Blocking ads

There’s no way to make a web page with a full-screen content-obscuring ad anything other than a shitty experience.

John Gruber’s comment on a linked list item about improving the mobile web. Related.

Survey fallacies

Support teams are frequently tasked with figuring out “what the customer wants” with some sort of pre-defined survey. As if a well-constructured set of questions will miraculously fix latent problems in the product.

My two cents: a survey is only worth doing if the product team is willing to devote non-trivial resources to what the survey illustrates as meaningful improvements to make. Without that commitment you’re just wasting everyone’s time.

Writing tools


The above layout has given me an effective routine for writing longer posts. It’s iA Writer set up to mimic a dual-panel Markdown editor. Markdown isn’t for everyone but it works really well for how my brain processes text and ideas. The existing gap in iA Writer, for me, is some means of natively hooking it up to my blog.


I told Doc we had arrived at the Holy Moment in debugging — reproducibility. I told him “reproducible” is the programmer’s favorite word. If you can tell me the steps to reproduce the problem, then I can find it and fix it. Until it’s reproducible all I can do is share your frustration.

Dave Winer – Reproducible.

The software I use

While answering some “What do you use for…” questions the other night Daniel suggested I write up a recap of what tools I use. He wrote something similar a few days back and it was interesting to read through.

During the day I’m helping organize and lead our various support teams at Automattic so the bulk of my time is spent writing, talking with people, and helping out with projects that come up. All of that requires pretty simple and lightweight tools.

My day-to-day communication all happens through two tools. Much of it happens through various P2s which we have setup for every team, major project, and area of interest within the company. If you’re not familiar with P2s Matt wrote a bit about how we use them. Or, go pick up a copy of Scott’s book. All of our chat then happens through Slack, which we use for both 1-1 and group text chats. There are stats built-in so I know I’ve sent just over 35,000 messages since we started using it about 5 months ago.

The upside to P2 as a core tool for me is that I’m in control of how I follow and receive updates. I follow about 50 internal sites and use email to keep up with posts and comments. Everything is routed in to 3 separate folders that group posts and comments by relative priority. For all this email I use It’s the only mail client that’s ever felt “right” to me. I can’t stand Gmail on the web and get distracted by having email in my browser.

Safari is my primary browser. I had used Firefox for ages but with the release of Yosemite I’ve gone back to Safari. It’s really clean and performance-wise I don’t notice any difference. Plus, the only browser extension I rely upon is 1Password.

Like Daniel I’m a huge fan of Bartender. It keeps things so much more sane up in the menu bar. Up there I have a few things running:

I use Things to keep everything organized. For the last 6 months or so I was using Omnifocus. Along with the Yosemite upgrade I took a chance to re-evaluate my tools and decided Things just fit better for my usage. I’ve used it ever since the initial beta tests and have always found it fits my mental model of tasks pretty naturally.

Outside of tasks I use the native to stay scheduled. iCloud syncs everything over to my phone. For notes I use Simplenote for some things and FoldingText for others.

When I do need to code I use Coda. Any coding is just for personal projects and I find using Coda means I have just one tool to remember. It’s not for everyone but it works wonderfully for me.

Divvy is always running in the background, helping me keep windows organized and arranged. There’s something pleasing about having windows set to a grid.

I make sure to do some direct customer support once a week, too. I usually set aside one afternoon for that. It’s always done with our live chat team, which uses Olark. They’re good folks and the web-based chat client is pretty slick.

In terms of hardware I’m using a mid-2014 MacBook Pro, with the retina display of course. Spec-wise it’s got 16 GB of RAM and a 256 GB SSD. Performance-wise it’s more than I need most of the time, but I like using machines for quite a while. My last machine, an 11″ MacBook Air, lasted 3.5 years. I went with the 13″ model because the weight is pretty darn minimal. It’s the only screen I use, too. I stopped using my Cinema Display after upgrading to this laptop. The biggest benefit here is that my home setup is identical to my travel setup in every way. Consistency is nice.

This all makes me think I should do a mobile-specific version of this post, too. Perhaps later.