RAMPS – Ways to Affect Autonomy

This entry is part [part not set] of 15 in the series RAMPS

Autonomy is the sense of free motion in a team. I adjust the levels of this by expressing important needs as problems, letting go of unimportant needs, and managing risk by a combination of acceptance, next-stepping, and iteration. The more we need creative technical work, the more we have to concern ourselves with providing the humans who do it the adequate autonomy to do it well. Machines can’t give us what we need, and the extent we build machine-like things …

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How I Work – Just Programming Mix

When I’m programming, I am centered broadly on the cyclical application of small textual changes, each one producing value I then harvest to identify, enable, or energize the next. Before we dig in: This is how I roll code. It is not a prescription of any kind for you. I have a prescription for you, and I can offer it, but it has almost nothing to do with what you’ll read here. These are details. The prescriptions are at a …

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RAMPS – Autonomy is Freedom to Move

This entry is part 5 of 15 in the series RAMPS

Autonomy is a powerful factor in motivation, and the more creative & technical the work, the more likely autonomy is to figure largely in the maker’s motivational spectrum. Here are three different ways I work when I am geeking out. Each of these is about equal in probability to be the one I use for any particular problem. I will write a long essay in slack, driving my colleagues to comical exasperation at times, rubberducking in prose until I get …

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TDD Pro-Tip: Suspect Sentinel Returns

TDD Pro-Tip: I suspect sentinel returns, and though I still use them, it’s generally because I haven’t found the right formulation yet. I’m working on the TSD project today, and I’ve got a nasty little chunk of code I wish weren’t nasty. (It’s in this file, and of course, you’re welcome to grab the whole repo, which will enable you to really make fun of me.) You don’t have to look at the code, I’m not going into it, but …

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RAMPS – Ways to Affect Rhythm

This entry is part [part not set] of 15 in the series RAMPS

Achieving good Rhythm, a well-tuned distribution of "feels good" across time, is at once the most visceral of sensations and the most difficult to reliably prescribe. Affecting rhythm, therefore, is a fundamentally experimental effort. There are three broad levels to think about, and each has its own possibilities and limits. There is the individual maker, a team of makers, and an organization that hosts, funds, plans, and manages that (or those) teams. At the outer circumference, the org has the …

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Change Pro-Tip: Reset

Change Pro-Tip: I sometimes will take an individual or group relationship of mine and ask for an explicit "reset". It’s not a frequent solution, but when the circumstances are right, the rewards for doing it can be huge. Early last year, I was in a wrangle with a person I’ve known for a few years. It wasn’t a crisis, exactly, but it wasn’t a happy or even neutral relationship. He called me, and as we spoke it became ever more …

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RAMPS – A Way I Approach Motivational Puzzles

This entry is part [part not set] of 15 in the series RAMPS

Motivational Puzzles Rhythm, Autonomy, Mastery, Purpose, and Safety are important bands in my own motivational spectrum, so I often use them when I’m thinking about other people’s motivational spectroscopy. I’ll give you snapshots of the meaning behind those bands in a minute, but I want to start with that base metaphor, of spectrums, spectroscopy, and signature. When you bombard an element with electromagnetic radiation — for the sake of shorthand, when you make it glow — it gives off visible …

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How Stories Change Things

This entry is part [part not set] of 4 in the series Stories

What is this thing about telling & re-telling the story until it’s the story we want? There’s back-muses, check my timeline, but I’ll offer the relevant text: "I believe we have to re-tell the story. We have to tell the story again, and again, changing it each time, until it becomes the story of bringing a large and diverse group of people together in a common culture of kind and creative community." To make that case, it seems to me …

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What I’m Up To

This entry is part [part not set] of 4 in the series Stories

Yesterday, I spoke about thin culture, insecurity, and a possible way forward: telling and re-telling the story of us. I don’t know what will thicken the software making trade’s culture. But I know (part of) what I’m trying to do: tell the story of us, re-tell it, and re-tell it again, as many times as it takes, until that story is the story of a community of kindness and creativity. I’m trying to make a sociotechnical approach to the trade …

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Thin Culture and Stories

This entry is part [part not set] of 4 in the series Stories

I believe the thinness of geek culture is a major player in many of the ills of the trade. It is sociotechnical in impact, simultaneously affecting areas as seemingly distant & distinct as the "social" gender diversity and the "technical" iterative design. Last night, I enjoyed Virginia doing a hilarious profane rant about an incoherent technical manual she’d used that day. We’re not talking about jargon or domain ignorance, but of flat-out incoherence: bad sentences, contradictory advice, poor case discrimination, …

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