A Very Meta Work Journal Entry

by Mike Levin SEO & Datamaster, 09/12/2013

 Note: This particular work journal posting goes back across many days worth of journal entries, and is of a particularly rambling incoherent nature. I suggest that you don’t read it. Really, I mean it!

Greetings true believers! Today, I consider how this morning starting of the journaling process is so very important. Everything is directional vectors connected to other directional vectors, skipping you forward through time like a rock skipped across the surface of a pond… don’t even get me started on the ripples, Flatlanders. We can’t go all dopey on time where I’m paid to be hard-nosed pragmatic to earn my paycheck.

Well, that’s not ENTIRELY true. I can’t ALWAYS be hard-nosed pragmatic, or I go obsolete. I barely just avoided that in the field of SEO. I guess navigating it so well comes in part by being someone who remembers the emergence of Google onto the public scene as a mysterious and delightful link passed around in email as if it was yesterday. In those days, my Internet account was dial-up from the old Erols video store that became ISP. And that was probably like my fifth or sixth email address by then. In 1993, I was mikel@netaxs.com, trying to create those day’s equivalent of a net-fueled flash mob. That’s right. 1993 social media activism.

It is in that light of almost entirely consistent writing since I was 18 years old in various forms that COULD be found and arranged in chronological order, with gaps in writing only here and there, since 1988 - the year the first extrasolar planet, Gamma Cephi Ab, was discovered (no relation). So, this is approximately the 25 year anniversary of me starting to keep written journals. That’s 25 years! A lot has happened to me in 25 years. And interestingly, there is an inverse-relationship (I believe) between how much is screwed up in my life, and how much I wrote to resolve my own issues…

…until I found that someone special, and had someone to talk about things with.

And so, it is with that spirit that I sit down and start my professional work journal every day. I have many journals in life. Each one has a very different audience. Sometimes there is overlap, and sometimes there is no audience at all - but rather, the almost animal need to howl into the air and hear my own voice of rage and anger. “Feel my pain too!”… someone. But I’m not very religious, so that someone is me… or my future self, to be precise. I have this sort of recording and continuity of thought going back a quarter century now.

I have a record of my thoughts that goes farther back than the age of many of the people that I work with these days. I work with people in their mid and late twenties. I go to work with these people. While 25 years ago, the first planet outside our solar system was discovered, only 24 years ago, IBM used its relatively new scanning tunneling microscope to view and manipulate individual molecules of carbon monoxide. That old wisdom that you can’t see… much less, individually manipulate… individual atoms was busted just over half-way through my life so far. That’s planets and atoms one year apart 24 years ago. My writing goes back that far. I graduated high school in 1988, the year I started keeping my journal, for further perspective.

What you’re reading now are the sanitized, compartmentalized and professional continuation of the very thoughts that I started back then. It all has sequential integrity, my ideas and writings. If you numbered each writing, the index would be up to a very high number today. I’d guess my auto increment key on my writings would be somewhere around 20,000. That would mean writing twice a day. Well, it’s probably true, because it depends on how you measure it. During certain phases of my life where I see crisis looming (like currently), I am almost always writing, so I could use 5 or 6 numbers in a single day, as my writing reaches natural stopping points during the day, or the ideas shift, and I just really have to “cut” a journal entry… like now.

-——————————————————————————- Wed Sep 11 14:41:10 EDT 2013 Okay, the problem is that the Google App Engine is part of the prerequisites. I need to become a master of the Google App Engine, particularly where Python is concerned.

Hot damn! I just deployed a app on the Google App Engine. Big checklist item checked.

Okay, the trick was to match the name of the application I made with the Web configuration stuff on the App Engine website with the name that I put in app.yaml file in the local project folder, which I had initially made something else. Now, I’ve got a place to work from. Interesting!

Okay, I got a Python Hello World web app running under the Google App Engine. But now I have to learn the Google App Engine for Python execution context, AND the Google Mirror API. Why not just work in PURE Python using Levinux? Can I get advantage here? Increase understanding, rip out overhead, not use the community login?

What’s going on here is that you REALLY MUST understand what’s going on. I just may end up preferring to work here on the mikelevinseo server to run Python than on a GAE local instance. You just don’t “get it” yet. GET IT!

From the beginning…

Switch from Mac to PC doing your work. Get your Google Mirror work NOT relying on any particular desktop hardware. Get it on Rackspace! Get it on Rackspace? Hmmmm.

Okay, we’re making some progress here. I just inserted a message onto the timeline, using the playground. That’s my Google Glass Hello World, complete. But really I need to do some interaction between my Google App Engine instance and the Mirror API. That’s key… I think. Hmmm.

You can insert a single timeline item with multiple pages You can insert multiple pages with a single bundle ID. It’s all pretty CRUDdy, and not much else (without side-loading Android stuff). Not very exciting. Apps are going to have to be cobbled together and faked when the Mirror API falls short.

-——————————————————————————- Wed Sep 11 09:36:35 EDT 2013 It’s pretty clear now. I’m in a Hello World on Glass race with a co-worker—but in a fun way. He’s a friend who has already also has some other API stuff experimented-with, and reportedly ready to implement and integrate.

Okay, today I do Hello World on Google Glass. Why haven’t I done it yet “if it’s so easy”? Well, nothing is ever really that easy - and I ran into a few of the roadblocks Google constructs. It has to do with buying into - and having a certain familiarity with - certain parts of Google’s API ecosystem. I need to have that level of familiarity anyway. Right now, I’m a big user of the GData API, which is really, really old in Google-terms, and is the one that stands out from all the others in a game of “Which one of these is not like the other.” I should prepare for it going away entirely, thus rendering Tiger obsolete and a curious relic of the past. Proceed based on that assumption.

But emerge as something bigger, better, more awesome, and which inspires tons of online “tribe” (in Seth Godin terms) and has opportunity for an alternative potential future of making money hands-over-fist using my charisma and knowledge plugged into what Google HangOuts are to become: Google HelpOuts. hAngtohElpouts. AngToElp dot something. I can’t go crazy registering every domain that strikes my fancy.

So, forge ahead. Don’t slip any proprietary info, but still make my daily journal interesting to the clue-following super-geek (?not-)masses of the Internet. That’s an optional “not-“ before the word masses in RegEx. Sin boldly and be as geeky as your heart desires. Turn away 99 out of 100 readers. You will have accomplished something by making what is actually of-value and still accessible here, that much more rare a commodity to those who remain. Most things of value are scarce, and I am making scarcity by hiding the good stuff in geeky platitudes within rambling daily journal writing with a terrible signal-to-noise ratio to get to the good stuff. And that’s just fine with me. Let people who can’t fully understand the words or follow the trains of thought try to wade through it and find little snippits they can take out of context. They will look profoundly stupid to smart people who are directed to the original context… for context! Bring it.

You’ve got positive good energies and they can’t spill over into the wrong things. You have to keep the rolling over from right-thing to right-thing in tiny baby-step, step 1 steps until you have driven all your linked-up step-1’s into the exact-right thing for the day to move your life and career forward.

There are pitfalls all around you. This is the danger, and this is frankly what makes a place like where I work different from the kind of places that recruit the high tech creative rock stars in the area.

Now I don’t know how much of it is successful hype, but I would propose Joel Spolsky’s Foggy Creek Software as an example of such a rock-star creative-tech recruiting place. And it’s not just Foggy Creek in particular, but the rock-star created endeavors that orbit around it, such as the brilliantly still SEO-optimized tech content community known as StackOverflow (whose domain comes before the Stack_overflow entry in Wikipedia in search results - and there is a lesson in that) and individual rockstars like the sometimes-wrong Coding Horror Jeff Atwood who wrote the StackOverflow UCC management site. The giant collaborative game-dynamic competitive tech FAQ on the Web. They “get it”. Even the image they create of the developer-heaven work environment is hype… they still write about the distraction/focus/zone/flow reality of the situation accurately. Flow/zone/passion/persistence is difficult in an open cubicle environment riddled with viciously-spaced meeting interruptions and constant switching between projects of equal herculean proportions and corresponding unlikelihood of ever coming to technically achieved and also satisfying fruition. Soooooo, my trick is to do things to completion in ways that are technically correct and satisfy everyone without getting caught up in what my paranoid mind tells me may be a new order of groupthink mediocrity.

And as usual, your inoculation against groupthink mediocrity is the short stack: consisting of Linux, Python, vim, git (and sometimes hg) and little else. See? Even the little things such as keeping my daily journal here in vim - a little more-so every day, persistently and passionately avoiding the allure of Google Docs and the cloud, the better off I am. I’m in vim. My daily journal is getting committed to a Mercurial .hg repository every day. It ever-improvingly captures my every important thought of every day in a way that the silly time-tracking system we are forced to use could NEVER do. I think in writing, and distributed version control systems (DVCS’s) like git and mercurial capture the allocation of time better than anything else could - so long as you’re “thinking out loud” in words (exactly as I am now as I type) and am doing the occasional hg commit -m “to capture the gist of what I am doing”.

I do the commits on topic changes. It’s a smaller version of a “journal-cut” by which I do a new datetime header. Fewer commits help with the publishing process because an hg tip command gives you the accurate number (minus one) to use in my python postit.py script. I really need to automate that better.

Okay… okay… when you actually do use the PC, make it indistinguishable… even to the seasoned PC-eye guy… that it is being used as if it were Linux. The GUI of a desktop environment exists for two and only two reasons:

1. To give you a Unix-like BASH shell - or at least something from which you can ssh log into a remote server and run a full-screen text editor from. In short, I’m looking for a good, modern, ubiquitous and free implementation of a secure shell teletype terminal (TTY / SSH) on a PC that makes me lose track of the fact that the host system is a Windows PC. I should not be “hard-wiring” ANY of my skills to the PC, except perhaps how to get around on (and hopefully soon off of) one. I at first used the ubiquitous and copy-and-paste awkward PuTTY for this. It’s what everyone finds first, and is probably the most appealing in its small filesize and solid history. However, after years of PuTTY-fatigue, I’ve graduated to doing a full CygWin install, and getting the default MinTTY terminal emulator - far superior to PuTTY. Namely, you can copy just by highlighting, then you can paste by hitting shift-insert on the keyboard (instead of a PuTTY-like right-click) - which makes all the difference. You still can’t (easily) get tabbed shells in one window as you can with the default Terminal program on OS X (the Mac), or with the GNU Terminal in Linux. But it is far better than PuTTY, and tabbed shells are annoying distractions and rhythm-busters (sour grapes?) anyway.

2. To play host to one of those HTML5/CSS3/JavaScript front-end user interface display engines, known alternatively as a web browser, explorer, firefox, or chrome. Well, Chrome is probably the most accurate, as “providing the chrome” on top of otherwise pure text-based back-end application data interchange systems that could live very well without the browser. But we like the browser, because we are humans. Our robot dependents may never understand the need for us humans to push pointers around a pixel-mapped canvas using a controller with the accuracy of a bar of soap in order to communicate easily and effectively. I for one, side with our robot descendants on this one. The command-line shell, and the pure piping of data around robust little discreet text-based (symbol-based) modular commands is better. I will live there, thank you very much. Every time I use Windows directly, I ask: “Why? Just why? And what is this ASP.NET postback nonsense they tried to pull over my eyes in the early 2000’s? THAT was a big Microsoft mistake. They should have… oh no wait, there was nothing they could have done. My move to something like Python and FOSS underpinning platforms was inevitable. Becoming good at the tools of Microsoft-land in the days of ASP was a detour where I learned some correct and some incorrect things. I’m now going mostly correct (on average) with Linux/vim/git/python.

-——————————————————————————- Tue Sep 10 14:31:23 EDT 2013 Have something intelligent to say about Mark Avnet’s project—potentially on Pi, and be ready with Hello World on Google Glass. In this case, knowledge is power more-so than many other things. You are in a situation not dissimilar to Commodore and Scala, only difference being you are much older and much wiser, and your co-players are NOT the people who created the later Amiga computer models and re-implemented inspired Norwegian software. I’m dealing with (working with) NOT the pioneers of the very home computer industry as I had in the past. Any “golden boy” syndrome I notice in my current environment should be taken with a grain of salt.

The Glass platform is, dare I say, MORE interesting than platform issues in the VIC20 and Amiga days. But the people I’m working with at work are not the actual creators of the platform, as was sometimes the case in my Commodore days. Keep that in mind. I’M probably the closest thing to the genuine article around here.

Try to imagine what I would have thought of a window-to-today from those early-90s of Commodore or late 90s of Google’s emergence. That company with the kooky colorful logo and superior search will be taking over the world and inventing the first mass-appeal HUD platform. Who would have imagined? Things will be THAT DIFFERENT AGAIN in another 15 years. It will probably take much less time because of technology acceleration.

-——————————————————————————- Tue Sep 10 12:58:03 EDT 2013 I had a really great conversation with Amie Nguyen today. It was time we caught up. I had a few other discussions with various parts of the SEO team in NYC on the 16th floor lately. Things are getting very interesting, and opinions vary wildly. The approach I’m taking and the messages I have to deliver are not necessarily always happily received - not that I’m always entirely right about everything… but I feel strongly that I’m in the right ballpark.

Project priorities: fix what broke in Tiger, do Google Glass Hello World, research Mark Avnet’s project more deeply. Doable with Raspberry Pi?


Tue Sep 10 09:57:46 EDT 2013 I am navigating the Sea of Uncertainty, career-wise and family-wise. I am determined to be a wonderful family-man, and exactly the type of person who is really just oh-so-required (and hopefully recognized and appreciated) as a man-of-the-times in technology marketing and future-appropriate education.

I can hardly think what else to call these things. But you are designing your life, and 360i and Dentsu are a part of it. They are (hopefully) continuing pillars of my life, and in my mind, increasingly like the sponsors of my professional and world contributions. For I do have contributions to make, and Levinux is the front on which I plan to do much of it.

My actual plans are much more expansive, and… dare I say… SciFi-y. They are way out there, and I’m thinking in 5-year or 15-year terms. That’s 5 years well-inside my official retirement age. I’m 43 on my way to 65. That gives me a good 22 years to work with. So even thinking what I believe to be 20 years out, I am still 2 years shy of retirement.

So, if I have invested IN MYSELF rather than in stocks and real estate over the year, the cash-out time is over the next 23-or-so years. My career probably started when I first took up the Coleco Adam computer at home, and used their damn odd SmartBASIC and graphics system running off of digital audio tapes (DATs) to draw Garfield the cat pixel-by-pixel with 1-pixel vector pen movements.

-——————————————————————————- Mon Sep 9 13:37:36 EDT 2013 Navigating uncertainty. EXACTLY what this company NEEDS to do. My skill-set aligns perfectly, but it’s an uncomfortable alignment. I, to all appearances, am a down-in-the-trenches person… but am paid like a Director. Therein lies a problem of how I look on the spreadsheets. I always as a matter of policy pay attention to how I look on a P&L spreadsheet that breaks down contributions to earnings by employee. By that measure, I’m guessing that I don’t look like such a good deal right now. It’s time to brush up on my Jack Welsh learnings, and a blind-spot equal in magnitude in my education as I Robot was in SciFi. And that is Jack’s Rank-And-Yank philosophy. Does it work? Does it not? Am I in that bottom 10%?

Don’t take this line of thought too far, it it will consume too much of your day, and only lead to paranoia. My actions need to be CLEAR to my superiors, without needing to wade through my “personal brand” writings. The traditional way of doing that is communicating up through the chain. But I only have limited confidence that that can occur, because my mind is well over 6 months out ahead of the game - especially with my personal Linux distro Levinux endeavor on the side. I’m starting to get tribe. Frankly, I did it with Commodore and the shareholder’s movement, which was my first semi-professional tribe in the long-long-ago, so to speak. It was well before the Web. We’re talking 1993—20 years ago! You know bet hedging by instinct now.

Instead, focus on doing your work great. Navigate the unnavigable. Make great progress fast. Impress the hell out of people soon or never. Feel the urgency. Instill the focus of crisis without true crisis. Pretend like you actually are in true crisis, because you really never know when you’re going to be blindsided.

-——————————————————————————- Mon Sep 9 10:20:01 EDT 2013 Wow, these weekends in the gunks, chatting with Rachel and other completely “different circle” people helps illuminate my thinking. The places and characters in my mind have expanded profoundly upon joining the Spring Glen Woods colony. I am continuously joking in my mind that I have just joined a colony and may I take you to my leader. We are all very happy here. This is against the backdrop of just having #GoogleGlass dropped in my hands and told to be ready to program it, at the same time as I’m pivoting to survive the change in the field of #SEO at the same time as my wife is ascending to amazing #socialmediaguru-ness with her @Jewyorican, @EveryGentrifier and widely-loved @ElBloombito Twitter accounts.