Jay Little - Software Obsessionist
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Knowing and Living With Your Boundaries

2/2/2020 2:45:45 PM

Whether we like to admit it or not, we all have boundaries. Part of growing older is being able to identify and knowing how to address our boundaries. Sometimes we find ways to transcend those boundaries and other times we discover, often as part of a painful journey, that these boundaries are in fact more permanent than we realized.

I've got a couple stories about my encounters with my own boundaries that I'm going to share you all today. While they both "end" differently in a sense, the reality is that neither tale has actually completed. Both are still ongoing and ever-present experiences for me in ways that I hope you'll better understand by the end of this post.

My first story revolves around my unsuccessful foray into Twitch Streaming in late 2018. I spent two months on this particular endeavor and for those two months I took it pretty seriously. I even went so far as to create a website for my online streaming persona. I am a big fan of streaming and I love to have a stream up on a third screen while I'm hacking away at a piece of code. This kind of thing is pretty common among software developers nowadays. Gaming streams make for great background noise which allow you to devote your mental prowess to the task at hand, but from time to time are interesting enough so that they aren't actually boring.

For whatever reason I didn't want people to know who I was so I went out of my way to keep my actual identity separated from my streaming identity. In retrospect this was stupid because the only viewers I ever had were people who knew me and were interested in hearing my commentary on games or were looking for a way to poke a little fun. This is the primary reason why I haven't mentioned this endeavor on my website until now. Of course if you have clicked through to the streaming website and read the most recent post, you'll know that I'm planning a comeback of sorts despite the fact the post prior to that in late 2018 describes my many reasons for quitting. So what is going on here?

Well for starters: I don't have what it takes to be a professional streamer. My personality simply doesn't work that way. To be clear, when it comes to my video gaming habits, I play whatever I want when I want. Streaming on a regular basis (three or four days a week) made this really hard because there is an expectation that you'll interact with the community in a particular way. I took those expectations seriously because it seemed to be the thing to do as I had watched numerous other people do it. Needless to say this made me uncomfortable. While I had a lot of fun when streaming at times, there were other times when it felt downright miserable.

So why then am I planning a comeback? Because deep down I want some sort of conduit, other than this website, to share the things I hold near and dear with the world at large. But I refuse to make the same mistakes as the first time around and I've spent a lot of time thinking about how to do that. This time around things will be different. No actual schedule, no firm commitment to stream at all each week, no donation requests, no fancy setup, no high quality video, no chat bots, no pleading with people to hit that follow button. I don't care about these things anymore. In fact the part I'm most excited about is that I'll be running the entire thing using SBCs (Single Board Computers). No high end PCs or GPUs involved. That's because I've realized that I want to casually stream out weird and interesting retro gaming experiences, add a bit of my own color commentary and do it in an efficient manner. If don't feel like streaming on a particular week, I won't. If you care, great. If you don't, that's great too.

My second tale revolves around something that happened to me professionally in early 2020. While I'm still actively processing it, the reality is that I already know what the primary takeaways of this experience are. As some of you know, despite the fact I'm a professional web developer, I also moonlight as a pseudo-network admin. To be clear, I'm in no way a professional network admin but the clients I do this work for generally expect me to help out as an addition to the development related services I provide.

So in this particular situation a client had a fiber line running between two buildings at their warehouse. This fiber line is pretty old (at least ten years old) and parts of it are semi-exposed to the elements. In addition the equipment at either end was just as old and some of it was very close to failing completely. Namely a Linksys Switch with an integrated Mini GBIC port which had numerous dead Ethernet ports. So after putting this off for awhile, because I don't know shit about fiber and the entire thing scared the hell out of me, I finally decided "man up" and take it on.

This ended up being a poor decision. Not because things didn't ultimately work out, but because the situation ended up progressing in such a way that it made it hard to escape the reality that I shouldn't have planned to do this myself to begin with. But hey I'm a headstrong guy so I did the research and bought the hardware I thought would be appropriate for the upgrade and while I ended up being right there was one thing I wasn't at all prepared for: What if something went wrong with the fiber line?

Well as it turns out something did go wrong with the fiber line, but as luck would have it, it happened a few days before I was scheduled to perform the upgrade. This happened because somebody at the site was setting up a time clock which necessitated plugging something into the aforementioned switch to which the fiber was connected. Well most of the ports on that switch were dead (one of many reasons I was replacing it) and this led to a lot of experimentation on the part of the individual in question to find a working configuration. Somewhere along the way, the connector on the end of the fiber cable broke and connection between the two buildings went down.

Upon hearing about this, I packed a bag and drove four hours to get to the customer site. But the hard truth of the matter is that he could not fix it and neither could I. It wasn't even the fault of the other individual as the cable connector was so fragile, it broke in another place despite the fact I was going out of my way to be extra delicate with it. This was pretty much my nightmare scenario. I didn't even know who to call as the warehouse is not in my local area and I had no contacts there (yeah I should've researched that beforehand). Thankfully the other individual knew of a semi-local vendor who was able to get there within a few days, fix the connector and complete the upgrade.

So where did I go wrong here? Well I knew this wasn't the kind of work I was suited to do and that's one reason I put this upgrade off for so long. I'm fine with switching out a router or a switch. But I'm not a fiber guy. I'm not a cable crimper. I'm not a professional network admin. My knowledge in this area only extends so far and is ultimately limited by the fact that I've primarily been a professional web developer for the last 20 years. At 40 years of age, I've finally realized that the time for me to be all things to all people has ended. So while it all worked out and none of this tragedy was directly my fault, the reality is that had the time clock installation not happened, the cable would've broken under my watch and I would've been ill-equipped to address that situation adequately.

So what should I have done instead? I should've found a local vendor with fiber networking expertise and asked them to come in, assess the situation and provide a quote for upgrading the equipment and assuming the quote was decent, lobbied for them to do the work. I shouldn't have touched this cable or the equipment around it with a ten foot pole. Then this upgrade would've been done months ago and this situation would've never happened.

In closing I'd like to say that I hope these two tales might help some of my fellow readers realize that we all have boundaries. Sometimes we can find creative ways to work around them, and sometimes we have to simply reach a state of acceptance when it comes to those boundaries. While it can be very hard to tell the difference at times, knowing how to do that is often all that stands between a feeling of victory and a feeling of defeat regardless of how the story actually ends.

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