Weeknote #1

Weeknotes seem to be a thing currently. Martin has been doing it for ages, and I've always been jealous of his discipline. Now Paul, Dave, Baldur and probably many others have started and I thoroughly enjoy reading them. I started to wonder (not for the first time) if I can also make this a regular thing. Part of my Sunday routine, maybe.

So, without further ado: The last week was too short, a bit on the stressful side – but also not too bad. I predict that this will be true for a lot of weeks.

Work

With our two main project coordinators on vacation and sick leave respectively, I felt the need to assume a lot of their duties on top of mine. That includes taking over the bi-weekly phone calls with our focus project's client as well as triaging all the incoming customer requests via our issue-tracking-system. Turns out this is a lot of work and I'm glad that I usually don't notice any of it. I also got to fix a few minor bugs, which felt good. Apart from them being there in the first place, of course.

We also hosted eight bright and enthusiastic girls on Thursday for this year's "Girls'Day", a nationwide activity where "technical" companies offer a full day of looking behind the scenes to girls of 10 years upwards. Lukas and I explained a bit about web development and then quickly let them loose on the excellent Hour of Code activities from code.org. The biggest part of the day was dedicated to free-form projects, where the girls went through ideation, conceptualisation, storyboarding, logo design all the way to early HTML prototypes. The list of projects included

  • an e-commerce store that sells everything (apart from illegal stuff!)
  • a variation of the hangman game
  • a website for an animal shelter with little CVs for each animal looking for adoption
  • a restaurant finder for healthy fast food with intricate filter mechanisms
  • an adventure game situated in an aquatic world where you solve quests to gain new outfits

At the end of the afternoon, the girls made us very happy when they concluded that they would really like to do this every day – even after we explained that we usually don't have as much chocolate nor order pizza for lunch.

Reading

I am pretty sure that reading is the secret of my mental resilience. It helps me to switch off completely from whatever is going on, so it was quite awesome that I had plenty to devour this week. I am currently on a young adult (YA) fantasy fiction streak, mostly because I enjoy reading everything Brandon Sanderson puts to paper and I have read every book except his YA endeavours. So, yeah. I finished "Skyward" (which was fantastic!) on Friday last week, gave myself a 48-hour-lockout and started into "Steelheart", the first installment of his "Reckoners" trilogy on Monday. By now, I'm almost finished with the second book ("Firefight") and a bit sad that there's only one more to go.

As usual, I accompany my fiction reading with plenty of non-fiction, mostly from around the internets. Here is a selection of articles that I believe are worth remembering:

Malte Ubl explained how his team built the fastest conference website in the world. Even though AMP plays a part (I'm not sold on AMP), there are a lot of things that apply to any project. I enjoyed reading about the decisions they made and the trade-offs they considered worthwile.

Jake Archibald reviewed the performance of formula one websites. It's a hilarious read as well as a good primer on performance reviews. What stuck with me the most was his epiphany that "[…] none of the teams used any of the big modern frameworks. They're mostly Wordpress & Drupal, with a lot of jQuery. It makes me feel like I've been in a bubble in terms of the technologies that make up the bulk of the web." Thank you, Jake. Yes, there are a lot of people building with old, tested and boring tech. We're here, and we're many!

A few other people have published similar thoughts this week. Baldur contemplated The Ease of Big Mistakes in his second weeknote, warning that "Once you have a build system and your basic web application scaffolding up, huge, project-crippling mistakes come almost naturally [note: if you're not paying attention while building your client-side web application]". Chris Coyier wrote a long, art-directed column called "Simple & Boring" and linked to more great posts about this topic which I won't repeat here.

I also stumbled on a few great fringe articles. Nellie Bowles wrote a piece for the New York Times about how Human Contact Is Now A Luxury Good. She points out that "In Silicon Valley, time on screens is increasingly seen as unhealthy. Here, the popular elementary school is the local Waldorf School, which promises a back-to-nature, nearly screen-free education. So as wealthy kids are growing up with less screen time, poor kids are growing up with more. How comfortable someone is with human engagement could become a new class marker." I have no idea how this relates to Germany, but it got me thinking.

John Harris presents a bleak opinion on the web's future in The Guardian's The global battle for the internet is just starting. He warns that while we may currently raise an eyebrow at China's overt surveillance and social ranking systems, there are signs that the western giants (namely Google and Facebook) are going in the exact same direction.

Last but not least, there's A. Jesse Jiryu Davis on OneZero with a report on The obsolescence of old coders. This hits a bit too close to home. At 37, I am part of the old guard whether I want to or not. I have spent quite a bit of time wondering whether I will still be building websites at 40. Or 50. Will "simple & boring" tech still measure up then? Will I be able to keep up, if not? So much to think about.

Miscellanea

I went to the cinema to watch Free Solo on Sunday. Such a great movie! Even though it was filmed in 2016/2017 and I knew the outcome, the last third of the movie (the actual climb) was exceptionally thrilling. Highly recommended!

One of our skylights spontaneously sprung a leak on Monday and it started raining on the couch. Only it wasn't spontaneous at all, considering the time it must have taken for the frame to rot through this far with slow seepage only. The roofers found that all skylights across the building share the same fate and need to be replaced. For now, ours is sealed with a red plastic sheet and duct tape. A good time to be renting, I guess.

This concludes week #1. Looking back, I'm not sure I'll be able to be this elaborate every week. We'll see.