Geekery

If All You Have is a Hammer

“If all you have is a hammer, all you will see is a nail.” This is a pretty well-known saying, and it’s also an introduction to the ideas of frame, worldview, and culture. (The saying is usually attributed to Abraham Maslow, so often it’s sometimes called Maslow’s Hammer. As far as we can make out, though, he never said it in quite that many words.) But wait, why even talk about this? I mean, what does this have to do …

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How I Work – Preaching And Practicing

A respondent asks, "Are you always able to practice what you preach? I don’t mean intentionally dropping but unintentionally as your mind is sloppy. I have great difficulties in applying 100% of my "knowledge" 100% of the time." Sometimes questions open up huge areas with lots of issues and subtexts and angles, and this is one. It’s too big to fit in one or two tweets. First, the direct answer: Oh, hell no. I am definitely not always able to …

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A Question Of Humbling Proportion

The road to hell is lined with convenient parking spaces. I said recently that we need fewer addresses and more routes. These slugs are attempts to get at what I think keeps going wrong for us — in the trade, possibly in entire culture. There are numerous systems for software development out there competing in mindspace. (Stock word for these is "methodology," but I resist. I’ll call them "methods", as to my reading, methodology is the study of methods.) Every …

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Change Pro-Tip: All The Knobs A Little, All The Knobs A Little

Change Pro-Tip: All the knobs a little, all the knobs a little, over and over again, is how I’ve make my most successful changes, in code and organizations alike. A while back, I mused first about "Always Small, Always Improve" and I later elaborated "Always Small, Always Better, Always Wrong". Lo these two decades ago, we characterized eXtreme Programming as turning all the knobs to 11. I’ve always loved that metaphor, and I still believe in it. But my strategy …

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Geekery Pro-Tip: Think Less, Sense More

Geekery Pro-Tip: I frequently remind myself: Think Less, Sense More. It’s advice I give to me all over the place, from the most technical parts of the sociotechnical fractal to the most social parts of it. It’s an odd thing to say, so we better dig in to it a little. I’ve recently come from a conference. This was a good one for me, full of old friends and new, smart crazy passionate people coming together to figure out what …

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TDD Pro-Tip: Design Until Nervous Optimism

TDD Pro-Tip: Before I write the first test in a new context, I usually design until I get to a state of "Nervous Optimism". A couple of days ago, I was party to some drinking geekery with my colleagues at a hookah bar restaurant dance club. It was the end of a long day, and we were unwinding and being pretty silly. My three partners in crime mobbed on "Evil Hangman", a fun little game. And I sat off to …

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Culture Starch: We Haven’t Grasped Complexity Yet

Sitting here, listenin’ to my playlist, thinking about temporality and how it relates to the kind of geekery I want to write and talk and teach and geek about. Over the last 10 years or so, the topics deriving from systems theory, from complexity theory, and so on, have wormed their way slowly into our mental frame. Just a little, just a little, but that’s how change works. And as I read the popular accounts, as well as the folk-theory …

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Plenty Of Guilt To Go Around

Who’s to blame? I notice how many folks seem to believe geeks are in charge of what software gets written in the world. When software is revealed to be immoral, I notice how reluctant they are to blame folks who are senior executives, boardmembers, or majority shareholders. The majority of working software developers who are adding code to projects are < 30yo. An actual current programmer is uncommon on the third floor and almost unheard of above that level. I …

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TDD Pro-Tip: Stay Aware Of Testing Data

TDD Pro-Tip: I stay very aware of my testing context’s data, and specifically of what data is opaque and what data is transparent. Those terms, transparent and opaque, need a little explanation. Sometimes the code I’m testing doesn’t vary based on the entirety of its input. A trivial example, the function that validates the date of an order DOES NOT CARE what any other field in that order is or does. It only cares about the date field. I would …

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Refactoring Pro-Tip: Scanning Isn’t Just Fast Reading

Refactoring Pro-Tip: When I’m scanning, I’m not just reading fast, I’m feature-detecting, something the unconscious part of me is very good at doing, especially when the code helps. Part of the made, the making, and the maker as a guiding theme for me is the idea of "leaning in" to the strengths of my maker body and "leaning out" from its weaknesses. A trivial case: one reason TDD works so well for me is that the microtests give me a …

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