Stok Footage

Continually experimenting with new ideas and techniques — Reconstructing, Developing, Modernising.

Comfort and Stagnation

Time and time again I condenm myself to a seductive trap – using things I am comfortable with, and convincing myself that I’m productive because I’m happy and comfortable. The problem is that the old tools and methods may well be adequate for what I think I need to do, but there might be whole new ways of thinking that my current tools just don’t expose me to.

As the Pomodoro technique is forcing me to think about and sometimes even change how I work at work, sometimes swapping tools helps me evaluate both the tools and my abilities to use them. Occasionally there is an even bigger benefit – perspective. Here are a couple of examples:

(1) Ruby and Perl. Perl is a tool I like a lot, and most of my work in the past decade seems to have been maintaining code which appears to have been written quickly by people not entirely familiar with better practices in Perl (or in my own case way too familiar with some new feature in Perl!). Maintaining these code bases tends to let me trap myself in the Perl of a decade ago, and given the sheer volume of stuff appearing on CPAN and newer Perl releases I know I’m falling behind. Given my limited engagement with the Ruby community it seems that they are younger, more dynamic, and more open to going beyond emacs or vi and testing. Returning to Perl for fun (cleaning up the Toronto Perl Mongers’ web site) some of the fun things I see in the Ruby world make me dig a little deeper into CPAN, or look a the echo chamber that are Perl blogs to find modules, tools, and techniques which do more than incrementally improve my Perl.

(2) Editors. I’ll confess I’m a vi user, and I use maybe 2% of gvim’s potential. A few months ago someone suggested I try emacs. Try I did, and now I am back using gvim as my main editor … but now I have a perspective which is making me much more active in exploring the details of some of the vim add-ons. I’m also interested in what “real” IDEs can do for me, and how vim / emacs provide other ways to achieve the same goals.

Bringing it all back to something I really care about, I guess that stagnation is OK – the song on Trespass which has survived all the way through to 2007’s Old Medley – and, as Peter Gabriel sings “… nothing fades like the future, nothing clings like the past.” I find myself editing Perl using (g)vim, but at least I have the dust of “other countries” on my feet, and dreams of other futures in my heart.

One Response to “Comfort and Stagnation”

  1. Anonymous says:

    I don’t see much improvement in the Ruby community. They all regressed and started to use Textmate. Textmate is great until you need it to do something important, something that takes more than shell call. Textmate is not a modern IDE either.

    I’ll say though that the Rubyists are little more likely to use hard to maintain features. The monkey patching is a good example. Easy in perl, just frowned upon, yet totally accepted in Ruby.

    Try defunkt mode in emacs, it tries to make emacs into textmate and uses cua-mode and other features.

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