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Why did I stop blogging?

I haven’t been blogging like I used to. It’s been a month since my last post (and that was just a silly cartoon). I’ve been thinking about why this is, and there are some typical expected reasons (busy work schedule, extra non-work commitments, a recent move, etc etc). This is all part of why I’ve fallen off the blogging wagon, but it’s not the whole story. This post is a bit of a dive into my psychology, trying to get at why I blog and where I’m trying to get to in my life. This isn’t a technical post and it’s not really even about Flex. It’s about me and my brain and my feelings. So if you don’t like mushy crap, you can stop reading.

First, the standard stuff:

  • Intense work
    I took a full-time gig with Universal Mind and we’re about to launch the product that I’ve been working on for a very long time. It’s one thing to work on a consulting gig where you walk in, do your shit, and get out. This is different. This product has so much of my time and energy invested in it. It’s my baby, and because I’m so invested, it consumes more of my mental time than any consulting project ever did. It’s not like I work 100 hour weeks for UM, I work normal hours. But my head doesn’t shut off when I commit my night’s changes and walk away from the computer. So that means I’m thinking about Flex for a huge portion of my non-work hours.
  • Writing Flex for Dummies
    Flex For Dummies basically took over my weekends for 7 months of my life. I wrote from Friday night to Sunday night (our deadlines were Monday and I usually turned in a chapter around 1 am). I didn’t go out, I didn’t go on weekend trips. And the last thing I wanted to do was blog. But that process is over and the book’s about to come out! I now have my weekends back, but I also have a new appreciation for my free time. I used to do a lot of blog posts over the weekends, now sitting in front of the computer is the last thing I want to do.
  • Moving in with my girlfriend
    It’s been about a month since I moved from San Francisco to Berkeley and moved in with my girlfriend. So I was dealing with the whole packing and moving thing, and also adjusting to the new living situation. Things have been fantastic since moving in, and this is another reason I’m not blogging as much. After a day of work I’d much rather go to dinner with my girlfriend and spend time hanging out with her instead of sitting in front of my monitor writing code.

So that’s all the stuff that I’d tell you if you asked me why I haven’t been blogging. “Man, I’ve just been so busy, I can’t find the time.” There’s a lot of truth to that, I certainly don’t want it to sound like I haven’t been busy. But largely the “I’ve been busy” excuse is bullshit. So why haven’t I been blogging?

I’m not hungry anymore.

Now we’re getting to the meat of this. I’ve been thinking about what drives me to blog and reflecting on the past year and a half. I’ve had a crazy ride. I went from being an unknown kid learning ActionScript and Flex to being a semi-famous-within-a-very-specific-geek-circle, book-writing, highly-paid, influential expert (and yeah, clearly you can tell that it’s all gone to my head). And it all happened in a year. My salary multiplied, I was speaking at conferences, I had a book deal. That’s some seriously crazy shit. That wasn’t entirely my plan from day one, although as things started picking up steam I started aiming higher and higher. I wanted to be famous. I wanted people to think I was good. I wanted to be in demand, to be sought after.

And so now what? What’s the next step? I’ve got a stellar job, I make bank, my book’s about to come out, I’ve got a reputation I’m proud of, and I’m being flown halfway around the world to speak at a conference. The people that I thought were rockstars, that I learned so much from while I was getting started (and still do every day); they all know who I am now (some of them are even good friends).

I used to be so hungry to prove myself. If someone had a coding problem they couldn’t solve I wanted to be the guy who showed everyone how to do it. I wanted people to stop and say “woah, where the fuck did this guy come from?” And now that I got that I guess I feel a bit drained. That fire to be the best, to be known, is dampened. I’m not saying I’m the best, I’m just saying I no longer care like I used to.

The Tech
There’s also a technology aspect to this. I’m starting to feel like I’ve taken Flex as far as it will go. I started proving small things; how to make little components, or how to hack some piece of the Flex framework. And I rode that until I knew Flex inside and out. I hit every brick wall (I climbed over or busted through some). And it was all so challenging and rewarding. I was unlocking secrets, uncovering things people didn’t know. But in terms of intellectual curiosity I’ve exhausted Flex 2 and 3. Of course there’s always new stuff in Flash Player 10 and Flex 4 that is going to be really interesting. But my interest has been shifting. I don’t want to solve small problems with a component or with a framework. I want big problems. I want new problems. I want real problems. I want to solve something that’s not just a technical detail.

I’m not ditching Flex or ActionScript. On the contrary, I feel like I’ve gotten to the point with the technology that I’m supposed to be: Flex and ActionScript are just tools to solve problems, not problems in themselves. When I started blogging Flex was a problem I was chipping away at, hacking together examples and tweaking the framework to get it to serve my needs. Now I want to move beyond that, and take on problems that are information problems on their own, and Flex just happens to be the best tool I have at my disposal.

The Next Step
I’ve been reading a good bit about information visualization as a field of research and soaking in as much as I can. The product I’ve been working on for Universal Mind takes geographic information visualization to a level that nobody’s done yet on the web (I put the “on the web” qualifier there, but I hope we’re working on stuff that pushes limits for any software, online or offline). And that’s just scratching the surface. There’s a ton room for innovation in the geo space. It’s a field that has so much potential but is stifled by a few big players and their ideas about how things are supposed to work. So I’m hoping I can help shake that up a bit. But geospatial information is just one small piece of the whole pie. I want to visualize everything. I want to create new ways of seeing data. And this is a field without limits. There is no end to the possible innovation.

So in the months ahead I hope to use this blog as an experimental proving ground for my forays into data visualization. I’m doing a lot of this for work, which is awesome because that means I get paid to do interesting work, but it has the downside that I often can’t share code. I imagine there will be more posts that are examples of what we’ve done (videos or live apps) that don’t show exactly how we did it. That sucks, but I think there’s still a lot to be said for showing off inspirational stuff. I’m also going to be trying to refocus on blogging small experiments in data visualization.

So if you’ve made it this far I’m impressed you read through my psycho-babble ramblings (or maybe you just skipped to the end looking for something worthwhile). From here on out I’ll probably keep the “dive into Doug’s head” type of posts like this to a minimum, and get back to blogging cool tech.

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9 thoughts on “Why did I stop blogging?

  1. Hi Doug,

    That is a great post, and demonstrates probably the most important qualities of your personality that has allowed you to achieve the success you have thus far. An analytical mind, the desire to solve an ever expanding scope of big problems, and the introspection required to constantly fine tune your direction and keep yourself on course.

    Like you, I believe data/information visualization is going to be a huge area of innovation, especially combined with the haptic technologies being introduced to the mass market (aka iPhone.) Pushing beyond Tufte, Few and some of the old guard into new areas of human computer interaction with technologies like Flex (and others) is going to be an exciting journey.

    Can’t wait to see in action and see you blog about some of the innovation as it becomes more public.

    – Tom Gonzalez

  2. Hi Doug,
    Thanks for sharing. I enjoyed reading your post. It is fascinating to read about other people’s thoughts and to get to peek into their minds. Then again, I definitely share your excitement for data visualization. Looking forward to see your vision & ideas in this field…
    Regards,
    Daniel

  3. Thanks for sharing mate. I have found myself in a similar frame of mind lately. Not the huge coin, or the Rockstar status, but more loosing the “hunger” as it were. I guess thats where you have to move onto a personal project (one close to what your interested in) to keep that hunger there. Me personally Im into hardware, so Im learning more C and hope to tie Flash and C together more (wish the iphone had flash)

  4. Kevin Schmidt says:

    Doug,

    Sounds like you need a vacation! Shut down the motor for a bit, relax, take your mind off of things! Don’t let yourself get burned out!

    Spending a week or two on a beach somewhere remote will do wonders!

    Kevin

  5. Jamie Badman says:

    He’s given us all up for a girl, guys… our virtual drinking buddy’s got himself whipped 😉

    C’mon Doug – sneak out now and again and do a bit of illicit blogging on the side, you know you want to 😉

  6. barry.b says:

    I’m probably wide of the mark here but the first read of this sounds very much like burnout, at least that’s what I’m seeing elsewhere in growing numbers.

    back in the day I could always tell the serious drinkers over the “flash in the pans” – they were the ones with a full-strength beer in one hand and a glass of water in the other. and they kept partying on while the others collapsed in a heap on the floor.

    do you see it as a sprint? or a marathon?

  7. Ped says:

    >

    Are you kidding?! These are the best kind of posts! The enjoyment of reading your blog is 20% Flex-insight, 80% Doug-soul. I’m tuning-in to watch the grand evolution of Flex->InfoVis->Introspective Spiritual Realization on Life, the Universe and Everything (heck, you’re just one strip down the middle short of the meditative-monk haircut as it is).

    You Rock on, Jazz Pilgrim!! 🙂

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