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Tuesday November 12, 2002
02:29 PM

Running longer and longer

[ #8904 ]

In the last issue of The Perl Review I wrote an article on RSS that reminded a lot of people that they had outstanding patches. I discovered a couple of fixes on the RSS-DEV mailing list.

Jonathon Eisenkopf, the original author, has moved on to other things and was happy to pass control of the module on to me. I am not sure I really want to maintain it, but I can certainly get active development restarted.

Within a day, I set up a SourceForge Project, uploaded the previous releases, imported everything into CVS, and fixed most of the outstanding issues (which were not that much of a problem), and added a bunch of test cases. I cannot clear the RT tickets until RT knows I control the module, though. CPAN Search has not updated yet.

A year ago that would have taken me quite a bit of time, but I only spent about 4 hours on all of it, including the email exchanges with the many people who now realized that they had another chance to get their fixes committed.

I tend to think about these sorts of things while on my daily evening run (aerobic exercise, not cron job). Am I running better because I have run the route several times and am not paying attention to everything, or am I actually running better? Is my mind zoning out, like driving a familiar route home?

Things get easier to do if I do them more often. I think it is a matter of process rather than skill. When I run a new distance, especially on a new route, everything seems to take a long time. I cannot see the end because everything seems to be new. Hitting the next milestone, literally while running and figuratively while perling seems to take less time, even if it really does not. If I do the same thing over and over again, the milestones become familiar and I get used to passing them. The distances seem shorter. My mind blocks out the familiar things, so I do not focus on the minutia of the task which asserts itself so strongly when everything is new.

I suppose people call these things "habits"--an unconscious behavior developed by repetition. Starting the repetitive behavior may be a lot of work, but if I keep at it the work does not seem like a lot after awhile. If I do a certain amount of work over and over again, that amount becomes less and less daunting. After running 3 miles several times, 3 miles does not seem like a long way to run. After fixing the POD in most of my modules, fixing it in the next one does not seem like a lot of work. Repetition adjusts my "lot of work" yardstick.

So, if you want to be a hot shot Perler, just do it over and over again. Do not shy away from something because it seems like a lot of work. If you do not document your code, write test cases, or a lot of the other things you know you should do because they seem like a lot of work, solve the real problem---that they seem like a lot of work---by doing them. Pretty soon it will not seem so bad.