by Glen Lipka Thu, 30 Jul 2020 20:16:18 +0000 en-US hourly 1 32 32 2075023 Personality Test 2020 Thu, 30 Jul 2020 20:16:14 +0000 Continue readingPersonality Test 2020]]> I take a Myers Briggs quiz every year or two. I am having my design team do the test for a remote bonding exercise. Here are my personal results from the past:

Results map

I think these two personality types make sense for me, especially when I play different roles in an organization. When it’s just me and I am the primary designer, I tend to be more focused on doing the work and being the Architect things. When I am a manager, I spend most of my time talking with people and helping them align as a Mediator.

Mediators have a talent for self-expression, revealing their beauty and their secrets through metaphors and fictional characters.

Also, Mediators are the most likely personality type to enjoy an afternoon nap from time to time.


This is a bullseye for me. I talk in metaphors more than anyone I know. Plus a nap? Are you serious? YES!

The strengths they list for Mediator are:

  • Idealistic
  • Seek and Value Harmony
  • Open-Minded and Flexible
  • Very Creative
  • Passionate and Energetic
  • Dedicated and Hard-Working

On the flip side are the weaknesses:

  • Too Idealistic
  • Too Altruistic
  • Impractical
  • Dislike Dealing With Data
  • Take Things Personally
  • Difficult to Get to Know

Although I am sure that both the strengths and weaknesses are applicable to many different people, they feel relatively accurate for me.

Some of the stuff on these descriptions feels like Astrology. I haven’t read through all the other personality types, so I don’t know if some of the others may be applicable to me as well.

Personalities and Recruiting

Should we use personality tests in the recruiting process? It’s an interesting question and I am not sure of the answer. Sometimes, I wish I knew more about a candidates personality while interviewing. However, I don’t want to miss great people because of some personality type bias.

As usual, I would vote for transparency. Everyone should have their personality type on their LinkedIn profile for all the world to see. What are we hiding this for?

Do you use personality types in your recruiting thought process? Do you even think they are at all accurate? At minimum, I find them fun to do once every few years.

Side note: The visual design style of the 16Personalities website is quite good. I love the illustrations and the text is easy and friendly to read.

]]> 0 9354
Roadmaps Thu, 23 Jul 2020 21:24:10 +0000 Continue readingRoadmaps]]> Roadmaps are funny things. In my cynical experience, their whole purpose is to make people feel confident that things will go according to plan.

The Dark Knight, 2008

This might be controversial, but in my experience roadmaps are deeply flawed documents. Here is a partial list of some of the common problems:

  1. They are jumbled compromises that don’t usually reflect a strategic product vision.
  2. They are inaccurate, usually optimistic sometimes by 1000%.
  3. Often things on the roadmap never get accomplished
  4. The audience is unclear and contradictory
  5. Naming is all over the place
  6. Updates are irregular and poorly communicated

Despite my cynicism, I think roadmaps can serve an important function. I like to think about product development like a chess match. There are pieces on the board and you are playing against your competition. Sometimes, you will want to sacrifice a piece (feature or market or price) in order to gain advantage on a more important piece.

Over the past 10-15 years I have grown to prefer a different approach to roadmaps. Here is a short list of what I think is better.

  1. Only 3 months long
  2. Have a row for every single developer
  3. Do it in a spreadsheet (not a fancy tool)
  4. Audience is internal team only
  5. Naming should be short. Don’t just tack 2.0 on the end of words.
  6. Update every 2-4 weeks
  7. Have fun release names

#7 is a personal one. I liked naming releases even if they were short. At Marketo we used Elements. Hydrogen, Helium. (In order) It was useful for figuring out when we would release functionality, but also it was amusing to have periodic tables on the walls. At Engagio, I used underwater creature names. Anchovy, Betafish, Crab, Dolphin. (One per letter A-Z) Again, it was fun and it helped conversations.

Roadmaps can help teams plan their next few months. A marketing team can schedule a webinar. Docs and QA can prepare for the upcoming functionality. Design teams can think ahead.

I know there are external roadmaps that are useful for analysts and investors. These should be other documents that focus on that one audience. Trying to have one roadmap that solves everyone’s problems is never going to happen.

Alignment is the key principle that roadmaps are supposed to solve. They shouldn’t be a locked in a concrete document that can not be changed. It is supposed to be a framework to get people talking about decisions and their implications. Disagreements often happen when working on these. (See post about disagreements) Many organizations have roadmaps, but not that many use them on a daily or weekly basis to guide their decision making.

Here are a few roadmaps I found lying around.

Marketo 2009
2011 Marketo
2017 Engagio

This last one was fun because I could animate the bubbles to the left with each quarter that went by. It was meant for external consumption.

Maybe I focus too much on having fun. Maybe not. Your call.

]]> 1 9226
New Host: A2 Hosting Wed, 22 Jul 2020 19:26:05 +0000 Continue readingNew Host: A2 Hosting]]> I have been hosting with (ASO) for 6 years now. They were a decent host for the most part. I was using a simple shared hosting package. However, in the past year I became a bit disgruntled and disappointed.


Complaint 1: Free SSL

Google has long said that they will optimize for secure website. ASO did not provide this service. It would have cost too much hassle for me to do it on my own. When I researched other hosts, they provided it for free.

Complaint 2: Up to date PHP

PHP is currently on version 7.4. ASO would not let me up upgrade past 7.2 which is several years old. WordPress has been complaining about the version and that bothered me. Other hosting services provided up to date PHP.

Complaint 3: Cost

All hosts have the same program. They give you 3 years for a steep discount and then double the price. Some of them will give you the same 3 year discounted price to renew. ASO would not. So there was a cost savings involved.

Complaint 4: Service

As a customer for 6 years, I would have thought they would want to keep my business. I am a low traffic personal site that doesn’t complain much. Unfortunately, they wouldn’t meet me halfway. Therefore, I decided to switch.


There were a few decent sites that seemed objective. The choices are all similar, and I tried chatting with many of them. I really liked Siteground alot. Their representative was friendly and well informed. Unfortunately, the way their package was setup, I could only host ONE site. I have 2 that I host; and (He is a young musician and needs to post his music online) I would have gone with them except for this one problem. My suggestion to them would be to have a mid-tier package that allows 2 or 3 sites, not just 1.

I tried Dreamhost for a little while. They came in 2nd place on my spreadsheet. They lacked a built-in CDN, but otherwise was good. Bluehost was highly rated, but their PHP only went up to 7.3. Greengeeks were OK but were slightly more money. I feel guilty about that one, their pitch was carbon neutrality.

A2 Hosting

A2 Hosting’s website is pretty awful to look at. Honestly, it almost made me go somewhere else. They had a good price and the rep was helpful on chat. Additionally, they had a complete migration package that meant I wouldn’t have to do a thing. They took care of all of it without me lifting a finger. SSL configured and ready to go.

This is my first post at the new site. I am paid for 3 years and hopefully I will not need to relocate again for a long time.

It’s stressful to change things and certainly something could go wrong. However, if you stay still, then nothing will get better. Change is a good thing. Worst case scenario, you will learn something.

]]> 1 9325
Letter -> GPA Spreadsheet Wed, 08 Jul 2020 23:31:23 +0000 Continue readingLetter -> GPA Spreadsheet]]> I love spreadsheets. I believe the spreadsheet represents the most innovative and amazing user interface ever created. Imagine explaining to someone how a spreadsheet works assuming they had never seen it before. They would absolutely laugh at you and say that is unintuitive and difficult to use. Yet it is used for millions of different tasks easily by even a novice user. A miracle of design.

I recently used it to convert letter grades into number grade point averages. (GPA) I am a fan of using letter grades to describe things. When we are recruiting, the feedback form has a letter grade input. One rule is that we reject anyone with a B+ or worse GPA.

Setting up a proper letter-to-number conversion in a spreadsheet was actually quite difficult and it took me a while to perfect it. There were many iterations with VERY lengthy formulas.

Here is a copy of the one I am using now.

The use case I used it for was a CoronaVirus Movie Club with my team. Each week one of the designers would declare the movie. We would watch it during the week and then have lunch together and talk about what we thought. We would keep track of what grades we gave the movie and see which ones we liked the best as a team.

Apparently, I am a tough grader. I had the worst GPA for all movies. Who knew I was this picky??

So I duplicated the sheet and converted it into a school GPA for a high-schooler. The formulas will work for other use cases. Feel free to copy it and use it for your own needs.

It would have saved me alot of time if I had found this a few years ago. If you have questions about the form

]]> 0 9279
Used to… Mon, 06 Jul 2020 16:36:51 +0000 Continue readingUsed to...]]> Things I used to do and believe, but don’t anymore.

  • Wear jeans and a watch. 1 year ago.
  • Build computers from parts. 30 years ago.
  • Think I could work at startups forever. 5 years ago.
  • Believe my hair would always be thick. 25 years ago.
  • Read books non stop. 15 years ago.
  • Have nightmares of being chased by something, every night. 20 years ago.
  • Drive to work every weekday. 1 year ago.
  • Play USTA tennis regularly. 1 year ago.
  • Believe that WWIII could not happen. 4 years ago.
  • Think that experienced designers had advantages over new graduates. 2 years ago.
  • Have low blood pressure. 10 years ago.
  • Answer no to the question “do you take any medication?” 1 weeks ago.
  • Eat 5 big unhealthy meals a day. 30 years ago.
  • Fill up my car with gasoline. 1 year ago.

What did you used to do or believe?

This was written on my phone while in bed. I didn’t used to do that for sure.

]]> 1 9272
Pet Peeves 2020 Tue, 30 Jun 2020 18:12:46 +0000 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.

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.

]]> 1 9254
“All Lives Matter” is a Mean Thing to Say Wed, 24 Jun 2020 18:02:26 +0000 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:

]]> 0 9242
Home Networking Setup Fri, 12 Jun 2020 19:51:04 +0000 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
62 ft
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
802.11ac5210 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 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.


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.

]]> 0 9212
Dungeons and Dragons Wed, 03 Jun 2020 18:25:36 +0000 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.

]]> 0 9185
Working Sessions vs Executive Meetings Fri, 29 May 2020 22:07:18 +0000 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.


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.

]]> 0 9158