The grassy roots of growing developer skills with Growstuff

In my last post, I wrote about how I’m transitioning into a development role.  A big part of that transition has been working on the Growstuff open source project led by Alex “Skud” Bayley and they are in the last few days of their IndieGoGo campaign to fund API development by Frances Hocutt.

This Summer, I got to meet both Alex and Francis, although I had been following Alex for quite a while on Twitter and I was first introduced to Francis through her beautiful writing for Model View Culture.  Allow me to introduce you to our feminist corner of open source.

Screen Shot 2014-10-18 at 1.05.02 PM

Food Stuffs:
Growstuff is an open source platform that helps connect people who are growing their own food which people do for many reasons.  Aside from the pleasure of gardening, growing your own food means that your food will likely contain more nutrients.  In areas where a good supply of high quality produce choices is lacking, it can allow you to grow produce that you otherwise would not be able to find.  It is also a way to shortcut the cost and expenditure of fuel needed to transport vegetables from farm to store to your home.

If this has peaked your interest about the benefits of food gardening, this Mother Jones article is a great in-depth look at the benefits for you and for the planet of growing your own food.

Open Source, Technology and Learning Stuffs:
Open Source and Good Software Engineering are two things that, I have learned, cannot always be put together in the same sentence.  There are good, non-trivial reasons for this.  Open source projects typically have to be distributed which means fewer opportunities to pair and fewer opportunities to mentor.  It also means a project might have to compromise on good engineering if it wants to move forward.

That said, one of the paths to web development, the path that I am following, is to write code for an open source project (Not everyone has the privilege of time and money required for a “bootcamp”). This creates the conundrum of learning good software habits and finding a project that is willing to work with intermediate web developers who are slower and will need help.

Growstuff has solved this problem by adopting a focus on agile and learning culture.  It is ok to ask questions.  Pull requests are not eviscerations.  Everything is organized between a wiki, Pivotal  Tracker and Discourse.  Pairing and TDD are emphasized wherever possible.  The CI is kept green.

I feel safe here.  That is an accomplishment.

Feminist Stuffs:
Encouraging diversity in tech is about so much more than teaching kids and also grownups to code and love computers.  There are a lot of efforts right now to help women and other diverse groups learn how to code, but there is a dirth of places for an intermediate engineer to go after they’ve done tutorials and small side projects.

With my intermediate skills, I put out feelers for writing code and helping out in a few places and was pretty shocked at some of the places that proved, shall we say, less than welcoming.

Growstuff has been the place that has finally let me work on some code.  I’m slow, I have to work with a pair, and sometimes I really don’t know what I’m doing, but that is ok.  I know that whatever I end up contributing will be something the project needs that will be of value for users.  This means the world to me.

The reason why Growstuff is running their funding campaign is to bring on Frances Hocutt as an api developer.  I had the privilege of meeting Frances along with her mentor, Sumana Harihareswara this Summer at the AdaCamp conference in Portland.  They both helped me immensely with the guts of a talk I did this Summer with Ryan Dy on mentoring.

You can help!

If the news about diversity in tech feels overly depressing or intractable, throwing a few dollars at the Growstuff campaign is a very direct way to encourage support for women who, against the odds, have kept going and will keep going in tech.  I’m including myself in this category and hope you’ll give to this project that has already given so much to me.

A little humor for those conference woes

There is a lot of pain and angst around the topic of the treatment of women at tech conferences right now (which will not be rehashed here).  Opinions are wide and varied and feelings are running high.  In the United States, we’ve actually been here before and on an even wider scale.

In the 1980’s, when Clarence Thomas was the first African American to be considered for supreme court justice, the highest judicial office, he was accused by law professor Anita Hill of sexual harassment.  It touched off a broad national discussion about the appropriate workplace treatment of women (and men). Rather than spend this post, comparing the two events, I’d like to offer up some humor.

One of the most popular American shows in the ’80’s was Designing Women.  It was a comedy driven by the, mostly, female characters in the cast  and took place in my hometown of Atlanta, Georgia.  During the furor of Clarence vs. Anita, Designing Women devoted an entire show to examining this topic.

There are times when comedy and fiction are better at capturing multiple sides of a tricky issue than any expert opinion or news coverage.  This particular episode of Designing Women falls into that category.  There’s not much you need to know about the characters or even the larger situation of Clarence Thomas and Anita Hill to get the humor.

It is likely that this YouTube link will not stay up forever, but if you’re hurting after the latest series of events, I hope this episode will at least give you a laugh or two.

The Strange Case of Clarence Thomas and Anita Hill

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The future is already here – it’s just not evenly distributed.
William Gibson


Writing about tech is as necessary for me as breathing.  It’s something I do every day and have done for a long time.  It’s probably not surprising that the novel I’m working on involves a tech company.  When I started, I didn’t think of myself as writing science fiction.  There are no jetpacks.  There is no space travel.  There are no cats shooting lasers out of their butts.


I spent quite a while setting up a story world that would help me reinforce the story I am telling.  This has included creating a fake office, fake products and fake managers with fake management problems.  It has included creating company in-jokes and company events.  There is a boss and a boss’s wife.


This is stuff I’ve been working on since 2010.  I named the company


This morning, as I was writing, I noticed that when I typed the company name, it turned into a URL.  Initially, I dismissed it as my writing software mimic-ing Word’s annoying habit of turning all URLs into a link.  In trying to  remove the distracting hyperlink formatting, I discovered that it goes somewhere.


Try it:


This is but one small problem. I won’t even go into the challenge of writing about cutting edge products that will still seem cutting edge when I finish the novel.


It turns out that I am not alone in my struggles.


Earlier in the week, this article came out with writer Warren Ellis saying, “Futurism’s gotten harder to write, because the future arrives so quickly.” Although he’s talking about the future, I would extend that to writing about today as non-historical fiction which is why I totally get the next thing Ellis says which is that his new novel is set in,”near-as-damnit present day.” (hat tip to Chris McMahon for the article)


The photo of Ellis in the article shows his bald head in the foreground yet lined up with a row of skulls in the background.  I’ve seen this photo before…

David Tennant used the skull of pianist Andre ...
David Tennant used the skull of pianist Andre Tchaikowsky for Yorick’s skull in a 2008 Royal Shakespeare Company production. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)











only it wasn’t a photo.  It was writing.


Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him, Horatio; a fellow of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy; he hath borne me on his back a thousand times; and now, how abhorred in my imagination it is! My gorge rises at it. Here hung those lips that I have kissed I know not how oft. Where be your gibes now? Your gambols? Your songs? Your flashes of merriment, that were wont to set the table on a roar? (Hamlet, V.i)

–Shakespeare (bitches)



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Summer Reading in San Francisco

The SF Downhill
The SF Downhill

As Summer draws to a close here in the Northern Hemisphere I’m taking stock of my summer reading. I can’t remember the last Summer when I had time to read for pleasure instead of doing homework, renovating a house, learning more Selenium or writing a paper and practicing for a conference presentation. Being so industrious in my off time has made for a great blog, but without getting out there and living life, there’s not much to write about. Thus, I took a blog-cation and caught up on some reading instead.


While half of my blog-cation has been summer reading, I’ve also been getting to know my new home of San Francisco, California.  This has involved adventures such as screaming at the top of my lungs while driving up or down the incredibly steep hills, catching the wrong bus and deciding my new journey is better anyway, hearing a mix of Brazilian, Mexican and Chinese in a one-block radius in the Mission and learning how to shuck my own oysters.


This post is a wild ride through some of the things I’ve seen in San Francisco matched with the books on my Summer reading list.


Marie Antoinette: The Journey by Antonia Fraser


Marie Antoinette
How about some Gingerbread, y’all?


This is a book that I began reading over 2 years ago and finally picked up again this Summer. It fits in with the collection of women’s biographies I keep and was the inspiration for one of my favorite movie adaptations and soundtracks of all time (Thank you very much Ms. Coppola!)


Aside from the events themselves being interesting, the writing is phenomenal and the research…OMG…THE RESEARCH!!! Excuse me while I take my master’s thesis and go jump back into the research kiddie pool! The balance between the macrocosm of world events and the microcosm of Marie Antoinette’s daily existence made me feel like I was there.


Catching Fire and Mockingjay(Books 2 and 3 in the Hunger Games Trilogy) by Suzanne Collins

This BART station doubles as a bunker


Catching Fire and Mockingjay(Books 2 and 3 in the Hunger Games Trilogy) by Suzanne Collins
There are many reasons why I love the Hunger Games Trilogy.  While romance is part of what’s going on in this series, it’s more of a sub-plot.  The heroine, Katniss Everdeen, is faced with some very tough choices, all with trade offs.


The author of these books specializes in writing about children and war which shows in the way the characters, many of them children handle some pretty heavy situations.  The best YA fiction stands on it’s own outside of the genre, and Hunger Games certainly does that.  Also, if you liked Hunger Games, I recommend Glass by Ellen Hopkins.


Orbiting the Giant Hairball by Gordon Mackenzie

blast off
Blast off next to the Bay Bridge!

If you find yourself describing your job as soul-killing, the opposite of creative or undignified, this book will shine a light on how to restore at least some of what you have lost. The author, Gordon Mackenzie worked for Hallmark Greeting Cards for years which is why format of the book is so interesting. The book itself is card shaped and the the pages are filled with illustrations and craziness. There is no digital version of this book for a reason.


Spook Country by William Gibson


Spook Country
My SF swimming hideaway


As part of living out my professional credo, I’ve been experimenting with creative writing. This includes some literary analysis and reading fiction that has thematic commonality with my own writing. Since most of my writing has a heavy slant towards software and technology (surprise!), I’ve been reading William Gibson very closely.


I must have read the first chapter of Spook Country 3 or 4 times because a good first chapter is supposedly a microcosm of a novel.  What’s crazy is how similar some of the characters are to people I know in real life.  People with more gadgets than underwear who are always traveling and may or may not have a permanent place of residence…I know a few of those.


Summer might be winding down up top on planet Earth, but there are plenty of folks who are just beginning to welcome the warm weather back to the Southern Hemisphere.  As for me, it’s back to writing and blogging although it is highly likely I will sneak off to read Elisabeth Hendrickson’s new book Explore It!

A List of Distorted Thinking

I own a piece of paper which came to me through the network of mindfulness classes, meet-ups and meditation sittings that exist in the Republic of California.


For today, I am posting it verbatim.  It is precious enough to me that I want it preserved forever on the internet.  If I have to type it up and post it for that to happen, so be it.  I just want it to be out there and I predict others will also see the truth in it.


There is also a reason for my timing.  Markus Gärtner, author of the newly published ATDD by Example (and tester of Amazon’s I18n encoding) has recently posted on some of the fallacies involved in contextual testing.  What he writes about seems awfully close to distorted thinking which is not surprising given the fact that we are all human.

Being human means that if you have a bad lunch or some cloud system goes down which keeps you from your testing, the physical reaction of frustration leaves you very open to distorted thinking.  In the case of testing, some of this distorted thinking seems useful for uncovering test ideas, and yet we also need to recognize when it’s time to stop catastrophizing and time to start collaborating with our teammates.  If we can recognize the distorted thinking we use for test heuristics, perhaps we can also recognize when it is time to leave the distorted thinking behind.  Polarization is for formal methods…not friends.


Without further ado:


Filtering:  You take the negative details and magnify them while filtering out all positive aspects of a situation.


Polarized Thinking:  Things are black or white, good or bad.  You have to be perfect or you’re a failure.  There is no middle ground.


Overgeneralization:  You come to a general conclusion based on  a single incident or piece of evidence. If something bad happens once, you expect it to happen over and over again.


Mind Reading: Without their saying so, you know what people are feeling and why they act the way they do. In particular, you are able to divine how people are feeling toward you.


Catastrophizing:  You expect disaster.  You notice or hear a problem and start, “what if’s: what if tragedy strikes? What if it happens to you?”


Personalization: Thinking that everything people do or say is some kind of reaction to you.  You also compare yourself to others, trying to determine who’s smarter, better looking, etc.


Control Fallacies:  If you feel externally controlled, you see yourself as helpless, a victim of fate.  The fallacy of internal control has you responsible for the pain and happiness of everyone around you.


Fallacy of fairness:  You feel resentful because you think you know what’s fair, but other people won’t agree with you.

Blaming: You hold other people responsible for your pain, or take the other tack and blame yourself for every problem or reversal.


Should:  You have a list of ironclad rules about how you and other people should act.  People who break the rules anger you and you feel guilty if you violate the rules.


Emotional reasoning:  You believe what you feel must be true automatically, If you feel stupid and boring then you must be stupid and boring.


Fallacy of Change: You expect that other people will change to suit you if you just pressure or cajole them enough.  You need to change people because your hopes for happiness seem to depend entirely upon them.


Global labeling:   You generalize one or two qualities into a negative global judgement.


Being right:  You are continually on trial to prove that your opinions and actions are correct.  Being wrong is unthinkable and you will go to any length to demonstrate your rightness.


Heaven’s reward Fallacy:  You expect all your sacrifice and self-denial to pay off, as if there were someone keeping score.  You feel bitter when the reward doesn’t come.


There are a few of these that I recognize a little to comfortably and I’m guessing that this didn’t quite make it into the Myers-Briggs.  Who are you?


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Lady Lego Pirates or Why My Mom is AWESOME

Pirate Legos

My sister and I opened our Lego gifts and were delighted!  What kid wouldn’t be excited to get a huge box of Lego pirates!  After we’d opened the boxes, Mom told us she was not happy that all of the pirates were men and that she’d written Lego a letter and received a response back.  “They actually do have lady pirates, they just hadn’t started making them yet.”  She showed us a letter she had received on Lego corporate stationary.  “They are sending us some lady pirates, but they won’t be here for a few days.  You two are getting some of the first lady pirates.”

Photo by Mom

We did, indeed, receive the lady lego pirates and enjoyed the pirate lego set.  In fact, we entered a Lego contest at the Kmart down the road and my sister won!!


This would certainly make a happy end to the story, but life is not a fairy tale and moments like these feed into what happens to us later in life.  At the time, I did not know that I would eventually be getting a BS in Computer Science or that I would spend a lot of time questioning why I was one of 5 women in the BS program at my school.


After listening to presentations and reading research papers passed around the Vancouver Grace Hopper conference, the conclusion I reached is that, at least in the U.S., girls are trained and messaged away from math and science at a very young age. The message is that we don’t want to play with erector sets or to take apart our computers.  According to the marketing, the only thing we’re supposed to want is an E-Z bake oven and a birthday party at the American girl store.  Don’t mistake what I say as a 100% rejection of those things.  I think it’s fine to learn how to bake or play with dolls. I do, however, reject the way it’s shoved down our throats as “what girls like to do.”


When I hear people say girls don’t stick around in math and science because they are not interested, I’d like to point them to the commercials that play on Saturday morning cartoons or to the faces they see on the boxes in the toy aisles.  If you have kids, take a minute to look around the next time you are buying toys. You might find it eye-opening.  Although I haven’t seen it, I hear the documentary “Miss Representation” deals with this topic.


I was prompted to write this post after reading Legos, Spaceships and Breasts by Kate Bachus.  Kate appears to be a mom who shares some of the frustrations my own mother experienced years ago and so I decided it was time to share my family’s story.  These types of choices and voiced frustrations reverberate long after the legos are put away.


I do think that there has been some progress although I feel extremely conflicted about some of the progress. While I understand on some level it’s good that lego is trying the “girl” lego thing (kind of like Barbie made a “Computer Engineer” Barbie), I also think it’s great that there are moms out there wanting to know why the girl legos aren’t better, and encouraging their kids not to care about whether their legos come from the pink aisle or the blue one.  My mom gave me the same encouragement and this is part of the reason why MY MOM IS AWESOME.


(With the Barbie…does anybody seriously wear pink cat eye glasses or carry a pink laptop?  I better change my vim color scheme to Flamingo or the Barbie police will arrest me.)



Sketch it Out with Thelma and Louise

A Sketchnote of Thelma and Louise


Vacation is always such a great unraveling of the mind.  Usually, it takes me a few days, but I inevitably come to a place where I’ve sloughed off enough dead weight in terms of daily bullshit to really get down to it — that mossy dark place of, “so tell me how you really feel.”


When I get to this place, it reveals itself through some type of artistic expression.  I tend to go in phases with painting, drawing, writing or playing guitar.  This time it’s drawing, or more precisely, sketch noting.


The designers at Atlassian are completely and utterly to blame for this.  I follow some of them on twitter and whenever they go to a conference, they post the sketch notes they make.  If you have a look, you might also find some inspiration in them.


When I’ve gone to conferences or listened to brown bag talks, lately, I’ve been sketching things out.  In school, I chalked up a lot of success to the fact that I would take notes the old-fashioned way — I wrote them out.  There was something to do with the physicality of writing things as I listened that helped me process information, make connections and remember it all later.  Sketching has a similar result which I learned about when I watched this brief you tube from Jeannel King called Visual Notetaking: Why What You Draw is Good Enough!


Flashback to this past Winter: every Monday, I would sneak out of the office and drive up to San Francisco where I would take a fiction writing class.  We discussed a lot of fiction, but none of it was the stuff I read in high school.  In one class, we watched scenes from Pulp Fiction.  In another class, we talked about how the opening chapter of a book or the opening scene of a movie sets the stage and, if done well, is a microcosm of the plot.


One such movie that accomplishes this is a favorite of mine, Thelma and Louise.  In the opening scene, you see Louise waiting on tables. She gets the eat-shit-and-die look after she tells a table of young girls that they shouldn’t smoke.  She then goes to the back and takes a smoke break.  Thelma’s husband, makes his entrance by screaming, “Goddammit Thelma! Don’t holler like that!”  If you can’t tell, this movie is all about the voicelessness of women.  It is also one of the ultimate road trip movies of all time (up there with The Endless Summer)  If you haven’t seen it, I highly suggest checking it out.


Since my writing classes have ended, I’ve been reading the books and watching the movies that we talked about.  For some of them, I’ve even done some of my own literary analysis.  In the case of Thelma and Louise, I got out my sketchbook, and did some drawing.  Note that for some of these, I paused the movie to capture some extra detail.  This is, after all, vacation!


I’ve always liked this movie, but after paying some attention and tracing what happens along with what is said and the song lyrics that come out, I like it even more.  Learning how to speak up for yourself can be messy, and this film takes us through that mess for these two women.  For some reason, I’m reminded of the Weekend Testing session I hosted on close reading.  I guess this counts as close watching, and is certainly more fun than reading through java stack traces.


Excuse me while I go find some Wild Turkey.



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On Mindfulness and California

Flag of California. This version is designed t...

Ah, to be living in the Republic of California.  It’s been described to me as “a state of consciousness.”  Between the hippies, the large number of practicing Bhuddists and the gorgeousness of the weather and outdoors, I can see why there is an emphasis in California on chilling out.


In the past 3 years, I’ve graduated with a Masters degree in software, sold a house I renovated, moved to Australia and back, changed jobs a couple of times and found myself feeling utterly ragged.  You could say I’ve discovered that being an adult with a great career is, well, IT’S FREAKING COMPLICATED…and stressful…and confusing.

Here in California, I’ve found some peace.  I won’t say that my life and my job are always peaceful, but I’ve found a way to dance with it.  Last summer, I found an opportunity that I think only exists in California.  I took a class called, “Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction.”  At the base of it is using “mindfulness” to help reduce everyday stress in your life.   Much of it comes from Bhuddism, altough if you really get to the heart of it, I think most major world religions have some concept of mindfulness.  In the workbook, “Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction,”  mindfulness is defined as, “the practice of cultivating nonjudgmental awareness in day-to-day life.”

Here is a small taste of what I’ve learned through studying mindfulness:

  • Polarized thinking is a type of thought distortion where “things are black or white, good or bad.  You have to be perfect or you’re a failure. There is no middle ground.”
  • If you start a sentence with, “She is just so…” or “He really thinks that…” you are about to judge someone.
  • Emotions are complicated and have nuance.  Just look at all the different types of anger:  aggravation, agitation, annoyance, destructiveness, disgust, envy, frustration, irritation,  grouchiness, grumpiness or rage.

At the heart of practicing mindfulness is meditating as a way of practicing self-awareness.  Everyday, for at least 15 minutes, I listen to my body and what it is telling me.  Are there areas where I am feeling stress?  If I look at my thoughts passing by as if they were in a stream, what do I see?  I now know what my stress reactions are and since I can see them and notice them, they pass away more quickly.  To study mindfulness is to study the acceptance of change and impermanence in life.  Accepting change and impermanence flows into practicing safety, forgiveness and loving-kindness.

It’s taken me a while to blog about my dedication to mindfulness, but the next chapter in my credo work is on human nature, and I can’t blog about humanity, software and building a credo without first introducing mindfulness.  The great part of it is that I am at another confluence of an interest in my personal life that is, cosmically, making it’s way into my work.  As my way of embracing California, I’ve been attending a Unitarian church.  It is purple inside and they don’t care if I wear flip-flops to their service.  To address my needs in their church, they are having a service next Sunday on Mindfulness.  I think I like California.

Sunday School Shoes

Until the next post, I’d like to leave you with something I wish for all of you whenever I meditate:
May you be safe
May you be healthy
May you have ease of body and mind
May you be at peace

May all beings, everywhere, be at peace

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The Party

English: coronal section of human brain. Amygd...
Image via Wikipedia


During my halcyon days of working in the basement at a large financial services company, I noticed a group that frequently had “parties” in one corner of our dark and server-cold basement workspace.  Unfortunately, these weren’t celebratory parties with beer, wings and bad karaoke. They were actually oh-my-god-our-site-is-getting-throttled-and-we’re-losing-shitloads-of-money-there-goes-our-bonus parties.  They always started with one guy getting tons of instant messages.  He’d start complaining, “there goes my lunch” or “that can’t be good.”  Then the messages would turn into phone calls.  A developer would start pounding on our locked door.  Once he was in, everyone who worked with him would quickly follow.  All of them gathered around one poor guy’s computer, followed by a chorus of “did you try…” or “are you sure…”


Since I worked on a completely different project, I stayed as far away from these gatherings as I could.  The people gathering seemed to form a stressful knot which would become tighter and tighter.  The air seemed to contract as the waves of stress would roll off of the group.  During the worst of these, I packed up my laptop and went home to work.


Watching Curtis Koenig (nice template, dude!) give a Mozilla brownbag talk last week on “The Neurobiology of Decision Making or Knowing Where One’s Towel Is” reminded me of these parties.  While I’ve read about the science behind “fight, flight or freeze” before, it was in the context of a conversation between two people.  As a reminder, back in the day, we used the amygdala when we literally had to outrun our enemies or fight them to the death.  The amygdala kicks off a rush of blood and adrenaline to the muscles, starving our brains of oxygen and turning us into, as Curtis says, hairless apes.


Protip: When your brain is starved of oxygen, you will not make the best decisions ever.


For this reason, a phrase Curtis mentioned in his talk resonated with me:

“Don’t just do something, stand there.”


Aside from describing the fight-flight-freeze reaction, Curtis kept talking about “amydala-driven-meetings.”  These sound very similar to the basement parties I remember so well, although now that it’s a few years later, I realize that they can take other forms as well.  When I see fists pounding on a table, hear raised voices or the metaphors go all military and we’re marching against the enemy until “we can see the whites of their eyes”…I know that there is panic and that no good can now come out of the meeting.


These meetings happen to all of us, and it’s worth considering what we, as individuals, can control in these situations.  Here’s what I try to do:
1.  Recognize that there is panic in the air
2.  Refrain from contributing to the stress level.  Now is not the time to judge others, make assumptions or pass along 2nd hand information. (Well, it is never time for these, really)
3.  If it’s possible, diffuse some stress by introducing forgiveness if someone or another group is being blamed  It can help change the tone of people’s thoughts.
4.  Use the crucial conversation trick of saying out loud, “I want x and I don’t want y…is there a middle ground here?”
5.  Make every effort to avoid commitment as it will be a commitment made as the result of an oxygen-starved decision.
6.  Sadly, I’ve also seen meetings where it’s best to just not participate in the party at all and stay quiet.  If this happens, it’s an indication that there is some serious dysfunction happening in a group which is usually based in fear and insecurity.  In groups where individuals are empowered, this shouldn’t ever happen, but in the real world, even the best groups have their bad days and bad meetings.


It’s easy to blame people who participate in these amygdala driven meetings or to beat ourselves up if we find ourselves participating, but it’s worth remembering that most of us don’t have good stress coping skills modeled for us.  In fact, even if we work on this in our personal lives, most workplaces do little to encourage the management of stress in meetings.  In fact there are plenty of places where the panic is encouraged.  Even though I found a comic element to the “parties in the basement”, I also knew that our company routinely did layoffs at the end of the fourth quarter just to make their bottom line look better.  I’d love to see a study of how much revenue is lost from bad decisions made in oxygen-starved meetings, but I’m not, uh, holding my breath on that one.  Corporate America…for the loss.

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On Blogging

Magic sofa is magic.

Unless you write a blog, there’s no way to understand how random the different aspects of it can be.  Within the blogosphere, random takes the form of:
* Bloggers who inspire me and keep me blogging
* Who the comments come from, what they say and when they show up
* The different places I go while writing posts
* The posts that show up in front of the public and the posts that don’t
Recently Justin Wehr,  a blogger I’ve followed, like for years, posted on his blog writing habits.  I’ve also been talking to a few people who are interested in starting their own blogs. This post of mine copies the format of his post with my answers.  Justin: this post is for you. Blog on.


Why I got into it
The reason I started blogging was because I was going through a Masters of Software Engineering program and wanted to have something I could easily show others when I finished.

Why I stay(ed) in it

I found that it helped me think through my schoolwork and that I enjoy writing more than I ever understood.  I’ve always had a journal in one form or another.  In fact, several years worth of entries exist on the 286 pc clone running Norton commander that I think might still be in my mom’s basement.


My blog has been a metamorphosis for my personal and professional life.  It’s taken me around the world.  It’s introduced me to some very good friends I otherwise would never have met.  It’s kept me connected during some dark times and has continued to help me process the world around me.  I process my life through writing, some of which makes it onto this blog.


What *is* blogging for me?

Blogging is the most purely selfish habit I have.  Whenever I sit down to write a post, the priority is always on me and what I want to say.  There are no ads.  There is no genuflecting.  I have never written a post because someone asked me to or taken money for anything that has shown up on this blog.

Although my content was pretty narrowly focused in the beginning towards school projects, it’s turned into quite a mixed bag.  Anyone remember the Kangaroo post?  What about the Desert post?  Then there’s the dumpster post.  (We’ll just leave the “Twilight” post in the ether, shall we?)


How hard is it to keep chugging?
For most of my blogging life, I’ve never, ever had a problem coming up with posts.  There was only one period in time when I worried that my blog was withering and the fact that I wasn’t writing freely was a very strong smell of things going on in my life.


Do I read and/or revise old posts?
There is always a small mistake or two that I miss in a post.  There are very few posts where I haven’t hit publish then looked at the post and thought (oh shit…edit!  Edit now!)  Although, to be fair, the edits are always quite small.  I do, on occasion, read my old posts.  My thinking is circular and I enjoy looking at how my opinions change over time.


What keeps me from sucking? 

There are a few guidelines I have for myself.

  •  Be kind to myself.  Since the blog is by me, for me, I practice self-love.  There is no reason why I should ever not be nice and overly forgiving to myself on my blog.  This includes comments.  I’ve been lucky to only ever have a couple of comments that I just wouldn’t post.  (Protip: RTFM has no place here.)
  • Posts shouldn’t be a reaction to someone else’s negative energy or merely a regurgitation.  The blog is mine so it should be as 100% me as possible.  The posts I write shouldn’t be posts that anyone else would or could write.  This post is a notable exception, but I think that’s in the best possible way.
  • Be patient.  There are posts that sit in my backlog for months before I finish them.  Some of my best posts including the last post on continuous deployment might sit for a while.  Sometimes this is because I’m feeling cranky about something and it comes out in a bad way.  Sometimes it’s because of, well…life.  I’ve found that the good ideas for posts have a certain timelessness so it’s ok if I have to put it down for a few weeks or even months.
  • Capture the ideas as soon as possible.  I know to keep some paper in the bathroom for ideas I have in the shower.  I have evernote on my phone.  I’ve got religion about it.  If an idea comes, I write it down somewhere.

What do I think other people think of this blog?

Umm…I don’t freaking care.  I just don’t.


Where do the ideas come from?
I love Justin’s answer to this question, so I’m reprinting it here:
“All over the place.

All over the damn place.

Not uncommonly: Books, blogs, field observations, porch ruminations, pesky bedtime thoughts, car rides, and conversations.”


How do I decide what’s post-worthy?
The content has to be interesting for me and usually relates to a problem I’m thinking through or a challenge I’ve faced.  Sometimes I blog about trips that I take or conferences I’ll be attending.

Which posts are most salient to me?

Be Gaga-riffic, Be yourself
Testing in a Throwaway Culture
A Desert Tale of Rocks and Ruins
Picasso Ate My Metrics Paper: Visualizing Software Metrics with Treemaps
Tossing out the map
A twist in the plot
What is Quality, What is Art

What is Quality, What is Art – Part Deux
Continuous Deployment and Data Visualization
Owning my Celeb-u-tester
The Tester’s Paradox

My post about gender and diversity

Are you a testing Asshole

Let’s Destroy the World

Bi-Testual:  Coming out of the Software Closet


Where/when is the writing done?

Where:  Currently, on a $50 goodwill sleeper/sofa in a one bedroom apartment located in Mountain View, California.  There is usually a dog or a man also sitting on the sofa.
When: Usually either early on Saturday morning or late at night (note…it’s 10:54 on Thursday night and I have to be working at 6:00am)


How long does it take, typically?
It’s so dependent on the post.  Some are eked out over lengthy periods of time and some come in a great whoosh.


What’s my 5 year plan? What are my aspirations for this mofo?
Uh…who knows.