This isn't my building, but you get the idea. Like my building, the elevators line both sides of a short hallway.

I had a moment of sudden disorientation during an elevator ride recently.

First, let me explain the elevator setup. In our fancy downtown building, we have a bank of five (or is it six?) elevators. Our elevator bank is housed in the center of the building, lining both sides of a short hallway. As fancy as we are, we aren't fancy enough to justify glass windows or any of the other elevator luxuries. The doors open, you get in, the doors close, and your new, smaller world is the four brushed-metal elevator walls.

So, as the scene had played out hundreds (or possibly thousands) of times before, the doors opened, I got on the elevator, the doors closed. This time, however, I was distracted--more so than usual--and wasn't paying too much attention to where I was walking.

As the elevator began its descent to the ground floor, and as is quite unusual for me, I had a new thought intrude--which elevator am I on? And which way do I turn when the door opens--left or right? I had no idea.

And for a brief moment, I was suddenly disoriented--almost in a physical sense.

We'll get back to the elevator story in a moment.

Conference that shall not be named so that keyword searches shall not pick it up

Last weekend I attended the open spaces event in Austin, and while I'd like to post something saying "it was a great time, well worth it, etc," I can't. There were only two impressions I have after attending the conference.

One: I'm not ready. I'm not even currently using the tools discussed by (and at times, designed by) the other attendees, nor (with my current technology stack) am I planning to use them. Tools aren't everything; my "I'm not ready" feeling also goes for the softer topics like lean/agile/kanban, which are definitely of interest to me, but not in the sense that I have any authority to make changes outside of myself. I'm not a "Big Tymer" like Manny Fresh and Baby.

Before we move onto the second impression, let me talk for a second about my learning queue, by way of Billy Hollis.

Learning queue

I listened to a fascinating Deep Fried Bytes podcast interviewing Billy Hollis. Most interesting to me was his discussion of how no one is keeping up with the .NET framework--while Microsoft is now pushing Azure and Windows 7 and C# 4.0 and whoops, throw out the old Workflow Foundation, we're pressing the reset button on Workflow 4.0--while all this is happening, of the developers Billy Hollis interviews, only ~1 out of 10 are using generics. Generics, which were introduced in 2005, and as Billy Hollis pointed out, not a large topic to learn, are still not in regular use by 9 our of 10 developers.

Sample bias noted, even if the developers he interviews aren't representative of the developer population, this is still something to sit up and take note. The key takeaway is that almost everyone is far behind. And he illustrates this with some stark (if anecdotal) numbers.

Meanwhile, over the last several years I've focused on SharePoint. I've been learning about web parts and workflow and InfoPath and web content management publishing features and ASP.NET app pools and IIS6 and XSL and Solution packages and Feature packages and governance and taxonomies and IA and so on--I've immersed myself in the SharePoint world. It was tough to keep up, especially given the magnitude of SharePoint itself.

But, at some point in the past, I publicly and officially declared, "I'm done." No more SharePoint learning, except what I need for my job, today. And it's really freed me up, in terms of mental weight. Now that I know I no longer need to learn how to do SharePoint workflow, for example, why would I ever want to learn it--especially now as they've announced WF4.0 will be completely new? Why would I want to research SharePoint object disposal best practices, when I myself no longer need this to get things done at work?

But something else happened, something unintentional. At the moment I declared I was no longer going to learn SharePoint--at that moment I experienced a similar moment of disorientation. If I'm not going to be a SharePoint guy in the long term, what now? The elevator doors will open soon; left or right?

Back to the conference

And we're back to talking about the open spaces conference I just attended. This was the conference where I was to meet up with what would become my new community of practice. This would be the group with which I could identify.

But for whatever reason, it didn't work out that way.

I've already mentioned that at the conference, I got the strong impression that I wasn't ready to attend; that I needed to do some homework before even being able to process most of what was discussed in the sessions, much less contribute.

Surprisingly, at this conference I also had a strong moment of disorientation again. Instead of cementing my understanding of software development into a rigid cast, and allowing me to fall into something of a comfortable pattern as I expected, I felt distinctly less comfortable afterwards.

I don't think it's necessarily a bad thing to be uncomfortable. If we're following the elevator story from earlier, a dubious metaphor to begin with, but hey, here we are at the end and we can't exactly go back and invent a new and possibly worse metaphor--well, let's stick with the elevator story. At the open spaces conference last weekend I experienced a kind of career vertigo--I'm in the moment just before the elevator doors opens. It's uncomfortable, but I'm sure the sensation will pass. And when it does, my world will have grown.