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2012 – A look back and a look forward

Another day, another dollar.  Another year, another . . . something.

Dunno.  I’ve never had much use for resolutions related to an arbitrary day of the year.  I tend to see goal setting as an ongoing thing and goals as more of a continual series of milestones rather than a single achievable event.  Why new years resolutions anyway?  Why not 6-month resolutions?  Or monthly resolutions?  Monthly resolutions in agile sprints?  Maybe I’m onto something . . .

Most of the stuff I put up here is highly technical in nature.  Tutorials on how to do this or that in iOS or XCode.  I was tempted to go technical on this one too.  A rambling list of technologies I’ve worked with.  Another xxxKit.framework I intend to plod around with.

Boring.  Who cares.

That in itself isn’t really interesting to anyone (not even me really).  So in a different direction I’m taking stock of what I’m good at, what I’m not good at, and what I want to be better at on a very general level.  I think these could apply to anyone working as developer whether working on an indie project (as many people reading iDevBlogADay probably are) or working on client work (as I do).

Things I’m Good At:

Watching the details – It came to me in an epiphany this year.  Strangely.  I am a detail oriented person.  I was never the kid with a clean room.  I never meticulously organized my closet by color.  I never had the border-line OCD, must-organize-everything kind of personality.  I still don’t.  On some level I separate ordinary details from Details That Matter.

At any rate, I have a penchant for the details when it comes to my work.  I like this.  I love this.  I used to be envious of the detail oriented folk.  I’m pleased to count myself among them in some regard.  I think this is necessary for people who work as developers.  Your job is detail oriented.  “The computer will only do exactly what you tell it”, my dad used to say.  To a fault.  I take pride in the craftsmanship of my work.  I always have.  2012 will be no different.

Making a plan – 2012 was one of my first forays in developing a real, honest-to-god software engineering plan.  I thought I’d nailed it.  Turns out I was about 75% of the way there (the gaps really showed up during development).  Regardless the parts that were planned well went off without much of a hitch and came in under-time against the project plan.  This is something I want to expand upon in 2012.  You’d be amazed what you can figure out ahead of time before you write one line of code.  Every 15 minute interval spent mulling over a problem before you start will save probably hours in development when the same problem inevitably comes up.  As mine and Mindgrub’s projects grow ever larger this will become increasingly more important.

Things I Suck At (and want to improve upon):

Automating the mundane – Shame on me as a developer, but there’s a lot of things for which I don’t have automation in place.  Simple stuff.  Dumb stuff.  Stupid stuff I still do manually like pushing a build to test flight or setting up a UITableView.  I think there’s a couple reasons I haven’t delved into this more.

  1. Time is not always on my side, in that the pressure to just get the client work out the door is high to where I don’t think I’ll have time to find/write a script or an automator action or make an XCode template.  Usually by the time I notice that I should have automated it I’m already 75% done with the task.
  2. Fear of the tools – What if automator jacks the upload to testflight?  What if the deployment script fails?  Dumb fear.  Paranoia.  I need to get over this one.
  3. Lack of knowledge – In no way can I count myself as a bash guru.  I couldn’t write a Perl script to save my life.  Granted automator is a huge help here.  In some ways you can put this under “fear of the tools”

Not sure if there’s an easy solution here.  First would be to learn the tools: automator, a little bash.  I think I’ll leave Perl until 2013.  I also have a mind to make a slew of Xcode templates to use with my development team as it always seems there’s a bunch of things we have to add to any UIViewController.  Third for me is to try out tools and scripts that get posted to various places like HackerNews and Twitter, see what other folks are doing and try to adopt them into my and my team’s workflow.

Branch Out – I’ve been working with iOS almost exclusively in 2011.  It’s great and I love it but I’ve been feeling the need to branch out lately.  I believe it’s important especially in the current job market to be versatile as a developer.  Learning new programming languages will make you better at whichever language you use everyday.  Learning new frameworks will make you think differently about the frameworks you already use.  And if you don’t learn anything new, technology will pass you by.  For 2012 I want to get a release of a cocoa app.  While it’s still objective-c, there’s a lot of nuanced differences between the two.  I’ve got a couple of ideas rattling around, just gotta get up and get going on one.

Making every moment count – I feel like I need a little more get up and go in my life.  Not that I’m lazy.  Far from it.  But I want to make more of my free time that I have.  That doesn’t necessarily mean more work or side projects but more about getting the feeling that I’m getting most out of every minute.  This year I want to work on paring down distractions and focus more on important things.

So, maybe this process was a little more cathartic than I thought looking at the tone of the post from the top to the bottom.  At any rate I want to wish those few regular readers and folks from iDevBlogADay a great new year.  Happy Coding!