Initial Impressions of a POSSE Setup

I’ve only been playing with SNAP, a WordPress plugin, a few hours, but have some initial thoughts.

NAND Cat Has a Posse, used under CC-BY thanks to Flickr user Paul Downer

NAND Cat Has a Posse, used under CC-BY thanks to Flickr user Paul Downey

I started down this path thanks to Dave Slusher who wrote about POSSE which stands for Post to Own Site, Share Everywhere. I like this concept a great deal. Investing the typical time more and more folks do in communications and information only to have that effort evaporate at the whim or circumstance of the platform, tool or channel of the moment seems very foolish to me. I had been experimenting with Bridgy but still manually sharing all of my posts and posting shorter thoughts directly to all these sharing outlets like Twitter and Facebook.

I stood up a second site for another set of interests of mine. Doubling my existing workflow was not appealing in the slightest. I decided to take the plunge with the WordPress plugin, SNAP, that Dave mentions. For the most part, I really like it. With a little fine tuning, content showing up on sharing networks looks native but cleanly and clearly originates from my site. I will warn that this is a power tool, which affects the effort to set up and how smoothly it supports more than one workflow.

In terms of the installation, just getting it into WordPress is easy enough. Connecting it to other services may require a good deal more effort. I have only connected Twitter and Facebook so far as Google+ requires some additional bits. For both Twitter and Facebook, I had to sign up as a developer and essentially create new applications with each of those for each of my sites. The SNAP documentation for this is superb but this may be outside a lot of people’s comfort zone.

For the primary workflow of simply sharing regular blog posts, SNAP is great. You can configure templates for messages to each with some pretty clear replacement parameters (although finding the list from the plugin is pretty much impossible, I bookmarked their documentation page.) Unlike other tools I had tried previously, messages can be tailored so they look native to the sites on which they appear. This is a huge plus as the current crop of popular sharing sites increasingly penalize anything coming in that doesn’t smoothly fit into their design, flow and expectations. Mismatched updates often get down ranked, defeating the point of sharing everywhere.

I have two other workflows I am still working on. The first is simply using my site, as Dave discusses, as the source for my usual social updates. I have a couple of plugins I use, as he suggests, to have a hidden category for purely social content on my site. Posting to those then only shows on the intended target and if someone follows a link back I provide. Unfortunately, the differences in content size limits makes this a bit clunky. WordPress supports one or two ways to break up content and SNAP can take advantage of those. But if I want a long update on services that support that chunked into three or more shorter updates, there is no good support for that. I am contemplating going back to what I was doing, but doing it via my own site–writing one long post then just simply copying that out into several shorter messages, massaged to work better on services with tighter limits.

If SNAP would add a character count to WordPress, for starters, then introduce a way to add markers that are invisible on my site but SNAP uses to break up posts into smaller pieces, as needed, that would be splendid. I haven’t looked to see if their Pro version does this or it is on their roadmap. I also haven’t looked to see if they have a robust way to suggest features. I have, after all, been using it less than a day. I will give them the benefit, continuing to investigate and push even if I have to fall back on some manual labor in the meantime.

The other workflow I use is Twitter specific, for sharing links out of my RSS aggregator. Usually I simply compose a tweet with the title of an article, its link, a via if warranted and then in any space left a comment. Predicting how SNAP will mangle such a post if composed in WordPress is proving difficult as it isn’t leveraging Twitter’s own URL shortener or offering its own. Again, the lack of character counting on posts is frustrating, I feel like using WordPress/SNAP for this is a bit like aiming blind. I am less concerned for this workflow since my aggregator is my canonical source for link curation and has its own way to share a feed of what I have shared, with my comments attached.

I have only just started using SNAP’s own comment import. Dave recommended Bridgy over this feature but that service doesn’t appear to support more than one site per sharing service, a use case I now inhabit. Also, it has always bugged me that it was a service rather than a tool I could host and run myself. I did like that Bridgy used an emerging, open standard, web mentions, so I may look for a third option that has the best of both. I’ll share more thoughts as I have more experience with the import feature.

 

More or More of the Same?

I ended the web site and podcast where I had been discussing some of my other interests, in particular around beer, brewing and cocktail culture. I don’t want to discuss the reasons why. While that project is definitely over, my interests and pursuits related to it continue. Once or twice I have brought those, here, with an OK reception. I’ve been thinking about how best to continue to share and discuss those interests. I am of two minds.

This site and podcast, largely by happenstance, has had a a pretty consistent set of themes on which it focused. If I were to expand that drastically, I worry it might be jarring or off putting to readers and listeners who follow along for just those discussions. I do have an idea for another site, a successor to the now defunct project, where I might like to house another constellation of interests, especially as I am really ramping up my pursuit of home brewing.

On the other hand, I have always viewed this site and podcast as a reflection of myself. As focused as the writing and discussion has been, that has been an accident of my interests, not an intentional focus on just the few things I touch on over and over. Home brewing, beer and libations, as well as some more recent interests to which I’ve alluded as well, are just as valid for consideration. One of the advantages of a well categorized and/or tagged endeavor like this one is listeners and readers can easily skip the things in which they are less interested and stick around for the rest.

Whatever I decide, I’ll share another post so folks are clear on where new content will be appearing so they can follow along if they like. In the meantime, I am genuinely curious to know what all of you think.

Should I explore all of my interests here in a single site and have faith that folks can and will self select and filter down to what they like? Or should I spin up a fresh site where folks can subscribe additionally if they want to read and hear about my ongoing efforts in the space of home brewing, beer and other things related?

Getting Back Up to Speed

I had three hours to write a JavaScript single page application that implemented a very simple Reddit client in the browser. I was assured I would likely not need more than one hour. At the end of the first hour, the interviewer checked back in with me to see how I was progressing. I had been struggling just to get the basic scaffolding of the application put together. I had used a lot of the hour on looking up libraries and tools as well as refreshing myself on my JavaScript syntax.

I managed to complete the assignment in a little over two hours. I felt not only frustrated but embarrassed at how long it took me as compared to when I was in my top programming form. The interviewer assured me it was fine but I knew it was far from my best possible effort. As it turns out, the interviewer was right. For that particular prospect in my recent job search, I progressed to the next round of interviews.

I wrote an Inner Chapter years ago about brushing up programming skills after a period of not using them. I wrote that chapter for a listener who had gone through some hardship and was looking for help adjusting. Partly it was coping with changes in physical ability specific to that listener, partly it was more general advice on sharpening skills. I’ve been thinking a lot again on the subject of getting back up to speed at programming having just left a full time management job to go back to a full time programming one.

Even in the first year at the job I just left, when I was still in more of an engineering role, I didn’t feel like I got a lot of practice at programming. They had some technology projects but the pace of and pressures on them were very different, being a non-profit, than what I had experienced up to that point. Even when I was promoted, a lot of my skills as a technical manager didn’t apply very well. The kinds of stakeholders we had didn’t really know much about the standard software life-cycle. I ended up spending far more time managing personnel, managing budgets, and fund raising rather than implementing and supporting processes for creating software in a regular and consistent way. It was a rare day when I got to work with technology directly.

As I’ve written about recently, a large part of my decision to leave that job was realizing how unhappy the lack of opportunity to code was making me. To make matters more stressful, during my job search I had to explain over and over again why I was leaving an upper management role and looking for work as a programmer.

“You are currently director of technology?” “Yes.” “You know this is not a management job, right?” “Yes.” “You’ve been a manager before. You truly understand this is just a programming job?”

I got very practiced at telling the story of my multiple runs at management. I would tell them that I never started as a manager. Working at a small organization, it would become clear, usually due to growth, that more leadership was needed. Foolishly, perhaps, I would volunteer, at least until they found someone better at managing. They never did. Eventually the strain and the desire to get back to programming would become overwhelming. Taking a demotion was never a practical option so three times, now, I have found myself in this same juncture.

I have only been on my new job three weeks but I’ve been thinking about a few experiences that could be helpful to someone else looking to get up to speed. I already shared the first one but I had several other experiences just as part of the job search process that I think are relevant. Just going through several successive coding assignments, especially in a very reflective state of mind, revealed insights I continue to ponder.

In that very first coding assignment, I mostly felt frustration. I had to look everything up, even the basic tools and libraries I was using. I had lost the equivalent of muscle tone. I couldn’t reflexively just spin up the bare minimum set up and configuration to get some arbitrary bit of new code working. I was struggling with my tools rather than feeling that they were smoothing and accelerating my efforts. The silver lining to that frustration was the immense sense of accomplishment on mastering it. As long as I remember this frustration, I am less likely to take my tools for granted. When I have felt that frustration again at the new job, even with more time and resources to get something done, I am able to see it in context, as a very normal part of the experience, trusting that if I persevere, I will be rewarded.

In a good environment, getting tools and configurations right will be a shared burden. My new gig is very much like this, though the work to keep the tooling up to snuff is a little bit of a guerilla priority. Engineers have to squeeze time in around things other people find more pressing. A lower priority on process and tools compared to more obvious business value is actually common in my experience. Regardless, I was grateful, as a consequence of the frustrations I felt during the coding assignments throughout my search. My new colleagues apologized for the roughness of the code and documentation, I was just glad to not have to do all the necessary grunt work on my own. I was motivated to contribute what I could out of that appreciation. I felt that contributing to improving the basic set up in this way paid forward the kindness done to me, lessening the frustration of the next new hire. Jumping in was also good practice to help with my overall brushing up and gave me an opportunity to understand the set up a bit better, always a good thing when the need to troubleshoot it arises.

I didn’t even have to get to the new job to realize some improvements in my disused coding skills. In the subsequent coding assignments, I was able to make better progress more quickly. I had to do a second assignment for the same prospect as that very first, super frustrating assignment. On that second attempt I was better able to focus on the challenge at hand and the quality of my code. I found that trend continued through a few other coding projects I did as part of my search. By the end, I was spending as much time on the code comments and the commit history, to really show off my thought process and how well I understand the problem I had been presented.

The last coding assignment I did, I completed in less than an hour. I got to show off a little, too. The problem definition included some hints that could easily be missed. It asked to include some comments on the code’s performance. I was given the maximum expected input size. Once I had the code provably working, as demonstrated by some unit tests I turned in with the assignment, I thought about that maximum input size. I didn’t think it was included for no reason so added a unit test that run a random input sample that matched the stated max. Not surprisingly, my code slowed to a crawl.

I was able to recall not just my core programming skills but also some troubleshooting. I didn’t fire up a full on interactive debugger but did add some logging. I worked from very broad to increasingly narrow sections of code until I had isolated the problem. I figured out and made some changes that my tests now revealed improved the performance to be acceptable. I even left some code comments suggesting how the performance could be improved further.

I think that just the opportunity to practice with some clear goals can do a lot to help knock off the rust. You may not always have coding assignments like in a job search but there are online resources that can serve a similar purpose. As part of my orientation packet at my new job, I was turned on to Code School. The topics are limited, focusing on web development with just a few technologies but I like the approach. The courses combine short instructional videos and interactive exercises.

Whatever resources you find to use, I think the practical aspect is important. I am still relying on books a lot, even if I am loading them on my tablet rather than accumulating heavy stacks of paper as I did far earlier in my career. The best books, just like the online courses, include exercises that give the reader a chance to work with the material covered. Application is key to cementing a new skill or reviving a disused one.

I suppose there is a role for trivia, accumulating simple facts about programming or tools, but it is less helpful when learning for the first time or getting back into the swing of things. When working through an exercise, I will often have one of two very gratifying experiences. I will either laugh out loud or nod and smile as some bit of skill or knowledge comes flooding back to me. I laugh when feeling the visceral joy of either getting something to work or even more powerfully, of feeling come concept really snap into place in my mind.

The next challenge for me is getting back into good daily habits for coding. I think I will save my thoughts on that subject for another post. Hopefully, my early experiences getting back up to speed make sense and are useful to at least some of you.

TCLP 2014-12-21 A Sense of Scale and Getting Back Up to Speed

Used under CC license, by Wikipedia user Sunil060902This is an episode of The Command Line Podcast.

In this episode, I share a couple more essays. Before the essays, I help spread the request for support from the GnuPG project. You can donate here. The first essay was already published on the web site, “A Sense of Scale.” The second essay is new, “Getting Back Up to Speed,” and I will publish it on the site in the next few days.

You can grab the flac encoded audio from the Internet Archive.

Creative Commons License

Help Support a Critical, Free Software Privacy and Security Tool (Updated)

I noticed an update from the GNU Privacy Guard project (gnupg or gpg) come across my feeds the other day. If you have received an email from me that has a digital signature if you know what that is or a bunch of gobblety-gook characters at the bottom if you don’t, the tool that makes those signatures possible is gnupg.

More people seem aware of what encryption is and why it is important. We have had a string of increasingly distressing leaks, the ones from Edward Snowden just the latest, about how many governments in presumed open societies are participating in some very questionable trawling of their citizens’ personal communications. For those still not sure why encryption is important, it is the one technology answer everyone can agree upon that allows individual citizens any sense of secrecy and privacy in their online communications, regardless of who may want to snoop on it and how well resourced those eavesdroppers may be.

gnupg is especially important as it is is both free of charge and freely licensed. That second point is critical, it means that gnupg is open to scrutiny from any expert to help ensure it is free of back doors or other problems that might compromise its effectiveness. For users of alternate operating systems like BSD and GNU/Linux, it is often the only choice for certain applications of encryption. Thankfully, it happens to be a usable and useful one that interoperates with the commercial, proprietary choices available to users of more mainstream operating systems.

That post from the gnupg folks? They are in clear need of help in terms of funding.

Work on GnuPG is mostly financed from donations. To continue maintaining GnuPG so to keep it strong and secure against the ever increasing mass surveillance we need your support. Until the end of November we received a total of 6584 € (~5500 net) donations for this year. Along with the 18000 € net from the Goteo campaign this paid for less than 50% of the costs for one developer.

For a critical project of this size two experienced developers are required for proper operation. This requires gross revenues of 120000 Euro per year. Unfortunately there is currently only one underpaid full time developer who is barely able to keep up with the work; see this blog entry for some backgound. Please help to secure the future of GnuPG and consider to donate to this project now.

Support for half of one developer for a project that could easily engage a handful, full time, year round. Do please consider making a donation and if you are unfamiliar with gnupg, spend some time on the project site. It really is a great tool.

Updated 2014-01-06: At the request of the primary author of gnupg, I changed the title and a reference to GNU/Linux in recognition of gnupg’s formal status as part of the umbrella GNU project.

TCLP 2014-12-13 Interview: Cory Doctorow, “Information Doesn’t Want to be Free”

Information Doesn't Want to be Free: Laws for the Internet Age book coverThis is an episode of The Command Line Podcast.

In this episode, I interview Cory Doctorow about his latest book, “Information Doesn’t Want to be Free: Laws for the Internet Age.” If you are interested in learning more about the topics we discuss and that book covers, you can also check out books by the scholars we mention: Lawrence Lessig, James Boyle and William Patry. I compared Cory’s book to “The Indie Band Survival Guide” the authors of which are friends of the show whom I have also interviewed.

The audiobook version of the book is already available. Check Cory’s site, the free download and electronic editions should be available soon.

You can grab the flac encoded audio from the Internet Archive.

Creative Commons License

TCLP 2014-11-28 Searching for Myself and for Wisdom

This is an episode of The Command Line Podcast.

In this episode, I share a couple more recent essays from the web site. In the second one, I refer to another essay about my new practice of walking.

You can grab the flac encoded audio from the Internet Archive.

Creative Commons License

Grateful Despite a Tough Year

Used under CC license, by Marc Levin on Flickr

Used under CC license, by Marc Levin on Flickr

For a variety of reasons, not all of which I have discussed, this has been a tough year.

To be fair to others, I have only spoken of the positive reasons for my job change. The story is always more complicated and those complications took a great toll on me and my family. A job search is exhausting under the best of circumstances, let alone when you are dealing with some incredibly difficult personal issues. I have been touched directly by the spectre of mental illness that seems to be rife in the world of technology and only now is being more openly discussed. I am not prepared to share details though there are some broad topics I will discuss in a more personal way when I am ready. Suffice to say that everyone in my family is safe.

Almost everyone. We did have a loss, a beloved family pet. Losing our enormous and giant hearted canine boy was the last in a series of losses in my personal circle of friends and acquaintances this year. For a while, every week seemed to bring some news of a friend going through some new hardship or of a friend or friend of a friend being lost to us.

At times like these, I am amazed at the resilience of the human spirit. I tweeted a sentiment at one point, that my life had become a blues song that I didn’t yet have the skill to play. I don’t think I was exaggerating all that much. Somehow, despite that parade of woes, we all managed to soldier on, my family, my friends, and myself.

I usually sit right on the fence about taking this holiday to reflect publicly about the nature of gratitude. Like a lot of holidays observed in the US, Thanksgiving isn’t without its issues in terms of the tension between the history we want to believe and the history that actually happened. Most years I give it a pass or just use the opportunity to reflect on open source and free software projects for which I am grateful. Doing so has seemed safest.

After a year like this one, the temptation to expression ingratitude, or even anger, is great. Circumstances could have been different, allowing me easier choices. I could have been more patient, more mature, avoiding at least some of the difficulties I went through. The arbitrary losses–fuck cancer–almost beg for railing against, shouting down a seemingly cruel and uncaring universe.

That would feel good, momentarily, but ultimately wouldn’t lessen the difficulty. Anger and recriminations rarely do. Like Martin Luther King, Jr. said,

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.

When I have opened myself to the positive, whether that is simply relieving stress or trying to learn from adversity, or is the abiding love of those close to me, I appreciate the great truth in King’s words. Gratitude is a powerfully positive emotion, embracing it seems like the better call.

I am grateful for my family for their unconditional love and support. A lot of what happened in the latter half of this year was legitimately shocking. The surprise and confusion on sharing our troubles did not stem the tide of care and compassion in the slightest.

I am grateful for the friends who stuck with me through this year. Not all of them did, perhaps another tick mark in the ungrateful column. Those that did, just as with my family, reminded me not to take my closest relationships for granted.

I am grateful for the experiences that helped me understand that it is never too late to learn and to grow. Some of those experiences were entirely pleasant, like tackling the skill of guitar playing late in life. Some were a bit more trying, the various lumps I accrued through the job search that spurred me to try harder, to be more aware of what I could do, and to appreciate how I still needed to stretch and to grow. I am trying to be grateful even for my failures, whether anyone else considers them such, as prods for me to do better the next time, as a person and a professional.

I am grateful for my listeners and readers who despite my near fading away from writing and podcasting hung in there. Many shared very positive messages of support. I have tried to reply to each and every one. The feeling of being welcomed back with such warmth and enthusiasm is the best reason to spend more time thinking, listening, writing and sharing.

Whether you had a good year or a bad year, I hope that you can find something to be grateful for. Looking back at my modest list, maybe it is simplest to start with the things you take for granted. Despite your own hardships, slight or immense, for what can you admit some gratitude and in doing so, hopefully feel even some small measure of solace?

In Some Small Measure, Wisdom

Picture of the Interior of the Jefferson Memorial, taken by Thomas Gideon

Yesterday I took what ended up being an epic walk. I have already written about how I have been walking more lately. Walking more has been easier over the last two months. I had been taking days off or at least working from home while focused on my job search. The other week, I had a sudden run of days in DC but hadn’t yet come up with attractive walking routes to help me keep up my new habit. In looking around an online map of what was nearby, I found Constitution Gardens. The Gardens truly are one of the hidden treasures of DC and I wish I had found them sooner. There is a huge water feature within which is a small island that has a ring of stone engraved with the signatures of all those who signed the Declaration of Independence. The Gardens are a decent half hour walk from where I work. Worked–today is my last day and my new gig is located much closer to home, in the suburbs.

During that first walk to the Gardens, I paused near the World War II memorial and happened to noticed the Jefferson Memorial was close by. On that day, I promised myself I would come back to see that site before my last day working in DC. I did just that yesterday, taking advantage of some cold but stunning weather.

The online maps make the memorial seem far closer to the Gardens then it is, at least by foot. I walked around the World War II memorial. I crossed several beating arteries of downtown traffic and started around the tidal basin. The view of the memorial as you walk under the cherry trees is breathtaking, especially on a clear, sunny day like yesterday. The view lingers as the walk around the basin is a good twenty minutes. When I finished my visit, I continued my around the other side of the basin which is even a little longer than the side I walked on the way down.

The time and distance (an hour and a half and more than four miles respectively) were only part of what made the walk epic, at least to me. Thomas Jefferson holds a special place in my regard. He attended my alma mater where we refer to him as either Young Thom or Our Thom. We used the latter especially around UVa students. Jefferson founded UVa but he was a student at William and Mary. The claim to him is part of the two schools’ long standing rivalry.

More importantly, when I was just getting involved in online activism, exploring topics around creativity and intellectual property in a post-digital, post-network world, a quote of his spoke to me deeply. In a letter to Isaac McPherson, he wrote this particular turn of phrase in talking about intellectual property, its nature and how we should think of its regulation, for instance by copyright:

Its peculiar character, too, is that no one possesses the less, because every other possesses the whole of it. He who receives an idea from me, receives instruction himself without lessening mine; as he who lights his taper at mine, receives light without darkening me. That ideas should freely spread from one to another over the globe, for the moral and mutual instruction of man, and improvement of his condition, seems to have been peculiarly and benevolently designed by nature, when she made them, like fire, expansible over all space, without lessening their density in any point, and like the air in which we breathe, move, and have our physical being, incapable of confinement or exclusive appropriation. Inventions then cannot, in nature, be a subject of property.

Visiting his memorial was a touchstone. At first I thought also it might be a farewell, a sort of personal resignation. I am leaving the world of working directly for the public interest to return to private industry. The memorial is filled with inspiring quotes, four of them in massive panels interspersed with openings out onto views of the tidal basin, the Potomac, and parts of DC. A more subtle quote is worked into the stone just beneath the dome.

I have sworn upon the altar of god eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man.

Standing in a contemplative space dedicated to someone whose writings called to me across the generations, thinking about this transition in my life, that last part really struck me. Even though for reasons related to my own pursuit of happiness I was leaving the service of the public interest, in my own way I can certainly hold to fighting every form of tyranny over the mind of man. I can do so wherever I find myself, not in the least on this site and in my podcast as I am renewing and recommitting to my writing and thinking here.

That thought touched off what I hope is at least some small measure of wisdom I can take away from this job, more so than I have managed to realize when leaving jobs past.

Earlier in my career, I often gave into the urge to demonize the the people or experiences from a job I was leaving. I’ve read enough to understand I am not alone in feeling the urge to do so. Humans are story telling creatures. We continually weave a story of our own life. Our own individual narrative first and foremost supports who we think we are. When the world around us is at odds with who we believe ourselves to be, we feel pain in the form of cognitive dissonance. The easiest way to relieve that pain is to change our narrative, despite the facts, to restore the version of ourselves we believe is true.

I increasingly believe the secret of true wisdom is to resist rewriting our personal narratives. If we admit our own faults, the tale becomes the richer for it. We invite in opportunities to learn, to actually grow and honestly become more of whom we would like ourselves to be, in fact and deed. In holding more to the complicated, messy, objective facts of our lives, we can better embrace humility, honesty and courage, rather than simply rewriting the narrative. If we revise our story, we miss that chance to harness our faults and mistakes to urge us on to do and be better in the future.

Searching for Myself

Detail of an orrery made by Benjamin Martin in London in 1767, used by John Winthrop to teach astronomy at Harvard, on display at the Putnam Gallery in the Harvard Science Center, used under CC-BY-SA, by Wikipedia user Sage Ross

I sat across a table today from an account manager at a staffing firm. I didn’t expect to be there. I had taken a phone screen the week prior, my first in-depth technical assessment, that I thought I had completely fumbled. Looking back at my notes from right after the call, I wrote in big block letters, FAIL.

Right after that, I wrote three quick bullet points, things I needed to do in order to avoid failing like that again. In a nutshell, I had not prepared for the call. Things I knew when I was more actively programming refused to pop instantly into my head. Instead, I struggled even though I knew I knew the answers to his questions. The questions were mostly what I call technical trivia, information that is easily searched for online and rarely demonstrates a grasp of useful programming knowledge or skill.

I have since made good on those action items in my notes. I promised myself I would not take an opportunity for granted again, preparing as best I could for each one from here forward.

I have been on the job search a handful of times over the years. I am not sure I previously had such a moment of self awareness. In the past, even under difficult circumstances, I found it too easy to take my knowledge and skills for granted. If I failed, I wrote it off and blithely looked towards the next opportunity. If I had to be charitable in explaining myself, I suppose I would say that more often than note I have had the good fortune to be looking when time was a luxury, when I was still employed. Dismissing a failure without learning from it didn’t seem to carry any meaningful risk.

For some reason, this failure was different. Maybe it was because of an earlier failure in the same search. I had come close but ultimately failed at a first opportunity when I started my search in earnest, back in September. That first chance was like all the others, I guess. I didn’t especially prepare. I relied on my wits, my ability to communicate, and luck more than anything else.

When I didn’t get that job, I was crushed. I really liked the company and the people. The whole experience was great, even doing a thirty hour quick turn around trip from coast to coast. The role was a new one to me that seemed like an amazing way to both return to more hands on technical work as well as to continue to engage my writing and speaking skills. They even found me through my podcast, rather than the other way around.

Maybe the disappointment, in myself as much as anything, was a wake up call. I had used several weeks pretty much exclusively on one job prospect.

At that time, I didn’t have an end date for my current job. I have been blessed to have my hard work during a difficult transition be rewarded by my current employer with support and patience. I now have an end date, one that is still incredibly generous, not in the least because they know I am actively looking. On some level, I knew even before I discussed an explicit end date that it would come, that it would be soon. Realizing I had worked through several weeks with no other prospects to show for it definitely lit a fire under me.

I may have over compensated. I usually am skittish about working with recruiters or staffing firms. In my experience, they don’t save time and often focus on opportunities very different from the ones I find most rewarding. Despite my prior experience, I didn’t feel like I could afford to leave anything unexplored. After I applied to all the obvious good fits, I kept on applying, to the consulting and contracting jobs I know I could do but that I would not enjoy anywhere near as much.

That is how I ended up, today, at a staffing firm talking to an account manager.

Up to this point, I had convinced myself I could and would pursue this all the way through. Part of me added, “if I had to,” to that last sentence while the rest of me, prior to today, worked hard to ignore that contingency. This account manager called me on it.

He grilled me about the usual stuff. Had I used this technology and where. What about this tool. How had I approached this challenge, solved another problem. At some point, he stopped. He looked at me and asked me frankly if I felt I would be happy at this job he was pitching. He went so far as to explain that his reason for asking is that he suspected I wouldn’t be. At the risk of his commission, he didn’t think that made sense in the long run.

For a moment, I prevaricated. I doubt he even noticed, the moment was so fleeting. I admitted he was right. I admitted it as much to myself as to him. Giving up on an opportunity, even one I knew wasn’t right, didn’t feel great. But the notion of stringing it along only to say, “no,” when a better offer came along didn’t feel any better.

At that moment, I realized that this entire  job search really was different. In the past, I have always at least tried to focus on what I really want to be doing. I haven’t always succeeded. I don’t think I was making as intentional choices as I could have, rolling with what came my way and rationalizing it after the fact. My engagement and especially my learning from those experiences were thin at best.

For this search, the stakes haven’t really changed. I still need a job, ideally before the end of this year. What has changed is my openness to being honest with myself. I am far more willing to learn from every single experience along the way this time around. Maybe opening up will improve my prospects, maybe it won’t. I am pretty sure I will find the rest of my search far more rewarding by admitting that I am both searching for a job, for a career next step, and at the same time, searching for myself.