Top 10 of 2017: #7 Alvvays - In Undertow  

#7 Alvvays - In Undertow

I very much love everything about Alvvays music. The dreamy, hooky synths and guitars that move the song along, to Molly Rankin’s always exasperated vocals (and lyrics). It’s a song about the end of a relationship, with some very biting humor (the mirrored first two verses deserve a closer listen).

Alvvays has rapidly ascended my list of bands that I’ll listen to everything they put out.

Top 10 of 2017: #8 Kendrick Lamar - DUCKWORTH.  

#8 Kendrick Lamar - DUCKWORTH.

I’m a middle aged white guy. I’m right on that generational line of people who grew up with hip-hop and those who didn’t. I was lucky enough to get exposed to a lot of hip-hop growing up, thanks to some friends who were (and still are) more deeply immersed than I ever got. But I got exposed to Public Enemy and Tribe and Tupac and Nas and a whole bunch of really great hip-hop and I really believe it helped shape my views on people, politics, and privilege.

For me, hip-hop does a couple of things. Good hip-hop has good beats and hopefully a good flow. And it tells a story from a point of view that I will probably never experience in my life.

“DUCKWORTH.” fits that to a tee. There’s a bunch of good tracks on DAMN., but I think “DUCKWORTH.”’s story of how Kendrick Lamar grew up and the chance events that separated him from one life versus another is both fascinating and enlightening.

It also has a ridiculous run of lyrics (about 2:30 in) that not many people could pull off besides Kendrick.

Top 10 of 2017: #9 Japanese Breakfest - Till Death  

#9 Japanese Breakfast - Till Death

I’m not sure what it is about this song that works for me. It sounds so much like a mid-80s ballad, but it’s lyrics move it into something that could only exist in 2017, talking about PTSD, the Trump presidency, all morphing into a love song.

“Till Death” didn’t work for me the first time I heard it. But somewhere in the second or third time, I just got entranced by the key change and the dreamy vocals in the final chorus. It’s a beautiful little song.

Top 10 of 2017: #10 First Aid Kid - It's a Shame  

#10: First Aid Kit - It’s a Shame

It’s a little rockier than you might normally expect from the duo known for their folk and harmonies (and not nearly the, ahem, rockiest on the album), but it’s a First Aid Kit song. Beautiful harmonies, catchy hook, and throw in some nice slide guitar.

It’s amazing how much they sound like a single voice singing through much of the song. The production is so tight that you can’t even hear a syllable or note that extends into a solo voice.

Top 10 of 2017: Honorable Mentions  

HAIM - Found It In Silence

HAIM brings their usual harmonies and really great production to a song that sounds like it would have been right at home a decade ago. There’s an undercurrent of Call Me Maybe here, and I mean that in 100% the best way.

Spoon - Hot Thoughts

The lead track off the song of the album of the same name, it’s a song that you know is Spoon 10 seconds in, for all the right reasons.

Loud Forest - Wake Up

A little pop gem from a husband/wife duo. This narrowly missed getting into my top 10. This is such a sunshiny, windows down, driving around during the summer song. It hits my favorite song trope: the fade out, then come in with the kick drum to launch into the last verse/chorus.

Top 10 of 2017 ... Finally  

Hey, only 6 months late, I’ve actually caught up to make my top 10 list of last year’s music. As usual, the rules are that it needs to be music that came out in 2017 and I can only pick one song per artist.

If you follow along with my musical tastes, you’ll discern a pretty quick pattern. I seem to really enjoy pop/rock bands fronted (or featuring) female artists. Seventy percent of my picks (a fancy way of saying 7 out of 10) fit that model.

I’ve got a few honorable mentions (as I often do), and then I’ll get into the real stuff. This year, I’ll spend a little less time on each track, just so that I can get the list out. Thanks for your patience. The six of you who actually care.

Microsoft Buying Github?  

Some open-source backers who’ve continued to question Microsoft’s open-source change-of-heart will no doubt look askance at the idea of former open-source enemy Microsoft becoming the steward of GitHub. However, the same was true of Microsoft’s purchase of Mojang, the makers of Minecraft. Since Microsoft bought Mojang in 2014, Redmond is largely seen as continuing to do right by Minecraft and the Minecraft community.

If I’d come across this news a year ago, it probably would have scared me considerably.

Today, I’m not sure there’s a better steward for GitHub than Microsoft. The work they’re doing with Azure, Kubernetes, and even in the Linux world, is pretty outstanding.

Thanks, Twitter ...  

On June 19th Twitter will shutter its streaming API, causing issues for third-party app developers. The API, or application programming interface, refreshes timelines and sends push notifications and core features to any Twitter service. Twitter will provide a new Account Activity API to replace it, but little is known about the new API and time is running out for developers to be granted access. Without access, they can’t implement it in their apps fast enough to avoid an interruption in service.

(Read more at Mobile Syrup)

Twitter’s been slowly making stupid decisions, that are most likely designed to drive people to their web interface, but have the impact of killing off their 3rd party ecosystem (or, at least, a lot of the unique apps that have made Twitter useful).

I have to imagine that this isn’t a big deal at Twitter HQ (though I bet a lot of their developers use the very tools that are going to be nerfed) because the way a lot of long-time users of Twitter use Twitter is not how Twitter wants to be used. Or, put another way: the ordered, non-algorithmic timeline with few (or no) ads for people who want to do more than follow and mention celebrities isn’t where Twitter wants to be.

It seems like Twitter could pretty easily make it a requirement to use their APIs that developers include ads, include polls, include whatever Twitter thinks makes Twitter unique.

But, honestly, it is all fine for Twitter to do what they think is right. I think it’s dumb, and short-sighted, and risks the same sort of market correction that Snap took when they messed with their (admittedly obtuse) user interface. But Twitter gon’ Twitter.

It just means I need to spend more time at, which is really designed far more to be what Twitter used to be. I should really put that on my todo list, so I can make it a habit. I’m guessing people on will enjoy reading my in the moment Celtics thoughts as much as anybody on Twitter.

Starting from Scratch with a Tech Stack  

One of the nice things about starting at a new company (or, in this case, starting a new company), is that there’s no baggage. Whatever new technology is out there, as long as it’s not cost-prohibitive, we can kick the tires and give it a shot.

It’s been incredibly freeing and inspiring. Every single point of friction I’ve dealt with in the past is up for discussion on how to eliminate it (or at least mitigate it). Every bit of tech debt, every sunk hardware cost, is all erased.

This freedom can be a little daunting, and can lead to paralysis if you treat every decision as equal. If every choice you make goes through a long, arduous decision tree, demos, a bake-off, negotiations, and, finally, a winner, well, I wish you luck in enjoying your success ten years from now.

But, instead, if you enjoy making quick proofs of concept, making decisions knowing that they’ll work today, but maybe will need to be replaced in a year or two, then you can move fast and take advantage of everything that exists today that didn’t exist the last time you were starting things.

As a small company, the difference between Google and Amazon (and Azure, to be honest), is basically nil. You pick the one that you’ve got the most comfort with, and maybe the one that offers the features you need in some specialized technology (machine learning or kubernetes support, etc.). You buy a billing system rather than build one. You buy mail servers (really, a service) rather than run your own.

The most freeing thing is that I’ve been able to work with our team to bias towards services rather than servers. It’ll cost us more in the short-term, but with a small team, that’s a cost well worth paying. When we’re big enough that the cost matters, we’ll be big enough to hire an ops team to manage a bunch of servers, or, more likely, Amazon/Google will have driven the cost of those services down even more.

As we piece together our architecture, there’s going to be very few pure servers in our stack. API Gateway, Lambdas, Dynamo, ECS/Kubernetes, and S3 will let us build out an entire web application without having to really manage a single server, and (in theory), with a setup that will scale as large and fast as we want.

Once we start driving real customers, we can re-evaluate our pain points (both from performance, maintenance, and cost). But this process lets us get to a customer launch so much faster (and with a smaller team) than it would have been possible just a few years ago.

Along those lines, to do this with a small team, and these pieced together services, you need to have automation baked in. We’ve chosen Terraform for our infrastructure automation, which probably deserves its own post at some point.

But just make sure that you’re not managing your infrastructure and deployments by hand. The tooling is so easy now that having good practices built in on day one will force you to have good habits, and will let your team have a much greater velocity.

In the end, as long as you know that you don’t know everything, you can make intelligent, small bets, move fast, and know that you can replace or improve bad decisions later. 1

  1. “That’s future Ryan’s problem” 

Really, I'll Post My Top Songs of 2017 Someday  

I’m pretty sure I’ll finish going through my 2017 backlog in the next couple of weeks. I may just give up and post my top 10 songs of 2017. I’m serious, I’ll do it.

I’m 99% sure I know what it is, but I think I’ve got to make it through maybe one more album.