Latest Writing & Things of Interest

November 13, 2018

Link: A Contract for The Web

I love this list of principles from the World Wide Web Foundation, but fear that it won’t be widely read or adopted. The current existential crisis of The Web is something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately, but I fear that it could be too late for principles like these to have any affect whatsoever. Hopefully I’m just being pessimistic.

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November 6, 2018

My Personal OKRs

measuing a mountain

I just finished reading John Doerr’s Measure What Matters. It’s an inside look at the culture around objectives and key results, or OKRs, as they’re commonly called. For those that aren’t familiar, OKRs are a framework for setting goals and measuring progress towards those goals used by the likes of Intel, Google, and The Gates Foundation, as well as countless startups.

Although John Doerr’s book was geared towards using OKRs at the organizational level (and packed with lots of unnecessary fluff), I found the concept of OKRs both fascinating and appealing. Fascinating in that there’s a genuine cult that’s grown around the concept and anyone that uses OKRs seems to swear by them. Appealing in that they seem to provide a solution to two of the problems I’ve always had when setting goals:

  1. Goals tend to be too broad.
  2. Progress is hard to measure and grade.

OKRs effectively tackle both problems.

Objectives are less of a New Year’s resolution and more of a business goal (or personal goal in my case). They are tied to some sort of measurable outcome, and help narrow otherwise broadly defined goals. They can still be wildly ambitious, but should always be at least a little bit achievable. Instead of a goal of “get fit,” an objective would be “lose 20 pounds.” They should also have a deadline associated with them.

Key results are the tactical part of OKRs. They are the things you’re measuring and—when achieved—will spell certain success for your objective. If we’re running with the “lose 20 pounds” example above, some key results could be “eliminate sugar and fast food from diet” or “run for 20 minutes four times a week.” Key results are easy to track—even if they’re hard to do—and give you a clear, objective (pun intended) way to measure your progress.

This combination of defining better goals (objectives) and being able to reliably track progress (key results) have me convinced that OKRs are worth trying out. So I’m going to implement quarterly OKRs for myself for the next year to see how things go.

Part of the OKR strategy, though, is radical transparency. In an OKR-driven organization, everyone in the company is supposed to have access to their colleagues, bosses, and overall company’s OKRs so that everyone is held accountable.

Personal OKRs are a little trickier to be transparent about, though. Sure, I can tell my wife about them and put check-ins on my calendar to review them, but I want to be more transparent to a wider audience. Since I have a few thousand monthly readers of my blog and newsletter, I figured y’all would be the perfect people to share my OKRs with.

So, I’ve set up a section on my website to dump my OKRs. Each quarter, I’ll grade and review the previous quarter’s OKRs as well as define the next set. I plan on posting a retrospective at the end of the quarter here on my blog, and welcome any feedback, criticism, or encouragement from any of you along the way.

Although I’ve been exposed to OKRs before, using them at a personal level is new to me. I feel like my first set of objectives are poorly defined, but I’m hoping that they will get better as I get deeper into the process of using OKRs.

If you want to follow along, bookmark my OKR page or subscribe to my email newsletter. And, as always, you can email me with feedback whenever you want.

November 3, 2018

Link: Google Walkout for Real Change

Google employees hold signs in protest.

This is important and amazing to see. Google is a massive company—both in terms of employees and influence. Its products are amazing, but its culture and ethical practices are revealing themselves to be wildly lacking. It’s heartening to see so many employees take a stand in order to affect real change. If they succeed (and I don’t think they’ll stop until they do), then it could be the start of an amazing movement in the tech world. Change at Google could beget change at other tech companies, and that change is sorely needed.

See also their list of demands to leadership. It’s a good start. Let’s hope Sundar Pichai and his team respond as they should.

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November 2, 2018

Link: The Ultimate Web Design Tool: The Browser

A good reminder of what some of us have known for years. The best web design tool in existence is still the browser. Oliver Williams points out a lot of reasons as to why browsers are better than ever.

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October 12, 2018

Link: 100 Portraits in 150 Days

One of my best friends, Kait Creamer, gave a talk a few weeks ago at Ignite Boulder on defining yourself, tackling one of the biggest creative challenges of her life, and what it means to be an artist (or anything else for that matter). It’s now up online and definitely worth the five minutes it’ll take out of your day.

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September 28, 2018

Link: Survival Tips for Women in Tech

It’s fucked up that articles like this have to be written but—since they still do—this is a good one to read. While it’s a list of things for women to practice in the tech industry, it should be ready by every man in tech, too. It’s a great look into what women have to worry about on a daily basis and could provide a lot of insights for changing our own behavior to be more inclusive for women. Patricia Aas puts it well:

You shouldn’t have to fight to survive doing your job on the same playing field as your colleagues. These tips don’t make this Your Fault. You are great just the way you are. This is the most important one. Because even though these tips work, you shouldn’t have to work so hard to be treated like everyone else.

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September 26, 2018

Link: Don't Vote

This is an amazing ad. Super smart, chilling, and funny—without being unrealistic. Go vote in November.

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September 8, 2018

Link: Accessibility is Not a Feature

This right here. I’ve heard similar stuff around frameworks or quick fixes to make websites and emails accessible, but it’s never a quick fix. Accessibility requires thought, work, understanding, and empathy, without which the best you’ll get is navigable. Ethan, again, words it well:

We should treat accessibility better than that. It’s more than just another software feature.

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