One of Those Weeks

This week flew by.  It happens.  Especially when you are creating something that requires a level of skill just beyond what you already have and you spark an obsession to get through it.

As I code, I rely heavily on free sources of information that are a Google search away.  Everyone does this or ought to.  Helpful developers keep producing more blog posts, guides for beginners, and tutorials.  The ever-expanding space of software tools and techniques stays pretty well covered.

The free stuff is a great start.

But some of the things I want to do go beyond what is shown.  Maybe only a step or two beyond.  That next level of complexity, that next level of scale.  That level of quality where you handle the error conditions.  Doing the bits that are left as an exercise for the reader.  Now that I am the doer, I have to do them.

There are always things to try that are just beyond the basics.  Where do you turn for information like that?

If you work in a traditional office, you are probably sitting with colleagues.  If you are lucky, you work on a software team with one or two people who know more and different things than yourself.  Do you collaborate and help each other?

Of course, you can also collaborate with coworkers remotely.  While it might take extra effort to reach out, a few minutes of help can get you back on track, saving hours of hard work.

What if your colleagues don’t quite have it?  Or you are the solo techie on the team?  Or the leader who is expected to know things?  What if you are working on a side project?  Would you ever pay to get the help you need?

Lots of people would not bother, even when the information is free.  I was in charge of a corporate department with hundreds of engineers.  We offered to pay for work-related training for anyone who wanted it.  “Spend a few hundred dollars, set aside the time required, and improve your skills.”  Almost no one took the offer.

I can think of a few reasons.  Each person probably had a subset of these.

  • Too lazy.  No one would say this out loud in a corporate environment, but I have to think the #1 reason no one jumped at free training is that most are comfortable knowing just enough to get by.
  • Too proud.  Why would an experienced software engineer need someone else to show him how to program?  And how dare you suggest he couldn’t figure things out on his own.
  • Too arrogant.  When you already know everything, why waste time on training?
  • Too afraid.  Admitting you could use training is admitting you need help.  Only weak people need help.  If I show that I am weak, I might get fired.  Better to skip it.
  • Too confused.  Surprisingly, some of the people most in need of training refuse it.  They stand starving in front of the information buffet and cannot figure out where to begin eating.  “Salad could be first, except in French cuisine when it comes just before dessert.  Hmm, I like dessert, but I shouldn’t start there.  Bread has carbs, meat has fat.  Ahh.”  So they walk away.

Perhaps self-improvement needs to be more private.

Perhaps the learning needs to be motivated by more than the notion of self-improvement.  If you have a burning obsession to create something, or even a low-grade desire, perhaps that is enough motivation to learn.

Once I have StoryTime working for authors (ETA end of March), I am going to show you what I did.  I will walk through the designs and the code, explaining my choices, the wrong turns that I corrected, and the options I did not choose.  I will show you the ins-and-outs of a real, working, information system that happens to be disguised as a game.

Some of this will be free.  Some will not.  As I have learned, cost is not a real barrier to knowledge, especially for the good stuff.

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