videos and twitch. It is much easier to consume and is easily googlable. Also I’d suggest making blog posts target a specific common issue or question – sometimes I see posts that I don’t really care about or the problem is so narrow that I don’t want to read about it. I’d read about building resilient and highly available architectures in various configurations.
Database reliability, scalability, migrations and such stuff is interesting.
Anything to do with machine learning.
Data model examples, starting up a Cassandra node, configuring YAML, etc
I’m going to go backwards through the questions and discuss what I’ve deducted, and in some ways what has surprised me among the answers!
First there’s the “Is there anything that comes to mind, that you’d like to have me or the team I’m working with (@ DataStax) put together that you’d find useful, entertaining, or related.” request and questions.
The answers here didn’t surprise me much at all. Within DevRel from Microsoft to DataStax to Google to many other organizations we have this ongoing battle between “write a whole book on it” or “make it 2 minutes short”. It’s wildly difficult to determine what format, what timing, and what structure material needs to be in for it to be most useful to people. So when I saw the answer that reads, “Place priorities on designing materials for more depth (i.e., more linked material) as well as less attention-nuisance.” I immediately thought, “yeah, for real, but ugh…” it’s difficult. However, I’m working on more thorough material, some of it will be paywalled via LinkedIn Learning or Pluralsight and other material may be available by book in the coming months. But there will be other material that will indeed be long form how to material on how to really put things together – from scratch and from the basis of “we have X thing and need to hack it so we can add a feature”.
The next answer I got in this section that I completely agree with is increasing the focus on written material. I’m making tons of video, and I’ve got that down to the point where it’s actually easier and faster to do most of it then it is to write things down. However I realized, especially from my own point of view, that written material actually ends up being vastly more useful than video material. That’s also why, even with the video material, when I’m covering specifics I aim to provide a linkable timeline and a blog entry with the code and other changes shown in the video. Thanks for reinforcing these efforts and giving me that indirect encouragement to make this process and the results even better. More written material is on its way!
As for the database reliability, scalability, migrations, machine learning, data modeling, Cassandra node starting, and all that it’s in the queue and I’m getting to it as fast as I possibly can.
Next question I asked is, “Do you like other material mixed in that details the reason for the tech, the story, or such?”
It appears, albeit not a huge contingent of people, some people are curious about biking, train coding, and making good grub! Hey, that’s groovy cuz I’ve got a show coming out which is basically the behind the scenes videos about all those topics that make the coding and technology hacking possible!
The one outlier in this set however is clearly the request for “Ways to simplify life to dig through those algorithms faster, easier, better?” which I didn’t suspect would be any different then the other answers for this questions. Which left me surprised and ill-prepared on what to do about fulfilling what is clearly a demand. I’ll have to up level my blog posts around algorithms. I did do a couple a long while ago now in “Algorithms 101: Big Sums” which I completed in Go and another I wrote up “Algorithms 101: Roads & Town Centers” which I have 90% of the answer complete but I’ve never finished the blog entry! I guess it’s time to get the algorithm train coupled up and ready to depart!
Then the question, “What kind of written material do you like?”
Two options lead by a healthy margin for this question: Demos w/ Write Up and Blog Articles. With this coupled up to the first question it’s clear that written material via blog and demoes via blog should and ought to be top priority. They are, however they’re a whole helluva lot of work, so I only get them produced but so fast. Got some gems coming on Go, Bash, Cassandra, and a few other demo, tech, and historical information.
Next up was single page cheat sheets and documentation, followed closely by books. I kind of expected documentation and books, but wow that single page cheat sheets option is higher rated than I would have suspected and by proxy I’ve immediately added that to my produce this type of material list! I put it in as a very secondary thought but it’s going to get into that increased focus queue.
The last one with some semblance of demand is pamphlet size short form. This one almost seems like a fluke, but I’ll ponder putting together some of these. I know O’Reilly has their short novelette size books which cover a particular topic. They hand these out for free at conferences and seem pretty solid. Maybe I’ll work one of those into the queue? Maybe.
The other three options scraped by with 1%, so somebody was choosing them. So the vi mug isn’t a priority nor the short explainer videos. Which seems in contention with video content demands around shorter content. I guess, explainer videos just doesn’t sound useful!
The next question I just put together a top three of the results, “What specifically do you, or would you like to watch in video? Screencasts, short videos, conversational, or some other type of videos?”
Make screen casts.
Make screen casts generally short.
Make screen cases that are short and on a specific and deep dive into a topic.
This seems kind of in conflict with itself, but I’m going to aim for it and try to hone the skill further. So that I can produce screen casts, screen casts that are generally short, and make sure that these screen casts that are short are on a specific and deep dive into a topic. Whew, got it.
Finally, “do you like video material?”
At this time, 53.8% of you have said yes. I had guessed it would be around 50%.
I had guessed no would be about 25%, and at 23.1% I wasn’t to far off.
The other respective mishmash of answers made for interesting depth to the questions that followed this question.
Article Summary & TLDR
Produce more topic specific, detailed material around screen casts and blog entries!
.NET Fringe took place this last week. It’s been a rather long time since my last actual conference that I actually got to really attend, meet people, and talk to people about all the different projects, aspirations, goals, and ideas about what’s next for the future. This conference was perfect to jump into, first and foremost, I knew it was an effort in being inclusive of the existing community and newcomers. We’d reached out to many brave souls to come and attend this conference about pushing technology into the future.
I met some truly excellent people. Smart, focused, intent, and a whole lot of great conversations followed meeting these people. Here’s a few people you’ll want to keep an eye on based on the technology they’re working on. I got to sit down and talk to every one of these coders and they’re in top form, smart, inventive, witty and full of great humor to boot!
I met Maria and one of the first things I saw was her crafty and most excellent art sketches around lifestyles, heroes, and more. I love art like this, and was really impressed with what Maria had done with her’s.
I was able to hang out with Maria a bit more and had some good conversation time talking about evangelism, tech fun and nonsense all around. I also was able to attend her talk on “Legacy… What?” which was excellent. The question she posed in the description states a common question posed, “When students think about .Net they think: legacy , enterprise , retired, and what is that?” which I too find to be a valid thought. Is .NET purely legacy these days? For many getting into the field it generally isn’ the landscape of greenfield applications and is far more commonly associated with legacy applications. Hearing her vantage point on this as an evangelist was eye opening. I gained more ideas, thoughts, and was pushed to really get that question answered for students in a different way… which I’ll add to sometime in the future in another blog entry.
I spoke to Kathleen while we took a break across the street from the conference at Grendal’s Coffee Shop. We talked a lot about education and what is effective training, diving heavily into what works around video, samples, and related things. You see, we’re both authors at Pluralsight too and spend a lot of time thinking about these things. It was great to be able to sit down and really discuss these topics face to face.
We also dived into a discussion about city livability and how Portland’s transit system works, what is and isn’t working in the city and what it’s like to live here. I was, of course, more than happy to provide as much information as I could.
We also discussed her interest in taking legacy shops (i.e. pre-C# even, maybe Delphi or whatever might exist) and helping them modernize their shop. I found this interesting, as it could be a lot of fun figuring out large gaps in technology like that and helping a company to step forward into the future.
Kathleen gave two presentations at the conference – excellent presentations. One was the “Your Code, Your Brain” presentation, talking about exactly the topic of legacy shops moving forward without disruption.
If you’re interested in Kathleen’s courses, give a look here.
Amy had a wicked great slides and samples that were probably the most flawless I’ve seen in a while. Matter of fact, a short while after the conference Amy put together a blog entry about those great slides and samples “Super Smooth Technical Demoes“.
An intent and listening audience.Amy’s talked at the conference was titled “Space, Time, and State“. It almost sounds like we could just turn that into an acronym. The talk was great, touched on the aspects of reactiveness and the battle of state that we developers fight every day while building solutions.
We also got to talk a little after the presentation, the horror of times zones, and a slew of good conversation.
AAAAAaggghhhhhh! I missed half of Tomasz’s talk! It always happens at every conference right! You get to talking to people, excited about this topic or that topic and BOOM, you’ve missed half of a talk that you fully intended to attend. But hey, the good part is I still got to see half the talk!
If you’re not familiar with Tomasz’ work and you do anything with Node.js you should pay close attention. Tomasz has been largely responsible for the great work behind Edge.js and influencing the effort to get Node.js running (and running damn well might I add) on Windows. For more on Edge.js check out Act I and Act II and the Github repository.
The Big Hit for Me, Distributed Systems
However some in the community didn’t stop moving the ball forward, and at this conference I got a great view into some of that progress! I’m stoked to see this technology and where it is now, because there is a LOT of potential for a number of things. Here’s the two talks and two more great people I got to see speak. One I knew already (great to see you again and hang out Aaron!) and one I had the privilege & honor to meet (it was most excellent hanging out and seeing your presentation Lena).
Aaron I’d met back when Troy & I put together the first Node PDX. Aaron had swung into Portland to present on “Building Node.js Applications on Windows Azure“. At .NET Fringe however Aaron was diving into a topic that was super exciting to me. The first line of the description from the topic really says it all “Distributed computing in .NET isn’t something you often hear about, but it’s becoming an increasingly important area for growing .NET businesses around the globe. And frankly it’s an area where .NET has lagged behind other runtimes and platforms for years – but this is changing!“. Yup, that’s my exact pain point, it’s awesome to know Aaron & Petabridge are kicking ass in this space now.
Aaron’s presentation was solid, as to be expected. We also had some good conversations after and before the presentation about the state of distributed compute and systems within the Microsoft and Windows ecosystem. To check out more about Akka .NET that Aaron & Andrew Skotzko … follow @AkkaDotNet, @aaronontheweb, @petabridge, and @askotzko.
…Lena traveled all the way from Kiev in the Ukraine to provide the .NET Fringe crowd with some serious F# distributed and parallel compute knowledge in “Embracing the Cloud“! (Slides here)
Here’s a short dive into F# here if you’re unfamiliar, which you can install on OS-X, Windows or whatever. So don’t use the “well, I don’t use windows” excuse to not give it a try! Here’s info about MBrace that Lena also used in her demo. Also dive into brisk from elastacloud…
In addition to the excellent talk that Lena gave I also got to hang out with her, Phil Haack, Ryan Riley, and others over food at Biwa on the last day of the conference. After speaking with Lena about the Ukraine, computing, coding and other topics around hacking and the OSS Community she really inspired me to take a dive into these tools for some of the work that I’m working on now and what I’ll be doing in the near future.
All The Things
Now of course, there were a ton of other people I got to meet, people I got to catch up with I haven’t seen in ages and others I didn’t get to write about. It was a really great conference with great content. I’m looking forward to round 2 and spending more time with everybody in the future!
Cheers everybody! \m/
An Aside of Blog Entries on .NET Fringe
Here are some additional blog entries that others wrote about the event. In addition to these blog entries I’ll be updating this entry with any additional entries that I see pop up – so if you post one let me know, and I’ll also update these talks above that I’ve discussed with videos when they’re posted live.
Over the years one of the things that I’ve seen missing in disproportionate amounts are many opportunities for part time work in the software development industry. There are two things about this fact that makes me kind of chuckle at the absurdity behind them.
Much of the time there isn’t any part time work because so much of management and the existing group think is that more hours equal more productivity and more product. This is, however, very wrong.
If software developers did work fewer hours, they actually have a high possibility that they’d become more productive, not less.
Shock, gasp, horror, no, tell me it isn’t so, you mean an entire industry is wrong about the human psychology behind an occupation?! Yup. The perverse thing is this isn’t exactly the first time. It appears, we humans are really bad at determining the best psychological state to be in for a particular occupation. We tend to get better at managing this, but overall we humans don’t have a great track record.
What I’d like to see, and I’m by no means assuming anybody would listen, but if leadership out there is, here are my thoughts. They’re free, I’m putting them right here on this blog, and I’m not even asking for any pennies for my thoughts. Disseminate and use as you would like!
The Part Time Coder Position – $40-80k Dependent on Experience & Contribution Ability
Description: Available for meetings, pairing and coding for 4 hours per day, either on a declared morning or evening schedule to sync up with the team. Spending 4-5 hours per day total either meeting or working on project code. No excess meetings, domain planning or other business meetings necessary, core focus is coding and communication with the team and team lead that are working on the coding project.
Requisite Job Requirements:
• Possibly spend a full time week or two to get up to speed on practices, such as kanban usage, task tracking or whatever else is in use for project management.
• Be familiar with software development in general, with the expectation being of several years of experience with some stack that is similar to the primary stack that is being used.
• Be able to communicate, determine need for communication (especially if remote), and up-manage as well as determine self-direction with minimal interaction. i.e. ability to use the right comms for the right messages as often as possible.
• Be able to apply algorithms, patterns, and related thinking to provide solutions to the problem domain space that is being approached.
Other Peripheral Requirements:
• Ability to provide rough guesstimates on where and what effort something will take, pending reasonable time given to determine such things. Also management, as always, should keep in mind, estimates are always wrong. Just sayin’.
So where is this position availability? How about throwing some of those out there and see how or what could be done with some roles like that? It could be very useful. If you’re interested in putting some positions like this into place, I’d be happy to help consult or determine what you’d need.
Recruiters: I pose this question and write this blog entry knowing of no less than a dozen people that would work in software development, are exceptional software developers, but don’t because they’re either A: well off and have no need or desire to work full time or B: want to spend considerable amount of time living life and don’t have huge expenses, so they’d be really happy with a part time job. Neither of these people have any desire to work more than about ~20 hours a week. It’s a workforce that hasn’t even been touched on and overall, the businesses in the tech sector are seriously missing out
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