The news from my navel
Over the past month, I've been posting my most interesting failures
from my personal backlog/stash.
I always try to write up a postmortem of my projects, whether they succeed, partially succeed, or fail, so one day I can learn from them. Recently I nearly lost this personal stash of depressing documentation (the hard disk got rained on) and I decided that it would be best to whip some into shape for the blog and get them out there, and try to learn from them, personally. Maybe others can too. It still hurts to talk about some of this stuff... but as Spider Robinson says: "Pain shared is decreased, joy shared, increased"
I'm also... in the middle of temporarily, most likely, permanently, halting two R&D projects that I had intended to spend 5 years working on, 3 years in. I'm a month into writing up the postmortems. There were plenty of successes, and more than a few failures. Given all the work I did, it will take me months more to finish writing up the descriptions of the projects and what went right and wrong... and I guess that it's easier to look at the other things I did in the past that didn't work out and finish writing THOSE up than it is to turn into readable text the reams of lab notes and documentation I currently have on what I've been doing for 3+ long, lonely years.
I tried to go into my last two projects with my eyes open, fully aware I was doing R&D and R&D, almost by definition, doesn't go the way you want it to.
But after a while, I got pretty emotionally invested in them and couldn't see the forest for the trees. It took an enormous kick in the ass for me to get out of the jungle (the survivor tv show rented the house I was living in out from under me) and gain enough distance from those projects to be able to see that I cannot continue at the present state of technology. I just spent 4 months traveling the US, trying to gain clarity, and find somewhere other than California, or Nicaragua, where I might live, and do something else, simpler, that I might succeed at, or leverage what I just did, notably with ipv6, in building out the rest of the Internet, elsewhere.
While in the States, I did some interesting consulting on a lawsuit
concerning patent 7035281
, filed in september 2000, which basically patents most of the features in a Linux based wireless router...
...for which my friend greg and I had prior art in 1998
. Portions of my blog are now in the court record, including this piece
, where I counseled Dave Cinege:
I'm no stranger to getting so wrapped up in a project that I confuse it with growing a child. I've done it multiple times before, and I'll probably do it multiple times again, until I actually get around to growing a child. It hurts to give up a project that isn't rewarding - but it's not a child - you CAN and SHOULD abandon it if it isn't working out, and fill up that empty space with something else.
As I talked about this - now 12 year old project - with Cisco's lawyers, and others, and reflected on all the changes in the world since then, and where we succeeded and failed, then, and what happened since, I kept thinking it was long past time to take my own advice.
The rainy season in Nicaragua is driving me nuts! I have no internet at my new (rented) home, 6km out of town, and the road I live on is frequently impassible, so I have plenty of time to write, think, and plan... still, I find getting to town, and on facebook, on occasion, is a comfort, given what I'm writing about and the size of the plans I'm trying to make.
I'm planning on either moving deeper in the jungle or to Colorado, in a few weeks. Mostly, I'm thinking, Colorado. I have friends and family there, I really enjoyed my visit there, it's a lovely place, the people are great, and there is at least some high-tech there that might need my skills.
It's been oddly comforting reviewing the four failures
I've written up so far, years - in one case, decades - after they happened. Themes have emerged - being too early, or underfunded, Paul Graham's truism that "the best people didn't work for me", and totally unanticipated and project killing problems with the toolchains and chips themselves - that were completely outside my control and range of expertise at the time.
Gaining wisdom comes hard.
Probably the best news from my navel was that doing the write-ups - spending the time to coherently write and publish, in English, about what we did - as we did with the wireless howto
- was probably the smartest response to success AND failure anyone could have come up with.
In most cases, eventually, the technology progressed until something like the original vision came into existence.
I will continue writing up the failures series - and I hope that others have the courage to do the same - but I'm going to take a break from these writeups for a while and try to pull together my plans for the future. Maybe I'll take the time to write up a few successes, too.
I've missed living in Civilization. Perhaps it missed me.