Which Basket Should A Developer Put Their Eggs In?

The situation goes like this. Lots of excellent, capable people have great ideas for new software products. They are bootstrapping their venture, so they look for a developer who wants to give some time up front and receive a fair (let's assume fair) share of the rewards once the product becomes successful.

The question is: as a developer, how do you know which of these products (I get about one tempting enquiry a month from what sounds like a real person who isn't building a social network) is a good bet?

Celebrating One Year in Business

A year ago, I left my job at Ibuildings and went freelance. At the time, I didn't really know what I wanted to do next, and I was excited about the opportunity to try out a few different things. I blogged about my new (ad)venture when I launched it, but I haven't written much since and people keep asking me for updates - the anniversary seems like a good time to reflect.

Well, I still don't know what I want to do next, but that seems like less of a problem these days. I'm busy but in a planned-in-advance, only wearing myself down because there was something so exciting I couldn't say no, kind of a way. I am not a great fan of travel, and have always tried to avoid it, but in fact so many interesting things came up this year that I ended up on the road more than ever. It turns out that there is a world of difference between being sent somewhere on short notice, and planning a series of interesting professional engagements that just happen to involve being away from home a lot all at once. And if I don't want to go: I don't go. It's amazing how many people will wait til next month if you ask them!

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A Book Burndown Chart

You might have noticed that things have been a bit quiet around here lately ... that's because I'm writing a book and doing a lot of editing at the moment. I love doing both of these as part of my work, but it turns out that when you're already writing/editing 3k words a day, it's hard to find more words to blog with (well, and I usually blog whatever code I'm writing which isn't a whole lot right now). I did however want to share with you the news that I'm working on a book (about PHP, for the lovely Sitepoint).

I'm completely new to book-writing and it felt like a mountain to climb. I have five chapters of around 8 thousand words each to write for the book (I have co-authors, who are also lovely), and the general advice I got was to just take it all one step at a time. This sounds a lot like the way I teach project management and time management to developers, so I used those same skills and created a burndown chart (I blogged about creating these before):

As you can see, there have been some great days, and some quieter days. The flat lines are mostly weekends or days where I was out of the office with other clients. Although I feel slightly overwhelmed (and this doesn't show the edits that come back after I submit each chapter), the graph is at least going in the right direction!

360 Degree Feedback

I mentioned the 360 Degree Feedback Technique during my keynote at PHPNW10 and had many comments and questions about it since, so I thought I'd post about it in more detail

Introduction to 360 Degree Feedback

The basic premise of 360 degree feedback is that rather than being given performance feedback at work solely by your superior, the feedback comes from people all around you. This would include your manager and your peers, but could also include your direct reports, and people that you work closely with from other areas of the business. For example a developer might receive feedback from the rest of the development team, the design lead, and the project manager.

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Business Strategies: Office Day

I'm now self-employed, which means that I have to do my own administration, invoicing, accounts, correspondence, sales, marketing and maintenance (not to mention running the household, a sports team, and whatever else I've volunteered to get involved with lately). I am pretty organised as a person, which is a real gift now I have all this going on! I have some coping strategies and I thought I'd share one that has helped hugely - the office day.

The idea of the office day is that I block out a whole day every month or so where I'm not going anywhere, not on site with clients, not speaking, not delivering anything, just in the office, doing whatever needs doing. I tend to put these days in either day before or after runs of days away - either with clients or at events, just to give me time to catch my breath. Working this way means that when I'm working on something, I can just work on it, and know that there is time set aside for all the little things. Also the days where I'm just back from somewhere and the inbox is so full, it is ready to bite, then it gives time to get things straightened out and right, without feeling stressed because there is other work to do. Although it does mean that I'm not doing billable work that day, I find that splitting the work up like this works really well for me, and I thought I'd share - perhaps this suggestion will help someone else, and I'm always interested to hear how others fit in all the business bits and pieces around their "real" work.

Three Months In: The (Ad)Venture Continues

It's three months since I gave up the day job and so many people have asked me how it's going, that I thought I'd give a quick round up!

I am a statistics nut so it will surprise nobody that I track my time religiously (using harvest, which I'll post about some day soon). From this I can tell you that I spend about 40% of my time working for other people, and the rest doing things like writing, preparing talks, accounts, meetings, or whatever. I've also taken 14 days off, which has been absolutely fabulous after a decidedly work-heavy first half of 2010. The biggest change is that I've only worked one weekend day. One.

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Giving Up The Day Job

The In-A-Nutshell Version I have resigned from Ibuildings. I will complete my notice period here in a couple of weeks and then move on to a wide and interesting variety of well-paying freelance assignments covering development, consultancy, writing and speaking. Hopefully.

The slightly longer version really is this. Two and a half years ago, I left a job at a type of company I usually describe as a yet-another-website company, where literally every new project was another CMS website. Which was fun for about the first 4 months and got old pretty quickly. Two and a half years at Ibuildings and I haven't done yet-another-anything, the projects have been technical, challenging and my colleagues are the best qualified set of people I'll probably ever work with.

Along the way I've also done a wide variety of other things, most of which are achievements beyond my wildest dreams, some within the scope of this job and some on my own time but of course influenced by all that I've learned. I've delivered training, led projects, been published, become a regular conference speaker and travelled internationally doing so, collaborated on an open source project, edited a developer portal and hosted a major international PHP conference. I've even learned to say those things about myself in public without feeling too much of a fraud!

At this point, there are so many things I want to be doing, writing, speaking and so on, as well as some interesting development projects, that holding down my 9-5 as well has become untenable; that's the main motivation for this change. I don't intend to take another full time job, although I don't have a lot of paying work lined up so please bear in mind that I am looking for some ;)

Things I would like to be doing:

  • Working with development teams on skills, tools and process (think teach a man to fish, rather than sell him a fish)
  • API development
  • Technical writing
  • Meeting cool and interesting people and embarking on cool and interesting projects together

Advice on achieving any or all of the above is appreciated - if any of you can also think of me when discussing business, write me a linked in recommendation, or retweet my announcement of my news, that would be fabulous!!

If you're still reading, then I'll share a little something with you. I decided that with a career move, I needed a little rebrand, so here is my new angel avatar. I hope you like her :)

Wish me luck in my new (ad)venture, I'll be keeping everyone up to date as always!

Whose Responsibility is Your Career?

There are 10 types of people in the world: Those who understand binary, and those who don't.

I guess we've all seen this geek witticism, its a little piece of the fabric of the culture. Personally I split people into two groups along other lines: those that look out for their own professional interests, and those who don't. I'm an optimist, so lets start out looking at those who do.

These people are self-starters. They have read relevant texts on their subject and depending on the type of industry they are from they either have blogs, news and syndication sites on their feed reader, or they subscribe to the relevant periodicals. You'll see them at some of the events, sometimes a long way from home, and always "off their own bat". They'll be asking questions about how different technologies go together, about who they could approach with a particular question, and so on. If you mention web resources, they'll go there and read what's available. They might come back with follow-up questions. And they will be the first to also help another along his way, passing along the gifts that they have been given from those who went before and helped them to this point.

Then there's the other kind of people. The kind that doesn't have books of its own, that doesn't interact with communities outside of work, and that "can't" go to events because their employers don't send them. I understand that money and time are both something that can be in short supply, yet I still have little patience with people who have this attitude. None of us can be everywhere that would be useful, but one event a year is do-able for most people, and in my opinion career development shouldn't be free and effortless.

So - which kind of person are you? If its the first kind, what do you do to ensure you keep learning and keep growing? Post your stories in the comments!