It's Time.  

After the events of this weekend, and the President’s feckless (and, arguably, reckless) response, we’ve reached an inflection point.

Pick a side. This isn’t Democrat vs. Republican, or liberal vs. Conservative. It’s right vs wrong. President Trump is on the wrong side, and he needs to be held accountable via, at a minimum, censure. He needs to know that he’s on the wrong side of the American public. 1

  1. This isn’t a political debate, where you can say “I disagree with President Obama on climate change” or “I think it’s reprehensible that President Trump pulled out of the Paris Accords”. Those are, at least, arguments to have (even if the science sits on one side …). We had this argument on white supremacism and Nazism. It was decided. World War II happened. 

I Would Have Fired Him For Being an Asshole  

A little over a week ago, news broke about a document, a manifesto, written by a Google employee, that tried to argue that Google shouldn’t be actively trying to grow the ranks of women in their workforce and in management. Because, science says maybe they aren’t cut out for it.

This lead to the author, James Damore, being fired. And then a whole lot of people bemoaning the end of contrarian opinions and discourse in the workplace.

Let’s dispense with the validity of the argument: it doesn’t exist. A biological rationale that women (and, by extension, other minorities) are, as a group, not as capable of being engineers/scientists/leaders/managers is too tied up in upbringing, cultural norms, education, and a myriad of other non-biological factors. And the effect that has been measured is quite small.

Both Wired and The Economist have done a reasonably complete and compelling job of dispensing of the nonsense science argument that Damore makes.

Long story short, I like this snipe from Business Insider:

Using Damore’s logic, if a “scientist” had taken measurements in the UK between 1939 and 1945, he may have concluded that women’s exposure to prenatal testosterone made them predisposed, on average, to munitions manufacturing.

Clearly, that’s not how jobs happen.

But let’s set all the science aside. The reason James Damore was fired, and deserved to be fired, and deserves to take a long look inward at why most companies shouldn’t and won’t hire him, is that he’s an asshole.

A big part of working in a company is working with other people. Learning which buttons you can and can’t push with people, learning to be considerate of other people’s feelings and opinions, and generally how to not be a douchebag.

To be honest, particularly when I was younger, I was not always successful at it. You see something that you think is dumb, or should work differently, or where it feels like the wrong decisions are being made, and you voice that opinion. Eventually, as you gain experience and mature, you start to realize that you sometimes need to think about how it might be that this situation came to be (i.e. are there other factors at play? Is there something you don’t know that helped to move the world in this direction?). And, should you still disagree, what’s the right approach to deal with it.

I think what you’ll quickly realize is writing a public document that criticizes many of your colleagues, and questions the capabilities of those who are of another gender (and other races, when you read between the lines), is not a great way to endear yourself to your colleagues. So much of your success in the workplace is your ability to work with, motivate, and learn from your colleagues. To do something that makes you toxic, to shoot yourself in the foot like that?

It makes you an asshole. It makes you bad at your job.

If this had happened on my team, I think you have no choice: he has to go. How, as a manager, could you assign a female engineer to work with him?

It is quite rare that someone is good enough to overcome being a complete and total asshole. Usually, they are the tippity top performers, and those who can work on their own, or work with a small group who have become accustomed to working with a challenging personality.

Based on the quality of the work in this manifesto, it’s clear Damore is not that top performer. He’s not good enough to deal with the baggage. And he’s not a team player. With a cancer like that, the only option is to excise it. 1

  1. Let’s also then joke about the fact that someone who is, more than likely, at least near libertarian on the spectrum, complaining about being fired from an at-will job. Maybe he should join a union … 

I'm Really Looking Forward To My Ntozake Nelson Moment  

We’re less than a month from the arrival of our twins, and now that we’ve gotten all the setup done (cribs, wipes, burp cloths, and all the other stuff you have to get), I’ve drifted into the mode of “uh oh, there’s going to be babies here soon that we have to keep alive”.

It’s daunting, but also exciting. Exciting for the usual reasons, and because I’m already jumping ahead months and years to when I can first show them Star Wars and watch the cartoons that I grew up watching. Going to their first Celtics and Sox game. All the fun moments that you go through when raising kids.

In listening to The Incomparable podcast yesterday, they were talking about Hall of Fame TV shows. At one point, they bring up Sports Night and it occurred to me that I’m really excited to have my own Ntozake Nelson moment. In the show (the pilot, so it’s a little broader than the show settles into), there’s a moment at the end where a 41-year old marathon runner ends up setting a world record, and Casey calls his son to wake him up to watch.

That’s the sort of thing I’m excited about—catching the end of a no-hitter, or a 400 runner setting a world record in the Olympics, and just being there to watch and explain why this is such a momentous thing. Sports gives you so many of those little moments, and I can remember where I was as an 8 year old when the ball went between Bill Buckner’s legs (my parents had let me stay up on their floor to watch the end of the game). I think I was lucky that my parents encouraged my love of the minutiae of sports. I’m hoping to pass that on and share some Ntozake Nelson moments 1

  1. Youtube doesn’t have any good clips of the whole Ntozake Nelson thing, but someone has put up the episode and you can check out the scene starting at 17:35 

Released My Jekyll Plugin  

As I mentioned in this post, I have finally thrown my Jekyll markdown footnote id plugin up on Github. It’s not much, and I need to package it into a real plugin, but at least it’s there for other folks to use (assuming it’s not just for an audience of 1).

A Little Sunshine on a Rainy Day  

Saw this link to the crowd singing “Bohemian Rhapsody” a bunch and finally watched it. And it definitely gave me the good kind of goosebumps.

That lead me to find this delightful subreddit that’s all about videos of happy crowds (singing along, going crazy over something). A few hours later I came out of the vortex. 1 It was nice to see a handful of my favorite Virginia Tech moments show up … VT crowds get pretty riled up. And there’s enough English football in there to make it clear to me I need to see a Premier League (or Championship) match sometime soon.

In any event, this brightened up a dreary Monday/2017.

  1. Don’t love linking to reddit, as I find that for every good subreddit, there are 10 that are just mindblowingly awful. But there’s this Happy Crowd one, and this Isolated Vocals one that are really pure joy. 

The Sin of Tech Longevity  

Really great article by Brian Nemhauser on the topic of spending a long time at at tech company. Having just finished up my ~12 year run at a tech company, so much of this resonated with me. In the handful of times I took an interview/phone call in the past 4-5 years, I had to develop an answer to why I had stayed at the same place. My answer was similar to Brian’s—it wasn’t really the same place, nor the same job. I worked at a small startup, a mid-size company, a pre-public company, a public company, and a host of transitions in between.

Change was not something I embraced when my career started, but adaptation and anticipation quickly became second nature. My appetite for change did not come from lack of attachment to Adobe history. To the contrary, it was fueled by a deep loyalty and dedication to our mission built over many years.

One of the things I had to adapt to was that change wasn’t bad. Early on, I had a hammer, and everything was a nail. As a company changes, the logical thing for lots of folks is just to do it the way you’ve always done it. Eventually you realize that you can bring your existing ways with you, but can learn from the changing company (and changing world around you) and embrace that change.

Now I was learning about sales, marketing, finance, human resources, and corporate strategy. It was an MBA-in-a-box.

This is often how I’ve described my time. By being open to change and taking on new things, I worked with so many groups that I might not have had a chance to in a normal tech path. I used to refer to it as my MBA-on-the-job.

Longevity, however, need not equal stagnation. It can mean wisdom, passion, dedication, and sustained peak performance. That is what I see when crossing paths with most of the other marathon runners at Adobe.

Longevity, in and of itself, is not a bad thing. There are certainly employees who find their comfort level and will push back against any changes. Those employees can be toxic, and you need to find a way to help them see the value in growth and change, or find a way to minimize their toxicity. Those long-timers who are adaptable and embrace change, they are your keystones, bridging the past to the present.

How to Deal With North Korea  

Great article by Mark Bowden in The Atlantic outlining the complexities of dealing with North Korea.

It’s a long read, probably about 30 minutes, which is somewhat amusing when you read the first line …

Thirty minutes. That’s about how long it would take a nuclear-tipped intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) launched from North Korea to reach Los Angeles. With the powers in Pyongyang working doggedly toward making this possible—building an ICBM and shrinking a nuke to fit on it—analysts now predict that Kim Jong Un will have the capability before Donald Trump completes one four-year term.

Yikes.

For all these reasons, acceptance is how the current crisis should and will most likely play out. No one is going to announce this policy. No president is going to openly acquiesce to Kim’s ownership of a nuclear-tipped ICBM, but just as George W. Bush quietly swallowed Pyongyang’s successful explosion of an atom bomb, and just as Barack Obama met North Korea’s subsequent nuclear tests and missile launches with strategic patience, Trump may well find himself living with something similar. If there were a tolerable alternative, it would long ago have been tried. Sabotage may continue to stall progress, but cannot stop it altogether. Draconian economic pressure, even with China’s help, is also unlikely to curb Pyongyang’s quest.

This is the scenario I have feared with a Trump presidency. Does the President (and his administration) have the stomach to not look “strong” and to continue to sabotage and stall North Korea’s progress until an economic and diplomatic solution are reached? Or will they roll the dice on a riskier alternative?

Those alternatives, as the article lays out, all have high likelihoods of significantly worse outcomes for the Korean peninsula, the US West Coast, and the US at large.

Does the President have the patience to make the right decision, even if it’s the one that is the least flattering personally?

Building a Jekyll Plugin to Make Unique Footnotes  

One of the nice things about moving my site to Jekyll is how extensible it is. Everything related to Jekyll (and it’s ecosystem) is open source, so as I’ve come across things that don’t work the way I want, I can change them.

Recently, I noticed that when I used footnotes, they would work on the first post on the home page, and they would work on the individual post pages, but when multiple posts with footnotes were on the home page, the nice footnote popup 1 didn’t work.

I use Littlefoot from Octopress, a plugin that does the nice javascript-ness to pop in the little image and make the popup. There were a couple of issues. The first issue was that if I had named multiple footnotes the same thing (a common practice, when you might just name a footnote something like:

[^1] 2

The javascript gets loaded, loops through the text on the page, and pulls in the content associated with the footnote. However, now you’ve got two footnotes with the same id, so the javascript always pulls from the first. There was a brute force fix to that: just name the footnotes uniquely for the home page and assume that it’s probably not an issue on any other pages.

The second issue was that, on the home page (or any collection page), the Littlefoot plugin would find all the footnotes, but only hide the first set of plugins. That was something I could actually fix in the plugin. Again, what’s nice about the Ruby/Jekyll ecosystem is that I could fix it, put it up on Github, and then use my fixed version until the fix is taken into the mainline. The code change was pretty simple:

From this:

document.querySelector('div.footnotes').remove()

to this:

document.querySelectorAll('div.footnotes').forEach(function(note) { note.remove(); } )

That loops over all the footnote divs, rather than just hiding the first one.

So I made those code changes and put it up on Github.

After this was done, it stuck in my craw that I was going to have to remember to be smart about naming my footnote references. I spent a bit of time looking at how to build a jekyll plugin—I figured I could write some code that would loop through the page, find the footnotes, rename them (using some seed data; I chose the filename), and then write them out.

It took me a couple of hours, but I got it working (well, I think). When this post goes up, we’ll see if it all went swimmingly.

Assuming it works as expected, I’ll likely put the plugin up on Github and maybe make it a gem (just for the practice).

  1. Like this one. 

  2. Amusingly, I had to fake this reference because my plugin switched it out with the unique one. 

Testing From the iPad  

If you happened to have caught this post a bit ago, you would have seen some generic content. I was testing how well I could post from the iPad to my Jekyll site. Since I’m using a git deploy mechanism, that means using an app called Working Copy, and some automation via an Editorial workflow.

I based my workflow off the work of Kirby Turner, adopting it to meet my needs. The big difference I have is that I started with an Editorial Document Template1 which creates the framework of the post. I can then write the post, click a button to trigger the workflow, and it’s committed to the git repo locally. Then I pop into Working Copy, double check things, and push the changes to my git repo to trigger the post.

That’s an extra step or two, but it’s actually not bad. It forces me to make sure I’m reviewing things before they go live. Besides, I don’t tend to post a lot of just quick posts, so this isn’t really any different than doing it at my desk.

I probably will start to poke around with another version of this, triggered from the Workflow app (not to be confused with Editorial’s workflows), that maybe will take the most recent photo, create a post, commit it, and ship it up to the site without too much interaction.

I like my iPad being a nearly full fledged computer. If I didn’t use my iPad so much, I’d update to the iOS 11 beta to take advantage of all the new iPad goodness.

  1. The only downside to this is that I don’t think Editorial document templates are sync’d between devices (the way you can sync workflows), which meant I had to rebuild it on my phone. Not the end of the world, but a bit more work than I’d wanted. 

Nintendo's License to Print Money  

It’s 2017.

There are at least two stories12on major tech sites covering playing old console games.

Nintendo has the rights to many, many of these games (as they’ve released them on various iterations of the Virtual Console). Plus an even bigger backlog of games from various other consoles they’ve licensed (or already own, i.e. the N64).

Nintendo has a major hit with the Switch. It’s portable and a home console. They’ll likely have sold upwards of 10 million Switches by the end of the year.

Just charge us $5-10 a month for an on-demand virtual console service. Even at $50 a year, I would expect that, even very conservatively, 10% of Switch owners would pay. That’s $50,000,000, or about a 1% increase in Nintendo’s revenue.

(Now, assume a more likely 25-50% attach rate, and you’re talking potentially a 5% increase.)

I’m sure there’s digital licensing issues, i.e. the deals they have with the various game companies covers certain types of digital distribution, but not others. Maybe Konami is going to want a slice of the pie for every subscription. But then there’s the Spotify/Apple Music model here; give the producers a tiny cut of each subscription (since they’re used to help the marketing), and then slice them off royalties when games are played.

There’s free money sitting on the table, and the sooner the game companies realize it’s from the streaming(-ish) model, and not from the “let’s package up Sonic for the 10th time and sell another full game”, the sooner they get to make money off of all of their legacy IP.

Nintendo (and, probably Sony and Microsoft, but Nintendo more than most because of their classic IP) literally has a mint sitting in front of them, waiting to start filling their pockets with new money as soon as they are willing to. Striking now, while they have a system that is still hot, would let them capitalize and make the Switch into an evergreen system.

(And would make me very happy.)