Category Archives: Lists of Stuff

My 2018 Retrospective

Alright, with that 2018 is a wrap. Christmas is a wrap. New Years is a wrap. It’s all done, wrapped up, and time to move on. Well, ok, so maybe a small retrospective! Early in 2018 I wrote a list of resolutions for 2018. How did I do? First I’m going to lead off with the things I have found myself failing miserably at.

Failed Resolution: Write More Code, Build Patterns & Algorithms

Write More Code, Build Patterns & Algorithms: I want to review and go back to some of the coding roots that I haven’t hit upon in a long time. It’s odd, when coding day in and day out one tends to not touch upon a lot of the fundamental basics. I want to start writing about and reviewing this again, keep it fresh in mind so it’s always easy to reach into my mind and explain how things work to who may ask. Goal: Write 0.5 blog entry per week on coding algorithms, patterns, or related core coding concepts and skills.

Oh dear I had a simple goal of writing 0.5 blog entries per week on coding algorithms, patterns, or related core coding concepts and skills. Yeah, I didn’t get anywhere near that, even though I increased my rate of blog posts somewhere around 6x what it was in 2017! Overall, yeah, groovy, I wrote more and that’s great, but I didn’t hit on the topics I really wanted to that I knew would provide more value!

Failed Resolution: Make OSS Workable for Me

Make OSS Workable for Me: Get the OSS projects I’ve started in the last 2–3 years into a more workable state, insure others can take them, build, and get running without issue. It’s been a few years since I’ve worked on and helped with any OSS projects that are actually used, it’s a bummer and I’m going to resolve that this year. Goal: Get two projects into a workable state so others can use them and I can use them for their intended purpose and for teaching and blogging purposes.

I’m so close on this goal. I’ve got the project into a little bit better of a state, but overall they’re still kind of rough. At the rate I’m going among the Twitch streams and such, these projects will be in a nicely usable state soon however! Probably by March or April I’d suspect I’ll have 2 of the projects (Colligere and Twitz) into  a usable state! But from the goal point of view, this is a failed resolution.

Failed Resolution: Get More Active

Get More Active: Take more bike rides, train trips, and spend more time with friends and family in Portland. Goal 1: Spend at least 3–4 days at Pedalpalooza this year, and take at least 4 trips (1 per quarter at minimum) of about ~2 days each in 2018. Goal 2: Participate in at least 1 group rides per quarter in Seattle.

I failed in this resolution miserably. In all honesty, it’s hard to even talk about. It fills me with rage that I failed at this fundamentally important resolution badly. There’s not a lot of things that I enjoy anywhere close to a good group ride, hanging out at Pedalpalooza, and generally being involved in my local community this way and it came all apart on me this year. It even fills me with rage, anger, and frustration with Seattle’s communities and how uninvolved most people are in Seattle itself. After coming from Portland I have tons of frustration with this, but I’m slowly learning to just live with it. Maybe this year, maybe not, I’ve no idea how I’m going to pull this together. I’m going to need to however as my mental and physical health largely rests on being involved in the biking community, with this involvement I generally falter into an angry, apathetic, disenfranchised angry person.

Failed Resolution: Self Health

Self Health: Take more time for myself, allocate appropriate me time to make sure I can keep my sanity. Goal: Write, ponder, introspect, and watch the world turn more often. Blog on the park, lake, boat, train, or place and moment of writing, pondering, introspecting, and watching the world turn by writing about it.

The first part of this year was catastrophically bad for me. However between joining a truly amazing team at DataStax, starting to finally get back to riding around Seattle, exploring, and producing content and learning new tech, languages, and the like I’m doing a lot better. I’ve got a long ways to go still before I’m back to 100%, but I think 2019 might be that year. At least, ending 2018 and going into 2019 I’m not as angry, depressed, and perturbed at society as I was at the beginning of this year. Now I’m just kind of euphorically disconnected and apathetic about the state of the world. It’s a major improvement!

Failed Resolution: Improve Local Communities

Improve Local Communities: Stop getting involved in Internet politics I can’t improve. Get more focused in local politics. Help more people in Seattle, help more people however I can. Help in the fight for better and more housing for all people. Help in the fight for better and more advanced and modern transportation options in Seattle, Portland, and wherever I can. Goal 1: Join Cascade Bicycle Club and the monthly urbanist meets. Goal 2: Keep up with the respective communities ala Bike Portland, The Urbanist, Seattle Transit Blog, Seattle Bike Blog, WA Bikes, and Cascade Bicycle Club.

Alright, I’m angry at myself about this one, but also realize I just couldn’t get to it. Don’t get me wrong, I attended some city council meetings and got involved some. But nowhere near as much as I’d prefer to have done. The simple fact too, is that Seattle political mechanisms are just garbage compared to Portland. It’s hard to know what’s going on let alone how the hell to get something done or improve one’s community, lot in life, or environment here. Seattle is a beast! One day, if we survive that long, it’ll make a great “Manhatten” of the northwest! (Ironically I’ve learned, it once was indeed called “New York City”, which to me seems like the dumbest name since New York was thus dubbed after “York” and before that was called New Amsterdam after Amsterdam, which Seattle has no real relation to in any way whatsoever)

But now, failures aside I digress.

TIME FOR VICTORIES!

Now it’s time for the successes. Some of these I barely passed, some I beautifully knocked out of the park!

Victory Resolution, “Beer”

Beer: Live a little, treat yo’ self, and hit up at least two happy hours or other meets with friends and coder/tech/hacker crews per month. The Ballard Happy Hour has been a good one so far, and of course the exceptional Seattle Scalability Group I help organize is pretty epic unto itself. The latter often having free beer post meet up. Both meets are good conversations, great beer, and a great chance to just unwind with smart folk. Goal: Attend two meets per month.

Ok, this one wasn’t purely about beer itself, but beer tends to play a large part of the activity. The core of it all was insuring that I get more involved in the local “tech” community here in Seattle. In this I have succeeded! Currently I’m leading the return of the Seattle Scalability Group with my meetup cohort plus the addition of the DataStax team having my back. This is of course only one of the activities I’ve gotten myself involve in again. I hope to also help out and get involved in other meetups around Seattle, and have started plotting the return of ML4ALL (v2) with Troy and Alena! I’m looking forward to this being a continuing resolution, and continually succeeding at meeting this resolution throughout 2019!

Victory Resolution: Communications Improvements

Communication Improvements: Find a new and more efficient way to increase the throughput of my follow ups with everybody. Whether by email, phone, or whatever it might be. Goal: Increase rate of follow ups by 15%.

Oh jeez, this one was easier to accomplish than I thought it was going to be. I’ve since gone through and reviewed. I managed to only drop the ball on ~3 of the over 340 important productive conversation threads I initiated! I’m also impressed with my ability to actually keep track of those thanks to my combination of software tools I started using and will be using for the ongoing future. That puts the increase rate somewhere around 99% and not merely 15%! Major victory on this accomplishment!

Victory Resolution: Cell Phone Disruption

Cell Phone Disruption: Decrease my actual cell phone usage making *phone calls* even further. Regain the privacy, personal time, and focus time that one traditionally had before the time of cell phones invading every corner of existence. How I do this I’m not entirely sure, but I’m betting when I figure it out I’ll blog it. Goal: Make it so that I don’t look at or need my cell phone for anything more than 1 phone call per week on average (vid chat, etc, excluded).

I was spectacularly victories in this goal. I think I’ve taken approximately 3 work calls for the entire year via the cell phone. I’ve decreased my screen time by almost 30%! Overall, I use my device dramatically less than I have in the past and it’s helped me in a pretty significant way. Maybe I could knock it down another 5 or 10% this year eh?

Victory Resolution: Re-initiate in Industry

Reinitiate in Industry: Kick back off and give some dedicated presentations at meet ups and conferences. Goal: Give at least 4–6 talks that are dedicated, focused, mid-level or advanced topics following my standards for speaking, follow up, and improving.

Knocked out three talks: Systemic Deployments, DataStax Developer Day: Operations & Security, and Node Systems for Node.js Services on Nodes of Systemic Nodal Systems. Then, to boot, I allocated some of my talks to Twitch streams and am continuing to step through these on a daily basis. Hope y’all will join me on a future stream, they’re fun! Overall though, lot’s of moving parts going on, and I’m going to likely double my speaking schedule this year. I’ve got a lot of cool things to show ya!

Next up, 2019.

Let’s go!

DevRel Data: Presentation & Deductions

Before diving into conclusions, let’s take a look at some answers to questions asked. This is a slice of answers, with totals for the charts and such. After a few months of answers I’ll have another follow up to see how things may or may not change.

Do you like video material?

chart

What specifically do you, or would you like to watch in video? Screencasts, short videos, conversational, or some other type of videos?

  • Screencasts/tutorials
  • I love both screencasts going through big topics and short videos that cover smaller tips and gotchas.
  • Videos with a specific outcome as the goal, whether achieved or not. Showing the process of something.. like hey, here’s how you building out a Postgres cluster using streaming replication and repmgr and pgpool… Kind of thing.
  • Bite sized content, maybe 2 minutes, to teach me one thing.
  • Editing. No jokes, no “hey what’s up guys” with 60 second intros. Discuss the problem, then solve it.
  • Demos, learning a new way of doing something
  • Doesn’t matter short or long, but has to be deeply technical with code examples that I can actually apply
  • I watch videos mostly for fun.
  • Screencast
  • Short videos of say 5-10 minutes each covering different concept of the subject matter
  • (videos work best in a classroom setting where time/attention is precommitted, or as part of a tutorial)
  • conversational
  • Short videos.
  • If it’s too long, it ends up on my todo list forever (not good). So shorter is better. And something that benefits from visuals, rather than something that could just be written.
  • I also watch LinkedIn Learning when just starting a new tech. to get a general overview and pick up a tip or tow, then I read books and the Internet from there.
  • short videos

What kind of written material do you like?

chart2

Do you like other material mixed in that details the reason for the tech, the story, or such?

chart3

Is there anything that comes to mind, that you’d like to have me or the team I’m working with (@ DataStax) put together that you’d find useful, entertaining, or related.

  • Place priorities on designing materials for more depth (i.e., more linked material) as well as less attention-nuisance. That’s no criticism of your work, merely the gestalt of where we work — so less noise is a better way to stand out and make materials useful.
  • Maybe focus more on written material – code & architecture material (books, articles) rather than videos and twitch. It is much easier to consume and is easily googlable. Also I’d suggest making blog posts target a specific common issue or question – sometimes I see posts that I don’t really care about or the problem is so narrow that I don’t want to read about it. I’d read about building resilient and highly available architectures in various configurations.
  • Database reliability, scalability, migrations and such stuff is interesting.
  • Anything to do with machine learning.
  • Data model examples, starting up a Cassandra node, configuring YAML, etc

Deductions

I’m going to go backwards through the questions and discuss what I’ve deducted, and in some ways what has surprised me among the answers!

First there’s the “Is there anything that comes to mind, that you’d like to have me or the team I’m working with (@ DataStax) put together that you’d find useful, entertaining, or related.” request and questions.

The answers here didn’t surprise me much at all. Within DevRel from Microsoft to DataStax to Google to many other organizations we have this ongoing battle between “write a whole book on it” or “make it 2 minutes short”. It’s wildly difficult to determine what format, what timing, and what structure material needs to be in for it to be most useful to people. So when I saw the answer that reads, “Place priorities on designing materials for more depth (i.e., more linked material) as well as less attention-nuisance.” I immediately thought, “yeah, for real, but ugh…” it’s difficult. However, I’m working on more thorough material, some of it will be paywalled via LinkedIn Learning or Pluralsight and other material may be available by book in the coming months. But there will be other material that will indeed be long form how to material on how to really put things together – from scratch and from the basis of “we have X thing and need to hack it so we can add a feature”.

The next answer I got in this section that I completely agree with is increasing the focus on written material. I’m making tons of video, and I’ve got that down to the point where it’s actually easier and faster to do most of it then it is to write things down. However I realized, especially from my own point of view, that written material actually ends up being vastly more useful than video material. That’s also why, even with the video material, when I’m covering specifics I aim to provide a linkable timeline and a blog entry with the code and other changes shown in the video. Thanks for reinforcing these efforts and giving me that indirect encouragement to make this process and the results even better. More written material is on its way!

As for the database reliability, scalability, migrations, machine learning, data modeling, Cassandra node starting, and all that it’s in the queue and I’m getting to it as fast as I possibly can.

Next question I asked is, “Do you like other material mixed in that details the reason for the tech, the story, or such?

It appears, albeit not a huge contingent of people, some people are curious about biking, train coding, and making good grub! Hey, that’s groovy cuz I’ve got a show coming out which is basically the behind the scenes videos about all those topics that make the coding and technology hacking possible!

The one outlier in this set however is clearly the request for “Ways to simplify life to dig through those algorithms faster, easier, better?” which I didn’t suspect would be any different then the other answers for this questions. Which left me surprised and ill-prepared on what to do about fulfilling what is clearly a demand. I’ll have to up level my blog posts around algorithms. I did do a couple a long while ago now in “Algorithms 101: Big Sums” which I completed in Go and another I wrote up “Algorithms 101: Roads & Town Centers” which I have 90% of the answer complete but I’ve never finished the blog entry! I guess it’s time to get the algorithm train coupled up and ready to depart!

Then the question, “What kind of written material do you like?

Two options lead by a healthy margin for this question: Demos w/ Write Up and Blog Articles. With this coupled up to the first question it’s clear that written material via blog and demoes via blog should and ought to be top priority. They are, however they’re a whole helluva lot of work, so I only get them produced but so fast. Got some gems coming on Go, Bash, Cassandra, and a few other demo, tech, and historical information.

Next up was single page cheat sheets and documentation, followed closely by books. I kind of expected documentation and books, but wow that single page cheat sheets option is higher rated than I would have suspected and by proxy I’ve immediately added that to my produce this type of material list! I put it in as a very secondary thought but it’s going to get into that increased focus queue.

The last one with some semblance of demand is pamphlet size short form. This one almost seems like a fluke, but I’ll ponder putting together some of these. I know O’Reilly has their short novelette size books which cover a particular topic. They hand these out for free at conferences and seem pretty solid. Maybe I’ll work one of those into the queue? Maybe.

The other three options scraped by with 1%, so somebody was choosing them. So the vi mug isn’t a priority nor the short explainer videos. Which seems in contention with video content demands around shorter content. I guess, explainer videos just doesn’t sound useful!

The next question I just put together a top three of the results, “What specifically do you, or would you like to watch in video? Screencasts, short videos, conversational, or some other type of videos?

  1. Make screen casts.
  2. Make screen casts generally short.
  3. Make screen cases that are short and on a specific and deep dive into a topic.

This seems kind of in conflict with itself, but I’m going to aim for it and try to hone the skill further. So that I can produce screen casts, screen casts that are generally short, and make sure that these screen casts that are short are on a specific and deep dive into a topic. Whew, got it.

Finally, “do you like video material?

chart

At this time, 53.8% of you have said yes. I had guessed it would be around 50%.

I had guessed no would be about 25%, and at 23.1% I wasn’t to far off.

The other respective mishmash of answers made for interesting depth to the questions that followed this question.

Article Summary & TLDR

Produce more topic specific, detailed material around screen casts and blog entries!

End of story.

For more on this information, why I asked, and what I do check out my article titled “Evangelism, Advocacy, and Activism in The Technology Industry” and for some of the big victories for big corporations check out “The Developer Advocates – Observations on Microsoft’s New Competence“.

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Top 4: “Nobody Reads Blogs… Except Everybody Read Blogs”

I know I know, the marketers say it’s all about the single articles now. Nobody reads blogs. Nobody subscribes to blogs. Ya know, except of course for that small percentage of people that do.

…marketing, it’ll make you insane if you’re not careful.

But seriously, here’s a few blogs that are actually worth reading. They’re worth subscribing to and surprisingly, they’re blogs that businesses organize and write. Yes, I have and might be writing for some of them in the future. But I’m honestly basing this list on a few specific criteria:

  • The blog has to include some technical content that is important to getting kick started with their product and getting kick started with other tooling around their space.
  • The blog has to include articles that have industry information that is relevant to conferences, meetups, and other community related activities.

Here’s my list of reads lately:

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