It’s been a long time since I’ve written here. I write at least one blog article a week these days, but it is usually over on the Overpass blog. Things are going very well with Overpass. I mean, sometimes it’s a rollercoaster, but it’s heading in the right direction.

Right now, it is 4:52am and I’ve been up for nearly an hour. My 4am regime has slacked a bit during the summer … it’s tough when school is out and all schedules change. But, now that it’s September, it’s time to get back into this discipline of waking up early.

I’ve been writing a lot of code lately, which is fun to a point. Creating software is a lot like learning a language. When you start a new project, you make massive gains and it feels like you can write an app in a few hours. But then you get into the minutiae and things slow down. Many projects don’t make it past this point, but the learning always helps. Everything I learn while creating an app contributes somewhere … even if the app never goes live. I’ve been in so many consultancy situations where I used something I’ve coded before and applied it in some situation that I had not foreseen.

I think that’s one of the major reasons I’ve done well as a contractor. People think I am smart … which is definitely not always the case. But I do have a lot of experience. Most of it doesn’t come on the job.

This is one thing I notice in junior developers. They are tied to their outcome and only learn what they need to know. If you only do it for money, this is how things work out. You are hired to perform a task and you learn what you need to for that task. But when you code for yourself, you explore more of the possibilities.

My hard drive is filled with half completed projects that were going to be the “next big thing for Overpass” but never made it past the tedium of minutiae. The ideas weren’t strong enough (or the topic was not interesting enough) to continue on with them. But, I learned loads from them. I don’t get a book out and start reading because I think it will get me a job in the future …that would be too boring and feel too much like work. But I will read up on a technology if I thought I can make something for myself. This is where the real learning happens … it’s like exploratory surgery. Every time I start a new project, I have high ambitions. But even if the project fails, I learn tons from it. It costs me time and effort … but the education gained usually benefits me later on a client project or another project for myself.

The difference between your own projects and client projects is that client projects have to get done. You’re being paid to produce, so you need to ship. Even if the code is not the cleanest, you need to deliver.

The danger of starting your own project is that you want perfection. I see this everywhere. So many people are working on an app and far fewer have released an app. Releasing is scary … an app can always be better.

I am usually successful with my own project when I treat it like a client project. It must get done.

But, when you tinker away in front of a code editor, nothing gets lost. If the end result is not usable software … it’s knowledge you use later.

An Overdue Update

April 20, 2015 — Leave a comment

It’s been five months since I posted to this blog. I’ve actually been writing a lot on the Overpass blog, but don’t usually make the time to write here. It’s not for lack of things to write about … just the motivation, I guess.

The past few months have been very busy. Last year, I stopped contracting full time and am focusing on apps full time. It’s scary but also a lot of fun. There are times when I’m not sure how I’m going to make it through the month and other times when I can’t figure out why I didn’t do this sooner.

I’m making a lot of Youtube videos for Overpass. I make a weekly video called “A Minute of Overpass” which is was terrifying at first, but now I really enjoy it.

I’ve wanted to create some videos for the past few years, but always felt silly doing it. I don’t like seeing or hearing myself and I’m extra critical. But, after doing 43 episodes of a Minute of Overpass … I’m getting used to it. It’s strange to think that thousands of people have seen me talking about apps. The Overpass youtube channel has over 160,000 views so far. Luckily, so harsh words yet.

I’m just getting passed the “suck” phase of videos. Like, my early stuff was no good, but I’m getting better. I wouldn’t say I’m great at it, but I’m definitely getting more comfortable.

When I made my first few videos, I wrote a script and read it. I just used my voice and no camera. It was not great. Now, I just wing it, and it comes across a lot more natural. It’s strange to meet people (potential clients) and they already know me.

Anyhoo, I’ll try to keep this site up to date a bit more. There is so much I can share here that I would not share with the Overpass audience.

Recently, I started optimizing my LinkedIn profile and just accepting anyone who wants to connect. I used to be very stingy about connecting . . . but then I realized I didn’t really read what most people wrote on LinkedIn. I expect people there to spam me. And believe me, with Overpass I get tons of spam.  So, I’m happy to connect with anyone.

But I won’t accept just anyone as a Facebook friend. That’s not for business. True, a lot of the stuff that is posted there is a bit self-serving and annoying. And I suppose I have occasionally posted about an Overpass project I’m excited about. I don’t post too much.  But I will unfriend anyone who tries to sell me something. My friend request queue is full of people from offshore companies who want to cozy up to me.

Today, while at Subway grabbing a quick lunch (I’ll do this maybe once a week or two weeks), they gave me a Christmas card. It was really cool. I posted it on Facebook saying that every fast food restaurant knows me (which many do).


One of my friends from High School sells dietary supplements (or some weight watchers thing or something). She saw this as an opportunity to strike. She commented “Sry but this is so sad. You shouldn’t go to so many fast food restaurants. If you want to try healthy food, I have plenty :-)” or something like that. I wish I could say this didn’t bother me. But it did . . .big time. Not only was I insulted . . . . but I was angry that I shared something I thought was funny and it was used to try to sell me something.  I deleted the comment and unfriended her. I would never speak to a friend like that . . . but I never knew her that well. I should not have let her into the inner circle.

With Overpass, I am a terrrible salesman because I hate this attitude. I hate the idea of looking at others as leads or prospects. I certainly hate being seen as a lead or prospect.

Ever say anything on Twitter and get immediately (automatically) favourited or retweeted? That’s someone’s tactic. Every marketing book tell you to be personal in this way (the “tactic” alone makes it phony).  I don’t like to share a lot online for this reason.

Occasionally, I’ll open up Twitter and look at nearby tweets. It’s usually kids tweeting at each other and being childish and stupid . . . and I love this. This is the way it was supposed to be. This is organic and people communicating with each other. No tweet schedules or “retweet if you agree” or searching for keywords. Marketing ruined all this (the same way it made email so difficult).

Anyway . . . rant over. If you friend me on Facebook and I don’t accept . . . please, no hard feelings. But connect with me on LinkedIn and you can spam me until the cows come home. I don’t mind.

Today is Halloween. And I can’t believe how much it has changed in the 16 years I lived here.

When I moved to England in 1998, going trick-or-treating was very awkward. Hardly anyone did it. When my kids got old enough, I would take them door to door. We encountered a lot of older people who had no idea what we were doing. Sometimes, we even saw friends of my kids standing in the doors because their parents didn’t believe in it.

And forget about finding a good costume back then. It wasn’t easy. Now, Sainsbury’s has an entire Halloween section.

It’s nice to see it gain popularity.

But now. . . . I’ve kind of gone off it!

The biggest thing that ever holds me back is the feeling that I am where I’m supposed to be.

My employers were always happy with where I was. They wanted me to be happy doing what I was doing.

My friends think I am where I should be. They want me to be happy doing it.

My family wants me to be happy with what I am doing. But they will support me regardless.

Most times, the only person who is unhappy with what I am doing is me. And it feels so totally selfish each and every time I throw out everything I am doing to do something different. Maybe I don’t like being where I am supposed to be.

Sometimes the change works and I get into a new groove. Then, I am where I am supposed to be. Until I get unhappy again . . .

Waking at 4am

July 17, 2014 — Leave a comment

I’ve been making it a habit of waking up at 4am for over 10 years now. My wife will tell you that this habit sometimes wanes. And I never do it at the weekend. And, surprisingly, it never gets as easy as people think it would.

I was in a meeting with someone a few weeks ago. He asked why he got an email from me at 4:30. I mentioned that I wake up very early to get things done. I usually try not to make a big deal about this kind of thing. He said what everyone says: “Oh, I couldn’t do that. I’m not a morning person.”

Believe it or not. I’m not a morning person, either. I never have been. I would much rather stay up until 3am than get up at 4am. But it is not about the type of person I am. . . it is about the type of person I want to be. And that’s hard sometimes.

To be honest, the first hour of the morning is not my most productive. Between 4 and 5 o’clock, I’m pretty grumpy. I get moody. I need a few cups of coffee before I can function. But here’s the problem . . . when I get up at 7am, I’m grumpy then too. The early wake-up affords me the opportunity to be grumpy in peace.

And why not just stay up late like normal people? Here’s what I find: when you stay up late, you alienate your family. The night starts in the early evening and carries on until the wee hours. You don’t go to bed at the same time. But when you wake up at 4, no one cares what you are doing. You could be robbing banks for all they care.

Waking up this early is not easy. Still, after all these years, it’s not easy. It’s easier than it was in the beginning, but I was very tempted to turn off that alarm this morning.

But it is not about the person I am . . . it’s about the person I want to be. And that person I want to be needs a few more hours.

Blog_friday Releases

“Just throw your hands in the air and wave them like you just don’t care!”

In the 80s, we heard this phrase a lot on the radio.  I don’t know why, but it was in a lot of songs.

But now when I think back on it, the people who did throw their hands in the air . . . they did it like they did care.  If you waved them like you just didn’t care, you should have an ambivalent look on your face.  You should wave them half-heartedly like you are thinking “I don’t even know if I should bother doing this.”  Like any second, you are just going to put your hands back down– because who can be bothered?

Anyway, it made sense at the time, I guess.

Now, everybody say “Oh, yeah!”

This weekend I watched a cartoon video of Janice Joplin’s last interview. The gist of the interview (from people all over the web, anyway) is “you are what you settle for.”

But the quote that gets me the most from this video is where she is talking about being a woman in Rock and Roll and the rejection she gets from other women:

“If they don’t have it within them to need more . . .”

This rejection does not only apply to women.  It can apply to anyone who wants to be more than others expect of them.

When you try to do more than others think you should, people tell you to be happy with what you have. I agree with this, you should be happy with what you have. But you should never stop pushing.  You should never expect what you have to be your final resting place.

It is easy to feel selfish for wanting to be more than you are (or should be). The expectations of others should not have as much sway over us as we allow it, but it does. The opinions of others keeps us second guessing.  They keep us stationary.  If I had done what others expected of me, I’d still be in the Army (or teaching, or working as a permanent coder in the IT job I took, or whatever).

It takes small acts of courage to change and it never gets easier.

No matter where you are in life, you will be surrounded by people telling you that this is where you should be.  This is your final resting place. It is always almost impossible to explain (to them or ourselves) that “This is great, but I need more than this.”

Do you ever have enough? I don’t think so. It will never be enough. Who can say, “this is enough”? Who can say “I’m happy to stay like this while I wait for death”?

We have to need more.

TLC said “Don’t go chasing waterfalls.  Just stick to the rivers and the lakes that you’re used to”.  But where is the fun in that?  Chase the waterfalls.

The Story of Overpass

September 17, 2013 — Leave a comment

Yesterday, I spent some time creating a “homepage video” for the Overpass Site. Let me know what you think:

I used the Videoscribe software from Sparkol and recorded the audio with Audacity (the audio recording on Sparkol leaves some to be desired–but the rest is great).