I keep learning this lesson over and over again, so I’m writing it here in an effort to never forget again. As a manager, if some task constantly stresses me out or makes me feel uneasy, it’s probably because I’m doing someone else’s job.

I don’t mean someone’s being lazy and I’m picking up their slack. I’m talking about those nagging little annoying things (or huge, scary things in some cases) you find yourself doing as infrequently as you can and do a half-assed job at every time. …

(This article was originally published as part of PragPub)

Since the release of The Passionate Programmer, I’ve been thinking a lot about goals. The book is about how to build a remarkable career in software development. But, I ask, what does that lead to? Having a remarkable career sounds like a pretty good goal, but is it?

In a job I had seemingly several careers ago, I was a Six Sigma Blackbelt. That job was remarkable in that I had arguably the lamest title possible in any industry other than Master Blackbelt, which was the “promotion” from Blackbelt. Six Sigma…

I’ve been thinking lately about the plight of the first-time startup CTO. Startup CTOs are an interesting crowd. They’re often people who are technology-focused with a good idea and enough tech skill to create something that is worth incorporating a company over. Startup CTOs might be industry veterans with years of management and business experience. But they’re often inexperienced, talented programmers who have turned a passion into a business. You don’t learn how to be a CTO in school. As far as I can tell, there are relatively few resources available for startup CTOs. …

As you interact with other people in the world, you either generate energy or you deplete it. In a team environment, there are people who always bring the team’s energy level up. When they are absent, you miss it. They somehow direct the flow of conversation and events from dead ends to forward motion. When you discuss a problem with them, you feel better afterward.

And, of course, there are those who have the opposite effect. Any debate becomes an exhausting fight. Negative events are followed by even more negative responses. Hard problems become drudgery. Optimism turns into cynicism. …

As a kid, when I had just reached the age of having or going to sleep-overs, there was a constant source of friction between me and my friends: they would want to watch television, and I argued that we could watch television alone, so it was a waste of our time together.

Now our entire society has become a pervasive, mobile version of what I was trying to avoid as a child. But instead of watching television, we’re all watching our phones, tablets, and laptops. Everywhere. On the street. At dinner. At parties. At traffic signals. In our living rooms and bedrooms.

What a waste of our time together.

(The following was written as the foreword to Rob Conery’s excellent, highly recommended book, “The Imposter’s Handbook”)

I’ve been honored to be asked to write the foreword for several books over the course of my career. Each time, my first reaction is something like “Oh wow, how exciting! What an honor! HEY LOOK SOMEONE WANTS ME TO WRITE THEIR FOREWORD!!!” My second reaction is almost always, “Oh no! Why me? Why would they ask me of all people? I’m just a saxophone player who stumbled into computer programming. I have no idea what I’m doing!”

No offense to Rob intended…

Chat bots are all the rage in our little technology industry echo-chamber. It’s easy to get distracted by messaging applications and services right now. WeChat, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Slack, etc. are starting to dominate our online lives both at home and at work. WeChat has turned itself into a little AOL-like micro-internet, with conversation as the central metaphor. It’s the end of the App era, so they say.

It’s only natural, therefore, that we start the usual platform gold rush. Companies are clamoring to become the platform providers, infrastructural glue, and app providers for our conversations. …

When you create art, the purpose is self-expression.

When you create software, the purpose is rarely self-expression.

When you create software, someone somewhere wants it to perform a set of functions and has a stake in how well those functions are implemented. The definition of “well” is up to the stakeholder.

When you create art, you want it to be beautiful, or beautifully ugly, or ornate, or plain. You, the creator, are the stakeholder. You may hope that others find it beautiful, but if they don’t, it’s art — who’s to say what’s good and bad?

When you attempt to…

Here’s an exercise you can put into place right now which will have a lasting, significant, positive effect on your life and the lives of those you work, live, collaborate, and play with. There are two versions: an easy version and a harder version. Start with the easy version unless you’re the kind of person who has to do things the hard way.

The easy version

Whenever you have a cynical thought, keep it to yourself. Never utter, write, or otherwise convey it. Put it away. Think it to yourself all day if you have to, but never express it.

The harder version

Whenever you have…

What do the following have in common?

  • Agile Software Development
  • Six Sigma
  • Behavior Driven Development
  • Software Craftsmanship
  • DevOps

Each of these represents a good idea that a group of well-meaning people tried (and succeeded) to spread into the world.

Each is generally poorly defined and poorly understood.

Each term has now lost its meaning.

Each term, with new watered-down, wrong-headed interpretations is being used constantly to create a false sense of security and justification for bad practices.

In each case, adoption of a good idea is being accidentally replaced by adoption of a name which represents that good idea. …

Chad Fowler

I help startups succeed. CTO, speaker, author, investor — currently @microsoft @blueyard

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