Developer Tea

What Are You Creating?

Episode Summary

In today's episode, we talk about the ripple effects of the work you do.

Episode Notes

In today's episode, we talk about the ripple effects of the work you do.

Today's episode is sponsored by Linode.

In 2018, Linode is joining forces with Developer Tea listeners by offering you $20 of credit - that's 4 months of FREE service on the 1GB tier - for free! Head over to and use the code DEVELOPERTEA2018 at checkout.

Episode Transcription

I want you to take a moment to think about what it is that you create. If you're a developer, your first answer might be that you create code, or if you've been listening to Developer Tea for a little while, you may actually say that you're actually writing code for other people to read and use. But I want to take a different spin on this today. A lot of us as developers, we take our work not as seriously as we could. We take the effects of our work not as seriously as we could. And I want to talk about this for just a bit today. When you're listening to Developer Tea, my name is Jonathan Cutrell. My goal on this show is to help you connect to your career purpose as developer. The whole point of this connecting to your career purpose is to help you do better work. And why is that? What is it that we're actually working on? One of the things that we're actually producing in the world. It's important for us to think about this holistically, not just with a singular answer. For example, you may be creating new ideas for yourself. You're certainly generating thought patterns. You take time out of your day and you create tracks if you want to think about it like that. You think about it as tracks like if you were to walk in the snow and those tracks actually may mean something to your own life. The actions that you take may mean something to yourself certainly, but also to those around you. So what is it that you're creating? It's not just software. It's not just moving bits. There's so much more to what we do as software developers. When we communicate to other people, what the power of software is, we're creating new beliefs for those people potentially. We're helping shape new world views for the people that use our software. Think about what you use, something like Google or another search engine for today. I was listening to another podcast. It's a true crime podcast. And I thought about the process of researching a crime more specifically as a civilian, how I may research a crime. And the very first thing that I thought of doing was opening a browser window, opening a browser window and typing in what I believe to be a good search query, something that maybe somebody else hasn't thought of before. Maybe even taking images and doing reverse image searches or perhaps finding a large swath of images and writing my own machine learning processing system to find images that are most similar to this particular image from an unsolved case. And this is different than the world would have been even 10, especially 15, 20 or 25 years ago. The world has shifted to where a lot of what we do is, in fact, viewed through the lens of software, some kind of software. I want to talk about a few specific things that you are creating when you build software that go beyond the code. We're going to talk about that right after we discuss today's awesome sponsor, Linode. We've been bringing out specific features of Linode, but today I want to take a moment to focus on this simple reality that Linode is invested in developers. I recently got an email from listener, Marie Bell. Hopefully I'm saying that right. And Marie Bell, Marie Bell. She wrote in and she said, hi, Jonathan. I just wanted to drop by and let you know that I stopped by Linode's booth at this past week's developer week conference in Oakland, California. And I thank them for being a big sponsor of Developer Tea. They were really excited and grateful to hear about the positive impact they're providing by being sponsors to your podcast. And I didn't ask Marie Bell to go by the Linode booth and I didn't ask her to thank them. She did that on her own and I'm really excited to hear that Linode is happy with the impact. That's the key word there. Linode has developers who are working on your behalf day in and day out. They have dedicated team members. For example, you can even have managed services. These are professional. We talked about this on the last episode, I think. These are people who are going to manage your back end for you so that you can focus on your business. You can focus on the impact that you want to have and the things that you want to create. Rather than focusing on things like downtime, things like managing your server load, they can help you deal with those kinds of issues. But they can also provide those tools to you as a developer. If you have back end or ops experience, then Linode has every tool imaginable for you to take advantage of your experience. And if you screw up, if you don't have as much experience like me, for example, I don't have a lot of DevOps experience, any practical DevOps experience. So I've gotten into the place, for example, where I was locked out of my server. And Linode has thought about these kinds of situations. And they provide tools to get you out of those kinds of sticky scenarios. I really recommend you go and check them out. Head over to slash Linode. You can use the code Developer Tea2018 and check out to get $20 worth of credit. You can use that $20 on pretty much anything. And their plans started just $5 a month. I respect that of them. Slash Linode, thank you again to Linode for sponsoring today's episode of Developer Tea. Making this show possible and ultimately making a positive impact on the developers who listen to this show. We couldn't do this show without these sponsors. So thank you again to Linode. So I want to talk about a few specific things that you're creating when you are writing software. First of all, let's start with you, the developer. What are you creating when you write software? You're creating new experiences for yourself. This is extremely important. As you develop software, as you write code, as you collaborate with product owners or other developers or designers or clients, you are creating new experiences that your brain can use in the future. This sounds kind of ethereal and obvious, but sometimes it's easy to forget. It's easy to forget that each and every line of code we write, we're experiencing something new. Even if we've written a very similar thing before, and what this provides to us is learning. It provides new memories, new problem solving abilities, and so you can take advantage of this reality. The reality that every single thing you do is a new experience for your brain, even if you've had experiences that look to you identical in the past, everything you do is a new experience for your brain. So each and every opportunity that you have to write software, to collaborate with other developers or collaborate with designers, each and every one of these opportunities is a learning opportunity. You can use even the most mundane of tasks to learn something new. I want you to take advantage of that. You're creating memories, you're creating these anchors, these moments in your brain, even at a physiological or even at a physical level, you are changing your brain each time you do something new. This doesn't just go for coding, but of course we're focusing on this specific topic on Developer Tea. Everything that you do in your working life, it creates that new opportunity for learning. Your brain is going to learn something, right? It's going to learn better if you are directing it and if you're doing it on purpose. So I encourage you to take advantage of these opportunities. You have them every single day. You have the opportunity to learn every single day. Anybody who emails me or anybody who feels stuck in a rut, recognize the simple reality that even in the most mundane of tasks, you have the opportunity to learn something new. You have the opportunity to practice. You have the opportunity to focus on new details or new metrics of success for that particular task. So I encourage you to take advantage of each task that you have, not just the ones that feel new, not just the ones that feel sufficiently challenging, focus on each and every task that comes across your desk, focus on turning that into an opportunity to improve. The second thing that you create, and we're going to move away from ourselves now and we're going to talk more about your impact on the world around you. The second thing you create, I like to think of this as a rock in the stream. This sounds again, like an ethereal concept, but the very simple reality is, as you create and release things to other people for them to use, you are putting something into the stream of another person's life. The tool that you create or the service that you create, you're putting it in the direct path of that person's day to day experiences. Some rocks are small enough that they don't really change the way that that river is moving. They don't really change the pathway of that stream significantly. Some rocks very much so have an impact and may even redirect the stream entirely down to a new path altogether. Some rocks will actually be carried away by the stream itself. This is a leap in our little metaphor here, but really what we're talking about here is the work that you do being affected by the users that you work for, the people that are consuming your work, and all of us have this reality to face. The rock changes the kind of the motion of the stream, the stream will also change the rock. The stream will over time, it may even actually reshape the rock altogether. There's a lot of relationship between who you are making these things for and what you're actually making. Another nuance that's important to recognize with this metaphor of the rock and the stream is that the rock is going to look different for each person, the size of the rock, the placement of it, and even the flow, the stream is going to be different for each person. What Google is to one person is going to be different to another person. What your contribution to open source or your iPhone application or your back office software, whatever it is that you're creating as a developer, these things are going to have different effects on different people. You're not going to create a single experience. Everyone's experience is contextual to them. It's important to recognize the implications of this reality. For some people, your open source software release might actually give them a platform that allows them to earn a brand new job. For others, for other developers, they may never even look at your open source software. For some people, this podcast has operated as a consistent and positive message and a reminder to slow down and be mindful of the work that they're doing. For other people, this is just background noise. This podcast is not the same thing for everyone. This reality is consistent with all of the work that we do. It's going to mean different things to different people. Just as an aside here, it's important to recognize that if this is true, if your work means different things to different people, then you will get different responses to your work. You'll get varied messages back from your work. This is why you're going to see reviews. For example, of this podcast, you will see both one star and five star reviews of the same exact content because different people have different perceptions, different utility for this podcast, different ways of applying the messages that we put out on this podcast. There's not one single way to measure whether this podcast is effective for everyone. There's not a single measurement. The final category that I want to talk about, what is it that you're creating? I want to use the metaphor of white space because as you begin to create products or software, the problems you're solving and the things that you're releasing also come with the balanced opposite. For example, this is an admittedly extreme example, but the creation of WordPress, the open source platform, that creation process created an entire market. In fact, it created multiple markets. Created markets for people who develop WordPress sites professionally. It created markets for people who manage those sites professionally. It created new opportunities for businesses who otherwise wouldn't have a professional website to now affordably launch a website without much effort. It created entire marketplaces for professional level tools for WordPress users to install. Tools like WooCommerce, for example, that would otherwise either not exist or exist in a very different form. Even though the developers of WordPress, when they set out to create WordPress, they may not have had all of this in mind. Certainly, they didn't have each and every aspect of it in mind, but they may not have had really much of anything other than what they wanted their platform to do in mind. A lot of the precedent for many of these marketplaces that otherwise wouldn't exist, a lot of the precedent was set by the existence of WordPress and a lot of other factors. Of course, we can ask the question, if WordPress wasn't created, would somebody else have solved the same problem in a similar way? We don't really have a way of knowing if that would have happened or not. We do know that as we create things, we create new opportunities that we may not even see. There are implications to the creation of anything. I like to think of this as white space because it's the space that you haven't really touched that represents opportunity or consequence. The unfortunate reality that we can't ignore is that sometimes that white space creates consequence that we don't really desire. That's maybe not very good for society or for other developers for that matter. While I may have the opportunity to do my own background investigation as I listen to True Crime podcasts, another person may take it into their own hands to exact revenge or to adopt a vigilante mindset. Was this really the initial intention when we started creating things like search engines and social media? Do we really intend to further marginalize groups that have traditionally already found themselves on the fringes of society by simply creating algorithms to make decisions for us? These are the kinds of questions that we need to ask ourselves as developers. It seems strange for a lot of us to face these kinds of questions. I think the reason for that is because many software developers found this job path because it was fun because we could enjoy writing code and seeing the results of our labor. We could create something that was visually appealing or we could even write a game if we wanted to. We could make our lives easier by automating things and all of this felt very localized in terms of its impact. Sometimes it even feels like a game or a challenge like our jobs are basically to solve crossword puzzles or Sudoku. But the reality is far different from this. The products that we make, the people we interact with, these things matter and perhaps more than we think they do. And it's important that we start taking the work that we do seriously. It's important that we evaluate the effects of the work that we do, that we start looking at how is it changing the stream of life for the people who encounter it? What white space am I creating and am I even aware of the white space that I'm creating? Ask yourself these questions and evaluate on a regular basis how this work that you do impacts the world around you. This is going to help you connect to your career purpose better because a lot of us, we don't really know the impact that our work is having whether it's positive or negative. We don't know either direction and for many of us it leans positive. So I encourage you to connect to that positivity. Thank you so much for listening to today's episode of Developer Tea. I hope it was both encouraging and enlightening as well as challenging. I really hope that this is a moment in your day where you take a moment and reflect. I want this podcast to be convicting but I also want you to feel constantly encouraged and empowered when you listen to this show. Thank you so much for listening. Thank you again to today's incredible sponsor, Linode. Linode is set up to help developers accomplish what they're trying to accomplish. I encourage you to go and check out their incredible service offerings. We've been talking about them on this show but really again in this episode I just want to highlight how much they care about the development community. Head of respect at FM slash Linode, use the code Developer Tea2018 to get $20 worth of credit and check out. Thank you so much for listening and until next time, enjoy your tea.