Photo of bonfire celebration at dosojin matsuri

Ten years of the safetydave.net blog

This blog recently turned 10! Let’s have a brief indulgent look at the highlights.

Origins

Though the safetydave.net domain has a longer history (and the “Safety Dave” nickname a longer history before that), I’d been reluctant to blog about work-related topics prior to joining Thoughtworks, probably because:

  • Most of my work to that point was for technically specialised companies that were quite protective of trade secrets, and we were literally building world firsts,
  • I wasn’t generally surrounded by a culture of writing about software and how to make it – I’d read some good books but they were written by distant people – and,
  • Having less experience at the time, I wasn’t sure what I had to say that was of broader interest.
Original blog banner artwork based on Safety Dave icon, shows multiple pixelated icons of a worker in a hard hat with raised hand in different sizes and transparencies
Original blog banner artwork based on Safety Dave icon

After a couple of years in enterprise consulting, and surrounded by a writing culture, I began to recognise where I could add something to the discourse. My very first post addressed some pitfalls of the popular NPS metric, which I envisaged impacting many others. Having started, I soon found many more applications of my prior technical experience in the wider industry, as well as many relevant organisational approaches.

The tip of an iceberg in a sea of content

I create content and give presentations almost every day in my day job. Public content is just the tip of the iceberg. I’ve authored and contributed to literally thousands of confidential decks and documents for clients and internal purposes. Checked with a query like find documents -name '*.ppt' a few years ago, the ratio is 3 documents for every 4 days working at Thoughtworks (now ~2,700 days). My esteemed colleagues have also been quite complimentary about my slideware.

"Monkey Christ" meme reading "My slides with Dave around" in the pre-restoration left panel and "My slides with Dave on long service [leave]" in the botched restoration right panel

This blog wasn’t attempting to replicate that. It was to fill the spaces in-between, where I had ideas to explore, and above all else to ensure that I remained playful in my approach to my work. I think the About page holds up well!

This is a safe place to play with and share ideas. Mainly about software. Creative approaches. How to identify and solve relevant problems, how to shape teams and their environments, how to engage with customers and markets, how to build the stuff, and how to use pictures and numbers for better understanding.

Highlights

So what do I have to show for 10 years?

Writing a book

A current highlight is of course my joint book Effective Machine Learning Teams. It doesn’t draw directly on much content from safetydave.net, but I found writing far easier as a result of all the blogging here. And like the blog, I was particularly pleased to use the book to advocate for playfulness in ML teams (you’ll have to read it to the end).

The next 10 years?

I think the philosophy of this blog, which has served me well over the first 10 years, will continue to serve me well for the next 10 years! It will be fun to look back after 20 years, like I did recently in Throwback Thursday. I expect the nature of the content to continue to evolve as my professional focus shifts, the tech industry changes, I have access to different channels, and I explore different interests, but I think I’ll continue to use the blog to play at work.

Postscript: astute readers will note the date of publication is actually 11 years since the very first post; this one sat in draft throughout a very busy 2023, and 10 is a nice round number in any base!

Epilogue

On sharing this post, I was asked for my top 5 tips on blogging. I’m pretty sure that wasn’t a request from an LLM trained on listicles. Here’s what worked for me; your mileage may vary.

1. Remove barriers – I set up WordPress with a simple template, my mission statement accommodated pretty much any type of content, etc. Don’t overthink the first post either, just get it out of the way!

2. Slice thinly – aim for the thinnest slice of content that makes a point or tells a story, if you’re stuck going down a rabbit hole, make it smaller, leave extension points, etc.

3. Capture ideas all the time, write when you have the time – I have a long backlog of ideas I’ll probably never get around to, I accept that I’ll have to be opportunistic with time to actually write them,  but when time presents, there are fewer barriers to writing something. See point 1.

4. Timebox – If you can’t complete some content in two weeks, you may never complete it. See points 2 and 3.

5. Remember it’s supposed to be fun! If you think something is interesting, some other people will too. If it’s not fun, see point 3 until it seems like fun again!