Monday Links 25

🤖 I’m interested in the state of AI, how I might use it, and the possible repercussions on my work and the rest of the world. The best single place I’ve found for that is Jack Clark’s Import AI newsletter. It’s been the source of several Monday Links. An alum of El Reg, Jack Clark is the co-founder of Anthropic and was Policy Director at OpenAI before that. I mention all of this to demonstrate that Clark isn’t just a techbro moving from blockchain to AI, he’s a genuine expert and a bloody good writer.

📗 I recently finished Four Thousand Weeks by Oliver Burkeman. The subtitle of my copy is “Time and how to use it”. The American subtitle appears to be “Time management for mortals”. I think both of these do the book and author a disservice. The fundamental thesis is of Four Thousand Weeks is that time isn’t something we can manage or use. Our time on life is short and as long as we look for ways to make “the best use of our time” or to save time, we will probably always feel behind, or guilty, or disappointed in some way big or small. Burkeman makes the case that our quests to be more productive or fit more in generally make things worse because they just highlight how many things we could have done but didn’t.

Burkeman encourages use embrace finitude, to find meaning in the everyday, to stop trying to make a dent in the universe and look to making a positive impact on the people around us. Volunteer locally rather than found a startup. Enjoy the local hills rather than being determined to only be satisfied by conquering Everest. Realise that just like we are part of the universe, time is a part of us. Needless to say, I found the book quite refreshing.

Monday Links 24, but on a Tuesday


As part of embracing being open to work, I’m trying out Badger, a new tool for asynch, timeboxed, focused conversations. The group I’m in is centered around the networking aspect of Badger - it’s a collection of folks with a similar goal asking questions and sharing advice.

My favourite part of Badger is how you set up your profile: rather than retreading your LinkedIn headline there are several prompts you can choose to answer, some professional, some personal, some random. It’s a much more engaging way of talking about yourself.

I haven’t tried the audio feature yet. I think I’m a text guy. My Badger profile is open if you want to get in touch.

Cal Newport: What Kind Of Mind Does ChatGPT Have?

The response to ChatGPT, and to the other chatbots that have followed in its wake, has often suggested that they are powerful, sophisticated, imaginative, and possibly even dangerous. But is that really true? If we treat these new artificial-intelligence tools as mysterious black boxes, it’s impossible to say. Only by taking the time to investigate how this technology actually works—from its high-level concepts down to its basic digital wiring—can we understand what we’re dealing with. We send messages into the electronic void, and receive surprising replies. But what, exactly, is writing back?

Open to work

Update: As of June 2023, I’m happily employed at The Co-operative Bank.

I posted this message on LinkedIn and I think it’s worth posting here too, should folks be interested in working with me.

After nine and a half years at Xero, I’ve decided it’s time for a change. My last day will be at the end of this month, and I’m excited to explore new opportunities in the software development world.

I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished during my time there. I was fortunate enough to work with several great development teams and contribute to the development of many useful features. I helped with Xero’s migration to AWS, which enabled us to grow to over 3 million customers. I participated in countless interviews and it was my pleasure to say says to dozens of fantastic developers, team leads, and products owners who became friends and mentors.

I loved working with our designers, product managers, and CX team too. A highlight was winning the XPLORE hackathon twice by assembling a crack team, working through the CX team’s list of bugs and shipping the fixes.

The thing I will look back on most fondly were the opportunities I was given to help grow and develop our engineers and leaders. The work to rebuild the Grad Programme delivery team with talented folks from around Xero and beyond and then successfully rebooting the learning program to award-winning acclaim is a career highlight I’ll never stop talking about.

As I look for my next big role, I’m going to be a bit picky. I’m eager to work in the problem spaces that I enjoy, which include product startups, big hairy software upgrades and migrations, and engineering culture development. If you know of any opportunities in those areas, please don’t hesitate to reach out!

TDD, Where Did It All Go Wrong, a talk by Ian Cooper

This classic talk by Ian Cooper is a breath of fresh air. Copper quick;y covers Test Driven Development as it is generally practiced, the arguments against TDD and why those arguments feel right, and then goes back to the principles and practices of TDD as described by Kent Beck in Test Driven Development By Example.

The two points that have changed my game:

  • Test modules, not classes - which means you need to think much more about the design of your system, the actual interfaces that programmers will use, and the flow of data. That eventually leads you to ports and adapters, which Cooper briefly talks about at the end.

  • Refactoring is the key part of the process. If you properly refactor from working but filthy to working and clean when you intitally develop your system you should be able to continue to maintain your code, making changes to the implementation details without having to change tests.

The talk is an hour long, but it’s well worth it.