Learning Django Check-in - Week 5

Craig Maloney - Mon, 01/07/2019 - 09:27

Made some more progress in learning Django over the past week. Have noticed that my best work seems to happen in the morning, just before work. I'm on Chapter 11 now, which is about how Django uses passwords. Most of what I have learned is how to theme the bits that Django gives you for "free", which is helpful for me at the moment because I'm using some of this at work in semi-related projects.

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Designing a Well Lived Life: Checking In (December)

Craig Maloney - Mon, 12/31/2018 - 21:40

Making the last check-in for 2018 for my "Designing a Well-Lived Life" blogging. This is about making small changes during the year to make larger changes.

  • Writing more / designing more: December really felt like a lot of things were converging together at once, but I managed to do a little more editing. The designing piece unfortunately didn't get the attention that I wanted to give it.

  • Programming more: I've been putting my focus here with learning about Django (see earlier posts). Also been doing more programming at work.

  • Engage more with people, not things: I think I can call this more of a success. I have the weekly Coffee House Coders meetings, the monthly Michigan!/usr/group meetings, and have had some more time with folks outside of those events. Calling this a success.

  • Blogging more: Calling this a semi-success, as I've been doing at least once-a-month blogging.

  • Getting out of debt: Ah, the perennial issue. Still working on this and having some success with budgeting, but exploring more avenues for producing more income would be helpful.

  • Supporting creators in sustainable ways: I've had some mild success with this, but I haven't been able to find better ways to do this outside of Patreon, Liberapay, and Bandcamp. I wish there were better ways to do this.

  • Physical health: Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

  • Kindness: Calling this a success for this year.

  • Mindfulness: Had some success with using mindfulness this year.

For 2019 I'm going to keep doing this challenge (I kind of like it, and it helps with the whole blogging thing). I'm going to concentrate on the following:

  • Administrative focus: I've let a lot of administrative things go by the wayside this year. I have machines that are out of date, and other admin sorts of things that haven't been kept up. I need to give this more attention.

  • Writing more: I really liked writing, so I want to split this off. This can include things like blogging, journaling, and what-not, but I think building more of a writing habit will help me to uncork a lot of the ideas that are in my head.

  • Design more: I want to focus more on designing games, especially the Pepper&Carrot RPG. This sort of fits into the writing piece but I'm breaking it apart so it has its own focus.

  • Programming more: Adding more programming to the repertoire would really benefit both my career and the projects I want to take on.

  • Getting out of debt: The eternal struggle, but it still needs focus. Especially on the budgeting and income creation piece.

  • Physical Health: If the body is a temple then this temple needs some renovations.

  • Mindfulness: Still want to focus on mindfulness this year.

  • Deeper work: Some days I feel like I really can't focus on my work. I'm looking to do more deeper work in my days and not fall into traps of distraction.

I'll blog about my progress throughout the year.

Hoping to have an amazing 2019. And I hope you also have a great 2019 too.

Categories: LugNut Blogs

Django Check-in for Week 3 and 4

Craig Maloney - Sat, 12/29/2018 - 19:20

I've been working through the Django for Beginners book and I have to say I'm really impressed with the clarity of the book. There haven't been as many instances of me wondering what I should be doing, or where some code should go in this book. Kudos to the author for making a book that is really catered to getting folks up-to-speed.

Still making progress through the book. I've been allocating time before each workday (10 minutes) to read through the book and I've found it helpful. Unfortunately the holidays have really cut into some of that time, so I've had to be more creative with finding windows of time in order to practice.

I'm now on the section for the Custom User Model and am looking forward to learning more about how to extend the users for Django.

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Merry Christmas

Craig Maloney - Tue, 12/25/2018 - 08:20

Wishing you the best of the holiday season, and a very Merry Christmas.

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Django Training, check in weeks one and two

Craig Maloney - Tue, 12/18/2018 - 22:34

It's been a few weeks since the beginning of the month and I wanted to check in with the progress of my Django training. Unfortunately the first week was rather rough for me as I felt like everything had to be done all at once. I didn't make any time for learning, and I got more and more frustrated with myself for not making the time. So I figured the best way to make this a habit was to have a trigger. The best trigger I could come up with was to do a 10 minute learning container before I say down for work. This may seem silly, but it's been remarkable how much progress I've made. I'm working through the book "Django for Beginners" and have made it into the chapter on forms. I'm really pleased, not only with my progress, but that I've been able to stick with it and not let myself get down.

I'm learning that it's not enough just to have the intention to do something, but there also needs to be the space made for that intention to happen. By saying "there will be a 10 minute container before I work" I made the space for this to happen.

I'm wondering where else I can extend this way of thinking. I know this worked for me when I wrote and edited "The Mediocre Programmer" but I've managed to get out of that pattern. Perhaps I need to start that again.

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Designing a Well Lived Life: Checking In (November)

Craig Maloney - Fri, 11/30/2018 - 09:08

Checking in for November for my "Designing a Well-Lived Life" blogging. This is about making small changes during the year to make larger changes.

  • Writing more / designing more: I'm nearing the end of the editing pass for "The Mediocre Programmer" which is exciting for me. I'm in the process of getting someone to help me with chapter 7 (the chapter on burnout) to make sure that what I'm putting in there makes sense from perspectives that I don't have. I'm also starting work on writing more for the Pepper&Carrot RPG (which I'll be detailing in the coming month).

  • Programming more: Again my programming has been happening more at work than it has for myself. I haven't taken the time to really sit down and learn, but I hope to change that this next month by spending at least 10 minutes per day learning Django. I'll document that progress as well through weekly check-ins on this very blog.

  • Engage more with people, not things: The holidays provided many opportunities for this, but that's kind-of-cheating, wouldn't you agree? :)

  • Blogging more: I did a few blog posts in November. Expect more of this in December.

  • Getting out of debt: Still slowly chipping away at the mountain.

  • Supporting creators in sustainable ways: Patreon and Liberapay seem to be the way that I can move forward on this. I'm still trying to support musicians on Bandcamp as well. I'm sure there's more that I can do but I haven't taken more time to find them.

  • Physical health: I need to give this more attention. At the moment no progress to report.

  • Kindness: This past month we released a Code of Conduct for Pepper&Carrot. The discussions gave me some practice on trying to be kind. But this is definitely an area that needs more focus.

  • Mindfulness: I've been meditating every day this month, but once the meditation ends I'm not finding myself being terribly mindful. Part of that is just the stress of the day, and part of it is a feeling of falling behind in what I want / need to accomplish. I'm looking to allocate more time to do more deep work, and also commit myself to focused learning (Django) and writing (Pepper&Carrot RPG).

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The Any-Benefit

Craig Maloney - Fri, 11/16/2018 - 20:40

I've been re-reading to "Deep Work" lately and I've really taken to the idea of reducing the number of "Any Benefit" things that eat up my time. These are sites / services where the lure of them is that they provide some benefit that makes them attractive to keep around. What differentiates something that is "any benefit" vs. something that's important is that the site / service justifies its use by offering a possible or potential benefit for its use. This is often true of sites like Facebook or Twitter where folks believe that they need to have a presence in order to keep up with what their friends are doing, or because they feel they'll be missing out on something. The same is true for sites where the perceived value is higher than the actual value received. So I've been slowly pruning things in my day-to-day life. Things like Reddit got removed from my RSS feeds because I wasn't really checking it, and didn't see the benefit. There have been other sites that got the axe as well because the amount of effort that it took to maintain the interaction on those sites outweighed the potential benei received.

Slowly I'm implementing bits of this book into my daily life. Really finding this book helpful for getting myself back to a more focused state.

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Consistency is key

Craig Maloney - Mon, 11/05/2018 - 08:26

Some of you might know that I'm working on a book called "The Mediocre Programmer". I'm in the editing phases of the book now (cleaning up the language in the book and hopefully releasing something that isn't a confusing mess). One of the things that I've committed to is doing at least 10 minutes per day on the book. This has netted me a short book of about 26,000 words. I've been doing this since April 1st (The significance of the date is not lost on me), and have worked on a routine where I do at least 10 minutes of either writing or editing. I'm currently editing the last chapter now and it's been interesting to see how I've managed to go from "I can't possibly find time to write this" near the beginning of the year to "I'm about ready to open the beta to the rest of the world". All because I did a little bit each day (10 minutes isn't that much of my normal day).

This is in stark contrast to some of my other projects that I've worked on where I feel I need to clear off 30 minutes to 2 hours to even start on them. That gets me more into procrastinating about them than anything. But 10 minutes? That's easy enough.

The other secret is when the 10 minutes is up I sometimes want to keep going and keep the flow.

Building a habit where I'm consistently starting is paying off for me. I'm hoping to continue this trend.

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Designing a Well Lived Life: Checking In (October)

Craig Maloney - Tue, 10/30/2018 - 09:12

Checking in for October for my "Designing a Well-Lived Life" blogging. This is about making small changes during the year to make larger changes.

  • Writing more / designing more: I'm still working on editing my book "The Mediocre Programmer". I wrote more blog posts in October, in part because I had a few thoughts on the closure of Google+ and the resulting feelings of grief I had. I'm also working on some other projects (a code of conduct for Pepper&Carrot in particular) and am starting to read more RPGs to get myself back into thinking about designs. Part of this is in trying to apply some of the thoughts in "Deep Work" which I'll talk more about in a future post.

  • Programming more: Still doing most of my programming for work, but am working through the "Teach Yourself Godot in 24 hours" book to learn more about Godot. Also have been helping some other folks with learning coding, both at Coffee House Coders, and in private sessions.

  • Engage more with people, not things: I've been meeting more folks at Coffee House Coders, and have shifted my focus toward engaging with people at deeper levels (eg: on chat platforms). We're hitting the colder months so this will be more challenging, but I'm still keeping this in mind.

  • Blogging more: Mentioned this above, but I've been blogging more this past month.

  • Getting out of debt: Still slowly chipping away at this mountain. I'm trying to be more mindful about what I pick up and what comes home with me. Sometimes I'm successful.

  • Supporting creators in sustainable ways: Still working on this. I've made a more conscious effort to try to buy directly from creators and to use platforms like Liberapay where they have a more monthly cadence of support (as opposed to "per creation". Ahem.) There's still more work to be done on this front, and I hope that we can get to where creators aren't having to work as hard to fund themselves.

  • Physical health: I got a flu shot, so now I am invincible. Oh, alright, yes, this one has gotten no attention at all.

  • Kindness: I've been working more with kindness toward myself, but tend to think of myself last when it comes to my kindness. This is something that I need to keep in mind. I've been approaching my other interactions with kindness. Hopefully I have succeeded.

  • Mindfulness: I've been working on at least getting 5 minutes of meditation per day and being more aware of what I'm doing. This has helped when I've gotten into distraction loops (understanding that I'm essentially playing a slot machine to see where the next dopamine hit will come from). I've not been great at this (I've still gotten stuck) but I'm understanding the patterns that are emerging.

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Picking myself

Craig Maloney - Fri, 10/19/2018 - 12:31

I've been thinking a lot about a recent podcast by Seth Godin about Picking Yourself called "You're It". In this he talks about the struggles of being picked and what that used to mean. In today's world it's easier than ever to pick yourself because you have access to getting your stuff out into the world via the Internet and other means. This resonated with me. As a child it felt like I was the least-likely to ever get picked for anything. Plenty of times I was the last one to get picked, and that was because they needed an equal number of players on the team. Recently I spent a year looking for work and felt the sting of not getting picked. I spent the year applying to jobs and watched myself getting not picked over and over. Usually it was after the second interview. One such position even flew me out to meet the team and have lunch with them. When I got to the airport I bought myself a cup because I figured it wasn't going to work out. So I have a memento of not getting picked in my cupboard. One company said they'd get back to me after several interviews, and (as of this writing) has never gotten back with me. The year went on without being picked, and the echoes of instances where I wasn't picked haunted me.

We have this culture where picking yourself is somehow less genuine than being picked by others. Doing things by yourself (self-publishing in particular) is considered less than having a "real publisher" pick you. I've been guilty of it myself, where someone says they're the president of a company that you know is a company of one. It seems less authentic than if they had worked their way up the chain-of-command at a "traditional company".

What we need to realize (and what Seth points out) is that we are perfectly able to pick ourselves to do the work that matters. We are the final arbiters of publishing our own work. We don't need to rely on others to say "you are now good enough to do this work". We can pick ourselves and do the work regardless if there's an audience for it, and regardless if we'll make a living doing it.

That year of not getting picked was rough. I'm not going to sugar-coat the frustrations and feelings of inadequacy I felt. I really felt like my career was over and that I was going to forever be a shell of my former self.

But that's one way of thinking. If my own self-worth is what I can generate for other folks then is that really something that I want to invest in?

Let me be concise and direct: "Fuck that".

I pick myself, and I will continue to pick myself. Each day I have an opportunity to do things that matter and it's up to me to pick myself to do that work.

If not me then who will?

Categories: LugNut Blogs

Deep Work and Closing the Bar

Craig Maloney - Mon, 10/15/2018 - 18:36

Over this past weekend I borrowed Deep Work: Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World by Cal Newport from the local library. True to the spirit of the book I blocked out large chunks of the weekend to read it. In the book Cal Newport drives home his hypothesis that we spend most of our time not doing the sort of work that requires deep concentration. We're too distracted to get ourselves into the spaces where truly great work can flourish (what Cal calls "Deep Work"). The first part makes the case for having deep work states, and the second half of the book describes four rules that Cal uses to allow himself more deep work states. What was in the book wasn't particularly newsworthy to anyone who has lived near a computer in the 21st century, but what was interesting to me was his third rule: quit social media. Cal began with the story of a farmer who was considering whether to buy a hay baler to get the hay from his fields. The farmer weighed the pros and cons of this decision and ultimately realized that he would be better served purchasing the hay for his animals rather than make his own hay. That seems counter-intuitive (why buy when you can make your own for "free"), but the farmer explained that the time and effort in making hay didn't offset the overall cost. In the end he would be losing money making his own hay rather than picking it up from someone else. This relates to social media in what Cal terms the "any-benefit". The "any-benefit" is where we over-value something if we get any benefit from it at all. Even if we're losing out in the equation we still cling on to the things that we feel are benefiting us in some small way.

I've mentioned that Google+ is going away. Google+ (G+) was a network that I put a significant amount of effort into, both with posting content and maintaining a presence. For me G+ was like a wonderful bar, filled with interesting people and good conversations. I could wander by any table and find something interesting to talk about, or at the very least I could show my appreciation by "plussing" someone's post or comment. With the announcement that G+ is going away a lot of folks are trying hard to find out where everyone is headed. Now that the bar is closing people are making their plans on where they want to head. For some they want to head to other bars to try to replicate the same conversations they had on G+. Others are slowly realizing that G+ was somewhere special and they can't replicate those conversations anywhere. Still others are wondering if they should even pursue a presence social media at all.

After reading about the "any-benefit" I started thinking about my own usage of social media and what I really want out of it. When I joined G+ I found groups of RPG gamers and designers. Their conversations gave me insights into the realm of RPGs. I saw people talk about their problems with designs, and got a glimpse of how to run a RPG company. This was very fascinating to me and I wanted to learn more. I participated in discussions, plussed interesting conversations, and felt like I was well on my way to learning how best to design games.

Unfortunately I've now realized that the conversations I've had (interesting as they are) were only a taste of the conversations I wanted to have. These conversations were more like idle chat amongst a group of people who happen to be in the same spot at the same time, and weren't at the deeper levels of game design. What I saw was the equivalent of the post-mortem or the public journal of game design. And while those are important they lacked one thing that would add another layer of depth to the discussion.

My own designs.

See, talking about things is not the same thing as doing the things. My own designs and programming have been hampered because I've spent more time trying to get folks to pay attention to me rather than put out the work itself. The benefits of having the conversations came at the costs of me making things to drive conversation.

In short, the benefits didn't match the costs, and I valued G+ and the interactions there more than I received.

That's not to say that I didn't have great conversations on G+ (or any other social media, for that matter). I still enjoy the heck out of bantering with folks online.

But the reality is that I don't need to replace G+ at all. My own happiness lies in spending more time doing the deeper work to create things that get people talking. Rather than spending my time decorating people's timelines with my witticisms and "plusses" I should instead work on things that bring about more benefit.

So as the bars close and people wander off to the next big thing I think I'll put on my jacket, bid my farewells, and saunter off home. And if we meet in one of the other establishments then we'll talk about the good times we had and then kindly get back to making amazing things together.

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Open Source Journeys interview with Marcel Gagne

Craig Maloney - Tue, 10/09/2018 - 12:18

Marcel Gagne is starting a new series with the Linux Professional Institute (LPI) called Open Source Journeys. I'm thrilled to announce that I'm Marcel's first guest in this series:

Open Source Journeys: In Conversation With Craig Maloney

I hope you'll give it a listen.

Thanks Marcel for being such an engaging and kind host. Looking forward to hearing the rest of this series!

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Grieving Google+

Craig Maloney - Mon, 10/08/2018 - 21:22

Today Google announced that they are closing down Google+, their social network. Naturally this elicited three sorts of reactions: the "oh no!" of frequent users, the "people still use G+" of non-fans, and the puzzlement of folks for whom G+ never caught on. Google+ was Google's attempt at making a social network. When it first arrived people were confused at how it worked. Google+ introduced the concept of "circles" where folks could collect up a group of folks with similar interests and treat that as a separate group. You could post to circles and follow the activities of folks in that circle. What was really cool though was the ability to share circles and merge them into your own circle. This was great because someone could say "here's a circle of cool folks that are interested in tabletop role-playing games" and others could add those folks to their own gaming circles.

It's hard to convey just how cool circles were in the early days of G+. It gave you a ready-made list of folks who had similar interests to you. Before long those circles became groups, and those groups became communities.

I mention the role-playing game community in particular because that was the community that was the most interesting on G+. I was suddenly following a bunch if interesting and talented game designers and folks who were thinking deeply about games and game design.

It's hard to overstate how amazing these communities were.

Google also felt the need to make all of their social products work with Google+. They added events, actual communities, and Hangouts integration into Google+. They created ways for role-playing groups to get together online and play games. People created add-ons for hangouts to roll dice and show maps. Events allowed folks to meet online or in person. Coffee House Coders and Michigan!/usr/group used events and communities to help keep people up-to-date, and the Michigan!/usr/group also streamed meetings using Google+ events and streaming.

People quickly figured out how to make beautiful things with Google+. They built relationships. Those relationships prospered.

Unfortunately Google couldn't articulate what Google+ was to anyone. They tried advertising, demos, and what-not but unless you were steeped in Google+ it was difficult to figure out.

So Google did the thing that they thought was most obvious: they tried to strip it down and simplify it.

They took away the ability to share circles. No longer were people able to share lists of interesting users. They also disconnected the integration of Google Hangouts, and removed events from communities. They killed off the ability to add apps to Google Hangouts, and streamlined the user experience to the point where even expert users were having a hard time doing things they used to do.

In their efforts to make Google+ more accessible to the masses they killed off the product that the experts found useful.

Naturally the power users moved on. If they wanted shitty Facebook they could go back to Facebook just fine, thank you. And over time Google+ became a shadow of its former self.

Today Google announced that Google+ was slated for closure. August 2019 will see the closure of Google+.

I mourn the Google+ that I knew. I mourn the friendships and interesting discussions that happened there. Today the discussions were of people trying to rebuild their communities on other platforms. But the reality is there will never be another platform like Google+. Google managed to create something that encouraged folks to build communities. But because they didn't understand that they did everything to stifle those communities.

I was going to title this post "The Last Social Network" in part because I'm fatigued. I'm tired of corporate-owned social networks where the users are an afterthought. I'm tired of corporate-owned networks where it's all about lock-in and monetization. So I'm on Mastodon for the foreseeable future. And should something happen to make Mastodon and the resultant ActivityPub ecosystem disappear then I'm done.

Goodbye Google+. You were unique and misunderstood, even by the people who ostensibly loved you the most.

Categories: LugNut Blogs

Designing a Well Lived Life: Checking In (September)

Craig Maloney - Tue, 10/02/2018 - 20:20

Checking in for September for my "Designing a Well-Lived Life" blogging. This is about making small changes during the year to make larger changes.

  • Writing more / designing more: Been working on the editing pass of "The Mediocre Programmer". Haven't been doing much in the realm of designing, or in the realm of the other writing that I would like to do. I need to allocate more time to this.

  • Programming more: I've done a little programming here and there but not a while lot of programming. I want to do more development with Godot. Again, most of my programming has been work-related.

  • Engage more with people, not things: I've been on Mastodon and Plus a lot more than I would like. I've still been doing Coffee House Coders and MUG. Also we've had a few occasions to meet up with folks. Still more work to do in this area.

  • Blogging more: Seems to come in fits and spurts, but at least I have a monthly outlet.

  • Getting out of debt: Still making some progress in this arena.

  • Supporting creators in sustainable ways: Still doing Patreon and Liberapay, and picking up albums on Bandcamp. Wondering how much more I can do.

  • Physical health: Not much progress in this area.

  • Kindness: Still working on being kinder to others and myself.

  • Mindfulness: Still practicing mindfulness with meditation and pausing during the day.

Categories: LugNut Blogs