Where Am I?

Once again after getting fired up to write a slew of blog posts, I’ve disappeared off the face of the earth. Where did I go?

Well, it’s been an exciting year-or-so. Semester 2 of 2012 was very busy, and myself and various teams finished off various assignments for university. The large team software project (for which we were using agent-oriented programming and the Prometheus design methodology) went very well, and we won the award for best large team project at our expo night (out of three teams, but still).

Then I got to have a short break over Summer, but somehow snuck into being accepted for an internship with Google, and since Sydney was full, I got upgraded to the Googleplex in Mountain View! This is now without a doubt the highlight of my resume, and it was an enormously educational experience, especially since it was also my first ‘real’ overseas trip (that is, excluding New Zealand). I was working on upgrading an existing internal web application, which was definitely relevant to my interests, but unfortunately I can’t show anything off.

One of the most valuable things I learnt from working at Google is that I don’t want to work at Google. Yet. Without a doubt, it lives up to all the amazing stories you’ve heard and it’s perhaps as close to corporate paradise as a software developer will find, but I’m not at a point in my career that I want a corporate paradise. Despite all the free food and events and amazing people, I spent most of my time sitting at a desk writing code for other people. I learnt that I want to write code for myself; that I want to work on projects that are of total personal interest to me, and I want to direct their development.

Basically, I want to run a startup. So that’s what I’m going to do.

I’ve been watching Steve Blank’s How to Build a Startup course on Udacity, and it feels right. It feels like the kind of thing I want to do, and sits outside my comfort zone in the right way. I’m at a stage of my life that is ideal for taking this kind of risk: I have no job commitments, no family dependents, enough money to survive on, and most importantly, a project at uni with a good team that is starting to get off the ground, and the project owner is very keen to spin it off for commercialisation. I think it has real potential, so I’ll be working full-time next semester to build out the foundations a little more funded by a convenient government grant. It will be at least a year before it’s ready for sale, but I’m cautiously optimistic, and it deserves at least six months (of paid work!) to give it a go.

On top of that, I’m planning on reviving Buffex from its slumber on the side. This has come about for two reasons: I’ve been playing with Google’s Dart language and I’m liking it a lot; and a friend found the holy grail of open financial data sets on Quandl. That gives me everything I need, and it’s already coming along quite nicely. My goal is to launch an MVP for that in about 3 months of part-time work, though I haven’t done any scheduling yet, and that’s probably infeasibly aggressive. But I’ll definitely try to keep a record of the development lifecycle, as this is as likely as ever to be my first real self-driven product to come to market (with a business plan, anyway).

So I should be back on the air, but I won’t make any silly promises. I’m blogging because I know it’s a good habit to express one’s life story somewhere, even if nobody reads it. If nothing else, I’ll be back to read it in 50 years. Hopefully I didn’t let you down, future-me!

Oh, Hello!

So I’ve been away for a little while. I know, and I feel a little guilty, but hey, that’s what holidays are for. I’m now officially getting back to some degree of work, and to that end have created myself a goal with the pretty cool Beeminder to work for at least 20 hours per week on Piemaster-related stuff. Currently no pledge, but it’ll start going up if I start failing. Wish me luck!

So what am I up to now?

The main coding focus at the moment is Buffex, which I still haven’t written much about, despite promising to do so multiple times. Maybe I should write about it first to hash out the scope of the MVP. In any case, it’s coming along rather well, and I’m currently working on wrangling all the data.

In non-programming news, I’ve been spending a lot of time over the past couple of months cleaning up the garden (it’s been a jungle for years) into a presentable state, and performing some dedicated research into the wonders of aquaponics (see this Practical Aquaponics video for 12 minutes of introduction). I want to write lots about it because I’m kind of obsessed at present, but I’m afraid no one much cares. Once constructions starts in earnest (have to order a few more parts) I’ll get onto it.

I’m also heading back to uni this year and applying for a couple of jobs. One is pretty standard tutoring of relatively simple computing subjects, and the other is a pretty exciting engineering faculty project called MUtopia, for which I may be responsible for developing some kind of stakeholder feedback management system, rather than the actual simulation stuff. Still a cool project to be involved with (if approved), and the role sounds like a great experience (from what little I currently know).

Finally, I’ve had a request pop up to write a few sheets of drum tablature, for which I’ve resurrected the old Taboo! Talk about a blast from the past. Ran into a whole bunch of exceptions since I wasn’t a fantastic programmer back then, but it got me thinking again about my old plans to take Taboo to the web as a JavaScript application. Now that I’m actually using some JS in anger, I may give it a go when/if things cool down for a while.

So that’s me. I’ve been very busy with all kinds of things, but am now getting back to being busy with the right things (from this site’s perspective, anyway).

Holiday Direction

The updates have been fairly sparse recently, but as Christmas (or equivalent) approaches everyone gets pretty busy. Fortunately, a few of the things I’ve been very busy with are Piemaster-related: I’m breaking some new ground with Forgbook and Buffex, and exploring a couple of other potential projects on the side.

Forgbook has received a lot of competition lately, as numerous development teams small and large have release highly polished task management applications, such as AsanaDo.com and Orchestra. Many of these have a strong emphasis placed on collaboration across tasks, but still none offer the ability to arbitrarily break down tasks into subtasks. This seems like a pretty fundamental thing to want to be able to do, and is of course the cornerstone of Forgbook.

However all of these applications do offer very slick user interfaces, and to at least be competitive, I’ve realised that Forgbook requires a modern makeover. As such, I’ve finally taken on learning some JavaScript properly, because against my wishes it has undoubtedly become the modern web’s lingua franca. I’ve been mocking up a few single-page AJAX applications with the very handy Backbone.js library, which drastically simplifies (or at least provides structure to) the MVC design of the user interface. It’s quite reminiscent of my time with Adobe Flex, minus the constant annoyances of Flash, and I’m hoping to write a bit about it once I’m a little more comfortable.

On that note, I’ve been approaching Buffex from a more modern perspective as well. I noticed I haven’t mentioned Buffex in a post before, and indeed the project page has been a rather misleading “Coming soon.” for the past year or so, but you’ll hear a lot more about it soon. Since the minimum viable product (MVP) incarnation of Buffex is relatively simple, I’ve decided to focus my efforts on that for the time being before pressing on with Forgbook (which is looking much slicker than it used to, but has a lot of work to go). I’ll be taking a Backbone approach to Buffex too, to try and have nice, snappy interface and keep everything nice and simple.

That’s more or less where my head is at the moment. Those couple of other ideas I mentioned will get some more attention next year, but I can say that one of them has been born out of my recent fascination with gardening. If there are any gardeners out there, let me know! I’m trying to bring a rather unorthodox approach to it, and would love to discuss it with others. Techies tend not to be very enthusiastic garderners however, which is both a good thing and a bad thing in some sense. Regardless, I know I’m looking forward to it.