Latest Writing & Things of Interest

January 15, 2019

Link: The Ethics of Web Performance

This is a good post from Tim Kadlec on how web performance can affect others, and our collective ethical obligation to those people. Another good reminder that, even if we’re not in a larger strategy position at big companies, we still have the power to change the world in smaller (but still important) ways. Let’s change it for the better.

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January 7, 2019

Link: Free Private Repos on GitHub

An excellent turn of events for independent coders. Nice to save seven bucks a month, even better for those that couldn’t afford the seven bucks to begin with. Thanks GitHub (and Microsoft)!

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January 5, 2019

OKRs: Q4 2018 Review

Measuring a mountain

2018 has come to an end and, with it, my first attempt at using objectives and key results to define my goals and track progress towards them. Here’s a quick retrospective on my first round of personal OKRs.

Objective:

Create healthier habits ahead of 2019 fitness push.

Key results:

  • Lose 10 pounds by December 31st.
  • Get 10k steps at least four days a week.
  • Go sugar/caffeine free for at least 45 days.

Out of all three, I’d say that this was my main goal. Having a desk job for the past ten years has taken its toll, and I’m on a mission to lose some weight, gain some mobility, and just feel better on a regular basis. Unfortunately, I’m giving myself a big ol’ zero for this objective.

The past two months have been spent selling our house, buying a new one, doing some major renovations in a very short period of time, and moving in over the holidays. It was complete chaos and, as a result, all of this quarter’s OKRs suffered.

As anyone who has moved can tell you, it’s largely a scramble to get way too many tasks done in less time than you could ever expect. As such, you’re left trying to fit the regular bits of life into very, very small windows of time. Common, every day activities like eating a decent meal are hard to prioritize, especially when your kitchen is packed into twenty different boxes.

My weight stayed the same (hurray for not gaining, at least!), I drank way more soda than usual, and, apart from the two weeks right around Christmas and New Year’s when we moved, the 10k day was rare.

Objective:

Increase my profile as a public speaking expert.

Key results:

  • Get 1 article published on speaking in external publication.
  • Finish first draft of Speak Easier.
  • Submit 5 CFPs to conferences for next year.

I’d call this one more successful, but only slightly. On the one hand, I did get an article on speaking published over on the LogRocket blog. I did not get a full first draft of my new book, Speak Easier, completed, nor did I submit to any CFPs, although I did gather a list of conferences to submit to and get them organized in Trello.

For reasoning and excuses, see the section above.

Objective:

Increase the reach and influence of my newsletter.

Key results:

  • Grow email subscribers to 2,000.
  • Publish The Intermittent Newsletter at least once a week.
  • Average 40% open rate.

Again, largely a failure on these OKRs, too. I’ll let this screenshot from MailChimp do most of the talking:

MailChimp screenshot showing email newsletter stats

Although my email list grew, it did so slightly. I’m a few hundred off my goal and didn’t have much time to invest in implementing any serious growth strategies. And you can see that I only sent my newsletter 5 out of the 13 weeks in the quarter.

The good news is that I did manage to average a 40% open rate, which isn’t too bad.

Overall Review

My first quarter of using OKRs wasn’t the best by a long shot. I maintain that moving house and contending with the holidays are reasonable excuses as to why, but excuses are excuses…

I do think that there are a few things I need to do moving forward to make my OKRs successful. They include:

  • Making them more visible e.g. printing them out and hanging them somewhere I will see them on a daily basis.
  • Scheduling weekly check-ins to review progress and remind myself of my goals.
  • Scheduling discrete blocks of time to work on specific OKRs.
  • Settle into our new home to make everything in life a bit easier.

See this quarter’s OKRs here.

December 17, 2018

Link: 10 Things I Learned as a Developer Advocate

I’ve been doing more work lately that would fall into the “developer advocate” category. While it’s always been a part of my job, it’s increasingly becoming a main focus. So this post from Peter O’Shaughnessy about ten things he learned as a developer advocate for Samsung Internet spoke to me. The first three are key. Yes, there’s lots of freedom, but that comes with a lot of responsibility and the natural tendency to over-commit on a regular basis.

Anyways, it’s a good post so check it out. Hat tip to Julia and Laka at Developer Avocados for the link.

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December 16, 2018

Link: Browsers

Jeremy Keith with a fantastic roundup of the prevailing opinions on Microsoft dropping EdgeHTML. This about sums it all up:

Very soon, the vast majority of browsers will have an engine that’s either Blink or its cousin, WebKit. That may seem like good news for developers when it comes to testing, but trust me, it’s a sucky situation of innovation and agreement. Instead of a diverse browser ecosystem, we’re going to end up with incest and inbreeding.

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December 14, 2018

What's next?

Illustration of Jed Bartlet from The West Wing television show

My all-time favorite TV show is The West Wing.

There are many, many reasons that I love it (and why I’m re-watching it for something like the 6th time), but I think one of the main reasons is everyone’s work ethic. Despite some major obstacles and early-administration lethargy (see s1e19, “Let Bartlet be Bartlet), the Bartlet White House is always hard at work on problems affecting the country, large and small. The major representation of this ethic is President Jed Bartlet’s signature phrase, “What’s next?”

“What’s next?” encapsulates so much. It’s not just about getting through a massive to-do list, it’s about putting to bed whatever you just completed. It’s about clearing the mental space needed to focus on the next thing. And it’s about making sure you’re focusing on the right thing.

There’s a telling scene in the first season where Bartlet’s Chief of Staff, Leo McGarry, is arguing with Secretary of HUD Debbie O’Leary about her (rightfully) calling the Republican Party racist. Everyone wants O’Leary, a black woman, to publicly apologize despite her unwillingness to do so. Although it’s an important argument to have, Leo says something to the effect of, “The President won’t hesitate to fire you and say, ‘What’s next?’.” He knows that O’Leary is doing amazing work and that work needs to continue. He also knows that, as much as she hates it, it’s more important to pick your battles. O’Leary can make a bigger impact by apologizing and moving onto the work that directly affects millions of lives. It’s a horrible pill to swallow, but she ultimately agrees that it’s necessary to apologize and move on instead of losing her job.

“What’s next?” is repeated throughout the series. It’s said casually and made into a key plot point. It’s sometimes an off-hand comment. Other times it’s a massive emotional trigger for characters and the viewers alike. It’s something that starts with President Bartlet but that is embedded into the core of every person around him.

It’s one saying that I’ve been trying to keep in mind throughout my day, too.

It’s often easy to finish some task and think you’ve accomplished a lot. But, far too often, those tasks aren’t what’s important. There’s more vital work to be done. Instead of resting on my laurels or taking a break after a block of work is done, I’m trying to ask myself, “What’s next?” Both as a reminder to stop wasting the day and, more importantly, as a reminder to make sure I’m focusing on the work that will make the biggest impact.

If you haven’t seen The West Wing already, I strongly encourage you to binge it over the next couple of weeks. You won’t be dissappointed and you end up feeling inspired on top of just entertained. Likewise, I encourage you to ask yourself, “What’s next?” on a regular basis. It’s a good way to remind yourself of what’s important, regardless of whether you’re governing a country or working on a new marketing campaign.

December 12, 2018

Link: Who do designers really work for?

A great post from Mike Monteiro over on the Adobe blog. He’s always trying to keep us designers honest and, for that, I thank him. Can’t wait for his new book on design ethics. It seems more necessary than ever.

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December 11, 2018

Link: Risking a Homogeneous Web

An excellent post from Tim Kadlec on the recent Microsoft announcement. Part of me wants to give in and just embrace Google and Chrome, as it seems inevitable that they’ll eat the entire web. But the good in me sees the sense of using other browsers and fighting for a diverse web. I’ll be using Firefox from here on out and I hope you’ll join me.

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