It Lives, Igor!

It’s been a while since my last entry, but there have been reasons.

The job of writing a technical article lands on my to-do list every so often. Between occurrences, I manage to forget about the need to do these so that each time a new one pops up it comes as the same surprise: a mix of anticipation at the chance to do some writing and worry about where the time to do it will come from. Anyway, in order to bolster my usual mix of weak reasoning and doubtful conclusions with some half-baked evidence, I turned to Google. In the recesses of my memory I seemed to recall that someone had once combined a PC and a Sega Megadrive[1] in one unit; a spectacular example of the misplaced faith that will lead to a convergence disaster. Googling for combined pc megadrive found me what I wanted… and also, ninth entry on the first page was a blog posting by some lamebrained pontificator who seemed to think that using eight words where one would do was somehow admirable or witty. Of course, it was me.

When I’d raided my own half-forgotten rambings for some vaguely relevant and nearly true “facts” for the article, I noticed that the last entry was back in November 2005 and decided that, come coffee-break, it was time to blog again[2].

The reasons for the break are several:

  • Back at the end of last year, I had to change jobs, quite suddenly and not out of choice, having been made redundant. It wasn’t a pleasant parting of ways, and it turned legal (you should read that phrase as roughly equivalent to and then it turned gangrenous). During times like that blogging is neither fun nor advisable: you don’t want to say anything that might get quoted out of context against you. All the legal stuff carried on until a couple of months ago.
  • My new job (like many) started off fairly undefined and has only recently evolved to the point where I could say for sure what it is I’m responsible for and where we’re going. During times like that, blogging is tricky, since finding your feet in a new organisation is difficult enough without potentially revealing all your incorrect assumptions to everyone you work with 🙂
  • I just flat out haven’t had the time or mental bandwidth to come up with anything worth writing about.

Well, anyone who reads more than a couple of entries here will know that the last point shouldn’t really have been any barrier: there’s not an entry in here that’s ever been worth the time. However, as ever, I shall quixotically endeavour to say something worth saying, knowing that my continual failure will annoy others far more than it inconveniences me. Hooray for the Internet 🙂

So now I’m working for the company who built a good part of The Mobile Phone Project; an excellent bunch of engineers. And despite entries like this I’ve been involved in something that’s remarkably heavy on C++. Which has confirmed some predjudices. Other predjudices about C++ have remained unscathed at the very least.

A large part of what I’m doing is concerned with the way in which a services organization develops products. It’s fascinating and rewarding to start reusing the same insights gained and lessons learned (the hard way) about the vast gap that lies between the unsullied, tender idea, newly conceived, dew-fresh and trembling with antici….pation[3] and the eventual product: buttressed with user guides, FAQs, installation (and deinstallation) scripts and ready to face the cruel, unforgiving world of actual users. Which leads me, finally and via a deliberately circuitous route, to what might actually be a useful link for this entry: Finance For Geeks, where Eric Sink summarises a number of basic business principles in a way that makes sense to yer average techie. I think he does a cracking job (in that and other articles) of wrapping up stuff that I learned the hard way in the dim and distant days when it began to dawn on me that the world did not operate by the same sort of rules as computer systems. But that’s another posting…

[1] That’d be a Sega Genesis, for Americans. To save you the tedium of looking, it was Amstrad, a British company who have often displayed a flair for producing items that are so high-tech they’re ahead of the market and yet so cheaply made that they’re beneath the contempt of even the wildest early adopter.
[2] “Oh, baby, I’ll try to blog again but I know… the first post is the deepest”. Etc. Well, it was in my head, now it’s in yours.
[3] It’s a Rocky Horror reference. Either you’ll get it, or you won’t.

Plus Ca Change

The lack of updates (for which many will have found their RSS feeds to be the cleaner and more informative) is for a good reason; I’m just emerging from a period of transition from one job to another.  During such a time, Those Who Blog can find it appropriate to stop saying anything new in public lest it affect the impression that potential employers have of them.  Thus the silence.
Of course, it’s daft to start worrying about what your blog says when you move jobs; you should worry when you make any entry.  In fact, you should worry just before you click “Post” or the equivalent and consider: What will that entry say about me in five years’ time?  Google caching and the Wayback Machine, amongst others, mean that every youthful indiscretion that one blogs is, potentially, there forever (and that, as Prince said, is a mighty long time).
I don’t think there’s anything on here that’s counted against me, though one contact did ask me why there was so much about programming when I don’t really market myself as a programmer any more.  My response was to point out that one should never lose touch with the basic skills of your profession, whatever your level in it.  And that there’s no good reason I shouldn’t mess around with bits of Python and Java if I want to, even if I’m now moving on to do a job even more removed from the basic bit-shuffling that we laughingly term software engineering.  For better or worse, whether I’m presenting a proposal to a board or trying to define a mobile product strategy, I am at heart still someone who sees systems in terms of lines of code; I don’t think that’ll ever change and I wouldn’t want it to. Vive, if you will, la provenance