Riding my bike online

I like riding my bicycle. I like being outside; I like getting exercise; I like that I can do it solo and leave all my daily concerns at home as I cycle on a dedicated paved path which winds its way between crop fields and over bridges.

Or at least I did until I moved house from somewhere I could be on that path in seconds, to somewhere where I have to dismantle my bike, put it in the boot of my car, drive to the path , reassemble the bike and then set off – quite a different experience. I’m sure a bike rack for the car would make things easier, but it’s sort of not the point. Ease of access is key.

So a year ago I bought a turbo trainer and got a subscription to Zwift (wikipedia and official site). I set up my bike in the garage and hooked up my phone to a cheap projector over its USB-C connector and now I get to cycle around the Champs-Élysées or a volcanic island whenever I like. 

I tried several alternatives to Zwift, in particular some of the free ones, but sadly none of them were as good.

It’s not quite a substitute for being outside, but it does tick the boxes for ease of access, gets me some exercise and the gamification and MMO aspect do mean that I forget about everything else whilst I’m cycling, a precious commodity since remote working kicked in and the gap between home and work reduced to zero. 

Look on my works

A few years ago I read Ivanhoe and, as intended, ended up suitably grumpy at the French and felt sorry for the Saxons.

Last weekend some roadworks forced me to drive through Cricklade for the first time. Cricklade was founded in 878 by the Saxons, and its church is dedicated to Samson of Dol, one of the Seven Founder Saints of Brittany.

One of the other notable British missionaries to Brittany was Gildas, who died in about 570, and who wrote the frankly wonderful De Excidio et Conquestu Britanniae (“On the Ruin and Conquest of Britain”) – an excoriation of the kings and priests who failed to stand up to the Saxons when they invaded and allowed the country to fall into what he considered ruin when the culture of Sub-Roman Britain was overthrown. The following is from a 19th century translation:

>KINGS Britain has, but they are as her tyrants: she has judges, but they are ungodly men: engaged in frequent plunder and disturbance, but of harmless men: avenging and defending, yea for the benefit of criminals and robbers. They have numerous wives, though harlots and adulterous women: they swear but by way of forswearing, making vows yet almost immediately use falsehood. They make wars, but the wars they undertake are civil and unjust ones. They certainly pursue thieves industriously throughout the country, whilst those thieves who sit with them at table, they not only esteem but even remunerate.

I keep thinking about how genuinely upset GIldas must have been to have written these screeds against the immorality of the country’s leaders. I guess nothing really changes.

Make it easy to write objectives

I have never worked with a software developer who enjoyed writing their quarterly or annual objectives.

Most had been previously burned out by laborious processes which either meant two objectives take hours to write, or they’re easy to write but vague enough that they take hours to evidence every 3 months. In some cases they’ve even had objectives in which they had no say because they were either handed to them directly by a line manager, or had “trickled down” from group or org OKRs.

My thoughts on this were triggered by Matt Jukes’ post about his feelings on OKRs, which I share. 

I have helped set objectives for dozens of developers in multiple organisations in the last 10 years. My own goals when doing this are:

  1. Try to make the process as painless as possible
  2. Try to align the objectives with what a developer wants to be doing – if possible work with them before the session so they can create some draft objectives of their own
  3. Don’t set more than three objectives for a quarter
  4. Make each objective SMART – you want to be able to look at it and say “yes this is done” or “no, this is not done” in clear terms. If you want to provide “levels of done” then that’s fine, but see point 1.
  5. Set objectives which help someone grow! Whether it’s giving them confidence by building on existing skills, or learning new ones, or even just really getting to a tricky problem they have been wanting to take on, lean into these! Make the objectives desirable! Can they always _all_ be like this? Probably not, but keep your eyes open for opportunities.

None of these sound like revolutionary approaches, but in my experience, they’re still exceedingly rare and this list has taken me pretty far in building both good relationships and good people.