Free Flow Friday: First Fiasco

As of late, Richard Hamming has been an influential force in the way I think. This is largely due to his book The Art of Doing Science and Learning which has been sitting on my night stand for a while.

At work, I tend to be the type to get sucked in. I want to do well, I want to succeed. However, sometimes, especially when software needs to ship, you find yourself debugging, configuring, devops stuff… the less cool but completely necessary. The “developer side” not the “engineering” side. A week of that might find yourself feeling productive, but not walking away enlightened by some technical epiphany.

Thus, we come to a Hamming quote:

Along those lines at some urging from John Tukey and others, I finally adopted what I called “Great Thoughts Time.’’ When I went to lunch Friday noon, I would only discuss great thoughts after that. By great thoughts I mean ones like: “What will be the role of computers in all of AT&T?’’, “How will computers change science?’’ For example, I came up with the observation at that time that nine out of ten experiments were done in the lab and one in ten on the computer. I made a remark to the vice presidents one time, that it would be reversed, i.e. nine out of ten experiments would be done on the computer and one in ten in the lab. They knew I was a crazy mathematician and had no sense of reality. I knew they were wrong and they’ve been proved wrong while I have been proved right. They built laboratories when they didn’t need them. I saw that computers were transforming science because I spent a lot of time asking “What will be the impact of computers on science and how can I change it?’’ I asked myself, “How is it going to change Bell Labs?’’ I remarked one time, in the same address, that more than one-half of the people at Bell Labs will be interacting closely with computing machines before I leave. Well, you all have terminals now. I thought hard about where was my field going, where were the opportunities, and what were the important things to do. Let me go there so there is a chance I can do important things. - Richard Hamming

In a similar vein, a lot of tech companies talk about innovation time:

“We encourage our employees, in addition to their regular projects, to spend 20% of their time working on what they think will most benefit Google,” founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page wrote in their IPO letter.

Source: CNBC

While my role at DocuSign gave me health flexibility to do something similar, Spring Health actually does Calm Fridays, where we are supposed to be nearly meetingless. This seems like a perfect time to begin my own “Great Thoughts Time”.

So today, let’s go a bit meta for the first one.

Free Flow Friday

First, the name. Free Flow Friday, but with intention of course.

So, let’s lay down some principles. How free flowing right??

  1. be intentional. 10% investment into 10 different things for 10 days is a path to nowhere.
  2. find a minimal outcome.
  3. consistency is most important. Guard it.
  4. think long term.
  5. keep it fun.

Notably, Google (and others) have discontinued this due to it not being used properly, conflicting with the day-to-day productivity and synergy of progress towards company work/goals.

So What Could be a Focus?

As I am starting my new job (2 weeks in now!), of the few knowns, I can say with 100% certainty:

Furthermore, I have this nagging to continue to revisit a couple domains from the past:

So, I think I will focus on hacking within the Shipley’s Shenanigans organization on a project I have called Queso (Que eS estO), an external brain note taking processor that incorporates Ologs. This covers all bases. Furthermore it addresses each F.F.F. principle.

  1. intentionality defined up front
  2. minimal outcome is I learn more Ruby & Rails, making me a better developer at work
  3. n/a
  4. incremental progress is acheivable with a small PR or a brainstorm session to understand how to incoproate some concept from Ologs into the editor
  5. hacking on PL is almost always interesting