Dan Appleman: Kibitzing and Commentary

My personal blog

Tech Slaves

Earlier this month I was at the Dev Connections conference in Orlando. One of my most intriguing experiences was seeing a contrast between two of the speakers (sorry, I don’t remember which ones – call them A and B). Speaker A was showing off his latest and greatest combination cel phone – email – multimedia – camera – browser – toenail clipper device. He was describing how it allowed him to make use of every bit of “dead time” for answering Email and keeping in constant contact with work. Speaker B also had a nice phone, but she described how she only checked Email a couple of times a day – that because it made it easier to stay focused on work and concentrate.
The fact that software developers need quiet time to concentrate is undeniable – I think that’s the reason many of us work at night – there are fewer distractions. But what really interested me here was the contrast between the realtionship these two speakers have with their technology.
I love tech toys as much as most anyone, but I’ve become more and more aware of the degree to which the technology owns us, and the demands it places on our time. Cel phones give us connectivity, but also have the power to interrupt our lives multiple times each day. Windows is a powerful OS, but how many hours of my life have I spent installing, updating and configuring it? Frankly, I’d rather not think about it.
Of course, there’s nothing new about this. From cars to homes, we work as hard to keep and maintain them as they do to shelter and transport us. But somehow tech seems more invasive. And where homes and cars have a primary claim on our cash, tech seems to demand time. Time to learn, time to maintain and time to use.
One thing I bet we have in common – we don’t have enough time to learn and do all we want. Obviously, when you’re in the tech business, tech command a great deal of your time. But one can’t help but wonder – are all those extra gadgets really saving time? Or are they actually stealing it?

He's back…

It’s been a while – a long while since I’ve posted regularly here.
Recently, I met Jeff Atwood at SDWest and he encouraged me to start up again. I’d been thinking about it for a while, and that was possibly the point that tipped it for me – at least enough to start the process of updating the server with the latest WordPress software (my existing blog site had become a magnet for comment spam, and my apologies to anyone who’s tried posting a comment that never was displayed – it was lost in the flood of messages in the moderation queue).
So where have I been? The best way to describe it is I guess a sort of Sabbatical. It actually took me a while to remember the word sabbatical – it’s not a word that often appears in the vocabulary of software developers (a topic on which I will write more on later).
The idea of a Sabbatical is simple – we get so caught up in the day to day activities of life and career (what my sister calls the “muck and mire of daily life”) that it’s hard sometimes to have time to just think – to gain perspective.
I can’t say that what I had was a true sabbatical – because I was still working. The point is – I was working less. Just a few conferences a year. No new books. Mostly handling Desaware and a few small consulting gigs (mostly to keep learning and keep my software development skills sharp). In short – my typical work hours in a week were what I think most Americans would call a “normal work week” (as compared to what what I, and many people I know, have grown accustomed to).
On the other hand, it was a long Sabbatical, and I do feel “recharged” so to speak. What I’m charged up for I’m not entirely sure yet, but returning to this blog is a part of that process. It’s nice to be back.