Get out of the way.

An important point: software is a conduit. Software has not, nor ever will, grant us the ability to do new things. It merely facilitates actions which we have been doing since the beginning of time.

iPod? Music was around before those shiny white boxes I think.

Skype? Yeah we used to enjoy an auld chat too.

MS Windows? Sadists existed long before Redmond’s infernal OS.

The majority of software in the world today does not Get Out Of The Way. Good software simply lets you “do”. It doesn’t even feel like your using it. Time spent looking for a button, trying to figure out what an icon means or squinting at tiny text is time taken away from actually doing the intended task. From now on, I’m going to think of customers as do-ers instead of users.

The most memorable software out there at the moment is made by the likes of Apple and 37signals. Their software is memorable because I don’t use, I do.

Paradoxically, it leaves an impression from the lack of impression it makes.

Organising my life and work tasks

I’ve been trying several different means to keep my life and work tasks organised.

I’ve tried using a daily text file to maintain a list of tasks that I need to do, such as “Check code into SVN, Pick up groceries”. This is a nice, lightweight solution but doesn’t travel so well. If my laptop isn’t to hand, I can’t check it. Plus, visually it sucks.

My second attempt was 37signals’ Ta-Da list. This is a bit more comprehensive – I can create and check off tasks, plus I can view it on my iPhone. However, it does require extra maintenance. I have a list called “Daily Tasks” and I have stuff in there that doesn’t get done but gets pushed back a week or two so I don’t feel alright about checking it off. Additionally, I have tasks that repeat every day so if I check them off as “Done”, I have to drag them “back to life” the following day.

I asked the question on Programmer’s Stack Exchange and got a few interesting alternatives, none of which scratched my itch (the question has been closed because of duplicity).

The whole process got me thinking: as a programmer in a startup, my life tasks and work tasks are rarely mutually exclusive. I could have to code until 10pm and, as a result, do my shopping at 4pm because I have a late meeting at 5:30pm. There doesn’t seem to be any intelligent personal organiser out there for startup programmers. Watch this space…

John Frusciante is proof that its alright to make mistakes

We’ve all made mistakes that we’re embarrassed by at work one time or another and sometimes they’re hard to take. It can make experienced developers feel like amateurs and unworthy of their position. I have days like this now and again – just last week I released some code into production that should have been more rigorously tested. When I’m having a day when it feels like nothing is going right, I watch a video or two of my favourite guitarist: John Frusciante.


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