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Culture

Beliefs, behavioral patterns, thoughts, and institutions of the developer community.
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Sameera Kapila CSS-Tricks

The communal cycle of sharing

Our friends at CSS Tricks are doing an awesome year-end series where they ask builders they admire the question, “What about building websites has you interested this year?” and each person writes a post about it. What gets Sameera Kapila excited resonates with me: I realize we’re moving from a place where we’re not just sharing what we have, we’re working to build and improve on what others have built. And then sharing that, and the cycle continues. In a way, we’ve been doing this all along but it feels more noticeable now. In a way, we’re not just building websites, but building and iterating the way we build websites, and that is exciting.

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Jerod Santo changelog.com/posts

The skeptic's guide to interpreting developer marketing speak 🗺️

Gone are the days when we developers were too shy/humble/introverted to promote our warez with the confidence and vigor necessary to draw a crowd. In fact, we may be experiencing an over-correction. Some of us are selling a bit too hard at times. With that in mind, here’s some help translating between how developers describe our software and what we might actually be thinking. 😉

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Alex Ellis blog.alexellis.io

The five pressures of leadership

Being a leader is tough and leads to burn-out at least once or maybe even a few times. But why? If you’ve been building, leading, or maintaining open source, then this post from Alex Ellis should be on your “to read” list. In this post I want to introduce the reader to five pressures that I have encountered over the past five years of building, leading, and maintaining Open Source Software (OSS) with community. This essay is primarily about being a leader in Open Source, but I believe it applies outside of technology too. My aim is to foster understanding and empathy between contributors, community members, users, and maintainers. I would also like for maintainers and leaders in Open Source to feel a sense of solidarity in their shared burden.

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Cory Doctorow EFF

alt.interoperability.adversarial

Cory Doctorow goes deep into Usenet’s history and uncovers a sage decision by the “backbone cabal” which may help us improve the web’s (currently centralized) state: Restoring adversarial interoperability will allow future companies, co-operatives and tinkerers to go beyond the comfort zones of the winners of the previous rounds of the game – so that it ceases to be a winner-take-all affair, and instead becomes the kind of dynamic place where a backbone cabal can have total control one year, and be sidelined the next.

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The Changelog The Changelog #367

Back to Agile's basics

Robert C. Martin, aka Uncle Bob, joined the show to talk about the practices of Agile. Bob has written a series of books in order to pass down the wisdom he’s gained over his 50 year software career — books like Clean Architecture, Clean Code, The Clean Coder, The Software Craftsman, and finally Clean Agile — which is the focus of today’s discussion. We cover the origins of his “Uncle Bob” nickname, the Agile Manifesto, why Agile is best suited for developing software, how it applies today, communication patterns for teams, co-location vs distributed, and more importantly Bob shares his “why” for writing this book.

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Alex Danco alexdanco.com

Everything is amazing, but nothing is ours

This is the most intriguing and insightful bit of writing I’ve enjoyed all week (granted, it’s only Wednesday, but still) Worlds of scarcity are made out of things. Worlds of abundance are made out of dependencies. That’s the software playbook: find a system made of costly, redundant objects; and rearrange it into a fast, frictionless system made of logical dependencies. The delta in performance is irresistible, and dependencies are a compelling building block: they seem like just a piece of logic, with no cost and no friction. But they absolutely have a cost: the cost is complexity, outsourced agency, and brittleness. The cost of ownership is up front and visible; the cost of access is back-dated and hidden. That quote is plucked right from the middle of the piece. Please do click through and read how Alex got there and where they went next.

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Jon Thornton engineering.squarespace.com

3 kinds of good tech debt

Jon Thornton writes on the Squarespace Engineering blog: “Tech debt” is a dirty word in the software engineering world. It’s often said with an air of regret; a past mistake that will eventually need to be atoned for with refactoring. Financial debt isn’t universally reviled in the same way. Your friend takes out a mortgage to buy a house and what do you say? Congratulations! … The difference is intention. What if tech debt wasn’t always an accident, caused by incorrect assumptions and unexpected circumstances? How would you spend a tech debt mortgage? We also talked about tech debt in a similar manner on Founders Talk #60.

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Amir Salihefendic doist.com

Async isn't just for remote teams

Amir Salihefendic on asynchronous communication… Study after study after study into remote work has made one thing clear: Remote workers are more productive than their office-bound counterparts. What’s not entirely clear is why. Yes, people gain back time (and sanity) by avoiding rush hour commutes. They avoid the distractions of the office. They regain a sense of control over their workdays. They have more time to dedicate to family, friends, and hobbies. But apart from the commute, all of those benefits aren’t necessarily the result of location independence, but rather the byproduct of asynchronous communication…

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Ali Spittel welearncode.com

The career advice I wish I had

Seems Ali has fired up the RSS feed on welearncode.com with a brand new post listing the career advice she wished she had. Here are just two I found myself head-nodding to… Find employers who want you to succeed. Good management that prioritizes your interests and goals is so important for creating a career where you’re growing and thriving. Management makes or breaks roles. Find a manager, and a team, who is looking out for you and wants you to succeed. It will lead to a more functional team and to an environment where you’re probably happier. Negotiate everything you can. Job offers, content creation, work hours, remote days, job duties, benefits, compensation, etc. can all be negotiated. Use your wins to give you confidence and as a tangible list of accomplishments.

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Kyle Stetz Slack Engineering

Building Slack's dark mode on desktop

Following up on designing delightful dark themes, I wanted to share this post from Kyle Stetz on the frontend engineering strategy for building Slack’s dark mode on desktop. As is usually the case with large codebases, finding an implementation that works is only half the battle; gracefully changing infrastructural code and educating engineers on how to use new tools accounts for much of what we do when working on new capabilities of the product. Working in a large engineering organization — especially within a rapidly growing company — means that every change needs to consider the momentum and roadmaps of many other teams. The overarching question for this project was: how can we build sustainable and maintainable support for themes?

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Gene Kim itrevolution.com

Love letter to Clojure (part 1)

Gene Kim shared part 1 of a “love letter to Clojure” inspired by Bryan Cantrell’s amazing “I’m falling in love with Rust” blog post in September 2018 In this blog post, I will explain how learning the Clojure programming language three years ago changed my life. It led to a series of revelations about all the invisible structures that are required to enable developers to be productive. … Without doubt, Clojure was one of the most difficult things I’ve learned professionally, but it has also been one of the most rewarding. It brought the joy of programming back into my life. For the first time in my career, as I’m nearing fifty years old, I’m finally able to write programs that do what I want them to do, and am able to build upon them for years without them collapsing like a house of cards, as has been my normal experience.

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Matt Mullenweg ma.tt

Debating OSS with DHH

Want to hear two of the top leaders in open source talk about their differing philosophies on open source and the modern web? The other week I ended up going back and forth in tweets with David Heinemeier Hansson, it wasn’t going anywhere but he graciously invited me to their podcast and we were able to expand the discussion in a way I found really refreshing and mind-opening. DHH and I have philosophies around work and open source that I believe overlap 95% or more, so… Here’s the Twitter conversation that started this debate on the Rework podcast.

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Harvard Business Review Icon Harvard Business Review

Entrepreneurs who sleep more are better at spotting good ideas

While this study was focused on “entrepreneurs”, I would say the function of sleep applies to all humans and can be expended to “creators” at large — or anyone who is in an position of trading sleep for progress. We’re exploring this very topic on an upcoming episode of Brain Science. Subscribe if you haven’t already! In our paper we investigated fundamental functions required of a founder in the early stages of a new venture’s lifecycle: the generation of new venture ideas and the formation of beliefs about a new venture’s potential. In a series of three interrelated studies, we show that entrepreneurs who shortchange sleep analyze business opportunities differently than their well-rested counterparts, and even differently than their well-rested selves.

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Test Double Icon Test Double

Deconstructing the bike shed

A thought-provoking piece by Joshua Wehner on Test Double’s blog: For the metaphor to work, at all, we have to have a shared understanding of what’s important and what’s trivial. Kamp is saying (1) color does not matter, and (2) the topic they are debating matters as little as if they were debating color. For decades, software developers have been fine with this. And yet… Color is an amazingly deep topic! There are books on the history of color. There are fascinating stories about how colors got their names, how they were made, how they impact fashion, how they tell stories… until software emits smells, color will be one of the most important aspects for developers to understand when considering how human beings will interact with our software. I never thought that color doesn’t matter, just that for the purpose of the metaphor color doesn’t matter in the context of a bike shed. This thought leads Joshua to another one: Software developers—and other professionals who are oriented around quantitative thinking—have a tendency to dismiss more qualitative disciplines such as design, marketing, or management—which also turn out to be exactly the disciplines best-suited to mitigating the kinds of dead-end discussions the bike shed legend is supposedly built to address. This I’ve 💯% seen in the wild. In conference rooms and in online discussions, I frequently seen software developers deploy the bike shed myth as an attempt to minimize a topic they see as unimportant and to label that discussion as a trivial distraction. I need to stop or I’ll end up quoting the entire article. Like I said, lots of thoughts being provoked here. A must-read, even if you end up disagreeing with his conclusions.

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Brain Science Brain Science #3

Humans and habits

Mireille and Adam explore the habit loop, the role of environment as a cue, behavior change, the role of dopamine, willpower as a finite resource, and the impact of social influences on habits. As with any change, we need to collect data. Instead of trying to change a habit right away, treat yourself like a scientist in a data gathering stage and experiment with different rewards to better understand your habit loops. Making and breaking a habit is different for everyone.

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Rich Archbold Medium

My engineering standards

In this post, Rich Archbold touches on something we discussed on a recent episode of The Changelog. Specifically, in the episode, we talked about contentment being the enemy of progress and how that might effect our industry psychologically — at-large. But when is what we’re working on ever good enough? Rich has this to say… Software can never be perfect, it can only ever be “good enough”…beyond a certain size and rate of change — it’s always going to contain bugs and experience outages. So how do you know if your software is good enough? … My opinion and approach is to codify your beliefs around what constitutes software that is “good enough” into a small set of engineering principles and build a culture, organization, and set of processes that reinforce them.

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The Changelog The Changelog #361

Generative engineering cultures

Dave Kaplan (Head of Software Engineering at Policygenius) joined the show to talk about Generative Engineering Cultures and how they have become the goal of industry-aware tech teams. We talk through the topology of organizational cultures ranging from pathological, to bureaucratic, to generative, the importance of management buy-in (from the top down) on leading a generative culture, the ability to contribute original value which is deeply rooted in the concept of aligned autonomy. We also covered the 6 core skills required for us to be empowered in our teams.

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Stanisław Pitucha github.com

Questions to ask a company during your interview

This repo gained 3,100+ stars in the first day and topped the charts of Changelog Nightly! This is a list of questions which may be interesting to a tech job applicant. The points are not ordered and many may not apply to a given position, or work type. It was started as my personal list of questions, which grew over time to include both things I’d like to see more of and red flags which I’d like to avoid. I’ve also noticed how few questions were asked by people I interviewed and I think those were missed opportunities. PRs are welcome!

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Marty Cagan svpg.com

Product teams vs feature teams

Marty Cagan is certain to upset many people product-people with this article. Read at your own risk. This article is certain to upset many people. I’m sorry for that, but the degree of ongoing noise and confusion surrounding the role of product at tech companies is only getting worse. Moreover, I see the issues and problematic behaviors getting institutionalized in conference talks, training programs and so-called certification programs for product people. So while this article might be painful to read, if you’ve been frustrated with the contradictory and confusing messaging from people in the product world, if you bear with me here, I am hopeful that this will provide some much needed clarity. BTW, Marty and his book INSPIRED was talked about in this recent episode of The Changelog featuring Ryan Singer talking about Basecamp’s new book Shape Up.

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Naomi Saphra nsaphra.github.io

What does a coder do if they can't type?

Naomi Saphra: In August of 2015, my hands stopped working. I could still control them, but every movement accumulated more pain, so every motion came with a cost: getting dressed in the morning, sending a text, lifting a glass. I was interning at Google that summer about to begin a PhD in Scotland, but coding all day would have left me in agony. File under things-I-take-for-granted-but-totally-shouldn’t

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Stack Overflow arp242.net

Tired of Stack Overflow

this post is something of a rant, and uses strong and emotional language. It’s born out of a years-long frustration with seeing almost every single suggestion to make Stack Overflow a friendlier place not just rejected, but met with hostility. I couldn’t help but nod along in agreement as I read this rant. Something’s not well at SO, and it’s been festering for years.

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