Thursday, 3 June 2010

That thing you use? I made that.

Monday night (technically Tuesday morning, but who’s counting? Other than Blogger, that is) I mentioned that being able to say to somebody, “you know that thing that you use? I made that” is a great feeling. I just ran into a former colleague from my previous contract, who let me know just on what scale my stuff is operating.

One of the projects I worked on—made, really; the requirements were small enough—was a carbon and cost savings calculator for Sears Canada’s website, so that people looking to replace one of their appliances could see about how much money they’d save by switching. Fairly simple to do; the worst of it was extracting the formulas from the Big Ugly Interactive Spreadsheet that Sears provided. I worked hard to provide the best little jQuery applet I could, complete with pretty transitions and everything. Fully translated into French, too, and I made sure it’d work acceptably well in IE6. It was kind of a focus of their recent/current Green promotion, but how many people, really, were going to wind up using it?

As it turns out, a lot. In the linked article, you can see that last Friday, they opened a six-kiosk booth in the Vancouver Robson store that runs that “little jQuery applet” in a touchscreen interface! I’m… speechless. To the best of my knowledge, nothing I’ve ever made has seen such a wide userbase. They’re adding more booths to more stores, too. I kind of hope that one will show up in Toronto so I can play with it and show people.

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

In which a scale is found tipping

There’s a certain aphorism that I’ve been thinking about lately: “there are twenty-four useful hours in every day” I don’t recall where I heard it first—as I recall, the version I heard growing up was “you’ve got the same amount of time in the day as the rest of us”—but I’ve realised two things about that first saying:

  1. There are decidedly not twenty-four useful hours in every day. Depending on your particularly sleep needs, there are eighteen and, say, fifteen waking hours in every day. Then when you factor in time spent in transit between work/school and home, and mealtimes, along with basic hygiene needs, your time-per-day number drops considerably. I”d estimate around twelve. Your mileage may vary, depending on, well, the mileage between home and what you do to make a living.
  2. I need more. I think this is why I’m reminded if my father’s different, truer version of the saying.

There are people in this industry, in this city, who love the freelancing life; people who love seeking out the Next Big Contract, and who get off on working late into the night to make a higher paycheque than the next guy. I’m not one of those people, as I’ve been discovering this year.

Don’t get me wrong. I like networking, and I like making things happens, and I like being able to say, “you know that thing that you use? I made that.” It’s a great feeling. But for the past few months, I’ve really felt like I’ve had at least twenty-four hours of work to do, every single day. So I perpetually feel like I’m behind. And that’s a pretty crappy feeling.

I read a book a few years back called The Hacker Ethic. It discusses the Protestant work ethic, which I think is a huge influence, in this city, of why people will willingly put in ten- or twelve-hour working days, five or six days a week. I don’t get that. I’ve been doing that for months, and it’s awful. All you’re thinking about is what you have to do. Your main focus is making more money. But why? So you can buy more things?

Seriously, everybody should read that book. I got into computers professionally because I love using them, and bending them to my will. But I also love my wife, and it’s important to find that work/life balance that keeps you sane and healthy.

This is becoming a bit of a rant, so I think I’d best cut it off. Too much work to do, anyway.