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Rant

You Computer Geeks Are All The Same

‘You computer geeks are all the same’ my  girlfriend said. ‘You get really excited about things at the start, and then loose interest really quickly.’

I’d told her that you, Dear Alvin my coding coaching student, hadn’t completed your personal homepage website, and were now talking about another new thing, data science or something.

‘Mm, hmm’ my girlfriend said ‘sounds like someone else I know’ and she gave me a wry smile. She said it was the same with my Scandinavian Viking friend Jämi too. ‘You’re all the same.’

TLDR; Too long didn’t read? For instant coaching on finishing a tech project you can choose your own version:

Rant version

I guess learning new tech is fun. Finishing stuff isn’t. Learning something new gives you a dopamine hit, a feel good drug hit right to the brain.

I recently learned a new word – grit. It means the perseverance, hard work and determination to get stuff done. Sounds a bit bullshity to me coming from corporate mouths. I prefer tenacious. ‘Cos it sounds a bit naughty like comedian Jack Black’s rock band Tenacious D.

Another term for it is ‘executive function’. I learned from the Viking.

Lack of ‘executive function’ is why people with ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) don’t make great finishers, but to do make great paramedics. All high on dopamine while the rest of us freak-out or faint. Them with laser focus attention on the moment at hand wrapping a bandage skilfully, or pumping a heart, without any of those pesky worries about the things the rest of us call the ‘future’ or ‘consequences’.

Interestingly, I recently learned that dopamine also is released when anticipating something good.

Perhaps you could, we could, get high on anticipating finishing the website/app/robot/tech whatever… just enough to actually finish it and get the reward, plaudits, and sense of achievement we so very often deserve but too often procrastinate ourselves out of.

On the other hand most new tech is shit.

Mostly some hyped-up, buggy, rediscovery of an old failed paradigm someone once discredited in a book accumulating dust in the head of the coder who never wrote it.

Most tech projects go over budget and fail, most tech start ups go bust, almost every government tech project ends up in the headlines as a crappy waste of money. 

(With the noticeable exception of the recent Universal Credit website which during the pandemic dealt rather well with an extra 1 million unemployment claims [thanks scalable tech] unlike the USA COBOL cowboy systems.

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(OK, the UK Universal Credit system did make the headlines when first released. But the problems, as always, weren’t with the tech, but the decisions in the heads of the people behind it.)

Perhaps knowing when to lose interest in a project is our, the geeks’, evolutionary advantage.

So we don’t waste our precious life force on the latest misguided slow train wreck project trying to put magazine printing press 14 inch typesetting on 4 inch phones that can’t be read by the blind or fed-up commuter.

That, combined with when we believe in a project, an unemotional, almost autistic, determination to coldly, systematically, relentlessly continue like a Terminator, fixing, debugging, backtracking, and trying different approaches…

(and pulling our hair out, punching pillows, and debunking hyped lies that the latest whizz tech coding library ‘just works’, ‘in five minutes’, ‘in five lines of code’ from some other pasty bearded bedroom geek who needs to get out more and try software in the real world)

…until that idea, that was once in your head, is now in reality, a thing on the Internet or on someone’s phone.

A thing you can touch, and click, and makes life better for you and those around you, and in some small way improves our lot for the sorry human race.

And I suppose, like in the Alcoholics Anonymous saying, the serenity secret that separates the guy who’s still building a clockwork abacus in his shed, and Bill Gates building a vaccine factory robot, is knowing the difference between which tech project to drop, and which to finish.

Good cop version

Hi Alvin [or insert your name here],

Been thinking of you.

How are you? Haven’t heard from you in a while? Hope you aren’t being ravaged by covid-19?

I just wrote this email below and it got quite long. I realised the advice is more for me, as much as it is for you, to beat myself up into completing projects.

So let’s try again, with compassion, how are you? What’s going on in your life? What’s your latest weird and wild scheme?

Louie

Bad cop version


Hi Alvin [or insert your name here],

Been thinking of you.

How’s www.alvinsurname.com getting on?
[Not his real name, insert your own first and last name before .com or insert whatever project you’ve been meaning to finish]

It’s been [certain period of time] since I last messaged you, and [anther longer period of time – too long] since I first set the challenge.

If it’s still half finished, you may wish to reflect on what’s getting in your way of finishing it?

Are you motivated to finish it? If not, why? Maybe you enjoy the excitement of starting something, but get bored with the minutiae and slog of debugging, and responsive styling, and testing at the end? (I know I do.) How could you make this part fun for yourself too?

Are you committed to finish it? Do you really want to be a professional web developer? Or would you rather be a hobbyist? (Which is fine and noble, but be honest with yourself.) If you were a professional web developer what routines and habits would you put in place to ensure projects get completed and are successful? (For example setting out a certain time and place for coding each day/week which you put in your diary and stick to religiously.)

If you are still interested in becoming a professional web developer, and would still like coaching from me, then send me a deadline for completing www.alvinsurname.com. And properly completing it, as in it’s live on the Internet, with content, and you’re proud of it, so proud you’d show it off to future employers.

Best,

Louie

P.S. Check out this advice from Neil Strauss a famous author, former rock and roll sex addict journalist turned therapy advocate. I recommend signing up for his email newsletter. He’s recently been writing about how to write a book but the advice equally applies to any creative project.


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