About - RSS - Code


From a thread over on fedi

had a job interview today (thank you!), an ops job, and we were talking about the practice of coding and deployment and how that exists in this company. the details are irrelevant for this discussion here. but I forget sometimes that, even though I’ve spent mumble years being an ops person, ruthlessly practical, hard edges and harder deadlines, even through that, I am deeply philosophical about the whole enterprise. (I am not about to launch into that philosophy, fear not.) My training is first and foremost as a junior philosopher. I wrote theses on Sarte and Kierkegaard long before I ever wrote code, particularly as a “job”. I learned to dissect ancient texts long before I had to debug code or review a coworker’s submission. And it’s the lens through which I interrogate problems like code organization, on onboarding new developers, on documentation, on deploy strategies, even debugging an outage or code problem.

This is something we all do unconsciously of course. Our unique histories are how we approach all problems. But I forget that about myself sometimes and I forget how deeply it goes. And suddenly I’m talking about intentionality in software design and deployment, that even in chaos we can be intentional about every step based on our consensus philosophy. And it clicks.

I also get sad, of course, because most modern companies don’t think they need intentional design like that, particularly not in ops. “We’re going to make some AWS API calls and it’ll all be fine.” Sure, but if you don’t have that sense of intention, you end up with the twisted horribly expensive mess that most companies land in. (I promised I wouldn’t launch though.)

I get sad because the time in which my skills are desired by the larger industry is coming to an end. Hopefully it will last long enough for me to have some semblance of retirement but it might not. This sort of “my life’s work is fading away” happens to most professionals, if they remain singularly focused. It’s been my mistake in not branching out more over the years in tech. It makes me sad, and makes me feel old before my time. So does the cane, but that’s a different story.

it occurs to me too that I discount the way my theatre work, as a youth, impacts my tech work. There’s the obvious wearing-black working behind the scenes sort of metaphor for backend ops work. That occurs to me quite regularly. I’m thinking more of the ephemerality of the work, the needs of that work to function on the day in front of live audience with no ability to fix anything. it must be right or it must degrade gracefully and in one night, a week, a month, the work will be torn down. parts might get reused, microphones and lights are expensive, but the thing we spent weeks building will be destroyed and all that will exist is the memory of whether it worked. Or preferably not remembered at all because it worked invisibly and supported whatever theatre piece or live show or orchestral performance happened on that stage.

So I don’t get precious about software or architecture. I do a thing and it works or it doesn’t. I can carry those learnings, that design forward, but the code and the service will either work or it won’t and in the end all we’ll have is the memory of that event.

I am intensely proud of work that no one will ever see. In some cases, work no one believes we performed. Things for which others took credit (or more often, patents). I can’t tell you about those works, not because of an NDA but because they were of their time and context. Lacking that context, not being in that time, these things lose meaning and significance. They’re all gone now and all that’s left is the stories I carry forward and the narratives I share with the other people involved. Again, this is true of every moment of everyone’s life, not just ops work, but it’s something that I don’t think about enough. Something I am not overly intentional about, which is a growth direction for me of course. The stories just develop on their own and, particularly at this stage in my life, I need to be more intentional about those narratives.

There is no grand conclusion here, no “prophet comes down with the word of god” sort of end, that’s never really been my forte. Just the rambilngs of a middle-aged techie, in the midst of an extremely trying and tiring time.