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Embrace the Grind

Jacob Kaplan-Moss:

We’re an industry obsessed with automation, with streamlining, with efficiency. One of the foundational texts of our engineering culture, Larry Wall’s virtues of the programmer, includes laziness.

I don’t disagree: being able to offload repetitive tasks to a program is one of the best things about knowing how to code. However, sometimes problems can’t be solved by automation. If you’re willing to embrace the grind you’ll look like a magician.

Over the last few years I’ve realised that there’s a balance to be struck between automating tasks versus manually tackling stuff. For instance, I have rules set up in Hazel, and macros set up in Keyboard Maestro, to perform tasks when I hit a set of keys or apply a tag to some files, and those save me some time and make my life a bit easier. But sometimes I’ll make time to go in and organise files myself, transfer them elsewhere if need be, or delete them if they’re no longer required. And I will still print things out occasionally, for the simple reason that having it on paper beside me makes it easier for me to cross-reference between what’s on there and what’s on the screen.

I’ve also reduced the number of online services that I rely on, because their utility is contingent on an internet connection plus the servers staying up. Neither of those is an absolute certainty. Local resources may not be able to perform all of the magic, but at least if something goes wrong I’m in a position to fix them or find workarounds.

And while I have a lot of respect for the command line, I find the concept of wanting to not have to leave that environment to be almost fetishistic. I’m old enough to remember working at a physical terminal, and that is not a place I want to be 24/7!

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