Reflections on software development consulting

It’s been about a year and a half since quitting my job to become self-employed and for the most part it’s been swell. Having said that, I think it’s time to cycle back into a team.

Consulting was great because I got to

  • Broaden my non-technical skills. Managing people is a completely different job from building software, but one I enjoyed immensely. What people say and what they actually mean or want are often at conflict, and the ability to help reconcile the two is invaluable.

  • Make design/architecture/development decisions and manage my own projects.

  • Focus on other areas of my life. I am generally smarter, stronger and more well-balanced than ever. Just having the time to think or be bored allowed me to figure out how to lead a more meaningful life, and clarified my goals and priorities.

Joining a team is becoming a priority because

  • My technical skills are stagnating. As the saying goes if you’re the smartest person in the room you’re in the wrong room. Working from home alone I am by default the smartest in the room :(

  • I need access to a different set of challenges that align with my long-term career trajectory. For the most part clients require the same set of services when it comes to web development: new features or bug fixes. While I got to kick-off some fun green-field projects, much of the work remains of the same nature. Unfortunately this means I haven’t had exposure to complex systems at scale, or infrastructure and security management.

  • I haven’t been marketing (nor do I super enjoy it). Luckily all of my work has come through word-of-mouth and referrals, but that’s drying up.

Multi-user git

Modify your ~/.ssh/config file as such to seamlessly utilize multiple git users on the same machine

Host user1
  Hostname github.com
  User git
  IdentityFile ~/.ssh/username1_pubkey
  IdentitiesOnly yes

Host user2
  Hostname github.com
  User git
  IdentityFile ~/.ssh/username2_pubkey
  IdentitiesOnly yes

Then for your repo ensure git remote -v is of the form

git@user1:<username1>/<username1-repo>.git

Of course, ensure your ssh key is added to the respective repo.

emacs vs vim

After spending the better part of last year using emacs (specifically the spacemacs distribution) before switching to neovim I can safely conclude I’ve shaved enough yaks to last me a lifetime. I’m switching back to Atom because configuring editors is a waste of time that could be better spent actually building things. I could be meticulously installing and configuring packages for crucial features like fuzzy project search, OR I could just use a modern editor.

Luckily most of the emacs navigation keybindings work in atom. God bless.

Rails and default_scope

It should be common knowledge by now NOT to use default_scope unless you know what you’re doing. I thought I knew what I was doing but was wrong, which is often the case.

Imagine having a model with a boolean :finished attribute. And in your schema for this table default: false. You want to only ever retrieve instances that are marked finished, so you write

default_scope {where(finished: true)}

Great, but guess what? New instances of this model will have their :finished default to true, contrary to the schema definition. Crazy right? Don’t use default_scope.

Public commitments

Another one of those corny lifehacks I’m fond of is public commitments. I guess it’s semi-common knowledge that announcing your intentions publicly or better yet, to friends, prompts action. I’ve also noticed it’s useful for folks suffering from depression and anxiety, insofar that making commitments to see friends or attend events gets you out of the house.

With that in mind, I’m announcing my intention to pivot my career towards automation and ops, plug some holes in my game and learn a few new tricks. Luckily, like Arnold, my cpu is a neural net processor…a learning computah.

Linux

Despite using the terminal and interacting with servers almost daily, my knowledge is broad but shallow. I’m getting a lot of mileage out of Unix for Mages and Servers for hackers as refreshers for things I don’t normally do.

Python

The tool of choice for automation scripting.

Ansible+Vagrant or Docker

Not sure which side to take yet, but for the time-being Ansible suits my needs nicely. Shout-out to the mad genius Shey over at polymorphic.ca for putting me on this path and sharing some of his hard-won knowledge and high quality scripts.

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