Daniel Miller

Product-focused Technology Leader

With 20 years of experience in technology and entrepreneurship, I help companies ship software that delivers real value to customers.

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Two Important Things I Read on the Internet Today

Reclaim unreasonable software

Some software never successfully addresses the domain it aspires to solve, and the good news there is that at least you never need to maintain such software, because maintenance is reserved for valuable things.

If your software does succeed in addressing the problem domain, then it becomes Golden Age software. Golden Age software is the best of software in the best of circumstances. The team maintaining it is the team who designed it, intimately familiar with all its quirks. The problems it solves are mostly the problems it was designed to solve, within the constraints it was designed to satisfy.

At some point, you’ll find an extraordinarily elegant extension to the software, allowing you to solve an important new problem that wasn’t part of the original design. This solution will be heralded as a validation of how flexible the software is, but in retrospect you’ll realize this was the beginning of the Golden Age’s end: the elegant solve that foretold a growing inability to reason about the software.

Time fosters complexity and decays software. Teams decay too, with folks moving off to other projects and companies. At some point you’ll look up and realize you’re maintaining Post-Apocalyptic software whose evolution has become “lost technology”, harrowing to operate or extend. You have a book of incantations that tend to allow it to keep turning, but no one is comfortable making meaningful changes.

Hunter S. Thompson’s Letter on Finding Your Purpose and Living a Meaningful Life

To be, or not to be: that is the question: Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or to take arms against a sea of troubles…

And indeed, that IS the question: whether to float with the tide, or to swim for a goal. It is a choice we must all make consciously or unconsciously at one time in our lives. So few people understand this! Think of any decision you’ve ever made which had a bearing on your future: I may be wrong, but I don’t see how it could have been anything but a choice however indirect–between the two things I’ve mentioned: the floating or the swimming.

But why not float if you have no goal? That is another question. It is unquestionably better to enjoy the floating than to swim in uncertainty. So how does a man find a goal? Not a castle in the stars, but a real and tangible thing.

…As I see it then, the formula runs something like this: a man must choose a path which will let his ABILITIES function at maximum efficiency toward the gratification of his DESIRES. In doing this, he is fulfilling a need (giving himself identity by functioning in a set pattern toward a set goal), he avoids frustrating his potential (choosing a path which puts no limit on his self-development), and he avoids the terror of seeing his goal wilt or lose its charm as he draws closer to it (rather than bending himself to meet the demands of that which he seeks, he has bent his goal to conform to his own abilities and desires).

In short, he has not dedicated his life to reaching a pre-defined goal, but he has rather chosen a way of life he KNOWS he will enjoy. The goal is absolutely secondary: it is the functioning toward the goal which is important. And it seems almost ridiculous to say that a man MUST function in a pattern of his own choosing; for to let another man define your own goals is to give up one of the most meaningful aspects of life–the definitive act of will which makes a man an individual.

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