weeknotes 3

time tyranny

github notifications

Instead of playing video games, I spent most of Sunday dealing with GitHub notifications. I have far too many things to be paying attention to. I archived some, but others are still alive on the web, so I should really be looking after their dependencies… Why can’t software maintain itself yet?


I’m feeling kind of overworked. I’m on 3 client projects, all of which seem to be constantly demanding my attention, and I’m trying to balance that with line management of 6 people and working on a technologist progression framework. It’s a lot, and I’m not sure I’m doing the best possible job for anyone, right now. I’m off work next week, and hopefully some of the client work will calm down by the time I’m back (although it sounds like there’s new client work appearing on the horizon).


My pull request that has sat open since 2016, rebasing a pull request opened in 2014, was finally closed this week. It’s a shame - it made some noticeable improvements to prime number generation speed - but I don’t have the time or energy to keep rebasing it and having it miss releases. I haven’t dared actually look at the code I wrote 6.5 years ago. I’m sure I would have many problems with it now.

green party

I volunteered my time to the Green Party and immediately got overwhelmed by Basecamp notifications. So I haven’t actually looked at any of them yet. I have a week off next week, so maybe I’ll think about it then.

time tyranny

I decided with 2021 that I would discard location-based timezones. I’ve been living in UTC+2 for the past few weeks (Cairo, but without the weather). My work-day is the same, and I use Technology to make sure I can still interact with people in plain old UTC.

The first thing I noticed was a shift in my waking up time to be earlier, so I’m now generally awake more than 15 minutes before I need to roll out of bed for work. I think the sleepless night at the beginning of the year combined with Nova getting up at 08:00 (or 06:00 for the Luddites) for work, might also have had something to do with it.

The second thing I noticed was that I have become more innately aware that I’m nearing the end of my working day. Something to do with seeing 19:45 on my clock, maybe?

Overall, a success, I think. I wonder what impact summer time will have. With the new regime, I am no longer subservient to the Tyranny of Time, so won’t be doing daylight savings/summer time.

debiasing recruitment

Following my January theme on inclusive hiring, I attended training on debiasing recruitment with Applied. I wasn’t sure how useful it would be, since I’m already aware of a lot of cognitive bias that exists in recruitment (and life) thanks to a second-hand psychology degree and a lot of reading about inclusive hiring, but it really was. It was full of evidence and real practical advice, most of which don’t need you to actually buy their service to put in place. Strong recommend if you’re at all involved in designing hiring processes. The next one in a UK time zone is on 11 February, but they’re running them all the time (aiming to run 2000 people through it this year).

gra reform

My evidence has finally been “received” on the latest episode of Making Transphobes Feel Listened to at the Expense of Trans People. That doesn’t mean it’s been “accepted”. I think they got a lot of evidence.

If you’re not sure what this is about, or why it’s frustrating, I suggest you watch the oral evidence (particularly the first part - I’m not really interested in the transphobic “debate”, but if you’re new to this, it might be helpful context for what we’re fighting against).


I’ve been thinking about estimation as a tool for gaining and testing shared understanding. We don’t usually estimate tasks (assign a number from the Fibonacci sequence based on complexity or effort) as part of planning at dxw. We also seem to spend more time talking about what a task is in the middle of sprints than I’ve experienced in other places. I don’t think this is a coincidence.

In my experience, estimation done well involves someone who knows about a task talking through what it involves (ideally writing it down as they go). The rest of the development team asks questions to clarify that work (updating the task description). Once everyone feels like they understand the work involved, they vote on the complexity or effort simultaneously. If votes are all the same, or at most one step apart, you go with the highest estimate (the riskiest estimate) and move on to the next task. If two people voted two or more steps apart, there’s clearly a mismatch in their understanding of what the task involves. Ask more questions, talk some more, and vote again. Repeat until everyone agrees(ish).

This process creates an estimate that is mostly disposable (you should probably pay attention if it tells you that a task is too big, though). The real value is in encouraging and supporting everyone on the team to really understand the work before setting out to do it. This saves time later when your tech lead meant something different from what the implementer understood and they’re only finding out about it at code review time. Or when a task is up next in priority, but the person picking it up doesn’t understand what they need to do and needs to wait for someone who does to be available to explain it (or just skips over it entirely).

Be agile; fail fast; derisk assumptions; etc.

Dom pointed me at this method for contextualizing what the numbers mean by Mazz Mosley via Anna Shipman, which seems like it might be good method for achieving this goal of shared understanding, but I worry about how it would work in a team with a wide range of skill levels. But if it gets teams talking, it’s probably fine.


day 1

I attended an interesting session on the intersection of user experience and security. The main takeaway was the value of including security experts in the design phase, not just tacking them on to the end via a penetration test.

There was also a really interesting session on coding in the open. Something I hadn’t really considered was how in government, everything about your service is under the microscope (or could be), and this includes code comments and commit messages. An inside joke for a team might be read by a member of the public and reflect badly on the service or otherwise result in Bad Things. :thinking_face:

Also, question protocols! They sound really useful: an analysis of the data you need and how you’ll get it and what you’ll do if you don’t have it or get a wrong answer. I know at least one project in recent memory that would have benefited from this approach.

day 2

We had a really helpful conversation about governance and assurance and delivery. It seems like governance getting in the way, or being disorganized, is a pretty universal for delivery teams across government. It was mostly a vent, but we got some useful things out of it, particularly around roadmapping differently.

This was the session I proposed, but it turns out that unconferences give me major public speaking anxiety, but Alex kindly (and expertly) took over facilitation, so all was well.

Work pulled me away from the rest of the day.

day 3

…is tomorrow.

microsoft teams

…is such a mindfuck. It’s such a different mental model from Slack, Discord, and everything else. I’ve been forced to use it for the first time for more than just video calls, and it’s like all the worst things about email with the expectation of instant responses, mixed in with instant messaging. It’s bad? Or maybe I just need to get used to it?


The Expanse is still really good, and we’ve got more Vikings to watch now. We’ve also been watching Kim’s Convenience, which is just really wholesome, though I worry whether some of the humour is meant to laugh at Korean culture rather than with it.