NSConf: Scott Little – Ultimate Spirit

My notes from Scott Little‘s talk at NSConf.

Al'kor Tammi of Blue Lagoon - The sims 3
Credit: DeviantArt / Aseniya

Real training was in zoology.

What ultimately drives this independent developer and keeps me focused and motivated?

Most of life been an ultimate frisbee player. At least as much a part of him as being a developer.

Started to think about linking how frisbee is important to him with being a developer.

There’s something in ultimate called the spirit of the game. Key component. Not just informal. Actually formally integrated into the rules of the game.

Idea of spirit is ingrained into the rules. The first rule is:

“Ultimate is a non-contact, self-refereed sport. All players are responsible for administering and adhering to the rules. Ultimate relies upon a Spirit of the Game that places the responsibility for fair play on every player.”

The idea of the spirit of the game, is that you play not according to the letter of the rules, but according to the spirit the rules are trying to create.

Spirit is not just accepting they have accidentally fouled, but saying “I did accidentally foul, here’s the disc”

Self-refereeing creates a different feel. There is no hierarchy of ref to player. Creates equality on the field.

Women and men playing on the same team, making passes together and so forth. 3 divisions: mixed, women, open. Prefer the mixed edition, different dynamic. Competitive, but not as competitive as open which is mostly just guys.

Game is very easily accessible, it’s a game where you don’t need a whole lot to get into it. You just need some place to play, and a frisbee.

The way you play, positions. 3 main positions: handler, middle, forward. You play everywhere on the field.

Feel of egalitarian play. Something that is similar to this group of industry and indie devs. There’s a great potential there, for everyone to come in and access it. It takes a computer and access to the internet, but those barriers are getting lower and lower.

There’s a huge potential for equality. But we have historical issues that have pushed some people out and kept them out. Groups trying to get things.

One of the biggest divergences and the values on the field and the larger group of our industry.

Thinking about equality and doing the right thing, got thinking about other influences. Star Trek. Great moral structure to the universe. Star Trek next gen. Built upon the moral structure, started to give names and definitions to things that hadn’t understand. Started to link specific episodes to specific instances that were happening in his life. Still have that. Think about instances that weren’t so great, refers back to specific episodes.

Canadian rock band called Rush. Incredibly relevant lyrics for all kind of things. Created strong references to various lyrics. They want to do what they feel is right, not necessarily what fans want or labels want.

Integrity, and doing the right thing.

Other reference a lot of people have, and that’s Apple.

How does independent spirit fit into independent developer? We can easily see examples of it in our work.

TextWrangler from Barebones software. Could be seen as a competitor to their main product, BBEdit. Nice to see them put out a product that everybody has access to.

Daniel from RedJumper software – does rockstar, kickass, ninja support.

Marco, Overcast. Listed his competators and direct links, incase his product wasn’t the right fit.

Omni products fight the demon that is syncing.

Khan academy. Free world class education for everyone.

Blogs and podcasts, “as I learned watchkit”, “vesper sync diaries”. All of these are great displays of the spirit of the game, of development, or whatever. Aspire to those same things.

One of the reasons like NSConf and Singleton are important. Get a chance not only to see that, but also to participate in that.

We don’t want to tear something down, we want to build something up. We need to make a living, but it’s not really the primary reason we do things the way we do them.

Try to apply them to the work. Use to figure out how to motivate yourself, how to get yourself up every morning, make yourself work.

Scratch your own itch is good advice. Have something that was that, but business wise is not sustainable. Have another product that is more sustainable, but small business CRM, has no intention of ever using.

How do you keep motivation for that? Different. Focus on creating a solution for the user, listen to their needs. Ask “how do you like the product, what do you like? what don’t you like? what could be added?”

Focus on that idea – totally unopinionated from him. If not an itch you are scratching, get someone else’s opinion and pull that in.

Customer side of spirit driven development.

Technical side. 5-6 months ago, working on plugin for mail. Bug seeing in mail, trying to figure out what it was. This was a bug in mail. Inbox rules wouldn’t fire on some types of message. Fired up debugger, started tracing through the assembly. Found a call to get an attributed string off the mime body of the message. Then it calls initWithData. Spins for 60 seconds, and then comes back and it’s nil. Then call to append, throws an exception, and therefore the rule doesn’t apply.

Super happy to find this bug – actually 2 bugs. First is a bug in mail. Filed a radar. Elated to find the other bug, which was something that had been chasing for years but hadn’t been able to consistently reproduce. In foundation. Felt great about himself, because was contributing back to the platform.

So why is ultimate relevant here. One of the things found, in over 30 years of playing ultimate, it’s not just a game like playing, something that really touches inside, makes feel really good. Because physical manifestation in a game of his moral values. Strong influence of integrity, and doing the right thing. Being competitive, but being respectful. Get the same feeling about doing development. Bit more personal and isolated. But feel really strongly about, can do something that fits in with values. Something applied not just to own work, but looking at things other people do.

Our emotions evolved over a long time, tool to tell you what is good and what is bad, what is nice, and what isn’t nice. Take advantage of those millions of years of evolution.

It’s not about winning…

It’s not even just about how you play…

It’s about how you play makes you feel.

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