March 11, 2008
The Choose Your Own Adventure book series was one of my favorites as a young reader.
The Choose Your Own adventure books are still around; modern versions can be found at your local bookstore. I bought one today at a local Barnes & Noble to refresh my memory, and although the overall experience is intact, I'm not terribly impressed with the updated art. The original illustrator, Don Hedin (using the pseudonym Paul Granger) had quite an eye for the often fantastic and surreal topics depicted in these books. Here are two illustrations from the first book in the series, The Cave of Time.
The cover art is just as brilliant, and in full color. Joey DeVilla put together a great montage of the original 66 Choose Your Own Adventure book covers. You can pick up the original Cave of Time – with funky, freaky late 1970s art intact – for a mere penny.
The Choose Your Own Adventure series are early programmer books, I'd say. Whether reading the modern updates, or through inheriting a worn hand-me-down copy, it's encouraging to think that future generations can have the same fun pseudo-programming experience I had reading and re-reading these classic books. Every few pages you make a decision, which leads to a different page in the book. If that sounds like branching and if-then logic – maybe even recursion and stacks – well, it is. Here's a diagram of all possible outcomes in the original Cave of Time book:
Although it's fun to explore and test all the permutations, the book is also a little bit grim.
||11 return home
||15 new life
Of the 39 possible outcomes in the book, only 11 are positive. More than two-thirds of the outcomes either result in the player's death, or being trapped somewhere in time, leading out an alternate life.
I suppose this is on my mind today because 28 years later, I feel like I'm still playing Choose Your Own Adventure:
You have landed your dream job as a technical evangelist for Vertigo Software. It is by far the best job you've ever had. Every day is fun. You've become close friends with your coworkers, who are all as passionate about software development as you are. However, over the last three years, the growing online popularity of your blog has eclipsed everything else you do, and opened up many new – but risky – opportunities.
If you choose to continue working and having fun with your friends at Vertigo, turn to page 8.
If you choose to quit your job and wholeheartedly pursue blog-related opportunities, turn to page 10.
I've spent the last six months staring at this page trying to figure out what to do. With some trepidation, I'm now turning to page 10. Thursday will be my last day at Vertigo. I will sorely miss the camaraderie and the many close personal friends I've made at Vertigo. Vertigo remains a fantastic place to work, and if you're a Microsoft ecosystem developer, I can't recommend it highly enough. I'm proud to be a distinguished Vertigo alumnus.
Sometimes choosing your own adventure means closing one door to open another. And I have to close the door on Vertigo, however reluctantly, to fully and wholeheartedly explore the alternatives. It would be unfair to Vertigo and to myself to do anything less. I'm not sure what exactly lies on page 10. I won't lie to you. It's scary to trade the security of a safe, salaried job for the unknowns of your own small business. But the way I look at it, if it's not a little scary, then it's not the right choice. Failure is always an option.
I can tell you that Coding Horror will continue, with a slightly increased emphasis on advertising – but always tastefully. I don't like ads any more than you do, even if I am now relying on them for a substantial part of my income.
But I refuse to become a full-time blogger. I think that's a cop-out. If I look at the people I respect most in the industry, the people I view as role models – Paul Graham, Joel Spolsky, Steve Yegge, Eric Sink, Rich Skrenta, Marc Andreesen, Wil Shipley, Douglas Crockford, Scott Guthrie – they all have one thing in common. They're not just excellent writers and communicators. They build stuff, too. The world has enough vapid commentary blogs. I want to build stuff – and talk about it. I have a little micro-ISV startup opportunity I'll be working on, a web property I'm building out with one of the above people. I'm not ready to announce the details yet, but when I do, you'll read about it here.
I can't guarantee I'm making the right choices, but nonetheless, I am choosing my own adventure. I invite you all to read along with me.
Posted by Jeff Atwood
Can't believe it took you so long! Good luck amigo - good things await!
Good luck! I'm excited to hear what you're working on.
Congratulations, Jeff! Can't wait to hear about your new venture (when you're ready, that is)
(double chest thump + peace sign) ai
Good luck Jeff! I hope you will blog about the life on the other side.
I love Choose Your Own Adventure books, too! I didn't realize they were popular enough to ever find another person who had read and enjoyed the Cave of Time. Although, I disagree after there only being 11 positive outcomes. I liked some of the alternate lives in strange times. Good luck Jeff. This is a big step and I hope you succeed!
Those books are awesome, they, along with the Hardy Boys, Encyclopedia Brown and The Mad Scientists Club made up 95% of my reading material in my young reading life.
Good luck! Does this mean you'll be moving to Seattle?
I can't talk about the new project yet. I apologize for the secrecy, I really do, but there's simply not enough to justify talking about it yet.
Also, if you visit the Vertigo jobs page..
That's me in the banana suit. Seriously.
and good luck in your new venture
This, I believe, is my second comment on your blog, Jeff. I know the blog will continue, but this time of change is a good opportunity to thank you for all the great articles and for sharing your thoughts with the readers.
And, of course, good luck with the new path you chose. You've made a bold choice. I have no doubt in my mind that you will do well with the new venture.
I never thought of them as my first programmer books, but you're completely right. Now, thanks to your post I've digged out my old "Elige tu propia aventura" books. I hope page 10 turns out great for you!
Have fun, work hard and good luck Jeff!
Sure, you might end up on one of those red boxes, but at least you've stopped staring at the page and really chose your very own *adventure*.
Nothing worthwhile has ever come easily or without some amount of risk. Thank you for your awesome posts so far, looking to read more from you, and best of luck in your new adventure.
Best of luck with your new job Jeff and congratulations on landing the new role. I do hope you keep the blog running, as I (and I am obviously not alone) really enjoy reading it.
Again, congratulations and all the best.
Wow - I salute your bravery Jeff, and hope it all works out for you.
As Bob Parsons often says, "Get and Stay out of your comfort zone"
Good Job Jeff...
This seems like the year of change for so many people I know, or feel I know! ;-)
Best of luck with your new adventures!
Jeff, you'll do great. God Bless!
Or as we say here, "Awesome, bru"
Best of luck Jeff. I left the comfort and (relative) safety of being employed to try working for myself back in 2001, and although each and every day has brought some kind of challenge, it was definitely the right thing for me to do.
I think many people wander into this without really appreciating quite how much effort it can be (I was one of them) but for those who keep plugging away, it becomes very fulfilling.
I can look back on a day-by-day, week-by-week, year-by-year basis and see things I could have done better (or at least differently) and for me the 'trick' was to realise that it didn't really matter as long as I could identify which moves were mistakes, and to learn to trust that my own judgement would never /seriously/ let me down.
And of course, life itself is a lot less stressful while you keep in mind that you're never going to get out of it alive. :-)
All the best!
You must have had more well wishes in response to this post than you have had in a long time. Let me add mine. Good luck Jeff!
I’ve been a lurker here for some time, but thought I’d pipe in and wish you all the best.
The cool thing about these books, and life, is that if you don’t like the page you ended up on you can often go back and make another choice. All the best.
Congratulations good luck Jeff. I'm sure page 10 will be a first page in an excellent new chapter and maybe a beginning of a whole new book.
Good luck with your new project! (Surely it's going to be a fully automatic repair robot for Rock Band guitars?)
Good Luck, hope you find your place under the sun!
Whatever happens you'll learn something new and that is always a good thing, enjoy.
I could offer the customary "best of luck" wishes to you Jeff, but luck has had nothing to do with what you've done and where you've gone so far so you won't need it.
It was a pleasure to work with you even for a short time (way back when, out in RTP), and I can tell you that you've had a positive influence on my career.
Whatever you do, it will be successful, I'm certain.
The best one is "Space And Beyond"!!! I love that one!!!
Good luck to Coding Horror and all who sail in her!
This is the second time in a week that you bring up a topic that relates directly to my current education. (Real-time raytracing was the first time; especially the Arauna raytracer since it's done by one of the teachers, Jacco Bikker).The Choose Your Own Adventure series were brought up in a narratology course related to game design as the first example of interactive narratology.
Wow, brave decission! Good luck and looking forward to hear from that project!
I wonder what it'll be you'll be working on!...
Good luck to you Jeff! I hope there are more positive endings than the Caves of Time, but you won't know until you go through the permutations!
Congrats for taking such a big step!
Having read your thoughts on this for so long it kinda makes me proud :)
Out favorite blogger is growing up :)
Sick, I know.
good luck jeff, love the blog
As much as I liked the Choose Your Own Adventure books, I *loved* the Time Traveler series, especially the dinosaur one!
Just thought I'd state that before going back to the article ;)
My all time favourite book when I was growing up was the Fighting Fantasy book 'House of Hell' (http://www.gamebooks.org/show_item.php?id=47).
It was fiendishly difficult, full of puzzles, and very very entertaining
For those who liked the old 'Choose your own adventure' books, I seriously recommend it!
Good Luck on your new adventure and Godspeed.
May the Source be with you always.
Hey Don't worry you can always flip back!
Congratz Jeff! Be sure to let us know how things turn out (not just posting about What happens... but the why and the how... and all the other good stuff you always post).
I thought I was the only one who remembered the "Choose Your Own Adventure" books! Some of the earliest ever programs I wrote as a child were transcripts of CYOA books in BASIC. Ah, them were the days.
Good luck in your new ventures.
Good luck in your exciting new endeavors!
All the best Jeff. Hope you don't run out of fingers marking the previous decision pages like I always seemed to do. Adam.
good luck jeff!
i know making those decisions are the most dofficult.. but are the easy ones ever worth it?
ive found myself falling back to the robert frost poem: the road not taken
I am really shocked!!!
At first I thought I should stop reading this blog.
I don't want to read people who do nothing but blog.
Good to hear that you will continue 'building stuff'.
Anyway, best of luck Jeff.
When I read my first Choose Your Own Adventure "Journey Under the Sea", I immediately wrote a Pascal program to read the story using a computer.
And my best wishes for your new endeavor. This blog is a hangout I visit daily and I hope this will continue to be true. Can't wait to see what you are getting up to next.
I hope your new venture is as successful as your blog has been. Just keep on turning the pages of your adventure and I'm sure you'll do good.
I wish you good luck for your new adventures !
I'm wondering what you're working on now ... Please keep us aware !
Oops ! I don't think aware was the right word ! Obviously I meant "informed" but I clicked the Post button too fast ;).
best of luck to you Jeff. I've enjoyed your blog for a long time now but this is my first post, just to wish you the best in your new endeavor.
Best of luck to you. Can't wait to read about page 10 when you've digested enough to share with us.
Jeff - You've already earned enough attention that your new microISV has an excellent chance of success - but things are different over here than working in a good company like Vertigo. A couple of resources worth mentioning:
Pam Slim's Escape from Cubical Nation blog for lots of really good advice - particularly about the human side of going from over there to over here and Business of Software - lots of very knowledgeable people, low noise.
Firstly, thanks for all the insightfull and well written articles. Your blog is always first on my list.
I recently had a similar dilemma, and after pondering for a long time, I did as you did. Never looked back.
Best of luck, you will succeed at whatever you do.
Best of luck in the future, I always enjoy your blog and I wish you success in your new enterprise!
Good luck with your adventure!
Good things come to those who dare! All the best.
Great to hear Jeff,
If you need a beta tester, do let me know!
I guess the Recession is taking its toll ehe..
Good Luck, Jeff! Whish you all the best.
Good luck dude, it'll be awesome! Your blog keeps my sanity when things are dark and brooding and the only option I have is to turn to page 10, knowing full well that there's an endless pit behind a trap door. BTW, I was more of a fan of the Steve Jackson series. Still love them and still think they were the best programming model on paper to date. Keep the blog flowing and the content growing and you will be ready someday little grasshopper.
I wonder what CYOA books could tell us about child psychology. I too was one of those kids who couldn't turn the page without holding a finger in to turn back -- sometimes in a few places at once in case they tried to do me in without realizing it!
while I know what you were going through to reach this decision, don't fret about it. Job safety is mostly an illusion. The bottom line is, you simply put your life and financial security in the hands of your employer.
But economy constantly changes, and companies that do well today may be gone next year, and working at that company, while appearing to be "the safe bet" for that year longer, basically leaves you stranded.
If you have the opportunity to take responsibility for your own financial backing, then go for it without hesitation. Be your own boss, and look to find a second or third pillar of income over time, so if one breaks away, you can still survive on the others. You usually don't have even the option to start with that when you are in a regular employment.
Build, thrive, and expand. And don't forget to enjoy life along the way. ;-)
I read The cave of time, who killed Harlowe Thrombew, and one you haven't listed that I think was called "the supercomputer", this one was great... oh, and one with whales I don't recall the name...
They were great books...
*LOVE* the CYOA compilation picture! That's absolutely one of my favorite series of books. And the Boxcar Children.
Good luck Jeff! I really admire what you are doing.
Probably the best post I've read since I started following your blog. Thank you for so many awesome articles, and good luck with whatever it is you're going to be working on!
Oh, and yeah, I absolutely loved those books. Some of them were translated to norwegian (my english wasn't very good back then) so I would go down to the town library every weekend and rent new ones.
Best of luck Jeff!
Thanks for your insights these past couple of years.
I wish you luck on your new venture. Thanks for all the great posts.
Best of luck to you, Jeff!
Bah! I waited a day to read your post!
Congrats on your move and wish you the best of luck! Will be looking forward to you announcing the full details when the time comes.
Good Luck on your new job!
Just a comment to spoil the emphasis of your post (yes, I'm a big bastard). I know that thinking about a job change is a long and deep mental process, I've been there myself, but consider this:
- You are a very skilled and popular programmer
- You've been working at Vertigo for a long time
- You're leaving Vertigo in good terms
Given these 3 points, there is a VERY HIGH probability that Vertigo would re-hire you (with a higher salary) should something go wrong in your new adventure :-)
best of luck with the start up, you could also break into the podcasting, I'm sure there are a few people that would listen to you drone on for 5-10 minutes a day on various OSS projects that you feel passionate about. It would be a great way to advertise for you new adventure and possibly make more money while you are at it..
Thoroughly enjoyed reading your blog posts and hope to continue to do so. All the best to you.:-)
It's is always refreshing to jump into something new. So all the best.
The wisdom of Rudyard Kipling (by way of Grandpa Simpson):
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it all on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And -- which is more -- you'll be a Man, my son!
Best of luck Jeff!
I'm also closing a door here at my current job and moving on to a new adventure.
These past few nights I've being going to bed pretty late just staring at the ceiling and wondering: "what if it doesn't work?"
Can't wait to hear more from your new endeavor.
Good luck on the new adventure!
Everybody's changing something in their lifes these days - including me. Good luck on your leap my friend.
Best of luck, Jeff. We'll be listening on the same Jeff-channel to see how page 10 turns out to be :)
We'll be waiting with bated breath. Good luck!
Atta Boy Jeff, GO FOR IT!
The best books for choosing your own adventure were the Steve Jackson/Ian Livingstone books. Seriously. More monsters and maiming.
Oh, and good luck.
By the way, don't back down; you've made the right choice and you will succeed.
My attitude has always been:
'I will succeed or die trying.'
In the end, if you want something bad enough, these are the only two possible outcomes.
Most of the time, people succeed. I know I have when I really wanted something.
You’ve got to want it. And you have got to believe.
Again, good luck Jeff and best wishes for your new venture.
As far as being homeless with a suit and tie, I'd say that opting to fulfill potential (or the attempt to) will lead to less bitterness with preparation. The chains of material belongings and "base of operations" can be hindering. I'm not suggesting that going for such an extreme is good... without planning, anyway. That is what compels a response. It is an important point in your life.
There is risk where there is reward. Plan it out.
Best of luck; I look forward to seeing how it turns out.
I loved these books. I remember marking pages with my fingers, scraps of paper, whatever was handy trying to make sure I had found every ending and every path through the books. I think I've still got a collection of these at home that I'm saving for my kids (first one arriving in July!) and I'm hoping they love them as much as I did. It was the first thing I looked for in the Weekly Reader magazine when it was time to order more books in elementary school.
Good luck with the new venture. With your discipline in posting almost every day, I'm sure you will do well.