Careers (April Update)

February/March spent some time in the doldrums.

productivity gameIn this periodic update to my productivity game based on Careers (for accountability), I have to admit to slower than expected progress.  As a reminder, the basic goal and object of the game is to reach 20 points in each of the three categories.

At this point, my scores (in deadline order) are:
Fame/Accomplishment: 6
Happiness/Health: 6
Money/Finances: 1

I was expecting to have reached my goal (20 points) in the Fame/Accomplishment category by April 1st, and that would have a knock-on effect for the Money/Finances category, but instead my focus reduced progress in the Happiness/Health area instead.  Bah.

“An explanation, not an excuse.”

Although the tangible progress is less than I hoped right now, I have (with the exception of one bad week) been working hard and long on a number of different projects.  My work on the Goodsol Solitaire Engine (which powers all of our solitaire games) got bogged down in a couple of new features and the associated interface changes on Mac and Windows, but that is almost resolved now, and the iPad version has been making progress, too.  I count five (5!) new titles and major product upgrades due in the next month or two.

Careers (February Update)

Decent progress was made in January.

productivity gameIn order to enhance accountability in this productivity game based on Careers, I plan to post monthly updates to my progress.  As a reminder, the basic goal and object of the game is to reach 20 points in each of the three categories.

At this point, my scores (in deadline order) are:
Fame/Accomplishment:  3
Happiness/Health:  6
Money/Finances:  0  (or 0.7)

I certainly have a way to go on the last one, but my deadline for that is Thanksgiving, and the nature of the challenge is such that that momentum should build throughout the year.  (Anybody truly concerned can, of course, send me large checks or just wads of cash in an envelope.)

Happy Groundhog Day (and Imbolc)!

Today our local groundhog was not able to come out from his burrow without a shovel, so he slept in (rather than looking for a shadow); I think that means that we just got most of our winter at once.

Careers Revisited

Productivity inspiration from a retail board game.

Health / Finances / Accomplishment

In order to measure my progress on my obligations for 2011, and to (literally) make a game out of it, I decided to adapt the old Parker Brothers game, Careers, first published in 1955 (and now available from Winning Moves).

The feature of Careers that makes it appropriate for my purposes is that the object of the game is to “succeed” by earning a combination of Fame, Money, and Happiness, but the exact “Success Formula” is determined by each individual player.  The formula is determined by assigning a total of 60 points to the three categories.

In my 2011 version of the game, I have selected to play a balanced strategy, with 20 points to be earned in each of these updated categories:  Happiness/Health (), Money/Finances (), and Fame/Accomplishment ().  These correspond to my individual, family, and business goals, respectively.  Of course, I will make progress towards success in the real world, rather than moving around a game board.  No dice involved.

At the start of the game, I assigned 20 points to each of my goals and then broke that down further into points for measurable milestones along the way.  Since each goal has a specific deadline, I assigned 5 points for meeting each deadline, and the remaining 15 points (in each category) were divided into at least five different parts.  Additionally, to indicate that simply reaching the goals was not the ultimate desire, I determined three “superwin” targets to pursue as I (hopefully) I blow right past my committed goals.  I want the overall SuperWin by December 31, 2011.

So far, as of the middle of January, my scores (in deadline order) are:
Fame/Accomplishment:  0
Happiness/Health:  5
Money/Finances:  0

Hey, it’s a start. For those familiar with the game, my Occupation Record has “Game Developer” checked (for decades), though I missed the College path the first time around the board.

2011: The Year of "Shall"

This year means more than resolutions.

Before the new year, I made a hard assessment of my goals, past and present, and how well I performed toward achieving them throughout 2010.  My overall performance grade: B.

Although I am very happy with the progress on most fronts, there were some long-term tasks that remained unresolved and continue to linger, and they are a hindrance to attaining my goals.  Perhaps my biggest fault is that when there was so much happening it was difficult to keep focus, although my default action (working) served me well.  In other words, I can almost always justify game development as a top priority.  Still, I am looking for improvement in the upcoming year.

I observe that there are three levels of commitment toward pursuing goals (beyond simply trying; “There is no try.” — Yoda):

  1. Most people make New Years resolutions; they resolve to do something.  This is tantamount to simply deciding what to do, but without necessarily making a solid commitment to actually carry through, perhaps as much about wanting as doing.  The results, as we all know, tend to be measured by how long it takes before the resolution is broken.
  2. People who are more committed say that they will do something.  From a legal standpoint, the word “will” in a contract creates an obligation, but it can be interpreted to mean essentially that the subject will make all reasonable efforts to perform.  This is a stronger commitment, a promise to take action, but with room for excuses.
  3. I have decided that this year I shall do something (three things, in fact).  The use of the word “shall”, in a contractual sense, makes the obligation mandatory; I must complete the goal.  I have fully committed to perform, and not doing so will be outright failure, no excuses allowed.

As noted above, there are three obligations that I shall fulfill this year, each with specific measurements and deadlines.  I selected one individual goal, one family goal, and one business goal (and as it happens, they all have ties to my company).  The business goal has the nearest completion date, followed by the individual goal, and the other (personal) goal is expected to take most of the year.  Of course, the family goal is also going to take the most time and effort to accomplish, but it will be worth it.

My approach in 2011 has been and will continue to be one of “ruthless efficiency“, wherein any task that does not demonstrably lead to progress toward (at least) one of my goals will be deprioritized.  In truth, I am not terribly comfortable with this, even for just a year, but it has to be done.  (I have met people that live their lives this way, and I often find them unpleasant.)  I accept that I will have loads of deferred tasks come 2012, and maybe even some relationships to repair, but at that point I will be in a much better position to deal with such things.

Of course, one possible victim of this temporary purging of tasks and responsibilities could be this very Gamecraft blog.  For the moment, I find writing about game development and related issues to be beneficial to my focus and positive attitude, but if my next post is the last for a year, so be it.

We must use time creatively — and forever realize that the time is always hope to do great things.” — Martin Luther King, Jr.

End Of Year Wind-Down

Digital Gamecraft wraps up business for 2010.

As the holidays arrive at the end of the year, and the beginning of the next, Digital Gamecraft and SophSoft, Incorporated traditionally take off the two weeks that encompass this period of time.  Since Christmas and New Years Day both fall on Saturdays, we were confronted with a decision to either work right up until Christmas Eve, taking off the entire first week of 2011, or to adjourn (and return) a week earlier.  Armed with an incorrect assumption (about federal holidays in the US), the PTB decided on the former, so we depart tomorrow [Friday, December 24] and return to work (officially) on January 10, 2011.  It actually worked out well because we were not yet ready to wrap up business last week.  (In truth, our beta testers will still be seeing activity from me, personally, throughout the official shut down, and our Director of Operations has to come in to run payroll.)

Anyway, despite the absence of most federal employees in observation of Christmas (a day early), we will still be in the office tomorrow; however, there is no reason to lament.  The morning will be dedicated to light work and final preparations for the end of the year, and then the afternoon will be devoted to our holiday party, in which we and our families will gather ’round and play board and card games (away from computers), enjoying various snacks and drinks, along with ample holiday spirit.  (This is a tradition unabashedly borrowed from one at Spectrum HoloByte, enhanced somewhat in our own ways, and minus a visit from Santa Claus, at least this year.)  Of course, the easy workload on Friday means more work for me on Thursday, so…

“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night.”

[from A Visit from St. Nicholas, by Clement Clark Moore (of course)]

I Resolve – 2010

I Resolve

To do what I want,
and to make a living,
To enjoy myself
for a long time.

To have priorities,
and to stay on task,
To keep in touch
with friends and colleagues.

To learn my craft,
and to teach what I know,
To help when available,
and reach those I can.

To be safe and secure,
and to remain aware,
To have clean surroundings
for a simpler life.

To take care of myself,
and to watch over my family,
To find the energy and integrity
to be true to me.

Productivity Boost

Prolific Development Through Isolation

Over the past several weeks, I have been working very hard on a number of exciting new projects, all of which are making great progress.  In the process, though, I have managed to neglect and get a couple of weeks behind on my email, while essentially ignoring all other forms of inbound communication.

The result is that my productivity has increased greatly, while only missing one important piece of information.  Therefore, I have decided to make these changes to my workload permanent.  As of today:

  • I will shut down our email server.  It receives, literally, thousands of messages daily, of which 99.9% is spam; even messages addressed only to my legitimate email addresses are more than 96% spam.  Besides, the old hardware is locking up on a regular basis anyway.
  • I will remove telephone service from the office.  Our two voice lines are used almost exclusively for answering telemarketing calls, and our fax line is disconnected most of the time due to the high volume of spam faxes.
  • I will bring an end to our social media experiment.  In the time that I have been focusing on programming, I have not checked Facebook at all and do not feel that I missed anything.  I feel likewise about Twitter, which I have never checked.
  • I will no longer spend any more than one hour per year writing joke posts for this blog.  It is really too nice outside to be in here right now.
  • I will create a private contact page on our web site exclusively for those who pay us money.  Those wishing to pay us money can initiate contact via blog comments.
  • I will keep the post office box, despite the junk mail, as it is a direct means for us to receive money.  One can avoid the online back and forth by just attaching a check to your message and sending it to our business address.

I can feel my productivity on the rise already!

Compartmentalization

Separating business matters from personal issues

Recently, I received the first newsletter of the year from (friend and former colleague) Steve Pavlina.  For those of you who do not already know about Steve Pavlina, he founded Dexterity Games (now defunct) and published Dweep, an award-winning puzzle game.  He was also the President of the Association of Shareware Professionals and was inducted into the ASP Hall of Fame in 2005.  After this success, he left the game industry to pursue a career in motivational speaking and personal development, writing the book, Personal Development for Smart People.

Anyway, the meat of the newsletter, nestled in between the various sales pitches and recommendations from which he earns his living, was a section entitled, “Living by Your Own Rules“.  This intrigued me, as it seemed to correspond nicely with my personal plans for 2010, so I read on.  However, I quickly discovered that his ideas did not mesh with my own in this case.  It had little to do with the actual content of his writings, but his radical ideas of sharing his personal life (specifically, his sexual preferences and desires) in the place in which he does his business.

Specifically, Steve made a blog post with his 2010 goals in which he reveals his personal goal of pursuing “Alternative Relationship Styles” and goes into detail (for which you will need to read his post).  I have no problem whatsoever with his choice to pursue this lifestyle, but I do question the wisdom of presenting this in a forum in which he currently (by his own numbers) sells six figures a month; it seems risky to the point of potential self-destruction.  More to the point, I wonder what benefit to his business (not to mention personal reputation) he seeks to gain from this pursuit.  (I do see a great benefit in finding compatible sexual partners, though.)

Steve is good at taking things to the extreme, completing college in only three semesters, ramping up his healthy eating through vegetarianism to a vegan diet and finally raw foods, and now personal openness to a radical degree.  He calls this last part “courage”, which it certainly takes, but I am not sure that courage is always the best choice.  Aristotle’s Doctrine of the Mean suggests that the opposite of cowardice is rashness, and this might apply here.  The more common idiom is, “All things in moderation, and moderation in all things.

Personally, I think that it is still wise to compartmentalize to some degree, especially keeping business issues separate from (potentially) controversial personal issues, such as politics, religion, and sexuality.  Discussing the particulars of these in a business context has the potential of alienating people with little chance of significant gain.  I do not have a problem seasoning my business posts with personal items, and I definitely have business friends with whom I share more, but any proclivities I may (or may not :)) have should remain discrete.

Ultimately, I guess that I am intrigued at Steve’s attempt to alter societal norms, and I wish him the best of luck, but I am also glad that it is he, rather than I, who is taking the risk of falling flat on his face.  (Ridicule I could handle; starvation, not so much.)

What do you think?

How I Spent My Summer Vacation

Here is what I did while I was not posting during August and September:

I broke my leg.

During a soccer game, I made an aggressive move toward a 50/50 ball at the edge of the box, looking to score.  Unfortunately, it turned out to be more like 49/51, and I lost, getting kicked solidly in the right shinguard as the ball was cleared.  I pulled myself out of the game and tried to walk it off, and though the pain did not subside, I went back in and finished the game despite my “nasty bruise”.  However, after a week of hobbling around with little improvement (and funny discoloration), I went to get an x-ray and found that my leg was actually broken.

We lost the game by a couple of goals but still finished the season in 3rd place (out of 7 teams) with a 7-5 record and a +27 goal differential.  Thanks for asking.

The actual injury was an anterior malleolus fracture to my right leg, which is a break to the tibia (the larger, weight-bearing bone).  While it is technically a broken leg, the doctor said to think of it as a badly sprained ankle.  Essentially, the ligaments in the inner ankle are so strong that instead of tearing, they actually pull a piece of the bone off.  The cool bit is that x-rays are now digital, so I have a CD-R with images of the original break (but I’m not sharing).

I was initially on crutches, and then used a “rollabout” (which was an out-of-pocket expense because our insurance would not cover an “upgrade” from crutches, despite the prescription) for three weeks.  It is amazing how quickly one loses muscle mass in an unused leg; my calf became the smallest it has been since I was in middle school.  I spent three more weeks in a boot/cast, and at the end of that time was told that my break had healed “perfectly”, though I am still facing many more weeks of exercise to get “back to normal” (whatever that is).

Our web server was end-of-lifed.

We found out, in the most inconvenient way, that our Ubuntu (Linux) web server had been “end-of-lifed”, and was no longer viable.  All support for that version was pulled, so a standard package reinstallation failed, leaving the whole system non-functional.  I had to spend a couple of days rebuilding and reconfiguring the system with a newer version, and it was painful.

This episode is exactly why Linux will never be able to challenge Windows or Mac OS X for the general desktop market.  Despite all of the amenities that make it more consumer-oriented, Ubuntu still requires an operator to be a fanboy to avoid such issues.  Nothing ever told me that the OS would be orphaned/abandoned in 2009, and it took more than an hour doing web searches to even figure out what had happened, nevermind finding the solution.  (In contrast, the NT server box OS has only been upgraded once in 13 years, from NT4 to Win2K, when the hardware failed.)

More succinctly, Linux could not survive without Google.

We reassessed our entire marketing plan.

Our marketing plan is defined very broadly, and it incorporates not only the standard concepts associated with the word, but also general business strategy.  We reconsidered the balance of the various aspects of our development, the status and priority of current projects, and future opportunities.  We evaluated and devised/updated plans for new technologies, platforms, and markets.  This updated blog is just one tangible aspect of our far-reaching plans for success.

Two words: World Domination.

I worked (hard).

In the midst of everything else, I was doing loads of development work.  I made a good breakthrough and huge progress on a major project.  We are now in that “10% of the development takes 90% of the time” phase, though, so things are seeming to be (though not actually) slowing down a bit.

Now that Fall has well and truly arrived here in Michigan (although not before just one more trip to the beach, broken leg and all), and in spite of all that life is throwing at us now, it is the right time to really get things done.  We have our plans, our goals, and our ambitions clear, so all that is left is to execute.

That should be the easy part… 😉

Chinese New Year 2009

I think that this finally brings the 2009 New Year celebrations to an end.

It is time to really get 2009 started properly now. One way to help one focus on goals is to make those goals public, so here goes:

  • Increase product development significantly (by rearranging priorities),
  • Develop at least three major products/updates for Goodsol Development (for Windows and Mac),
  • Release three more projects that have been in development (for several years) internally,
  • Establish baseline marketing and measurement techniques (on which to build), and
  • Move business operations toward a paperless office environment.

Yes, these five goals are quite ambitious but also realistically attainable. One major release every two months (on average) will keep us very busy, but the roadmap for these is already established. Our development projects are all very different and should be enlightening. The Goodsol projects are building on the technological improvements of last year. Finally, the marketing and business plans have internal support and should, ultimately, improve operational efficiency.

By the way, we could still use a few more beta testers for the upcoming version of Pretty Good Solitaire Mac Edition. Anyone interested can email me directly at beta@sophsoft.com, and I will forward your information.

On the personal side, I will keep my exact goals to myself, but I have been playing competitive soccer and am pleased to be back ice racing again this year. I am currently second in points (in class A1) after having a disappointing day in which I suffered not one, but two DNFs (Did Not Finish) due to peeling tires off of the wheels. It has been a nearly perfect year for ice, so I will be repaired and back up in Chippewa Lake this coming weekend for eight more exciting races.

More ice racing pictures should be forthcoming.