I've spent a fair amount of time lately thinking about work and how it relates to fun, happiness, enjoyment and other endeavors as they relate to puppies and rainbows. This is not a post about that. But I will take you back to the years immediately following college, when I thought life was all about being a big radio star.
I was fortunate enough to start working in commercial radio a little more than a year before I graduated, and with that headstart I was able to go full-time shortly after graduation, and in the market where I already lived, no less. By this time it was already obvious that the thing I enjoyed so much in college, and even part-time for money, was not very fun when I had to make a living at it. I went to government TV after that, which was fun for awhile, but I saw no clear future until I shifted into software. The lesson here is that sometimes, doing what's fun when it's your job can be less fun. To bring it full circle, I have a friend that is an attorney by day, and has a syndicated public radio show by day, and he loves it.
When I first started writing code as an adult, it was largely because I wanted to do interesting stuff with the Internet, and you had to do a little programming to make that work. It turns out that I really enjoyed it, and I was able to build a career out of it. All of that hobbyist effort trailed off over time, however. I recall by the time I was at Insurance.com in 2006, coding at a senior level and at a fairly high volume, I spent less time doing it for fun, on the side. After that job, it was up and down based on the position. The more "lead" and "manager" gigs I had, the less I would code in the job, but the more I would in my spare time. The last six years has been a season of coding between zero and 50% of the time, meaning my energy for the fun stuff has been higher. I've been at a consistent 0% now for eight months, and so the interest has increased.
Let me be clear that coding for fun and for money are not binary opposites. You can do both at the same time, but as with anything in life, it's not all fun, all of the time. I mean, even on vacation, you have to do stuff you would rather not (like buy sunscreen, wait in airports and deal with cab drivers), but it doesn't mean you can't enjoy the good parts. I do think that coding in a thoughtful and always-learning way has limitations, for everyone. I've seen the best get burned out and junior and mid-level people turn out crap in volume. My own experience is that I've only got so much bandwidth to give the craft.
Now that I've got more of that bandwidth, back in the all-manager realm again, probably to stay, this time, I want to devote more time to my open source project and modernize it. I think I'd even like to give hosted forums a try (because cloud), if only to make a few hundred bucks a month. Heck, I have a bunch of domain names that I could build into useful things, I just have to make some choices and stick to them.
Last year's contribution tracking on GitHub wasn't bad. You could see where I was between jobs, and then in December I made a ton of commits just around the effort of updating the forum app to the newer Bootstrap version. Lots of busy work, but if I get some of that out of the way I can do more interesting things. When I'm active, I actually see some pull requests happen. I'd like to make next year's graph greener.