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Weeknotes S04E03: If you want to go far…

What a week!

This week I’ve been fighting with two different frameworks for two different languages, both apparently necessary for building a modern webservice. It’s awful. Don’t bother. There’s no such thing as a fullstack developer, and people who say they are are unicorns, ie: either fake, or metaphorically speaking a horse that can gore you to death.1This is a thing most horses dream about in their vicious, horsey heads

It’s taken me about half a day, but I now have a basic, one page site that mostly runs when I ask it too. Sometimes I have to run npm start, but thankfully that’s rare because I’m still 100% certain about what it does. This is in pursuit of a piece of software I’ve been asked to build by colleagues somewhere else in my organisation and which I’m excited to do, because I enjoy writing web applications. I’m also particularly excited by the prospect of making a tool in the spirit of colleagues are users too. They (we) deserve clean, responsive, well-designed interfaces as much as the next user.

It’s just about enough of a niche case that I think I should at least build a prototype to check it’s a valuable idea, at which point hopefully someone will whip up a business case for a six-month secondment and I can get myself a multi-disciplinary team, rather than a multi-functional tool.2That’s me. I’m the tool

This week I’ve been encouraging a policy colleague to learn how to code, and she’s taking to it very well. She was following a class that taught C in the first four weeks. I don’t like this approach. I don’t think it sparks the creative joy that I personally find in writing code. I think it’s like teaching French by starting with Latin. I think if you want to learn French you should start with the thousand different translations of « putain! » and then move on to the way people actually talk.

This is mostly a long-winded way of saying I think I convinced her to ditch C and start writing Python, which is a fun language and an opportunity for me to get this wonderful image from XKCD out of storage once again:

It really is just print "Hello, world! No need to muck about declaring public voids and risking embarrassment or jail time

The puzzle we were working on was an implementation of the Luhn algorithm, which I welcome you to implement in any language you can. If you can do it in Rockstar I’ll buy you a drink. If you can do it in Malbolge then, frankly, I’m quite scared of what happens when you turn your hand to simpler problems like nuclear fusion or sharks with freaking lasers on their heads.

On Tuesday I was at a brilliant event talking about breaking down barriers to the Senior Civil Service for BAME staff. It was short but really powerful and it made me feel weird, and that’s a Good Thing. Then on Friday I attended a really interesting workshop around the gender pay gap. I can’t share details, but it was really exciting to see the work going on around this and getting a sense of what levers we can pull.

All of this comes back to the Big Work I’m doing, which this week has been some heavy thinking around progression and how to keep people interested. This is one of those things that I can’t talk about just yet, but as I’ve started to reach out to experts around me I’m feeling the loneliness slightly less than I was before. Doing things by myself meant I could move quickly but with this additional support I feel like I’ll go further.

I’m going to try to grow that group of interested people by writing internal weeknotes, so if you work with me and already hate the tone of my writing then boy do I strongly suggest you do not sign up to those.

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