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Adam's Blog

The founder of Smart & Slick talks about...
life and other things

Who’s The Daddy?

person touching stomach

So, big news! I’m going to be a father! Yes, me and the wife have been busy collaborating on a new project. I suppose that’s what happens during 18 months in lockdown. What else was there to do? You know what I mean? How much TV can a man watch?

But all joking aside, it’s an odd thing to imagine that right now, inside my wife, there is a little human growing! A human that will, around December, be part of this world. A human whom my wife and I – who feel like we’re still children ourselves(!) – will be fully responsible for. A human whose life we will shape. And a human who in about 13-15 years will stink and tell us they hate us.

I know that I’ve been somewhat of a late bloomer at most of this ‘life’ stuff and many of my contemporaries at school and university went through this years ago, but it’s absolutely terrifying and yet I’m really looking forward to it. It’s a very strange feeling to explain and either the English language, or my command of it, are failing me.

The closest word I can think of to describe how I feel about it is…. honoured.

Excitement feels quite shallow. We get excited about going to a concert or Line of Duty. This feeling is deeper and somehow transcendent, bordering on spiritual.

We already know it’s going to be a boy. And we’ve already named him. I tell you – you know you’re a nerd when choosing baby names requires GoDaddy to see if the domain name is available.

So that’s my big news. My wife is pregnant. Which means I’m in trouble for everything now.

I’ll have absolutely no idea what on Earth I’ve done wrong. And even if I’m lucky enough to get that information from her, there will be no explanation at all for why it was so offensive.

Random example – She declared Jihad on a blue glass. No reason given. She just didn’t like it. And I mean really REALLY REALLY didn’t like it. It had to be banished to a cupboard where it remains to this day.

But you know what – I know it’s not her fault. I know that it’s all hormones. And to be honest, having witnessed the first trimester of pregnancy first hand, I have to say, I don’t think maternity leave is long enough. I think it should start much earlier. How does anybody effectively work a job while going through all of that? I think it’s asking a lot.

There seems to be a modern way of saying “we” are pregnant rather than “my wife is pregnant”. And since the Internet seems to get its knickers in a twist on a regular basis about semantics, I’m going to say that I think “we are pregnant” is not very fair. Why should I get credit for something my wife is doing? Yes, I’ve done more housework in the past few months than ever before in my life and modern parenting is definitely a group activity, but “we are pregnant” just doesn’t seem fair to me. House work is a small price to pay for a son.

So here’s a public thank you to my wife and incubator, and just to say you’ve done a great job so far. We’re on the home straight!

How Do You Stay Connected As a Tech Head?

black laptop computer turned on on table

Since retraining and becoming a full time software developer, I have noticed changes both in myself and in those around me.

One of the things I love the most about being a developer, other than it being a sweet spot where art and engineering regularly cross paths, is that there is a little victory in some form or other, almost every day. Every day, something exists by the evening that didn’t exist in the morning. And I love that.

But one of the negative things I’ve noticed is my ability to connect with those around me – who are not in tech – has dwindled. Like my wife.

When my wife asks the seemingly innocuous question, “How was work today?” she is not equipped for, or for that matter expecting, a long explanation finely detailing why a function won’t work. She doesn’t deal well with abstract concepts. And software is very abstract.

What makes it worse is when I’m working on a very niche project, like, right now, SEO software, which will form a big part of the Smart & Slick back end when we begin offering SEO services hopefully in the near future.

This not only requires an understanding of software development but also a deep understanding of what SEO is and how it works. So naturally, the distance between me and her… (and everybody else) gets even bigger.

And when somebody, perhaps to be polite, says I should try and explain it, they are not prepared for the ensuing 30 minute lecture that begins by explaining, in crude terms, how a search engine works.

I have now taken to simply referring to it as ‘nerdy stuff’. Which, in essence, is another way of saying that we just don’t talk about it. Because we can’t. And in some ways that’s a problem because coding is currently a pretty big part of my life.

I’m interested to know how others connect with their friends and family about work?

The Morning Ritual That Makes Me More Productive

trees under cloudy sky during sunset

Over the years I’ve tried a number of approaches to mornings to try and be more productive. I’ve tried getting up at the crack of dawn. Having green tea. Not having green tea. Exercise. Skinny dipping. Everything. Most of it did little more than make me feel like a prat. And worse, a tired prat.

But after much experimentation, I’ve finally cracked it. I’ve figured out a morning ritual that actually works!

It’s called sleep! That’s right. To hell with waking up earlier and trying to start every morning with a workout, a smoothie and a smug and braggy social media status.

Like you, I have been shamed by the dozens of articles online that tell us that all successful people get up at the crack of dawn and do more before 9am than most will do all day. Screw ’em. It doesn’t work.

When I pull myself out of my lovely warm bed at 5:30am, it guarantees one thing: by 4pm I’ll be so tired I’m barely able to support my own head. So I haven’t actually lengthened the day. It just starts earlier and then finishes earlier. How does that help anybody be more productive?

In much the same vein as Rihanna records and lactose, me and mornings just don’t get on. We never have. And, by my age, I don’t expect we ever will. So it doesn’t make sense to continue pursuing a strategy that yields so little in terms of results. Whether it works for Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos is of little relevance if it simply will not work for me.

So unless I have an appointment, I rarely rise before 10:30. That way, when I do get up, my brain is online and working. And when I sit down at my desk, tasks tend to get done very quickly. And I often work long beyond 6pm. I also regularly put hours in on Saturdays and Sundays.

And that’s my method. And it works. But not every day. Because some days, let’s be honest, it’s just not happening. Some days, for whatever reason – I’m not in flow state or whatever – work is a drag, even if the project is fun. And on those days, if there are no deadlines looming, I give myself permission to finish early because it doesn’t make sense to keep pushing at a task when it’s not coming easy, if completion is not imminently vital.

This means that some days are short and some days are very long. But I’ll bet that the overall rate of progress in a week is roughly the same as it would be if I forced myself to work 8 full hours, 5 days a week.

And this approach is in line with the Smart & Slick philosophy: Do what works. Do what gets results. Play to your own strengths and rhythms. And realise that what works for one person or client, might not be the best approach for another. There isn’t always a one-size-fits-all solution to a problem.

Whatever your current challenge, do what works for you.

First Thoughts: Netflix’s New ‘Play Something’ Feature

black flat screen tv turned on displaying 11

Everybody knows it. The biggest problem with Netflix is that you go on there to watch something but find yourself scrolling for 20+ minutes deliberating over exactly what to watch before eventually either turning it off, or taking the plunge with something you’re not particularly convinced of.

As somebody who would like to one day start a streaming service (or at least work for one), there is a page in one of my notebooks titled ‘Problems with Netflix’. This was naturally top of the list. Though, there are others.

Netflix’s currently proposed solution is the ‘Play Something’ button which is similar to Google’s ‘I’m Feeling Lucky’ button. It just plays something.

When I first saw it yesterday evening, the wife and I tried it.

We have a Samsung Smart TV with a Netflix button on the remote. When we turn on the TV, it streams ‘normal telly’, which sometimes wins over any deliberate streaming.

For people in their 30s, we grew up with a very different TV experience to the current offering. You could just switch it on and watch whatever is coming, from whatever point it had reached at the point when you switched it on. Some of my best ever viewing experiences weirdly happened this way.

The On Demand generation will never know the feeling of turning something on at ‘a good bit’ and watching whatever is left of a movie or TV show secretly wishing we were able to see it from the beginning.

What has this trip down memory lane got to do with Netflix and the Play Something feature? Well… I assume they’re trying to morph into something that’s closer to traditional television than the infinite menu of options they currently present.

And I think that probably means NOT playing shows from the very beginning.

They want to start at the first ‘good bit’. Being Netflix, I’m sure they’re drowning in data that can tell them where the first good bit is.

I think it comes down to emotional state.

When I find myself endlessly scrolling, I suspect it’s because a thumbnail poster and a title are not enough information to get me to make a decision. The graphics and title cannot make me a promise that I believe in. And trailers are advertising and I’m sick of being advertised to. This, incidentally, is another thing I HATE about Netflix – it just plays trailers at you if you stop scrolling for longer than a second.

Will this feature take off? I personally don’t think so. As far as I can see, Netflix’s biggest problem is too much choice. And most of it is rubbish. Surprisingly, in all the years since it became popular, I’m surprised at how seemingly little Netflix has done to target content to people. Amazon, I’m pretty sure, had this down in their ecommerce store by this point.