05 Feb 2020

Process improvement

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How do I improve my processes?

First and foremost, to improve any process you need to start by writing the process down. All the steps or things you need to consider should be written in a document. This will allow you to review this document over time and improve it as you find ways to make the process better.

When you perform the process, look at your document and see whether you are applying all of the steps you wrote down. Identify the steps that are more critical than others, in which order you complete them, how long it takes you to accomplish them, whether some steps are sometimes relevant, etc. You want to capture information about the process as you are going through it in order to identify sources of improvement. If a step takes the majority of your time in a process, ask yourself whether this is expected and whether it would be possible to optimize or automate this step in order to reduce the time spent on it.

If possible, share your processes with others. Have them share with you how they would go about doing the same things you do and take notes. Some of the things that may be different between you and others are the order in which you accomplish the steps, which steps you consider critical and how much time is spent on each step.

Even though some of the processes you follow on a daily basis may appear trivial to you, you might end up realizing that those processes are quite complex in nature, especially if you need to write them down.

Try playing around with doing steps in parallel vs doing steps sequentially and see which one is more efficient.

In order to improve your processes, you need to define what it is you want to improve. In my case, I want my processes to be efficient (doing things right) and effective (doing the right things). Compared to myself, a process is improved if I need less time to accomplish it while producing the same quality of results or if for the same amount of time I produce higher quality of results.

04 Feb 2020

Fighting over code style

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Why do developers fight over code style?

We are creatures of habits. We like when our code looks like we would expect it to look and not some completely different style. When the style is too different, then it creates cognitive load, which means that we're spending more energy than we would if the code looked the way we like it. Since we're machines that attempt to minimize the amount of energy we spend, we see code that is not styled our way as a bad investment of our energy and that it would either be better to reformat the code our way (minimizing our energy expenditure in the future) or simply to start from scratch.

As human beings, we're able to adapt. Adapting generally requires more energy than simply using the skills we already have, and we prefer to avoid having to adapt. Thus we fight with others so that they do the effort of adapting instead of us. We see fighting as being more effective than adapting. It may be an effective approach when no existing rules exist, however, in many businesses, code standards have been established, which means that if you are a new employee, you will have to adapt to those standards. You could always try to bring back the discussion of updating the code style, but if the standards have been established a long time ago, this effort is likely to be futile.

As such, even though adapting requires more of our energy, we should make that sacrifice upfront and use it on more important things, such as defining what tasks are important and which ones should be done first.

03 Feb 2020

Repeating yourself

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If you offload everything in your head into documents, how long does it take before you start repeating yourself?

How soon you repeat yourself will depend on how much diversity there is in your thoughts. If you always think about the same problems in the same ways, you're likely to repeat yourself a lot. However, if you try to explore the same problems through different lenses you'll have less chances to repeat yourself.

If you spend most of your time exploring new ideas, then you may only come back to ideas you had in the past from time to time.

If you work in a specialized field you may have to learn the basics multiple times in order to master them. Sometimes you will have acquired new knowledge that might challenge your existing assumptions. You will be mostly repeating yourself, but you will be making small adjustments at the same time.

When we offload everything that we have in our head into documents, our goal is to have more working memory space for our current work. We want to avoid having to come back to the same topics and having to start our exploration from scratch.

When we're exploring, we want to avoid exploring the same topics without noticing. As we explore a field, we may get a sense that the field is very large and that it may take a long time to get familiar with it. By mapping the field we can get a better sense of its size while at the same time discovering the important concepts. This lets us identify when we are making use of the same concepts over and over again.

02 Feb 2020

Spread of corruption

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Should we let employees from corrupted companies apply to other companies?

I am of the opinion that it is better for corruption not to spread.

I'd hope that by having the (potentially) corrupted individuals join other companies, that the culture of the companies they join would prevent them from corrupting those companies. Either the corrupted individuals would have to stop being corruptors (in the future, which would be ideal), or be evicted out of the "healthy" company in order to avoid fostering this behavior.

One issue with corrupted employees spreading to other companies is that it is difficult to identify them as they work in those various companies. It is possible for us to establish a blacklist of companies that exhibited bad behaviors and avoiding employing people who worked there. This approach may however punish employees that are not corrupted. As larger and larger companies exhibit behaviors that might put them on this blacklist, the number of individuals ending up on that list may be too large, reducing the pool of candidates too greatly.

What companies and individuals within healthy companies need is a way to identify individuals that are likely to be corrupted or corruptible. The difficulty is however that those individuals are likely to be cunning, which means that no single technique will always succeed at identifying them.

01 Feb 2020

Thoughts tracking

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How do I track my thoughts?

When I am on the go, I mostly rely on Google Keep to write down what on my mind. I use it because it loads fast, is straightforward and allows me to quickly dump my thought and go back to what I was doing. Since I'm always with my phone, it's always within reach. It also will synchronize with Google when I'm online so it is available on any other devices. This also means that I may sometimes record things either directly from my computer, my work computer, my phone or my tablet, depending on the medium I'm using at the time (defaulting to my phone if I'm not using any device when the thought crops up).

When I am at home, I've devised a simple system in Visual Studio Code where I use two keyboard shortcut, one that open today's buffer (CTRLNumpad 2) and one that inserts a datetime and note id on the current line (CTRLNumpad 0).

When I am at work, I use this same system to take notes pertaining my work. I generally try to organize my thoughts per projects so that I can go back to any specific project and re-read the notes to get back in context. I also will write down notes related to issues I'm working on and identify them using the issue ID given by JIRA.

In both cases (at home and at work), I also have configured Visual Studio Code to commit automatically to git changes that are done in markdown files when the editor focus changes. This allows me to have a somewhat granular log of the changes that happen to my note files. At work, I have configured a cronjob that automatically pushes the notes to my private git repository. This allows me to pull those notes at home and read them whenever I want. I also push my personal notes to my private git repository, but I do not pull them on my work computer because I haven't had the need for it.