Being interested

Two nights ago, I crashed into bed with my mind racing. It was 12:30am, my eyes weren’t focusing anymore, but the “voice” in my head was trying out all sorts of things that I wanted to get up and write about. Now I can’t remember much of it, which is really darned annoying. I’m going to take a stab at this anyway…

I know that it started out with some musing about how I felt “trained” out of talking about the things that I find interesting. They make piss poor small talk, and most people’s eyes start glazing over. That’s kind of annoying, but other than a really good ice or snow storm, I mostly don’t get much interested in the weather. Politics is just a disaster, and I don’t know a damn thing (nor care about) sports. Yeah, I’m in a chit-chat/small talk sort of hell. To be clear, I’m not into the “ooh, look – my CPU is bigger than your CPU” sort of technical mishmash, I instead prefer a good conversation on the benefits of optimizing against developer or processor time. The issues of heat vs. performance and how it’s becoming a force to be reckoned with in progamming, or what makes up a good UI element. But that is all pretty much an aside.

A week ago I gave a presentation at work that I worked myself into a frenzy over. In retrospect, it went very well. I’ve received some impressive kudo’s for it. And yeah, I can still see all the warts and flaws. For the insatiably curious, it was on using Maven 2 as a build tool and how we should be transforming our use of Perforce from old habits.

I started working on the talk back in September. I hate to admit it, but wanting to do well on the talk put it off for literally months. It’s a little bit about momentum. I knew that the talk would be a big push on momentum of using Maven, I want it to succeed, and I was worried that if I screwed it up, it would have the inverse effect. People would think the idea of using Maven internally sucked, and I’d have rolled this development-process-momemtum to a horrific and grinding halt.

In December, I scheduled the talk to force myself to stop putting it off. I thought maybe 10-15 people would show. Over 40 signed up. 30 actually showed – it was standing room only for the last few. I’d spent hours and hours rehearsing it, editing it, trying it out. I think I completely redid that talk 3 times. I read nearly every post on presenting by Kathy Siera and Damian Conway that I could find. It helped. I was still quietly (or not so, to some of my friends) paniced. I knew I still had a fatal flow of too many messages in my story.

In the end, being interested is what I think made the presentation work. And that is what (somehow) ties back to first comments – that I like and am interested in things other folks find not-so-interesting. I believe that simply by being interested and knowledgable in the subject, it lends a fair amount of credibility that I happily took credit against. I don’t think the intracies of automatic transitive dependecies in builds and making the development process better with it is going to be a common cocktail party topic – but hey, over a good beer it’ll do fine. Thank god I go out drinking with other Mac programmers periodically, or I’d never get to talk about the geek stuff without someone glazing over.

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