Developing Perspective

#61: Having a healthy relationship with Twitter


00:00:00   Hello and welcome to Developing Perspective. Developing Perspective is a podcast discussing

00:00:05   news of note in iOS development, Apple, and the like. I'm your host, David Smith. I'm

00:00:09   an independent iOS developer based in Herne, Virginia. This is show number 61, and today

00:00:13   is Thursday, July 5th. Developing Perspective is never longer than 15 minutes, so let's

00:00:18   get started. All right. Today's question comes to me via Eric Wielander via Twitter. And

00:00:25   And he basically asked an interesting question that I think implies almost anybody who does

00:00:31   work at a computer these days.

00:00:34   And specifically, he said, how do you balance work and a constant stream of tweets, blogosphere?

00:00:41   Generally I think what he's asking is, how do you stay focused and get things done in

00:00:46   the context of either feeling like you need to, or just feeling like you want to be distracted,

00:00:53   that you want to be constantly watching,

00:00:56   seeing what's going on on Twitter, seeing what's going on.

00:00:58   Your RSS reader, you have sort of the universal things

00:01:01   like your email are also kind of falling into this category,

00:01:03   talking to coworkers.

00:01:06   And it's always this tension between your work

00:01:09   and keeping up with what's going on.

00:01:11   And I mean, to some degree, I'd say

00:01:13   that keeping up with what's going on is part of my work.

00:01:17   You can certainly get carried away with that.

00:01:18   But what I do requires a certain amount of familiarity

00:01:23   with what's going on in the community, what's going on with the App Store.

00:01:26   You know, if there's new things like right now, like as I'm recording,

00:01:29   there's this whole thing with App Store update corruption

00:01:32   that's kind of been going around, and it's important that I know about that.

00:01:36   And I know that it's like, okay, today is not a good day to release an update.

00:01:39   I don't have one particularly, but it's good to know that, in general,

00:01:43   this is a bad time to do that, and it's good to be aware of that.

00:01:46   And if I had been submitting an update,

00:01:49   as something I would have wanted to have known as sort of as quickly as possible.

00:01:52   But it's easy to get carried away with that and say, "Okay, well, I'm just going to constantly

00:01:56   be checking and kind of be twitching back and forth."

00:01:59   This is something that I've blogged about before, I've talked about before, and I think

00:02:03   I'm ending up in a much more pragmatic place than I was for a while.

00:02:08   So I don't know if you've been following this for a long time.

00:02:10   For a while, I wrote a post.

00:02:11   A while ago, I wrote a post called "Forcing Quiet Into My Day," which was for...

00:02:15   It's almost like I went cold turkey and kind of worked on totally shutting down and shutting

00:02:21   out the busy part of my day where I'm just doing these, like constantly checking Twitter.

00:02:29   I'm kind of having these reflexive twitches of like, "Oh, what's going on on Twitter?

00:02:32   Oh, what's going on in RSS?

00:02:33   What's going on in my email?"

00:02:35   And I'm kind of jumping around.

00:02:36   And I tried to sort of cut that off and I did all these things.

00:02:39   I even changed my host file so that I couldn't access a variety of services.

00:02:44   And the thing is, at the end of the day, that reflex and that twitch is more a symptom than

00:02:51   a cause of distraction.

00:02:54   Distraction is, I think, what I'm ending up more now is, distraction is a result of me

00:03:00   not being engaged in what I'm doing, not being interested in the work I'm doing.

00:03:05   And so I'm finding things to do instead.

00:03:07   I'm finding, I was like, "Oh, let me check on Twitter.

00:03:10   Oh, let me check on this."

00:03:12   And the problem that's far better to solve is to ask yourself, why is that the case?

00:03:19   Why am I not caring about the work I'm doing?

00:03:21   Why am I not engaged in it?

00:03:23   Why am I not interested in it?

00:03:25   And to address that first, rather than necessarily worrying about how do you balance work in

00:03:30   a constant street of tweets, it's more, why do I care necessarily what's going on on Twitter

00:03:36   at the expense or cost of the work I'm doing?

00:03:40   And for me, I've ended up, I think, in a happier place where I check Twitter, I check RSS,

00:03:47   I check my email on a fairly regular basis.

00:03:50   But what I find is I'm less guilty about it and less worried about it because when I'm

00:03:59   working I find that I'm able to work more if checking those things doesn't feel like,

00:04:06   I don't know, like a guilty pleasure or something that I'm not supposed to do.

00:04:12   Because by sort of by saying, "Okay, I'm going to do some work.

00:04:15   When I'm working, I've got my headphones on, I'm rocking out, and then I'll take a break

00:04:19   and I'll check all those things."

00:04:21   By giving myself the permission, though, to do that, to be like, "Okay, well, I'm going

00:04:26   to work, work, work.

00:04:27   And when I'm not, I'm going to go and check those things and read the news and see what's

00:04:32   going on."

00:04:33   it's, I don't know, for some reason for me, I find that kind of liberating.

00:04:37   And it removes almost this, it's almost like an enticement that I used to have,

00:04:42   where it's like, "Hehe, I'm going to be tricky, I'm going to go, you know, I should be typing

00:04:47   some Objective C, but instead I'm going to be seeing what's going on on Twitter."

00:04:51   And by making it less, it's almost like just accepting the fact that that is going to be

00:04:56   something that I'm going to do every day. That is something that is part of my day that I enjoy.

00:05:00   I like the little dopamine fix of just checking what's new and hitting all these little quick

00:05:06   bites of information.

00:05:07   And I enjoy that, and I'm conditioned to enjoy that, and I don't think that's a habit that

00:05:12   either I want to break or that I will break anytime soon.

00:05:16   And so just kind of accepting that and making that part of my day.

00:05:22   And it doesn't feel like...

00:05:24   I don't feel as much of a twitchiness for that just by saying, "Okay, this is what I

00:05:28   do. And it's, you know, I don't want it to ever get to a point that it, you know, impacts

00:05:33   my work. And so I'm going to do my work. And then I know that when I get to a good stopping

00:05:38   point, it's something that I'll check and I'll look into. And sure, there are days when

00:05:42   maybe it takes up a bit more of my time than I'd like. But I don't think it ever takes

00:05:47   up more time than it should. In the sense that it's important to not get too carried

00:05:53   away in terms of, oh gosh, cranking out code.

00:05:58   It's a funny thing because, say I worked in a factory.

00:06:01   Say I was making widgets on an assembly line.

00:06:05   It's very easy to measure that.

00:06:06   It's very easy to understand and say, OK, I produced 27 widgets today.

00:06:10   Yesterday, I produced 28 widgets.

00:06:13   Today was less productive than the day before.

00:06:15   And that only sort of applies to software engineering.

00:06:19   Software engineering is a funny thing.

00:06:21   You don't have to-- and I would say in many ways you can't--

00:06:25   be always working at 100%.

00:06:28   It's just not that kind of a work.

00:06:29   It's very much based on--

00:06:33   software development is more like applied experience.

00:06:36   And that experience comes from a variety of things.

00:06:38   It's both the things that you've done as well as the things that you know.

00:06:43   So when I'm getting--

00:06:45   so the people I hang out with online in terms of people I follow,

00:06:49   websites I follow, a lot of what they're doing is informing and enhancing my skills, whether

00:06:55   for development, for the techy people, design, understanding marketing, those types of things.

00:07:02   And in aggregate, I think they benefit my work as a result.

00:07:07   And so obviously I don't want to be like, "Okay, well, if I just watched Twitter all

00:07:11   day, I'd be a better coder."

00:07:13   Not really.

00:07:14   But being really engaged in the community and understanding what's going on, I think

00:07:20   it ultimately does make me better.

00:07:22   And this is one of those things that you kind of, I don't know, you kind of have to let

00:07:24   go at some point that your overall skill is not necessarily just the amount of time that

00:07:34   you spend in Xcode, but it's the experience that you have overall and how well-rounded

00:07:39   you are.

00:07:41   And I think the more I understand that, it's kind of, it's almost like you have to spend

00:07:44   money to make money is another way to think about it.

00:07:46   Like I'm spending time to make myself better.

00:07:49   And so my concern online becomes are the things that I'm following and is the information

00:07:54   I'm sending in enhancing and informing my ability to write applications to run a business

00:08:00   to be successful?

00:08:01   And that is a much easier question to answer, I think, than am I spending too much time

00:08:07   doing it?

00:08:08   And because at some point, if you're only taking in things that are enhancing your skill set as an entrepreneur, as a developer, as an employee, whatever, if all the inputs that you have are enhancing you, then it's unlikely that you're really going to get into trouble with this.

00:08:27   It's kind of like you're building efficiency into yourself by learning from other people's

00:08:35   mistakes, for example.

00:08:37   And you can get carried away with that, but you don't want to-- I think it's much more

00:08:42   liberating and constructive to just view it in that way and say, "My goal is to be the

00:08:47   best developer I can."

00:08:49   And as long as I'm very judicious in the inputs that I'm giving into my mind each day, then

00:08:56   Ultimately, I'm ending up doing better work for that.

00:09:00   And so that's kind of where I think you end up.

00:09:02   And I guess so you should be very judicious in what you follow.

00:09:07   Unfollow people or mute them or whatever it is that aren't those value adds.

00:09:12   And that's such a subjective thing for different people.

00:09:16   But I've really been doing a lot of that recently.

00:09:18   And I love Tweetbot for this.

00:09:19   And I can't wait for hopefully Tweetbot for Mac to come out at some point.

00:09:24   What I really want is to be able to pull--

00:09:29   I've been muting and filtering and doing all these things

00:09:32   to really focus down my Twitter streams

00:09:34   so that when there's new information there,

00:09:36   there's a very high probability that it

00:09:38   is enhancing to my business and my ability to do things.

00:09:42   And so I do a lot of--

00:09:44   I filter out large numbers of clients, for example.

00:09:49   Instagram posts, for example, don't show up

00:09:50   in my Twitter feed.

00:09:52   They're hidden.

00:09:54   I go to Instagram and I look at pictures, but I don't do that during my work day.

00:09:58   So I'm not constantly being distracted by people posting interesting pictures.

00:10:03   That's great.

00:10:04   That's awesome.

00:10:05   And I like looking at it, but that's not going to be enhancing to my day.

00:10:09   And that kind of thing.

00:10:10   So you kind of can filter down that information so you have this really high quality feed

00:10:14   that whenever you're looking at it is actually beneficial.

00:10:18   And then I think on the flip side of that, it's just making sure.

00:10:20   I've also been sort of increasingly, I don't know, increasingly careful about the work

00:10:26   I do to try and make sure that it's interesting to me, that I'm not seeking distractions from

00:10:34   it because I don't want to do it.

00:10:36   I'm independent.

00:10:38   I should be able to control, to some degree, the work I do.

00:10:42   And by trying to focus that down, it's like trying to sort of outsource jobs I don't want

00:10:47   to do, or projects I don't want to be on, or those types of things.

00:10:51   Ultimately, it really helps for being less distracted, because when you're excited about

00:10:55   something, when you're interested in it, when you're, I guess you could overuse the phrase,

00:10:58   but it's like when you're passionate about your work, you're less likely to be distracted.

00:11:04   I certainly know these days when I'm like, "Oh, there's just these two tasks that I need

00:11:09   to do, but I really don't want to do them.

00:11:11   The last thing I want to do is to do these things."

00:11:15   That's tricky.

00:11:16   Sometimes you just have to sort of suck it up and do it, but that happens a lot and you're

00:11:21   constantly finding other things to amuse your mind, then you really need to sort of evaluate

00:11:26   why are you doing those things in the first place?

00:11:30   Are you really getting satisfaction from that?

00:11:34   And surely at some point it's like, "Well, that's fine for Dave.

00:11:37   I have a somewhat successful business that I run, and so I have that kind of liberty."

00:11:42   It's like if you just have to do your job because you have to do your job, well, do

00:11:45   your job.

00:11:47   But if you find that tension and you find it really hard to stay on task because you

00:11:51   just don't care about what you're doing, that's a bigger issue.

00:11:55   And that's more of sort of like a back to work topic, as we'd say.

00:11:58   You know, it's like that's something Merlin Mann is great at talking about of kind of

00:12:01   how you evaluate those and work out what that looks like and how you can work out of that.

00:12:07   But anyway, that's kind of how I do it.

00:12:11   That's kind of what I do now.

00:12:13   It makes me feel a lot better to not feel guilty about looking at Twitter and doing

00:12:19   all these things throughout my day because I try very hard to make sure that those inputs

00:12:23   are quality.

00:12:24   And it's like if I'm having quality inputs given to me throughout the day, then it probably

00:12:30   doesn't matter too much that I'm looking at it.

00:12:34   If it's a value add, then that's a value add.

00:12:37   And it enhances my position in the community to be engaged there, to be answering questions

00:12:41   for people.

00:12:42   If someone has a problem that I've seen before, being able to jump in there and help them

00:12:46   out.

00:12:47   There's all those things that are good and positive.

00:12:49   And those relationships have value.

00:12:51   And in general, that seems like a much more reasonable approach than trying to sort of

00:12:55   beat myself over the head with like, "Oh gosh, Davey, you should not be looking at Twitter.

00:13:00   You should be hard at work.

00:13:01   You should be hard at work."

00:13:02   It's like, no, that's totally non-productive to be like, "Oh gosh, just get to work."

00:13:07   "Get to work, Dave. Get to work." No. Enjoy the things that you enjoy. If there are people

00:13:14   whose opinions you really care about and enjoy seeing in real time, great. Enjoy that. If

00:13:19   you're getting a lot of junk in there, that's something to fix.

00:13:23   And the other advantage is the more streamlined you are in making sure that you only have

00:13:27   quality content coming into your streams, then the less data there is there. And you're

00:13:32   not-- sort of like the half-life of a tweet in your stream is a long time.

00:13:37   And so often if you get that itch to like, oh, I wonder what's going on,

00:13:40   you go in and there's nothing new, you're like, all right, great,

00:13:43   nothing new, back to work.

00:13:44   All right.

00:13:45   So that's it for today's show.

00:13:46   Hopefully that helps Eric Wielander, who posed that question.

00:13:50   And I've been getting tons of great questions, so just keep them coming.

00:13:53   It's been-- it's really helpful for me to kind of get a sense of what people

00:13:56   are interested in, what they're asking for.

00:13:58   And as always, if you enjoy the show, please tell a friend,

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00:14:25   don't have advertisers or all these kinds of things. So the best way you can give back

00:14:28   just to tell friends. As always, if you have questions, comments, concerns, hit me up on

00:14:32   Twitter. I'm @_davidsmith there. The Twitter feed for the show, if you want to get tweets

00:14:38   when new episodes are posted, is @devperspective on Twitter. Otherwise, I hope you have a good

00:14:43   week. Happy coding, and I will talk to you later. Bye!