Things I like right now

It’s a gray and chilly Saturday night so you get to read about some of my recent favorite things.

Books I’m reading, or have recently finished:

  1. Eon by Greg Bear – I found this on BookBub and I’m loving it so far. It’s a great science fiction book about a mysterious asteroid that arrives in the solar system. I bought it because years ago I read a few Greg Bear Star Wars novels and recognized his name.
  2. On Quality: An Inquiry into Excellence: Unpublished and Selected Writings by Robert and Wendy Pirsig. A collection of Robert Pirsig’s writing, some of which has never been published, compiled by his wife. If you’re a fan of Zen & The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, give it a read.
  3. Leadership Is Language by L. David Marquet. I am a huge fan of David Marquet’s leadership style, including both his Greatness video and his first book, Turn the Ship Around. (If you’ve never heard of either of those, I highly, highly recommend giving the short video a watch. It’s well worth your time.) This book fleshes out some of his ideas and provides excellent examples.

Random other things

  1. YNAB (You Need A Budget). Honestly, I don’t know how I lived this long without a tool like YNAB. Admittedly it’s taken me quite awhile to figure out my system, but it’s a game changer for managing your weekly/monthly budget. This podcast episode does a great job of talking about the best way to use it. I have a widget on iOS that displays exactly how much I have left, at all times, in a few different budget categories. It’s great.
  2. Paprika Recipe Manager for Mac/iPhone/iPad. This is probably one of the most used apps on my Mac. I scan all of my recipes into it, and I use it as my grocery list. It does a terrific job of intelligently parsing out a recipe’s details from the noisy, ad-ridden filth that is modern recipe websites.
  3. Potential for iOS and Android – I came across this app a few months back and joined as one of their very first paying customers. I love the design and the philosophy behind it. I use their widgets as Home Screen replacements on my iPhone and it’s gone a long way towards reducing my screen time and increasing my mindfulness of my use of social media and other apps.
  4. Kindle Voyage – I bought this kindle in 2014 (!) and apparently Amazon discontinued it in 2018. I can’t believe I’ve had it that long. It’s lightweight, has a flush screen w/ capacitive buttons for page turning (on both sides of the screen), and lasts forever (apparently!). I’ve come to understand apparently some of the Voyage’s design features have made it into subsequent kindle models but honestly I am terrified of the day this thing dies because I like the design so much. How many other devices can you use for 8 years without fail?
  5. Things for Mac/iPhone After 9 years I finally stopped with the paper bullet journal. This app has replaced it. I like the design and usability the most. It feels like a lightweight app but has just enough sophisticated features to keep me using it. I use some recurring todos every day to keep myself accountable and make heavy use of future scheduling.
  6. GoRails – Come for the content, stay for the community. If you’re in the rails world, you definitely know about this resource. But if you haven’t yet joined the Discord community, you’re missing out. I’m far more plugged into the rails world than I was a few years ago, and it’s party due to this community. Helpful, friendly, and educational.

That’s it. Hope you enjoyed this list. If you think you have something I’d be interested in trying out, please send it to me on twitter @dpaola2 .

Have a great week.

Launching over and over again

There’s a huge difference between shipping a product, soft launching, and launching. And there’s no rule that says you can only launch once.

It took a fair amount of effort for me to divorce these ideas in my own mind. The novice mindset of “if you build it, they will come” is still one of those pervasive attitudes that prevents us from being successful. And yet as developers it’s so natural to labor over our project and then, upon shipping it, think to ourselves “I’m finally done!”

I love the soft launch. It’s like a waypoint between shipping and launching. It helps me get out of my engineering mindset. Soft launching reminds me: “your code still has a ton of undiscovered bugs”. Soft launching shows me code paths I didn’t anticipate.

Showing my project to an audience for the first time is that precious moment when your labor of love meets the ruthlessness of the market. It is a glorious thing to behold.

And then, days or weeks later, the launch. Whether you’re posting on Product Hunt or you’re unleashing a press embargo, launching is an event. It’s an investment, it usually takes planning and coordination, and it is often a chance to rally the team’s morale around the fact that “we did it!”.

And what happens when the launch doesn’t go as expected? Will your brand be forever tarnished? Will your audience conclude that you’re a clown and not want to buy your products?

Unless you’re a Fortune 500, probably not. And in fact, you should just launch again.

Sometimes it feels strange to launch a product more than once. We think our audience will get tired of hearing about us. We anticipate that they’ll be confused: “wait, didn’t this already launch?” We worry that we’ll seem desperate. And so on.

But we need to remember that the world is absolutely gargantuan. There are so many people that still haven’t even heard about you. So even though your message is new to some people, for the vast majority of prospective customers, you are brand new.

Every time you launch, even the same messaging and feature set, there are people who are hearing about you for the first time. That first impression.

Go launch!

The emergent human organism

I think about this video a lot.

In summary: life on earth is really the history of exponential change. There were a few distinct periods in the history of life on earth where exponential change happened:

  1. The initial evolution of single cell organisms
  2. The evolution of multicellular life
  3. What we’re experiencing now in our society

He thinks through some attributes of the first two in an attempt to understand what the hell is happening to our society today. And remember, this was in 1994!

Mostly the changes are attributed to an information exchange mechanism. DNA evolved (somehow!) because it was a way for individual elements to exchange information and record that new recipe for the individual (in DNA). Cellular life was the result. Once this happened, a billion years of exponential evolution occurred.

Then it happened again, when these individual cells (somehow!) evolved the ability to exchange information and record the recipe for the community of individuals rather than just the individual cells. Essentially multi-cellular organisms comprised of cells that were symbiotic and became complex life such as ourselves. Another billion years of evolution and proliferation of these new “individuals”.

But the individuals were really just a part of the larger organism. Nobody really thinks of the cells in our bodies as individuals.

His argument is that, due to the internet and modern communications technology, we’re currently undergoing another period of exponential change, chiefly due to the increase in speed and fidelity (“bandwidth”) of information exchange between the individuals (us humans).

It does certainly appear that modern society is being ripped apart by social media. It’s very difficult for me not to think about this video and Danny’s argument when we think about Twitter and FB and how it’s affected our politics, our culture, our relationships with each other, and so on. We text each other, tweet our thoughts and hot takes to events in our curated social media timelines, and digitally post curations of our lives in the form of photos and videos.

Software has already eaten the world. And it’s turning us into a new type of “community”.

As individual people we’re invested in how we live or die as a cell in this new hyper cellular organism. Reasonably. It’s very tough to try and discern what this new organism looks like, or how it behaves.

What an interesting time to be alive.