What's my next big thing?

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, September 2, 2014, 10:06 PM | comments: 0

I was talking with one of my peers the other day about the kind of work I was generally doing with my team. In my role, it can vary a bit from one project to the next. For this project, I'm not doing much in the way of in-the-weeds development, but instead doing a lot of design and code reviews, build process maintenance, some pairing, and even a little BA work. And mind you, that's not a complaint at all, because having more administrative responsibility is something I've actually been craving for awhile. It plays to the skills I think I have and want to develop further.

Still, it's easy to get disconnected and out of the loop if you're not careful, and that hurts your street cred. Worse, it leads to a path where you could end up just another level of management somewhere, which isn't really very interesting. This is why I'm always happy to have spare-time pursuits where I'm free to engage in whatever I'm interested in. I've complained in the past about POP Forums being my curse, but to be honest, it has been a great playground for me for a long time where I could experiment and do anything.

But it also begs the question, what's my next big thing? What can I really put some effort into that will be satisfying outside of my day job? This is what happens when you work with good people. You see them doing great work and you're inspired to up your game.

I think one of the natural things to do is take the forum app to a new level in terms of performance. I always maintained it as this thing that someone could drop into their application and run it in a shared hosting environment, but maybe it's time to build it as something intended to scale. I've already started to go down that route, where the next version can run in a multi-instance scenario with a shared caching layer. It's something I started to think about way back in 2010, when I was still working on the MSDN forums at Microsoft. I think I secretly wanted my humble app to be the MSDN forums. I think with a little work, it could probably be up to that task.

I have no idea what the criteria for success is in that case, but my thing is that I just get excited about the tool box that's out there. I mean, there all these great platforms with queues and service buses and search indexes... there's no limit to how awesome it could be.

Then there's my reluctant fascination with mobile stuff. I've made my dislike for the app-tastic world pretty clear, but it doesn't mean that I don't see any need at all for apps over the web. I have a lot of ideas there, too, to the point that it's hard to pick one.

I often think about what I could do with CoasterBuzz, but mostly because there's already an audience there. The reboot in 2012 was a bit of an undertaking, but it's been easy to make a ton of incremental, largely unnoticed updates to it since then. No one will ever care that the home page renders in less than 100 ms, but I love knowing that it does. Funny how your motivation changes over time. A dozen years ago I just wanted it to be popular, now I just want it to be fast. I do wish there was a way to better monetize it (traffic isn't worth what it used to be), but money isn't much of an intrinsic motivator.

The last year and change has been good for me in terms of career. I think I have clearer goals around what I want out of a job (more responsibility and constant opportunity to refine my leadership skills), but I don't want to miss out on the technical ability, even if it isn't core to my daily responsibilities. My complaint about the business landscape is that there it lacks technical leadership, so there's definitely a gap to fill there. I wonder why my next big thing will be, realized on evenings and weekends.


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