Matt Mullenweg with some exciting news about the future of WordPress.com:
So we asked ourselves a big question. What would we build if we were starting from scratch today, knowing all we’ve learned over the past 13 years of building WordPress? At the beginning of last year, we decided to start experimenting and see.
Today we’re announcing something brand new, a new approach to WordPress, and open sourcing the code behind it. The project, codenamed Calypso, is the culmination of more than 20 months of work by dozens of the most talented engineers and designers I’ve had the pleasure of working with (127 contributors with over 26,000 commits!).
The new wordpress.com is based on Node, React, and other cool open source toys. Looking forward to seeing how this progresses.
Sad news this week from Rdio:
Pandora (NYSE: P), the world’s most powerful music discovery platform, today announced an agreement to acquire several key assets from Rdio, a pioneer in streaming music technology. This will accelerate the company’s plan to offer fans greater control over the music they love, strengthening Pandora’s position as the definitive source of music.
Rdio has been my go-to music streaming service for over 4 years now. It’ll be weird not to have it as a part of my daily life. Sad news, yes, but it wasn’t entirely a surprise. The service and once beautiful user-interface have been obviously neglected over the past year and it has struggled to evolve compared to Spotify and Apple Music.
Rdio, you’ll be missed.
DHH on Signal v. Noise:
What’s good for platform makers is often not good for those who build upon it. That’s where the whole picking up pennies in front of a steamroller comes from. Yes, a few may be quick enough to pickup enough pennies to fill a jar, but for most, it’s not a wise trade of risk vs reward.
Forget the paid app.
There are a few examples of companies breaking the mold and creating great app-based businesses on mobile, but unfortunately they are the exception, not the rule.
Ryan Nystrom on the Instagram Engineering Blog:
We had the opportunity to integrate this new technology into Instagram early on and were excited by how natural the shortcuts and peeking on photos and videos felt. The API for adding 3D interactions was seamless to use, and along the way we collected pointers for how to add them to your apps.
Cool writeup. This is one of my favorite new hardware features.
Mike Isaac and David Gelles in the New York Times:
Many technology start-ups aim to become “unicorns,” the companies that get valued at $1 billion or more on their way to probable vast riches. Yancey Strickler and Perry Chen have no interest in that.
As co-founders of Kickstarter, the popular online crowdfunding website that lets people raise money to help fund all manner of projects, including cooking gadgets and movies, Mr. Strickler and Mr. Chen could have tried to take their company public or sell it, earning millions of dollars for themselves and other shareholders.
Instead, they announced on Sunday that Kickstarter was reincorporating as a “public benefit corporation,” a legal change they said would ensure that money — or the promise of it — would not corrupt their company’s mission of enabling creative projects to be funded.
“We don’t ever want to sell or go public,” said Mr. Strickler, Kickstarter’s chief executive. “That would push the company to make choices that we don’t think are in the best interest of the company.”
Paul Ford, on his new company:
Over the last few months I’ve learned a lot about what it means to be a partner in a business. In practice, partnership means that we talk. Rich and I talk to the Postlight team, in small meetings and all-hands meetings, and over drinks or coffee. We talk to lawyers. We talk, over breakfast, about signage, recruiting, bookkeeping, taxation, legal fees, cashflow, and lead generation.
We ask ourselves, “What are the most important things we can do as an agency, as a company that ships big things?” We think the most important thing we can do is: Build a self-sufficient team and do absolutely everything we can to keep it together. Which sounds incredibly obvious in theory but is not obvious in practice. So we talk even more: About loyalty, and how to build loyalty, how to create trust, and how trust can help you ship good software fast. There’s a lot that is new. It takes time. We’ll get there.
Sounds like a familiar story.
Jocelyn Goldfein on First Round Review:
In a profession where we carry out decade-spanning holy wars over tab widths and capitalization, it’s no surprise that people get attached to their development and release habits. But if shipping so much software has taught me one thing, it’s to be an agnostic. Different methodologies optimize for different goals, and all of them have downsides. If you maximize for schedule predictability, you’ll lose on engineer productivity (as this turns out to be a classic time/space tradeoff). Even when you aren’t dealing with textbook tradeoffs, all investments of effort trade against something else you could be spending the time on, whether it’s building an automated test suite or triaging bugs.
Goldfein’s perspective is refreshingly honest. Most successful engineers will tell you they’ve found the ‘one true way’ to ship great work. But in reality, it seems that there are many different ways to attack these problems depending on your situation.
To determine “the right way to develop software,” you’ve got to understand what matters for your product and how to optimize for that. This isn’t based on personal preference. Ultimately it stems from your company’s mission, and the way you make money is a reasonable proxy for that.
Such a great look at how to approach shipping software.
Ever since Susan Kare’s 8-bit designs graced the first Macintosh screens in 1984, icon design, like digital typography, has been an important if unglamorous niche in the software business.
Via Daring Fireball
Marco Arment, on Wednesday:
Today, I’m launching my own iOS 9 content blocker, called Peace, to bring peace, quiet, privacy, and — as a nice side benefit — ludicrous speed to iOS web browsing.
There are a lot of content blockers being released today, but Peace strikes the best balance I’ve seen between effectiveness, compatibility, simplicity, and speed, powered by what I’ve found to be the best database in the business after months of testing.
Marco Arment, on Friday:
I’ve pulled Peace from the App Store. I’m sorry to all of my fans and customers who bought this on my name, expecting it to be supported for longer than two days. It’ll keep working for a long time if you already have it, but with no updates.
As I write this, Peace has been the number one paid app in the U.S. App Store for about 36 hours. It’s a massive achievement that should be the highlight of my professional career. If Overcast even broke the top 100, I’d be over the moon.
Achieving this much success with Peace just doesn’t feel good, which I didn’t anticipate, but probably should have. Ad blockers come with an important asterisk: while they do benefit a ton of people in major ways, they also hurt some, including many who don’t deserve the hit.
The App business is really hard. It’s easy for people on the outside to judge Marco for his decision, and criticize the week he’s just had. Good on him for sticking to his morals and doing what he feels is right.
For what it’s worth, the app is great and I’ll be keeping it installed.
Mobile is not a subset of the internet anymore, that you use only if you’re waiting for a coffee or don’t have a PC in front of you - it’s becoming the main way that people use the internet. It’s not mobile that’s limited to a certain set of locations and use cases - it’s the PC, that can only do the web (and yes, legacy desktop apps, if you care, and consumers don’t) and only be used sitting down. It’s time to invert that mental model - there is not the ‘mobile internet’ and the internet. Rather, if anything, it’s the internet and the ‘desktop internet’
Steve Smith on retiring from the NFL after this season (emphasis mine):
My name is Steve Smith Sr., and you might know me as an undersized wide receiver who played 14 NFL seasons. You’ve seen a lot of me on TV, some of it unflattering. And as I step away from the fame and the media and a life captured on SportsCenter, there are a few things I’d like you to know about who I really am.
I’ll start with this: I’ve always been a big reader. I encourage young players to find something that moves their needle in the same way football does. Find something that can challenge you and make you think. Our game is so consuming and you can fall into the trap of being a one-dimensional human being. Don’t let that be you.
[…] In 2008, I began reading The Last Lecture, the best-seller by Randy Pausch, a professor who was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and told he had only months to live. Pausch’s last lecture is about achieving your childhood fantasy. He asks if you are spending time on the right things, because time is all you have. He talks about overcoming obstacles, seizing every moment and doing everything you can to live life to the fullest. The book speaks to everyone, but really, it is the lessons he wanted to impart on his children.
Focus on what matters.
This past weekend, Jerome Bettis was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Normally, I wouldn’t associate with anything Steelers-related, but his acceptance speech was particularly good. Semil Shah of Haystack also enjoyed it, and took the time to transcript the last bit:
Greatness is not a sports term — it’s a life term. I believe there are four things that get you to greatness. One, you gotta have the ability to sacrifice. A lot of times that means sacrificing the relationships that mean the most to you. The second thing is pain. You’re gonna have to go through some type of pain in your life — either physical or mental — and you’ve got to find a way to endure. The third one is failure. You’ve got to have the ability to understand that you’re going to fail, but it’s how you recover that makes you a better person. And the last, the fourth one, is love, because if you love it, then, it’s not a job — it’s a passion. And if you love it, you’re willing to sacrifice for it, you’re willing to go through all types of pain for it, and you are willing to go through that failure and understand that ‘I will be successful.’ If you go through those four things and understand [them], … then success is in your path. Greatness is available to you.
Nick Bilton in yesterday’s New York Times:
Mr. Jobs said he wanted freshly squeezed orange juice.
After a few minutes, the waitress returned with a large glass of juice. Mr. Jobs took a tiny sip and told her tersely that the drink was not freshly squeezed. He sent the beverage back, demanding another.
A few minutes later, the waitress returned with another large glass of juice, this time freshly squeezed. When he took a sip he told her in an aggressive tone that the drink had pulp along the top. He sent that one back, too.
My friend said he looked at Mr. Jobs and asked, “Steve, why are you being such a jerk?”
Mr. Jobs replied that if the woman had chosen waitressing as her vocation, “then she should be the best.”
Cool story, read the whole thing to see why.
App Camp For Girls is on a mission: we encourage girls to pursue app development as a career by teaching them how to make iPhone apps in a fun, creative summer camp program under the mentorship of women developers. We are shifting the gender balance in our industry. App Camp 3.0 is the next stage in bringing the program to more girls in more locations!
There’s a few days left in this wonderful campaign. I’ve supported them, and I hope you do too.
When someone is in a leadership position for the first time, their tendency is to feel responsible for everything. They define leadership as the ability to make all decisions and be the focal point of their team’s output. On the surface this is a noble effort, but the rookie leader doesn’t yet see the full picture.
Leadership is not just about one person doing everything. Leadership is about lifting the team up. It’s about making the collective better than the individuals. And it’s about leaving the team better than it was before. Great leaders don’t try and do everything forever, great leaders replace themselves.
To illustrate the point here’s a common story I’ve seen many times:
Meet Rachel. She was recently promoted to be the head of her company’s engineering product team. The team is small with only about 6 full-time engineers but they do fantastic work. Before her promotion, Rachel was on a small product team as an engineer herself. Many on her team agree that she is the best engineer in the company. She has great leadership skills and she can speak to customers, management, and the technical team with confidence. She was a natural fit to fill the recently vacated team lead role.
Rachel’s first few weeks as the team lead were a breeze. She was still able to write a lot of code and help the team get better. Her team respected her and they came to her with their code puzzles, bugs, challenges, and ideas. She loved being able to help on each of the team’s projects and everyone’s work became better because Rachel was leading the team. Quality increased, speed increased, and the customers were happy with a steady stream of new features.
As the months in her new position went by, this cycle continues. Rachel is the focal point of the team. She immerses herself in every project and every decision. She loves it. She finally has the ability to speak into all aspects of her team and the team respects and craves her decisions. Everyone comes to Rachel for every crucial decision. She reviews all code before it is released. She white-boards architecture before every project kick-off. She handles indecision between the other engineers by making quick moves about which new cool framework to use. Rachel’s presence at the helm of her team is undeniable. She is so relied upon by her team that she often hears “I don’t know what we’d do without you.” This is extremely satisfying to Rachel, as she remembers back to a time not so long ago where she wasn’t even leading a team yet.
The company’s executive team catches wind of how awesome Rachel is. They already know her as a great engineer but now she can lead a team of her peers with ease. This is perfect because the company has a big new initiative coming up: a new product offering that they want to take to market next year. Rachel is again the natural choice to lead the new team and make it just as awesome as her current team. The decision is made, and Rachel is given a few weeks to transition to the new product team.
But wait. How can Rachel leave her current team? They rely on her for everything. Every line of code goes through her. She makes every major architecture decision. Every framework dispute is solved by her. Her team is full of smart engineers, but none of them have had to think about bigger decisions since Rachel took over the team. They have loved being able to just focus on their code and leave the high-level decisions entirely to Rachel. She is the focal point of the team and without her the team wouldn’t be able to function. At best the team would have setbacks as someone else was brought up to speed.
I’ve seen this scenario several times over the past few years. What’s the problem? Why would a team leader not want to make themselves the key focus and have everything go through them? Not only is that satisfying for them it allows the team to focus on doing great work rather than making every decision. There’s two pieces wrong with this thinking. First, no one on the team feels the desire to step up because there is no reason for them to. And second, the leader can’t move on to do anything else without damaging the team. A great leader is always working on finding and training their replacement. Their #2.
If you’re leading a team, stop and think: Who is my #2? Who am I training to replace me? Who am I lifting up so they can take my position when I move on to do something else? Am I actively working with my team to take more responsibility, or am I shielding them from it? These questions terrify many leaders. The insecure ones fear for their jobs. They fear being replaced and they fear someone else under them being good enough to take their jobs. If you’re happy being in the same position for your entire career, then don’t bother with your replacement. But if you’re ambitious and want to do bigger things then part of your job is finding a responsible way to leave your team in great hands.
Let’s finish Rachel’s story: She’s not able to take the new position to build the company’s new product right away. But she’s smart. She knows that another opportunity will come up, and the company will come asking again. So this time she puts her head down and gets to work preparing for that day. She identifies a great young talented developer, Jim, on her team that has been chatting in their one-on-ones about one day leading his own team. Perfect. Rachel’s potential #2 has been identified in Jim. She pours into him. She not only makes decisions and ensures quality of work for her team but she brings Jim into those decisions. She thinks out loud and allows Jim to ask questions about her thought process at every turn. It doesn’t happen overnight, but soon Rachel defers most of these decisions to the team, including Jim. The team recognizes this and also rallies behind Jim. Rachel is now better equipped to lead her team because she’s not running point on every day-to-day decision. She’s also set the team up for success regardless of her involvement.
As Rachel suspected, the next big opportunity in the company comes within another few months. The executive team once again turns to her and this time she’s ready. She recommends Jim to take over her team. After a period of transition, Rachel is now in charge of one of the company’s biggest initiatives to date. Her old team is still running at a high pace and hasn’t skipped a beat because its leadership is already in place. By the time the announcement of Jim’s new position comes, the title is just a formality because everyone knows he’s already been doing the job. And, he’s learned from Rachel well. He immediately starts working on finding his #2.
Bad leaders are afraid of being replaced. They fear the young upstart on their team that is slowly taking more and more responsibility. They work themselves into every situation, every meeting, and make themselves irreplaceable. Great leaders quickly identify their replacements and train them to ensure the team’s long-term success. Great leaders want to tackle new challenges. They want to be replaced so they can move on to something even better.
Mathias Meyer, CEO of Travis CI:
There’s one fundamental mistake in both using and looking for culture fit as a means for hiring: You’re assuming that your current culture is healthy and doesn’t need to be changed.
Using culture fit as a reason to fire or not to hire says more about you than it says about them. It says that you’re not willing to dig deep and figure out what exactly you think doesn’t match in your expectation and a candidates personality. It shows that your culture is a fixed property of your company and team, one that can’t be changed, one that is exactly where you want it to be.
Culture fit is a reason to continue maintaining the status quo.
From the great Farnam Street blog:
A psychologist walked around a room while teaching stress management to an audience. As she raised a glass of water, everyone expected they’d be asked the “half empty or half full” question. Instead, with a smile on her face, she inquired: “How heavy is this glass of water?”
Answers called out ranged from 8 oz. to 20 oz.
She replied, “The absolute weight doesn’t matter. It depends on how long I hold it. If I hold it for a minute, it’s not a problem. If I hold it for an hour, I’ll have an ache in my arm. If I hold it for a day, my arm will feel numb and paralyzed. In each case, the weight of the glass doesn’t change, but the longer I hold it, the heavier it becomes.” She continued, “The stresses and worries in life are like that glass of water. Think about them for a while and nothing happens. Think about them a bit longer and they begin to hurt. And if you think about them all day long, you will feel paralyzed - incapable of doing anything.”
It’s important to remember to let go of your stresses. As early in the evening as you can, put all your burdens down. Don’t carry them through the evening and into the night. Remember to put the glass down!
Wayne Chang’s story of how a small team at Crashlytics built Answers, their incredibly popular analytics service, is really great. The whole thing is quotable, but I love this part especially showing the power of a small, focused team:
After taking a sip of coffee and setting my bag down next to my desk, I fired up my laptop. 20 tabs proceeded to unwind, like a dealer shuffling cards. Opening one of the tabs in my browser, I wasn’t quite sure I was reading it right. My tab had SourceDNA open, one of the most comprehensive data sources for mobile developers, and it listed Answers above Google. In fact, we were number 2, just behind Flurry.
I mean, Flurry was acquired by Yahoo for hundreds of millions of dollars.
Here, it was saying that we had done in a few months what it took Flurry nearly 10 years to do — and with just six people on our team.
Natalie Nagele on the Wildbit Blog:
On the last retreat in April, we asked the entire team to read Ben’s Good/Bad essay. Everyone then spent an hour writing out what they think makes a good or bad developer, designer, QA engineer, etc. We wanted each person to put their expectations down for their teammates. We then regrouped and read them all out loud. We made comments and put together common themes. Finally, each team (designers, developers, QA, success, etc) broke away, and started crafting their own essay on what makes a good/bad _______.
I love this approach to setting job expectations and clarity around what makes a role great. Kudos to the Wildbit team for sharing their documents for the community to review and use.
I launched this site twenty years ago (a year before the Wayback Machine, at least two years before Google) and it was one of the only places you could read and learn about web design. I launched at a tilde address (kids, ask your parents), and did not think to register zeldman.com until 1996, because nobody had ever done anything that crazy.
At a recent fireside chat, we discussed average versus great work, average companies versus great companies, and average careers versus great careers. Most everyone can quickly describe great work, especially in the form of design, development, or a particular product launch. But we had a tougher time describing the qualities of a company that had achieved greatness. The question seemed impersonal and cold. What if we flipped the question to a different angle and asked a more personal question: What are the hallmarks of a great individual career? What are the hallmarks of simply an average career?
We came up with a giant list, including just a few here:
- In a great career, my work became an inspiration for others.
In an average career, my work had little lasting significance.
- In a great career, I grew myself and grew others around me.
In an average career, I only grew myself.
- In a great career, I celebrated victories.
In an average career I rarely celebrated.
- In a great career, I continually pursued new things and pioneered new ideas.
In an average career, I sometimes flirted with new things and executed on others’ ideas.
- In a great career I created an inheritance for my family.
In an average career, I provided for my family.
- In a great career, I overcame obstacles and persevered through adversity.
In an average career, I was rarely challenged.
- In a great career, I spent time with my kids while they were growing up.
In an average career, I worked all of the time.
- In a great career, I enjoyed the journey and the destination.
In an average career, I enjoyed only the destination.
- In a great career, I reached something that others said couldn’t be done.
In an average career, I never reached for something big.
And, one of my favorites:
- In a great career, I looked forward to Mondays.
In an average career, I looked forward to Fridays.
The list goes on. Once we got the ball rolling it was tough to stop thinking of the differences between great careers and average careers.
Throughout the discussion, it was important to clarify that an average career does not mean a “bad” career. There’s nothing wrong with “average.” Many people have average careers. They provide for their families, they have a steady paycheck, they do their work well, they eventually advance in their positions. There’s nothing dishonorable about an average career. But we’re not reaching for average, we’re reaching for something great.
When I look back upon my life’s work I want to see a great career. I want to see great impact. I want to see a tradition of new ideas, creative thinking, and a pattern of challenging status quo.
The secret formula to building a great company is filling it with people that want to achieve greatness themselves and in their life’s work. A great company is not simply a corporate entity doing all of the thinking and the planning for us. We are the company and our life’s works shape its future.
The exercise of discussing great versus average is a healthy act in discerning what is important to us as individuals so that we can archieve greatness together. Once we had identified what defined greatness for the individual, we easily swapped the words ‘career’ with ‘company’ to chart our path as a group.
Benedict Evans nails it:
But for an actual brand, developer or publisher wondering if they should do an app or a website, I generally answer that the calculation is much simpler and less technical:
Do people want to put your icon on their home screen?
Do you have the kind of relationship, and proposition, that people will want to engage with it enough to put your icon on their phone? If the answer to this is yes, then you should have an app - if only because the app store is the way to do that that people understand, and they’ll look for you in the app store. Once that app is there, you can leverage all the interesting and sophisticated things that you might do with it, or you might manage the flow of information just like your website, but the app has to be there.
And, he adds:
In either of these cases - whether you have an app and a website or just a website, you should presume that your customers will engage with you only on mobile.
The transformation to Scrum was scary, messy, confusing — even emotional. We had to forget what we knew about building software and take a leap of faith. Truthfully, there were times we weren’t sure we’d come out the other side. But like when Andy Dufresne crawled out of the pipe at the end of Shawshank Redemption, our perseverance paid off.
Software development became collaborative; Product Managers and Developers began working together — no more silos. Software development became iterative; we shipped customer value every single week — no more monolithic projects. […]
We were so focused on figuring out how Agile Scrum could improve the way we build software that we didn’t consider how design fits into this new way of working. Design got left behind.
Figuring out how to ‘fit’ a true creative design flow into the Agile process has been difficult for us to grasp as well. They’ve illustrated a common pitfall very well:
One of the lessons we learned when we moved to Agile Scrum was that there’s no such thing as a purely technical problem, just as there’s no such thing as a purely business problem. Each problem in software development is a bit of both, and solving it therefore demands collaboration and teamwork across disciplines. We completely overlooked this important lesson when we tried to solve our problems with design. This all but guaranteed our inevitable failure.
Great read in the this week’s New Yorker about Marc Andreessen. The whole thing is great, but I especially liked this bit about some advice to Mark Zuckerberg:
In 2006, Yahoo! offered to buy Facebook for a billion dollars, and Accel Partners, Facebook’s lead investor, urged Mark Zuckerberg to accept. Andreessen said, “Every single person involved in Facebook wanted Mark to take the Yahoo! offer. The psychological pressure they put on this twenty-two-year-old was intense. Mark and I really bonded in that period, because I told him, ‘Don’t sell, don’t sell, don’t sell!’ ” Zuckerberg told me, “Marc has this really deep belief that when companies are executing well on their vision they can have a much bigger effect on the world than people think, not just as a business but as a steward of humanity — if they have the time to execute.” He didn’t sell; Facebook is now worth two hundred and eighteen billion dollars.
People rarely schedule working time. And when they do it’s viewed as second-tier time. It’s interruptible. Meetings trump working time. Why? And why so often are the same people who assign deadlines the same ones reassigning all of your time? Crazymaking. They should be securing work time for you and protecting it fiercely.
Why are you letting other people put things on your calendar? The idea of a calendar as a public fire hydrant for colleagues to mark is ludicrous. The time displayed on your calendar belongs to you, not to them. It’s been allocated to you to complete tasks. Why are you taking time away from your coding project to go to a meeting that someone you barely know added you to without asking and without the decency to have submitted an agenda?