New habits, and experiments

This post was written 10 years ago.
Wed, 23 Apr 2014
So, the Easter holidays are over. No school for two weeks, but I did bits of work from home till last Wednesday (not always easy!). Then I took proper time off. That is I had really planned to do some 'learning and side projects', but in the end I didn't. I enjoyed the long weekend, seeing friends who came to visit, a whole day out in Stourhead, and Easter Sunday with a big breakfast and egg-hunting.

But on Monday I got a bit nervous. I had not progressed with things as planned, and I had not written any code for days. Moreover I realised that I had done that thing again, where I start something with great enthusiasm, then Thing 2 comes along and grabs all my attention, and I start learning this new thing at great pace it seems.. (in this case, working through a Yii tutorial, then starting to work through a Mapping/GIS course; then looking into SVG..) And then after a while I realise that it is difficult to keep up with all the plans I had, and bringing any one of those projects to fruition. But then that isn't so bad, as long as I don't start piling more and more on top! I can just pick these things up again and carry on, especially if it is side projects without a deadline. It is more about the way I (or my subconscious) interprets those things.

In any case, on Monday I got into quite a tailspin (not only because of the above). I was going to write more about that below, but it is becoming too much now for this post. At the same time though, I started to see quite clearly again what it is I would like to do. And I want to write about that, and how it could tie in with other activities, especially CodeHub and OpenTechSchool.

Work, learn, teach, document

I currently work for a design and web agency for a couple of days per week; mostly doing PHP, sometimes Javascript, a little HTML/CSS and some server stuff, too. It is quite varied and can be challenging, but also rewarding when you work something tricky out. I will work on a website for one other client soon, but otherwise I want to focus on just that one job, so I can dedicate time to some other things:

One thing is learning, in a somewhat structured way. I am interested in the following questions
- What are the things any seasoned web developer should know?
- Is it possible — and sensible — to be good at frontend and backend development (including basic sysadmin)
- More than specific skills, I believe there is a certain approach to technical things that makes you a good developer; when faced with a task, you need to research, evaluate, learn new techniques, apply, analyse, etc. to get to a sensible solution; does this come with experience, or can part of that be taught?
- How can web development be improved by applying software development skills? Programming for the web is in fact software development, but it is not always being treated that way; and in simple cases it can be overkill, admittedly

To be fair, if you have a lot of experience you will most likely just aquire the necessary skills with time. On the other hand, I guess it depends on how varied the environments are where you work. You could end up doing mainly the same thing for a long time.. In any case I feel I would like to know more than I do, and also be more aware of what I know!

So, what I'd like to do is something like this. Pick little projects where I can learn, or learn more about, some aspect of web development, then do those and document what I have learned. And also: Create workshops!

I remember reading something by Vitaly Friedman (editor of SmashingMagazine), where he said that at some point he decided to take a certain time out, I think it was 9 months. In that time he learned a wealth of things, sure more than I could do in that time. I do anyway totally understand this decision. I also feel very attracted by models like the Hackerschool in New York, and Hackership in Berlin. I would very much like to do something like this. Three months seems unrealistic at this point, but who knows..

In any case, if nothing totally dramatic happens in my life, I should have some time to dedicate to learning, documenting - and organising 'learning events'. That is another thing. Organising that should actually not take that much time, especially because I have two people helping me with it. Still it occupies quite some space in my head, because I keep thinking what the best way to do things is. If we want to do events in the evenings, should they have a prescriped format? Would some topics work better than others? - I do think that possibly there should be some constraints of some sort, but perhaps that is something we can sort out as we go along. What is almost more disconcerting is the inner hurdles I keep facing occasionally, but maybe I should not go into that too much. It looks like tonight I might actually post some things, that's what counts.

So, I am looking for some kind of plan to put all this into practice. Flexible enough to leave some breathing space, but with enough structure to give me the idea that there actually is a plan and I am making progress of some sort.

The biggest danger is always demanding too much of yourself. Then becoming frustrated that nothing worked out and becoming so demoralised that you stop doing anything! I will try to forego this, by treating this all as an experiment. That's what it is, really.

Establishing a new habit

One reason I am somewhat hopeful that I might be able to change some things — and especially establish a writing habit! — is the totally unexpected successful installation of another habit that I'd not even have dreamed of!! For the past 10 days I have been going running for about 5 miles. Every day. My husband had told me to go on a "jogging lent" for 40 days. Apparently I need orders to establish a habit. Well sometimes perhaps.. But just seeing that I can do that has been great. And the running has been great, too. Also, I have been sleeping normally recently. Could I cut out the constant sleep deprivation and still write code? I very much hope so.

There are a whole lot of other things I wanted to write about, but I can do that another time, or it might even be better to leave them altogether actually. Yay, I have written a blog post. That hasn't happened for a while! More, more, more!

This post was written 10 years ago, which in internet time is really, really old. This means that what is written above, and the links contained within, may now be obsolete, inaccurate or wildly out of context, so please bear that in mind :)