Soul-crushing: Corporate Spirit. Art via stock photography.
I don’t even know why I woke up at 4:30am.
I did manage to get to work before that snow turned the highway into parking lots, so that was good. On the other hand, I’m now about as sleepy as it is possible while having my eyes open.
A series of mixes intended for listening while programming to aid concentration and increase productivity (also compatible with other activities).
I have complained about random noise at work over and over again, mostly because I have yet really to solve the problem. I am now giving musicForProgramming() a try, so far it is supremely weird and creepy with a lot of droning sounds and random bits of instrumental music thrown in. I am not too sure how well I can concentrate on work while listening to it.
See also: Music for Brogramming
Currently in my drafts folder:
- Skinner Box
- Why Yoda is harmful
- Why people blog everything
- Why workflows are more interesting than actual work
Who knows when these ever see the light of day.
Don’t tell me I didn’t warn you – in fact, most of the days were so uneventful that I don’t even remember them now, just a couple of days ago.
Monday, January 16th, 2012
I have (finally?) switched from Quicksilver to Alfred. Since I just use those as application launchers and mostly ignore their advanced features, the change was completely transparent to my daily workflow. In fact, someone could have changed them for me and I would probably have not noticed. Except that Alfred yet has to close itself at random times, something that Quicksilver was prone to do to lately.
Tuesday, January 17th, 2012
I got my Facebook Moo cards. Fun!
I have given Alcatraz a chance – it’s the new TV series by J.J. Abrams and has the pretty interesting premise that the last batch of prisoners on Alcatraz somehow vanished in 1963 and now return one by one, going back to being murderers. The first two episodes weren’t bad but nothing too special – I’ll keep watching, in the hope that the “murderer of the week” type of episodes weave a nice mythology arc.
Oh, and it has Parminder Nagra who I’ve liked since Bend it like Beckham.
Oh, and Sam Neill.
Wednesday, January 18th, 2012
The day Wikipedia went black.
Thursday, January 19th, 2012
Friday, January 20th, 2012
Or: The nerds are back in town
For the last two weeks I’ve had blissful solitude here at the office – the three guys who share the room with me were in Munich to do Munich stuff. As someone who snaps out of the zone pretty easily working two weeks without any real distraction was a pretty good thing which ended on that Friday when they came back. 1
Saturday, January 21st, 2012
I don’t know.
I bought Onigiri again and fed one to my sister, who was crashing at my place, as she tends to do when she goes to her courses in Düsseldorf.
Sunday, January 22nd, 2012
The Minecraft bug bit me again, so I basically was digging around on our server all day.
The one important exception to this dismal record is electronic brainstorming, where large groups outperform individuals; and the larger the group the better. The protection of the screen mitigates many problems of group work. This is why the Internet has yielded such wondrous collective creations. Marcel Proust called reading a “miracle of communication in the midst of solitude,” and that’s what the Internet is, too. It’s a place where we can be alone together — and this is precisely what gives it power.
I might have mentioned it before – either here or over on the Twitter – that I am working at a rather noisy office. It’s just something that happens when you put four guys in a room. Someone is always eating something or mumbling or drumming on the table. Keyboards aren’t that silent, either and don’t get me started on scroll wheels. It just can’t be helped.
And then there are discussions. Usually about work-related stuff, but also all too often about why thing X sucks or why people who do thing Y must be stupid.
So, at some point, one either gets used to it, tries to mask the noises with music or tries to find some other way to cope with the constant audio distractions.
This afternoon, I decided to go and check what happens when I run the Inception App at work. And the results are pretty astonishing, really. Stuff that would usually annoy me – nuts getting taken out of an aluminum bag and chewed noisily, random sighs and curses – turn into weird, yet beautiful soundscapes, the distraction becomes audio art.
It’s still distracting as hell, though and I don’t really get any work done because I am too busy listening. I guess I’ll have to think of something else.
For quite some while I have been wondering why I don’t mind my commute so much and why on some days it is even the best part of the day. I have a rather long commute – 60km one way, most of them on one of the busiest motorways of Germany, often with crazy traffic and long jams. It takes up a lot of my time and yet more often than not I enjoy them.
I think I have mentioned it before that for me it is not that easy to get into that state that we like to call “the zone” and the ambient noise in a four-person office isn’t helping. Especially with chronic carrot-eaters, mumblers, sigh-ers, table-drummers, burpers and loud-music-with-crappy-in-ear-headphone-listeners as office mates.1
All the loud dubstep doesn’t help to cover up the carrot-eating noise. Maybe some carrots need to be delivered Mr. Smith-style.
— Dominik Schwind (@dominik) April 29, 2011
So first I turned to music. Randomly playing my iTunes library was a complete disaster. Switching between bubblegum pop, heavy metal, elektro and 80s synth-stuff makes for an interesting listening experience, but does not help with concentrating on work. Quite the opposite, actually. Same, of course, with my last.fm mix station. For a while the dubstep-station on last.fm worked, but not really, either.
I now listen to rain and ocean sounds. NOT HELPING.
— Dominik Schwind (@dominik) Mai 4, 2011
Now I have a white noise software running that gives me ocean and rain sounds. That’s nice. It does not help. For one, it fuels my Wanderlust, which is acting up like mad lately anyway. Also, if I turn it loud enough to drown out the noises, I’ll go deaf.2 And especially the rain part makes me need to pee a lot.
Anyway, all of this complaining is not really the point I wanted to make. The sounds to cover up quite a bit of noise, they do fade into the background and I can concentrate a bit. At least until the next carrot.
The really interesting thing happens when I switch off the software though. My brain got so used to everything being muted down by rain and wave sounds, that when those are missing, everything else sound very very clear. I was surprised how hyper-aware of even small sounds you get after switching off a white noise generator. My steps even on the carpet, the sounds of the water when washing my hands, the droning of the aircon in the washroom, cars going by, the “I need lunch” sounds in my stomach, the phone ringing three doors down the hall, the breeze around the building’s edges. Everything gets REALLY intense.
Is that how taking drugs is like?
- I’m not really blaming them. I tap my foot, I type pretty hard, I use the scroll wheel on my mouse and I tend to hum along to the music I listen to. I am sure they’re just as annoyed by me as I am with them when it comes to office noises and that’s understandable and okay. [↩]
- And believe me, I did consider that as an alternative for a moment. [↩]
Not only since Elvis one of mankind’s greatest fears is to die while on the toilet. It’s hard to think of a less dignified place to spend one’s last minutes.
The second greatest fear and probably the only reason humankind ever decided to invent ways to create fire and thereby artificial lighting is of course – being eaten by a grue.
Now for whatever strange architectural and/or psychological reason someone decided to turn our office toilets into a torture chamber that combines mankind’s two foremost fears.
As you can see, if one is minding his own business, at any given time it might happen that someone switches off the light. And yes, there are two door between the business man and the bringer of darkness. Sometimes this is enough to drown out all kinds of heavy cursing that might happen.
And then what?
You’re sitting there, in the darkness. It is pitch black. You are likely to be eaten by a grue. On the toilet. What will the obituaries say? And who would think of bringing a torch or a match to the bathroom? It’s not very safe to bring those to a location with a high probability of highly flammable gases.
I guess all one can do is send a tweet about it.
Having recently moved to a new office with new office mates1 I started to notice how different the soundscapes of offices can be. While the office before was a rather small thing with four developers who mostly worked on their own code and only had discussions about concepts, I’m now sitting in a rather big room with a bunch of agile people, who do quite a lot of pair programming and a bunch of marketing/product people walking in and out of the office.
And yet it manages to feel less loud and disruptive – I’ve been almost scarily productive the last few days. So, ever since I’ve noticed that,2 my productivity went down again, as I tried to identify the reasons why the soundscape in this office seems more ambient.