What Interest Me This Week

Dungeons & Dragons and remote collaborations

Me and my team has been operating remotely for some time, but it's easy to fool ourselves that we're doing great. The benefits of remoting are enormous, I don't need to cover them here.

But I can't help wonder what's missing from our regular Microsoft Teams sessions that coulda make them much better. Considering how prevalent this issue is across the globe, this could be a billion-dollar problem.

Times like this I tend to steal concepts from other domains, which brings me to Dungeons & Dragons.

I grew up having zero exposure to table-top RPGs. I only know D&D by reputation, I intend to find out more. My hunch is that what makes an RPG session engaging is also informative about what makes a good video call session.

And if there's anything to steal there, the solution probably wouldn't be technological.

Specifically the qualities in a video call I'm looking for are two: spontaneous group laughter and increased interaction between group members.

I think there's no point trying to replicate the mechanics of face-to-face sessions. It's better to respect web conference as a medium of its own and play to it in a way that's unique to its strength.

I suspect humans are gonna be shaped into adapting to web conference rather than comparing its shortcomings to being in-person. Complex etiquettes, protocols and pyscho technologies are gonna emerge to complement.

How to read programming books

From time to time I come across technical books I think I'd do well to read. These books are often in the same genre as O'Reilly books with animals on its covers.

I haven't done that in awhile, preferring instead to learn the solutions from the web when I come across the problems in real-time. Which suggest that problems I come across are not that deep to require devouring a whole book. The last one I remember was on domain-specific languages, even then I didn't finish the book before getting to execution.

Now I wonder if I've been reading these books the wrong way. Approaching them like a schoolboy, covering them from front to back is a naive method.

Maybe there are strategies that would increase my return of investment versus time-spent.

On a related problem, picking what to learn is another game itself. There's a difference between turning known-unknowns into known-knowns versus turning unknown-unknowns into known-unknowns.

A side commentary: dabbling in expanding unknown-unknowns is the most fun with the least payoff.