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 micro.blog, 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 micro.blog 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.

Law Abiding Gun Owners  

Real law abiding gun owners would dump the NRA and join a new organization that was actually designed around protecting the rights of gun owners and not a thinly veiled lobbying organization for the gun industry. It won’t be long before membership in the NRA will be viewed as a stain on your reputation. Like being a member of NAMBLA.

Hell, that should be the new slogan.

The NRA. You might otherwise know us as NAMBLA.

A Tip for Recruiters, Part 2  

Almost exactly a year ago, I wrote about a bad experience I had with a recruiter who was cold calling me about a role I had open. Multiple phone calls, changing numbers, no voice mails. Over and over.

Last week, I had three recruiters from the same firm call me. No big deal, right?

Well, they called 12 times in 15 minutes. From four different numbers: office, cell, different cell. 1

No voice mails. They then Linkedin messaged me three times in that same window.

And, the piéce de résistance, one of them then blind texted me.

I messaged them back on Linkedin and politely suggested I would never do business with them. One of them had the decency to apologize. One said, and I’m not kidding, that they would be that aggressive working to fill roles for me.

That’s not being a recruiter, that’s being an asshole.

This used to be a good firm. I worked with recruiters there in the past. I won’t any more. They clearly run something that’s closer to a boiler room/sales shop than a recruiting firm. If that’s how they treat me, as a potential client, why would I ever trust them to bring me quality candidates?

There’s enough good recruiters out there that I can afford to never work with these folks 2

  1. I assume this is some sort of sales technique. You don’t leave a voice mail because I might call back? You call from different numbers because you’re hoping I’m dumb enough to answer? It’s a straight douchebag move. 

  2. Meanwhile, others in their firm have taken right up where the first three or four left off. Calls every day. I just keep blocking them. 

Apple AirPods May Be Apple's New Big Product  

I got some AirPods for Christmas. They’re awesome. I wear them everyday on my commute, when I’m running, and around the house. The pairing experience is great. Just a well designed product.

I pay attention to what people are carrying and using when I’m out and about, and taking the subway to and from work (and Celtics games), I do a lot of people watching. Prior to Christmas, I rarely saw AirPods. Lots of (wired) Apple headphones, lots of Beats, lots of other headphones. Few AirPods.

Yesterday, it dawned on me. At least 5% of the people in the car I was riding had AirPods in. Given that they are still in short supply, I’m guessing that Apple has another hit on its hands. Similar to the Apple Watch, where it’s clearly a hit, but Apple isn’t comfortable breaking out the numbers yet, I expect the AirPods are proving to be a big winner for Apple.1

  1. They just need some way to change the volume without having to use Siri. I suggest some sort of sliding gesture, but I’m guessing that’s either a) technically challenging/expensive, or b) a concern that people would slide the AirPod right out of their ear. 

Quick HomePod Review  

I got my HomePod on Friday and I used it most of the weekend. As a speaker, it’s way better than the Echo Dot that we had sitting in the living room for quick music. It’s not as good as the Sonos system I have doing surround sound for my TV (two Play:1s and a soundbar).

But it’s way more convenient than the Sonos, or the Sonos plus Echo combo. And it sounds really good, even though it’s a mono speaker. I’ve been using it to play podcasts when I’m cleaning or making dinner, which is also great.1It’s also nice to be able to say “Hey Siri, play the playlist ‘go to sleep’”, and it plays the songs I use to help put the kiddos to bed.

On top of that, if you’re in the HomeKit ecosystem, it’s really nice. I don’t have to have my phone around, or wait for the watch to respond to turning the lights off, or turning up the heat.

As a smart speaker, it does the basic blocking and tackling. Getting the news update from NPR is nice, finding out how many tablespoons in a cup, or the score of the Celtics game. All easy. It doesn’t do anything more advanced than that, and I don’t have any of the personal things turned on (messages, calendar, notes) because it doesn’t know how to handle multiple users yet.

If the Echo and Google Home hadn’t been out for a couple of years now, this is a home run. But since Apple is coming to market late, it’s a mediocre smart speaker that sounds great.

But if you’re a big Apple Music user, and a big HomeKit user, I think it’s a really great speaker that has some decent smart features. I’d love to have one in my office.

  1. It doesn’t sync those podcasts to Overcast, but that’s not a huge deal when I’m listening to one or two. And sometimes you have to be very specific about the name of the podcast.