The Wild Goose Chases of 2011


I spent a lot of time last year trying to learn a lot about everything I could in terms of the latest development fads (other than Agile – I think I’ve flogged that horse to pieces). I figured I needed to learn Ruby, Rails, JavaScript, Node, jQuery, Backbone,… Part of the department is rebuilding a PowerBuilder application that needs to stay a thick client using WPF, so I learned a bit about Caliburn Micro. I found a little time to dabble in CQRS, MicroORMs, RabbitMQ, and MassTransit as well, but I didn’t focus on them too much.

The net result, come the holidays in December, I was feeling quite burnt out. So much so that I pretty much ignored software for a bit. January started and I felt better, and then I went to CodeMash, and that helped a bit. But the thing that really snapped me out of my funk was the realization last week that while I should know the basics about everything I can, I can’t know everything in any real depth. I have to have something I specialize in.

I’ve always been a fan of the generalizing specialist theory espoused by Scott Ambler. The problem was, I was spending all of my time generalizing. Part of that was an occupational hazard – I am tasked with figuring out the general direction for the technology and architecture of our product suite going forward. In order to do that, I needed to evaluate the suitability of some of these things. But I certainly didn’t need to dive into all of the shiny tools and toys I did – some of it didn’t matter at all. Some of it could have been delegated to someone else.

So now, as I step away from the fire hose that I’ve spent the last year trying to drink from, I realize what I need to do. I need to focus on the things that I know well, that have gotten me to where I am today. Sure, I still need to occasionally play with other technologies. But that can’t be the focus of my software development life. By diluting myself across these things, I haven’t really helped anyone, especially myself.

Now that I have that sense of clarity, I think this year will go much better…