Welcome to 2021

2020 went off the rails for most of the world, but through a combination of privilege and dumb luck, we were able to make the most of it.

I’ve been a full-time remote worker since 2015, and my wife was able to easily start working from home in the spring.

Around the same time, we found out that we were expecting.

We scurried to get our house ready for the arrival of our newest family member.

We renovated our basement, added a bathroom, turned our old master bedroom into a nursery, replaced our HVAC system and even replaced our roof.

While I’m hopeful that 2021 will be better than 2020, we’re not out of the woods yet.

We’ll see more drama with the transition of power in the US, worldwide vaccine rollouts, Brexit, and the global response to all of the above.

(Not to mention all the unknowns lurking in the shadows.)

Still, 2020 is behind us, and there’s no way to go but forward.

Keep reading…

Strategy is about moving humans

“Strategy is about moving humans around to meet goals, and defining processes, and that means that sometimes you just need to have twenty or thirty meetings before you can make something happen. Ideally you do things once, and very carefully, because of all the money involved and all the lives affected.”

Build Time Versus Strategy Time (Postlight)

Cacophony of algorithmic fusterclucks

It’s been a minute since my last post. Sorry about that.

A lot’s happened in the last few months. We zipped through a basement reno, all in preparation for the arrival of our baby girl, converting our old master bedroom into a nursery. In September we took a little retreat up to a cottage in Central Frontenac, a new favourite destination of ours, and another in October out to Prince Edward County.

I also hit my five year anniversary at GoDaddy. Time flies.

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Why did we sacrifice our anonymity?

Throwback to a thoughtful essay from Justin Tadlock over at WP Tavern:

“We handed over our names. And, once we handed over our names, it was a slippery slope to handing over everything else about ourselves. If you dig deep enough you can find the names of all my cats and when they were all born.”

The Evolution of Anonymity in the Internet Age

I’m a fairly open person on the web, but sometimes I miss the anonymity of the 90’s and early 00’s. It was a unique mix of trust and distrust.

We could be more open with strangers, because we had a veil of anonymity to shield ourselves; but we also had a healthy dose of suspicion about everything we saw and read, because you don’t trust everything you see on the internet.

The mainstream social media platforms that brought more people online asked for us to share our real identities, and treated moderation as an afterthought. A total reverse of what older online communities preached: don’t disclose personal information, and respect the rules.

Where will we be ten, twenty years from now? My expectation (and hope) is that the pendulum will swing back to smaller, more niche communities and platforms; “dark social” with varying degrees of real identity versus anonymity, depending on the place. I guess we just have to wait and see.

The journey is the point.

“I’d submit that this emotional journey is one that transcends goodness or greatness or even a so-called mediocre project; I’ve experienced this lifecycle for projects that ended up entirely sucking from end-to-end! But the point is clearly the journey.”

john saddington

I’ve followed John’s work off and on for years, starting with 8BIT and the Standard theme, one of the greatest ever WordPress themes for indie publishers (IMO).

John is now off and running with a new project, YEN.IO, and once again our universes overlap: He’s sharing his journey of building a business around the community space through YouTube and his newsletter (the latter running through Substack).

Glue work

Every senior person in an organisation should be aware of the less glamorous – and often less-promotable – work that needs to happen to make a team successful. Managed deliberately, glue work demonstrates and builds strong technical leadership skills. Left unconscious, it can be career limiting. It can push people into less technical roles and even out of the industry.

— Being Glue (Tanya Reilly)

Fantastic talk from Tanya Reilly on the importance of “glue work”.

While Tanya’s coming at this from the developer/technical project manager role, it got me thinking about the importance of “glue work” in other areas, and how the perceived value of it depends on who you have for a manager.

I’m a bit of a volunteer junkie on my teams. Documentation, processes and reports are tasks I’ve bestowed on myself because I like the work and I know it’s helpful in the long run. Thankfully I’ve had managers who see and appreciate this. I’m grateful for that, and I’m sure it played a role in my promotions over the last few years. But not everyone is as lucky.

Case in point: Tanya explains how women usually find themselves taking this work on. It’s a question of stepping up and volunteering. Based on the research, women volunteer more than men. But unless their managers recognize the work, it goes unrewarded.

Artists tell the truth as they see it

At the end of the day, our job as artists is to tell the truth as we see it. If telling the truth is an inherently political act, so be it. Times may change and politics may change, but if we do our best to tell the truth as specifically as possible, time will reveal those truths and reverberate beyond the era in which we created them.

The Role of the Artist in the Age of Trump (The Atlantic)

We see this throughout history. Moments captured, stories told, lessons shared.

Artists take the world around them, interpret it, remix it, and leave behind some artifact of their place and time in history.

It’s one of the many things I love about traveling: visiting art galleries and museums, be it a local municipal gallery or a national institute, and just taking in what’s been left behind.

Our 3D printed homes of the future

Throwback to late last year in this piece from Fast Company:

Icon’s printer, called the Vulcan II, isn’t the first designed to build an entire house. But the new Mexican neighborhood, which will have 50 of the homes, will be the first community to use this type of technology at scale.

The world’s first 3D-printed neighborhood now has its first houses

Given all that’s happened since then — including an escape to the suburbs and an uptick in remote work as the new norm — I wonder if we’ll see more rapid residential development using 3D printer tech?

Silicon Valley and “community”

A short and thoughtful piece from Casper ter Kuile:

Venture capitalists are investing in companies that put community at the heart of their strategy. […] Just as social networks, especially Facebook, used the language of friendship to describe the simple act of allowing our attention to be captured by someone’s status update, we’re already seeing the denigration of the word ‘community.’ 

The danger of “community-washing” (Casper ter Kuile)

For those of us in professional community management roles (howdy), working for technology companies (yup), I believe it’s on us to defend the importance of putting people and meaningful relationships at the center of our work.

Community happens when members are part of the whole. It happens over time as visitors become regulars become leaders. It happens through participation, the give and take, of activities and shared experiences.

Chasing a “sense of community” is hard to quantify in a business sense, so we rely on other KPIs and biz impact metrics, but I think of those as proxies to the underlying feeling of belonging.

Casper’s parting words:

“This is what I hope those new tech CEOs can take to heart: we are only truly in community when we allow other’s choices to have consequences for us. Community can’t be consumed. It only exists when, to some extent, we allow ourselves to be subsumed.