How to respond to failure. Or, after the problem came the procedure.

Encountering problems and making mistakes is a consequence of life, business, and everything else — and unavoidable. But the value is in how you respond to them.

As I said on Twitter this past week:

I’ve found that the best lessons in life — by far — are those where you learn how NOT to do something.

But still, as good as vicarious experiences are, they only get you so far.

In the beginning, there was the mistake…

By gum, was it a doozy! I’ll spare you the gory details (because they are — for the most part — irrelevant) but it was less a bug and more an infestation in the code. In the grand scheme of things, it has caused problems for our schedule, but the Under Cloud remains on course.

Stripping the whole problem down and tracing it to its source, it was — as these things often are — a failure to communicate, which resulted in team members and myself labouring under the assumption that something was when it wasn’t.

And then came the procedure…

So how did I respond?

We’re using a number of things to manage what we do. As a team of 3, we don’t need a lot, but we find that Slack and Trello are enough to keep things together, although we often find things said and done become lost inside the whirring cogs of the communication machine!

I created a list in Trello and added a card entitled: “Deprecated”, within which I wrote the following description:

“Here are all of the parts, components, and libraries of the application that have been deprecated, and what they’ve been superseded with.

Please update this card as and when required, but also refer to it, too!”

Some might argue it’s just a patching of holes, while some might claim it’s only of any use if people follow the procedure, but I would counter by saying that’s life, business, and everything else…

Why I switch web browsers, and — perhaps — you should, too!

When it comes to web browsers, I’m a bit of a nomad; I tend to shift around a lot. Also, I use a particular web browser for a specific task. Obvious question, here: why? So here are few things I do, which you might find useful…

Work smart with web browsers

What, you’re using just the one web browser? Madness! It’s all about being efficient. I find it faster and easier to switch between applications than tabs, since there are more keyboard shortcuts for the former than there are for the latter.

Here’s a bunch of essential keyboard shortcuts for Mac and Windows.

So let’s say I’m cataloguing web pages in the not-so hush-hush project I’m working on, the Under Cloud. I have the web page open in Apple’s Safari — for example — and the Under Cloud open in Google Chrome, using the keyboard shortcuts to switch between the two, copying and pasting between the two (we’re working on an extension for Google Chrome, which would cut out the copy-paste thing).

Whether you’re on a Mac or Windows, switching between applications is simple (command+tab for Mac, and alt+tab on Windows).

I mostly use Safari for phpMyAdmin, to manage the databases for client and personal projects, whereas I tend to use Google Chrome for Pocket, doing research, and so on. I sometimes use Firefox Developer Edition for development and testing. But as I said, I’m a web browser nomad, so things can change (I was using Opera for a time).

Getting more from Google Chrome

If you are using Google Chrome (which a lot of people are, these days), and you use lots of tabs, as I do, I recommend you use the following extensions, both by Suspension Labs:

  • Spaces, allows you to store windows containing tabs and load them when you need them. You can also assign a keyboard shortcut to bring up a dialogue listing your spaces (I use alt+space), which can navigate via the up and down arrow keys, and active via the return key.
  • The Great Suspender, “pauses” tabs so they don’t take up tons of memory, which is a boon for active websites (web applications) such as Twitter or Facebook.

I hope you gleaned something new and / or useful from this minor excursion into my workflow…

On being bold, and risking everything on an idea

I have an idea. I believe it’s an excellent idea. But belief doesn’t write code. People do.

I’m 4 years into a project — Under Cloud — which is a web application focused on the creation, curation, and management of research. It’s about capturing that moment of serendipity; when you realise you have something that fits with something else you did, or read, or wrote, and then linking them together with similar items, to create a narrative, and a stream of thought.

At present, the project is at an usable stage of development — I’m using it on a regular basis to manage my own personal and professional needs. However, much remains to be done. So, I had another idea.

The power of 3

By the end of the week, Octane will have gone from 1 employee (me), to 3. In the end, I had no choice, because to move the gain line forward, I needed to do something so different that it would mean transforming Octane and risking just about everything on a belief in an idea. I’d be running the risk of losing control, and — once more — staring into that darkness, not knowing where things were going.

Yes, I have a plan. Of course I do. But I’m charting a different course, and heading for unknown waters. It’s amazing.

I was asked: “Why not do [x] yourself?” which was an option, but it would have meant missing the chance to recruit two people who — if their delivery is commensurate with their obvious talents — could propel the Under Cloud forward at a pace and in a direction I couldn’t hope to do alone. Or worse, I do the work myself, and then 6 weeks later those same two people are no longer available to take things further.

I’m not just spending £x per hour on two people, I’m investing in a possible future for 3 people.

I could go on, but you get the idea.

So this is it, the biggest and most expensive gamble I’ve ever undertaken.

Be bold, hire “A” list people

Guy Kawasaki — ex-evangalist for Apple Inc. — once said that when you’re in the market for hiring people, hire people smarter than yourself, and don’t hire people like yourself.

It’s a bold move, and not without its dangers, but it’s something I’m having to contemplate in an attempt to move Under Cloud forward to the next phase.

The fact is — and it’s simple when you think about it — if you want to move the gain line forward, you don’t just need a different perspective, but also an alternate mental attitude, and a different set of strengths which compliment your own weaknesses and deficiencies. I know what my weaknesses and deficiencies, and that pre-qualifies the kind of person I’m looking for.

Want versus Need

Sometimes, a little education goes a long way. What a client wants is not always compatible with what their customers need. Here’s when saying no could be crucial, perhaps even pivotal to moving the gain line forward.

Want is a bar of chocolate. Need is breathing. A huge difference, but so often it goes unnoticed and unaccounted for. In the words of the inimitable Henry Ford:

“If I’d asked my customers what they wanted, they’d have said a faster horse.”