Motivation

A few years ago, my therapist told me I'm going to have just the right personality and temperament to enjoy my 40s when I get there. I wasn't entirely sure how to take his comment then, but now that I'm well into my thirty-eighth trip around the Sun, I think it's beginning to sink in.

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Categories
Personal Productivity

Five

I don't quite understand how it's been five years already. Nevertheless, happy birthday to the most fearless and persistent young lady I've ever known.

Five

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Categories
Personal

Solving Problems on Systematic

If you need something to listen to this weekend or during your next commute, here's a link to me prattling on for forty-six minutes about how and why I build the software I do.

Systematic podcast logo

Brett Terpstra was kind enough to invite me on as the guest of his Systematic podcast this week. And when he says I'm "on about the same level of geek frequency as" he is, well, that's a heck of a compliment in my book.

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Digital Heirlooms

If you've followed this blog for any length of time, you'll find that I take preserving our (my family's) digital memories and history seriously.

However, if I were to die tomorrow, the app I made for my son and installed on his iPad this morning will stop working in one-hundred and ninety-two days. Not for any technical reason. Not because of future software incompatibilities. If his iPad remained in working order for another hundred years, it wouldn't even matter. This digital heirloom will self-destruct as soon as my developer certificate expires.

And it's all due to an arbitrary decision on Apple's part.

I don't think I'm being hyperbolic when I say that future historians and even archaeologists are going to revisit our time and be furious at the direction our industry turned towards using consolidation, monopoly power, and artificial restrictions to protect profits at all costs.

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Don't Let Experience Get in Your Way

A coworker and I have been working crazy hours since March on a huge new product feature - him on Android and myself on iOS. Quite frankly, it's maybe the best work we've done in our careers. And work I, at least, wasn't sure we were even skilled enough to pull off. When we first pitched it to the client, we asked for eight weeks of uninterrupted dev time to build an MVP. They gave us five.

If he and I had predicted these challenges upfront, I'm not sure if we would have pitched the work at all. But we missed them. And now I think that's a good thing. Because, unfinished loose ends or not, we now find ourselves mere weeks from shipping the best work we've ever done.

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Categories
Personal Programming

Process

To keep myself sane while dealing with my work deadlines, I've found myself tinkering around with an idea I've wanted to try building for years now. Oddly enough, it's not yet-another-app, but a website (web service, maybe?). And it's actually something that's designed to be self-hosted. I haven't yet decided if it will (eventually) be open source, or if I might solicit feedback from friends (real and online) just in case it's more useful than I think.

Sometimes the idea for something new comes in a flash of inspiration. And other times (as in the current case) it meanders around in the back of my head for years - just waiting for the right moment or combination of external factors.

For this project, it's the result of the rebirth of the indie web movement, my long time interest in self-hosting and owning the tools and data I run my business with, and Apple's WWDC announcements about Safari and their OS's upcoming privacy improvements.

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A Pirate Looks (Nearly) at Forty

One night last June we managed to get the kids to bed early and decided to rent a movie from iTunes. About forty-five minutes in, our youngest throws up, the oldest starts screaming because of the smell, and all hell breaks loose. Movie night over.

For us, that’s when the spell broke. For seven years we played by the rules. So I walked from the couch to my office iMac, visited an old favorite website of ill repute, and ten minutes later streamed the move in 4K to our TV.

That one evening re-opened the piracy floodgates for us, and we haven’t bought or rented another TV show or movie since.

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Categories
Personal

JavaScript - A Bedtime Story

It all started with a nightlight that looked like a snowman and ended up taking 89 lines of JavaScript to make my kids go to sleep.

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Fear and Light

It's remained that way because I've been afraid.

Always, always in the pit of my stomach, deep down in the back of my lizard brain, there's this nagging voice when it comes to the low-level work, the real work, the type of code that real developers write

You're not good enough. You can't make it work. You're not smart enough to figure it out.

So I keep punting on the work. I keep pushing that bug fix further and further out and just hope that my code keeps working and that a random macOS point release doesn't bring it all crashing down.

But two nights ago I sat down in my office. And just fucking did it. I told myself “no” was not an acceptable answer and dove into every arcane, unmaintained bit of Apple documentation I could find. Searched old Cocoa mailing lists for sample code, and finally, finally have a working solution.

After thirteen, years I finally got past my own shit and mental demons and made it happen. I guess I was just fed up with myself constantly ducking out of doing the hard work. That, plus a looming deadline I have to meet, finally held my feet to the fire on this particular feature in a way that has never been done before. So many features. So many bug fixes. Thousands of customer emails and replies. Brainstorming sessions. UI mockups on the back up napkins at bars or doodling on a notepad while at my real job. But this one damn bug was always out of reach. And now it’s done.

To my future self ten years from now: this post is for you.

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April 5, 2020

And when the other side is reached, I hope we can look back on the things we did and how we were feeling in this moment and learn from that.

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Categories
Personal

The Patron Saint of Dumb Ideas

I'm going to try something new. And it's so far outside my wheelhouse and what I would normally be comfortable with that the only reason I'm doing this is due to encouragement from my wife and the assurances of a few friends who swear it's not a completely insane and arrogant idea.

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Deactivated

I’m filled with rage and despair and also just sad thinking about what we in the tech industry unintentionally unleashed upon the world – and then willfully made worse through greed and arrogance. This is my small contribution to make things better. It likely won’t matter. But it does give me some relief to have done something. Anything.

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Rebudget

If you’ve been following along at home, you might remember that I started building a Mac app for managing my personal finances last April. Think of it as a powerful, privacy-focused, native alternative to Mint.com. Quicken, but not awful. Since then, I’ve helped shipped a huge redesign to the app at...

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Aftermath

So last week was incredibly stupid. I've had one thing I've written reach the #1 spot on Hacker News before, plus an old website that reached the top of the trending del.icio.us charts, as well as a few moronic tweets that garnered a couple hundred likes, and one appearance on Slashdot...

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Categories
macOS Personal

Why Many of my Apps Failed And What Comes Next

I've started building something new. I'm about four weeks in and already finding it incredibly useful in my day-to-day. I've built many different apps over the years, thrown them against the wall, and excitedly watched which ones developed a following and which ones failed miserably. Most of my apps have fallen into two...

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Harper Elizabeth

...

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Categories
Personal

2014 Business Yearly Review

Inspired by this article on doing a year-end review of your indie business, I took a few minutes and calculated some stats and compiled my major accomplishments from 2014. The result was eye-opening and made me feel more than a little bit proud. I've made a conscious effort to be more...

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Knowing When to Quit

I hate using the word "quit". Because it's not quitting. It's not even "giving up". Today, the prolific Manton Reece wrote a blog post announcing that he is sunsetting his Twitter apps. This, after a recent announcement that Twitter's (amazing!) new fully searchable tweet archives won't be made available to third-party...

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Constraints

I often find that constraints, real or artificial, can be a huge motivation and productivity boost when I find myself stalled on a project or piece of work. Forcing yourself to work within a specific limitation can cause you to find a creative solution in a direction you might otherwise...

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Marching Through the Wilderness

(How could I not title this post after one of my favorite David Byrne songs?) Gus has a terrific post on his blog about what he calls "the wilderness" - a period of time between major software releases "where I'm pretty lost, and I don't know what to do." His working...

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The Thrill

Yesterday, Daniel Jalkut tweeted The only things better than shipping an app are the thankless months of hard work that go into making it halfway presentable. Yep, it’s fun. — Daniel Jalkut (@danielpunkass) April 4, 2014 That's an apt way of describing the strange mix of joy and awe programmers feel when,...

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Printing and Mailing Photos to Your Grandparents

We have a three month old kid. That means we take a lot of photos. I've done the math, and in the last three months we've taken 1,202 photos of him. As I'll write about in my upcoming book on Dropbox photography, all of those photos are stored and sorted...

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Switching from GitHub to GitLab

I've been a happy paying customer of GitHub since early 2009. But yesterday, for a few different reasons, I deleted all of my private repositories and moved them over to a self-hosted installation of GitLab. I didn't make that decision lightly, as I've been very happy with GitHub for the...

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Aaron

...

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Categories
Personal

Journaling

I'm a little obsessive about data collection and retention. I've written a number of times about all the different backup systems I have in place to protect my data. And over the last few years the amount of data I'm collecting about myself (and family) has continued to grow. We're...

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Categories
Personal Reviews

Why I Took the Job

Almost four years ago today, I moved across the country and accepted a job at Yahoo!. But one of the main reasons I took the position happened six years before that. In the Fall of 2001 I was a Sophomore in college at MTSU. Each morning I'd roll out of bed...

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Categories
Personal

Microsoft and Yahoo! - My Take

A favorite theory among tech pundits is that the company that will eventually dethrone Google doesn't exist yet. Rather, it'll be the brainchild of former Googlers who quit when their current job becomes boring or their stock options vest. Imagine a mass exodus - hundreds of very rich, very smart engineers with nothing but free...

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Categories
Personal Yahoo!

Lost's Buried Treasures

For seven years I ran the largest Stephen King site on the net. When I sold it in 2005 I thought I put that world behind me for good. I had a final article printed in Lighthouse Magazine and moved on. But, like most things, it has a way of creeping back into...

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Categories
Personal

Retain Your Employees With Your Ideals, Not Your Perks

Earlier today I was asked what I look for in a job. Specifically, what it would take to retain me past the typical "three year burnout" period tech workers often find themselves up against. The usual answers came to mind: a fun corporate environment, challenging assignments, working with people smarter than myself. Those are...

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Categories
Personal

iPhone Versus Dog

A lesson for all you iPhone owners out there: don't leave your phone on a table that your dog can reach. I got out of the shower this morning to find my dog, Gracie, gnawing away on my phone in the middle of the living room. I was a little upset, but life...

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Categories
Personal