[link dump] An Engineering Manager’s Illustrated Primer

  In: newco    Will @ 15:35

HR, People Ops, general engineering mgmt and product-dev org stuff — I’ve found these inspiring, interesting, challenging, or amusing over the years. An unordered, unformatted dump of a Pinboard tag of mine. YMMV.

Buffer: Inside a Completely Transparent Company | Inc.com
[priv] [http://www.inc.com/jeff-haden/inside-buffer-company-complete-transparency.html]

Programming Your Culture | TechCrunch
[priv] [http://techcrunch.com/2012/12/17/programming-your-culture/]

A day-by-day guide to Jack Dorsey’s 80-hour workweek – Nov. 13, 2011
[priv] [http://money.cnn.com/2011/11/13/technology/dorsey_techonomy/index.htm]

The 5 values that drive 500 Startups – The Next Web
[priv] [http://thenextweb.com/insider/2013/04/27/the-5-values-that-drive-500-startups/]

The Adaptable Organization | Yammer Blog
[priv] [http://blog.yammer.com/blog/2012/06/the-adaptable-organization.html]
{newco-hr newco-devprocess}

An Introduction to You: Rands In Repose
[priv] [http://www.randsinrepose.com/archives/2013/04/07/an_introduction_to_you.html]

Dennis Crowley of Foursquare on Open Lines of Communication – NYTimes.com
[priv] [http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/29/business/dennis-crowley-of-foursquare-on-open-lines-of-communication.html?_r=4&ref=business]

On Team Building
[priv] [http://marak.com/blog/post/27190022414/on-team-building]

Rands In Repose: 1:1’s, The Update, The Vent, and The Disaster
[priv] [http://www.randsinrepose.com/archives/2010/09/22/the_update_the_vent_and_the_disaster.html]

What You can Learn About Burnout From Kim Kardashian, Robert Downey Jr, and Bruce Springsteen | Fistful of Talent
[priv] [http://fistfuloftalent.com/2012/06/what-you-can-learn-about-burnout-from-kim-kardashian-robert-downey-jr-and-bruce-springsteen.html]

How Startups Are Killing Off Bosses – Business Insider
[priv] [http://www.businessinsider.com/how-startups-are-killing-off-bosses-2012-10]

The Product is the Byproduct
[priv] [http://zachholman.com/talk/product-is-the-byproduct]

Do Things, Tell People.
[priv] [http://carl.flax.ie/dothingstellpeople.html]

What it’s like to work for Stripe | Alex MacCaw
[priv] [http://blog.alexmaccaw.com/stripes-culture]

37signals Earns Millions Each Year. Its CEO’s Model? His Cleaning Lady | Fast Company
[priv] [http://www.fastcompany.com/3000852/37signals-earns-millions-each-year-its-ceo%E2%80%99s-model-his-cleaning-lady]

3 Ways To Make Everyone Around You Smarter | Fast Company
[priv] [http://www.fastcompany.com/3000623/3-ways-make-everyone-around-you-smarter]

Rands In Repose: The Pond
[priv] [http://www.randsinrepose.com/archives/2009/04/15/the_pond.html]

Developing Team: Three Types of People (and why you’re the problem)
[priv] [http://www.hrcapitalist.com/2012/08/developing-your-team-three-types-of-people-and-why-youre-the-problem.html]

Rands In Repose: Mandate Dissection
[priv] [http://www.randsinrepose.com/archives/2004/10/06/mandate_dissection.html]

Rands In Repose: Incrementalists & Completionists
[priv] [http://www.randsinrepose.com/archives/2003/08/05/incrementalists_completionists.html]

Rands In Repose: Healthy Tension
[priv] [http://www.randsinrepose.com/archives/2004/05/25/healthy_tension.html]

Rands In Repose : Bored People Quit
[priv] [http://www.randsinrepose.com/archives/cat_best_of.html]

Coder to Developer forward
[priv] [http://www.joelonsoftware.com/articles/CoderToDeveloper.html]

(pairing for onboarding) learning through collaboration » Big Nerd Ranch BlogBig Nerd Ranch Blog
[priv] [http://blog.bignerdranch.com/1647-learning-through-collaboration/]

Job Interview Ideas: Play Games by Challengage
[priv] [http://tech.co/job-interview-ideas-challengage-2013-04]
2 good ideas: Game-playing as job interview, Failures Chart. via @techcocktail

Bridgewater – Culture & Principles – Bridgewater Principles
[priv] [http://www.bwater.com/home/culture–principles.aspx]

The HubSpot Culture Code: Creating a Company We Love
[priv] [http://blog.hubspot.com/blog/tabid/6307/bid/34234/The-HubSpot-Culture-Code-Creating-a-Company-We-Love.aspx]

Peter Corbett’s Management Hacks – hackpad.com
[priv] [https://hackpad.com/Peter-Corbetts-Management-Hacks-3KJiKExlH74]

Why (Almost) Every Startup Should Be Working From Home
[priv] [http://www.techinasia.com/startup-work-from-home/]

Here’s How Spotify Scales Up And Stays Agile: It Runs ‘Squads’ Like Lean Startups | TechCrunch
[priv] [http://techcrunch.com/2012/11/17/heres-how-spotify-scales-up-and-stays-agile-it-runs-squads-like-lean-startups/]

DC Tech
[priv] [https://www.facebook.com/groups/washdctech/permalink/485020504876721/]

(37) What tools do SMBs and startups use most to manage recruitment and talent evaluation? – Quora
[priv] [http://www.quora.com/What-tools-do-SMBs-and-startups-use-most-to-manage-recruitment-and-talent-evaluation]

Making it Virtually Easy to Deploy on Day One « Code as Craft
[priv] [http://codeascraft.etsy.com/2012/03/13/making-it-virtually-easy-to-deploy-on-day-one/]
{newco-hr newco-devprocess}

Two grades at GORUCK: A and F. A- rounds down
[priv] [http://www.gorucknews.com/people/the-philosophy-of-more-and-the-philosophy-of-magic-in-bozeman-montana/]

Managing Time in a ROWE
[priv] [http://highgroove.com/articles/2012/07/24/time-tracking-and-rowe.html]

What is ROWE | CultureRx
[priv] [http://www.gorowe.com/main/what-is-rowe/]

8 Indispensable Qualities For Your First Startup Hire
[priv] [http://www.readwriteweb.com/start/2012/07/8-indispensable-qualities-for-your-first-startup-hire.php]

Whining or Working the Team – Driven Forward
[priv] [http://www.drivenforward.com/blog/whining-or-working-the-team]

Want to Know the Difference Between a CTO and a VP Engineering?
[priv] [http://www.cloudave.com/496/want-to-know-the-difference-between-a-cto-and-a-vp-engineering/]

Hiring Engineers, a Process « hueniverse
[priv] [http://hueniverse.com/2013/02/hiring-engineers-a-process/]

How Stripe built one of Silicon Valley’s best engineering teams
[priv] [http://firstround.com/article/How-Stripe-built-one-of-Silicon-Valleys-best-engineering-teams]

How to Hire Top Talent for Your Startup
[priv] [http://techcocktail.com/hire-top-talent-startup-2012-07#.UBKWiTFSTDJ]

(37) What is the interview process like at Square? – Quora
[priv] [http://www.quora.com/What-is-the-interview-process-like-at-Square]

Scan, Consider, Research: A Post-RSS Web Reading Workflow that Doesn’t Suck

  In: productivity    Will @ 19:34

Or How I learned to stop worrying about RSS and love the Twitter.

From the First World Problems Desk

I get most of my web content through Twitter, but had a full RSS setup going as well. Google Reader’s imminent shutdown threw me into an existential panic. How would I stay on top of my highly-organized tree of RSS feeds? A few days’ survey showed me just how many reading apps are out there right now, RSS and otherwise. It also gave me a chance to think about whether I still cared if I read every single post. Did I ever really empty my Google Reader inbox? Nope.

Three Modes of Reading

I think many of us consume content in three distinct modes.


We look for headlines, snippets, and small nuggets of content that help us keep up on major developments of the day. Real-world news items, tech developments, the latest time-wasting meme, and other random tidbits that we find worth a glance. Scanning is us keeping on top of our stream. We do it nearly continuously, on whatever device we are primarily engaged with at that point in the day. We glance sideways at our phones while in line for coffee, notifications pop up on our laptop screens all day, we skim our email while walking to the shower.


Sometimes, because we still appreciate long-form content, we actually read something for more than a few seconds. This is a more deliberate activity, done in distinct chunks of time. We read interesting thought pieces on a tablet before falling asleep, we procrastinate in our browsers while temporarily stuck on a problem we’re working on, we time-shift content to times when we’re ready to think.


Because we’re knowledge workers, we do need to do our homework. We scour the web for content relavant to our particular areas of interest. We save this content so we can keep track of it later. We’re usually pretty anal about the system we use for doing this.

Coming to terms with these three modes has made it easier for me to get my head around my own content consumption patterns and then help me figure out a tools workflow that works for them.

My Workflow Approach

Here’s a recipe, YMMV.

Make Twitter and Email your only sources

I ditched everything but Twitter and email. Almost anything I ever followed via RSS is on Twitter as well, often with more useful headline commentary. Everything else I was using RSS for, like keeping up with Google alerts, I can get via email. Twitter Lists, and the fact that you don’t have to Follow people/brands/cyborgs to put them in a List, means you can get as segmented as you like.

Separate Scan vs Consider content with Labels, Lists, and time-shifts

First, separate Scan and Consier content at the source level. For Twitter, anything you want to make sure you can scan, Follow it. For email, let it come to your Inbox. You can then keep your Inbox and your main Twitter timeline open as often as you like, Growling at you all day if you want, and make sure you see what’s going on.

For sources you know you don’t really need to scan but will instead want to read when you have time (Consider), use Twitter Lists and auto-archiving GMail labels. Got some time, looking for something to read up on, that’s when you browse those. This is akin to how many of us have used RSS feeds in the past.

To move items you’ve scanned into a consider mode, use a read-later service. The feed from that service you can then read right along with the rest of your consider content.

Tools-wise, I currently use HootSuite and Instapaper for all of this, on top of what I do in my mail client and in Twitter’s interface itself (list management).

Use a bookmarking tool for Research

Forget the social aspects, use a bookmarking service to keep track of all that web-based content you think you might want later. I have tons of projects going on at all times, I have bookmarks in all of those areas, and many more.

I use Pinboard for this. I used to use Delicious, but, well, you know. I don’t use Evernote, mostly because I think its inefficient for web links and overkill for notes. Don’t stress about the tags as long as they make sense to you. (As an aside, Note and TODO management is a topic in and of itself that we’ll talk about another time, short version is use Simplenote and a good fast client like Notational Velocity).

Make a schema for your Consider content

Make a structured schema when you organize your Twitter Lists (or even RSS folders) — define your lists/folders/whatever and write a few words about what they mean. It may seem like overkill to start, but over time, as you build up lots of content and are constantly curating it, it helps to clarify the categories. This also makes it easier to avoid having sources in multiple categories, which makes managing read/unread state easier with clients that don’t handle it very well (like most Twitter clients).

Get your tools hooked up

Get your apps and bookmarklets humming. Being able to easily time-shift content or save it for rsearch purposes right from your reader is key. I use Chrome and Android. On the desktop, I find the HootSuite Hootlet, Instapaper bookmarklet, Pinboard+, and Pinboard (which feels like the old/awesome Delicious Firefox sidebar) extensions work well. On Android, its Pindroid, Instapaper, and HootSuite.

Keep track of your shared links. Pinboard has a nice feature for this, where it can automatically tag any link you tweet into your bookmarks (using a non-customizeable-but-still-ok “from twitter” tag). It can do the same for Instapaper.

Some Examples

A few common use-case examples…

To keep up with what specific people I’m interested in are up to, I put them in a “peeps” Twitter List, and Follow those I’m really interested in.

To get the latest tech news headlines throughout the day, I follow a number of key sources and have Growls firing all day. If I see something I’m interested in reading later, I’ll use Instapaper to save it. I have in a “technews-general” Twitter List for those times when I want something more to surf.

To give myself a good list of stuff to read in a few different personal-interest areas, I put a bunch of niche sources into various Twitter Lists but don’t follow them. I use my reader to check in when I’ve got time and am interested in checking out some content (with a tablet in bed is a good example). I’ll use HootSuite for this.

I get other non-Twitter longish-form content in my inbox, like LinkedIn digest emails, and have them labeled but left in my Inbox. I usually read them in the mornings.


There are a couple of things I’m still not crazy about.

I want a magazine.

My feed-reading experience is still too much like reading a feed. I love Instapaper’s “beautiful reading room”, but I want that for my feeds, not just for content I send into it. I would use Flipboard if it had a desktop/web version, or Feedly if I could read Twitter lists with it (without maintaining RSS API URLs).

I want recommendations and personalization.

I’m keeping an eye on the social recommendations services, they’re getting better all the time. I like Prismatic a lot for quality, if only I could get it in some sort of non-site-based channel. Flipboard, Zite, and others have decent options here as well, but I find them all too cumbersome still to include in my main workflow. I wish there were more players trying to provide the recommendations stream and not also the reader experience — they are different things entirely and I’m not sure one app can really knock it out of the park on both.

Deploy script idea: auto on-call for code pushers

   Will @ 08:24

I’ve been obsessing of late over deploy process stuff, as I’m working on a new stack that involves Heroku and a few other things that are somewhat new to me.  My friend Chris just mentioned off-hand he wished there were a way to auto on-call someone in the hour after they push code.  Yeah, that. So for the idea pile…hook into your deploy script:

  • get the committers in the push (via git or whatever you are using)
  • make sure you have users in your PagerDuty setup for every comitter
  • when the deploy happens, override the on-call schedule in PagerDuty via API to put that user at the top of the rotation for a set period of time

I need to try this…


My Capitol Offense

   Will @ 20:58

I work with a cool and adventurous group of folks.  Though all notable, of relevance here are those that form the Clearspring Motor Club. Yes, it in fact consists of current employees, non-employees, and former employees, but alas, the unifying spirit lives on. Motorcycle rides in the VA countryside, karting, and yes, car racing. Last year, the team did several “crapcan” races, to varying levels of success but with a consistent level of enjoyment. I did one of those — the DC-area 24 Hours of Lemons race known as Capitol Offense. Great name. We just did it again this past weekend, here’s how it went.


We run a ’94 Volvo 940 wagon.  Its gutted, with a full custom roll cage and lots of other critical modifications, like having its rear roof removed.  Scoff though you may, it is super reliable, durable, and with significant lightening, tire, brake, and suspension work, became a formidable racer.  Last year, the car was decked out in Cobra Kai livery — you know, the bad dojo, mercy is for the weak, etc.  Full costumes, flat black, cobra on the hood, it worked out well.


(more pics of the Cobra Kai theme at the 2011 race here)

But this year we took it back to the car’s roots in the north of Europe and embraced another thing we love about Sweden, IKEA! Blue base with yellow strips, we had similarly nice costumes and even named our IKEA product: the Effinkürber.

hood logo

badges and pricetags

Theme organized and car more or less prepped, we headed to Summit Point for the big event.

Test & Tune

First day at the track is basically a practice day and the tech inspection — getting your car checked to ensure that it meets with the low standards of crapcan racing, and bribing judges.  We had Swedish meatballs, another brilliant idea of Charlie’s. The judges loved them (surprisingly very few showed any reservations about eating gross-looking Ikea meatballs out of a crockpot plugged into the back of a stripped Volvo).


Said meatballs earned us the coveted “bribed” stencil, which we gazed upon with pride. In addition to the four drivers — Drew, Charlie, Stewart, and I — we had assistance from Aditya, who for some odd reason decided to crew instead of drive for this, his first race.


spring shortening

With new brake pads, more flat black paint, and one turn of the rear suspension coils removed, we were ready for a day of racing.



P.S. See that awesome allen wrench?  That’s all Aditya.

Race Day #1

The first of a planned two race days was going great. With organized pit stops and long, fuel-timed stints, we made good time. Despite a car that is severely lacking in outright power and/or speed, we were up to 22nd place in a field of almost 130. Yes that field was far too large, and resulted in a lot of laps under yellow, but still, its racing. Drew and Stewart turned in some quick laps as usual. We were all doing pretty well, though, and looking to finish out the day strong.

I was at the wheel for my second stint of the day, heading into the evening and planning to finish out that day’s racing. Without a lot of speculation or explanation, let’s just say that an abrupt braking move by a car in front, combined with a car passing me at the same time in my blind spot, combined with going for a pocket that was probably too small rather than just braking and getting out of the way, resulted in a fairly extravagant crackup. By me, into a wall. I will simply say that, yes, while careening toward this concrete barrier, I didn’t think it would end as well as it did. Actually, what was going through my head was something like “great, I’m going to run right into that, hard (and there aren’t even any tires.)” Here’s the in-car video. We also have a driver-facing GoPro shot, but its missing the critical last 10 seconds or so right befor ethe crash — any video format recovery experts out there, I’m all ears as I’d love to have that.

::WARNING slightly scary car crash footage ahead.


front quarter

The car was totally destroyed, and had to be scrapped at the track (extremely nice salvage company employees, by the way, at Remac Metals — who knew). I am bruised thoroughly but really only have two badly sprained ankles, feet, and a broken big toe/foot bone — not bad considering.  To this I credit the inherent durability of the Volvo frame design, the expertly-constructed and seemed-overbuilt-until-now rollcage that Charlie and Drew put together, and properly adjusted racing safety equipment in the car.

This shot of the motor is my favorite.



The team is already in the midst of a new car purchase — another Volvo, though a bigger-engined 960 this time. Should be a great car. After not killing me, we trust Volvos. Also, this time we’ll probably have a Hans setup and a more hard-core seat.  Oh, and I’ll be on the crew.

Parting thoughts:

  • enjoy life — don’t not do somewhat dangerous things just because they are somewhat dangerous
  • don’t skimp on safety gear, get the best
  • go for safe, durable, and reliable over fast and light

See you at the track,


Big day for Team AddThis

  In: projects    Will @ 14:05

I’m psyched about our AddThis release this morning — the team has been rocking it. Here’s what gets me going.

New Tools

We released new social plugins to help websites increase traffic and engagement. Here’s the official summary post.

  • Welcome bar: The Welcome bar looks like a simple message bar to display at the top of your site, to welcome visitors based on who they are and where they come from. It is that, but its also an insanely cool API that we’ll be exposing more of as we go. Want to welcome visitors from Twitter with a specific prompt to follow you? Sure. But you can also do cool things like greet users arriving from mobile devices at a specific time of day, or specifically greet people coming from a blog that gave you some coverage. This is the kind of powerful personalization that increases your conversions, whatever your goals.
  • Trending content box: The Trending content box promotes your content and increases recirculation within your site, leveraging the AddThis platform’s knowledge of what content can work best. It does simple things like most-shared pages, but also more sophisticated trending, and it’ll be getting more-so by the day. The UI is flexible so, unlike a lot of other tools, you can have it completely blend into your site and not try to take over your sidebar UX. Its also available as a direct feed, and the widget itself has a full API.

New Analytics

I won’t go too much into it here as its covered pretty well in the blog post, but all of the new tools are backed by the typically-great AddThis analytics. But we’re also now able to tell you about text that users are copying out of pages. Want to see the terms that are resonating with users, and might be good candidates for some intra-site links, or even be part of your SEO plans? We can do that. So on top of measuring ALL sharing on your site, we’re measuring all sorts of additional user engagement as well.  And yes, you can do this even without using AddThis for your site’s sharing.

New Website

The most obvious piece of the release is probably that addthis.com looks completely different. Its a wonderfully clean and sophisticated visual presentation, and I’m extremely proud of the design team for pulling this one together. We even have some real-time geo data on the home page, no fakery.  Some of the team that worked on this aspect of things will probably be talking a lot more about it on their blogs — check in with Jim, Foo, and Jeff.

New Numbers

How big is AddThis, and how many customers do we actually have? We’ve put out some new public numbers:

  • AddThis code is seen by 1.3B unique users each month
  • 14M domains use AddThis plugins
  • AddThis code is loaded 90B views each month

We were big data before it was cool.

New Positioning

We’ve been known for a long time as a sharing tool. We’re the biggest and the best, so great. But we’re a lot more than that, and this is the first time we’ve been really out there talking about the extent of our platform and its capabilities, under one unified AddThis name. Surf the site, see all the different things we can bring to the table.  Pretty proud of the portfolio: big data + social infrastructure.

So we’ve got a lot going on here today. And this on the heels of another announcement I’m proud of. I’ll update with the press coverage.

Oh, and we’re hiring.

TracBoard: Managing sprints in Trac

   Will @ 15:47

One of the random internal projects I’ve worked on at Clearspring is the tool we use for managing development sprints. Its called TracBoard, and its an interface on top of the open-source Trac ticket management system.

The TracBoard interface

I didn’t have any interest in maintaining and using separate systems for defects and detail work as well as for overall task management. So while there are a number of lightweight sprint planning tools out there, and a number of detailed issue-management systems, getting both integrated, with an experience we like, was not in the cards. So I built a relatively simple front-end for Trac data that gives a more whiteboard-style view.

Its not the most robust thing in the world (I built it as a quick internal tool), but hey, it works for us and if there’s interest in it, we’ll put some more energy into taking it forward for more general use. You can check it out on GitHub.

In case you didn’t know how awesome the Isle of Man TT is…

   Will @ 00:53

This is Our Race Wagon

   Will @ 00:16

Some recent pics of our Lemons car, coming together just in the nick of time…

Sledgehammer: don’t leave home without it.

   Will @ 00:32

The racecar’s coming together…


A morning motorcycle loop in the (D)MV

   Will @ 01:47

This is how I spent a couple hours this morning.  Got up at 5 per usual, makes for a nice timeto be out.  Beautiful day.  Arlington, GW Parkway, Potomac, Point of Rocks, Leesburg, Middleburg, The Plains, Manassas, and back.

View Larger Map

The GW Parkway and Clara Barton Parkway are nice as usual.  The area between Potomac and Point of Rocks MD is full of nice little roads, lots of side detours, and even 28 is nice.  Middleburg and Leesburg VA are great for stopping for a coffee (and inevitably chatting with strangers).  Halfway Rd between Middleburg and The Plains is twisty and fun.  The Plains to Manassas is nice on the back roads.  66 is a relative drag but its better than the sprawl thats on most of the other routes.  

I take a general route like this a lot, sometimes crossing on White’s Ferry, sometimes staying more North in VA on Georgetown Pike.  Its a nice set of options for rides of varying lengths, right around DC.

P.S. Did I mention I love my bike?


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