Stephanie went to her first WNBA game. Also: Bingo. Joël's new project has him trying to bring in multiple databases to back their ActiveRecord models. He's never done multi-database setups in Rails before, and he doesn't hate it.
Stephanie shares bits from a discussion with former Bike Shed host Steph Viccari about learning goals. Four elements stood out:
Adventure (try something new)
Profit (from recent learnings)
Low-risk (applicable today)
Stephanie and Joël discuss what motivates them, what they find interesting vs. what has immediate business value, and how they advocate for themselves in these situations. They ponder if these topics can bring long-term value and discuss the impact that learning Elm had on Joël's client work.
- Practical Object-Oriented Design in Ruby
- Design Patterns in Ruby
- Quarter Life
- Working Iteratively
JOËL: Hello and welcome to another episode of The Bike Shed, a weekly podcast from your friends at thoughtbot about developing great software. I'm Joël Quenneville.
STEPHANIE: And I'm Stephanie Minn. And together, we're here to share a bit of what we've learned along the way.
JOËL: So, Stephanie, what's new in your world?
STEPHANIE: All right, I have a new-new thing and an old-new thing to share with you today. So the new-new thing is that I went to my first WNBA game [laughs] last week, which is also my third professional sports game ever, probably. I am not a sports person. But a rather new friend of mine invited me to go with her because they are fans, and so I was like, yeah, sure. I'll try anything once. And I went, and I had a great time. It was very exciting.
I mean, I know the basic rules of basketball, right? Get the ball in the hoop. But I was very surprised to see how fast-paced it was. And, you know, I was like, wow, like, this is so much fun. There's so much going on, like, the music, you know, the crowd. It was very energizing. And then my friend actually told me that that was a pretty slow game, [chuckles] relative to how they normally go. And I was like, oh, wow, like, if that was slow, then I can't wait for a real competitive [laughs] game next time.
So that's my new-new thing. I had a good time. Will do it again. I'm just, like, a 15-minute bike ride from the stadium for our team in Chicago. It's called The Sky. That's our WNBA team. So yeah, I'm looking forward to being basketball Stephanie, I guess. [chuckles]
JOËL: That's really cool. How does the speed compare to other sports you've gone to see?
STEPHANIE: I think this is why I was interested because I've really only seen baseball, for which I know very little. And that, I think, is, like, a much slower-paced kind of sport. Yeah, I have some memories of going to, like, college football games, which also, like, quite slow. I just remember standing around for a while. [laughs] So I think basketball might be the thing for me, at least in terms of engaging my interest.
JOËL: You want something that actually engages you with the sport the whole time. It's not just a social event themed around occasionally watching someone do something.
STEPHANIE: Yes, exactly. I also enjoyed the half-time performances, you know, there was just, like, a local dance team. And I thought that was all just very fun. And, yes, I had a lot to, you know, just, like, point to and ask questions about because there was just so much going on, as opposed to sitting and waiting, at least that was my experience [laughs] at other kinds of sports games.
As for the old-new thing, now that it's summer, there is a local bar near me that does bingo every week. But it's not just normal bingo. It's called veggie bingo, which I realize is kind of confusing [chuckles] if you just, like, call it veggie bingo, but it's bingo where you win vegetables or, like, produce from local community gardens and other, you know, small batch food items. And I had a great time doing it last year. I met some new friends. It just became our weekly hangout. And so I'm looking forward to doing that again.
And, I don't know, I'm just glad I have fun things to share about what's new in my world now that the weather is warm and I'm doing stuff again. I feel like there was one point in the winter where I was coming [chuckles] onto the show and sharing how I had just gotten a heated blanket in the middle of winter, and that was the most exciting thing going on for me. So it feels good to be able to bring up some new stuff.
JOËL: Seasonality is a thing, right? And, you know, there are rhythms in life. And sometimes things are more fast-paced, sometimes they're a bit slower. That's really exciting. Did you take any produce home, or did you win anything when you went to play?
STEPHANIE: I did. I won a big bag of produce the last time that I went. At this point, it was last season. But it was right before I was about to go on vacation. So I ended up --
JOËL: Oh no.
STEPHANIE: [chuckles] Right. I ended up not being able to, you know, keep it in the fridge and just giving it away to my friends who did not win. So I think it was a good situation overall. That's my tip, is go to bingo or any kind of prize-winning hang out as a group, and then you can share the rewards. It's very exciting. Even if you don't win, you know, like, probably someone else at your table will win, and that is equally fun.
JOËL: I think the closest I've been to that experience is going to play, like, bar trivia with some friends and then winning a gift card that covers our dinner and drinks for the evening.
STEPHANIE: Yeah, yeah, that's great. I used to go to a local trivia around me too. The best part about bingo, though, is that it requires no skill at all. [laughs] I, yeah, didn't realize, again, how into these kinds of things I would be until I just tried it out. Like, that was...bingo is another thing I don't think I would have internally decided to go do. But yeah, my friends just have all these great ideas about fun things to do, and I will happily join them.
So, Joël, what's new in your world?
JOËL: So I've recently started a new client project. And one of the really interesting things that I've been doing on this project is trying to bring in multiple databases to back our ActiveRecord models. This is a Rails app. I've never done multi-database setups in Rails before. It's been a feature since Rails 6, but this is my first time interacting with that system. And, you know, it's actually pretty nice.
STEPHANIE: Really? It ended up being pretty straightforward or pretty easy to set up?
JOËL: Yeah. There's a little bit of futzing around you have to do with the database YAML configuration file. And then what you end up doing is setting up another base class for your ActiveRecord models to inherit from. So, typically, you have that application record that you would inherit from for your primary database. But for other databases, if you want a model to be backed by a table from that system, then you would have a separate base class that all of those models inherit from, and that's pretty much it. Everything else just works.
A bunch of your Rake tasks get a little bit different. So you've got to, like, configure your setup scripts and your test scripts and all that thing a little bit differently. But yeah, you can just query, do all the normal things you do with an ActiveRecord model, but it's reading from a different database.
STEPHANIE: That's really cool that it ended up being pretty painless. And I'm thinking, for the most part, as a developer, you know, working in that kind of codebase; maybe they don't really need to know too much about the details of the other databases. And they can just rely on the typical Rails conventions and things they know how to do via Rails.
Do you suspect that there might be some future where that might become a gotcha or something that someone has to debug a little further because of the multi-database setup?
JOËL: There are some infrastructure things, but I think I'm handling all of them upfront. So like I said, configuring various setup scripts, or test scripts, or CI, that kind of thing to make sure that they all work. Once that's all done, I think it should pretty much just work. And people can use them like they would normal ActiveRecord models.
The one gotcha is that you can't join models across two different databases. You can't use ActiveRecord to write a query that would try to join two tables that are in different databases because the SQL won't allow for that. So, if you're ever trying to do something like that or you have some kind of association where you're trying to do some special join, that would not work. So, if somebody attempts that, they might get an unexpected error. Other than that, I think it just keeps working as normal, and people can treat it more or less as if it's one database.
STEPHANIE: That's interesting. How do you model relationships between tables on the two different databases, then? Like, how would that work?
JOËL: I've not gotten that far yet. For some things, I imagine just it's two queries. I'm not sure if the ActiveRecord associations handle that automatically for you. I think they probably will. So you probably can get away with an association where one model lives in one database. Let's say your article lives in one database, and it has many comments that live in a different database.
Because then you would make one query to load the article, get the article ID, and then you would do another query to the second database and say, hey, find all the comments with this article ID, which is already, I think, what ActiveRecord does in one single database. It is making two queries. It's just that now those two queries are going to be two different databases rather than to a single one.
STEPHANIE: Interesting. Okay. I did think that maybe ActiveRecord did some fancy join thing under the hood. And when you mentioned that that wouldn't be possible when the two tables are on different databases, I was kind of curious about how that would work. But that makes sense. That would be really cool if it is, you know, that straightforward. And, hopefully, it just doesn't become too big of an issue that comes back to haunt someone later.
JOËL: Right. So pretty much, if there is a situation where you were relying on a JOIN, you will now have to make two separate queries and then combine the results yourself.
STEPHANIE: Right. I also want to give you kudos for doing all the good work of setting it up so that, hopefully, future developers don't have to think about it.
JOËL: Kudos to the Rails team as well. It's nice to have that just kind of built into the framework. Again, it's not something I've needed in, you know, a decade of doing Rails, but then, you know, now that I have run into a situation where I need that, it just works out of the box. So that's been really nice.
So, a couple of weeks ago, we talked about the fact that we were going through review season and that we had to fill out reviews for ourselves then also fill out peer reviews for each other. You had brought up a really interesting conversation you had about reaching out to other people and trying to get feedback on what kind of review or feedback would be helpful for them.
STEPHANIE: I did, yeah. Though, I think in this case, the person writing that feedback actually reached out to me, but certainly, it goes both ways. Spoiler alert - that person was Steph Viccari, former [laughs] host of The Bike Shed.
JOËL: So Steph also reached out to me with similar questions. And that spawned a really interesting conversation around personal goals and what it looks like, particularly when it comes to what to learn next in technology. We started discussing things, and I listed out some different things that I was interested in. And then just kind of out of nowhere, Steph just pulls out this, like, oh, I noticed these four elements. And I'm going to list them out here because it's really cool.
So these four elements were adventure, so trying something new. Passion, so something that's really exciting to you. Profit something where you can leverage some recent things that you've done to get more value out of some work you've already done. And then finally, low risk, something that would be applicable today. And it just kind of turns out that this makes a funny little acronym: APPL. And apples are often a symbol of learning. So that was kind of a fun coincidence.
STEPHANIE: I love when someone is able to just pull apart or to tease out pieces of, you know, something that you might have just, like, kind of dumped all of into a message or something, and then to get, like, a second eye to really pick out the themes is so valuable, I think. And I'm obsessed with this framework. I think we might have come across something new that could really be helpful for a lot of other people.
JOËL: It's definitely...I think it shows capacity for a higher level of thinking when someone's able to just look at a bunch of concrete things and say, wait a minute; I'm seeing some larger themes emerge from what you're talking about. And I always really appreciate it when I'm having a conversation with someone, and they're like, "Hey, I think what I'm hearing is this." And you're like, "Whoa, you're totally right. And I did not even know that that's where I was going."
STEPHANIE: Absolutely. I'd love to go through this acronym and talk about a few different things that we've learned in our careers that kind of correspond with each of these elements.
JOËL: Yeah, that sounds great. So I think, you know, the first one here is adventure, trying something new. So, what's something where you tried something new or adventurous that you think was worthwhile?
STEPHANIE: Hosting this podcast. [laughs] It was a huge adventure for me and a really big stretch, I think. And that's what the idea of adventure evokes for me is, like, maybe it's uncharted territory for you, and you might have some reservations about it. But, you know, obviously, the flip side of an adventure is how fun and exciting and just new and stimulating it can be.
And so I think, yeah, like, when I first started doing this with you, and even when you first asked me, I was pretty nervous. I was really hesitant. It took me a long time to, you know, think it over. I was like, do I want to commit to something that I have never done before, and it's, like, a pretty longer-term commitment? And I'm really glad I did it.
It's certainly been an adventure. It's, you know, got its ups and downs. You know, not every week do I feel like that went really well, like, that was a great episode. Sometimes I'm like, that was just an okay episode, [laughs] and, you know, that's fine too.
But I feel like this was really important in helping me feel more confident in sharing my technical opinions, helping me feel more comfortable just kind of, like, sharing where I am and not feeling like I should be somewhere else, like, some other level or have already known something. Like, the point is for us to share the journey week by week, and that was something that was really hard for me. So being on this Bike Shed adventure with you has been very valuable for me.
JOËL: Yeah, it's sharing these new things we've learned along the way.
STEPHANIE: Literally. Yes. What about you? Do you have something adventurous that you learned?
JOËL: I think an important inflection point where I tried something new was when I learned the Elm programming language. So I had mostly done procedural languages back in the day. And then I got into Ruby, did a lot of OO. And then I got into Elm, which is statically-typed, purely functional, all these things that are kind of opposite of Ruby in some ways. But I think it shares with Ruby that same focus on developer happiness and developer productivity. So, in some ways, I felt really at home.
But I had to learn just a whole new way of programming. And, one, it's cool. I have a new tool in my belt. And I think it's been a couple of years just learning how to use this language and how to be effective with it. But then afterwards, I spent a couple of years just kind of synthesizing the lessons learned there and trying to see, are there broader principles at play here? Are there ideas here that I can bring back to my work in Ruby?
And then maybe even are there some ideas here that intersect with some theories and things that I know from Ruby? So maybe some ways of structuring data or structuring code from functional programming where some best practices there kind of converge on similar ideas as maybe some object-oriented best practices, or maybe some ideas from test-driven development converge on similar ideas from functional programming. And I think that's where, all of a sudden, I was unlocking all these new insights that made me a better Ruby developer because I'd gone on an adventure and done something completely out of left field.
STEPHANIE: Yeah, absolutely. Do you remember what was hard about that when you first embarked on learning Elm?
JOËL: All the things you're used to doing, you just can't do. So you don't have looping constructs in Elm. The only thing you can do is recursion, which, you know, it's been a long time since CS classes. And you don't typically write recursion in Ruby. So I had to learn a whole new thing. And then it turns out that most people don't write recursion. There's all these other ways of doing things that you have to learn. You have to learn to do folds or to use maps and things like that.
Yeah, you're just like, oh, how do I do X in Elm? And you have to figure it out. And then maybe sometimes it turns out you're asking the wrong question. So it's like, oh, how do I do the equivalent of a for loop with array indexes in Elm to, like, iterate through a data structure? And it's like, well, kind of here's technically the way you could do that, but you would never solve a problem in that way.
You've got to learn a new way of thinking, a new way of approaching problems. And I think it was that underlying new paradigm that was really difficult to get. But once I did get it, now that I have two paradigms, I think it made me a much more solid developer.
STEPHANIE: Right. That sounds very humbling, too, to kind of have to invert what you thought you knew and just be in that, you know, beginner's mindset, which we've talked about a little bit before.
JOËL: I think in some ways now being on the other side of it, it's similar to the insights you get from speaking multiple human languages, so being bilingual or trilingual or something like that where instead of just having assumptions about, oh, this is just how language works, because that's how your personal language works, now that you have more than one example to draw on, you can be like, oh, well, here's how languages tend to do things differently. Here's how languages are similar.
And I think it gives you a much better and richer feeling for how languages work and how communication works. And similar to having multiple paradigms in programming, I think this has given me a much richer foundation now for exploring and building programs.
STEPHANIE: That's really cool. I guess that actually leads quite well into the next element, which is passion. Because once you've tried some new things, you get the information of do I like this thing, or do I not like this thing? And then from there, you know, you gravitate towards the things you are passionate about to get a deeper understanding. And it becomes less about like, oh, just testing out the waters and like, knowing, hey, like, I constantly find myself thinking about this, like, let me keep going.
JOËL: Yeah. Or sometimes, it's deciding what do I want to learn next? And you just pick something that's interesting to you without necessarily being like, oh, strategically, I think this is another paradigm that's going to expand my mind. Or this is going to make me, you know, help me get that promotion next quarter, purely based off of interest. Like, this sounds fun.
STEPHANIE: That's really interesting because I think I actually came to it from a different angle, where one thing that I think was very helpful in my learning that came just, like, completely internally, like, no one told me to do this was reading books about design patterns. And that was something that I did a couple of years into my career because I was quite puzzled, I suppose, by my day-to-day experience in terms of wanting to solve a problem or develop a feature but not having a very good framework for steps to go about it, or not feeling very confident that I had a good strategy for doing it.
It was very, for me, it felt very just kind of, like, throwing pasta to the wall and seeing what would stick. And I was really interested in reducing that pain, basically. And so that led me to read books. And, again, that was not something, like, someone was like, hey, I really think that you could benefit from this. It was just like, well, I want to improve my own experience.
And, you know, some of the ones that I remember reading (And this was based off of recommendations from others kind of when I floated the idea.) was, you know, Sandi Metz's Practical Object-Oriented Design in Ruby. Design Patterns in Ruby by Ross Olsen. Those were just, like, purely out of interest. Yeah, I guess I'm curious, for you, what fun and passion look like.
JOËL: Yeah, I think one thing that's a really fun side effect of passion learning is that I find that I tend to learn a lot faster and go a lot deeper, or I get more for every individual hour I put into learning just because passion or interest is such a multiplier.
Similar to you, I think I went through a time where I was just gobbling up everything I could see on design patterns, and code structure, things like that. Yeah, I've always been really excited about data modeling in general and how to structure programs to make them easy to change while also not putting a high maintenance burden on it, learning those trade-offs, learning those principles, learning a lot of those ideas.
I think that desire came out of some pain I felt pretty early on in my programming career, where I was just writing purely self-taught at this point from a few tutorials online. Code beyond a few hundred lines would just kind of implode under the weight of its own complexity. And so, like, I know that professional programmers are writing massively larger programs that are totally fine. So what am I missing? And so I think that sort of spurred an interest. And I've kind of been chasing that ever since. Even though I'm at the point where that is no longer a problem in my daily life, it is still an interest that I keep.
STEPHANIE: Yeah. If I were to pull out another interest of yours that I've noticed that kind of seems in the same realm of, you know, you can just chase this forever, is working incrementally, right? And just all the ways that you can incorporate that into your day-to-day. And I know that's something we've talked about a lot. But I think that's really cool because, yeah, it just comes from just a pure desire on your own front to, like, see how far you can take it.
JOËL: I think you pulled out something interesting there. Because sometimes, you have an interest in a whole new topic, and sometimes the interest is more about taking something I already know and just seeing can I take it to an extreme? What happens when I really go to the boundaries of this idea? And maybe I don't need to go there ever for a client project. But let me put up a proof of concept somewhere and try it out just for the fun of it to see can I take this idea, then push it to an extreme and see does it break at an extreme? Does it behave weirdly? And that is just an enriching journey in and of itself.
Have you ever done, like, a...maybe not a whole learning journey but, you know, taken a few hours, or maybe even, like, some time on one of our investment Fridays to just explore some random idea and try it out? And it's like, huh, that was cool; that was a journey. And then maybe you move on to something next week because it's not like a big planned thing. But you're taking a few hours to dig into something totally random.
STEPHANIE: I actually think I'm less inclined to do that than maybe you or other folks are. I find the things I choose to spend my time on do have to feel more relevant to me in the moment or at least in my day-to-day work.
And I think that actually is another excellent transition into the last couple of elements in the APPL framework that we've now coined. The next being profit or, I guess, the idea of being valuable to you in your job in that moment, I suppose. Or I guess not even in that moment, but kind of connecting what you're learning to something that would provide you value.
So I know you were talking about learning Elm, and now you're able to see all of the value that it has provided, but maybe at the time, that was a little bit less of your focus. But for me, I find that, like, a driver for how I choose to spend my time. Often it's because, yeah, for the goal of reducing pain.
Being consultants, we work on a lot of different projects, sometimes in different frameworks, or languages, or new technologies. Like, you've mentioned having to, just now, on your new client project learning how to interact with different databases, and it sounds like older software that you might not have encountered before.
And I think that ends up falling higher on my priority list depending on the timing of what I'm currently working on is, oh, like, you know, TypeScript is something that has, like, kind of come and go as my projects have shifted. And so when it comes back to working on something using it, I'm like, oh, like, I really want to focus on this right now because it has very clear value to me in the next three to six months, or however long. But I have also noticed that once I'm off of that project, that priority definitely recedes.
JOËL: Yeah, I think that plays into that final element as well of the APPL, the low risk things that are applicable today that have value right now. Those tend to be things like, oh, I see that I'm going to be scheduled on a client that needs this technology next month. Maybe I should learn that, or maybe I should refresh this idea or go a little bit deeper because this is something new that I'm going to need. So, at some point, I knew that there was a Python project coming down the line. I was like, okay, well, maybe I'm going to spend a couple of Fridays digging into some Django tutorials and compare and contrast with Rails.
STEPHANIE: The low-risk element is interesting to me because I found it to be a challenging balance to figure out how much time to invest in becoming really comfortable in a new technology. I find myself sometimes learning just enough to get what I need to get done. And then other times really feeling like, wow, like, I wish I knew this better because that would make my life easier, or I would just feel a lot better about what I'm doing. And kind of struggling with when to spend that time, especially when there's, you know, other expectations of me in terms of my delivery.
JOËL: Yeah, that almost sounds like a contrast between technologies that fall in that low-risk bucket, like, immediately useful, versus ones that fall in the passion bucket that you're interested in taking deeply and maybe even to an extreme.
STEPHANIE: That's really interesting. What I like about this list of themes that we've pulled out is that, like, one thing can fall into a number of different categories. And so it's really quite flexible.
It actually reminds me of a book that I just finished reading. The book is called Quarterlife. And the thing that stuck out to me the most is the author, who is a psychotherapist; she has basically come up with two types of people, or at least two things, that end up being really big drivers of, like, human motivation and behavior. And that's stability types and meaning types, and the goal is to have a little bit of both.
So you may be more inclined towards stability and wanting to learn the things that you need to know for your job, to do well in your role, kind of like we were talking about to reduce that pain, to feel a little more in control, or have a little more autonomy over your day to day and how you work. And then there's the seeking meaning, and when we talked about adventure and passion, it kind of reminded me of that. Like, those are things that we do because we want to feel something or understand something or because it's fun.
And ironically, this list of four things has two that kind of fall into each category. And ultimately, the author, she, you know, was very upfront about needing both in our lives. And I thought that was a really cool distinction. And it was helpful for me to understand, like, oh yeah, like, in the early years of my career, I did really focus on learning things that would be profitable, or valuable, or low risk because those were the things that I needed in my job, like, right now.
And I am now feeling stable enough to explore the meaningful aspects and feel excited by trying out things that I think I just wasn't ready for back in the day. But it actually sounds like you may kind of have a different leaning than I do.
JOËL: That is really interesting. I think what was really fascinating as you mentioned those two sort of types of people. And, in my mind, now I'm immediately seeing some kind of two-dimensional graph, and now we've got four quadrants. And so are we leaning towards stability versus...was it adventure was the other one? Or meaning.
STEPHANIE: Meaning, yes.
JOËL: So now you've got, like, your quadrant that is high stability, high meaning, low stability, high meaning, like, all those four quadrants. And maybe these four things happen to fall into that, or maybe there's some other slightly different set of qualities that you could build a quadrant for here.
One that is interesting, and I don't know how closely it intersects with this idea of stability versus meaning, is how quickly the things you learn become useful. So that low risk, like that L from APPL, those are things that are immediately useful. So you put a little bit of work learning this, and you can immediately use it on the job. In fact, that's probably why you're learning it.
Whereas me going off and learning Elm is not because we've got any clients in the pipeline using Elm. It's purely for interest. Is it going to pay off? I think most learning pays off long-term, especially if it helps you build a richer understanding of the different ways software works or helps you have new mental models, new tools for doing things. And so I think, you know, 5, 6, 7 years later, learning Elm has been one of the highest payoff things that I've done to kind of take my coding career to the next level. That being said, I would not have seen that at the time. So the payoff is much more long-term.
How do you kind of navigate when you're trying to learn something, whether you want something with a short-term payoff or a longer-term payoff?
STEPHANIE: Yeah, that's so interesting. I wonder if there was maybe someone who could have helped you identify the ways that Elm could have possibly paid off. And I know, you know, you're looking back on it in retrospect, and it's easy to see, especially after many years and a lot of deep thinking about it. But kind of referring back to this idea of seeking meaning and that just being important to feeling happy at your job, like, maybe it was just valuable because you needed to scratch that itch and to experience something that would be interesting or stimulating in that way to prevent burning out or something like that.
JOËL: Oh, I like that. So the idea that you're learning a thing, not specifically because you're expecting some payoff in the long term but because of the joy of learning, is reward in and of itself, and how that actually keeps you fresh in the moment to keep going on a career that might, you know, last 5, 10, 20, 30 years, and how that keeps you refreshed rather than like, oh, but, like, I'm going to see a payoff in five years where now, all of a sudden, I'm faced with a problem. And I can be like, ah, yes, of course, monads are what we need here. And that's a nice side effect, but maybe not the main thing you look for when you're going for something in that passion bucket.
STEPHANIE: Yeah, absolutely. To go back to your question a little bit, I had mentioned that I was wondering if there was someone who could help point out ways that your interests might be useful. And I think that would be a strategy that I would try if I find myself in that conundrum, I suppose, of, like, being like, hey, like, this is really interesting to me. I'm not able to see any super immediate benefits, but maybe I can go find an expert in this who can share with me, like, from their experience, what diving deep into that topic helped them.
And if that's something that I need to then kind of justify to a manager or just kind of explain, like, hey, this is why I'm spending my time doing this is because of this insight that I got from someone else. That would be, I think, a really great strategy if you find yourself needing to kind of explain your reasoning. But yeah, I also think it's, like, incredibly important to just have passion and joy in your work. And that should be a priority, right? Even if it's not immediately clear, the tangible or valuable to the company benefits in the current moment.
JOËL: And I think what I'm hearing is that maybe it's a bit of a false premise to say there are some things that you follow for passion that only pay off in the long term. Because if you are in it for passion, then you're getting an immediate payoff regardless. You may also get an additional payoff in the long term. But you're absolutely getting some kind of payoff immediately as well.
STEPHANIE: Yeah, I think that's true for adventure because knowing what you don't like is also really valuable information. So, if you try something and it ends up not panning out for you, you know, I think some people might feel a little bit disappointed or discouraged. They think, oh, like, they kind of wasted time. But I don't know; I think that's all part of the discovery process. And that brings you closer and closer to, yeah, knowing what you want out of your learning and your career.
JOËL: So I'm really curious now. This whole, you know, APPL framework came out of a very random conversation. Is this something that maybe you're going to take into your own sort of goal-setting moving forward? Maybe try to identify, like, okay, what is something adventurous that I want to do, something I want to do for passion, something that I think for profit, and then something low risk? And then maybe have that inform where you put some energy in the next quarter, the next year, whatever timeline you're planning for.
STEPHANIE: Yeah, I thought about this a little bit before we started recording. But one very loose goal of mine...and this actually, I think, came up a little more tangibly after coming back from RubyKaigi and being so inspired by all of the cool open-source tooling and hearing how meaningful it was for people to be working on something that they knew would have an impact on a lot of people in their development experience.
Having an impact is something that I feel very passionate about and very interested in. And the adventure part for me might be, like, dabbling a little bit into open-source tooling and seeing if there might be a project that I would be interested or comfortable in dipping my feet into.
What about you? Do you have anything in the near or long-term future that might fall into one of these buckets?
JOËL: So I do have a list of things. I don't know that I will pursue all of them or maybe any of them. But here's my kind of rough APPL here. So something adventurous, something new would be digging into the language Rust. Again, the idea is to try a completely new paradigm, something low-level, something typed, something that deals with a lot of memory, something that does well with concurrency and parallelism. These are all things that I've not explored quite as much. So this would be covering new ground.
Something that is a passion, something that's interesting to me, would be formal methods, so I'm thinking maybe a language like TLA+ or Alloy. Data modeling, in general, is something that really excites me. These techniques that I think build on some of the ideas that I have from types but that go, like, to an extreme and also in a slightly different direction are really intriguing to me. So, if there's something that maybe I'm staying up in the evenings to do, I think that might be the most intriguing thing for me right now.
Something that might be more profitable, I think, would be digging into the world of data science, particularly looking at Notebooks as a technology. Right now, when I need to crunch data, I'm mostly just doing spreadsheets. But I think there are some really cool things that we could do with Notebooks that come up in client work. I manage to do them when you're with a random command-line script or sometimes with Excel. But I think having that tool would probably be something that allows me to do that job better.
And then, finally, something low-risk that I know we could use on a client project would be digging in more into TypeScript. I know just enough to be dangerous, but we do TypeScript all the time. And so, mastering TypeScript would definitely be something that would pay off on a client project.
STEPHANIE: I love that list. Thank you for sharing.
JOËL: Also, I just want to note that there are only four things here. It doesn't fully spell APPL because there's no E at the end. And so when I see the acronym now, I think it looks like a stock ticker.
STEPHANIE: It really does. But I think it's pretty trendy to have an acronym that's basically a word or a noun but then missing a vowel so...
JOËL: Oh, absolutely. Time to register that applframework.com domain.
STEPHANIE: Yeah, I agree. I also love what you said. You called it a rough APPL. And that was very [laughs] evocative for me as well. And just thinking about an apple that someone has, like, bitten into a little bit [laughs] and has some rough edges. But yeah, I hope that people, you know, maybe find some insight into the kinds of learnings and goals that they are interested in or are thinking about. And using these themes to communicate it to other people, I think, is really important, or even to yourself. Maybe yourself first and then to others because that's how your co-workers can know how to support you.
JOËL: That's really interesting that you are thinking of it in terms of a tool for communication to others. I think when I first encountered this idea, it was more as a tool of self-discovery, trying to better understand why I was interested in different things and maybe better understanding how I want to divide up the energy that I have or the time that I have into different topics. But I can definitely see how that would be useful for communicating with team members as well.
STEPHANIE: On that note, shall we wrap up?
JOËL: Let's wrap up.
STEPHANIE: Show notes for this episode can be found at bikeshed.fm.
JOËL: This show has been produced and edited by Mandy Moore.
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JOËL: Thanks so much for listening to The Bike Shed, and we'll see you next week.
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