BRUNCH #35

Good morning, and happy Sunday Monday! Today it's time for…

AMA, Part 1!

As I mentioned a couple weeks ago, I received far more responses to my suggestion to “ask me anything” than I had anticipated. So today is the first newsletter dedicated to AMA responses, but it probably won't be the last.

Just one quick thing before I get into the Q&A: I'm planning on offering consulting services again, both to raise some money and because I miss working directly with people. I could really use your help: If you've ever benefited from my work in some form, would you mind providing some quick feedback about it? I would really, really appreciate it!!

Nathan Walls asks:  If you were starting your career today, would you still pick programming? Which language would you pick? Why?

If I could start again now with my experiences somehow intact, I think I'd choose to pursue my earlier love of music, with programming as a way to pay the bills. As for language, that's easy: JavaScript. JavaScript opens doors than any other single language at the moment, and probably will for years to come.

Sebastian Sogamoso asks: How do deal with those periods of time when you lack motivation?

If all I need to do is write some code, putting on the right music often gets me into the groove. For more serious cases of demotivation… well, I've found I can force myself to labor if I know it's important for the well-being of the family. What I can't force is creativity. For that, pushing back against the lack of motivation is just counter-productive.

Sometimes, simply getting a sufficient amount of rest is enough. Or going for a hike, or something else that diverts my conscious mind for a while. Other times I need to dig a little deeper into the source of the malaise.

In those latter cases, I've found that it's really important to talk to a friend. It's easy to convince myself that all I need to do is have a deep conversation with myself. But experience has shown that talking things out with a friend is far, far more effective at working through the root of my lack of mojo.

From Timur Ramazanov: Could you just stop programming one day and live on without it?

Yes! I won't say that programming is merely a means to an end for me. I also enjoy it for its own sake. But I enjoy a lot of things.

Marek Kowalcze: What non-IT books have you read recently?

Well, I recently finished The Organized Mind, which is a nice grab-bag of practical cognitive science. My morning meditation book up until a few days ago was Taming the Tiger Within, by Thich Nhat Hanh. On the fiction side, I read a lot of sci-fi and fantasy. I just finished All Systems Red, a fun little novel that asks the question: what if there was a self-aware “murderbot” who had removed its own safety protocols… and all it wanted was to be left alone to watch soap operas?

Alex Kern asks: How do you balance media consumption with production?

With great discipline. I have become extremely deliberate in how I consume media. I don't follow anyone except close friends and family on social networks anymore, in order to make sure I'm not biasing my time toward whatever media everyone else is talking about right now. I do not visit Hacker News or Reddit. For blog posts and news articles, I subscribe to a carefully curated set of newsletters (not unlike this one!), which provide a first-level filter on what web media I read. From those, I usually only read one or two linked articles per newsletter, when I get around to opening them at all.

I use various blocking programs to remind me not to to indulge in any recreational media consumption at all until after the morning production hours are over. I also don't read email in the morning, to avoid getting sidetracked.

I think of media in terms of a hierarchy of quality/importance: Books > Magazines > Newsletters > Trusted News Sites > Blogs > Social Networks. I've steadily enacted more and more strategies to push myself “upwards” in this hierarchy. I suspect I haven't reached the pinnacle of media discipline yet; I'm still adding to my rules and protocols.

Thanks for joining me for BRUNCH. See you next week!

P.S. Curious about those consulting services I mentioned at the beginning? Check out my Rubber Duck Sessions!