commadot.com http://commadot.com by Glen Lipka Tue, 30 Jun 2020 18:12:47 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.4.2 https://i0.wp.com/commadot.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/cropped-siteIcon21.png?fit=32%2C32 commadot.com http://commadot.com 32 32 2075023 Pet Peeves 2020 http://commadot.com/pet-peeves-2020/ http://commadot.com/pet-peeves-2020/#comments Tue, 30 Jun 2020 18:12:46 +0000 http://commadot.com/?p=9254 Continue readingPet Peeves 2020]]> Last time I listed Pet Peeves was 7 years ago. I just compared lists (didn’t check first) and surprisingly they are completely different.

Shy Zoomers
When someone on the video conference doesn’t show their video. I can’t focus without seeing people’s faces. People shame me for asking them to show their video, which makes it worse.

Food Spoiling
When we have food in the refrigerator and it starts to rot, that freaks me out. I especially get nervous when there are leftovers and we cook new food. The leftovers are going to go bad!

Loose Wires
For some reason, I really don’t like exposed wires. I am constantly trying to coil or eliminate them. I have purchased lots of hardware just for this reason. Speaking of which, I should get a Bluetooth speaker instead of plugged in speakers. Less wires!

Poor Use of Language
Language is the worst way to communicate, except for the all the other ways. When someone says “Flush out the details” or uses a pronoun like “it” or “they” without explaining it. It’s hard enough to get your point across to many people in an organization. People should try to use language more effectively.

Walls of Text
Sometimes product management or engineering will deliver a giant confluence page or JIRA ticket or Google Doc/Slides and say “Read this and then ask me questions.” I feel this is deeply disrespectful of other people’s time. When I create a design spec of document, I spend time with people in small groups to walk them through it line by line. I don’t ask anyone to do “homework”. Why can’t this be the standard? Everyone reading text is a sure-fire method towards confusion. See previous pet peeve to understand why. Also, I hate walls of text because they aren’t summarized. People are terrible about synthesizing their ideas. Showing the verbose notes to people is not solid communication.

Human Resources Group Meetings
I know that HR exists to solve certain (usually Legal) problems. However, group meetings from HR to help with culture are usually lame. I know people in HR are doing their best, but when they call a meeting to talk about _________, I know that the next hour is going to be boring at best, and aggravating and demotivating at worst.

Silence
I really have a problem with silence. If I am in a meeting or even just with someone, I feel very uncomfortable sitting in silence. My brain can’t calm down and just be. I WANT to sit in stillness, but I just can’t do it. Is this a pet peeve or more of a human failing? I don’t know.

Why list pet peeves?

I find blogging to be therapeutic. Writing things down helps me understand myself better. Also, I look back frequently to see how I thought about things in the past. Lastly, I wish that other people would be more transparent and blogging is my little way of encouraging others to open up.

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“All Lives Matter” is a Mean Thing to Say http://commadot.com/all-lives-matter-is-a-mean-thing-to-say/ http://commadot.com/all-lives-matter-is-a-mean-thing-to-say/#respond Wed, 24 Jun 2020 18:02:26 +0000 http://commadot.com/?p=9242 Continue reading"All Lives Matter" is a Mean Thing to Say]]> I know when some white people hear Black Lives Matter they automatically hear “Only Black Lives Matter”. This is human psychology at work right there. Unfortunately, that is not what activists are saying. What they are saying is that the laws, police, institutions, financial systems, education systems, and fabric of our society is set up to benefit white men and devalue people with darker skin. Every day of their lives, they hear the system state loud and clear, “Black lives do NOT matter.”

If you don’t believe that the deck is stacked against black people and has been so for hundreds of years, you may have been the victim of poor education and even belligerent Russian misinformation campaigns. It’s unlikely to convince you, but I would suggest reading some of the books at the end of this post and stop getting news and history from Youtube and Facebook.

In WWII, Jewish people around the world had a similar problem, especially in Germany and its conquered lands. They were being killed without chance of justice. They were being ostracized and put on the fringes of society. They couldn’t rely on the police or their government to protect them. After WWII and the Halocaust ended, they committed themselves as a group to a single statement, “Never Again.” It was a rallying cry to get involved in politics, to get access and representation and to create systems that helped them gain equality in society.

Some people, to this day, think that “Jews run the world.” This is the same terrible psychology and misinformation at work. Because Jews coordinated themselves to get out from under the shackles of an oppressive system and they worked together, other people thought the worst of their intentions. Rather than equality, people assumed they wanted to be in charge themselves.

When someone says “Black Lives Matter”, they are truly not disparaging you or diminishing your life. They are organizing themselves to get out from under the thumb of an oppressive system that has enslaved them and kept them down for hundreds of years. You shouldn’t be offended that they want to matter. You should be offended that their lives, according to our laws and institutions, actually matter less than yours.

White people need to affirm their cry and says “YES! Black lives DO matter!” and push our politicians to do right by this afflicted community. If you think black people have the exact same circumstances and opportunities as white people, then you will not agree with me. It’s easy to see the world through our existing beliefs. Cognitive Dissonance is still powerful. It’s a difficult thing to do, but you could do what journalists do, you could interview poor black people to understand what their lives are like.

When someone says “Black Lives Matter” and you say “All Lives Matter” what you are saying is “I don’t like you organizing and trying to defend yourself. Do not create a special status for your people. Please just leave things exactly as they are.”

Police aren’t killing white people. They are killing black people. In Louisville, Kentucky (home to 600,000 people -mostly low income and black) the government has provided exactly 1 single polling location. This is not fair and we all know it. There are thousands of laws that exist to protect white people and subjugate black people. We are not far from South Africa during Apartheid.

This isn’t nice. This isn’t fair. This isn’t right.

Before you say “All Lives Matter”, just take a moment to think how mean you are being to the other person. It’s not about you. It’s about a social injustice that has been going on for centuries. Don’t get your news from reddit and Facebook. Learn about our history and maybe we can change the future.

Books I have read that I found helpful on the topic of social oppression:

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Home Networking Setup http://commadot.com/home-networking-setup/ http://commadot.com/home-networking-setup/#respond Fri, 12 Jun 2020 19:51:04 +0000 http://commadot.com/?p=9212 Continue readingHome Networking Setup]]> Being at home with a full family means lots of people video conferencing all at once. This is putting a strain on our home networking setup. I have tried a few methods. Here are some of my learnings.

2.4 and 5 GHz WiFi

The tried and true Netgear router. It works for a room, maybe even 2 or 3 rooms. It provides simple internet access for most of your needs like browsing and email. However, when I purchased a 500 mbps cable modem package from Wave Communications, I realized there is a hidden limitation.

Range comparison

StandardFreqReal World Distance
802.11a5195 ft
802.11b2.4230 ft
802.11g2.4
62 ft
802.11n2.4
410 ft
802.11n5230 ft
802.11ac5up to 410 ft (amplified)

Speed comparison

StandardFreqReal-World Speed
802.11a53 – 32 Mbps
802.11b2.43 Mbps
802.11g2.410 -29 Mbps
802.11n2.4150 Mbps
802.11n5450Mbps
802.11ac5210 Mbps – 1 G

As you can see the speeds generally do not get up to 500mps at all. Even with 5Ghz the best you can get is 450mbps. This means for most people that you should not get a 500mbps cable package unless you can ensure 5ghtz access throughout. Otherwise it’s wasted money.

Note: My cable package upload speeds are pretty slow; 20mbps. It sometimes becomes bad when we are all video conferencing at the same time. This isn’t a WiFi problem, but an access problem.

Ethernet

Ethernet is a different story. A basic Cat6 cable will get you gigabit speeds or more. See table below

CategoryShieldingMax Transmission Speed
Cat 3Unshielded10 Mbps
Cat 5Unshielded10/100 Mbps
Cat 5eUnshielded1,000 Mbps / 1 Gbps
Cat 6Unshielded1,000 Mbps / 1 Gbps
Cat 6aShielded10,000 Mbps / 10 Gbps
Cat 7Shielded10,000 Mbps / 10 Gbps
Cat 7aShielded10,000 Mbps/10 Gbps
Ethernet Cable speeds

With Ethernet, you can more than max out your gigabit provider. The only problem with Ethernet is that you have to be physically connected to a wire. Not very portable, but many office setups are perfectly fine being connected. I am sitting at one right now.

Power over Ethernet (Powerline Adapters)

These little devices are pretty cool. They plug into a regular electrical outlet and create a pseudo-ethernet connection. The only problem is that they are temperamental and don’t scale well. By scaling I mean that if you add more than 2 in the home, they can conflict with each other and degrade speed. By temperamental, I mean that they can sometimes just disconnect and stop working.

There are circumstances where they make sense, but overall I have become disillusioned with them and just want to reduce down to 2 or even zero.

Right now, I am paying a contractor a few hundred bucks to wire the house for regular ethernet so I can get rid of the PoE adapters.

Mesh Networks

My house has alot of interior walls and a single WiFi router just does not reach the whole house. Therefore, I tried to fix that problem. First I tried WiFi extenders but they were hard to configure and I couldn’t get it to work.

Then I discovered mesh network devices. I bought the Eero system. On the one hand, they work pretty well. They are super easy to setup and work on their own. On the other hand, they are VERY expensive. I spent WAY more on them than I should have. In hindsight, I would have gone with the Google system instead.

There is a new standard called WiFi 6 and it works especially well with many connected devices. Everything about it expensive, so I wouldn’t suggest buying them unless you don’t care about money. If I could start over from scratch today, I would wire ethernet and get Orbi WiFi 6 devices, just 2 of them.

Fiber or Cable

Cable is pretty fast to download, but isn’t very good uploading. This used to be a perfectly fine model. I usually stream DOWN movies from Netflix and Hulu, not upload them. However, with the quarantine, my upload demands have changed dramatically. Video conferencing is upload intensive. Also, my son plays music with his friends and a better upload speed would help to sync the music up.

I am torn on this issue. I am going to run the ethernet first and then see if we want to get faster uploads after that.

Summary

There are many moving parts in home networking. Each one has different pros and cons, plus the gear is evolving and changing over time. If I could give one piece of advice it would be to run Cat 7 Ethernet cables throughout your home. Even if you just plug in a mesh device into it, it will keep your home networking speeds top notch.

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Dungeons and Dragons http://commadot.com/dungeons-and-dragons/ http://commadot.com/dungeons-and-dragons/#respond Wed, 03 Jun 2020 18:25:36 +0000 http://commadot.com/?p=9185 Continue readingDungeons and Dragons]]> When I was a kid, maybe 12? I played Dungeons and Dragons (D&D) with my cousin and some other kids. My cousin was the Dungeon Master (DM). I distinctly remember a session where we were arrested and put in a local jail. During our daring escape, we let everyone in the jail out and it caused a village riot. I think I was a monk, maybe a cleric. This chaotic mess was a really fun time for us. I also remember the picture in the monsters manual for something called a Succubus which made my prepubescent loins awaken.

Succubus statistics block and racy picture!

These sessions helped my imagination grow and flourish. I could imagine rich worlds with ferocious monsters and epic adventures. We really had very little other choice to exercise our imaginations. Television had like 7 channels. There were no video games yet. No computers. Nothing. Just some weird books, some dice, and our imaginations.

Right now, because of the quarantine, my family (like most of you) are stuck in a house together for long periods of time. We decided to give D&D a try and it has taken root in our household.

The books are now on their 5th edition. The rules of D&D have changed over the years, but the fundamentals are the same. We use D&D Beyond instead of using paper for our characters. It has many benefits, the most important is that it takes care of alot of the mechanics.

My middle child is the DM. He has been getting better at it imitating orc voices and creating fun characters. Each has their own personality.

My youngest son has had a bit of trouble role playing because he wants to be “himself” as a character. In D&D you can play many different types of people, even evil characters. Here is a chart to understand the alignments.

Alignments as explained with fictional characters

Being able to pretend you are an evil rogue is sometimes freeing. It let’s you exercise your mind in ways you would never do in your day to day life. I don’t believe that this sort of imaginative play leads to people becoming evil in the “real world”. However, since he wants to be himself, it means our party is typically on the good side of the spectrum.

It hasn’t been completely a success. We have different goals and playing styles and haven’t yet settled into a comfortable rhythm. However, there are many times when we laugh uncontrollably at the situations we find ourselves or get excited about a really close combat where we pulled off an unexpected victory.

Why am I mentioning this now?

Because George Floyd and the subsequent riots and the complete lack of leadership is making me miserable. We treat minorities in this country like second class citizens. White people are given every benefit of the doubt and black people are given none. We institutionalize racism into every law and every fiber of our country’s laws and customs. We segregate schools through a myriad of ways, we disenfranchise votes, we put young black men in jail for crimes that white people regularly are given a free pass. We are not being nice as a society. Not even close.

We have people who don’t believe in vaccines, don’t believe the world is round, don’t believe in climate change, don’t believe in science, and don’t believe the government can do good in the world. Yet, they believe wholeheartedly that a Russian bot is telling them the truth about an insane conspiracy theory about Q. Our education system is a mess. Our civics are a mess. I just want to scream at the world like this:

So instead of ranting and raving, I am talking about D&D instead. It’s a fun escape from the insanity of our world, give it a try.

We are currently in quarantine with a curfew. I could not have possibly imagined this world 1 year ago. I hope that next year, it will be a world that I can’t imagine today, but instead of being filled with chaos and nightmares, it is filled with joy and fulfillment.

Side note: I can imagine online games that focus more on imagination and party interactivity and less on graphics. I’ve been researching, but so far nothing jumps out at me.

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Working Sessions vs Executive Meetings http://commadot.com/working-sessions-vs-executive-meetings/ http://commadot.com/working-sessions-vs-executive-meetings/#respond Fri, 29 May 2020 22:07:18 +0000 http://commadot.com/?p=9158 Continue readingWorking Sessions vs Executive Meetings]]> My time is generally split between two different kinds of meetings. One I love, the other not so much.

Working Sessions

A working session is a group of 2-5 people who are talking about a specific design or problem. They are brainstorming ways to improve it or fix it. In short, it’s a meeting to figure stuff out.

Usually, each person is speaking in roughly equal measures. Each person has a specific role in the process. In other words, they have real skin in the game. They are usually a designer, product manager, or engineer. There are no project managers or extraneous people. No executives for sure. Opinions aren’t held tightly. The exchange of ideas is paramount, each person trying to find the right solution.

I like these meetings because they move the ball forward. After a meeting like this, I can start a design or get closer to the finish line. These sessions fill me with confidence that we can make great products for customers.

Executive Meetings

The second type of meeting usually has alot more people; sometimes dozens. This meeting has a very different flavor. Usually, the speaking is dominated by 2-3 people and the rest of the crowd is just watching and maybe sometimes throwing grenades into the discussion.

Meeting Grenade: A grenade is a point of view that shuts down the conversation. Example: “I don’t think the CEO will like this.”

These meetings are all about emotions, communication, and FUD.

FUD stands for Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt. These are the three horseman of the product apocalypse. They have ruined more companies than any other factors.

Often these meetings are accompanied by very long documents. A friend once called them “Walls of Text” and said that their purpose is to shut people up.

A document that is supposed to “explain everything” is often counterproductive. People reading someone’s writing doesn’t equal alignment. Usually documents are filled with curse of knowledge traits.

The very worst kind of executive session is 20 people listening to one person read a document or slideshow for an hour. In these meetings, I feel my life force ebbing away with every minute.

I know Project Managers have an important role to play, but often meetings called by the project manager are brutal micro-management of every task status and the only beneficiary is the project manager themselves.

These meetings are expensive. They include many people who are half-paying attention. This means they are not working on real deliverables. They also don’t make the product get built any faster. Yet, these meetings make a big portion of my calendar.

Thoughts

What would happen if we just didn’t have the executive sessions? The bad outcome might be overlap of work or factionalism where each department went off in different directions. This isn’t absolutely going to happen, but it could.

The role of the product manager should be to facilitate the working sessions and minimize the executive sessions. If you find yourself on the wrong end of these kinds of meetings, I think the first place to look is the executive leadership. When they aren’t aligned, you end up with too many dysfunctional alignment sessions.

Although it’s easy to say “get rid of them” I think there are psychological and organizational reasons they exist. Clearly something to think about more.

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Told You So Failure http://commadot.com/told-you-so-failure/ http://commadot.com/told-you-so-failure/#respond Fri, 22 May 2020 21:57:43 +0000 http://commadot.com/?p=9132 Continue readingTold You So Failure]]> I’ve wanted to build this app for decades. Last year, I finally got up the nerve to go to Upwork.com and get a freelancer to do it. The project is now over and I have to call it the worst project I ever worked on. Complete nightmare. Total failure. I spent $4,000 and got exactly nothing in return except heartache and misery.

The project started off with a bad decision. I wanted to build it using BlockChain technology and they did not follow directions. They built it using PHP. I should have stopped the project immediately. Unfortunately, I thought it was OK and could continue. Mistake #1.

Then there were many iterations where they did not understand the designs or did not follow instructions. Each mistake was small and they corrected them, but I should have called the project done way back then. Mistake #2.

Last December, the contractor said he contracted Dengue Fever and development stopped. I was shocked, but I thought “OK, give them some time and wait”. Eventually, I was contacted by his sister, whom I think in hindsight was the original contractor pretending to be another person. She stopped communicating with me after a few days. The communication was weird, but I didn’t know what to do.

I asked Upwork for help and did not get much of a reply. I pressed the issue and then I was contacted by a new person named Austin. I think Austin was actually just the original contractor pretending to be someone else again, but I can’t confirm it either way.

The insane thing is that Austin tried to extort me for the source code. He would release it if I wrote a 5-star review. He didn’t ask for money, he asked for a review on Upwork. I told him that I refused to lie about the outcome and he should give me the code since I had already paid for it. He refused. We were in a stalemate.

I asked Upwork again for help and they were nice to me, but ultimately couldn’t get my money back or the source code. I dont even think the source code is worth anything anyway.

I closed the contract and wrote an honest review of the whole thing.

The mistakes were mine. I trusted people I should not have trusted. I continued a project after I knew the architecture was wrong. I did not plan ahead and get copies of the source code on a regular basis. I take full responsibility for the lost money and failure.

I often say that there are no mistakes, only learning opportunities. I usually say this to other people when they feel badly about their mistakes. I am trying to say it to myself, but having some difficulties taking my own medicine.

Regret is a heavy burden to bear. I have other regrets that have cost me dearly both financially and emotionally. When I am dozing off to sleep, those regrets keep me awake. They haunt my dreams and refuse to go away. I hate them more than I can describe. Those regrets are my nemesis.

Today is my 48th birthday. Did I live the life I wanted? What will the next half century look like? Will I have more triumphs? More regrets? Or just nothing, killing time until the end.

Holy shit, this post is depressing. Here, maybe this will make it better.

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Giving and Taking Feedback http://commadot.com/giving-and-taking-feedback/ http://commadot.com/giving-and-taking-feedback/#respond Wed, 20 May 2020 00:54:30 +0000 http://commadot.com/?p=9124 Continue readingGiving and Taking Feedback]]> This is a little long. I wrote it up to answer the question, “What is the best way to give feedback on a design?” I hope its helpful for you.

GIVING feedback

Feedback on the deliverables/decisions

This should be the most common and best forms of feedback. You should:

  1. Identify a logical error. It may be a contradiction in the deliverable or some other kind of logic problem. It’s up to the designer to fix the error, but you can offer suggestion or alternatives or fixes. Don’t force your opinion of the fix on them. Give them space to fix the problem.
    1. Good Example: “Over here, I believe we have a misspelling.” (Factual)
    2. Bad example: “Do you even know how to spell?” (Aggressive/Sarcastic)
  2. Identify a missing ingredient. It might be a use case that was forgotten, or anything else omitted. Don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater and say the whole thing is bad because of a missing item.
    1. Good Example: “I don’t see where XYZ situation is addressed, am I missing it?”
    2. Bad Example: “This is just wrong.”
  3. Express discomfort. Sometimes you aren’t sure WHY something is wrong, but it makes you feel uncomfortable. This is good. Do your best to explain what risk or bad thing might happen. Its up to the driver to decide if it needs fixing, but they need to hear the discomfort even if it’s not explained fully. Don’t assume your discomfort is crucial and needs to be fixed, but it is crucial to be heard.
    1. Good Example: “The contrast of these two colors makes me worry about color-blindness.”
    2. Bad Example: “I hate this.”
  4. Identify an inconsistency with internal or external standards. The world might call something by a name and the design changed the name, but not for any good reason. Identify where there are standards and we diverge from the. Again, give the driver space to fix it.
    1. Good Example: “The word mixins is used commonly by DBAs, but we have it called MixOuts. Is there an issue with the standard?”
    2. Bad Example: “DBAs will hate this”
  5. Ask questions! Don’t just assume something is wrong. Ask questions to clarify and align.
    1. Good Example: “What would the user do in situation X?” or “Is this use case different from the one above? Can you elaborate on that?”
    2. Bad Example: “Are you stupid or just incompetent?”
  6. Use Reflection to confirm. Sometimes someone says something that is misinterpreted. Use mirroring (without agreeing or disagreeing) to clarify and avoid communication breakdown.
    1. Good Example: “Just so I understand, you are saying [paraphrase what you heard]. Is this correct?” Often the other person will say, “oh no, I meant something different”.
    2. Bad Example: So you want the world to end, is this correct? (sarcastic)
  7. Last resort – Escalate. Sometimes there is a fundamental disagreement on key decisions. When this happens, it’s OK to escalate. Don’t use this technique for every little detail. Managers should make sure this technique isn’t overused.
    1. Good Example: “I think we have a problem here. If it’s OK, I’d like to get [manager names] involved to help us align.”
    2. Bad Example: “We need [manager names] to be here every time.”

The goal is to be informed and aligned on decisions. Staying silent is not the best feedback strategy.

Important note: Some feedback should be delivered one on one, and not in a group setting. If you see feedback going off the rails, suggest that people “take it offline” into a smaller group.

Feedback on the process

It can be very frustrating if you feel the process itself is causing poor decision making. We all need to practice patience so we don’t keep reinventing process, but sometimes process needs documentation or revision.

Steps to improve process:

  1. Get alignment on what the current process is. Sometimes it’s not even written down. Ask people to write it down so you at least have a starting point.
  2. Identify points of concern
    1. Doesn’t handle certain situations
    2. Handles certain situations poorly and yields poor results
    3. Makes people feel excluded or negative
    4. Loses opportunities for certain positive outcomes
  3. Document options – write down alternatives
    1. Generally, try not to overdo it. Start simply.
  4. Meet with small group to iterate and discuss
  5. Build consensus in organization

Change of process is never easy. Building consensus sounds like Dilbert, but it just means getting other people to participate in improving how we work.

Feedback on personal behavior

Put a few hundred people together and you will undoubtedly have personal conflicts that aren’t even about the work. Some people can annoy you so much that it’s hard to think straight when working with them. Feedback is tricky in these cases. You don’t want to make things worse, but you also don’t want to keep things as they are. Here are some steps:

  1. Develop rapport. Ask to have lunch with the person. Spend time with them, break bread. Ask about their lives, their history, ask them about their triumphs and stories. LISTEN. Getting to know someone is a great way to loosen the tension between people.
  2. Tell them how you feel. In a private setting, (not in a group meeting!) tell them that their words hurt or bothered you. Tell them you want to do a good job, but you feel they are making that harder. Don’t accuse them of wrong-doing. You are just expressing how their words and actions made YOU feel. Give them a chance to empathize. Again, it is crucial not to be accusatory. Assume they didn’t mean to make you feel that way. Assume they don’t even know you feel that way.
  3. Ask them for feedback. Be open to critique and ask them to go negative on you. Sometimes people just need to vent their feelings so they can let go. By showing vulnerability, you are gaining support for their own vulnerability. Stay calm. These are difficult talks to have, but often can yield a much better relationship.
  4. Ask for guidance. In escalation order: Your own manager, mentor, their manager, and finally HR. It’s not “tattle tailing”. It’s giving people, especially managers, a chance to help. That’s what they are there for. Keeping things festering is never going to work. Break the cycle and get help from others.

Good Example: “When you cut me off during the meeting, it made me feel small and unimportant.”
Bad Example: “Why are you such an ass?!”

Feedback on ethical infractions

These are serious situations. If you think someone is acting in a way that is inconsistent with ethical standards, you should be pretty blunt about it to that person. Start in private and if you think the behavior is persistent, speak with your own manager first.

Good example: “When you suggested to bypass the security training, that is unethical. We need to do that to be certified as secure for many customers.”

Bad example: “You are unethical! I feel it in my bones!”

TAKING feedback

Feedback Rule #1: Never get defensive. Feedback is there to help you be your best. Take it as a gesture of goodwill, not an attack.

Taking feedback is half of the battle. If someone is trying to give you feedback, do your best to listen and really understand what their point of view is. Don’t try to argue why they are wrong. This doesn’t mean accepting everything they say as truth. However, understand that it is true to them. Assuming positive intent, respect that you are unaligned and work towards common goals.

You should use similar techniques such as Asking Questions, and Reflecting to clarify meaning as you receive feedback.

Summary

Feedback is like oxygen. It’s a bad idea to go too long without it. Never assume your feedback is perfect and will be adopted immediately. Also never assume feedback is worthless and your work/behavior is flawless. By giving feedback we are giving each other more information to make good decisions.

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Remote vs. Onsite http://commadot.com/remote-vs-onsite/ http://commadot.com/remote-vs-onsite/#respond Mon, 11 May 2020 16:35:26 +0000 http://commadot.com/?p=9058 Continue readingRemote vs. Onsite]]> Working from home started out pretty rough for me. No exercise, gaining weight, and other issues plagued me. Then slowly something started happening. I started getting used to it.

I am clearly a creature of routine. I like to let my mind wander as I take a shower, brush my teeth, etc. I can be on auto-pilot as long as my routine is consistent. I guess it doesn’t matter what normal becomes as long as I have a routine, I can get used to it.

There are lots of companies that are remote dominant. Invision (Go Ben!) is 100% remote. They developed lots of techniques to make it work. I suppose they are adjusting better than most to the pandemic. Let’s make a list of pros and cons of remote-dominant work policies.

TopicRemoteOnsite
Recruiting✅ Get people from all over the world. Better cost of living for workers.❌ Only within driving distance. Creates urban clusters.
Commuting✅ Walk downstairs❌ Sit in traffic or train.
Thinking time❌ Need to force it✅ During commute
Environment✅ Clearly better. Less driving❌ We have a crisis on our hands
MeetingsIt’s different, but let’s call it a tieI like face-to-face, but it’s often difficult with people in different locations anyway.
ProductivityI miss looking over people’s shoulders, but Figma and Slack makes it decent.Minus the commute time, I think it’s a tie.
ConnectednessIt’s not terrible. We play Pictionary at the end of the day and eat lunch with each other once a week via zoom.✅ In person is better. But I still have the same problems with the same people. Slight win.
Mental intangibles❌ Maybe I will get used to it, but I feel sluggish and mentally dull. You can see my blog has been quiet because I haven’t thought if anything interesting.✅ Maybe this will change, but I felt sharper and more creative at the office
Pros and Cons of remote vs onsite working

Hmm, now that I list it out, it confirms my suspicion. Remote working isn’t so bad. If I could play tennis (the doors are still locked!), I would probably be pretty happy. I am mostly unhappy because I CAN’T go where I want. But once the restrictions are lifted, I wonder if it might be good to stay remote.

What other factors should weigh into this?

It’s alot to think about.

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Video Conferencing Thoughts http://commadot.com/video-conferencing-thoughts/ http://commadot.com/video-conferencing-thoughts/#respond Tue, 07 Apr 2020 16:58:43 +0000 http://commadot.com/?p=9029 Continue readingVideo Conferencing Thoughts]]> Obviously, we have all been using video conferencing way more than usual. I have some thoughts on it, of course.

Video conferencing is harder than meetings

It’s way more exhausting than talking with people. I feel like I can’t take my eyes off the screen. In meetings, I can look away and not feel guilty. Now, it seems like there are a dozen eyes on me all the time. It is making me anxious in every meeting.

I have spoken with other people who feel the same effect. Meetings on zoom are more mentally taxing than meetings in person.

Audio interactions are hard

Audio is arguably the most important part of video conferencing. We are trying to speak with each other. However, audio on video conferencing is challenging at best. You can’t hear people interrupting the way you would normally. Interruptions are often critical. You can’t have conversations without them.

Imagine someone says, “Due to the sky being green, I have developed an 18 point plan for our project. Step 1….” At this point, you need to interrupt. You don’t want them to go on forever if there is a core flaw. This is actually pretty difficult in zoom. It makes meetings longer and more confusing.

Additionally, there is a delay on sound via zoom. It makes interactions more weird. Reactions are not timed as they normally would. All in all, it is making conversations fall into the uncanny valley.

People should turn their video on

When people don’t show their video, I find it rude. We are all trapped in our homes, trying to work. It’s already hard enough. And then people don’t even show their video? You don’t hide your face in meetings in person, why should you do it in video conference?

People usually have one of a few reasons for this.

  1. It’s messy in their environment
  2. They are not presentable
  3. They are shy
  4. They have slow internet and video makes it worse

1-3 are all bad reasons. All video tools have virtual backgrounds. Additionally, you should be presentable. We should all be wearing pants! This is work, not playtime. The 4th reason is real for some people. ISPs have to step up in this critical time and bump up people’s bandwidth. Otherwise, turn your video on!

Blur and virtual backgrounds are not quite there

I love the idea and want to use it more. I downloaded a bunch of video backgrounds. The problem is that I don’t have a green screen. Look at the little jagged edges near my ears. If I move around it gets worse.

Everything is fine!

If I had a green screen, I imagine it would be perfect. It’s close, but it’s just not quite there. Zoom doesn’t have “blur background”. It’s a good option and I wish they would add it in.

This is a chance for people to become creative though. I appreciate that.

People need to point the camera at their face

I can’t tell you how many times I tell people, the whole bottom of your head is cut off. It’s not a big thing, but it’s weird. It’s almost like they were halfway sitting under the table in a conference room meeting.

People are making more meetings

My calendar looks like this most weeks now.

Lots and lots of short video meetings

This is pretty difficult. It’s especially hard on Makers. I don’t know if this is the new normal or we will figure out ways to make it better. Who knows when we will get back to the office? Maybe we never will.

Anyway, I have to start my day of video conferencing. Enjoy!

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2020 Calendar http://commadot.com/2020-calendar/ http://commadot.com/2020-calendar/#respond Thu, 02 Apr 2020 18:06:21 +0000 http://commadot.com/?p=9034 Continue reading2020 Calendar]]> Here is my summary of 2020 and how it will unfold. It gets pretty hairy, so buckle in. Good news is that if you love pasta, it will turn out well for you in the end.

January: Constitutional Crisis
Ahh, remember the good old days when we argued about impeachment and Russian interference? It feels quaint now.

February: Corona Virus
At first, I thought this would be like every other virus I’ve ever witnessed. Bill Gates knew better. He was telling us, but we wouldn’t listen.

March: Quarantine & Stock Market Crash
Holy Shit! What happened? Don’t go to work! Stocks crash. My savings are gone. San Mateo just sent an email saying not to play tennis. Come on! That’s the last straw.

April: Hiring Freeze
I knew it was going to happen, but I hoped it wouldn’t. All of my recruiting efforts are being put on hold at least for the next few months. I feel terrible for people who just graduated and have no prospects of a job. April 1st goes by and no one bothers with April Fools day. It feels dumb. We all stay in our homes for the month.

What will happen next? These are my predictions:

Warning: These are not pretty.

May: Natural Disasters
There are several super volcanoes set to go off. We could have a dustbowl again in the midwest. The west coast has been due for a major earthquake for years now. I expect this any day now, forcing us from our homes

June: Famine & Riots
Once we are out of our homes, feeding everyone will be a major problem. This will lead to starvation and riots. Many people will die and our social order will collapse.

July: Climate Changing Tipping Point
The underwater methane deposits shake loose and float into the air. A hot summer and some solar flares melt the polar icecaps. The seas rise 50 feet in 2 weeks. Florida and the coasts are under water. A billion people are on the move worldwide. President Trump says everything is fine.

August: Aliens Attack
I know this sounds absurd, but honestly, it doesn’t seem that weird to me anymore. They have been waiting for just the right moment. They blow up Washington DC and several other world capitals. All satellites are destroyed so we have no more phone or TV service. Radio becomes the only form of communication.

Probably will look like this

September: Time Traveling Robot Army
So somehow, our future selves have sent back in time an army of robots to help kill the aliens. Many are relieved to have the help and the Aliens retreat. Unfortunately, as soon as they retreat, someone attacks the robots and they defend themselves. By the end of the month, there is a human-robot conflict in every corner of the earth.

Artists rendering of robot Army

October: Resurrect Dinosaurs
A scientist has a great idea. He clones dinosaurs and brings them back to help with the robot battle. This goes well at first. We trained the dinosaurs to attack robots. Smooth sailing. We beat them into submission but as a last gasp, the robots transfer AI intelligence into the dinosaurs. They basically become robot-dinosaurs and turn on us.

Actual Photo of events in October

November: Election
Joe Biden barely beats Donald Trump in the electoral college. His campaign pledge of zero-tolerance for dinosaur robots gains him the college-educated white vote in Ohio. Joe is happy, but Trump declares the election to be “rigged” and sues Biden. He says that he refuses to leave.The Supreme Court has been eaten by dinosaurs so the country is thrown into a constitutional crisis once again. Nancy Pelosi threatens impeachment again. Joe is still bumping elbows with people.

Who will Joe’s running mate be? Kamala Harris.

December: The Rapture
It’s not Jesus, or Jehovah, or Buddha, or Allah. It turns out that God was the Flying Spaghetti Monster. The religion called Pastafarianism was actually the correct one. All eyes turn upward to see his fettuccini face and ziti fingers reaching out to us. The light of his saucy face is radiant. All of those who worshipped the mighty Noodle ascend towards the clouds. They are embraced by the all-seeing lasagna and enter heaven. The rest of us look on as he leaves.

Oil painting in the style of "The Creation of Adam" by Michelangelo (which shows Adam reclining and reaching out to touch God), but instead of God there is the Flying Spaghetti Monster; two large meatballs wrapped in noodles, with eyes on stalks which are also noodles, all floating in mid-air.

This is what I see for the rest of 2020. Some of the items may seem strange now, but think about what you thought the first few months would be last year.

Do you think I missed anything? Put additions in the comments.

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