The COVID-19 pandemic began to seriously affect life in London just a couple of weeks after I had moved here and started a new job. I had deliberately chosen an employer with a business model rooted in physical space – in real estate – since I had tired a bit of businesses that are, let’s say, mainly virtual.
You can guess what happened next. Virtuality is an advantage in a worldwide pandemic, and real estate business has collapsed for the time being. So less than a month into the new job I was laid off. No hard feelings from my side – I would have let myself go too. My skill set mainly pays off in a growth phase, not in a hunker-down phase.
This marks week four under lockdown and social distancing conditions in London, meaning I have not been leaving the flat other than for grocery shopping or for occasional exercise. Considering the world’s ever gloomier backdrop I’m doing fine. I’m healthy. I’m not lacking anything (other than social contact!). I’m quite good at self-imposing structure on lots of free time. I’m sticking to a lean media diet to keep anxiety at bay. Most importantly, I will probably be employed again soon enough.
I stewed for a couple of days after my abrupt layoff but then a plan presented itself as obvious in my head: I will spend the next few lockdown weeks working on a series of hacks with some connection to the pandemic or the lockdown/quarantine conditions. I will pick ideas off the top of my head and see how far I can drive them with my software generalist expertise.
I don’t know if this will result in anything immediately useful. Some hacks will turn out unpolished or silly or they will fail completely, and that’s ok! The journey is the destination. What matters are the meta-goals:
- To flex my mind while stuck indoors without a real job.
- To try out some new languages, frameworks and tools.
- To plant seeds for potential projects beyond the pandemic.
- To bait potential collaborators, co-founders, employers.
- To relive a happy part of my youth, before I had all-consuming full-time jobs, when this mode of open-ended play constituted a large part of my life.
That last point is probably the most important one, to be honest. I miss the pleasure of just following where my mind is leading me, somewhat unfiltered, free from the constraints of long-term maintainability. I’m very good at building maintainable, scalable software over a long period of time in a collaborative manner – but this break in the world calls for some solo rapid prototyping.
I’m giving myself about 3 days to explore any given idea before I move on to the next. I will publish the results as I go and document them on this blog. Watch this space.
Dear Nick, I highly recommend #5. That’s enough. 🙂
Lockdown Hack #2: Towards proving that social distancing works – Salt Mines