Personal notes and snippets of code.
If you are not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you've launched too late.
— Reid Hoffman
I pushed the WIP version of Brody.com v10 last Friday with the focus on having the basics migrated across and built out plus the slight pressure of building in public to urge me to progress things along.
Below are the outstanding tasks I'll be chipping away at over the next month or 2.*
This video is something I revisit over and over and throught I'd drop it into the feed as I use my site more for a space to post things I'm interested in.
Another year, another redesign of Brody.com to give me the chance to iterate upon the design, improve my front-end skillz and try out a shiny new tool or two.
I thought I'd jot down the objectives & principles for the 2021 redesign to use as the guiding stars when designing and developing.
My space of the internet
My aim is to create a space to post videos, quotes, links, images and also longer blog posts, which I never seem to get around to finishing 😬. I'm thinking something like a Tumblog, tagged to filter down by type & topic.
Alongside the posts, I'd like to create a timeline library of the TV shows, movies, courses, books & video games I complete with a basic rating system similarly filterable by type to see just the latest movies I've watched, for example. Currently, I use the Letterboxd API for this exact thing on my about page but with the mixed content, I think it might be cleaner to do that manually for this section.
Ease to post
The friction of jumping onto my laptop, launching iTerm, changing directory, opening the directory in VS Code, firing up Gridsome, creating a new file, futzing with the front matter, previewing, pushing code to Github — you get the gist. It's a whole effort to post and now that I want to post more short-form content, the current workflow to post is too cumbersome.
In thirty years’ time, as technology moves forward even further, people are going to look back and wonder why offices ever existed.
— Richard Branson, Founder of Virgin Group
The time is right for remote work
Why work doesn’t happen at work
If you ask people where they go when they really need to get work done, very few will respond “the office.” If they do say the office, they’ll include a qualifier such as “super early in the morning before anyone gets in” or “I stay late at night after everyone’s left” or “I sneak in on the weekend.” What they’re trying to tell you is that they can’t get work done at work. The office during the day has become the last place people want to be when they really want to get work done. That’s because offices have become interruption factories. A busy office is like a food processor— it chops your day into tiny bits. Fifteen minutes here, ten minutes there, twenty here, five there.
Even short commutes stab at your happiness. According to the research, commuting is associated with an increased risk of obesity, insomnia, stress, neck and back pain, high blood pressure, and other stress-related ills such as heart attacks and depression, and even divorce.
Say you spend thirty minutes driving in rush hour every morning and another fifteen getting to your car and into the office. That’s 1.5 hours a day, 7.5 hours per week, or somewhere between 300 and 400 hours per year, give or take holidays and vacation. Four hundred hours is exactly the amount of programmer time we spent building Basecamp, our most popular product. Imagine what you could do with 400 extra hours a year. Commuting isn’t just bad for you, your relationships, and the environment—it’s bad for business.
Stop commuting your life away
According to the research,* commuting is associated with an increased risk of obesity, insomnia, stress, neck and back pain, high blood pressure, and other stress-related ills such as heart attacks and depression, and even divorce.
The end of the year has snuck up on me, so it's time to measure and focus on my goals.
Making of a Manager
Progress 77 - 100%
Scott Pilgrim, Volume 2: Scott Pilgrim vs. The World
Progress 48 - 77%
Dare to Lead: Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts.
Progress 0 - 80%
The Little Black Book of Workout Motivation
Progress 0 - 68%
Alongside the 2018 rebrand, Uber published "77 Things", a book written by Uber's Head of Design, Michael Gough, with 77 design principles for those who design at Uber.
The design of the book was inspired directly by its content.
01. Great design happens in the open.
We say you have “24 hours to post", because when your work is in the open it invites collaboration, and everyone benefits. Consider it design by osmosis. Your work gets better when everyone can share their perspective and learn yours. Design can and should reach far beyond the design studio to every part of the company, from the C-suite to people deep in the field.
02. Really great design happens out in the world.
Being open and collaborative means including our customers early and often. Design starts with real-world inspiration. Learn what others think—then adjust, refine, and apply what you’ve learned.
Recently, I've been running a game of Pictionary, before our designer catch-up meetings, to break the ice and get the creative juices flowing.
You only need a few things to run one yourself, with both local and remote team members alike.
- Whiteboard app — Invision Freehand, there are plenty of other options like Miro, Witeboard
- Words/Phrases — Pictionary Generator
- Timer — Timer app
- Screen Sharing — Appear.in, Google Meet, or Zoom
Nice to have
- iPad with Apple Pencil & corresponding Whiteboard app
- Pick team members of 2 at random.
- Share & display the whiteboard using the screen sharing/meeting app.
- Get team member ready, with canvas centered.
- Hit Generate on the whiteboard generator & privately show drawer the word/phrase.
- Start the 1-minute timer.
- Record the time remaining, when guesser correctly guesses. This is their score.
- Repeat for each team of 2.
- Highest score wins. 🏆
I stumbled across this talk & it spoke to me and the conflicting priorities rolling round in my head.
Joel perfectly defines an anxiety common to Product Designers, but also outlines a simple way to prioritize what to learn and work on out of all the opportunities.
I’m a designer, so I should probably learn responsive patterns, methods for remote user testing, Sketch, motion graphics, Framer, keep up to date with current design trends, and a million other things.
I’m a developer, so I should probably learn SVG animations, Node or React or Ember, BEM principles, new web inspector features, Vim or at least better Sublime workflows, and a million other things.
I’m also a human being, so I can’t possibly learn all these things. I have to choose.
So… what do I choose? Full Stack Anxiety is that creeping doubt, when you just don’t know what the right choice is. Do I grow as a designer or do I grow as a developer? As a manager, a teacher, a business-person?
1. Ask yourself
“What kind of work do I want to do in the future?” And, when approaching a new skill ask, “What am I becoming by learning this?” If that skill doesn’t help you become the person you want to be, then it may not be worth your attention.
The answer may be down to differences in how our brains are wired, a study suggests.
A study of 264 people's brains has identified two areas of the brain that determine whether we are more likely to get on with a task or continually put it off.
It found that the amygdala, which processes our emotions and controls our motivation, was larger in procrastinators. They also had poorer connections between the amygdala and the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex (DACC). The DACC uses information from the amygdala and decides what action the body will take. It helps keep the person on track by blocking out competing emotions and distractions.
Research has already shown that mindfulness meditation is related to amygdala shrinkage, expansion of the pre-frontal cortex and a weakening of the connection between these two areas
Tips for procrastinators
- If you don't have an external deadline, use a timer to focus for set periods - for example, 25 minutes at a time with 5-minute breaks and a longer break every 90 minutes.
- Write a list of tasks but break it down into smaller, more specific ones. This makes them easier to action and complete.
- Try to minimise interruptions like email notifications. Putting your phone on "airplane mode" or going somewhere to work where you won't be disturbed will also help.
- Being "busy" is easier than doing the thing we are avoiding. Instead of doing the task at hand, we do other stuff instead and kid ourselves that we don't have the time. You do have the time. You just need to make it.
Powerful mental tools to help you master tough subjects
After having heard this course recommended for so long, I finally started it.
Learning How to Learn provides practical advice on tackling daunting subjects and on beating procrastination, and the lessons engagingly blend neuroscience and common sense.
The course has been taken by more than 1.8 million students from 200 countries, the most ever on Coursera.
This is a collection of notes updated as I progress.
Week 1: What is Learning?
- Cells of the nervous system are called neurons. Information from one neuron flows to another neuron across a synapse. Human brain has a million billion synapses.
- Your brain creates synapses whenever you learn something new. Sleeping helps "update" your brain cells. Literally.
Something I wish I’d learned earlier in my career: The way companies run their recruiting process is a strong indicator for what it’s like to work there.— Cap Watkins (@cap) July 30, 2018
I used to excuse it with, “It’s probably different once you’re there full time.”— Cap Watkins (@cap) July 30, 2018
It’s not! It’s the same. Pay close attention to the signals and decide if the pros/cons are ones you’re good with.
This is also why it’s wicked hard to fix internal recruiting practices. It requires a reset of values, incentives, etc. for any and every team/person involved.— Cap Watkins (@cap) July 30, 2018
You can tell a lot about your initial experience with a company.
I've had poor experiences with both big and small companies.
Conversely, I've had well managed experiences, between initial interactions as well as onboarding, indicative of companies who are intentional about every part of the company.
The recruitment process is a highly tension-filled time, but don't ignore your spidey-sense about the clunky first experience, as it will most likely reflect the entire companies culture.
Here are some of his personal productivity tricks he gave the employees.
Elon Musk sent Tesla employees a memo, pledging a big push towards productivity as it gets production of its Model 3 car back on track. Here are some of his personal productivity tricks he gave the employees.
1. Nix big meetings
"Excessive meetings are the blight of big companies and almost always get worse over time. Please get [out] of all large meetings, unless you're certain they are providing value to the whole audience, in which case keep them very short."
2. Ditch frequent meetings too
"Also get rid of frequent meetings, unless you are dealing with an extremely urgent matter. Meeting frequency should drop rapidly once the urgent matter is resolved."
3. Leave a meeting if you're not contributing
"Walk out of a meeting or drop off a call as soon as it is obvious you aren't adding value. It is not rude to leave, it is rude to make someone stay and waste their time."
4. Drop jargon
"Don't use acronyms or nonsense words for objects, software or processes at Tesla. In general, anything that requires an explanation inhibits communication. We don't want people to have to memorize a glossary just to function at Tesla."
5. Communicate directly, irrespective of hierarchy
"Communication should travel via the shortest path necessary to get the job done, not through the 'chain of command'. Any manager who attempts to enforce chain of command communication will soon find themselves working elsewhere.
"A major source of issues is poor communication between depts. The way to solve this is allow free flow of information between all levels. If, in order to get something done between depts, an individual contributor has to talk to their manager, who talks to a director, who talks to a VP, who talks to another VP, who talks to a director, who talks to a manager, who talks to someone doing the actual work, then super dumb things will happen. It must be ok for people to talk directly and just make the right thing happen."
6. Follow logic, not rules
"In general, always pick common sense as your guide. If following a 'company rule' is obviously ridiculous in a particular situation, such that it would make for a great Dilbert cartoon, then the rule should change."
Choose to be optimistic, it feels better.
— Dalai Lama XIV
The pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity. The optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.
— Winston Churchill
Optimism isn’t a luxury, it’s a tool and a powerful weapon you can wield to shape things as you want them to be.
How to practice optimism
1. Acknowledge the bad. Focus on the good. Explore the possibilities.
Pause and take the time to acknowledge the bad, all of the bad, then do the same with the good. Assess all risk and opportunities and explore the possibilities.
2. Look for partial solutions.
With looming deadlines and inflexible stakeholders, you’re better off taking the small wins, going in the right direction then dwell on the possible perfect situation. Create momentum with those small wins and let the optimism snowball.
As part of my job at Cloudbees, I have been working on creating our Design System. I began with a foundational element, the design principles, which defines the design direction going forward and helps convey our core beliefs to stakeholders.
“Design principles are the guiding light for any software application. They define and communicate the key characteristics of the product to a wide variety of stakeholders including clients, colleagues, and team members. Design principles articulate the fundamental goals that all decisions can be measured against and thereby keep the pieces of a project moving toward an integrated whole.”
— Luke Wroblewski, Product Director at Google
What are good design principles?
A good set of design principles, on the other hand, does the following:
- Helps resolve practical and real-world questions around specific design decisions.
- Applies to an entire class of design decisions, both things we can think of today, as well as questions that will pop up in the future.
- Imparts a human-oriented sense of “why?” that is easy for everybody — including non-designers — to understand.
- Has a point of view and a sense of prioritization that a rational person could disagree with.
- Is generally paired with illustrative examples that show how the principle applies to specific decisions.”
— Julie Zhuo, VP of Design at Facebook
source: The $300 Million Button
The form, intended to make shopping easier, turned out to only help a small percentage of the customers who encountered it. (Even many of those customers weren’t helped, since it took just as much effort to update any incorrect information, such as changed addresses or new credit cards.) Instead, the form just prevented sales — a lot of sales.
Sometimes all you need is a little text change to save your business a lot of money. Jared Spool once helped a "major ecommerce site" (very possibly Best Buy) with their checkout process. The company ended up changing the text of a submit button and making the company an additional $300 million in one year.
Similarly, in 2008, 37signals changed how they labelled charges on credit card statements and reduced chargebacks by 30%.
Make mine a virgin. 🍹
Like most Aussie's, I have a love/hate relationship with booze. At times it's a fun social lubricant, but all too often that can lead to hazy memories of the night, feeling lethargic the following day. So I've decided to take the month of May off alcohol.
I can already hear the jeers from friends, but having abstained for 4 week blocks in the past, I know there are plenty benefits to taking a break from the hard stuff.
What are the benefits of being a teetotaller for a month?
Even at the best of times, I'm a horrible sleeper, but having a couple under the belt can block REM sleep, interrupt your circadian rhythm & aggravate breathing problems (aka snoring 😴).
Morning workouts are no longer a struggle
Who doesn't love the great all-day feeling gained after getting a work out or run done the morning? But even after 1 or 2 the night before, getting out of bed, especially in Winter, is that much harder.
Adopt a whole different set of management principles and practices.
- You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.
- The greatest danger in times of turbulence is not the turbulence. It is to act with yesterday’s logic.
- Seeing is not believing, believing is seeing. You see things, not as they are, but as you are.
- Humanity evolves in stages. We are not like a tree that grows consistently, but like a caterpillar that becomes a butterfly.
- Ever more people today have the means to live, but no meaning to live for.