inessential by Brent Simmons

November 2020

No Jedi

Read this to get some relief from your impostor syndrome.

* * *

During a family Zoom, a relation mentioned they might need to ask for my help with a thing (sharing videos) that I know nothing about.

Almost every single other person on that Zoom would have been a better-than-me choice on this particular topic. But I’m a computer programmer, so people look to me for tech support.

You’ve run across this too, right? Friends and family think, because you’re in tech, that you’re a computer tamer who’s on intimate terms with every feature of every app. They think you know how to make computers sit up straight and mind their manners.

You and I know that’s not true. You and I know that being in tech means that you wish, with a frequency and fervor that would astonish outsiders, that a cleansing fire would one day ignite that burns up all the computers in the world.

“The computers earned it. They brought this on themselves,” we’ll say. While everyone else panics, you and I will know that this fire is, at long last, justice.

* * *

I’ve noticed many times that a developer as senior as I am — now with 40 years writing code on Apple computers — is assumed by newer developers to be a kind of Jedi. As if I’m on intimate terms with every API in every framework; as if I’m deeply learned in every single tool, from Git to Jenkins to AppFigures; as if I know how to make App Store Connect sit up straight and mind its manners.

I don’t know about other senior developers, but I can tell you about me. I have decades of experience and an amount of wisdom. I’ve written some bad, some good, and a couple great apps over the years.

But I’m no Jedi.

This tweet I posted on Saturday has, at this writing, almost a thousand likes. I conclude that it resonates.

I had an app on day one of the App Store — and now, 12 years later, I realize I still have no mental model of how signing, certificates, and provisioning profiles work.

Whenever I need to do something, I just fuck around till it passes the tests.

Maybe there are senior developers who have both breadth and depth — they know everything and know it all well — but I suspect that’s the rare case.

Experience and wisdom count for more than vast technical knowledge. And, in fact, I don’t have that knowledge, except in the few places where I need it. (You couldn’t even call me a Mac power user. Outside the realm of Xcode and app development I use my Mac in the simplest of ways.)

I know how to get technical knowledge, though. I look things up. I learn. I ask questions. I ask for help. Same as you!

And I find some tools — such as Apple’s for setting up app IDs, certificates, and so on — to be as impenetrable and frustrating as everyone else does.

Nope. No Jedi here.

Normalizing Care

When cases rise, they rise. The risk now is higher than ever.

Some things I think about…

Even going for a ride in the car is a risk. A friend got in a car accident (fault: other driver) and was taken to the ER in an ambulance, where my friend could have been exposed to the virus.

Let’s say I go for a ride and my car breaks down. I’d have the AAA person coming and a trip to a service station in my future. Is that all safe?

Another friend is currently in quarantine after a trip to the dentist resulted in contact with a person who subsequently tested positive.

I keep thinking: something we’ve done a dozen times isn’t necessarily safe. It’s just that the odds haven’t caught up yet. Next time could be the time.

Something that feels safe isn’t necessarily safe. Our feelings are the opposite of helpful — they’re convincing us of things that aren’t true.

I’ve twice had the vital duty of being in the hospital room when a family member dies. What if I couldn’t have been? What if no family could be there? I can barely think about this without tearing up. What if it were me in the hospital, and my family couldn’t be there — what would that do to them?

What if a family member has a heart attack and can’t even get a bed in the ICU?

What if I give the virus to a family member and they die?

Anyway: please be careful. I know there’s pressure not to. But thousands of people alive and healthy today will be dead by New Year’s. Being careful saves lives.

I’m so happy today — and full of gratitude to everyone who worked so hard for this, and to everyone who worked to make the last four years less dark than they might have been. Thank you!

NetNewsWire 5.1.2 for Mac

We’ve released NetNewsWire 5.1.2 for Mac and submitted NetNewsWire 5.0.5 for iOS to App Store review.

Both fix some bugs, including crashing bugs, and increase performance.

We plan for these to be the final 5.x builds — next up will be test builds of NetNewsWire 6, which will support more syncing systems, including iCloud. The team is psyched!