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The 120-Hour Workweek - Epic Coding Time-Lapse (nickwinter.net)
54 points by rickdale on Nov 19, 2013 | hide | past | favorite | 48 comments

It seems like an interesting experiment, but I disagree with the conclusions of "I was getting better, I was happy". This is not sustainable and by all psychological/physical measurements this should be very bad for the person.

Can we kill the Cult of the Workaholic already?

I agree. I hope once the haze has settled he has to maintain this code.

He will. And I will. I've worked with him for years and while our code is not the best code, we do strive to make it maintainable. Especially for a large project like this that we'd like to build a community of coders around.

Don't take this the wrong way - nobody means any disrespect your work, but I'm skeptical (to say the least) about this being a sustainable tempo of work.

So, if you are pulling it off, can you give a comment on how long have you been working like this, and whether there's an simple trade-off in terms of restfulness, social life, etc... You know, can you live like this, and for how long.

Discussions around the merits of a 120 hour work week aside, this video was a pretty cool thing.

Though I do notice that the author spends most of his time looking up and left. As someone with neck troubles, I suggest rearranging the layout so that most time is spent looking straight ahead, with head mostly level - before you develop the same kinds of troubles.

Thanks for the tip. I actually just got a second monitor (third screen) but wasn't able to time-lapse it, so for this week I was unbalanced mostly looking at just one of the screens. I shall now rearrange my gaze targets.

I think this is cool and in my opinion has nothing to do with the workaholic culture.

I never did a deliberate 120 week, but I can attest that when I constantly do >12 hour days for a limited(!!) period my focus was much better. While there may be a cognitive decline because of the hours I believe there is a positive counterbalance when you do not need to worry about food, emails, laundry or any mundane tasks and basically you never unload the problem from your head. For certain type of coding tasks that gives much more than what is removed because of the tiredness.

This is something like an ironman. You can do it a few times, it puts you into a zen state, but obviously you don't run an ironman every day or every week of your life.

"Normally, I work a focused-but-relaxed 60 hours in a week." Ouch, not sure I could cope with that.

Yes, most people aren't Nick Winter, and shouldn't be doing 60 hours a week. He is a self-improvement machine. His ebook "The Motivation Hacker", which I highly recommend, explains how he does it. http://www.nickwinter.net/the-motivation-hacker

With all due respect; the description of that book sounds almost pathological to me. But hey, most people aren't Nick Winter.

Might sound that way, but its a good book. Short and cheap, well worth the read.

Does he have children?

Not yet.

This makes me nostalgic for my single days. When I could code without interruption for long periods of time. But I'm happier now and have a better work/life balance. I'd swear that makes me more productive.

Oh dear. This is going to be used as a stick to beat developers who work their contracted hours.

I work 40 hours a week and I already think that's too much.

Obviously that's not sustainable... but even the 60 hour version sounds pretty rough to me. Without a wife and kids, maybe. But I think if I tried this I wouldn't have to worry about a wife and kids anymore.

Am I the only one who works better and more efficiently when I have a little bit of a break in between?

> viking metal is stronger than sleep


This would be really fun to do for a project I was really into. My only changes would be:

a) A week off afterwards without touching a computer to get sane again

b) An hour a day for exercise, because I would not be willing to let my health go that bad. Sitting 120 hours isn't good, but at least a little exercise would raise my sanity/health a little

I used an adjustable-height standing/sitting desk, so I was standing maybe 40% of the time. I agree, I can't imagine doing it seated the whole time.

I think the main conclusion of this experiment is not to be workaholic, but rather coding for fun and forgetting about deadlines.

When I am coding and my mind do a context change to think about my unpaid bills or an approaching deadline, it severely decreases my focus.

I would be interested to know how you recorded this. Including the stats.

Here's the code: https://github.com/nwinter/telepath-logger

I initially wrote it as an self-tracking activity logger with no interface, but when I went to do the time-lapse video, I added the HUD UI and made it save screenshots at regular intervals. The HUD is actually showing on my screen at all times, so it gets included in the screenshots. From those screenshots, I just used ffmpeg to compile a video.

I haven't written this for anyone else to run it, but if you're running Mavericks, you could try! You'd probably want to cut out some of the stuff, like the part that shows the work graphs from my website.

The stats get recorded by all of the TPTracker*.m code. For keystrokes and mouse movements, you just ask to get notified of all system events (the user has to enable assistive access for Telepath). For window switches, light levels, and webcam, you have to poll. GitHub, Trello, and Gmail are polling web APIs, reading the API keys from stupid config files in Dropbox. For tracking how many builds I've done, I wrote a hacky brunch plugin: https://github.com/nwinter/telepath-brunch .

Current music comes from iTunes/Spotify distributed notifications, simple. Work hours and happiness/energy/health come from distributed notifications sent out by a Python script that parses my Emacs org mode files where I record these things whenever I save those files with Emacs after-save-hooks. So those would be unusable unless you were to modify the code to get some other way of doing happiness and mood. Same with the rightmost section: a web view showing the percentile feedback work graph from my website is not easily transferrable.

Total window switches: 32768

How very neat and appropriate for a programmer.

sounds like the upper bound of a data type to me.

Would be one less.

No, it is 1-indexed :)

Just coincidence, actually.

Very possible.

What a horrible idea.


Does anyone know what the graph is at the bottom right?

This is the graph: http://www.nickwinter.net/codecombat-stats. It is a percentile feedback work graph, indicating what fraction of the day so far you have been working on something productive, if I'm not mistaken.

Be careful, this is a great way to get a burnout !

I'm sure the bug count was ridiculously high.

Yes, but because so much was getting shifted around and refactored and added. I don't think any more bugs were introduced than if he'd done the work over a two or three week period. He spent a good portion of that week refactoring a particularly old and central piece of code, and he spent the better part of the weekend fixing bugs both old and new. So overall I believe we're ahead.

Those desks from ergo depot he mentions in the article, look awesome, but quite pricey. Anyone know where to get a cheap one?

It's actually cheaper to have two desks, two monitors, two keyboards and mice. Especially if you already extra gear lying around. I have this setup at work and find it faster/easier than an adjustable desk.

I'm glad I'm not the only one who still switches across to Quake and Nethack to clear the mind for a few minutes.

Those are screensavers, actually. Looks like he did almost nothing but code last week during his waking hours.

Yeah, I helped him choose those screensavers, he basically wanted some video to show while he was sleeping, that way the timelapse could be continuous. I was especially pleased with the bus driver bit.

While watching this, I started wondering how much of the code base you could OCR from the video.

Interesting question. I guess it all depends on how much he jumps around between files and different parts of files.

There's a scene in Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson which is similar to this problem. The protagonist is in jail with a laptop which has the location of treasure on it encrypted by a WWII Enigma machine. However, the bad guys can see his screen at all times, so he needs to write the code to crack the cipher without looking at the data. I won't spoil how he does it because I recommend reading the book.

Thanks for the book recommendation :)

We're planning on open sourcing the whole site in the future anyway, so you'll be able to get your hands on it directly soon enough!

Awesome! Glad to hear it :)

now this was an epic post. couldn't imagine this. i am not sure that somebody can cope this that.

haha this is awesome :)

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