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How I Work – Preaching And Practicing

This entry is part of 1 in the series How I Work

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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RAMPS – Ways to Affect Purpose

RAMPS: Affecting Purpose Raising a sense of purpose — service to a "greater" — in someone who’s sensitive to it, involves offering purposes and then connecting to them. I try not to frame these muses as mere critique. This one’s hard for me to pull off. Clumsy ham-handed misleading efforts at motivating people via purpose are the norm, not the exception, and I’ll give it to you straight up: one gets a little pissy about it after a while. 🙂 …

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RAMPS – Purpose is Service to a Greater

This entry is part of 15 in the series RAMPS

RAMPS: P is for Purpose, the sense one is serving a valued "greater". Those who rate this band of the motivational spectrum highly can be go-to workhorses, but only if we keep them connected to their valued greater. If rhythm is largely focused on the distribution of "feels good" through one’s working life, purpose works to carry us through the "feels bad" part of it, by transforming the local discomfort into an instrument for the higher goal. Have you ever …

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RAMPS – Ways To Affect Mastery

This entry is part of 15 in the series RAMPS

RAMPS: Affecting mastery, the sense an individual has that she is growing in a way she values, means first jiggling our ideas about efficiency & relevance in work, then jumping in to the opportunities that jiggling will reveal. We talked about the widespread pernicious conceptual cluster we call "finish-line efficiency": the idea that software development is basically a race, w/a start, a well-marked track, and a precise finish line some distance away. Overturning this is central to engaging mastery. I’m …

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RAMPS – Mastery is Opportunity to Grow

This entry is part of 15 in the series RAMPS

RAMPS: M is for Mastery, the sense that my work is actively helping me grow, along some dimension I value. When my motivational spectrum calls for a high degree of mastery, I do my best work when it is just a little over my head. People sometimes confuse the drive for mastery with a drive to know everything. But it’s not the knowing, per se. It’s not catching the skill, it’s chasing the skill. My own spectrum rates mastery the …

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RAMPS – Ways to Affect Autonomy

This entry is part 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 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 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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