Is there a need for a person who doesn’t make appearances to worry about keeping up appearances?

– [Edited]

The Jerk’s side

We all know jerks, right? We see them every day - at work, at school, at home, while commuting - everywhere. Their omnipresence is second, only, perhaps, to God Himself.  There have been numerous stories that I have read on the Internet where people have written about their encounters with jerks. There might definitely be a similar account of the story that I’m about to share at some other place in the interwebs with a less-than-flattering portrayal of the jerk in question - Me. But this is not that story. This is about the other side. The Jerk’s side.

I had set up a meeting (over email) for today with someone I really wanted to speak with. An Internet startup founder in Singapore. We had confirmed the date, time and the place earlier in the week. We were to meet at 4pm today.

Mistake 1: I had taken it down in my calendar as 4.30pm.

Learning 1: Don’t even trust yourself with the simplest of tasks if a more reliable alternative is available. In this case, I could have easily used the Mail client (on my iPod) to create a calendar event from the email itself by clicking through. (they auto-detect dates in the email and prompt to add it to your calendar). Instead,  I chose to do it manually and made a mess of it. Most people get this right, though. This might still be useful for others like me to keep in mind.

So, I left my house at about 3.50pm knowing it would take me 30 minutes to reach there. I’m generally not very good at making appointments on time. So, I was pretty happy with myself that I was going to make this one on the dot. Soon, I was on the train and was a making a mental note of what I’d be talking to her about.

*Cut*

People who know me personally know that I don’t have a smartphone. I have a Nokia Asha (suffice it to say that it is a not-so-smart phone). I have always convinced myself against buying one with the strong belief that I have little use for it. What not having a smartphone means is that when I’m outside, I’m basically cut off from the Internet unlike 72% of the people in Singapore.

Mistake 2: I wasn’t connected to the Internet and I hadn’t given her my handphone number (while I had hers)

Learning 2: When you don’t have the means to be reachable always. (which has come to be expected of you these days in Singapore, at least), you need to take an extra step to make sure there’s a workaround for the other person to reach you at any time by some way. In this case, I should have simply given her my handphone number. 

I reached the place at 4.25pm (early, in my head). As soon as I got in, I sent her a text saying that I had come and if she could message me when she came in, we could find each other and talk. I stood in the line, bought a coffee, continuing to look around from time to time to see if I could see any sign of her. I couldn’t find her. I walked around a bit, couldn’t find a place to sit, so went out and stood for awhile.

I decided to give her some time before calling. It was 4.45pm soon. I was starting to think that maybe she had forgotten about the appointment. I decided it would be best to call and check. If she had indeed forgotten, I could at least leave. I called. She didn’t pick up. Again, people who know me well, might also know that I don’t trust myself at all. (Paranoid parrot, the human-version) I thought maybe I had written down her number wrong. While I was naively trying to recall (from nothingness) if the last digit was 0 or 6, I realized that Starbucks had free wireless and that I had my iPod with me - so, I could probably check if she had left me an email about a possible change in plan. I got the password from a Starbucks staff person and connected.

Mistake 3: Considering she only had my email, this is probably the first thing I should have done on reaching.

Learning 3: Be less of an idiot. Your coffee can wait.

Had to wait a while before I could finally see my email. There were two emails from her:

One at 4pm saying she was at a McDonalds nearby as the Starbucks was crowded and that she was waiting for me.

Another at 4.20pm saying as she hadn’t heard from me (at all), she made out that I was probably not going to come and she had decided that it’s probably best for us to not meet at all.

I was dumbfounded. Looking down the thread, I saw that we had planned for 4pm and realized my folly. It slowly started to sink in as to what a jerk I had been (at least in her head). I felt really bad. I wrote to her immediately (5pm) apologizing and seeing if she was still around and we could meet up. She didn’t reply.

I waited for 30 more minutes and wrote again, expressing the same emotion that I am trying to convey through this entire account - of remorse and utter foolishness. I finished by saying that I would be happy if I could get a chance to meet her again at a time & place that suited her but if not, I would understand. She didn’t reply.

And that’s the way it stands now. She’s pissed off and understandably so. I can totally empathize with her when I put myself in her shoes. I have had similar-ish experiences in the past but never before have I regretted this much - It’s possibly because I hadn’t met her before and her only impression of me is.. well.. this.

My feeling of regret is only partially assuaged by the fact that it was a honest mistake and I was actually quite keen to meet her. I also bought a $10 picture postcard while I waited from someone who promised the money will reach deserving hands. Hopefully, that’ll replenish at least a part of my lost karma.

I respect enterpreneurs (makers/creators/founders) and certainly had no intention of wasting her time. (I told her this) Unfortunately, what had to happen happened. It seems unlikely that this meeting might happen at all. We’ll see. Hopefully, I have learnt my lesson, won’t repeat this again and the world will be one jerk less.

The Coat of Indifference #4

INT. Dingy office somewhere DAY

Employee #1: Remember the meeting about not forgetting meetings that we are supposed to have?

Employee #2: The one after the meeting about being punctual for meetings?

Employee #1: No

Employee #2: The one before the meeting about accepting meeting invites on time?

Employee #1: No

Employee #2: The one at the same time as the training for using the Calendar?

Employee #1: Yes. So, looks like the boss missed it in his Calendar and might be late for it. He has sent out a new meeting invite now.

Employee #2: Hmm. I’m afraid I can’t make it. We are having an internal team meeting to discuss how we can be more efficient at work at exactly the same time.

The Coat of Indifference #3

INT. Facebook HQ DAY

Designer #1: Sometimes when I think about the impact that our work has/could have, I feel overwhelmed. A bit scared even, to be honest.

Designer #2: Because we are used by a billion people around the world?

Designer #1: Actually, I’m more worried about the thousands of designers who get “inspired” by us.

INT. Dingy office somewhere DAY

Editor: So have you thought about a new design for our Obituary page?

Young designer: Yes. I was thinking we’ll go for a Facebook newsfeed-style layout.

The Coat of Indifference #2

INT. Lift DAY

Sales guy: Have you ever wondered how most of the world dances to the tunes of a small set of self-centred, spoilt brats with a lot of money or power or both? I think that’s an unfair design on His part.

Developer: Lost a deal then?

Sales guy: Lost a deal.

The Coat of Indifference #1

INT. Dingy Office Somewhere DAY

Boss: Let me be honest with you: I don’t need a developer. I need a minion in the guise of a developer. Are you up for it?

Developer (looks at his empty pocket): Sure, sir. I can be what you want me to be.

INT. Posh Office Somewhere DAY

Big prospect: I don’t care for your product. This is what I want (or so I think). Can you build this for me?

Boss: Sure, sir. We can be what you want us to be.

Anonymous: Hi, on stackexchage, you gave a solution for having Flag Friend add link in a block. It did not work for me (stackexchange: questions/49703/flag-friend-d7-add-link-in-block). I did add the <?php ?> things before and the filter to php. Now, in my block, there is no add/delete Flag Friend link. Thanks for helping. Anne.

Hi Anne,

In the custom block content space, as you are saying you have the PHP filter already turned on, does your code look something like:

... (my code)
print flag_friend_get_friend_flag_link();

Is a Drupal developer like Lucius Fox?

Of all the characters in Nolan’s Batman trilogy, my favorite has to be Lucius Fox, the Dark Knight’s go-to man for acquiring fancy, state-of-the-art gadgetry which is employed, of course, to protect the citizens of Gotham.

Even if we put aside the fact that it is played by the amazing Morgan Freeman for a bit, there are numerous qualities of the man that one may be fascinated by. For me, it has to be his general nonchalance, the casual diffidence with which he speaks about gadgets in particular & technology in general and the apparent ease at which he is able to deploy (if I may) these uber cool things.

Now, lets cut away to a typical product discussion at Teamie (where I work and where we use Drupal as a framework):

Product guy: I think it would be interesting if our users could… That’d mean we would have to build a feature that… What do you think?

Me: I think there’s a module for that. We could look into it.

Drupal aficionados will, of course, fondly recognize the first phrase. It was only recently I realized how eerily similar this exchange is to the one between Wayne & Fox below: (4m, 15s if it doesn’t start there already)

Back to the story at Teamie:

(Two days later)

Me: Hey, so there was a module that did that. And here’s how the product looks with that feature baked in. What do you think?

And we take it from there. This has happened many a time with features both big and small.

It helps, I think, that Drupal components aren’t libraries or packages but ready-to-use web components.

While Fox may have an army of uncredited minions at his command at the R&D of Wayne Enterprises to do his bidding, Drupal is and has always been made possible by its amazing community of developers from around the world.

I squirm every time someone calls me “Sir”. Yes, I’m having trouble growing up.

Chef Gusteau and Programming

Last week, we had someone in for an interview at Teamie for a front-end engineering position. He was a sensible, smart guy who knew exactly what he wanted to do. But the best thing about him really is that he is a law graduate!

I was pleasantly surprised at the beginning. Still am. On reflection, it’s quite heartening and exciting, I think, to see how accessible programming has become. Our tools have now matured enough to lower the barrier of entry and attract people from other disciplines (not just because the jobs pay well) but because they find work here to be actually fun and rewarding - which is great! I’m pretty sure that this is not a fad.

It’s quite tempting to say that anyone can code these days. But I don’t think that’s quite true. As Anton Ego comments in Ratatouille on a similar quote by Chef Gusteau (I paraphrase to tie-in the context):

Anyone can code doesn’t really mean that anyone can become a great programmer. It just means that a great programmer can come from anywhere.

Sherlock-mania

It’s funny how in the last two years alone, I have watched two films and twelve hour-long TV episodes of Sherlock Holmes (Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock movies, BBC’s Sherlock and CBS’s Elementary) while in the twenty years prior to that, I had just seen a single episode of an old Sherlock show on Pogo (didn’t really like it much).

Silence makes the real conversations between friends… and total strangers. So, that’s not saying much now, is it?

Ego, you beauty!

The thing I just love about someone with a big ego is that they can be easily manip-ed (read manipulated) by just pleasing that.