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I [heart] code! .NET musings from the chick side

I am fortunate to live on a vast network of trails that start literally in my backyard… there is a trailhead two feet from the end of my driveway. These asphalt trails are plowed in the winter and wind through the backyards and parks, around the lakes, and along the streams of my suburban neighborhood. There are 20+ miles of trails available without ever stepping foot onto a roadway.

As I was finishing a run a little over a year ago, it occurred to me to wonder why I was running on the street instead of the trail.  I realized that I actually rarely run that piece of trail, and it is one of the most scenic and peaceful stretches of trail in the system. This was very curious to me… why would I be in the habit of avoiding this section of trail?

As I thought about that stretch of trail, I realized that one if its characteristics was it is not flat. There are several small hills, and you always seem to be going either up or down for about a mile. I additionally realized that since I have been running with my Garmin watch, I am always keeping track of my pace, even if at a subconscious level. Even for runs that are not pace-focuses, I am always keeping score in my head of the effort-level of whatever pace I happen to be running, with the ever present goal of decreasing the effort needed to maintain a certain pace.

Of course, hills slow me down. The effort needed to maintain a certain pace is vastly greater on a hilly run than on a flat run. What had been happening was that focusing on a particular metric, I have subtly altered the way in which I perform that activity. And that change extended to runs where that metric was absolutely meaningless. Subconsciously my mind was trying to optimize for something that didn’t matter, and I unwittingly made tradeoffs- in this case, in the form of a less scenic running route.

I wondered where this applied in other areas of my life. What things do I avoid unconsciously because of some optimization I am trying to make or avoidance of effort?

I have spent my career focusing on middle and backend tiers because I am NOT a designer. Anyone who has seen my demos can attest to this. But I realized that having a creative deficiency in terms of visual aesthetics does not mean that I cannot dive into the technologies behind the UI tier. And so I began to hit up JavaScript and AJAX, and began my journey in WPF and SilverLight- technologies I had always avoided. I finally realized that I don’t have to make pretty designs to write good code. When I stopped being focused on the “pretty” metric, I was free to explore and learn without holding myself back behind self-created limitations.

And yes, my designs still suck, and the UIs are definitely not pretty. But there is some darn cool code underneath!

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Posted on Thursday, May 14, 2009 7:11 AM | Back to top

Comments on this post: My Coding Hill

# re: My Coding Hill
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Excellent post. It's always hard to get out of your comfort zone. I have always shied away from releasing my "trying something" code to anyone except my close friends for fear that the community at large would eat me up. You've inspired me to do more of that.

Left by Lee Brandt on May 14, 2009 6:54 PM

# re: My Coding Hill
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Great post. You're trail analogy applies in many choices we make. It also works the other way; sometimes I choose the difficult-complicated way to do something when the flat path would be quicker and just as good.

You should at least 'walk' your trail in the park - it sounds lovely:)
Left by Maggie Longshore on May 15, 2009 8:15 AM

# re: My Coding Hill
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Oh yes, I run the trails all the time now. Not running them was an unconscious decision... as soon as I realized it, I adjusted my behavior.
Left by Kirstin on May 18, 2009 4:14 PM

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