Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Compression and Living On "Taiwan Time"

Sometimes, despite our best efforts, we find ourselves in situations that are impossible to meet. We want to be able to meet what we have set out for ourselves, but there's just so much we can do.  Even if we go into "superhero" mode, we still can only do so much. Something has to give. I have been living this for the past ten days, and I'm finally coming out of it.

First, let's talk about the first part of the title. What do I mean by Compression? For starters, it's an idea that was first, as far I can tell, given name by Merlin Mann. Compression is when you feel that you cannot let go of a commitment (or group of commitments) and as the deadline for those commitments gets close, and other things need to be addressed, the urge to cover everything causes an even greater push to complete. For me, a perfect storm of these conditions came to happen last week, and as such, they caused me to make some rather, shall we say, unique decisions.

First, a commitment to SummerQAmp. We agreed that the goal for March 1st was going to be inviolable, and what I had to deliver for that date would be ready. An issue with a large number of stories at work also took precedence. For those not familiar, Socialtext has historically been a distributed company. Many of our ace developers are located all over the globe, including a few in Taiwan and India. Needless to say, working on issues with that kind of time delay makes for a bit of a lag between development and test... but did it have to? Not if I was willing for a brief period to "live on Taiwan Time".

What that meant was that I would spend and extended period each night for a week from about 8:00 p.m. until 2:00 a.m. and be on the same schedule as our developers in Taiwan (as well as one of our developers who lives in India). This way, through IRC, I was able to work through issues, talk in real time about what I was seeing, get builds very quickly and test them. What might normally take several days was now being resolved in several hours. In between periods of time waiting for new builds, I'd shift focus and make sure that the materials for SummerQAmp were on track. This on top of working my regular shift and dealing with stories and issues closer to home. To say I didn't get a lot of sleep this past week would be an understatement. Still, it felt really cool to be able to work so closely with these remote developers and be there to help them resolve issues quicker, as well as get to know them a little better. While it's not something I want to make a long term habit of, for a week, it was actually  lot of fun to interact this way.

Did I meet my goals? Actually, I think we did. I was able to deliver the bulk of what I hoped we would to the SummerQAmp team (reviews underway, likely to add more and revise some of what we have done) and the large group of stories is now moving its way towards deployment and release (knock on wood, I never take anything for granted). However, I did have to make one conscious decision... something had to give to make all this work, and that something was my PRACTICUM posts. I had thought, "oh, if I miss a day, i can easily get back to it." Well, 11 days later, it looks like I'm wrong on that front! Still, there's only so many hours, so much energy, and sometimes, life happens while you are making other plans. Good news, now that those compressed deadlines have come, been met, and I have some breathing room again, the PRACTICUM posts can resume once again.

Additionally, I've come to a not so startling conclusion... there are times for heroism and huge leaps of effort, but slow and steady, a little each day, really is a better way to go if you have the luxury of time and patience to do it.

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