Blog Archives

Mental callouses

In describing writing his second book, Tom Leinster says … I’m older and, I hope, more able to cope with stress: just as carpenters get calloused hands that make them insensitive to small abrasions, I like to imagine that academics

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Time and Productivity

Contractors were working on my house all last week. I needed to be home to let them in, to answer questions, etc., but the noise and interruptions meant that home wasn’t a good place for me to work. In addition,

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Posted in Business

Reducing development friction

Diomidis Spinellis gave an insightful list of ways to reduce software development friction in the Tools of the Trade podcast episode The Frictionless Development Environment Scorecard. The first item on his list grabbed my attention: Are my personal settings and

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Posted in Software development

The difference between machines and tools

From “The Inheritance of Tools” by Scott Russell Sanders: I had botched a great many pieces of wood before I mastered the right angle with a saw, botched even more before I learned to miter a joint. The knowledge of

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Posted in Creativity

Some things can’t be done slowly

Keith Perhac mentioned in a podcast that a client told him he accomplished more in three days than the client had accomplished in six months. That sounds like hyperbole, but it’s actually plausible. Sometimes a consultant can accomplish in a

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Slabs of time

From Some Remarks: Essays and Other Writing by Neal Stephenson: Writing novels is hard, and requires vast, unbroken slabs of time. Four quiet hours is a resource I can put to good use. Two slabs of time, each two hours long,

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Randomized studies of productivity

A couple days ago I wrote a blog post quoting Cal Newport suggesting that four hours of intense concentration a day is as much as anyone can sustain. That post struck a chord and has gotten a lot of buzz

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Posted in Software development

Four hours of concentration

As I’ve blogged about before, and mentioned again in my previous post, the great mathematician and physicist Henri Poincaré put in two hours of work in the morning and two in the evening. Apparently this is a common pattern. Cal

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Increasing your chances of entering flow

I recently ran across a tip from Mark Hepburn that caught my eye. The content of the tip isn’t important here but rather his justification of the tip: It sounds trivial, but it can really help keep you in the

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Fractured work

Vivek Haldar’s recent post Quantum of Work points out something obvious in retrospect: programming is intrinsically fractured. It does little good to tell a programmer to unplug and concentrate. He or she cannot work for more than a few minutes

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Posted in Software development

Life lessons from functional programming

Functional programming languages are either strict or lazy. Strict languages evaluate all arguments to a function before calling it. Lazy languages don’t evaluate arguments until necessary, which may be never. Strict languages evaluate arguments just-in-case, lazy languages evaluate them just-in-time.

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Posted in Software development

Do you need a to-do list?

Jeff Atwood wrote the other day that if you need a to-do list, something’s wrong. If you can’t wake up every day and, using your 100% original equipment God-given organic brain, come up with the three most important things you

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It's not the text editor, it's text

Vivek Haldar had a nice rant about editors a couple days ago. In response to complaints that some editors are ugly, he writes: The primary factor in looking good should be the choice of a good font at a comfortable

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Posted in Computing

Work or rest

According a recent biography of Henri Poincaré, Poincaré … worked regularly from 10 to 12 in the morning and from 5 till 7 in the late afternoon. He found that working longer seldom achieved anything … Poincaré made tremendous contributions

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Bicycle skills

A while back I wrote about learning things just-in-case or just-in-time. Some things you learn in case you need them in the future, and some things you learn as needed. How do you decide whether something is worth learning ahead

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