Arnt Gulbrandsen
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2011-04-06

Into the flow, quickly

One really good thing I learnt from working with Abhijit on Archiveopteryx is how to get quickly into the flow. Click, flow.

The basic pattern involves a good kind of task, and a good way to get to it. Both parts are vital.

The task may be to handle a test failure, a documentation omission, the simple kind of bug. Anything that's part chore (to start on it without flow) and part flow (to leave it flowing).

The good approaches involve the editor and do not involve a web browser. Running a build and having the build tool deliver compiler error messages is really good. It doesn't matter whether the messages are from the compiler, from a linter, a documentation tool or from a unit test. Anything, so long as it makes the editor open a plausible file and shows me a reasonable message.

Reading something like the aox notes file has also worked well for me. That puts me in the editor window, less than a second away from the source file that needs work.

Looking at a web site (even if it's an internal site such as jira, fogbugz, bugzilla, jenkins or something) is bad, bad, bad. That involves a web browser window, and such windows do not lead towards flow. Such windows have much to teach about the latest javascript fad and many other interesting topics, but they do not tempt the mind to flow.

My 2¢, mileage may vary.

Milage does vary.

Mileage varies even for me. At the moment I find it very hard to use this technique. All the bugtracking, testing, CI, all that's web-based, and the build tool is so slow that it's difficult to even stay in the flow. Pity. I hoped to find a way by writing this.