Do or Do Not.

Archive for April, 2006

Reflections on the Past, Visions of the Future

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One year ago today, I launched Do or Do Not. The fact that it still exists, even if I don’t post to it or update it nearly as much as I feel like I should, says a lot about how much I care abou the site — every previous time I’d tried to do the blog thing, I wound up petering out after a couple of weeks and scrapping the whole thing. (Luckily for them, I’m not this lackadaisacal with my children.)

As the DODN‘s first birthday approached, I found myself thinking a lot about the future of the site… or, indeed, if it even had one. Several times over the last month or so I’ve started to write a “this is the last post” post, but each time eventually thought better of it. In fact, I contemplated making this very post the last post; I’m honestly not sure yet if I’ve thought better of it or not. The wife and I have a serious disagreement on whether or not I should continue with this blog; she thinks I should leave it up as a place to put those musings which don’t fit on any of my other online outlets, and I’m concerned that I have too many online outlets and need to prune back.

That “need to prune back” idea itself is somewhat ironic, as I’m now only a few days away from launching my newest site, a site that might wind up taking the place of this one altogether… and could ultimately subsume the rest of my vast online empire. The new site, Strong Street, is intended to be more of a representation of my professional capabilities rather than simply being a place for me to spout off about whatever’s on my mind. I’m planning on doing a lot of in-depth discussions of web development and web programming tips, standards, practices, all that kind of stuff. But I also want that information to be as friendly to new web developers as possible — to some degree, I’m hoping I can craft the kind of site I would’ve found helpful when I was starting out.

If all goes as planned, Strong Street will end up my primary online “face.” And I think that even within that heavy web-development focus I want to give to it, there will be room for some “off-topic” writing, room for some of the kinds of things that have ended up here over the last year (though maybe without such an emphasis on the mental mechanics of writing). Will it be able to take in all of my pop culture and other interests? Dunno yet. We’ll find out.

Anyway, I invite all of you who’ve been reading this blog — yes, all seven of you — to join me at Strong Street when it launches on May 1… if I get it done in time. There’s still some heavy lifting to do, but I’m sincerely hoping to get off the ground then.

Thanks, everyone, for reading this blog for the last year. Sincerely. I feel like I’ve gotten to know some knew people thanks to this site and to reconnect with some people I hadn’t touched base with for awhile. And I really don’t think this is the end of Do or Do Not; it seems likely that it’ll get some re-working and re-focusing of its own sometime pretty soon. Regardless, the existing content’s not going anywhere, so you can all read the archives and bask in the glow of my vast and immeasurable skillz. For the time being, however, Strong Street will likely be my main focus. I hope you join me over there! Make sure to say hi if you stop by.

— Allen, 2006-04-27

Written by Allen

April 27th, 2006 at 4:20 pm

Posted in General


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One advantage to having to come home from work early to get Terry’s truck fixed: I got this picture.

Written by Allen

April 14th, 2006 at 4:22 pm

Posted in Photography

On Engineering

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According to CNN and Money magazine, I’ve got the best job in America. Well, not me personally — that job seems to belong to the Mark Dochtermann, the Director of Technology at Electronic Arts. But my job in general, software engineer — apparently, I could have no better job, according to the fine people at CNN and Money.

And honestly, I think I have to agree with them. Whether or not software engineering is empirically “the best job” or not (and I think we all know that these sorts of reports are all essentially horseshit), it’s the best job right now for me, which is really all I care about.

I’ve known this for awhile, of course. It’s one of the reasons why, for better or for worse, I haven’t been pursuing the writing thing with every fiber of my being: I like being a programmer, and I especially like being a web programmer. This isn’t something I’m doing until I find something better — programming is the “something better” that I came to following a lowly-paid and ill-respected stint as a web designer.

(This seems like a good place to discuss the difference between “web designer” or “web developer” and “software engineer,” at least as those words have pertained to my career. So many people, my family included (or perhaps “my familiy in particular”), have absolutely no idea what it is that I do. Everyone assumes I’m a designer or that I do, oh I dunno, data entry or something.

Technically speaking, I’m not an engineer in the most political sense of the word: I don’t have a degree in computer science, I have almost zero formal training in any programming disciplines, I don’t have any certifications to speak of. I’m all experience and no education. My current job title is “Senior Web Developer.” But I have a problem with that title — and haven’t been shy about letting my bosses know about it, for all the good it’s done — because “web developer” is what I did when I first started in this industry seven years ago. I developed websites: I did the design, I built out the HTML and maybe wrote a little JavaScript (or cribbed it from some other site). What I did as a “web developer” certainly wasn’t programming, and I don’t believe that title usually implies any sort of programming ability or background.

The problem, though, is that I’m not sure what a more appropriate titlewould be. The term “engineer” sounds so much better to my ears (and looks so much better on the resumé), but it’s not especially accurate, given the lack of credentials I mentioned above. My father was an electical engineer, and for that he was required to be licensed in whichever state he was employed. So no matter the kind of work I’m doing, I’m not sure there’s any way I’m qualified to use the word “engineer.”

But what I do now, whether my title indicates it or not beyond the fact that the word “senior” is in it, is software engineering. I’m not a designer (except on the side, just for fun). I’m not an HTML monkey, though I can monkey around with HTML like nobody’s business. What I do is work on — architect, design, document, code — the enormous application framework which powers all of our company’s websites as well as communicates with a number of our other back-end application servers. That includes code written in multiple programming languages (though primarily PHP) and a whole lot of MySQL database work.

It’s not all me, by any means (in fact, my good buddy Brian has been more responsible for the overall system architecture than I), but it’s certainly a whole lot me. And “web developer” just doesn’t feel like a fitting title for all of that. It’s kind of like calling an NFL wide reciever a “runner” — yeah, okay, that’s true, but it’s only part of it — a receiver does so much more than just run. (Well, most do, anyway.)

Okay. Rant over.)

Software engineering stretches my brain in happy-making ways — one of the things I like to think I’m best at is problem solving, and that’s what software engineering is all about. It’s overall a pretty low-pressure gig for me <knocks on all the wood he can find>. I get to work with people of a temperament similar to mine and who have interests similar to mine. And the job pays pretty damn well. I can’t think of very many jobs I’d rather have than the one I’ve already got; even those careers where I think I might better like the work itself don’t pay as well (or are phenomenally difficult to break into), and at this stage of my life, money’s still necessarily something of a priority. My job fits me well.

I love what I do. It’s nice to remember that sometimes.

Written by Allen

April 13th, 2006 at 10:42 pm

Posted in Personal,Technology

Tim, The Drinking Lamp Is Lit

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I just wanted to interrupt the long stream of nothingness I’ve got been cultivating here to give a great big shoutout to my boy Timmy B., one of my most very bestest friends and my gleeful co-conspirator in much of my online empire.

I first met Tim back in ’93 when he was the newly-anointed manager of Turtle’s Music in Pensacola. I was the first guy he hired after he got the job, and as far as I know I was his longest-tenured employee, working at the store on and off for almost seven years as I slowly clawed my way through college. It didn’t take long for our shared interests in football, comic books, music and liquor to slam us together as friends, and friends we’ve been ever since (except for a brief period in ’98 when I pissed him off about something or other and was temporarily dead to him… luckily for me, that didn’t last).

Here’s to you, Timmy B — I hope you’ve had a grand thirty-seventh, fucker. I’m sorry I’ve missed the last several of your birthdays, but I’m gonna say it right now, here in public: I’ll be damned if I’m missing your fortieth. So you’d better come up with something big for it.

Written by Allen

April 10th, 2006 at 9:59 pm

Posted in General