S02E21: Long lived feature branch

My working life is in the open. What if that were true for everyone?

Getting feedback on one’s work is wonderful. Getting it in public, where anyone can see it (and chime in, if they feel so inclined), is a weird experience where my first instinct has been to hide. I’m still working out how to deal with it. It’s probably not practical, but a mischievous part of me wonders what the impact would be if policy colleagues published their work with critiques still visible…

Three things that happened this week

1Project Corporate Objective rattles onwards, delayed slightly by the rotating door of summer leave. I’ve put some estimates and ideas together, but this week my struggle has been around nemawashi. It’s a japanese word that means the informal, gentle, awareness-raising process that I’m trying to go through so that when it comes to the moment of truth, the foundations have been put in place. It is a better word than ‘socialising’, which is what we tend to use. This is all background: I’d like your help⁰ working out how high I should go when I do my nemawashi. As high as possible, risking ruffling feathers of those lower down? Or lower down first, and risk losing momentum? Or should it be lower, and then higher, and is that really what nemawashi means?

I’m also struggling massively with the unspoken stuff that people do a lot of. Speak your minds folks. It helps. (You’re not the worst)

2I’ve almost finished my first big feature. Soon — hopefully very soon — some magic words that I’ve written will make things happen for people in my office. It has been a really significant learning experience, and not solely due to the fact that it’s a new language to me. Working out how other developers like to work, and the interface and hand off between me and my frontend colleagues, is something quite novel. I’ve gotten into bad habits developing by myself. Working with other people is the only way to reduce those. Who did you pair with this week? Nobody? Go and do it now. You’ll make everything/anything you’re writing better.

3I am noticing more and more that I don’t deal well with noisy places. A friend and I planned to try out a mini-golf¹ course close to the office, because they’re a good person and I’m still in a bit of a heartbroken funk. Walking into the basement space the noise hit me like a faceful of bricks. I couldn’t focus on anything at all. It was a sudden and genuinely visceral reaction. Then, yesterday, I saw a few old friends² after the annual DaTCon and noticed it again. It could be tiredness; it could be emotional fatigue. But I’m concerned about this, because the world that I live in is noisy without cessation.

On the other hand, it would give me an excuse to join the Diogenes Club, a pursuit blocked only by its non-existence.

The sun has come out here, and I’m in shorts, so I’m going to leg it away home before it starts up again. This weekend I’m seeing my ex as we take our cat to the vet, and I’m nervous: we’re still tiptoeing around each other in a way that is objectively normal and subjectively ties your intestines in knots. Wish me luck.

And if you didn’t like this tweet the first time here’s your second opportunity³

⁰ Yes, you. Don’t look so surprised

¹ Dear vendors, crazy is a word that gets thrown at people with mental health issues and I find your use of it to describe putting greens with windmills on them slightly shitty

² And so, so many fresh and unknown faces

³ You Philistine

S02E19: Self development

Moving on up

This has been a week. I even took a whole day off, and yet things kept happening. Here are some things that happened

1I booked an appointment with my GP to talk about my mental health. It’s taken me more weeks than it should have and a friend asking me repeatedly if I’d done it. I think it’s because I’m quite scared about the response. There are a number of possibilities floating about; not least that I’m still in the heartbreak hotel and it’s just how I’m going to feel for a little while. Other possible futures are out there, but at this point I’d rather know what shape they’ll be. Right now I’m blundering into them blind and it’s not sustainable. I’m also talking about it because holy shit guys, do we need to be better at talking to each other about this.

2I went to Voice & Vote at the invitation of all-round good person Sam Villis. It’s small, and it looks smaller inside the enormous hall, but it’s still very very good. Reflecting on how we’ve got to where we are, and how many steps it took, and the familiar battle of pragmatists against idealists was fascinating. Do go and see it. Get yourself a suffragette rubber duck.⁰

Suffragette duck

3I was invited to an interview with an organisation in Manchester. I’m still not sure how I feel about this. I’m frustrated by London, by its endless expense, by the noise and the pollution and the Central line. Manchester is a long way away, to be sure, but it’s cheaper, smaller, friendlier. I might be projecting. I might be trying to run away from things (see 1). I’m still going to take the interview and see how it goes. If nothing else, I like to have a sense of how much I’m worth.

4 I also applied to the Future Leaders Scheme, a development scheme internal to the Civil Service for people looking to move into the senior civil service.¹ The ever-inspiring James Arthur Cattell has published his answers, so here are mine if you’re wondering what it looks like when I big myself up. I’m not sure it’ll amount to anything — better people than me have been rejected — but if you venture nothing you gain nothing.

British SAS logo: who dares wins

5 I started writing a book. There is a book called ‘The Phoenix Project’, and is probably one of the worst books ever written. The storyline is appalling. The characters are wooden. The prose is thicker than porridge and simpler than a two-by-two sudoku. Despite this, it’s an absolute best-seller and is praised by many for the accessible way it introduces key concepts like flow, work-in-progress limits, and kanban boards.

(A note on Kanban boards: kanban is a Japanese word that means signboard or billboard, which makes kanban board a tautology. People who follow me on twitter make the argument that although it’s a tautology, it’s okay, because it’s in a different language.)

In an attempt to get the ideas of Wardley mapping across to a wider audience, I’m writing something similar. The current working title is “The Magellan Project”, because I’m literally incapable of creative thought. Please encourage me to keep writing, because already I hate every character I’ve written.


Just one this week. What if we worked a four day week?

⁰ Oooh, get me one too

¹ You may also have spotted that another reason I’m applying for things is because my sense of self-worth is tied up (in a deeply unhealthy way) with how much people value me, and points 2 and 3 are intimately tied up with being able to appraise that in a concrete way.

S02E16: The week after the week before

Slowly getting there

Mental health update

Andy Samberg giving a big thumbs down

I am going through some stuff, so I’m going to mention mental health for the remainder of this season. It’s not sufficient, and I’m casting around for a therapist, but I want to get some of this stuff in front of me. Skip it if it makes you feel uncomfortable.

This week it’s been odd, seemingly trivial things that have triggered a drop in my mental health. At other times I feel like I’m doing better, until I catch myself feeling okay and worry that it means I’m a bad person.

I am trying to remind myself that bad people don’t generally worry if they’re bad people, because they think they’re good people. So I’m hoping that by virtue of the fact that I’m worrying that I’m a bad person, something bad people don’t do, I’m actually a good person. More or less.

Helena Bonham-Carter looking very confused

Eating has been better: I’m doing three meals a day again. I’m eating out more than I should, but it’ll be okay in the short term. And it’s for a good reason, good people have been rallying around me and encouraging me to do stuff and talk to them. Thank you good people. You are people and you are good, and you know who you are.

The week in brief

Monday was mucking around⁰ in a language called bash, with an aim to automating some of the tools we use.

Image result for automate all the things

I’m getting more comfortable in the team, and where I fit in. A good day.

On Tuesday I was working from home and did some remote pairing. Pairing is a process where two people work on the same thing at the same time. I was worried that it would be harder to pair without people able to see my pair’s face, but it actually worked out really well. My pair was really patient and helpful and I think I’ve now got a handle on how to solve a particular class of problem I’m working on.² I took the afternoon off to help a friend out.

London is the black hole into which all regional hopes and dreams tumble. The upshot of that is that on Wednesday I was asked by an old friend from uni — who now works for the same organisation as me! — to do a little video interview type thing. I hope I did well; everyone involved seemed happy. It was a nice little five minute session of being outgoing, which I do less of now that I mostly wrestle with computers. I don’t know if it’ll ever be published. If it is, I’ll put it in here somewhere.

On Thursday the community of technologists at GDS got together to look at the stuff we’re doing and where it sits on a spectrum of “we need to start doing this” and “we need to stop doing this”. It’s a “Liberating Structure” exercise, and looking at the page it looks corny as heck. That’s not to say it wasn’t valuable and effective, and I think the way it was adapted to the group helped. It gave us some good actions and reflections, and it’s certainly structured my thinking on where I want to start agitating for change³.

John Oliver waving a Pride flag. This symbolises my desire to agitate for change.

This sounds too aggressive, but it’s a fact that we always need to be changing. Deciding where to focus that is a necessary strategic decision because we can’t change everything.

I also saw fellow #weeknote-r Dan on Thursday. Dan is open in a way that aggressively breaks down typical masculinity, and I have a lot of love for him for that.³ It was helpful for me to listen to things he’s thinking/feeling/doing in a work context. We shared problems. I feel like I learned things.

Chris and Ben, characters from Parks and Rec, hugging

I also saw the ~secret~ underground passage from 1 Parliament Street to Westminster Palace, which was exceedingly cool. Thanks Dan.

Friday at last, and I had a brief objective setting meeting with my manager to talk about how we do things in my new organisation. I’ve got rough outlines and I’m immensely excited about all of them. I like objectives, or at least some structure around what I’m aiming for. It helps me keep my head up and prioritise my work.

In the evening I had an incredibly good dinner at Rosa’s Thai Café. Go, I entreat you. It’s absolutely delicious. In particular, try the ice tea: I’ve never had it before and it was a taste sensation. I was dining with a friend after doing interview prep; as before, my job was to ask tricky questions and imbue her with confidence. I hope it worked. She’d be excellent.

⁰ “Mucking around” diminishes and minimises what I do, and if I heard any of my peers or mentees talking like that I’d tell them off. I should do better at living my own advice.¹

¹ This was an extremely stream-of-consciousness sidebar. It’s meta, but I’m going to leave the original wording and this commend in for people to point to and remind me. And for me to point to and remind me.

² As an example of the mental health section above, I wrote “partner” instead of “pair” first. When I did that, it triggered lots of really unhappy connotations. So I changed it, and then I went for a walk.

³ I was nervous about using the word love, but fuck it. Loving your friends is a thing, a positive thing, and it’s a thing I feel we men should be more comfortable saying.