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.

Zoom fatigue

“So many people are reporting similar experiences that it’s earned its own slang term, ‘Zoom fatigue,’ though this exhaustion also applies if you’re using Google Hangouts, Skype, FaceTime, or any other video-calling interface. The unprecedented explosion of their use in response to the pandemic has launched an unofficial social experiment, showing at a population scale what’s always been true: virtual interactions can be extremely hard on the brain.

‘Zoom fatigue’ is taxing the brain (National Geographic)

I feel this. As a full-time remote worker for nearly five years, Zoom meetings made up the bulk of my day. Now it’s on overdrive with my old social reprieves — pub nights, occasional social outings, etc — being unavailable. At least we’re all in this together…?

MySpace’s killer feature

This week’s Tedium newsletter dives into the disappearance of design customization on modern social platforms (e.g. Facebook, Medium, Substack, etc).

Choice quotes on MySpace’s accidental power perk of custom coding:

“On the fly, developers Gabe Harriman and Toan Nguyen, building the site on the cheap, quickly rebuilt the platform in a language they knew. And in haste, Nguyen forgot to turn on a feature that prevented end users from adding HTML into forms. […]

MySpace was often a shitshow of profiles that broke apart because its killer feature was a product of bad coding rather than a well-thought-out concept, but it was still an important one because of what it represented. […]

In many ways, the happy-accident design solution MySpace uncovered by sheer chance might have cost us some true tinkering abilities in our modern platforms.”

No Room for Design (Tedium)

Tumblr — bought last year by Automattic, i.e. — was the last major social platform built with real customization in mind.

There’s more to the Tedium piece, including thoughtful bits about Facebook’s introduction of the news feed, and the implications of that decision on the evolution of social media and contemporary culture.

Cheap inclusive tech

“The Estonian experience also demonstrates that high rates of basic technological penetration pay off better than cutting-edge technology only in the hands of a selected few. Cheap, common technology that is inclusively used by society as a whole brings much greater benefits than exclusive ones only accessible to upwardly mobile populations.

Estonia is running its country like a tech company (Quartz)

We know the upsides of connectivity during social isolation. But that’s a privilege for those who have access. What about those who can’t afford it? Or those who are under-served by the infrastructure in their area?


Tech is the environment in which we function

“What this decade’s critiques miss is that over the past 10 years, our tech has grown from some devices and platforms we use to an entire environment in which we function. We don’t “go online” by turning on a computer and dialing up through a modem; we live online 24/7, creating data as we move through our lives, accessible to everyone and everything.”

We’ve spent the decade letting our tech define us. (The Guardian)

Remember when sharing your real name was a big deal?

ASPIRE: The qualities of an excellent website.

ASPIRE is an acronym that neatly covers some ideal qualities that I think we should… aspire to, when aiming to create excellent websites. […] I particularly love that the word aspire is about goals, and not necessarily rules. There may be no site on the web that truly nails every quality on this list, but it’s still useful to define what we think is great.”

ASPIRE: Ideals to Aspire to When Building Websites (Filament Group)

Covering the ASPIRE acronym:

  • Accessible to people of all abilities
  • Secure data transmission, storage, manipulation
  • Performant on most devices, even with shoddy connectivity
  • Inclusive of diverse audiences
  • Responsive and adaptive to all screen conditions
  • Ethical in the handling of user data

Kudos to Scott Jehl and Aaron van de Weijenbergh and their Twitter thread.

Running the gauntlet of content moderation

“Peter, who has done this job for nearly two years, worries about the toll that the job is taking on his mental health. His family has repeatedly urged him to quit. But he worries that he will not be able to find another job that pays as well as this one does: $18.50 an hour, or about $37,000 a year.

“Do you know what my brain looks like right now? Do you understand what we’re looking at? We’re not machines. We’re humans. We have emotions, and those emotions are deeply scarred by looking at children being raped all the time, and people getting their heads chopped off.””

The terror queue (The Verge)