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Lessons Learned in 2006

As a proponent of perpetual learning, I like to periodically take the time to reflect on what I have learned. Looking back at this past year, I definitely expanded my understanding in a number of areas based on my experiences at work and at home.

My most significant growth was in the area of personal productivity: I read and implemented the organizational system described in the book Getting Things Done : The Art Of Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen. I have found this system very useful both at work and at home, and wrote an article describing my experience implementing the system.

This last year I switched to a four day work week, and have found it to be a significant improvement over the normal five days. I even figured out how to do this without a drop in pay.

One area of software development I have explored a lot this year has been change and release management: specifically the process of promoting application or infrastructure changes into a production environment. Both my experiences at work and my experiences running this website have made me appreciate the necessity of having a defined process. The amount of process that is necessary depends on the types of changes being made and the complexity of the environment. As I wrote in my article on deploying application changes, it is easier when the application is packaged and deployed as a single unit. When this is not possible - like for database changes - then more process is necessary. Adding too much process, however, can be just as harmful as having too little - a proper balance must be maintained.

Over this last year I have spent a lot of time thinking about application reliability. Ensuring a system is highly reliable is a surprisingly difficult task, and one of the major culprits is complexity. I have found myself arguing more strongly for simpler, more reliable solutions as a result. My most recent focus has been on error handling. My article on the fail fast and degrade gracefully approaches to error handling contains some earlier thoughts on this subject, but I have not yet written up my latest ideas. I have come to believe that the degrade gracefully approach, while more difficult to implement, is the best for creating highly reliable software. I have unfortunately encountered a third approach to error handling: ignore errors. This leads to silent, undetected failures whose negative effects go unnoticed for an arbitrary length of time.

I have also learned a number of lessons from running this website, including improving my knowledge of web design, promotion, and on-line advertising. I have found the process of writing my weekly articles to be a great learning aid. Writing forces me to reflect on and clarify my thoughts and ideas on a particular subject. It is no coincidence that I have provided a number of links above to articles I have written this past year. I tend to write about topics that are currently in my focus of attention, and the act of writing about them helps clarify and solidify the learning I have done.

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11 Comments on “Lessons Learned in 2006”

  1. [...] Lessons Learned in 2006 by Basil [...]

  2. Mama Duck says:

    I’ve learned so much from doing the blog/business website as well, it’s quite an adventure! We also participated in this project, stop on by if you get a chance!

  3. Very reflective post, Basil. I love how you’ve chosen to take a four-day work week approach. The more time for leisure, the more one can foster creativity and contemplate over deeper issues.

    I hope this coming year will be filled with much more potential growth as you continue on your journey.

    All the best,
    Jennifer.

  4. George says:

    I agree with your statement on processes. I can see how important they are in accomplishing things.

    I entered Darren’s project also. My entry is here:

    http://www.canimakebigmoneyonline.com/index.php/20061218-the-biggest-blogging-mistake-i-made-in-2006/

  5. rashenbo says:

    Sounds like you did learn a lot this year! Kudos on the move to a four-day workweek. Not many folks can get that kind of flexibility… but having an extra “business” day for personal tasks and projects can really help productivity!

    I found you off the Problogger predictions and reviews participant list.

    Cheers,

    Writing Aspirations

  6. Looks like you had a good year. I got to say I also came to grips with productivity in 2006, especially in the latter half of this year – I’m now off to read your GTD post.

  7. Somu says:

    I recently came to know about GTD. Trying to figure out how to optimize my workflow to be efficient.

  8. Hi,
    I loved to read your story as I started with the GTD Process myself. I postet a link to Your Post on my own blog.

    Have a merry christmas and a happy New Year
    best wishes from Germany

    Jörg

    PS: I translated my own post to the group writing project to English, so just in case, You would like to have a look – You are welcome. :-)

  9. Ray Dotson says:

    I found GTD to be a great asset, too. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to implement it fully yet. If I could only deal with this procrastination problem…

  10. Rey Varnell says:

    This one makes sense “One’s first step in wisdom is to question everything – and one’s last is to come to terms with everything.”

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