Weeknotes 18

February 23, 20203 min read

Adaptability has always been my M.O.

I started my career at a design studio that had no specialism when it came to tech: PHP or .NET, JavaScript or Flash, Objective-C or Java, C++, Processing, etc. I don’t remember us ever turning down a project just because we didn’t know the technology: we found someone who did or learned it ourselves.

This attitude gave me an advantage when I went freelance: Sure I’ll knock-out 135 banner adds on my Sunday afternoon. Of course I know what I’m doing…

In the words of Yosser Hughes: “Gis a job, I can do that”.

This week I read Robin Sloan’s article An app can be a home-cooked meal in which he describes the joys of knowing enough.

For a long time, I have struggled to articulate what kind of programmer I am. I’ve been writing code for most of my life, never with any real discipline, but/and I can, at this point, make the things happen on computers that I want to make happen. At the same time, I would not last a day as a professional software engineer. Leave me in charge of a critical database and you will return to a smoldering crater.

The exhortation “learn to code!” has its foundations in market value. “Learn to code” is suggested as a way up, a way out. “Learn to code” offers economic leverage, a squirt of power. “Learn to code” goes on your resume.

But let’s substitute a different phrase: “learn to cook.” People don’t only learn to cook so they can become chefs. Some do! But far more people learn to cook so they can eat better, or more affordably, or in a specific way. Or because they want to carry on a tradition. Sometimes they learn just because they’re bored! Or even because—get this—they love spending time with the person who’s teaching them.

I am a professional software engineer, but I also cook at home1. I enjoy the practice of making something, and doing it with other people, and the sense of accomplishment that comes with something turning out better than you expected. I try to take the same approach whether I am working on a commercial project or hacking on a Raspberry Pi on my Sunday afternoon.

To my surprised working with a software consultancy feels familiar: not having every answer, but knowing how to find out. Finding the right tool for the job, being passionate about the journey and being adaptable to difference scenarios.

Embrace naivety.


Ikaria is a new app from Secret founder Chrys Bader-Wechseler aimed at tackling loneliness:

“Basically, since 2004, technology has created this monumental shift in the human social experience. We’re more connected than ever technically but all the studies show we’re lonelier than ever,” Bader explains. “It’s like eating McDonald’s to get healthy. It’s not the right source of nutrition for our social well-being because true connection requires a level of vulnerability, presence, self-disclosure and reciprocity that you don’t really get on these platforms.”

Ikaria isn’t another feed. It’s a safe space where you can chat with close friends and family, or people going through similar life challenges. Members of these group chats will optionally go through guided experiences that help them reflect on and discuss what’s going on in their hearts and minds.

  1. I do not cook at home, to my wife’s dismay, but you get the analogy