Every December I spend some time coming up with a theme for the year to come. The theme is represented by one word and I try to apply it in every aspect of my life for the entire year.
I’m excited to share my word for 2022 with the tech community and see those of us who wish to participate move toward a common goal. The word can apply to your career, personal life, or both.
The word of the year for 2022 is async.
Async is short for asynchronous, which traditionally means you do not get an immediate answer to your request. An easy way to explain it is when you’re at a restaurant.
When you sit down at a restaurant, you look over the menu and the server comes over to take your order. You put your order in, and after a while they come back with your food. You eat it and enjoy.
While you’re waiting for your food to be made you can do whatever you want. Talk with your friends and family, play on your phone, leave and come back, etc… It’s really up to you. When the food is done, you stop what you’re doing and eat. This is an asynchronous process.
If ordering food at a restaurant was synchronous, you would be involved with all the prep and cooking. You’d put in your order with the server, then follow them back to the kitchen. You would watch the prep cooks cut the veggies, then watch the line cooks sauté them and present them on a plate. You’d then follow them back out to your table where they serve you.
In this process, you knew step by step what was being done. You were involved in the process even though you don’t really care or are involved in the process.
This is why being async is so important. You can do the dirty work without people watching and waiting for you to finish. They can do what they want while you perform the task at hand. This is why we’re going to focus on it in 2022.
Everybody reading this post has been to a website where they clicked on a button and the page didn’t look like it did anything. So we clicked the button again. And again. And again.
After a while, the page responds and as it turns out, every one of our clicks was registered but we couldn’t tell because it was triggering a long running process. Now we have our data repeated in the system several times because of a poor user experience on the page.
The objective of async software is to prevent your users from feeling like they are waiting.
Long running processes are absolutely ok, but we need to work on how we present them to the user.
Instead of waiting for a response, we can do a few things:
This is an example of async user experience at a basic level. There are many ways we can enhance user experience, but for our adventure in 2022, let’s walk before we run.
Over the course of the year, we should make steps toward the pattern defined above. I always say when it comes to software you should “do it, do it right, do it better”. Let’s get something in there and get it working (just be sure not to send your POC to prod!).
Then standardize our methods and make it a defined process. Finally, let’s get feedback from our customers and fine tune the experience to make it the best possible.
Software is all about iteration and continuously getting better. Implementing async strategies are no different.
As technologists, we hear async and assume it just applies to software. Seems like a pretty safe assumption to me.
But wait! This wouldn’t be a strong word of the year if it only had one dimension. We can take the core principles of async and apply it to our daily lives.
How many times has someone asked you for something and you felt pressured to give an answer right then and there? To make matters worse, whatever your answer was, you had to stick to it down the road? Sucks, right?
We need to work on becoming a little more async in our responses. By taking the time to make smart, calculated decisions we’re able to come back with an answer we believe in that results in a better outcome for everyone. This improves the confidence in our decisions and ultimately the quality of our lives. We aren’t being held accountable for snap decisions anymore.
Another way to think about being async in your daily life is to not react. By reacting to a strong statement or ask, we oftentimes say something we wish we didn’t. Gather the information, take it back, build a response, and deliver it.
You should always say what you mean to say, but when emotions are involved sometimes the filter comes off and we regret it.
Take a breather, relax, resume the conversation.
If you’re looking for a place to get started in your async technical adventure, start with serverless. Serverless tech offers incredibly short launch times to get started and runs in the cloud under a free tier for a year (some services are always free!).
There are hundreds, if not thousands, of blog posts out there from getting started with serverless, to breaking down monoliths to serverless microservices, to advanced nuance at scale. You have access to communities and design patterns and many reference architectures.
One of my favorite things about AWS serverless is how easy it is to create async workflows and tie your business logic together. In 2022, we’re going to favor configuration over code, which means we let the existing services do the hard work for us. We tell them to run async and hook up our notification processes and callbacks together.
To get started on your personal async challenge, start listening. Have conversations with people where they do most of the talking. Calculate your responses based on what they have told you. If you need to, tell them “I’ll get back to you later” and figure out how you want to respond.
People are much more forgiving and less judgy than we give them credit for. Many times, people will respect your decision to come back with a well thought out answer than an on-the-spot decision.
2022 has a lot to look forward to. We can go full swing into it by arming ourselves with being async. From the software we write to the way we talk to each other, this is the year to be smarter and more calculated.
As with all new things it will take time, but we’re starting early and focusing on iteration. Practice on your own or bounce ideas off your friends and family. The year of async is upon us.
Let’s make 2022 the best yet!