Some personal musings from year under the pandemic

This is a bit of a departure from my usual post. Every time I write, there is a personal lens of my experiences, conversations, and discoveries that I bring to these essays. But it’s my birthday and there are some things not in the usual vein of tech trends, engineering principles, developer culture, coding, and organizational efficiency that I hope you will indulge me in sharing.

I love birthdays and warmly bundling up for the occasion…

I have to state that this year was not hard for me in the way it was for many others. I was very fortune and blessed…


The subtle power of just trying things and exploring

I was never a great student growing up. The phrase used by teachers was, “Smart, but doesn’t apply himself.” It was a chain around my neck that dragged me down for years. Many people enjoyed school, but I was not one of them.

The problem was notability, but time. I was always busy with other things. For example, in college, instead of working on boring engineering problem sets in the computer lab, I could try to takeover other people’s terminal sessions. When I lived in the Engineering House, I was running a high-stakes poker game (for college that is) and…


The foundation of great products is early user feedback

You can’t always please everyone. I am reminded of that on a regular basis when it comes to this newsletter. While I generally write about topics in software engineering and leadership, I try to introduce other ideas that are important to me such as diversity & inclusion, community building, and food photos from around the globe. This makes some people upset.

One very recent incident involved an event I recently hosted. It was a talk on Clubhouse, the audio-only social network that is taking the world by storm. Apparently this offended diehard Android users among my readership, even though I…


How to get to the simplest solution in whatever you are building

What was your first portable music player? The answer to this question will definitely age you. For me it was a personal cassette player, but not the cool one from Sony. After a brief time with clunky portable CD players, I quickly jumped onto MP3 players.

It was early days and design aesthetics did not seem so important. It was all about the features, and the one I had from iRiver was the Swiss Army knife of players. It played MP3 files, but it did so much more. …


Languages, culture & side projects don’t make real

I long for the days of real programmers. Not the sorry excuses for programmers we have nowadays that need things like IDE’s, GUI’s, and API’s, but programmers that knew how to code like true geeks wrangling 1’s and 0’s or living in vi and Emacs. They certainly did not write in so-called interpreted languages like JavaScript, Ruby, or Python. No way! Real programmers compile code that they write in real languages like C++, Java, and Haskell.

These avocado toast eating, cold brew coffee drinking wannabe hackers are nothing but a bunch of script kiddies with standing desks and natural light…


The secret is in how fast you fail, learn, and iterate

You cannot actually see the Great Wall of China from space. For a long time, this myth was floating around that the wall is so significant, that you could see it from the moon. Alas, even from low Earth orbit, a person could not spot the Great Wall with the unaided eye.

What is remarkable about this seventh wonder of the modern world is that it has existed for over 2,600 years. Started somewhere between 700 and 600 BC in small sections, it progressively became more significant with the Emperor Qin around 220 BC with construction continuing off and on…


For making better decisions, foster the safety to fail

John Lewis was a portrait in courage. Already weathered by his experiences standing up to hatred and racism across the Southern US, he faced his hardest test yet on March 7, 1965 before the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama. He stood with 600 others on a march to Montgomery when the marchers were attacked by state police. Lewis sustained a skull fracture and many others were injured in an incident to be later known as “Bloody Sunday”.

Edmund Pettus Bridge Bloody Sunday John Lewis
Edmund Pettus Bridge Bloody Sunday John Lewis

Recently I watched a documentary about the life of John Lewis. He never stopped fighting the good fight, even up till his…


The importance of stepping away from work in times of stress

You may have heard the news about a rather popular but controversial app being banned by multiple platform providers. One of those providers said in a statement, “AWS does not pre-screen its customers, but it does have terms of service that must be followed…that use of the content you supply does not violate this policy and will not cause injury to any person or entity.”

While you might think I am referring to Parler, the quote above was from ten years ago in reference to Wikileaks. This was the organization that published large troves of classified documents and became infamous…


The written word is your best tool for enabling change

We all make typos, but have you ever made a typo that cost $150 million dollars? In 1962, NASA launched their first-ever probe to explore Venus, the Mariner 1. About 90 seconds after launch, problems arose. With navigational controls compromised, a destructive abort command was issued, and the craft was destroyed near the five-minute mark.

Many theories arose for the reason of the failure. The famed science fiction author Arthur C. Clarke called it, “The most expensive hyphen in history.” He was right about a typo, but it was more nuanced than that. …


What we learned in 2020, and the innovations ahead for 2021

I want to try an experiment with you. Think about one thing that you are most proud of accomplishing this year. Then share that one thing as a comment to a post I started on LinkedIn (click the link or the button below).

📣Share One Thing👏

If we do not cherish the good things, we can easily fall into depression. The global pandemic hurt many of us whether through job losses, decreased business, more work, delayed plans, or even the passing of loved ones. …

DEV.BIZ.OPS

Thoughts on developers, digital transformation, enterprise agility, community building & software engineering culture. Author 👉 https://twitter.com/marksbirch

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