Friday, September 06, 2013

Back to software development

Back in 2002 I voluntarily left a position as a software developer at a major corporation. At the time it seemed like a great idea. Now over a decade later, I'm not so sure.

But back then I was serenely confident in myself and very naive about important things in the real world.

So I thought I had a duty to concentrate on what I knew then (and know now) was a major mathematical find. And that find is what mathematicians call a prime counting function, but which I've now found may be more commonly called a prime counter.

As my backup I also had an idea for a little app which was a tool for Java developers to check out basic class information. It was evolving from some test programs I'd written to help me study for the Java certification exam.

Besides, I felt confident that if necessary I could easily step back into the computer field considering how well I had been doing. I had been a lead developer. I had lots of experience with plenty of people recognizing my abilities.

So yeah, I was supremely confident and soon in for a shock.

Despite my ability to prove without a doubt the importance of my mathematical find, I got nowhere with mathematicians. And learned that they don't particularly feel motivated necessarily to help out someone like me. I'm not a mathematician. I'm just some guy who found this thing. Academics are not like what I thought.

But I'd been through adversity, I thought. I grew up as a black kid in the American South. While I think I got a lot of support from my rural South Georgia community, across races, I have to admit standing out as someone who went on to college on a full tuition scholarship and got my degree in physics in four years.

I'm used to finding my way.

But now I'm willing to admit--more than 10 years since my find--that academics have me stumped. I've since made more mathematical discoveries and come to the conclusion that I'm finally facing the greatest challenge of my life in getting any of it academically accepted.

Eventually after that pivotal decision of leaving my comfortable software developer position I found myself in San Francisco, and pondered trying to get back into the field then. That was in 2005 when I moved to California, and ended up, instead, working as a data entry person at a large insurance company.

But it paid the bills, gave me time to enjoy myself in the city, and left me time to focus on my continuing struggles with mathematical recognition, and with my various blogs or other online efforts.

I kept thinking: soon, soon, something will work.

And my open source project which I'd belatedly put on SourceForge in 2004, was still out there as a puzzle, and also as my continuing link to the development world. But I struggled with what to do with it, and wondered if it was even worth the effort.

Today I've given up on courting mathematicians for formal recognition and gone more to the long-term, which is just put the information out there and win in the court of better ideas. Meanwhile I've begun to accept that it's probably a good idea to focus a bit more on a job that actually pays well, as nothing else has come close to how well I was paid, now seemingly long ago, working as that software developer at that major corporation.

Now my open source project Class Viewer is critical in that effort, so I'm looking at it more critically.

Oh yeah, actually got laid off from that data entry job in San Francisco, which was a major blow to my ego. The nerve of those people!!! And then focused more on web efforts, pushing math ideas, and other ideas until I exhausted my naivete and delusions about how the real world works.

Ideas do not necessarily move the world.

Products DO, and groups of people DO.

Individuals with ideas who push them often get called nasty names, and make no money.

That making no money gives you a fascinating thing called--perspective.

It also gives you lots of unpaid bills. My apologies to creditors! I still plan on paying you all back.

My problem is that I don't like to lose. Dogged determination can carry you far in life, or leave you high and dry against a problem you can't seem to solve.

The idealist in me though believes that my actual failure was believing in some people who did not live up to great expectations, but the realist in me realizes that can be just a fact of life.

Great expectations may make a great novel title, but are not necessarily the most pragmatic views.

James Harris
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