QWAN

Stringing words together.

Work has, once again for me, become more personal. I’m getting back into writing. This is a quick, rambling, update, so you can at least get some idea of what we are up to at the moment.

The title of this post is inspired by a colleague who wrote on Twitter he had difficulty stringing sentences together, and was giving himself permission to take it back a few notches.

Marc and Rob are working with an existing client, turning everything they did on-site into distributed activities (e.g. running a course program, workshops, mentoring). This seems to be working out well.

QWAN was already distributed, and now work even more asynchronously.

I’m working half-time, my partner works the other half. I schedule my time around her meetings, and she tries to keep the mornings available, because that is when I tend to get most things done. After my previous large project ended, I decided to spend more time with our three year old, before he goes to school in September. I’m now spending even more time with him, and I am not complaining. He misses nursery, like his big sister misses school, but he also enjoys spending time with us. They are great, occasionaly challenging and fun company to have.

Before we went into self-isolation a month ago, I thought about what I wanted, and what I could do. I’m still thinking about that, while doing what I came up with. I chose to pause product development, and continue a few things that are not urgent. Choosing things that are not urgent makes it easier to be fully present for the kids. I’ve been chipping away at making the QWAN site more accessible, and seeing if I can finish the property-based testing workbook. We also made space to volunteer locally, through a charity.

These are all moves that will give us no regrets, and carry verry little risk. As Jamie Dobson and Pini Reznik write in a Pattern language for Strategy:

Take first-stage, risk-reduction actions that are quick, low-cost, and benefit the company no matter what. In other words, make moves that will give you no regrets. Some improvements to operational effectiveness—including training and coaching, and, in a project context, running small experiments and technical exercises—would benefit any business in just about any circumstance. These small but beneficial and practically no-risk moves are especially valuable during the first, highly uncertain moments of new initiatives.

Both writing and working on the QWAN site can be done in small steps, which is handy given the blocks available are small, and interruptible. My product development work seems to need larger chunks of time, despite my best efforts to make it not so. That makes it is a less good fit at the moment. Work is optional, because I’ve made it so that, even though it is a web service, it keeps humming along without work on my part.

It helped that I started clearing the decks late 2019, so this is ‘simply’ more of the same. Perversely, I wanted to travel less, but did miss seeing my colleagues. I’ve attended two of Johannes Link’s Property-Driven Development sessions, and ‘saw’ a few people I haven’t seen in years.

I’ve been on twitter a lot more than usual. It helps to make sense of what is going on, and seeing other parents write about how they do things helps. I’ve taken a break over the extended easter weekend. It was hard at first, but it helped being more present with my family, as well as focus on something.

I’ve dived into ‘The Practice of Programming’, by Kernighan & Pike. Jez Higgins (link) recommended this to me. It is from the same year as Becks’ Extreme Programming explained. Tonight we’re gonna program like it’s 1999! The book covers some similar territory, how to produce clear code, and at the same time is very different. Reading from paper and doing the exercises is nice. This is my knitting.

The accessibility work on the QWAN site appears to be progressing nicely. Appears, because I still need to user test it, which usually turns up more challenges. Humans are complicated, rules and guidelines (Firefox accessibility inspector does help) only get you so far. Johannes Link’s workshops and, surprisingly, The practice of Programming are giving me some inspiration to improve the exercises in the property based testing workbook.

I’m also thinking about what kind of client work would be most useful, and how I can and would like to fit it into this new reality.

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