Developing Perspective

#155: Headroom


00:00:00   Hello and welcome to Developing Perspective, developing perspective as a podcast discussing

00:00:04   news of note and iOS development, Apple and the like. I'm your host, David Smith. I'm

00:00:08   an independent iOS developer based in Herndon, Virginia. This is show number 155. Today is

00:00:14   Monday, January 6th, 2014. Happy New Year. Developing Perspective is never longer than

00:00:19   15 minutes, so let's get started.

00:00:21   All right. So as you probably noticed, it's been a couple of weeks since my last episode,

00:00:26   And I'll get into the reason for that in a moment before I have a couple of little bits

00:00:30   and pieces that I want to just bring up at the beginning of the show.

00:00:33   The first is in the couple of weeks that I was gone, Apple posted the videos from their

00:00:39   Tech Talk series.

00:00:40   The Tech Talk series, if you're not familiar with it, is basically where the Apple developer

00:00:45   evangelists take the contents of WWDC, boil it, boil it, boil it, boil it way down into

00:00:51   a couple of things, it's a one day series, a stream for apps and a thing for games. And

00:00:57   they try and take it on the road. They're all over the world. They're in New York, Beijing,

00:01:02   Austin. There's some in Europe, I think it's Berlin and London, if I remember right, but

00:01:06   I'm not entirely sure. It changes every year. But basically, the goal of the tech talks

00:01:11   is to take their message that they're trying to put out WWDC and have it hit on a broader

00:01:16   audience, people who couldn't make it to W2D, people who didn't get tickets, et cetera.

00:01:21   And the interesting thing about the tech talks is because rather than having five days to

00:01:26   kind of cram in all the information they're trying to do, I found that they often kind

00:01:29   of create these really nice, more concise, focused talks.

00:01:34   And some of the things aren't quite as relevant as they were necessarily back in June.

00:01:37   You know, things talking about new things in iOS 7, at this point you probably should

00:01:42   be pretty comfortable with, understand fairly well,

00:01:47   should be integrated into your apps at six months on.

00:01:50   But there's one talk in particular.

00:01:52   And it's one of these things I think that--

00:01:54   the talk's behind NDA, but I'll just leave you its title,

00:01:57   and you can go and look at it.

00:01:58   And we can't tell you too much about it, unnecessarily.

00:02:00   But there's a talk called App Store Distribution

00:02:03   and Marketing for Apps.

00:02:05   And it's, I think, one of the best talks

00:02:07   I've ever heard about what it is to build an app and to build a business off that app.

00:02:16   And the reason, part of the reason I can say that is that it's coming from the head of

00:02:19   the, I think it's the head of the App Store team or someone like that at Apple who has

00:02:23   access to all the data, all the information, who has been talking to probably thousands

00:02:27   of developers, who has a lot of information, who has a lot of background, who knows everything

00:02:31   about the App Store that you really could possibly know. And he talks about all the

00:02:35   the different kind of aspects of it from the business side and the marketing side and the

00:02:39   way the App Store works.

00:02:41   And a lot of it's very interesting in that it's not--a lot of the information we gather

00:02:45   is coming from very--it's all inferred information.

00:02:49   There's not a lot of things that are necessarily directly coming out of Apple.

00:02:51   And I thought it was really interesting to have listened to somebody really dive down

00:02:55   into it.

00:02:56   So I highly recommend watching the video.

00:02:57   I think it's about an hour and a half.

00:02:59   Highly recommend it.

00:03:00   All right.

00:03:01   I'm going to move on now into the--I guess the main guts of my--of what I'm going to

00:03:04   talk about this week. And what it really comes down to is over the last two weeks, I basically

00:03:13   took completely off from work. And perhaps even more over, I took off essentially from

00:03:18   the internet as well. I checked in email periodically, I checked my app engines on Twitter, I checked

00:03:23   that my servers were all nice and happy periodically. But by and large, I didn't use the internet

00:03:30   in the way that I had grown accustomed to, in the way that I built these habits and routines

00:03:36   around the internet, around Twitter and email and Instagram and RSS, honestly, and FeedWrangler

00:03:43   and all these kinds of places where I would use and check the internet on a very regular

00:03:48   basis.

00:03:49   And part of why I did this is I wouldn't necessarily say that I was burned out.

00:03:53   I think it's a term that can often be kind of misapplied and perhaps has different connotations

00:03:58   and things to it.

00:04:00   But I was tired, and I was unmotivated, which is I can just apply those two to two adjectives

00:04:05   very directly onto how I felt.

00:04:08   And I was sitting down, I was noticing sort of towards the end of December, I was sitting

00:04:11   down and I was trying to do a day's work.

00:04:13   And I'd get to the end of the day and I was like, "What did I accomplish?

00:04:17   Did I do anything of value?

00:04:18   Did I do anything that I'm proud of?"

00:04:20   And more often than not, I was like, "No, I didn't."

00:04:23   And so at some point I was like, "You know what?

00:04:24   I'm just going to take some time off."

00:04:26   The holidays works out great in terms of between Christmas and New Year's.

00:04:30   Generally people are, iTunes Connect is shut down, people are generally taking breaks so

00:04:35   there's not quite as much inbox work coming in.

00:04:40   And so I just decided to do that.

00:04:41   And beyond just taking time off work and stopping the development, what I also did is I was

00:04:45   like, "Okay, why do I feel so kind of overwhelmed so much of the time?

00:04:51   Why is there this sort of heavy cognitive load that I'm kind of experiencing?"

00:04:55   I wasn't sure, but I think I proved out.

00:04:59   I think a lot of it was coming from the way that I was interacting with the internet and

00:05:03   social media and the degree to which I was letting all the different inputs come into

00:05:09   my life in that way.

00:05:11   And so at the beginning of the couple of weeks, I sat down and I deleted a whole bunch of

00:05:18   clients off my iPhone.

00:05:20   All my Twitter clients, RSS, a lot of things there that were kind of things that I would

00:05:25   check regularly, that I kind of had these Twitch responses for. If I had a moment free,

00:05:29   I would immediately pick up my phone and look at it. And I deleted all of those, not the

00:05:33   accounts, but just the apps, and the same thing in a variety of other places, so that

00:05:36   really I couldn't easily fall back into those habits. And the result is kind of interesting.

00:05:43   And the strange part is it took, honestly, a couple of days for me to adapt to that reality,

00:05:54   how, which was a little bit worrying if I'm honest, that for three days after I deleted

00:06:01   Tweetbot off my phone, I would routinely reach into my pocket, pick up my phone, unlock my

00:06:05   phone, and roughly tab where it would have been to go and look at it. But it obviously

00:06:11   wasn't there. And the fact that it had become that much of a habit and a core part of kind

00:06:18   of just the subconscious wiring of my brain is a little worrying. Anytime something like

00:06:24   that is ingrained in you. You have to make sure that it's something that you really want to be,

00:06:28   that it's a choice you're consciously making to give that much time and attention in your life.

00:06:34   And I think I've learned as a result of kind of going through this that, for me anyway, I think

00:06:42   a lot of the ways that I was using social media and things like that really aren't constructive,

00:06:46   really aren't great uses of my time. And really, most of it, I think it came down to two reasons.

00:06:52   I kind of took a step back and thought about it.

00:06:57   I think the best word for it in programming or in servers

00:07:00   and things like that, you'll often hear a term, something

00:07:02   called headroom, which is the unused space or capacity

00:07:09   or performance on a server, for example,

00:07:12   that you can use if needed.

00:07:15   But often you don't.

00:07:16   So most of my servers, I try and run them

00:07:19   so that they have huge amounts of headrooms.

00:07:20   If there's spikes in traffic, if there's

00:07:22   things that really need to get done, they have the capacity to do that. And I think

00:07:26   what I was finding is that I had so many of these tiny little inputs coming into my brain

00:07:32   on a daily basis that I was processing and thinking about and keeping track of that it

00:07:38   was just filling up all of the headroom for my capacity to really think and to really

00:07:42   work in a way that wasn't constructive, that it was impacting my abilities to focus and

00:07:49   be productive at work, to be a good father and husband at home, and a variety of other

00:07:54   ways because it's funny how, you know, it's a good example or metaphor for this might

00:08:01   be how if you pick up a lightweight, maybe if you're sitting in your house or whatever,

00:08:07   you pick up a book and you can hold it in your hand and it doesn't feel heavy necessarily,

00:08:12   right? If you just pick up a normal paperback and hold it, you're not going to think, "Oh,

00:08:15   is heavy. But if you hold that paperback in your hand for a couple of hours, it's going

00:08:20   to start to feel heavy. And it's not that the books become heavier. It's not that it's

00:08:25   gained mass in that time. But you've grown tired of holding it. And I think there's a

00:08:31   similar kind of thing going on that, at least for me, when I was allowing such a huge volume

00:08:36   of information to be coming into me every day, was that all the little bits individually

00:08:41   weren't that heavy, weren't problematic. And that's why they were enjoyable. And they're

00:08:45   interesting and the things that I was doing because they were enjoyable. But the net effect

00:08:50   of that is that I was carrying all of these tiny things around all day and thinking about

00:08:54   them and sort of putting this energy and focus onto things that weren't necessarily constructed.

00:09:01   And so I've learned from that a little bit. And I'll get into some of my conclusions in

00:09:06   a minute. But the other thing that I also found that I thought was interesting is that

00:09:09   I found how much of my time and energy was going into what I would call asymmetric relationships

00:09:15   where these things were these people or companies or whatever it is, people who I feel like

00:09:22   I have a connection to. I listen to them on a podcast, which actually I should probably

00:09:26   mention. I also stopped listening to podcasts for two weeks, which for me is kind of crazy

00:09:29   because usually I listen to probably between 10 and 20 hours of podcasts a week. So that

00:09:33   was a big change. There's a lot of people who I think I feel like I have a relationship

00:09:38   with because I read them on Twitter, I read their blog, I listen to them in a podcast.

00:09:43   And yet they don't know who I am.

00:09:46   And I would be at the same time I was kind of investing into that as though it was an

00:09:49   actual relationship, as though it were reciprocal, in the sense that I was, you know, caring

00:09:54   about their problems and challenges and thinking about, you know, what they're going through

00:09:58   and so on and putting emotional energy into that in a way that, you know, I think you

00:10:02   can, I myself am a very introverted person.

00:10:04   And so I can really only give that emotional energy

00:10:07   in relationships to a couple of people.

00:10:09   And it probably didn't make sense for those people

00:10:11   to be people on the internet who I don't know.

00:10:14   So those are the two kind of things, both that cognitive

00:10:17   load and headroom problem, and then

00:10:18   the asymmetry of those relationships that I was having.

00:10:22   So here are some of the results.

00:10:24   They're not really New Year's resolutions.

00:10:26   I don't really go into that.

00:10:27   But they're things that I'm doing

00:10:28   as a result of this experience that I thought

00:10:30   would be interesting and potentially constructive

00:10:33   in light of the new year, in light of a lot of things just picking back up again.

00:10:38   Things I'm going to try and do is invest in fewer but more personal relationships this year,

00:10:43   or going forward, in terms of following a lot less people on Twitter,

00:10:48   following less blogs, listening to less podcasts, trying to have less of those

00:10:54   asymmetric relationships in my life, and focus more intently on people who I do have relationships with,

00:11:00   relationships with, whether they're people, you know, personally, and I know in real life,

00:11:04   or people I know online who I have relationships with, where I'm sitting on IM everyday and

00:11:08   talking to them. And those types of relationships are actual relationships, rather than kind

00:11:13   of contrived ones. Another thing I'm going to kind of be trying to be focused on is trying

00:11:18   to avoid controversy as much as possible in the sense that so often in these sort of the

00:11:24   classic news cycle, the community I live and work in has these, it's a never-ending cycle

00:11:29   of something is controversial and it needs to be controversial and it needs to be discussed

00:11:32   because many of the people who, in order for there to be news, there has to be news. And

00:11:37   a lot of times there isn't actual news, you know, news, new events that have happened

00:11:41   or things that have been announced. And so we create these things that we turn into controversies

00:11:45   and we talk about them. And I'm going to try as much as I can, I think, to just take a

00:11:48   step back from those and just ignore them. And while in some ways the role that I have

00:11:53   and the position that I've built from things like this podcast allows me a voice in those

00:11:57   I think I'm going to try as much as I can to just step back from it because it's just

00:12:00   it's wasted energy. It's not making my products better. It's not making my relationships better.

00:12:04   It's just burning. I'm just spinning my tires not going anywhere. So I'll really only involve

00:12:09   myself in those if I have something that very constructively contributes or if they affect me

00:12:13   directly and personally. I'm going to try and slow down a little bit of my own development. I think

00:12:18   I'm going to focus a bit on really focus on quality, really focus on taking a step back

00:12:22   on my products and saying, what can I do to make them better and not make anything new until I've

00:12:27   I really feel like I've nailed things down, I think, in my products, which is a really

00:12:31   hard thing for me to do because I love building new things. But I think I just need to take

00:12:34   a step back. I was looking at my portfolio a bit and being like, you know, all of these

00:12:39   things have a lot of these areas that I should invest in and make better before I continue

00:12:43   to kind of spread myself thinner and thinner. And I also think one thing I'm going to try

00:12:47   and do is try to be a little less cynical. An example of this is I think I'm going to

00:12:52   try and start reading more of my App Store reviews. The products, these are people who

00:12:57   of using my products and rather loving them or hating them.

00:13:00   And so often, I've been doing this for long enough

00:13:02   that I kind of have a cynicism about that.

00:13:04   Reading apps for reviews, for example, isn't productive.

00:13:06   Or doing some of the help desk that I do

00:13:09   isn't really productive.

00:13:10   It's just a cynicism that you kind of build up

00:13:12   with over time because so often those are negative.

00:13:15   But to try and fight that a little bit and be like,

00:13:17   you know what, I need to try and find

00:13:20   the useful, interesting, and productive part of that

00:13:23   and apply it to my product.

00:13:25   And that applies across a variety of things.

00:13:27   But try and be a little less jaded,

00:13:29   a little less of a curmudgeon about some

00:13:31   of those types of things.

00:13:32   These are some of the things that having the opportunity

00:13:35   to take a step back--

00:13:36   these are the things that I came back,

00:13:38   as I'm stepping forward, back into work.

00:13:40   These are the things that I want to do.

00:13:41   And I thought that'd be interesting to share.

00:13:42   I know that's a bit more touchy feely than a lot of what

00:13:45   I talk about here.

00:13:46   But anyway, that's what I've been doing.

00:13:48   I haven't really been doing work,

00:13:49   so I can't have much to talk about on the technical side.

00:13:52   But these are the things that I've been thinking

00:13:53   about personally.

00:13:54   And that's what I'm going to be doing going forward.

00:13:56   And hopefully, that improves my products.

00:13:59   That improves the work that I do.

00:14:00   It makes me more proud of what I'm doing.

00:14:03   It enhances the relationships I have, both at home

00:14:05   and on the internet.

00:14:07   And maybe it makes this show better, too.

00:14:10   All right, that's it for today's show.

00:14:11   As always, if you have questions, comments, concerns,

00:14:13   or complaints, I'm @_davidsmith on Twitter.

00:14:16   Email me, david@developingperspective.com.

00:14:18   Otherwise, have a great week.

00:14:19   I hope you're really enjoying your new year

00:14:21   and have some fun things in store.

00:14:22   and otherwise I'll see you next week.