Suddenly, it’s a week since I last updated anything here – and there’s a good reason (or ten) for that.
Mainly, the good reason is that I’ve been sodding busy.
Since last I wrote here, there’s been (in no particular order)
- Driving to Marlow for a late lunch at the Hand and Flowers
- Driving to London (Saturday at ungodly o’clock)
- Visiting Meatopia – on the Saturday, along with several friends
- Seeing The The’s “Infected” film at the ICA in London on the Saturday evening
- Staying overnight in London
- Visiting Meatopia on the Sunday, just me, but ended up meeting several other people, as well as starting some business discussions (Win!)
- Driving home from London, having walked 20 miles over the two days
- A vaguely normal Monday, with added shopping and faffery
- A normal Tuesday working, then meeting friends and going to the cinema to see Hell or High Water – heartily recommended
- A semi-standard Wednesday, and then cinema to see Morgan – also recommended, for different reasons, and thoughts on both films will follow
- And tonight, being at the Milton Keynes Geek Night, just to top things off.
So yes, not much going on at all.
It’s been pretty positive all round, but it has left me feeling like a stunned monkey. So there’ll be more writing as and when I get round to it. I’m back in London this weekend, but look like having one day that’s (currently) quiet, so that’s at least vaguely promising…
Over recent weeks, I’ve been having dealings with a number of companies I don’t usually deal with. There’s probably more on those to come, once the issues are sorted, but what’s struck me initially is just how ill-prepared they are for anything going wrong.
I’m not talking (necessarily) at the whole ‘disaster recovery’ level, where the business will die if it doesn’t have backups and a spare data-suite etc. hanging around on the off-chance. This is more at the customer level, but (to my mind) no less important for all that.
In three different cases over the last couple of months, I’ve been promised call-backs from various people, all of which haven’t happened. The excuses differ, but basically come down to “the person who organised that was away and no-one else knew anything about it“. Now, I get it, stuff happens: people go on leave, get ill, or change jobs. (And sometimes all three) But that lack of handover, lack of communication, lack of back-up procedures and so on, is a worry.
What would have happened if – for example – I were a customer, wanting a quote or whatever, and expecting a response that doesn’t happen? Or when complaints are waiting to be handled, because the only person who knows about it has chuffed off somewhere?
For my own business and work, I make sure my end client always has access to a copy of the stuff I’m writing and doing. They get to see what’s changed, and can see that work’s being done, even if not necessarily the details and the ins-and-outs of the code. But they have access – so that if I get hit by a bus tomorrow, or go off with some kind of long-term illness (or any of the other options) then they can carry on. I don’t kill their businesses by being unwell, or dying.
In this age of technology, it’s not even that difficult. Calendars and emails can be shared, and accessed by colleagues (assuming the procedures are in place) when the owners are away. Out-of-office notifications can be set at the server level by IT if they’re made aware someone’s long-term ill etc., and emails can be auto-forwarded to someone else if the original person leaves.
It’s not at all difficult – but it still seems to be too much effort for any number of companies and organisations to set up. Lowest common denominators, and all that.
The Lead Developer conference this year was at the QEII Conference Centre – a spectacularly bad location (right next to Houses of Parliament, and round the corner from Downing Street) for the days of the Brexit Referendum and its aftermath.
It made me think of the last time I was there, though – which was for one of the @Media conferences, the first one I’d been to. Looking back, that was exactly ten years ago. Now that’s how to feel very old very quickly!
As well as the various talks and so on, it was also good to catch up with friends, including Topper and Pix, as well as meet some new people. It made me realise (yet again) that I really should be a bit more sociable, catch up more frequently and so on – although at the same time, it’s also always good to meet up with people and just drop into conversation as if you last saw them a couple of days ago, instead of a couple of years.
Last week, I was in London for three full days, travelling down each day. On both the Thursday and Friday (while attending the excellent Lead Developer conference) I was using the trains at peak times. Onn Saturday it was a busy time when I went down, and busy-but-late on the way back.
At no point in those six journeys did my tickets get checked. Not at platform gates, not on the train, nothing. I could’ve gone through the entire thing without paying a penny to Virgin Trains.
Of course, Sod’s Law being what it is, if I had braved it and gone without a ticket, there’d have been about six checks per journey. I know that – and it’s why I always buy a ticket. But it does annoy me, how rarely these things are checked, and it makes me wonder how many people do take the chance, and go without paying for the ticket.
It’s the end of 2015, and for the first time in a long time, it’s been a good year. It’s had its ups and downs for sure, but the general direction has definitely been upwards and positive.
On the ‘ups’ side, we have…
- worked all year on the same contract, which has made things a lot easier
- built up some savings, for the first time in at least a decade
- started up my own company and business, plus laying the groundwork for next year’s developments
- been out to a good range of restaurants, and had a long weekend in Edinburgh
- done some writing, and developed some ideas for working on in 2016
On the ‘downs’…
- When I say ‘worked all year’, I mean it. Holidays and breaks have pretty much not happened. Certainly nothing more than that long weekend in Edinburgh
- I’ve not built up the savings as much as I could/should have – but that’s been down to stuff with the car, the restaurants, and actually having a decent year of non-monastic living
- having my own company again means I also have to deal with HMRC, Companies House, and bastard accountants
- I haven’t actually finished any of the writing things
So it’s all swings and roundabouts, but all told it’s been a good year with a lot of stuff I’m really pleased about and/or proud of.
This year, most of my working week has been spent in my own small office, away from people and corporate bullshit. It’s been highly beneficial to me in general – despite realising I’ve been doing this all year with no breaks – and I’m far, far calmer and more content than I’ve been in a long time.
The run-up to the Festering Season has reminded me of this again – primarily because I’m just not filled with as much loathing of the Season as I usually am. I’ve not been nagged about being a Scrooge, or had to listen to all that interminable “Oh, but the run-up to Christmas is the best” bollocks, along with all the witterings about who’ll do what (or did what) at the annual work Christmas Do.
In short, doing my own thing has been hugely beneficial all round.
I still don’t like it as a season – it’s not something I dislike just because of the bullshit of others – but I’m certainly feeling less hateful than usual. It’s really quite odd, but in a good way.
Mind you, I’m still glad it’ll be all over in two weeks’ time…
At some point in the coming year, I’ll be changing contracts. That’s just par for the course (although I’ve been in the current one for a year now) so it’s not a worry. I’ve mentioned it before in relation to finances and so on, but this post is going to be more focused on the work side of things.
One of the bigger changes within this year was that I’ve also gone back to working through my own limited company, instead of through PAYE Umbrella companies, which means I’ll be better off in the long run.
I’m pretty much sure that I’ll be sticking with contracting for the coming year at least. There *may* be a perm role somewhere out there with my name on it – but I’m not convinced, and not looking for it.
In fairness, I have had some good perm roles (or as they’re sometimes known, “proper jobs”) along the way. However, it’s also valid that every single role I’ve fucking hated (or has involved working for an utter shitwhistle) has been a perm role. The last couple in particular have left me not wanting to go back down that route for the moment. (And yes, that could come back to bite me on the arse, I know)
So for now, I’m aiming to stick with the contracting. Along the way I’m also looking at developing some of my own stuff properly – like the writing post, I’ve got a huge number of ideas on the go, but unlike the writing post, I’ve got a goal, a target, and a particular product/concept to focus on.
There’s a timeline for that, which is the end of this 2015/16 process. At that point, there’s a conference and exhibition going on, where I want to be able to have a product I can launch and discuss with the target market.
That’s the goal, and the plan. Things may arise to change those aims, but for now it’s looking promising.