About 7 years ago I discovered an awesome twist on the traditional Software Engineering career: Developer Relations. Over the years and across organizations the titles have varied – from Developer Evangelist, to Developer Advocate, and even to Senior Staff Developer Programs Engineer. But, all the while, one thing has remained the same: it’s really hard to explain what the heck we do.
Today my teammates and I, inspired by #BadlyExplainingYourJob, discovered that failed attempts are actually a great way to explain our jobs. Here is a list of those failed attempts.
I go places and talk to people about products, but don’t care if you buy them.
Explain how a Developer Advocate is not the same thing as a Technical Evangelist, over and over.
~~ Paul Newson
I’m a professional translator. I translate between Real World Engineer and Google Engineer.
~~ Aja Hammerly
I help people cause trouble with code.
~~ Jen Tong
I travel the world, excited to learn about how our products are broken.
~~ Brian Dorsey
I read Hacker News and Reddit, and pretend I’m an expert on stage.
I collect t-shirts from conferences, and tech companies while travelling the world.
~~ Mark Mandel
I’m the one Developers yell at when the platform isn’t working how they want; And I’m the one the engineers yell at when the developers aren’t using it right
~~ Colt McAnlis
I practice abstract driven development.
~~ Myles Borins
I look for places I want to travel to, and then see if there are conferences there I can speak at
~~ Mark Mandel
I make explosion noises at my computer when demos fail and get paid for it.
~~ Aja Hammerly
And, of course, this list wouldn’t be complete without…
I’m a people person. I take the code from the engineers and I bring it to the developers.
~~ Myles Borins
So yeah, hopefully that worked. You have a better idea of what it is we do, right? And it sounds great? Maybe you should come join us!
I was a big fan of Bay Area Bike Share from the start. As long as everything goes right, it’s awesome. You can ride to work, and take a bus home when it starts raining. I used it for years without incident, but then I discovered its darker side yesterday.
In software we do postmortems when things go wrong. They help us learn from our mistakes, and improve systems so we can do better next time. They usually include a few sections: what happened, what went right, what could have gone better, and lessons learned. I find this format useful, so I’m using it here so you can learn from my experience.
Here’s the story of what happened, written up as a sequence of steps.
It’s always important to note what went well, so you don’t un-do those things while you try to prevent the bad things from happening again. Here’s a list of things that went right.
And here’s the core of the postmortem: what needs to be fixed. Here’s a list, along with some recommendations for improvements.
In the end I didn’t owe Bay Area Bike Share anything, but I did waste most of a day searching. The experience left a bad taste in my mouth. I still believe in bike share as a concept, but I’m done with Bay Area Bike Share. The liability is just too high. After 2 years of use, and hundreds of successful rides, it only took one problem to ruin my experience.
Perhaps once they have more than a 3 second window to confirm a bike is returned, I’ll give them another shot.
Oh, and about the other provider: Bluegogo. They have an even scarier policy. The responsibility period is the same (until the next rider checks the bike out), but they don’t use docks. So, say you park your bike and it goes unused for 3 days, but then some mean person throws it in a pickup truck at 2am. In that case you’re liable for an undisclosed replacement cost, and losses due to loss of use. Pretty scary!
Photo credit: Bay Area Bike Share
I’m sitting on an airplane somewhere above New Mexico. About 3 hours ago I walked into a metal tube in New Orleans, and in about an hour I’ll step out on the other side of the country.
Air travel is amazing. The seats may be cramped. The in-flight food may be of diminishing availability and quality. But, it’s more and more pleasurable each time I fly. The tiny computer that fits in my pocket contains hundreds of songs, hours of video, and over a thousand of hours of podcasts. And if I get bored of that, I can read a library of digital books, or play a time-sucking video game like Factorio or Faster than Light.
It’s times like these that I realize how easy consuming has become. At any given moment, I have more distractions in my pocket than the whole world had 20 years ago. It’s easier than ever to use tiny computers to convert free time into satisfying little dopamine hits.
This has come at a cost, though. While consuming got easier, creating did not keep up. Keyboards are much the same as they were decades ago. Between digital styluses and touch screens, pointer input is at best a few times better.
I’ve seen the effect in my own behavior. I used to write a lot more. I used to scribble crude drawings in notebooks. I was never a master artist, but creating satisfied something important. With consuming so much easier than creating, I feel my focus on creating starting to slip away, and creative skills beginning to dull.
Assuming that creativity is intrinsically important, what’s to be done? Should I leave my video games and podcasts at home? Nah, I’m not doing anything that drastic for now. Instead, I’ll put a little bit of deliberate effort into writing, sketching, and otherwise exercising my creative muscles when I have down time. In fact this very blog entry is an attempt to turn the tide (so meta!). I’ll check back in a couple months to see if things have improved :)
Have you observed this phenomena? Does it trouble you? If so, what are you doing about it? Let me know on Twitter