This from Stehpanie Hurlburt:

I say this occasionally to normalize it:

I’ve never put code on GitHub
I’ve never done coding in my spare time for fun, side project, or portfolio
I’ve had a successful career as a developer

If you have done those things— great! Maybe I will too one day. But it isn’t necessary.

Before I had children I contributed to an open source project or two. I also still do the occasional coding for fun (but mostly for pay). I have never put anything on GitHub but I also consider myself successful as a software developer.

The notion that these things are necessary is silly.

Keen on Cal Newport’s idea of “deep work” but is it even possible in most jobs today? In my profession (software development) I’ve almost never had the ability to sit uninterrupted for any length of time to do deep work. Is anyone actually doing this?

Small b blogging

Via Om Malik a good piece on working on a small blog for reasons other than chasing an audience. I need to remember the lessons mentioned there and review them often 🙂

I do remember once, in a prior incarnation of this blog, writing an article about Whole Foods when they decided to stop offering plastic bags to shoppers. The piece got linked by a writer at the New York Times and the piece just exploded. To this day can’t believe how much traffic that piece generated for awhile. But obviously that becomes old news fast and traffic died and nobody cared anymore.

What was more satisfying was a simple how-to article I wrote up about syncing your iPhone with Google Calendar. At the time Google’s documentation for the procedure was terrible (and very hard to find) so I had many, many hits to that piece and it continued until I shut down the blog, even when Google’s own documentation had been improved both in visibility and content. At one point it was the first result that came up when you did a search for iPhone and Google Calendar. To this day I’m still proud of that piece. It was very satisfying to help so many people.

Two personal productivity gems from Michael Motta

Loved these two bits of advice on motivation for getting tasks complete from the book “Long Term Person, Short Term World: Sustainable Productivity in a World of Limited Time, Unlimited Tasks, and Endless Interruptions” by Michael Motta:

“Do something ridiculously small. Writing 1,000 words of your novel is intimidating. Writing 500 words? Less intimidating. Writing 250 words? Less intimidating still. Writing 100 words? You can do that. Writing 10 words? Anyone can do that. Write one sentence. Wash one dish. Make one phone call or write one e-mail. One. You can also work for a ridiculously short amount of time (I keep a one minute hourglass sand timer on my desk for such times.)”

“Compete with yourself. Gamify. There are all sorts of ways to turn tasks into games. There are articles all over the web and apps too. An easy thing I’ve experimented with is assigning point values to my actions, more for the most impactful actions, less for the more trivial, negative for bad habits. The goal, every day, is to beat the day before, and beat the total average. I pull this one out from time to time.”

Absolutely brilliant stuff because they’re so damned simple. I never thought of trying either one of these but I can see both of them being insanely useful. The second seems like a great tip on trying to stick to a healthier diet. The first I need to try just about any of those times where I know I should be doing something at night but am sitting around doing nothing because I’m so tired from the day.

The Roland System-8

The Roland System-8 is a fantastic piece of kit and I just bought one…

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Just bought a Roland System-8 in the last couple of weeks and I’ve got to say it was a hell of a purchase. As a teenager in the early to late 80’s, and one really into music acts like Duran Duran and Howard Jones, I lusted after gear like the Roland Jupiter-8 and Roland Juno-106 (among many others) but as a teenager of course could never afford them.

Today I could afford a Juno-106 (not a Jupiter-8….people still have serious gear lust over these rare rigs and prices are sky high) but vintage gear comes with vintage gear problems. I’ve collected various plugins on the computer over the years that emulate these old synths (Arturia Jup-8V for instance) but one thing is always missing, the immediacy of the “one knob per function” that existed on the old hardware.

An easy solution (and one which the System-8 readily fills) is a keyboard controller with knobs for manipulating the parameters on the software instrument. Initially I bought a Novation Bass Station 2 for that, and it works well but it just didn’t do anything to excite me. The more I kept reading about the System-8 the more it intrigued me though and I ended up buying one, and I don’t regret the purchase!

People around the web keep complaining about the price and I don’t get it. In one package you get:

  1. The System-8 sound engine itself which is ridiculously great.
  2. A wonderful Jupiter-8 emulation that, according to those who have used it and own the original instrument, says it’s about as close as you will get to the real thing.
  3. A Juno-106 emulation that also sounds very close to the real thing.
  4. A slot for one other Roland-built emulation.
  5. The ability to do things the originals didn’t (velocity sensitive keyboard for one and the ability to affect the filter, etc. with it).
  6. A vocoder.
  7. Direct to DAW recording when hooked up to USB (no analog audio stage!)
  8. An audio interface for other instruments via it’s inputs.
  9. A wonderful MIDI controller for software synths.
  10. A ridiculously fun interface for the built-in sound engines.

What you don’t get:
1. Vintage gear headaches and costs.

I’ll definitely be writing more about this beast in the coming months as I work with it more but its a fantastic piece of kit that I highly recommend anyone taking a hard look at.