Top Ten Tips to Prevent Insanity (Software Psychosis)

Yoyo you wonderful bear followers, I hope today finds you well and for those of you in the UK I hope your snow-related torment hasn’t been too painful to endure and you’ve all stayed safe 🙂

In the shower today (apologies for the mental imagery!) I started to mull over what I would tell someone, off the cuff of course, if they asked me ‘give me your top ten tips for surviving the day to day stuff. Y’know, as quickfire as possible!’. Don’t ask me why this was relevant to my shower; but it’s fairly commonplace for me to get highly introspective standing under a stream of water, it’s one of my things if you will.

So, in no particular order of importance, here we go. Some are geared towards software development and some are straight up general comments on how I try to hop, skip and jump from day to day.

  1. Take a deep breath and time-box your day, as best as you can at least. Here I would recommend, outside of any other work management software you have to bump heads with, a simple Trello board to get yourself organised. Create cards and put a ‘due date’ on them. Two columns can suffice, an unembellished setup of two columns called ‘TODO’ and ‘DONE’ to drop cards between will serve you just fine; give it a go (I’ve been using it pretty much daily for years now).
  2. Adopt the rule of three. Three things to accomplish for the day, week and year; although I have to admit I struggle with the year one, I’m still a lowly padawan most likely! Scott Hanselman discusses this concept in this excellent video.
  3. Since coming into contact with Git I have learned two things that are having a profound effect on a) my sanity and b) the way I work. Commit often, push often and, as far as possible, keep change sets small! I like Unit Tests to so, without getting into the politics of whether you should or shouldn’t adopt them, I will settle with a simple ‘try them and see how you get on with them’ at the very least. It’s a good place to leave it for now 😉
  4. Get comfortable with having patchy knowledge! It’s going to happen, no question. Sometimes just knowing that a ‘thing’ exists is enough to get yourself going in the right direction or nudge a colleague so they can find the right solution. You can always follow-up and learn the ins and outs of something later. Don’t stress yourself out with the crazy notion of knowing the nitty-gritty on everything you come into contact with. That’s the problem with knowledge…..the more you have the more you realise there are massive expanses of information out there (at the end of one horizon is another, don’t sweat it)!
  5. Walk away, take a break, have a shower…do something else when you’re stuck. I’m a hardcore breaker of this rule and suffer for it!
  6. Listen to others when they tell you to stop, from time to time at least (outside observers often know best and will see the crazy-loon face you have adopted in a time of stress; my wife often braves this and politely says I need to stop)!
  7. Pomodoros are good!!! The basic setup is a) pick a task and b) work at it for 25 minutes in a focused manner and finally c) take a 5-minute break. Wash, rinse and repeat (with a larger break after several ‘pomodoros’). For complex tasks where I need to perform focused bursts to produce ‘mini-sprints’ of work, this is an excellent way of working to adopt.
  8. I like to talk…try it more often! Instants chats are all good and well but if a message begins to span into the scope of ‘non-trivial’, for example, several paragraphs of information that could be misinterpreted (or just takes too long to actually key in!) just opt for walking around the office or picking up the phone. I like nattering and connecting, it’s a liberating feeling that will break down walls; especially if you’ve been cooped up for an extended period of time crunching a problem.
  9. Be careful on that lunch break skipping behaviour! It’s an easy habit to get into and almost everyone I know does it – I’ve recently been attempting to, at a minimum, always get in thirty minutes unless an apocalyptic development event is in progress. Drink water, eat food and read an article on something unrelated (and mix up your work environment from time to time)!
  10. One from my wife and an excellent piece of advice – do a ‘power dance’ (five or ten minutes is the recommended time I’m told). Harder if you work in an office, but see what you can get away with I guess (I take no responsibility for dance-related disciplinary events)!

If any of these are helpful to you then I’ll walk away from writing this a happy man (I mean, bear, ahem). If this is completely useless, perhaps I’ll steer you in a direction where you find something that works for you; in which case bravo.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this little stream of consciousness and, until the next time, happy coding and honey scoffing!

Work & Sickness

Evening all,

Just as I was getting into the swing of things with a few quick fire posts I ended up needing to focus on work due to some important project pieces. Coupled with that, I caught a dreaded man-flu style bug over the weekend which broke me a little this week. Posts on Alexa Skills and a little sideline C# project (WinForms, just for fun!) are in the fold and will be with you in the next week.

Thanks all, posts are a’coming.

Happy New Year…and other stuff

Happy New Year all! New Year, new opportunities, new me….right!?

I’ve been taking some time out to focus on a) learning a new domain/related technologies to make sure I have a solid footing in my new role and b) having some time out over the holidays. As such, it’s been hard to focus on creating new blog content, so apologies for that – but I really wanted to zero in on not screwing up (as ‘New Year, no job’ would suck royally!). Let’s talk about new content; this is something that has been a core focus of mine over the last few days, and I want to put an action plan in place to address this lack of ‘juicy goodness’. A rough agenda seems like an important place to start; to that end, here’s the roundabout plan for the coming month (in which I look to target getting out 1 post a week, as I envisage these being small-ish pieces):

  1. MSSQL Theming – planned for release by the 22nd January 2017.
  2. PERT Estimation – planned for release by the 29th January 2017.
  3. Coding Alexa Skills (101, basic example) – planned for release by the 5th February 2017.
  4. CloudSearch Queries (again, 101, basic examples) – planned for release by the 12th February 2017.
  5. Then, for several weeks, a run-down of SOLID design principles.

These are the general themes I’m looking to cover; of course, I’ll do a switcheroo if something incredible crops up that I absolutely need to talk about, but at least there is a framework in place.

At the end of February, I’ll then have a rethink about the coming months and see if there are larger subject matters that would be cool to tackle. If and when behemoth style subjects are covered, I will most likely look to split it into a series of posts, to keep things regular.

I hope the New Year finds you all well regardless and I look forward to getting back up to snuff with content in the coming months.

Cheery bye for now.

The Bears Whereabouts

Where have I been you may ask! Apologies for the lack of content, we’ve (included my wife in the equation here) hit a sizeable brick wall of work.

I think this has been mentioned previously, but I’ve recently started a new position and this has involved me spending a good dollop of time getting acclimatised; in particular finding my way around Amazon Web Services (which I’m having a super time with by the way!).

Coupled with this, I’m incredibly busy ploughing through work items for my wife’s business website, frogandpencil, using the magic of a (beastly) Trello board.

What does this mean for bearandhammer posts? Well, I’m kind of hoping that as I work my way through website tasks for frogandpencil and keep chewing AWS related subjects at work that a handful of small posts will come out in the wash, before normal service is resumed (i.e. the larger post on Web API).

So, with any luck, I’ll have something new plastered up on here soon enough. In the meantime, happy coding!

All the best from the Bear!

Christmas Wind-down

Hi everyone,

With the holidays almost upon us I just wanted to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and all the best for the New Year!

If possible, I will do my best to crank out a further post between now and the New Year. Here’s a teaser for the first part of the year (likely approximately the first quarter), taken from my original ‘pot of things’ to cover with a few additions that are taking precedence, based on current interests:

  • Continued prodding around in F# (likely starting with charting as promised).
  • The Razor View Engine (basic overview).
  • An Arduino starter project.
  • Deeper dives into JavaScript (in the build up to some exams…more to follow here).
  • As an extension to this, I want to do some ES6 coverage.
  • A return to Unity (I’ll probably do a big hit around the start of Spring).
  • Plus other things from my original cooking pot, including Udemy courses and sneak peaks on other libraries/utilities as I can, etc.

I may well revise my posting frequency a little also. After planning on doing two posts a week I’ve become acutely aware that I’m not really hitting that mark, so I’ll either go down to one post a week or learn to produce posts faster (and better!). We’ll have to see how all of this pans out.

Anyway, have a wonderful holiday!

A Year of Bearandhammer

Rather miraculously, an entire year has rolled around since the inception of bearandhammer!

I just wanted to say a big thank you to everyone following this blog, and those keeping up on Twitter and Facebook, it means the world to me so a big thumbs up to you all. This blog has brought in over eleven hundred views and over seven hundred visitors; I’m very humbled by the levels or interest, which are truly beyond anything I could have imagined.

I’ll keep the content coming and will try to cover as many interesting topics as I can find, to the highest quality possible.

Again, thanks for hanging in there with me!

Oh Yeah, 25 Posts :o)

It only dawned on me today that, rather sneakily, I’ve hit my official quarter century in the ‘blog post’ count department. Thinking back to my original goals when starting this up it’s nowhere near where I planned to be (getting on for nearly a whole year after starting this little adventure); but I’m happy to have hit this milestone nevertheless.

Thanks to my followers and all of you out there who have (hopefully not painfully so) joined my through this journey so far. I’m pushing eight hundred views now and would like to get to a thousand before the year is out; so here’s to fighting the good fight and all things code and geek related…

Boozey Tipple Celebration.

Boozey Tipple Celebration.

Thanks all 🙂