I had the honor of speaking at JAOO, sorry GOTO, this year. Being part of so many great speakers, like James Gosling, Rich Hickey, Martin Fowler, Tim Bray, Michael Nygard, and Dan Ingalls (maker of several Smalltalk versions), made me feel nothing but humble, but not in a bad way. I talked about CouchDB, and if you care for it, check out my slides. This is my take away from the conference.
My point here is not to make myself look like someone who’s unimportant, though I’m not important either. I’m humble, that’s all. At the speaker dinner on Wednesday night I sat at a table with John Allspaw (Flickr/Etsy), Tom Preston-Werner (GitHub), Andy Gross (Basho), and Mike Malone (SimpleGeo). I knew some of these guys before, and talked in one way or the other, but this time was different. First of all, they’re an incredibly smart bunch. Smarter than I’ll probably ever be. Which is not a bad thing, because if anything it’s a motivation to constantly improve myself, to never stop learning.
They shared stories from all the places they’ve worked, not gossip stories, but more stories on problems they solved and how they solved them. That just fascinated me. I could’ve sat there for hours, just listening to stories from how they did and do operations, how they handled certain problems, and all that at a scale that’s usually way out of my league. I’m usually not a quiet person, but it’s times like these where I can just sit and listen.
The problem I realized at some point though was, that in Germany, this culture of sharing simply doesn’t exist. People don’t talk much about operations, how they solve specific problems, the really interesting stuff. People talk about tools, languages, Amazon Web Services, all that stuff, but not how they go about to solve real life problems, at any scale. It’s sort of sad, and I’m trying to come up with ideas on how to change that. Maybe it even happens, but outside of my usual circles. Other people from around here agree with me though, so I guess I’m not the only one thinking this way.
Because I just felt lucky being able to hear what they had to say. I love hearing these stories. There’s a lot to gain from them, sometimes even more than just reading books (which you should still do of course). In a group I much prefer being the humblest in the band, and to just listen, obverse and learn. I love getting new ideas, new motivation and energy out of them. The motivation, together with a very specific track, lead to another realization.
Get Shit Done!
Every day there was one track at JAOO dealing with Scrum, Agile, Kanban, Devops, Lean, Continuous Something, you name it. I have a rather specific opinion on these topics, which I won’t go into right here. I just find the amount of talk on the subjects ridiculous.
Which brings me right to the subject. Instead of talking about agile processes, or whatever kind of process, just get shit done. The secret to being a great coder, operations guy, or even writer is not to talk about becoming one, it’s to just start writing. Or, as Tom Preston-Werner put it: Innovate, Execute, Iterate.
Talking about process won’t get you anywhere. Pick what works for you and move on. If it doesn’t work, reconsider specifically what doesn’t, and improve. Don’t blame the process. If shit doesn’t get done, you have only yourself to blame. This realization is not exactly new, but it blows my mind how much time people spend talking about getting things done, instead of actually doing them. So here’s the only tip I’ll give you: get shit done. Working in a startup, which I just so happen to do, this is the only thing that matters.
My personal take-away from JAOO/GOTO, even though it’s not even directly related to the conference itself but the stuff I experienced around it: Be humble, and get shit done.