Category Archives: Asides

Little things worth saving.

A few days ago I finished Haruki Murakami’s, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running. Loved it; great book. It’s a book about running that, really, is about far more than running. Murakami weaves an engaging memoir together that illustrates the place running has in his life, work, and personal happiness.

An upside to tracking my reading is knowing that, so far, I’ve read 34 books this year. 1 I’ve been aiming for one book a week and am close to that goal; just 7 books short.

Those 34 books break down as 19 non-fiction and 15 fiction. I’ve been on a bit of a sci-fi kick this year, reading 11 books. That will soon be 12 sci-fi books as I’m nearly done with Abaddon’s Gate.

Notes:

  1. Pardon the dust on that linked page. Still need to work out how best to display books with this new theme.

As an aside to the previous link, I wish Matter did a more effective job of showing the work that goes in to their long posts on Medium. Each feature length story is well crafted from a narrative standpoint. Each comes up short, though, in pushing the boundaries of journalism.

In that feature the author writes of how:

Each night I’ve gone through my notes and fact-checked the farmers, doubting what they told me. Even after seeing the land and meeting the people I second-guessed their claims and statistics, only to find, time and again, they were telling the truth.

I wish that work was made transparent. Having grown up outside the Central Valley the narrative had me questioning many aspects of it.

Great journalism doesn’t mean pushing all the fact checking on to the reader. Nor does it mean blindly trusting that the author is presenting things fairly. I ought to be able to read the constructed narrative while simultaneously having the source material at my fingertips to dive in to and draw my own conclusions from.

In Why I Just Asked My Students to Put Their Laptops Away, Clay Shirky writes about banning laptops from his fall seminar class. Toward the end of the piece he writes that:

Computers are not inherent sources of distraction — they can in fact be powerful engines of focus — but latter-day versions have been designed to be, because attention is the substance which makes the whole consumer internet go.

That’s the problem in banning them, though. Productive, non-distracted, work from a computer is a cornerstone of modern work. Removing laptops from the college classroom addresses the symptom while doing nothing for the root cause.

Clay acknowledges in his post that computers can allow for a focus so deep you lose track of time. I agree that’s not inherent, though. Rather, it’s a learned skill. If we’re going to ban laptops from college classrooms because students lack that skill we have to also ask when and where that should be taught. Teaching that level of device literacy needs to happen somewhere in the education system.

I talked with Chase Clemons on his Support Ops podcast yesterday about how we run support at Automattic. We talked a lot about live chat support and how we manage a team of 40+ Happiness Engineers.

It was a live Google Hangout so you can watch the video below:

I had a fun time talking with Scott Tran about the support team at Automattic. The podcast is about 40 minutes and we covered everything from hiring to team structure to the type of culture we value. It’s live now over on Scott’s site.

This was my first time recording a podcast and it was a lot of fun. Scott has other interviews that focus on support at companies like Basecamp, Olark, and Zapier. If you’re interested you should give them a listen.