Josh's blog

Writer's Block

It’s January, 2020, and my (vague) New Year’s Resolution is to write more. But I am not sure that I have anything worth writing.

Gee, I must live a pretty dull life. Compared to an imaginary “interesting strawman”, I’m sure this is true. Partly I suspect that the perspectives of a well-off white guy in their 30s who works in tech are not unique or special. Surely there are many more interesting voices out there. Why listen to mine? One thing I do think I have going for me is that I aim to be much less of a narcissist than the Prime Minister.

Working in an operations role has increased my appreciation for the banal. It sure is stressful when the code or architecture is so complicated that it cannot be diagnosed (complexity!), when backups don’t work when doing a restore (surprise!), when the deploy causes a security incident (whoops!), or teams can’t compromise on a solution for their common problem (conflict!). Doing things in a boring way avoids incidents, and therefore avoids interesting stories, right?

I was once taught in a video-game storytelling class that the thing that drives a story is conflict. Maybe this is an incomplete understanding of stories, and the feeling that because everything is going so well I have nothing interesting to say is an example of a bias towards this traditional approach. Would “everything went really well” stories be of interest? There must be some reason for the popularity of “slow TV”, and of videos of skilled people just doing their jobs really well.

Either way, do I have some stories to tell? Yes, I do. I also have a Google problem.

There are certain things I’m really not allowed to say, certain details that would give a lot of colour to stories that I might conceivably tell. I just don’t. It’s worked for the last 6 years. I like being paid a salary, bonus, and equity, and the big G likes certain internal systems to continue working, and doesn’t like leakers.

The other Google problem I have is the energy I have at the end of each day, for projects like Shenzhen Go, or synthesising weird musical noises, where there is no worry of confidentiality issues. 2018 was draining, even without all the conferences. 2019, well, hmm. This year is already cutting my work out for me. These days I get home and want to chill, not do more work. started to feel like work. Writing conference talks is pretty much work. Home lab management is work. Some computer games - a lot like work.

Studying quantum theory with hardly any physics background? Kind of refreshing!

Conferences are interesting, often refreshing and invigorating, and tend to be full of people I like being around, so I like attending them. Breaking with tradition, just last week was on at the Gold Coast, but for once I didn’t go. I’m going to continue pretending it was entirely due to a bunch of important meetings at work, and had nothing to do with me being bitter over never once getting a talk accepted into the LCA main conference.

That aside, all the talk recordings I’ve watched from it so far have been well worth the time: Benno’s talk (What UNIX Cost Us), Dr Sean Brady’s keynote, and the lightning talks.