My New Experiment: Journaling All the Things

At CocoaConf I attended a session from my fellow Big Nerd Ranch coworker, Mark Dalrymple. In this session he explored the questions we ask when looking for bugs — or more specifically their solutions.

At one point Mark showcased a text document that in glorious detail documented the assumptions, questions and answers he was going through to solve a problem. Now, this wasn’t a document Mark made for the talk, it was from a real journal entry he had. He was Rubber Ducking but documenting the discussion like a court reporter.

If you ever work with Mark you’ll quickly discover he is a relentless notetaker. This is just one more example of how it can pay off.

  • Need to step away to work on something else, here is a document to reload your context.
  • Need to invite someone else on to help solve the problem, here is your knowledge transfer.
  • Want to write up a blog post to help others in the future, here is your draft.

I left the session very inspired. As a result, for this week, technically my vacation week but I’m working on side projects, I’m starting an experiment where I try to emulate Mark’s journaling habits as best I can. I have 3 documents at the moment:

  • Daily Journal — Mostly flat list with GOALS for the day and then ACCOMPLISHMENTS of what actually got done at the end. If something in the list has notes in and of itself, it’s hot-linked to those on their own wiki page.
  • Company Journal — Documenting the efforts I’m putting into my side project and the company that encapsulates it.
  • Tech Journal — Starting with Apple, here is where I’m collection my thoughts, issues, and bugs relative to Apple technologies. I expect to make more for other stacks like web in the future.

I’m using VoodooPad for the actual files/wikis themselves. It works well letting me organize like a wiki and can handle screenshots too.

We’ll see how I hold up. I want to give it my all for at least a week and then will do a retrospective as to how it’s working out. There are challenges (like my current typing speed) but lots of potential benefits too.

Update: More from Mark’s own blog.

Do you journal like this? Any tips or other feedback? I’d love to hear it. Message me on Twitter @zorn or via email: mike@clickablebliss.com.

WWDC 2015 Wish List

While I won’t be at WWDC proper I will be in San Francisco the week of WWDC. I have a ticket to AltConf and otherwise expect to be mingling about.

What do I want to see announced? Here is some of my wish list.

Swift Improvements

  • Let me use Xcode’s refactor tool to refactor Swift.
  • Let me use Instruments to measure performance of Swift.
  • Introduce a tool similar to gofmt
  • Add standard library tools for processing JSON.
  • Continue to improve Obj-C Interoperability.
  • Swift versions of NSDate and NSDecimalNumber
  • Fix the “I have to make it public or double add the modules” to let tests see code issue.

Xcode

  • Introduce a cloud service version of Xcode Server.
  • Improve Xcode Templates (eg: should recommend new test file with new class).
  • Add code coverage tools.
  • Improve testing tools. (Maybe add a formal UI testing layer?)
  • Add a spell checker that is smart about function names and other symbols.
  • Stability improvements.

Others

  • Let me slide loads apps outside the App Store.
  • Improve App Store searching, browsing and discovery.
  • Formal API to iTunes Connect.
  • Third Party Siri access.

Mike Monteiro on Selling Design, Getting Paid and Working with Clients

I’m not sure if “Selling Design” is the real title for the Keynote at Interaction15 (1h5m) but that’s the topic your are going to see. Mike Monteiro a does a great job reviewing some of the pitfalls creative people run into when working with and presenting their work to clients and all the delicacies of those relationships. For those doing contract work, a must see.

You might also like Mike’s talk: Fuck You, Pay Me or his books, Design is a Job and You’re My Favorite Client.

Contracting and project management are topics that regularly come up at my job, Philly CocoaHeads and IndyHall so I’m going to try to do better about writing about those issues here. In the mean time, I highly recommend Mike’s work to get your own brain turning.

Encouraging Impactful User Content

I’m not one to do a ton of online product reviews but after CocoaLove I was asked to do one for the walking tour we took on Sunday. The site was TripAdvisor and from what I hear having good reviews there is really important for companies so I figured I’d share the love.

Since posting the review I’d say I get an email from TripAdvisor every 3 months or so. The email helps explain how much of an impact my review has made.

Review Impact

I really like the email.

I suspect emails like this help encourage further user contributions. If your website or service captures user generated content I’d encourage you to experiment with similar behaviors.

Swift and Cocoa: The Odd Couple

Swift and Cocoa are like The Odd Couple. Two people, with drastically different personalities who are joined by fate to live with each other.

Swift and Cocoa / Odd Couple

The Odd Couple Theme Song

One prefers things very explicit and will check and double check things are in order before starting a task. The other is happy letting things happen haphazardly, as things flow; the details can be worked out later.

One would only ever allow a single item type like socks in his drawer. The other is happy to store a mix of things in his.

One is very cautious with things handed to it, slowly unwrapping them. The other is extremely trusting and uses stuff passed to it without question, result be dammed.

My New Job with the Big Nerd Ranch

As I posted on Twitter a few weeks ago, I recently accepted a new job with the Big Nerd Ranch. The job itself starts tomorrow and I’m really excited.

The Big Nerd Ranch and its founder Aaron Hillegass have already made a huge impact on my career. When I first started to learn to program for Mac OS X I turned to Cocoa Programming for OS X. It was the, then unlabeled, first edition of the book and it was a game changer for me. Not only did I fall in love with Cocoa but the book itself was incredibly well written and helpful. Later while attending MacHack I was even able to get a pre-conference day of training from BNR. It too was great and the teacher, Chris Campbell, was really helpful with me getting my MegaManEffect hack to work. (It even took second place in the hack contest!)

These days Big Nerd Ranch is still known for their awesome books and educational classes, which now cover way more than just Macintosh and include iOS, Android, Rails and a much more. The Big Nerd Ranch also codes for hire, doing consulting projects for various clients big and small.

Myself, I’ll mainly be teaching and preparing new teaching materials to start. To think, I’m going to be helping craft the very books that got me started — it’s a real honor. In time I’ll probably also help do some consulting but for now, the focus is on education.

I’ll work remotely from Philadelphia and travel as needed for the classes (probably 1 week every 5 or so) and to checkin with my coworkers down on the ranch in Atlanta on occation. I’ll post info on my travel plans as they evolve. I’d love to connect with other CocoaHead chapters and various “conference friends” during my travels that I’d otherwise only see at WWDC and such.

To the company I’m leaving, Tonic Design (formerly DmgCtrl), I want to say thank you. DmgCtrl took me in with a very warm welcome when I was in a bit of a rut doing solo consulting (both creatively and emotionally) and I’m extremely grateful to them for the opportunity. Over the past year+ we’ve built a lot of cool stuff together and I wish them the best of luck moving forward.

Anyways it’s going to be an exciting fews days as I get familiar with all the internal Big Nerd Ranch stuff, and to my new coworkers who might find this, I’ll see you in Atlanta for a week of introductions and geeking out real soon.