A blog about software – researching it, developing it, and contemplating its future.

Gaming, Turkey, and Burnout

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(Warning: relatively low technical content ahead!)

Rats, missed another blog-posting week here. A week ago I finally got my GWT conference presentation done. I was rather nervous about whether I was hitting the right technical level, so I mailed it to a few GWT team members, and Bruce Johnson (the team lead) wrote back and said, basically, “It’s perfect.” Thanks, Bruce! Eased my mind tremendously. The conference is coming up next week.

Then on Tuesday, Mass Effect shipped, and I was instantly lost in space. I’ve gone back and forth on whether to talk about gaming here, but this title pushed me over the edge. I’ve been a computer gamer ever since I’ve been a computer user — my very first experience with a computer was playing Spacewar on a PLATO timesharing terminal at my friend’s father’s college. And gaming has become a true lifelong hobby. Mass Effect is a great example of why that is.

Programmers inherently love systems. A truly intrinsically motivated programmer will spend hours thinking about how something fits together, and more hours tinkering with it and seeing what happens. A great game also has a systemic internal structure that rewards tinkering and exploration. So it’s natural that so many programmers are gamers.

Moreover, many programmers are thrilled by advances in technology. The more powerful our computers become, the more we can do with them. And computer games are definitely the most widely visible hardware-pushing applications. Just take a look at some of these screenshots. A $280 XBox 360 can now do real-time facial animation that looks a lot better than ANYTHING being done five years ago (real-time or pre-rendered). And it qualitatively changes the nature of the game, when your character and the zany aliens they’re talking to both have facial emotions and lip-syncing that are so much closer to realistic that you can almost lose yourself in the illusion. I’m not claiming that Bioware’s crossed the uncanny valley just yet, but they’ve definitely taken huge strides in that direction, and they’ve hooked me but good.

I expect to be a gamer for the rest of my life, since games just keep getting cooler and cooler as hardware gets more and more powerful and we learn more about what to do with it. It’s a perfect hobby for a systems-oriented, game-addicted technophile.

So Mass Effect took over my after-the-family’s-asleep life, and stole my blogging cycles last week. Thanksgiving was also pretty hectic — we cooked an 18-pound turkey for our church get-together, which took me all day while my wife juggled our three-month-old and our (almost-)three-year-old. That left us pretty wrecked and we laid low the rest of the weekend.

Meanwhile, on the hacking front, I have continued to feel blocked by the whole Seam 2 broke my code issue. Actually, technically, it’s that Seam 2 broke the G4JSF code. That code was originally written by the Ajax4JSF team, but they have abandoned it. So the question for me is, how motivated am I to fix it? (And, potentially, to continue fixing it as Seam, JSF, and GWT continue to evolve?)

I originally started on this whole Seam / GWT / JSF project because I had ambitions to create a peer-to-peer distributed blogging system. I made a lot of progress on that system (at least as far as creating a Seam-based model for representing version trees with Java persistence, a la Mercurial). Then I wanted to start on the UI. Which led me to GWT, and the realization that the existing G4JSF library didn’t couple gracefully with GWT RPC. So I patched GWT, and then G4JSF, and that led me to presenting to the GWT team at JavaOne last year, which then got me the opportunity to speak at the GWT conference next week. All of that was quite unexpected and quite appreciated — particularly the speaking opportunity!

BUT, going back to my original project, the peer-to-peer distributed object system lost its mojo somewhere over the last year. It led me down the GWT / Seam / JSF path, which was really interesting and connected me to the open source world like never before… but somehow the journey became the destination, and the original goal no longer feels as interesting. Frankly, I’m not feeling very enthusiastic about being the sole owner of the G4JSF code base, given the evident cost of keeping it current and given the lack of other support from the JSF community. Maybe having a second baby also cut my energy level.

In order to avoid burnout I need to work on the projects that are most interesting to me, which right now is looking like prototyping some extensible programming language ideas that have been burning a hole in my brain for the last two months.

So, I’m going to set aside the G4JSF work and I’m going to leave the Seam/GWT/JSF integration project in its current state. I am more than willing to work with anyone (at Red Hat or elsewhere) who wants to pick it up again and fix it up to work with Seam 2 (and JSF 2 when it comes along), but I can’t drive it further on my own. Anyone who was using that integration library and who is interested in fixing it, feel free to email me (rjellinghaus at gmail dot com).

This blog will shift focus away from Seam/JSF and towards programming language research and the experiments I’m doing. Hopefully that’ll still be interesting to my loyal readers — I’ll do my damnedest to make it so! Because I’ll tell you one thing, it’s pretty fascinating to me 🙂


Written by robjellinghaus

2007/11/27 at 05:45

Posted in Uncategorized

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