Leon Mika

I’m starting to get the emails from Hover warning me of auto-renew being turned off for domains I’ve bought but never used. Not too long before the lists drops down to a more manageable level.

On Basecamp

I’ve been thinking about the incident at Basecamp for most of the week. I wanted to write something about it earlier, after hearing about the policy changes on Tuesday, but I’d figure that it would probably be best to wait a bit and learn more about the issue first. The last thing I wanted to do is add one more knee-jerk reaction to the mix during the heat of the moment.

But it is something that I want to comment on. I’ve only recently started following the writing of DHH and Jason Fried but I am aware of their reputation in both their approach to business and their dealings in the open-source community. To hear of a scandal form a business founded by these two took me aback. That’s probably why I’m writing this post at all. Hearing news like this from companies as large as Facebook or Google, with tens of thousands of employees, doesn’t surprise me as much as something arising from a company of about sixty people.

The thing about being on the outside looking in is that you have an imperfect picture of the whole incident. And even after reading the open letter, the report from Casey Newton, and the response from DHH, it’s still not the full picture, as you cannot be inside the head of those involved. You can only work with what you read, and how it shapes your view of the principal actors that lives inside your head. This, along with the current environment that this event occurred in, makes it difficult for me to comment on the matter.

But I do see a few things that are regrettable. It’s regrettable that such a thing like the Best Customer Names list exists. Far be it from me to be above making light of those that I deal with on a day-to-day basis, that such a list exited seemed like a step too far, particularly when it deals with those that you are being paid to serve. I can understand if this was a small startup with a handful of employees working hard to get it off the ground, and there was a need to vent. But for a company of sixty, especially one that thinks highly about how they operate they write blog posts about, it strikes me as unprofessional, and it does them no credit.

It’s also regrettable that this matter could not be have been dealt with internally.
One thing that struck me was how long the build up to this policy change was. It did not happen overnight; clearly something was brewing in Basecamp for a little while. And although I recognise that there were attempts to settle the matter internally, with the list removed and an apology from the founders, I also recognise that we are dealing with people with very strong personalities that are not afraid to air their opinions. So I wonder whether or not it could have remained an internal matter at all. Nevertheless, it’s in the public now, with the associated backlash and loss of credibility.

Which brings me to the third regrettable thing, which is the ban on political discussion. In the abstract, this is not something that I personally support; a company does not operate in a vacuum after all. Maybe for a company like Basecamp it could act as bit of a circuit breaker if deployed for a little while; I get the sense that the founders thought similar. But it is a shame that it got to that level, and I do hope that they reverse it once things settle down. I think it’s good of Basecamp to offer severance packages to those employees that disagree with this measure, and wish to find work elsewhere. That indicates that they are willing to back their employees decision to leave, rather than leave their employees with a bit of a Sophies’s choice situation.

So, what will I be doing going forward? I’ll probably continue to read posts from Jayson and DHH, and continue to use their open-source frameworks.
I’m not a paying customer of Basecamp, although I do use their free offering, and I’m planning to continue doing so. Of course, I can understand if others choose a different course of action. Although I’m not a fan of making decisions in the heat of the moment, I can understand and respect the decisions made now, given that more on the incident has surface. I will be interested in seeing how Basecamp operates going forward. An event like this could have a lasting impact on a company, it’s founders, and it’s employees, and it would be interesting in seeing how to move on from it.

Early coding session this morning for a side project. Woke up at 4:45 am to work on a feature I just have to have. Manage to get just over an hour out before work.

The drive to do something like this doesn’t come along often; and when it does, it’s glorious.

Visitor at the back door. 🦎

I wish there was a song lyric website that’s not riddled with ads. I don’t know why all the right holders haven’t put one togeather that is fast and ad free. People use them (well, I do at least), and it shows that they’re interested in the music they listen to.

Some thoughts on Apple Subscription Podcasts offering

You’ve probably seen the blog post outlining the details of Apple’s new Podcast Subscription offering. The latest post from Daring Fireball has a link to it if you haven’t seen it on Twitter already.

After reading this, I’m not sure who would choose to go with Apple’s Podcast hosting. Money aside, it looks like another case of Apple mediating the relationship between host and listener, not to mention keeping subscriber content exclusively on Apple’s app.

The easy money doesn’t sound like it’s worth the cost of independence that comes from publishing shows on the existing open podcast ecosystem. Sure it would be harder — you’ll have to build your audience yourself, and it will likely take some time before you can get sponsors or a membership program — but the benefits that come from independence sound to me like it would be worth it. And once you have the audience, the support will follow: just look at Dithering, ATP, and Relay.

I hope podcaster’s realise this. There’s a good thing here: podcasters connecting directly to listeners via the open web. I don’t want one more large company coming in to wreck that.

I listened to a interesting podcast about Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and how it could be used by police to make arrests safely and without the use of lethal force. Sounds like a good idea.

Also, surprised that “Ninja Cop” is not a movie already.

My current bookmarking scheme is all over the place so I’m giving Pinboard a try in an attempt to make it a bit more organised. Might help with my blogging as well. I’ve been in a bit of a writing drought recently which may be related to my reading inputs.

Nothing humbles someone who thinks they’re a reasonably good developer than picking up a brand new software platform, and trying to build something non-trivial in it. I’m speaking from first hand experience here.

Today is one of those rarest of days: a day with no meetings. There’s not even a stand-up, at least not one involving a video call. Just a day where I can put my head down and work from start to finish. Glorious!

Surmounting The Hill

Sometimes adding features to software is like cycling on a hilly road.

You start off at the bottom of the hill, a little unsure of the hight and gradient, and how well you’ll be able to tackle it. You start the uphill climb, writing new code, adding tests, trying an approach that may not work, backtracking and starting again. This uphill climb is starting to tire you out. You’re making forward progress, even thought it may not feel like it, but it’s slow and you’re not sure how much longer you can keep cycling for.

Eventually, you reach the top: you have a solution that does what it needs to do with decent test coverage, but it’s ugly as sin. There’s an approach there that works, but it’s hidden underneath all the attempts that didn’t. You’re tired, but you’ve got a sense of accomplishment.

Now the downhill coast begins. You begin hacking and slashing, deleting code that you no longer need, and generally simplifying the solution, every time running tests to make sure you haven’t removed too much. Travelling further along the road gets easier with each file deleted and each model refactored, until you have something that actually looks good. Eventually you level out, and you’ll need to start peddling again, as you tidy up and add documentation in preparation for the pull request.

The feature is built, the hill is behind you, and you are further along the road, ready to tackle the next hill.

I really have to stop getting distracted writing tools to “help” me with the less than interesting aspects of my work, and just frickin do the work. Otherwise, I’ll just end up with two things that are unfinished.

A thing about Clubhouse is that since it’s live audio, it requires listeners to be awake. Given that most hosts that I would be interested in listening to tend to target US timezones, that is rarely true for me.

Nearly every office I’ve been in that has a dishwasher have their own makeshift system for indicating whether the dishes in the machine are dirty or clean. A quick win for dishwasher manufacturers would be to build this “dirty/clean” indicator directly into the front panel.

I’ve been really enjoying the posts that Jason Fried and DHH are making on HEY World, especially the ones on how they approach product design, or how they run Basecamp. The latest post from Jason about decision making is certainly one that I’ve found very intriguing.

I think one reason why the autocorrect in iOS is so frustrating is that, not only is it aggressive in thinking that it knows the right word, but that it doesn’t take attributes like capitalisation as hints of the word I’m trying to use.

I’ve been trying to write a post with the word “blame”, but I’ve been misspelling it as “blaim”. The iPad, trying to be helpful, is automatically changing it to “Blair”. It knows that “blame” is a possible correction — if I were to undo the change and bring up the chip of suggested alternatives, “blame” is one of them — but I never get the opportunity to select it as it changes the word from under me.

When there’s no suggestion, the misspelt word is simply highlighted. Maybe that should be the way to go for all missspellings unless iOS is almost certain that it knows the correction. I know it’s a hard problem, but it would be appreciated if more work is spent on making this less frustrating.

It took an hour navigating various Telstra phone trees, chat apps, and the website, but I’ve now got a static IP address for my home internet. The reason for doing so relates to work, but it does open up other use-cases which may be fun to explore.

One aspect of software development that I like is the research side of things: learning something new and interesting that will hopefully be useful for the problem I’m working on. The downside of this, though, is that I cannot listen to podcasts while I work.

There are many people around where I work that like “loud cars” of some sort, but I most certainly do not. This is one more reason why I’m looking forward to electric cars being the norm.

There was a massive spiral wheel-shaped spider web in my backyard that I thought was abandoned. It was only after I took it down this morning that I realised it actually wasn’t. Now I feel kinda bad.

I wish more podcasters realise that there are other podcasting players than just Spotify and Apple Podcasts.

Thank goodness Micro.blog offers the ability to edit replies. It seems like I’m constantly making small spelling or grammatical errors in my replies, and it’s always after I post them when I see them.

Some photos of my time in Warburton yesterday, in the Yarra Valley. Went for a bike ride and a bit of a bush-walk. Lovely day for it, if a bit sunny.

Bike track approaching Woori Yallock

Aquaduct walk in Warburton

Photo across Warburton

A Year Under The Pandemic

This was originally a journal entry but I thought I’d share it here as well. Today is the end of week 52, almost a year to the day that the pandemic became all to real for me. I’ve taken today day off to spend some time in Warburton. It was in Warburton last year, almost to the day (13th of March), that things began to get serious. The news coming out of China and Italy was grave: hundreds of deaths, thousands of new cases, hospitals filling up, lack of ventilators and staff to operate them, PPE shortages, scenes of people locked down in their home. The outbreak in New York was becoming serious as well, and the US government announced closure of their borders to Europe.

There were also a number of new cases here as well, it may have been 100 or so around the country. That Friday a number public events were cancelled, like the AFL and Grand Prix, and the borders were closed off to the rest of the world — nobody was allowed in or out. There was a run on things at the shops as officials advised people to be stocked for two weeks should you need to isolate. Toilet paper was in short supply, along with some other staples like pasta and tuna. There was a general sense of unease around the place.

It was also the time when I started working from home. I returned one last time to the office of my old job on Tuesday the following week. The city was quite quiet. A lot more people were wearing marks and half the cafes were closed for the afternoon. I haven’t been back to that office since. I think the weekend following I stopped meeting my parents for dinner, and only went out for groceries.

I guess it’s hard to describe how scary the situation was at the time. The testing and tracing infrastructure was not yet setup, so nobody really knew where the virus was. The government ensured us that there was no local transmission, but it was difficult to believe them, especially as case numbers were rising rapidly. The reported death rate was also terrifying — up to 3% at the time but higher in certain places. I was fearful of everyone I loved, as well as myself, catching the disease and ending up on a ventilator, or worse, dying. Taiwan was the only country at the time to have curbed the virus: most Western countries were struggling with outbreaks, so at the time I had little faith that Australia would be able to manage the virus as well.

I was also afraid that the lock downs would last until a vaccine is available. At the time medical experts were tempering expectations of a speedy delivery of a vaccine. Turnaround times were usually 1 to 1.5 years. The fact that they were ready the same year was considered a bit of a breakthrough (I guess these things really do happen).

A lot has happened this past 52 weeks. The nation has managed to keep the virus more or less under control. There were setbacks though: the second Melbourne lock down was regrettable. But we have managed to setup a somewhat decent testing and contact tracing regime, along with hotel quarantine, and new local cases have been at or close to zero for most of the past 5 months. Vaccinations of the border workers, front line workers, and people at risk are currently in progress.

A sense of normalcy has returned, in what is generally called “Covid normal”. The borders are still closed to everyone except New Zealanders, and no one is generally permitted to leave the country. Since November, things have pretty much remained more-or-less opened. Events like the AFL are back on with small crowds that are socially distanced.

But the threat remains. Every day I’m looking on Twitter to see what the latest number of new cases is. There’s a constant trickle of positive cases coming in from overseas, where the virus is still raging. There have been new, more contagious and deadly, variants popping up, and it’s a constant struggle to keep them out: we have had to go through a 5 day snap lock-down to stop local transmission of one.

So there’s little to do but wait. I appreciate that we’ve managed to gain some semblance of normalcy back, something that I’m aware others around the world have been denied so far. Eventually this will pass as well, but I’m hoping it doesn’t take another 52 weeks.

I love the idea of HEY World, that you can publish a blog post simply by sending an email. They’ve also put a lot of care into the styling of the posts as well, and each one looks great. It almost makes me want to sign up to try it.