s2e25: Brief Notes 

by danhon

0.0 Sitrep

Those of you who have been following along for a while will know that one of the things that I deal with is chronic depression. Sometimes it’s better and sometimes it’s worse, and over the last few days – in all likelihood, for the last few weeks – it’s been worse. It’s a kind of creeping thing that seems obvious in hindsight or where the signs might be there, but it doesn’t really hit you until you’re, say, right at the beginning of a big conference and you realise that you can’t face going and that you don’t have the energy, inclination or strength to meet people and talk to them. Or that you don’t even have the energy to go and listen to people who you’ve paid good money to hear from.

So that’s how I’ve spent the past few days: not going to XOXO and instead, being at home, being completely and utterly depressed and deflated and not being able to face my friends, never mind any other interesting new people I might have met. It meant not wanting to go to any of the parties or the opening talk or anything other than sitting at the back of the balcony on my own on Saturday, for just one day’s worth of talks, and then slinking off at 5pm at the end of the day.

And part of that was: I didn’t want to see my friends and talk about how everything was fine, I didn’t want to meet new people and have to tell them everything was fine and I didn’t want to lie about how everything was fine because inside it doesn’t feel like everything’s fine. Inside, it feels like everything is terrible, but that’s the thing about depression: it’s not that it just *feels* like everything is terrible and useless and pointless and that you’re a waste of space that people would be better off without you, it’s that you believe it, too. It is as if someone has stuck a giant magnet on the side of your head and trans-cranial magnetic stimulation-ed you into sincerely and truly believing all of those things. It is the self-worth equivalent of Winston giving in and actually believing that two plus two is five.

And I know – there’s another part of my brain that’s Chinese-walled off – that *this too shall pass* because I can objectively look at the last thirty six years of my life and say, yes, I haven’t felt this way all the time, but right now, it feels like I will feel this way all the time. And I can’t talk to future me who doesn’t feel this way, and I can’t talk to past me who doesn’t feel this way either. And it doesn’t help that I know that there are tens, maybe hundreds of tiny little triggers or beats of a butterfly’s wing or snowflakes that led to an avalanche or whatever peturbations in the network of my head because there are some that I know about and some that I don’t and some of them were just *shit that happens in life* and some of them weren’t, and I sure as hell am not going to talk about them here.

And in a dumb way, though, it’s easier for me to write this here than to talk to any of the people who were in Portland over the last couple of days. It is, even, embarrassingly and to my shame, easier to write this here than it was to say to my wife.

So, I’m hiding. Only now I’m obviously not hiding, at least, not in one significant way.

Right now, it’s 1:26am on Monday, 14 September 2015.

1.0 Brief Notes

I am reading but have not finished IF THEN by Matthew De Abaitua and there is one phrase that I scribbled down which was that “in a network, causality is distributed across space and time” which I was very excited about when I read it, or at least, it lit up a bit of my brain that wanted me to keep a note of it because it means that we’re completely fucked if we want to understand why it is that things happen. Because if causality in a network is distributed across both space and time, we probably lack the mental architecture to keep all of those variables in place. We didn’t evolve with networks. I suppose we evolved being able to understand local causality – the kind that says that if we pull all the water out here, then there might not be any left. Or that those of us who did understand a more networked causality were out-competed and that’s why we’ve got intensive farming now and most native Americans, well, they didn’t win, did they.

I have another note which I scribbled which was along the lines of DevOps All The Things, and how digital and continuous deployment lets us in theory do things like CommunicationOps and Prod(uct)Ops and ServiceOps which would help people outside of the development/engineering bunker understand that the beauty of DevOps was Always Being Able To Make A Thing Better All The Time.

And finally, my son – who’s about two and a half years old, don’t worry, we’ll soon hit the time when we’re not counting in halves and he’ll just be integers old – got an email from Withings because every so often he plays with our Withings Scale which means every so often he weighs it. Now, I’ll take an opportunity like that, so my son has a profile which means Withings can track his weight. This means that Withings knows how old he is, because part of the deal of having a profile is telling Withings what your date of birth is. Which is why it was a) perplexing, b) amusing and c) downright predictable that Withings sent my toddler an email that his “hard work will pay off!”, that he shouldn’t be “discouraged by last week’s results. We believe in you!” Withings went on to helpfully say “let’s set a weight goal to help you shed those extra pounds” above a graphic that indicated that my son’s current average weight was 29.2 lbs.

This was because my son had put on 1.9lbs in the last week, which apparently meant that he was an Opportunity for Engagement and that it was a good time to tell him that “No Goal Set” and that users who weigh themselves regularly are 4 times more likely to reach their weight goal.

So let’s recap: Withings a) knows my son’s age, b) knows how much he weighs, and c) still sends an email targeting *weight loss*. This is not because “computers”. This is because “didn’t think it through”. This is because despite being a “family” device, Withings demonstrates that it isn’t. In the spirit of not just being a complaining curmudgeon who’s going to quite happily use this as a case study in my next talk, I’m also going to click the “Send Feedback” link that was preceded by this copy: “You’ve just read your Weekly Report. Have some feedback? We’d love to hear your input to continue to provide the best possible experience!”

1:43am, and I’m going to try to go to sleep.

Best,

Dan