Manage or code: pick your own adventure

I was presented with this question the other day: can you NOT code? The answer is: I canâ??t. Iâ??m certainly not the best developer out there, and my current role does not really require coding. But I really love and enjoy it, and whenever I get a chance, I like to get my hands dirty on some quick-win or hobby projects (that’s why I like Javascript and Python that let me get the job done quickly with minimal dependency overhead)

The next question that comes to mind then: do you prefer being a developer or a manager? This is a very interesting one, and I think I could go either way. Being a developer is fun. Developersâ?? lives allow for a delicate balance of logic and creativity. And because the nature of development is so focused, they can truly become masters, experts of their domains. Developers are like alchemists with some special secret knowledge, who can turn clay into gold with their magic touch. And of course, that earns them lots of respect (and monetary rewards too).

A great technical manager is ideally a former developer, so he/she understands how other fellow developers think and work. This manager knows how to make developers happy and get great results: give them uninterrupted environment, challenging and well-defined tasks, reasonable schedules and timely and clear feedback. Managers interact with other roles in the company, so they get the visibility to everything related to a project, from different people and angles. A managerâ??s world is not binary: there are complex human interactions, lots of details to weigh and decisions to make. Great managers are like orchestra conductors: they know how to get everyone play their instrument in harmony with others and produce a beautiful tune.

So if both sets of skills are so valuable, can one person be a programmer and a manager at the same time? The answer to this: probably not. You could have a technical manager who spends a small percentage of time on quick one-off coding tasks. Or, you could have a great developer who plays more of a lead role, but stays very close to the code. If you start demanding of someone to be a great developer AND manage the whole process, it is bound to fail at some point. These roles demand different dynamics: development requires a lot of focus, while managers constantly interact with various people and thus get interrupted quite a lot.

So I think these scenarios work well:

– Youâ??re a technical manager who no longer codes or who codes occasionally and on a small scale
– You’re a developer who takes a lead role within the tech team, but not heavily involved in larger project management

Should a CTO code? Be able to – absolutely. Do it as a daily routine task – no. Hire 2 people – a great manager/leader and an awesome developer, and you will win in the long term.

Which Macbook is the best? The one that you bought

The rumor on MacRumors says that there’s a 13″ Retina Macbook pro coming out soon.

Which is gonna be pretty frigging cool. It also inspired some funny comments and responses, including one from Jesus himself:

Which MacBook is the best? Marco says it’s the 15″ Retina Macbook Pro. While Jeff thinks the line of Pro’s is near dead. And a whole lot of people are fans of Air.

I think all of them are pretty damn good. My mom who got her first Macbook .

I think all of them are pretty damn good. My mom who got her first Macbook earlier this year (thanks to us :) is in love. I switched a few years ago and never looked back. The coolest companies put the option of getting your own Mac setup as a perk. Our tech department started with just a few Mac users, and is now about 90% Apple.

So the debate which one is “the best of the best” is really a simple personal decision – pick one suits your needs (portability vs screen/performance) and join the ranks of the happy ones.

Delicious and easy apple cobbler recipe

Yesterday we went apple picking and got 2 big bags of ripe, juicy apples.

I ate a couple today, but Sean has this funny allergy and canâ??t eat them raw. The good news is – he can eat them as long as they were processed with heat. So I decided to make something quick and easy and found this recipe of an apple cobbler, which only took a bit of time and came out super delicious!

Hereâ??s the recipe (adapted from this site)

Apple mix:
– 7–8 apples, peeled and sliced. Tart ones are recommended, I used a blend of golden delicious, empire and rome beauty
– 3/4 cup of sugar
– 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon

Crumble:
– 1 1/4 cup of sugar
– 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon
– 2 cups all-purpose flour
– 2 eggs
– 2 teaspoons baking powder
– 3/4 teaspoons of salt
– 1 stick of melted unsalted butter (you can use a bit more, 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 sticks)

Layer sliced apples into a baking pan, i used 9×13 inch.
Mix sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle over apples.

Pre-heat the oven to 350 F

Melt butter, set aside.

Combine sugar, cinnamon, baking powder, flour and salt in a big bowl. Add eggs and mix on medium speed, until you get a texture of coarse crumbs. Layer this mix over apples evenly. Then take melted butter and evenly pour it over your topping.

Bake for 45–50 mins or until light brown and apples are done.

Serve with ice cream and enjoy! I really liked it with Haagen Daaz pistachio (my fav)

Time frugality

I was coming home the other day, after a late night in the office. It was around 9:30pm, and on the subway ride home, I thought of the two options I had: 1) switch to another subway line that gets me home in 30 minutes, or 2) switch to another train that takes me home in 12 minutes for an additional $5. It was a simple decision for me: save time and get home faster was worth paying extra money.

This examples describes the thought that I had on my mind lately: what is more valuable, time or money?

I noticed that when me and my friends were younger and poorer financially, money was a very important thing to have. I worked 12 hour shifts, 15 days a month, at a cell phone store to make $400/month (which was a pretty decent pay for a college student in Russia). I had no free time and no life aside from work/school, but I did make some money.

But as we become older, we start to realize that time is just running faster and faster, and there is not enough of it. This makes me think about making the best use of my time, and paying money to save time (think house cleaning, virtual assistants, taking a train vs taking a bus). I will easily pay for services that save me time, and instead use it to be with friends, family, or do important projects and things I enjoy.

I’m interested to hear how other people optimizing and saving time, and meanwhile, here are a couple of good resources on this subject:

  • Ramit has a good post with video in which he addresses the time vs money question.
  • Ari Meisel has a lot of advice on optimization and doing less on his blog

Apple picking near the Big Apple

The fall is here, the days are crips and it’s almost the end of the apple-picking season!

It is still nice and sunny outside, so I encourage you: take your kids, take your wife, take your friends (especially if they have a car) and go have some easy outdoor fun – pick some apples! And pumpkins if your heart so desires.

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Today we went to the beautiful Hudson valley in search of apples. First place, Conklin orchards in Pomona, NY (about 1 hour away) did not have any more apples available for picking (plenty Pokies to Pokies buy – but where’s fun in that?). So we went a bit further up to the New Paltz area (which is a special place for us), it took another hour but was so worth it! We found Hurds’ orchards that still had plenty of apples and other great fun: hayrides, pumpkins, maze, food and hot cider. They currently have 3 varieties of apples – Empire, Golden Delicious and Rome Beauty, all great and super juicy! And you can’t beat the gorgeous views with autumn foliage, and just simple fun of being outdoors with friends.

Don’t judge a startup by its stack

I’ve been interested and reading up in startups in NYC, curious to see what stacks they use to power their applications.

A guy with background in Java set up a Java shop. Another company runs .NET as chosen by their CTO, and also because Microsoft allows startups use their software free/cheap for the first few years under Bizspark. An online publication that runs on WordPress is being moved to Drupal because the CTO is an expert in Drupal.

Question: Does the benefit of expertise in a particular stack outweigh the benefit of using modern solutions that are more attractive to programmers?

What do some seasoned experts think? This deck by Joe Stump provides some advise:

As far as technology, go with what you know. – Marc Cuban

The technology stack you choose is an implementation detail. – Joe Stump

What do you think? Ruby/Python/PHP are easy choices nowaways, but would you go with Java/.NET for building your next big project? How about a newcomer – node.js?