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Some Thoughts About Work

I think there are three things that can make work rewarding:

  1. Working with cool people
  2. Working on cool things
  3. Working in cool ways

Right now (summer of 2018) I am working with cool people but on boring things in less-than-ideal ways. I think that’s the main reason I don’t really enjoy this internship. But hey, it’ll be over in two weeks.

Working with cool people

It’s nice to work with cool people. People I’m more comfortable working with are people I’ll work better with. People whose judgment I trust are people whose leadership I’ll find easy to respect.

Working on cool things

If I can explain the thing I’m working on to somebody and get them excited about it, that’s great. If I’m excited about it but nobody else is, that’s kinda enough. If even I think the project is kinda boring, I’ll still get it done, but I won’t enjoy the process.

Working in cool ways

I’m not sure there is a right way to run big projects, but I know there are a bunch of wrong ways. The more people are going to wind up touching your project, the more important it is to get the architecture right. If your project is going to be big, don’t put all the important guts of it in the same 4000-line switch statement.

Line-by-line code reviews with the entire team can be helpful if everybody needs to know exactly what’s going on, or if everybody might have something valuable to say or to learn. Line-by-line reviews of automatically generated XML are…less likely to be helpful.

What that might mean

I don’t know that I’d function well if I were self-employed. I doubt I have the motivation or discipline to pull it off, plus then I wouldn’t get to work with cool people.

I know “cool” is a relative term, but I think I might be a little too picky about the sort of thing I’d want to work on. I think Silicon Valley venture capital culture is such that the money has gotten so dense it’s formed a black hole from which no ethics and no perspective can escape. Advertising sucks, just about every blockchain was a mistake, and AI is going to spend the rest of the century wobbling between the almost-not-useless of voice assistants today and the actively-making-things-worse that YouTube has running demonetization and recommendations. Not all growth is worth it; it’s not just OK but good to leave money on the table if you can walk away with your soul (this is the part VC tends to ruin). I don’t know what’s good, but I know what’s bad, and frankly most stuff is bad.

Doing big projects right is hard. My solution would be to just not do big projects. Somebody has to, but it doesn’t have to be me.