What creative projects have I been working on? It’s almost a labor to answer that one concisely, hence my lack of participation. My mind is of never ending creative ideas, some great and some not,...
What creative projects have I been working on? It’s almost a labor to answer that one concisely, hence my lack of participation.
My mind is of never ending creative ideas, some great and some not, most not.. but they don’t ever seem to stop. I also like to be creative, and as a result, have ended up with more “started” projects then I’m willing to count.
So my question to fellow traverses of the tilde-verse is, what are some methods you use to sustain productivity in individual projects when creativity itself inspires starting new projects?11 votes
Given the ambiguity of the term "lifehack", feel free to contribute anything that you feel fits the label. It can be a specific technique, a novel way of using an item, or even a mindset. It can...
Given the ambiguity of the term "lifehack", feel free to contribute anything that you feel fits the label. It can be a specific technique, a novel way of using an item, or even a mindset. It can be a little-known product or a recommendation--whatever you deem fit, as long as it improves quality of life, productivity, or satisfaction.26 votes
I am working on an app called Percent Done that is a combination of goal setting, time tracking and habit tracking. I like setting time-based goals for myself every day, such as “write for an...
I am working on an app called Percent Done that is a combination of goal setting, time tracking and habit tracking.
I like setting time-based goals for myself every day, such as “write for an hour” or “work on Percent Done for four hours.”
I also like Seinfeld’s “don’t break the chain” method. For example, Apple Watch shows you how many days you have completed your exercise circle and tells you that you have been keeping at it for x days.
Percent Done is a marriage of these two concepts. It allows you to set goals and track the time you spend on them, as well as how many days in a row you have consistently completed them. For example, you can add a goal that says “write for an hour every day,” and Percent Done will notify you every day to write for an hour. You will be able to tap on this goal and Percent Done will start counting back from one hour. You will also be able to see how many days in a row you have written for an hour.
Here is a demo GIF.
You can also add one-time goals to Percent Done with or without time tracking, so it is a task management tool as well.
You can play with the design prototype here: Percent Done design prototype
I would really love to get your feedback on this. If you are interested in being a beta tester, feel free to reply to this topic or e-mail me at "hi at evrim dot io."
By the way, this is almost completely a self-promotion post. If it is against the rules, I'd be happy to remove this.23 votes
Hi, I'm wondering how and if you're taking notes and how you manage them. I feel like I can't get to the right solution. I want something open and own my data, so I tend to prefer plain text /...
I'm wondering how and if you're taking notes and how you manage them. I feel like I can't get to the right solution. I want something open and own my data, so I tend to prefer plain text / markdown files and I want to manage them on my own for privacy reasons but still be able to sync and edit them on my mobile device (iOS), desktop (macOS) and ideally online and also have full text search.
I know about Microsoft OneNote, Google Docs/Keep, Evernote - but I just can't overcome myself to use them since it's hard to impossible to get data out of there.
Right now I'm hosting my own git repository with gitea.io and I'm able to edit my notes on the web, on my desktop (using git clone/pull/commit/push) and with a git client (working copy) on my phone. The downside: I need to manually commit and push my changes and also pull them, it's not really in sync.26 votes
What are your most useful, most often used, and/or most time-saving command line tools, and why? I'm looking to build a sort of "default distribution" of command line tools so I can get "regular"...
What are your most useful, most often used, and/or most time-saving command line tools, and why?
I'm looking to build a sort of "default distribution" of command line tools so I can get "regular" users hooked on command line functionality.33 votes
What are your techniques/tricks for being more productive day to day?25 votes
Preface Over the last couple of years, I've had the opportunity to learn from the mistakes of my predecessors and put those lessons into practice. Among those lessons, three have stood out to me...
Over the last couple of years, I've had the opportunity to learn from the mistakes of my predecessors and put those lessons into practice. Among those lessons, three have stood out to me in particular:
- Consistency is king.
- Try not to be too clever for your own good.
- Good code takes time.
I know that there are a lot of new and aspiring programmers here (and I'm admittedly far from being a guru myself), so I thought it would be good to touch on these three lessons, what they mean, and why they're so important.
Consistency is King
This is something that I had drilled into my head over nearly two years working on the code base at my previous job. Not by my fellow programmers (who did not exist), nor by my boss, but by the code itself.
Consistency can mean a number of things, but there are two primary points that matter:
- Syntactic consistency.
- Architectural consistency.
Syntactic consistency concerns standards in what your code looks like. For example, the choice between
PascalCasefor naming; function parameter order; or even something as benign as what kind of indentation and how much of it you use.
Architectural consistency concerns standards in how you structure your code. Making sure that you either use public class properties or getter and setter methods; using multiple booleans or using bitmasks; using or not using objects for encapsulating data to be passed around; validating data within the primary object or relegating that responsibility to a validator class; and other seemingly minor decisions about how you handle certain behavior make a big difference.
The code base I maintained had no such consistency. You could never remember whether the method you needed to call was named using
camelCaseand had to perform several searches just to find it. Worse still, some methods defined to handle Ajax calls were prefixed with
ajaxwhile many weren't. Argument ordering seemed to be determined by a coin flip, and indentation seemed to vary between 2-space, 3-space, 4-space, and even 5-space indentation depending on what mood my predecessor was in at the time. You often could not tell where a function's body began and where it ended. Writing code was an exercise both in problem solving and in deciphering ancient religious texts.
Architecturally it was no better. There was no standardization in how data was validated or sanitized, how class members were accessed or modified, how functionality was inherited, whether the functionality was encapsulated in an object method or in a function, or which objects were responsible for which behavior.
That lack of consistency makes introducing or modifying a small feature, a task which should ordinarily be a breeze, an engineering feat of its own. Often you end up implementing that feature, after dancing around the tangled mess of spaghetti, only to find that the functionality that you implemented already existed somewhere else in the code base but was hiding out in a deep, dark corner that you never even knew was there until you had to fix some other broken feature months later and happened to stumble across it.
Consistency means predictability, and predictability means discoverability and, more importantly, easier changes and higher confidence in those changes.
Cleverness is a Fallacy
In any given project, it can be tempting to do something that saves you extra lines of code, or saves on CPU cycles, or just looks awesome and does something nobody would have thought of before. As human beings and especially as craftsmen, we like to leave our mark and take pride in breaking the status quo by taking a novel and interesting approach to a problem. It can make us feel fulfilled in our work, that we've done something unique, a trademark of sorts.
The problem with that is that it directly conflicts with the aforementioned consistency and predictability. What ends up being an engineering wonder to you ends up being an engineering nightmare to someone else. While you're enjoying the houses you build with wall studs arranged in the shape of a spider's web, the home remodelers who come along later aren't even sure if they can change part of the structure without causing the entire wall to collapse, and they're not even sure which walls are load-bearing and which aren't, so they're basically playing Jenga while blindfolded.
The code base I maintained had a few such gems, with what looked like load-bearing walls but were actually made of papier-mâché and were only decorative in nature, and the occasional spider's web wall studs. One spider's web comes to mind in particular. It's been a while since I've worked on that piece of code, so I can't recall what exactly it did, but two query-constructing pieces of logic had overlapping query structure with the difference being the operators and data. Rather than being smart and allowing those two constructs to be different, however, my predecessor decided to be clever and the query construction was abstracted into a separate method so that the same general query structure could be used in other places (note: it never was, and was only ever used in those two instances). It was abstracted so that all original context was lost and no comments existed to explain any of it. On top of that, the method was being called from the most critical piece of the system which, unfortunately, was already a convoluted mess and desperately required a rewrite and thus required me to understand what the hell that method was even doing (incidentally, I fell in love with whiteboards as a result).
When you feel like you're being clever, you should always stop what you're doing and make sure that what you're doing isn't actually a really terrible idea. Cleverness doesn't exist. Knowledge and intelligence do. Write intelligent code, not clever code.
Good Code Takes Time
Bad code more often than not is the result of impatience. We don't like to plan out the solution before we get to writing code. We like to use variables like
tempin order to quickly achieve functional correctness of our code because stopping to think about how to name them is just additional overhead getting in the way. We don't like to scrap our bad work if we can salvage it in some way instead, because then we have to start from scratch and that's daunting. We continually work against ourselves and gradually increase our mental overhead because we try to decrease our mental overhead. As a result we find ourselves too exhausted by the end of our initial implementations to concern ourselves with fixing obvious problems. Obviously bad but functional code is preferable because we just want the task to be done and over with.
The more you get exposed to bad code and the more you try to avoid pushing that hell onto yourself and your successors, the more you realize that you need to spend less time coding and more time researching and planning. Whereas you may have been spending upwards of 50% of your time coding previously, suddenly you find yourself spending as little as 10% of your time writing any code at all.
Professionals from just about any field can tell you that you can either do something right or you can do it twice. You might recognize this most easily in the age-old piece of woodworking wisdom, "measure twice, cut once". The same is true of code, and doing something right means planning how to do it right in the first place before you've even started on the job.
Putting into Practice
I've been fortunate over the last couple of months to be able to start on a brand new project and architect it in a way that I see fit. Changes which would ordinarily take days or weeks in the old code base now take me half a day at most, and a matter of minutes at best. I remember where to find a piece of code that I need because I'm consistent and predictable about where I place things; I don't struggle to tell where something begins and where it ends because I'm consistent about structure; I don't continually hate myself when I need to make changes to my code because I don't do anything wildly out of the ordinary; and most importantly, I take my time to figure out what it is that I need to do and how I want to do it before I've written a single line of code.
When I needed to add a web portal interface for uploading a media asset to associate with a database object, the initial implementation took me a week, due to the need for planning, adding the interface, and supporting and debugging the asset management. When I needed to extended that interface to allow for uploading the same kinds of assets for a completely different object type, it took me only half an hour, with most of that time being dedicated toward updating a Vue.js component to accept configuration via props rather than working for only the single hard-coded object type. If I need to add a case for any additional object type, it will take me only five minutes.
That initial week of work for the web interface provided me with cost savings that would not have been feasible otherwise, and that initial week of work would have taken as many as three weeks had I not structured the API to be as consistent as it is now. Every initial lag in implementation is offset heavily by the long-term cost savings of writing good code.
Technical debt is the cost of your code over time. The messier and worse your code gets, the more it costs you to try to change, and those costs only build up. Even good code can accumulate technical debt if the needs for your software have changed and its current architecture isn't compatible with those changes.
No project is without technical debt. Even my own code, that I've been painstakingly working on for the last couple of months, has technical debt. Odds are a programmer far more experienced than I am will come along and want to scrap everything I've done, and will do a far better job rewriting it.
That's okay, though. In fact, a certain amount of technical debt is good. If we try to never write any bad code whatsoever, then we could never possibly get to writing any code at all, because there are far too many unknowns for a new project.
What's important is knowing when to pay down on that technical debt, which could mean anything from paying it up front (i.e. through planning ahead of time) to paying it down when it starts to get too expensive (e.g. refactoring a complicated section of code when changes become sufficiently difficult). That's not something you can learn through a StackOverflow post or a college lecture, and certainly not from some unknown stranger on some relatively unknown website in a long, informal blog-like post.
I'm far from being a great programmer. There's a lot that I don't know and I still have quite a bit to learn. I love programming, though, and more than that I enjoy sharing the lessons I've learned with others. Especially the ones that I wish I'd learned back in college.
Please feel free to share your own experiences, learned lessons, and (if you have it) feedback here. I'd love to read up on some other thoughts on this subject!21 votes
Edit: Typo in Topic. Read it as "How many..." or "Do many of you..." A Kanban board is a work and workflow visualization tool that enables you to optimize the flow of your work. Source I am using...
Edit: Typo in Topic. Read it as "How many..." or "Do ~many of~ you..."
A Kanban board is a work and workflow visualization tool that enables you to optimize the flow of your work. Source
I am using the NextCloud's Deck app to manage my Kanban board, just got started. Other Digital boards: Cryptpad (has kanban board) and Taiga. I know only these implementation and all of these work well.
Update: I am no longer using it.10 votes
I've always had a great interest in using technology to try to achieve my goals with ease. What's your favorite bit of tech that makes your work easier?18 votes
I'm currently in a "how can I improve and refocus" and wanted to see what this group thinks since either seems we have some pretty thoughtful and techy people here. I have toyed around for years...
I'm currently in a "how can I improve and refocus" and wanted to see what this group thinks since either seems we have some pretty thoughtful and techy people here.
I've used spreadsheets, OneNote, Wunderlist, plain text files.
What do you use to keep your tasks moving forward and how do you use these tools to manage your tasks and get work done? I found spreadsheets are nice because you can do a lot of scratch work but it's hard to "check them off' but many "check them off" tools don't give you a lot of scratch workspace. OneNote is cool but I can't stand the Microsoft environment and it doesn't seem to give a lot of indication how best to use the tool. Maybe I should do a training....10 votes
Do you use an app? Old school pen and paper? If you are using an app which app? I am always struggling with this and haven't found a method that works for me so i am interested on what others use.4 votes
Something that has always been tough for me is embracing incremental progress. I get bursts of productivity followed by time periods of inactivity. When I think about my shortcomings, they...
Something that has always been tough for me is embracing incremental progress. I get bursts of productivity followed by time periods of inactivity. When I think about my shortcomings, they sometimes seem too large to overcome with this strategy, so I know I need incremental progress to get there. Reflecting on examples of incremental progress that I've made, they have all happened with a good amount of outside influence. For instance in sports and in school growing up, I was forced to go to practice or do homework by parents, etc.
Are there strategies for gaining motivation for big projects like getting in shape or completing a coding project--especially now that I don't have things like deadlines or authority figures forcing me to do these things? Or does it more come down to discipline?
Would love to hear everyone's thoughts!19 votes