When I started considering my “long-term” goals I realized it’s important that the goals are not trivial, or even just “hard”. I believe that long-term goals should require a great effort on one’s part to attain. For me they should represent stretches of my abilities that will result in improvements to my person, both generally and professionally.
And so, after a few years of casual contemplation and meditating, I’ve discovered the only serious long-term goals that I believe in and would follow through with. While describing them I’ll try to explain why I decided each is important to me.
The first is the most achievable, given my tenacity (read: hardon) for documentation. I want to author a technical book. The stretch part of this is thus: ideally the produced work, in the years to follow, would become regarded as a seminal tomb of knowledge with respect to its topic. As Brooks wrote “The Mythical Man Month“, and Dave Thomas & Andrew Hunt wrote “The Pragmatic Programmer” on software engineering, and Edward Johnson wrote the “Red Hat RPM Guide” on the all aspects of the packaging format, it would become a title people instantly associate with a topic.
I decided this goal is realistic (and something I really should do) because of the unsolicited feedback I regularly receive about the quality of my documentation. In our technical community I have the uncommon ability to write documentation which is accessible, non-threatening, thorough, correct, and clear; while still maintaining appeal and value to both newcomers and advanced users. I am able to anticipate questions about projects or tools, which I was involved in creating or use regularly, and I consistently produce relevant reference material on the subjects almost reflexively.
And I Enjoy Doing This.
For simplicity though, lets summarize this goal as “becoming a published technical writer.”
The second goal is one I only understand at much more of a superficial level. I want to be first-author on an RFC. Perhaps, I can relate this goal as such: it is the standards-driven-specification-geek version of being first-author on a published research paper. It is a goal which focuses a community of thought (perhaps not yet even realized by the thinkers themselves), encourages further analysis, and leads to useful implementations of the paper’s contents.
In my career as an IT professional I have been able to identify areas needing standardizing and formalization. I understand that approaching these kind of problems is best done not in a Cathedral style approach. As I’ve matured I’ve begun to understand what it is that made the best standards, the most adopted ones, earn such respect. Now, when I work on something which is intended to make peoples lives better I have a very Bazaar style approach. I actively solicit feedback and discussion throughout all phases: planning, early prototype development, initial adoption and testing, and on through actual adoption.
Over time in my workplace, and only because of the value gained through this transparent collaboration process, have I been able to produce “solutions” (ick, that feels like such a buzzword now) that have, sometimes vastly and unexpectedly, improved the consumer’s relationships in the respective areas.
I have learned that what I think is the best approach to a workflow or task doesn’t count for shit if the person (who, by the way, is actually hoping it solves world hunger, fixes their depression, oh — and happens to makes their job easier by cutting 20 minutes off a repetitive task) runs into an “obvious mistake” when they try to use it for the first time.
Standards, whether they be in the form of a tool, methodology, policy, or what have you, should be obvious. Anything you produce is worthless if people don’t look at it and say “well yeah, duh”. The point of a standard is having the idea that was on everybody’s mind already (or obvious if prompted to think about it), produced and available in a format which is agreeable to a broad community of consumers.
This is the right goal for me because we don’t have enough people in the world who naturally identify areas which would benefit from the introduction of standards, while at the same time, working with their peers to create something that other people benefit from as well. I consider myself lucky to be one of those people.
And I Enjoy Doing This.
That is my second goal. Lets just summarize it as “becoming the author of an RFC.”
I’m unsure of exactly how to close a blog post like this. It goes without question that this is the most personal thing I’ve posted on this otherwise technical space. I know now what my goals are. The next step will be equally as difficult as discovering and accepting them was: I’m going to have to figure out how to reach them.