Alex Payne is a writer based in Portland, Oregon.

since 2001, al3x.net has served as his online home.

The Tapir Book

When my coauthor and I began working on Programming Scala last year, the most frequent comment I got was, “you’re never going to want to write another book once you’re done.” Well, as of this morning, I’m pretty much done, and I can say that I’d very much like to write another book. I don’t think, though, that I would commit to another one while working a full-time job, and I certainly wouldn’t recommend trying to write a book while working at a rapidly growing startup.

When I announced that I was going to be working on the book, a critic insinuated that it would detract from my work at Twitter. In practice, the opposite was true. I had many an evening or weekend afternoon of writing interrupted by fires at work that needed fighting. For that reason, I wouldn’t consider taking on another book project until I can give it my full attention. The value of sabbaticals as practiced in the academic world was made crystal clear to me throughout the writing process.

There’s a reason why Dean’s name comes first on the book’s cover: he is unambiguously the principal contributor to Programming Scala. We worked from his outline, and though much was changed and reorganized collaboratively, the backbone of the book is absolutely Dean’s. I couldn’t have asked for a better coauthor. If anything, I wish that I could have contributed more equally to the text. What I did contribute, though, I’m proud of. We handed off our content to the production team at O’Reilly earlier today, and I can hardly wait until October to have the final product in my hands (and on my Kindle).

I took on the book in part to develop a mastery of Scala, and I’ve looked forward to learning something new every time I sit down to write, week after week. Though I understand more of the language than I did when I started, I still don’t feel that I’m on the level of folks like David Pollak, Jorge Ortiz, Daniel Spiewak, and the rest of the Scala gurus who dove into the language well before Dean or I. Still, it’s been an incredible learning experience, and I’m extremely grateful to everyone who made it possible, not least of all our editor, Mike Loukides.

This coming weekend will be my first in many months that is completely open, free of examples that need to be written, sections that need to be reorganized, reader feedback to incorporate, and unfamiliar concepts that need to be researched before I can write about them with confidence. With the free time I now have again, I can get back to writing open source code, mixing music, exploring the Bay Area, posting to this blog, and all the other things I’ve set aside while working on the book.

It’s liberating to be done, but bittersweet.

Since I Left You

I have managed to do a bit of this and that while wrapping up the book. We’ve set up a blog for the Twitter platform, and I’ve contributed a few posts to that. I’ve managed several talks, and committed to a couple more later this year.

Most cathartically, I’ve laid open my virtual notebook of ideas for all the web to see. I’m going to be at Twitter for a couple more years at least, if all goes well, and it seems a shame to let ideas sit in a text file and rot in the interim. Some of the ideas I fully intend on seeing through myself, in time. Others I hope will be picked up, improved upon, or made irrelevant by people smarter and more talented than myself. Either way, it’s been an experiment in radical openness (a topic I’m preoccupied with), and one that’s paid off from day one.

It should be less quiet around here, again, now.

Fever and the Future of Feed Readers

An Unfinished Idea: The Ambient Music Box