Weeknotes S07E04: Knowledge wants to be free

I’m writing a position paper for someone senior at the moment, and I’ve had a really good week with it. It feels like the best asynchronous working I’ve ever done – putting something out for folks to comment on and getting really considered, really thoughtful feedback. I’m not going to incorporate all of it – as I said last week, I do think that part of leading effectively is getting input and then making a decision, even if you know it’s not going to make everyone happy.

I got a blog published on Monday and the response has been really fantastically good – working in the open (on stuff that we can be open about) continues to be the absolute best way to improve uptake and sell the product. I have missed blogging officially, and this definitely feels good. I’ve also been working on an internal presentation for my boss and struggling to get his voice down – it’s a lot drier than mine, and a bit more serious. His style is also quite different to mine, and I’m really enjoying the challenge of trying to embody someone else. We shall see how it goes next week. All of it is reminding me that I enjoy, and am good at, writing. Also, this tweet from Kit –

– which I’ve been blushing about since Thursday but is a really nice reinforcement. I would like to ghostwrite, and if I can apply these talents to getting a book like this published, then I think that would be an almighty success. For myself (though I wonder if publicly volunteering to ghostwrite renders one more ghastly than ghostly) but also for everyone who needs it.

My mentee is going great guns. She’s brilliant, and I’m really enjoying the experience of being able to advise someone against the mistakes I’ve previously made. In this case, the question was whether to rewrite the entire codebase of a working, though badly-written, app. My answer was no: if it works, add tests so you can be sure it still works, and then start slicing it up. All models are wrong, but a good mental model of the code is easier to build if the code you’re modelling is smaller to start with. It’s why learning more about things is hard and simple caricatures are preferred (not preferable). A mental model of an elephant is easy; a mental model of a herd of elephants is easy; a mental model of 16 elephants and the interplay of the relationships, history, hierarchies and so on is a full-time job. Same with code. So we slice things up into classes, expose simple methods and attributes, and then we only deal with those things at the higher level of abstraction.

I’m still teaching math, and finding it as interesting as ever. Video calls are not my preferred method, and if this goes on much longer I’ll need to buy a whiteboard or a tablet and pen, but it’s still a really enjoyable way to spend an hour a week. I’ve got some knowledge, and knowledge wants to be free, and sharing that knowledge around seems to be the theme of this blog post and I’ve literally only just realised this as I wrote it, holy smokes.

Weeknoting is so damn good.

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