One of the things that I like about the Kanban system is the explicit management of not just the total number of pieces of work in progress but what stages those pieces of work are in. These "WIP limits" provide a good way to make sure that you don't divide your attention too widely.
Over this year I've been writing a lot and I have over the last 5 years arrived at a workflow for how I write posts:
- Jot down some notes about topics I might want to write about
- Collect notes into a markdown file about a topic
- Write a draft
- Publish an article
The process of collecting the notes is something that I do so I don't get overwhelmed by too much unprocessed information. I currently have a draft article about the reasons why I write, and this is an important part of it.
Once I get enough exposure to a topic such that I decide I will write about it I start putting things like notes, references, links, quotes, etc into a named markdown document, I then keep track of those in the content repository for this blog.
When I get enough notes I start writing a draft post, sometimes this takes a long time, I think the longest gap I've had between a draft and a published article is 4 years.
Once the draft gets good enough it gets published and you end up seeing the article here.
I think this process is quite good, but coming back to the Kanban system ideas it's important to manage how many pieces of work are in each stage of this pipeline. Even though the written words are not a perishable good the context within which the writing is occurring is. On top of this there are substantial context switching costs when writing across multiple topics. If these factors are not managed the cost is a decreased throughput of writing from a substantially higher cognitive burden being carried.
Freezing new articles
During 2020 I've had a lot of time to think about a lot of different topics. This slowdown has come at an opportune time since I had accumulated far too many unfinished threads of thoughts and ideas that had not been explored. Because of travelling so much during 2019 in my training job and consulting job I was exposed to a huge number of people from various industries with various backgrounds who were working on a variety of difficult projects. This gave me a huge amount of raw material to think about and the weight of these unfinished thoughts started to weigh heavily on my mind. As part of an effort to clear this mental clutter I started writing, and I wrote a lot. But I'm starting to get another thing weighing heavily on my mental capacity as related to this blog, I've accumulated a large number of draft posts. As of the other day I'm now at fifty posts in a draft state. Some of these posts like the one about Python's Buildout packaging system (draft started on 2014-10-27) may never be completed. Despite its usefulness Buildout has fallen out of favor in the great churn that has been Python packaging over the last 10 years so I probably won't complete that tutorial. But I have a variety of other drafts like the one about how we are in an era of effective negative interest rates (draft started on 2020-06-01) or the great RPA rebranding that occurred in automation (draft started 2020-05-04) that I desperately want to get published and soon. 1
So I'm going to take a leaf from the Kanban book and impose a temporary freeze on new drafts to attempt to clear this backlog of draft posts. This might allow me to get some much needed respite from the burden of having too many drafts concurrently on my mind. There's a few posts that I have wanted to write and some depend on each other, at the time of this post those are:
- Negative interest rates
- Object oriented silver bullets and a broader non-dogmatic discussion of OOP
- Automation and The great RPA rebranding - See series here
- You don't necessarily get what you pay for in modern IT
- What is science
- Determinism in scientific code
- Mortality and paradigm shifts in the institutions of science
- Software and the scientific method (why isn't more software made in a scientific manner?)
- Why I write
- The decline in the average experience of people in the IT industry
This is 11 posts that are currently in draft status, I'm aiming to prioritize these posts. I probably will write other quick posts as they come up if there's something that warrants the effort, but I'm going to put a hold on new long form content for a while till these are done. I would like to get substantial progress on these done now before work commitments get the better of me since I know if I get really busy with work I'll be unable to express myself in long form content. 2
And with this I will be putting the coffee machine on and getting to work!
I was able to find the date with which I stated writing these posts by using Git. The ability to work easily with your history of changes is a massive advantage of Git that isn't obvious at first but can be hugely valuable in retrospect. I used the
git blamecommand here to get dates of changes, there's likely other ways to do this too. ↩
I'm reminded of a passage in the book "A room of ones own" by Virginia Woolf where she comments on how someone might be prevented from being an author because of a lack of money but that if they were to get rich from running a business then they might have the financial means but at the cost of not having the time to write. This still seems to ring true 90 years later even though the barriers, especially financial, of having your works be published have greatly been broken down by the technological innovations of the internet. Unfortunately even in 2020 many people are still very much unable to be authors due to things completely out of their control, over a billion people still do not have access to the most efficient distribution for written content, the internet, in many of the poorer or remote parts of the world. ↩