Archive for February, 2011

Unbroken Promise Month

Monday, February 28th, 2011

I have a lot of interests. This can be really useful, because it ensures that I always have something fun to work on, but sometimes it can really bite me in the ass. In particular, when left to my own devices, I tend to take on more personal projects than I can handle.

That’s been happening a lot lately, and I’m sick of it. So I’ve decided March will be Unbroken Promise Month, where I take all of the projects I’ve promised people I would do or help out with, and just get. them. done.

I have a few tricks planned to help maximize my productivity, which you’ll hear about as we go along. One thing I might experiment with is changing when and how often I post, so for the month of March, I probably won’t update every Monday. The good news is I’ll probably update more often overall, because I’ll have a lot to talk about.

Finally, I know I don’t say this enough, but I really do appreciate you taking time out of your day to read my posts. It’s hard to explain, but it’s a warm, fuzzy feeling when you leave me a comment, send me an email, or talk to me in person to discuss something I’ve written.

So keep it up! Your continued support boosts my motivation, and encourages me to keep doing things that I love to do.

And if I promised you I would do something weeks, months, or even a year ago, I’m ready to live up to my word.

Productivity Hack: Small Victories

Friday, February 25th, 2011

Do you ever wake up late for work?

This happened to me the other day. And I mean late — it was 9:30 when I groggily reached for my clock to check the time.

I went through the usual woke-up-late routine. I took the world’s fastest shower, grabbed some clothes off my floor, brushed my teeth (most of them, anyway) and rushed out the door to catch the next bus.

Then, just as I was slipping on some running shoes that were about to be put to good use, I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror… It wasn’t a huge deal, but I looked pretty dishevelled. I hadn’t shaved. In my rush, I’d forgotten to grab a belt, and the shirt I’d picked up off my floor was totally wrinkled. My hair was a disaster, but that’s hardly news.

Here’s where the day got interesting. The easy thing to do would be to keep going and catch that bus, and get to work as soon as possible. I didn’t look great, but it wasn’t the end of the world. I had a whole bus ride to rationalize and justify my less-than-stellar look.

Instead, I stopped. I took off my shoes, I cleaned myself up, I changed into a clean shirt.

Appreciate the small victories.

This took some effort. I was in no mood to waste time getting dressed again, and now I was going to be even more late because I’d have to wait for the next bus. But if I couldn’t even be bothered to wear a clean shirt, what would that say about the rest of my day?

Small victories like this one are important because they put you in a victory-mindset. Instead of feeling a bit off all day, I took the extra time to make sure that when I got to work, I was ready. Ready to succeed. Ready to give 110%.

You don’t go straight from zero to all-star performance. It’s the little victories that get the ball rolling. They prepare you to succeed. The next victory will be a little bigger, and so will the one after that. Your day will go nowhere but up, all you have to do is follow along!

And sometimes, when you’re in a rut, all it takes is one small victory to get you back up on your feet.

Meta Notes, Blogging Edition

Friday, February 11th, 2011

I dislike doing meta posts, but I have a lot of news related to blogging and myself, and since this is my blog, well… Let’s get started:

I’m now blogging regularly at work.

More specifically, I contribute a post to our company blog every two weeks. I’ll mostly be writing high-level technical pieces (like the kind you would find on A List Apart) and posts about how to work better with others (something I’m surprised I know so much about). In fact, I’ve already written two such articles:

I’m experimenting with video blogging.

Speaking of my job, I’m working on a rather exciting internal project. Not just exciting in that “we’re making something awesome”, (because that’s almost always the case), but exciting in how we’re documenting it.

With this project, we wanted to try to capture the essence of our development process. So every few days I sit in front of a camera and talk at it for a few minutes, trying to maintain eye contact with the lens and hopelessly attempting to stop saying “um” all. the. time. The rest of the team is doing this as well, albeit without such ineptitude, and I suspect eventually I’ll suffer the humiliation of having my awkwardness posted online, ripe for ridicule.

This has actually been surprisingly fun, and I might start a video-blog segment here someday. You know, like the glorious day when I finally upgrade my iPhone 3G after my slavery-like contract with the devil my wireless carrier ends — in July.

I’ve been thinking about writing a series of posts about blogging.

It’s not hard to find blogging advice online, but it generally comes from people that really know what they’re doing. I’ve always thought it might be interesting to see some moron with hardly any real experience try to explain the meagre lessons he’s learned from posting words online. Less authoritative, but no less valuable (hopefully).

Essentially, my struggles are more fresh and I have plenty of mistakes to share, so that should make for some interesting stories, right?

Please let me know if this is something you might want to read.

Finally, Dave is posting again!

Part of the reason I started blogging was so that Dave would stop nagging me about how I “should totally start a blog”. At the time, he had a blog and actually updated it. Then his post rate slowed to a crawl and I started to nag him about blogging, and apparently this is a really great strategy for encouraging people to write because he has a new post up and I think there are more to come!

Anyway, thanks for sticking with me through the entire post; I’m pretty psyched about all the things I have going on right now. Maybe you can share some of your own fun projects that you’re excited about in the comments?

Oh, and happy Friday!

Just Browsing

Monday, February 7th, 2011

I’m kind of picky about my browsers.

Alright, that might be an understatement…

I’m a browser whore.

I use three different browsers every day at work, and several others at home. Two of them are beta versions. Even though I use Firefox at home and at work, I have completely different addons for each install. And I use different browsers on my iPhone and my iPad.

I’ve probably used about two dozen unique browsers in my life to date.

That’s not even the worst of it.

I’m also a browserphile.

I’ve memorized the market share of all major browsers, just because I hear the numbers so often. I’ve been following the progress of the HTML5 spec for about six years. I’ve installed (and used) nightlies.

I can tell you exactly which CSS attributes and selectors are supported by every version of Internet Explorer since IE4.

How did I get like this?

I blame my condition on a few factors.

First and foremost, I was a Mac user for much of my learning-about-computers days. This was long before Safari was an A-list browser. You just got to know about the Shiiras and the Caminos. The features varied so wildly that it really encouraged experimentation. That part just stuck with me.

Then there’s the internet/computer synonymy. I don’t really remember what computers were like before the internet, because I was in grade school when the web started to take off. To me, a browser has always been an essential part of a computer.

Finally, I do a lot of web development. Knowing what each major browser can handle is practically a job requirement for me, and if I have to have them all installed for testing anyway, I’m going to find things I like that are unique to each one.

Here’s what I use at work.

My primary browser is Firefox. I need this for Firebug, and a handful of other useful web-development extensions (Fireshot, Tamper Data, Window Resizer, and FireQuery, which is actually an extension for Firebug). I’m also a huge fan of app tabs, because Chrome got me enthralled with that feature, and I’ve experimented with some tab-bar modifications here and there, but not found a working combination that I like just yet.

The half-dozen pages I keep open all the time are app-tabbed, and other than that Firefox is used for relatively-persistent browsing; stuff I’ll want to keep open for a little while.

Chrome is my secondary browser, and I use it for more instantaneous needs — like when I can’t remember jquery syntax, or looking up spelling, or when I need to grab a url for an obligatory xkcd reference. This is because Chrome is extremely fast, especially compared to Firefox with 18 tabs open, half of which are running AJAX in the background. Chrome fires up instantly, I punch in whatever query I have, and moments later I have my result and close the window.

I also use Internet Explorer at work, because our archaic timesheet software only renders properly in IE (I know, right?). Right now I’m running the IE9 beta, so that I have an excuse to play with SVG in all its GPU-accelerated glory.

At home is a different story.

I’m actually pretty good about sticking to one browser on my desktop machine. It’s been Firefox for quite a while now, ever since the novelty of Chrome wore off, and I’m currently running the latest FF4 beta release. Unfortunately, that disables most of my plugins, but with built-in app tab support I’m not too broken up about it. Also, when I experiment with Opera/Flock/anything else, this is the machine I use.

In the mobile world, I’m still using Safari for iPhone. I find that with the screen being so small, there’s not much room for fancy features, and they’re all webkit anyway so there’s little reason to stray from the default.

My iPad is a different story, though. One of the first apps I downloaded was Life, a browser with some neat multi-tab features. It’s non-free ($3), but I like it quite a bit. Besides, how many people do you know that have actually paid for a browser?

Why am I telling you all this?

Honestly? I don’t have an answer. Some days you just feel like writing about what you love, and you’re not going to let the fact that it’s a total rant that doesn’t really go anywhere stop you.

Am I the only self-confessed browser-nut out there? Or are you passionate about something completely different?

I’m here to listen, too.

What Your 16-Hour Workday Says About You!

Friday, February 4th, 2011

I came across this link many times over the past week.

As a software developer, I’ve worked my share of 16-hour days. I’ll admit that I can’t argue everything on that list (I struggle with time management, for example), but I believe that long workdays often say a different set of things about someone. For me and many people I know, the list looks more like this:

  • You love what you do.
  • You’re not just in it for the money.
  • Your life is full of supportive people.
  • You’re learning a lot.
  • You follow through.
  • You’ll never be unemployed.
  • You’re doing work that matters.