Closing Shop

We’re officially closed for business!

After 11 years of building designing and building websites and hand-crafting user interfaces for web applications I’ve decided to shut down shop and work for a niche software company. For the time being all the blog posts will remain online, but at some point in the future these might get shuffled to another place on the web.

If the numbers don’t make sense, this is because technically we stopped taking on new work in late 2017/early 2018 so that is what I’m considering our stop date as we really have been closed for some time. If you need to get in touch for some reason, as of writing the contact form is still working.

I consider myself incredibly fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with so many talented designers, engineers, and entrepreneurs — and hope to have the chance to do so again in the future under a different enterprise and with a slightly different focus.

– Josh

I decided to disable AMP on my site

Alex Kras:

I initially enabled AMP on my site for one reason only – ranking well in Google search results.

Shortly before AMP became a thing, Google announced that they will begin penalizing websites that did not render fast on mobile devices. My website had a responsive theme, but I wasn’t sure if that was “mobile friendly” enough. Therefore, when I learned that WordPress had an AMP plugin, I quickly enabled it. Even though Google has officially stated that AMP support does not affect site’s search ranking, I figured it wouldn’t hurt.

Another search ranking benefit of AMP, is that only AMP enabled sites are shown in Google’s carousel feature. While my site is not likely to make it into the carousel, getting featured there must be very important for big publishers.

I understand why at first glance AMP seems like a good deal to both big publishers and independent authors. People like websites that load quickly and Google makes this difficult task easy with AMP. The tradeoffs are huge though and how it’s currently implemented is heavily skewed towards Google’s favor. If you have AMP or are thinking about using it, read this article first.

Node 8 and npm 5

Node 8 and npm 5 were released last week.

Updating Node.js is probably a safe bet, but I wouldn’t rush it unless you’re really excited for its improved support for promises. It gets long term support (LTS) status in October.

I’ve been using yarn for several months and have a hard time seeing myself switching back to npm any time soon, although the latest release did add a new lockfile feature which likely came as result of the competition from yarn.

Ansible Playbook for WordPress on Nginx

Ansible is a tool to automate repetitive tasks like setting up and configuring servers or deploying updates.

It can automate tasks on multiple hosts, and has made my life simpler. When I tell other developers about it, I sometimes get the response that “Well I could just write a shell script for that” — and while yes you could, it’s much more flexible and is configured using YAML which is just a bit more readable. In addition to it being human readable it’s also cross platform and secure (it relies on open ssh and doesn’t depend on agents).

This is a small playbook to install WordPress running on Nginx for creating new local development environments and test servers:

Node LTS and Stable

Node.js v5 is an intermediate feature release line that is best suited for users who have an easier time upgrading their Node.js installations, such as developers using the technology for front-end toolchains. This version will be supported for a maximum of only eight months and will be continually updated with new features and better performance; it is not supported under our LTS plan.

They’re calling the odd numbered version releases “stable”. Which is model similar to Ubuntu. I’m interested to see how well this plan plays out in the long run.

New logo for REI is more like a throwback

This will likely be unnoticed by most REI customers, but they’ve decided to redesign their logo taking visual cues from an older (possibly original) version. Even though REI may technically be a coop, I think many recognize it as a large, national brand — and with 140 stores in 33 states, it’s really lost the feeling of a co-op. Maybe this is a move to get back to their original co-op roots?

In related news the Capitol Hill Value Village is closing. This was once home to REI’s flagship store which I have fond memories of visiting as a child in the 1980s when it definitely felt like a co-op.

New REI Logo


Peter Seibel:

How to think about engineering effectiveness

I think a big part of the problem is that we—as an industry—are not very good about thinking about how to make engineers effective. For our software, especially back-end software, we can measure its goodness by the number queries per second it can handle, the number of incidents we experience, and the amount of hardware we have to buy to run it. Those things are easy to measure and even fairly easy to tie to financial implications for the business.
Engineers’ effectiveness, on the other hand, is hard to measure. We don’t even really know what makes people productive; thus we talk about 10x engineers as though that’s a thing when even the studies that lead to the notion of a 10x engineer pointed more strongly to the notion of a 10x office.

But we’d all agree, I think, that it is possible to affect engineers’ productivity. At the very least it is possible to harm it.

The Twitter EE motto is: “Quality, Speed, Joy”. Those are the three things we are trying to affect across all of Twitter engineering. Unlike that other famous triple, Fast, Cheap, Good, we believe you don’t have to pick just two. In fact they feed into each other: Building things right will let you go faster. Building faster will give you more time to experiment and find your way to the right thing. And everybody enjoys building good stuff and a lot of it.

This is an interesting way to look at developer productivity. Generally in my experience, when there’s an emphasis on speed in the sense to ship something on a tight deadline, the quality of the project might suffer. However, this isn’t speed in the sense of tight deadlines. It’s speed in the sense of writing code quickly which as Mr. Seibel points out, frees time to experiment and explore better ways of problem solving.


Ashley Madison hack

Dave Kennedy for Ars:

Researchers are still poring over the unusually large dump, but already they say it includes user names, first and last names, and hashed passwords for 33 million accounts, partial credit card data, street names, and phone numbers for huge numbers of users, records documenting 9.6 million transactions, and 36 million e-mail addresses. While much of the data is sure to correspond to anonymous burner accounts, it’s a likely bet many of them belong to real people who visited the site for clandestine encounters. For what it’s worth, more than 15,000 of the e-mail addresses are hosted by US government and military servers using the .gov and .mil top-level domains.

There are some incredibly smart people working in the federal government—and then there are these people.

The Ashley Madison Hack