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5 posts tagged with "musings"

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· 5 min read
zach wick

When I finished undergrad, I went on a long backpacking trip by myself to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. I took a copy of Walden and a copy of Theory of Games and Economic Behavior to read. I also took my notebook, in which I ended up writing quite a bit. Below are unrevised typed versions of some of the things that I wrote.

Little Fish

The little fish stays amongst the rocks and the shallows and forever remains in its safe little world. Its whole existence is there. It is born there, it lives there, and it dies there. And yet it never realizes that is lives within a small portion of a much larger lake.

What joy there is in leaving the safe haven of the rocks and the shallows and venturing into the world. What happiness there is in facing the world and relying on yourself for survival.

Nature and Tech

Everything here is so, though I hate to say it, natural. There is more to it than that though. The wind and the waves beat on the rocks and shore as they ever have. The fish eat the bugs and the eagles eat the fish as they have for ages.

The trees grow, die, fall, and are recycled back into the earth as they have done for millennia. The better word to describe this place is “uninterrupted”. Humans have not yet soiled its primordial beauty. Given time, I am sure that we will, but for now it is still pristine. None of the natural cycles here care about any of modern man’s worries. What is the stock market trend to a wild blueberry? What is the newest human war to a fir tree? The Earth here is far more wise than any human will ever be.

It allows only the strongest to prosper and sheds no tears for the weak. It does not concern itself about its neighbors, it does what it must. It obeys no other mortal’s laws; it only does what is has done since its birth and knows is right.

To come here and sit and watch is to attend a lecture on the inferiority of man. This is the world’s classroom, taught by the best in the field and yet how many come to learn this free lesson? How far has man fallen that to observe the natural order of things and learn is considered not only a chore, but a backsliding to "more primitive" life? Can a television tell you how to navigate a river current? Can an ipod teach you what soil is best for a cedar? Let just one generation be taught here instead of modern schools and see how much more civilly they treat their fellow man. See how much more they can do without the aid of a transistor. Not all technology is to blame for the downfall of man, who was once poised to be masters of this planet. Contemporary medicine is a prime example of technology doing good. This is the only instance of this trend that I can think of though.

But you say "surely computers do good? They help predict storms and do computation lightning quick. They allow us to talk to people all around the world."

To this I say, nay shout "NO!" What computer is better than the human brain? The best computer today with the most efficient programming can do exactly one task almost as good as a rat. As for predicting storms, the most wizened farmer can tell when a storm is approaching just by observing the world around him. Imagine a world where every single person could do the same. As for computation, who needs to know the factors of some 1000 digit number? If all men treated each other with respect, there would be no thievery and no need for encryption. An honest man need only be able to count to a few hundred and add, subtract, multiply, and divide numbers at most that too and just lump the rest. If every man earned his own, who needs to know what percent they need to pay in taxes for there would be none who needed public support. For communication purposes, how much talk is just meaningless drivel of speech? How much correspondence is gossip and propaganda? Instead, let a man think about what it is that he wants to say, and mull it over enough so that it is perfectly clear, and then, and only then, if he feels that it absolutely must be shared, let him write is so that others may read it when they wish.

Better still, let the man travel and give his message in person. Would any prophet’s message have been as powerful if it was sent to others as an email? No, the prophets went out and spoke to men, face-to-face or face-to-faces. Technology has become an unneeded crutch for mankind. Man has become a tool to the very thing which began as his tool. We are so buried in the mire of diodes and resistors, ipods and computers, tv’s, microwaves and toasters that even just one hour without electricity stirs the hive of modern humanity into a craze. Light a candle, open your eyes, and act to prevent the demise of humankind; For it is only one massive power outage away.

· One min read
zach wick

We never really stop and marvel at the fact that we carry magic in our pockets.

We have most of the world at our fingertips and we worry about the color of someone’s skin or who they love. Humans have crystallized magic and we worry about things more mundane. The depth and breadth of how we have expanded each person’s reach now touches the outer limits of the solar system.

How come I can communicate with another human half the world away at the speed of light, but people right next to me want for food and shelter? Why has our magic not solved these obvious problems that humans face? Why it is easier for my neighbor to order a car than to get a sandwich?

· 4 min read
zach wick

School killed Him. Work killed Him. I killed Him.

He realized, like all who are killed, too late of his impending doom. His second to last thought was that maybe if He had realized sooner that the things around Him were killing Him, He could have prevented it. His last thought was that He had begun being killed on his first day of school.

School – What a joke He thought. All of that time that He spent there, and what did it get Him? A personal sense of worth on somebody else’s scale. A thought process that began and ended with "what do others need me to do?" The more He thought about school, the more He realized that the first cut in his death by a thousand, was from school.

"The teachers only taught what us students needed to know for The Test" He thought. "What was on the test anyway? Basic reading comprehension and even more basic mathematics? How depressing it would have been to be one of the people that didn't pass."

A fateful smile crept appeared on Him as He put together a body and a face for this dark shadow that had been about Him all through school. "They were celebrating the mediocre", and a forlorn chuckle escaped his lips.

"They only wanted people just good enough to not need assistance in life, but not so good as to see through Their ruse."

"Well I saw through the ruse, but only in my last minutes" and the threadbare smile faded and the chuckle turned to silence.

He thought back to his "Critical Thinking" class that He was forced to take – It isn’t really critical thinking if you have to agree with the teacher in order to get credit.

He thought back to group projects – The other members of the group were lazy slobs, and yet He received poor marks on the project. "Surely the Real World is not like this" He remembers thinking when seeing his marks.

Work – The Real World.

"No", He thought, "the Real World was just as bleak as school had been." He had had what others would call a decent job. He had climbed all of the ladders, but no rung was what He was looking for. Every new rung that He passed, the same old thought occurred, "Someday I am going to leave this place and do My Own Thing." But there was always another rung, and always another reason to wait to do His Own Thing. He was paid to solve problems for The Company, but He could only give solutions that The Boss wanted to Hear – He could never give the correct solution. He thought back to his co-workers and thought that his lazy co-workers were the same people from his school that had passed through without significance; They were good enough at their jobs to not lose them, but not so good as to turn The Company’s boat away from where it was always Heading.

Me – I bear the most guilt in his death. I led the lamb to the slaughter. At first, I lead through innocence; At the end, I lead through apathy. It was my job to keep Him alive, and for most of his life, He only stayed alive through sheer dumb luck.

That one saving math teacher – that one fulfilling job – those are what kept Him alive.

I always knew deep down that one day He would become all of me or none of me. He had always been a part of me; Telling me that smart-ass remark to make, showing me that clever solution. I had just thought that everybody had a companion like this, but no, I was of a rare breed I guess. That part of me is gone now. Like any living thing, eventually it will lose some battle and be lost forever. Now I am just a drone to do what others tell me and not what I want. My Own Thing is now Their Thing.


I wrote some time ago in an act of catharsis, and am just finally getting around to publishing it. I hesitated to share it originally for some now unknown reason – I share it now because it feels more right to share it than to keep it only for myself to read.

· 2 min read
zach wick

Just as a painter paints because he enjoys the act of applying brush to canvas in order to create a reality out of an abstract idea, I code because I enjoy the act of putting fingers to keyboard to make a reality out of an abstract idea. Painters don’t paint because it is incredibly profitable, and I don’t code for just a paycheck. The money that I make from coding ensures that I am able to practice the art of coding my own abstract ideas instead of someone else's.

A day job as a developer will never make me happy nor make me feel fulfilled; Only the ability to hack on my own projects can do that. For this reason and this reason alone, I view all development jobs as the same and compare on the sole criterion of how much they enable my outside hacking. David Cronenberg once said "The desire to be loved is really death when it comes to art." I think that the same sentiment applies to development; If I only code for what someone else wants, then I have died as a hacker and have lost that part of my being forever.

I am a hacker. I am an artist. I use electrons, pixels, and switches to transform the beauty of the baud into a physical reality for my own enjoyment. I derive pleasure from making bits cross wires and pixels blink on screens. I experience pain from tedium and monotony. I don’t write code – I write art.

· 9 min read
zach wick

Upon reflection, my dream workplace culture would have following properties, listed below in no particular order:

  1. Employees are encouraged to use any system/config/setup that they want
  2. Nobody ever has set work hours
  3. Nobody ever has any set work place
  4. Every employee is salaried
  5. Any meeting lasting longer than 15 min must be scheduled at least a day in advance
  6. If a meeting follows the pub/sub model, it should be an email instead of a meeting
  7. All development happens in the open
  8. Every employee has 1 day per week to work on anything that they want
  9. Each employee must respond to at least one support case per week (if that many cases exist)
  10. Every employee has the responsibility to be at least somewhat familiar with the company strategy and product roadmap(s) at at least a high level
  11. Every employee has the right to be a part of the decision making process perternaing to the company/product vision/roadmap(s)
  12. The only information that an employee is not privy to is their coworkers’ salaries


Employees are encouraged to use any system/config/setup that they want

Here I mean that I want every employee to constantly be tweaking their work environment to make them "better" at their job – whatever that job may be. For developers, this culture property probably means that they are encouraged to use any text editor, web browser, development tool, or operating system that they so choose. With regard to non-developer employees, this point probably means that they are encouraged to use whatever email client, software, phone, etc. is going to make them better.

The main point is that I want all employees to be enabled to constantly evaluate how they are doing their job and try to optimize their performance for whatever metric makes sense based on their role.

Nobody ever has set work hours

What I mean here is that I recognize that people have different schedules and different times at which they are most productive. Personally, I am most productive from 05:00 – 11:00 and then from about 18:00 – 20:30; For other people, this schedule is when they are least productive. The main point is that I want employees to be able to work when they are going to be most productive and not feel like they must work from 09:00 to 17:00.

Nobody ever has any set work place

The point here is very similar to point 2 above – I recognize that there are times when working in solitude at home is going to make a person the most productive and there are times when working from a coffee shop is going to be the most beneficial. There are also times when being in an office next to your coworker is going to be the best place to really crank out some work. I want the company to recognize and encourage all employees to be proactive about choosing the place that is going to be the best for them to work in. Personally, I happen to love hacking on code sitting outside on the grass in the sunshine.

Every employee is salaried

I don’t ever want an employee to think, "it is 17:00, time to head home and quit thinking about this problem." nor do I ever want any employee to work longer just to make more money while being less efficient. I think that salaries encourage people to be productive however they personally can. Also, with wanting point 2 where no employee has set working hours, paying an hourly wage would require massive amounts of paperwork and process.

Any meeting lasting longer than 15 minutes must be scheduled at least a day in advance

This is partly a corollary of points 2 and 3, and partly a standalone point. With every employee working whenever and wherever they are going to be the most productive, meetings that require synchronicity must be scheduled in advance. Additionally, some people (myself included) like to run through a mental plan of how their next few days are going to go, and being knowledgeable of all the requirements on my time is essential for that process.

If a meeting follows the pub/sub model, it should be an email instead of a meeting

There is nothing worse than a meeting in which one person is just pumping information out to the rest of the attendees with no needed response. I call this the pub/sub meeting model – as in the publishing/subscribing model for syndication and event handling. These kinds of meeting are a huge drag on people’s attention, energy, focus, everything, and are better suited by the speaker sending the information in an email. Meetings are only necessary when discussion is required.

All development happens in the open

This point may only apply to developers and their ilk, but I think that it is very important that developers be allowed to see, and contribute to any code that the company uses. This allows (potentially) more eyes to review code, and it allows developers to take a brief diversion and work on something possibly entirely different than they normally would. The advantages to this are at least twofold; This helps prevent developers getting bored with their work, and it encourages developers to always be learning new things instead of having their skill set stagnate.

Every employee has 1 day per week to work on anything that they want

A corollary to point 7, is that every employee has 1 day per week in which they are encouraged to work on anything that they so desire. This side project could be related to their job, or it could be practicing basket weaving. The rationale for this point is the same as the rationale for point 7 – preventing boredom and skillset stagnation.

Each employee must respond to at least one support case per week (if that many cases exist)

I think that is important for every employee to realize what the end users’ pain points are in the products. Having this information readily available makes it easier for employees to make executive decisions and make the products more user-friendly. It is also always extremely eye-opening to see how exactly customers are using what you made. Often times it seems like customers always find a cool way to abuse the product into working in some unintended manner.

Every employee has the responsibility to be at least somewhat familiar with the company strategy and product roadmap(s) at at least a high level

This builds on point 9 above, if every employee is empowered to make the products better, they should know where the company has decided to make the product end up.

Every employee has the right to be a part of the decision making process pertaining to the company/product vision/roadmap(s)

Since employees are required to have a rough idea of the company vision and product roadmap(s), they should also have input into what those visions are. Employees also have firsthand knowledge of how customers are using, and how customers are abusing, the products because they are seeing support cases come in. This knowledge is information that is required in the product planning process.

The only information that an employee is not privy to is their coworkers’ salaries

Based on all the points above, employees are going to have a high degree of knowledge about the company. Employees are also going to be used to being able to improve any aspect of the company, which has a prerequisite of knowledge. That knowledge should be made available to all employees. It would be incredibly heartening to see real data on the company when things are going well and really eye-opening to see that same data in a downturn. That being so, the only information that an employee should be able to see is what their coworkers’ salaries are. While this information would be interesting, knowledge of it would create a heirarchy which might work to stop employees from being as proactive as they otherwise would be. Employees may start thinking, “that person makes more than me, so their input must be more valuable” which is false thinking and will lead to demoralization.


There are probably some definite drawbacks to these points. I can see that some people might not see the value in paying employees to spend one day a week working on something that may have no direct benefit to the company. I can see how in a very large organization, point 11 might result in a "too many chiefs, not enough indians" kind of situation. I can see that points 2 and 3, under which no employee has set hours or location to work in, might result in inefficiencies.

I think that the first drawback of paid side project time is sufficiently addressed in the rationale for that point above. As for how to avoid the "too many chiefs, not enough indians" situation, I am not sure of a solution. Assuredly, not every employee is going to want to be a part of every decision-making process, so maybe this situation is self-fixing. As for employees who have no set work hours or place becoming lazy and inefficient, I think that the proper solution is to be clear from the onset that any employee who routinely fails to meet the expectations of them will be let go. This has the effect of ensuring that employees who can keep themselves on task, and are proactive about self-improvement remain and thrive, while those that cannot are not a drain on company resources.


When I had my wife proofread this, she asked me "So are you unhappy with where you work?". The answer to that is a resounding "no!". I rather enjoy my current job and the culture there has a majority of my points in it. Would I quit this current awesome job to work somewhere that has all of my points as part of its culture? The answer is that I don’t know, and it would require some thinking. When I have my own company someday, or am a very early employee at a company again, am I going to try and get these points to be part of the culture there? Of course I am going to.

I am of the firm belief that while I may get paid in exchange for slinging code around, it is always my responsibility to improve how I and my coworkers do that slinging.