I Dream Of Something

September 21, 2016

The project I have been on all year is doomed to failure, not because it can’t be done, but because there is a never ending set of additions and changes, while the completion date is moving earlier and earlier, with dependencies on a dozen other teams, multiple simultaneous app and server releases, and a decided lack of people. All with a budget with more zeros than I have ever seen in my 3.5 decades of doing this yet strangely that’s not a big help at all. Most of the budget isn’t even software.

One can attempt the improbable, tempt the impossible, but this is something beyond my understanding.

So pardon me if I avoid working this evening and dream of the things I would really like to do instead. Of course most of this is as unlikely as we are to finish this nightmare anytime soon, but stay with me here.

  1. Be in charge of fixing Apple’s Xcode IDE. Oh man do I get frustrated with Xcode. I’ve been using it (or whatever it was called back then) since its NeXT days. Sure it's usable and I live in it every day, but there are so many painful things, large and small, many of which could be improved with just a little effort, even if the big stuff gets ignored. Why can I not reformat Swift? Or refactor? Why do I keep getting a big fat ? when I want documentation? Why can it not show me all the usages of a symbol? Why are plugins so mostly broken? Why do all the programmers at Apple not rise up in anger? Maybe they have no budget, maybe Tim Cook doesn’t care, I don’t know why, I just want to fix it. I’m sure I’ll never get the chance.

  2. Create a new modern traffic light system. Just today I sat at a stupid left turn signal that ignored us for 4 cycles. Why are traffic lights so pathetic? With machine vision and AI being so advanced now why can’t we leverage them with cameras and maybe a mesh network with other lights in the area to optimize traffic flow. I am sure there is math that will do this. Of course you would have to use existing (mostly) analog technology so cities would be willing to pay for a minimal upgrade. You would also have to be careful with security to ensure it can’t be gamed. Maybe with driverless cars it won’t matter much. But it would be fun, and I could save time going to work.

  3. Instead of creating a fake galaxy, use procedural generation to create what I like to dream is a Park Planet. It's a complete world (just one) all as a giant park with all sorts of habitats and environments. The whole point is everyone can do any kind of outdoor activity virtually, such as swim, scuba, hike, climb mountains, fish, hunt, hang glide, explore or whatever is fun to do outdoors, all without being able to damage anything or die. It has no point but to be in nature, hear cool sounds, pet deer, fall off of cliffs or whatever. You could see other people and interact if you wanted to do, or turn them off and have the world to yourself. Right now, I really could use a few minutes of hiking after another stupid meeting.

  4. Build life simulators. I’ve always been fascinated by artificial life simulations, genetic algorithms and emergent behavior, if I had worked on a PhD in CS that would have been my research topic. I would love to build a plant simulator, a bacteria simulator, or some other kind of life simulator that created delightfully alive things. It would be fun to build one that created a virtual world the size of all the people running the simulation; your little corner would be connected to everyone else, so you never knew what might come visit or where your creations wound up. It’s so much more fun to create life than to waste it in meetings.

  5. I would love to build a cool application and get to both code and organize the project and product, the team, the testing and ship it without 800 other teams telling me what to do and how to do it. I shipped my first app in January 30 years ago, and I got to do all of that. I’ve performed all the usual roles together a number of times; its much more productive and a heck of a lot of fun. But today everyone wants to specialize and especially in ginormous companies like my current employer, every role is owned by a huge organizational silo. I miss being able to make cool stuff with fun people in a manner that always worked in the past and still worked a couple jobs ago at the travel company mobile team. I want to come to work and get excited.

  6. Work on something so new and so unknown that a search in stackoverflow comes up empty and Google has no answers. Back in the 80’s almost everything you did was new, and working on something where no one could help you was fun. Today everything has been done by someone somewhere and they probably wrote a massive blog post about it and raised a billion in VC money to exploit it. It’s hard to find a coding-without-a-net idea anymore. Programming today is more following orders in some technology you wouldn’t ever pick based on a design someone you don’t know drew in Photoshop and planned by some pie in the sky VP. Building Photoshop for the first time; now that would have been fun. I did that sort of thing back then.

  7. Going away on an around the world cruise. Hey, not everything is software related. The world is a interesting place; sadly I sit in front of a Mac and type instead. I’d probably still do some of that but the scenery would be much nicer!

  8. Volunteer in some poor country building something for people who really need it. The best projects I did working as a consultant was when I made individual regular people’s jobs better or easier; the thanks and smiles you get improving someone’s life is worth all the effort you put into it. Sure the thing I am working on will eventually make our customers happy but will global warming or crazy politicians destroy the planet first? Hard to say. My bet is on the politicians.

  9. Write a new blog about the future, science and technology and the human condition. I’ve always been fascinated thinking about where we go from here (assuming we survive) and where today becomes tomorrow and leaves yesterday in the dust. Thinking for a living would be fun with fewer meetings.

Sadly I am stuck in this current nightmare but one can dream. Maybe, just maybe, something new will pop up. Or maybe the world will end and the meetings come to the same end.

If the future wasn’t coming, today would get pretty dull.