Year off

Eight weeks ago I concluded my 16th contract, yes, I have been contracting for a while, over ten years so far.

I enjoy contracting; I continually meet new people; additionally, by moving around, I have been fortunate enough to be exposed to numerous business domains, frameworks and tools.

We can’t ignore the elephant in the room, contracting pays well, especially when you have over 20 years of experience.

In April, my Wife had our second child, Niall. When we had our first child, we realised that the best way to provide the support my Wife needed was to take time off, there were so many positives with me providing the support rather than getting in professional help. Well, with Niall, we are going to do the same thing, I’m going to take at least a year off, primarily to help my Wife raise our brand-new son, secondly, to try and get the Costs to Expect service off the ground.

Costs to Expect is a project I had been considering for a while, during the summer I released the first version of the API; I plan to develop the MVP of the service during my time off.

Twelve months is not as long as you think, especially when you are a single developer. I’ve used Pivotal Tracker for years; it has become scarily accurate at predicting what I will be able to accomplish during a two-week sprint. I usually have two or three sprints worth of work in my backlog, according to Pivotal, it is going to be quite difficult to get enough of the service ready in 12 months, hopefully, if I plan well, I should be able to do it.

Reduced development time :(

As I have mentioned before, I’m lucky enough to be able to take time off during the year to work on my projects, every time I take on a new contract my schedule goes out of whack.

When I’m not contracting, outside of real life commitments, I try to dedicate as many as 30hrs per week to work on my projects, when I’m contracting that isn’t possible, a 40hr week with travel doesn’t leave much free time.

The last two weeks have been an adjustment, I managed to log 5.5hrs the first week and 7.5hrs the second week, I’m on track for 10hrs this week.

Is this a real problem, no, the first world called and wants a tissue, the issue is expectations, during my summer off I steamed through my work, with reality hitting, productivity takes a nosedive. Eventually, Pivotal Tracker will update to show more accurate completion times; once I’m three sprints in, until then, it is frustrating looking at completion dates that are optimistic.

Why am I blogging about this? As the site byline says, I was musing.

Library updates and two new sites

I treated myself to a little time off after my contract ended, I’m back now and have a few minor updates.

There are new releases for two of my packages, v0.60 of the Zend view helper library and v1.04.1 of the Zend view helper code completion library. The view helper library now has initial support for the following Bootstrap 4 components;

  • Bootstrap 4 Badge component
  • Bootstrap 4 Button component
  • Bootstrap 4 Card component
  • Bootstrap 4 Jumbotron component
  • Bootstrap 4 Navbar component (lite)
  • Bootstrap 4 Progress bar component
  • Bootstrap 4 Multiple progress bar component

In the last week, I released two new single page sites, Transmute Coffee and Professional Coding: What to expect?, both are mere placeholders for now but will gain additional content soon ™.

Imminent return to contracting

I’ve taken the majority of the last two years off work to help my wife raise our new son and also work on my own project, Dlayer.com.

Dlayer is not yet ready for promotion but it has improved massively between July 2013 and today, I would have loved to get more done in the time I had but how does the Lennon quote go, “Life is what happens while you are making other plans”.

When CodeSpaces went out of business, like a lot of other people, I lost some stuff, in my case it was just the SVN history for Dlayer but it was still data that I valued and because of the loss I can only look back at Dlayer’s near past.

When I return to work I am going to add a sub domain to Dlayer.com showing  the before and now, mainly for my own purposes but if interested people can see how much it has evolved over time whilst still being very recognisable as Dlayer.

At the moment I am not sure how far back I can go, hopefully two or three years, I have a year of history on GitHub and I made manual backups occasionally by doing an SVN export.

I always enjoy going back to contracting, meeting new people, picking up new ideas, tackling a new problem and generally just working with peers, always something new to learn and you never know where it will come from.