The Next Eight Months

  • Posted on: 13 October 2014
  • By: Shawn DeWolfe

The last few years have left me really ragged financially, physically, cognitively. When a start-up isn’t making it, the start-up will “pivot.” It will change the bearing of its assets and direct those energies elsewhere. I am in a position that will last for eight or more months. I am setting on a new course of rebuilding and repair. The goal is to come out of these months rebuilt.

Finances

Our finances are a mess when you pick them apart. On the surface, good credit and bad credit amount to whether or not you can keep your finances apparently solid. If your credit is good, you can borrow money for almost no interest. We were recently offered $325,000 at 2.35%-- that’s a lot for a little. I have been spending the last couple years keeping all of the balls in the air. Last year, we made the dubious choice of buying a corporation that couldn’t make money; at the same time, I set-up a corporation to sell software-as-a-service only to discover that my partner was unwilling to sell and forbade me from selling or getting anyone else to sell the software.
In the next eight months, I don’t have to “repair” my credit, luckily. The balances have spiralled higher every month for the last few years, but we didn’t default on anything. The next eight months will be spent paying down our debt. Much of my consulting money will go onto the debt to knock it down. If I’m lucky, I intend to come into June 2015 carrying a mortgage and car payments. Along the way: we’re buying Christmas presents and we’re maybe going out of town a couple times.
Oh, and I’m getting a damned kayak. My health and cognition depends on it.

Health

I’m a big fat ass. That’s not a surprise. Do I walk; or work? I’ve been working. Do I eat healthy food; or cheap crap? I’ve been eating crap. I’ve been sacrificing my health to buy bandwidth to keep my businesses going. It hasn’t been paying off in any regard: I’m poorer and fatter now than I was four years ago.
In the next eight months, I will continue to use my lunch breaks to walk the Ring Road while I eat my lunch. Thirty minutes a day of exercise will hopefully go a long way to addressing my weight, when I repeat that exercise 160 more times in the next eight months. On top of that, my eating will improve: smaller portions of food that’s healthier.

Cognition

When I went to Drupalcon 2010, I remarked, “I can feel my brain getting bigger.” It feels like mental agility comes from a well. The job of staying “ahead” in IT is like winning a mental arms race. New stuff comes out and you have to be up on it. You have to stop and research. If you do not, the old knowledge becomes less useful, effectively evaporating as its impact diminishes. Deploying projects pauses my knowledge build. As I’ve been spending too much time making too little; and too much time on no-income projects, the pause for skills buildings would have likely have made the last few years all that much worse. The well has run dry.
In the next eight months, I am going to continue digging on my pet projects (eg. plugins). I am going to dig into new topic areas. Some of them are very old chestnuts. Some are new topics:
ElasticSearch (www.elasticsearch.org/). In 1998, I tried to get a TV listings website off the ground. MySQL at the time was hard to come by. I didn’t use it as a database, I used my own non-SQL solution. It died on the table as the file addressing was bigger than the data. NoSQL movements seem to have either cracked that nut; or they don’t care, letting Moore’s Law take up the slack. I need to look into how this and similar technologies behave.
Game Development. I am working in the basement of a building that I haunted back in the early 1980s. Back then, my friend’s dad got us access to the Apple ][s and then the IBM-PCs the following years. We were writing game material and learning programming. While making video games seems like a detour, these are the abstractions of the exercise:
  • Delivery. Delivering functionality to many people (either live with an online game; or delayed by delivering a standalone application).
  • User interface design. Good applications get left behind as road kill. Games have to have a good interface. Sometimes, the interface is the key element of the game.
  • Big Data. To keep all of the data reconciled and available, there are a number of practices. I actually think some accepted approaches that lead to bottlenecks are not ideal. I’m going to see if I can discover some alternatives.
Business. I’ve been treading water with my businesses and I’m lousy at it all, because of my ignorance. That ignorance has led to me being reticent to carry out some business activities. I have come to realize that my ventures have three components: business, engineering and marketing. I am an engineer; or at least I see things from the engineering perspective. I do push to assess the viability from a business perspective, but I’m missing something. I’m spending some of my bandwidth building that business sense in a solid fashion. The good news: lots of people in my field are lousy at this as well; and they’re not be striving to improve. If I get this skillset trimmed up, I will have a competitive advantage.
Marketing. I know how to hype things. I know how to get attention. I know how to build my position. Like my business management shortcomings, I know I am missing a dimension with my marketing mojo. What’s that missing dimension? Tune in in eight months to find out.
Digital Humanities. I work in a digital humanities lab. I have been to a few talks as part of my work. I have been neck deep in the concepts of digital humanities for years without realizing it. I realized: I am the disruptive outsider who grasps practical concepts that can be used to realize the theoretical demands of forwarding the field of digital humanities. What are digital humanities? Here’s my answer: Digital humanities incorporate both digitized and born-digital materials and combine the methodologies from traditional approaches to studying human culture. What can I do? I can apply my skills to making more adept applications of technology and draw people in to digest, to reference and to build upon the knowledge shared digitally.

Let’s see where this eight month journey takes me.

Photo courtesy of Flickr

Last updated date

Friday, September 29, 2017 - 01:50