My first day at Culture Foundry

I am excited to pen that title. I’ve joined Culture Foundry, a digital agency that connects the world through beautiful technology. There are a number of reasons I accepted a position with this firm, but a few that jump to mind are:

  • they are good people. This is important as a great job with a bad manager is no fun. A great manager can help make a bad job better.
  • they are working on interesting technology problems, including API integrations and high traffic websites.
  • they are 100% remote. This flexibility is really important to me.
  • they work on stuff their clients’ value.
  • the team is big enough to take on larger projects, but small enough to be agile.

For now, I’m going to be drinking from the fire hose, trying to get up to speed on their systems, so the blogging may slow down a bit. But I’ll definitely be sharing things I learn from this new opportunity. Here’s to new adventures!


One hundred days of blogging every day

This is a meta post, but it’s been 100 days since I started blogging every day. I wanted to celebrate! And I just wanted to note some lessons.

When you blog every day, it doesn’t have to be as good

Before I started the streak, I blogged at least once a month for the previous year or two. During that time, I often spent a lot of time working on my blog post. Not necessarily days, but hours. This was, after all, the only blog post I was writing, so it needed to be really good. But once I committed to writing once a day, I was focused on getting something out. I still wanted to be proud of it, but there wasn’t as much pressure. It could even be something really short, or just a pointer to a different piece that I thought was interesting (like here or here).

Having a streak forces your hand

A streak makes you make time. There were definitely times when it was after dinner and I still hadn’t blogged. If I wasn’t trying to keep a streak going, I’d have skipped that day.

Opinion pieces are easier to write than technical pieces

It was easier (and more popular) to write a piece on the nature of the CTO/co-founder or what a senior engineer is than it was on an interesting rails gem like after_party or the nuances of Stripe Connect integration. Interviews were the easiest post to write, but required a bit more planning.

More content means more readers, but mostly from one offs

In the months before December, I averaged about 4200 visits/month. In the months after, I averaged about 6300, but most of the elevated traffic came on specific days from referral traffic due to posts I had made to Hacker News. Still, the increase in traffic was about 7% even for months when I didn’t have a post that “went viral”

I feel so lucky to have a place to spout off. Thanks for reading.


Hackernews melted my server

My post about Founding Engineers caught the attention of some folks on Hacker News, which is kinda like a focused subreddit for tech folks.  There were some great comments.  My server melted down, though, and some folks had to read the google cached version.  I think the post peaked at around #25 on the front page.  Can’t imagine what a pounding the number one post gets.

I was able to restart my web server later in the day (the post unfortunately happened at the same time I was doing a release of The Food Corridor application), and saw from my web stats that I had as many people visit on that one day as I get in a typical week.  That was only the folks that my stats system was able to capture, so I’m guessing there were a lot more.

I have thought for a long time about making my wordpress site publish to s3, using a tool like simply static.  I haven’t done that yet, but was able to leverage WP Super Cache’s CDN integration to serve up the static assets of the blog from CloudFront, AWS’s CDN.  This post was very helpful.

 


A blog post every work day for December

Dear Reader,

I’m planning to do a personal challenge the month of December.  I’m going to write a blog post every Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday of the month (excepting any holidays).  Most of the topics will be technical, but some may focus on leadership.

I’m writing this blog post and publishing it in late November to give you a ‘heads up’.  Some of you receive my blog via email, and I wanted to give you a warning and let you unsubscribe if this flurry of posts wasn’t intriguing.

Thanks!

Dan


Dan Moore! Turns 13

number-437931_640Thirteen years ago, I wrote and posted my first blog post, about RSS. Since then, this blog has been a great journey for me: over 750 published posts and over 1300 approved comments.  I can’t even bear to count the number of spam comments!  It has been moved around three different blogging software platforms.  The world has obviously changed radically as well.

I’m not going to post any “best of” links, but I will say I’ve enjoyed blogging tremendously.  It’s allowed me to track progress in my career, test out ideas for books and engage with others. And, like all writing, blogging forces me to really think.

I wrote recently about why I blog (for myself), but I’m also very thankful for the emails, the comments and the pageviews.  Thank you, audience!

Who knows what will happen as my blog continues to grow up?


Blog for yourself

In my perusal of Twitter, I came across this piece by Dave Winer (the creator of RSS and an interesting, provocative blogger): What I learned from Om and Hossein.

The whole piece is worth a read (it’s short), but here’s the quote that resonated for me:

I write my blog not because I want to write a “good” blog post, or even one that’s read by a lot of people. And my own self is not scattered, it’s right here, and as long as I live it will continue to be here. And my online self doesn’t exist for the benefit of others, it’s here to help my real self develop his thinking and create a trail of ideas and feelings and experiences that I can look back on later.

Blogging for me has always been about the ability to engage with my ideas and experiences, and if others gain from it, the more the merrier. Of course, it’s hard not to check stats and subscribers, etc, etc, but the real win for me comes from when I’m searching for the answer to a question and my blog pops up.


How to maintain motivation when blogging

clock photoAnother year slipped by! They seem to come faster and faster, just as promised by all the old men in the comic strips I read when growing up.

I recently had a couple of conversations about blogging: how to start, why to do it, how to maintain it. I thought I’d capture some of my responses.

After over twelve years of blogging (that’s correct, in 2016 my blog is a teenager!), here are the three reasons that I keep at it.

  • Writing crystallizes the mind. Writing a piece, especially a deep technical piece, clarifies my understanding of the problem (it’s similar to writing an email to the world, in some ways). Sometimes it will turn up items I hadn’t considered, or other questions to search on. It’s easy to hold a fuzzy concept in my mind, but when written down, the holes in my knowledge become more evident.
  • Writing builds credibility. I have received a number of business inquiries from my writing. (I suspect there’d be more if my blog were more focused. The excellent “How to start blogging” course from John Sonmez is worth signing up for.  The number one thing to have a successful blog is subject matter focus. But I have a hard time limiting myself to a single topic. Maybe I’m building credibility as a generalist?) And I’ve had a few people interview me for positions and mention they found this blog. It’s easy to say “I know technology XXX” in an interview or consulting situation, but I have found it to be powerful and credible to say “Ah yes, I’ve seen technology XXX before. I wrote a post about it six months ago. Let me send that to you.”
  • Writing helps others. I have had friends mention that they were looking for solutions for something and stumbled across my blog. In fact, I’ve been looking for solutions to issues myself and stumbled onto a post from my blog, so even my future self thanks me for blogging.  I don’t have many comments (real ones, at least. The spam, oh, the spam), but the ones that are left often thank me for helping them out. And I know I have been helped tremendously by posts written by others, so writing pays this help forward.

Of course, these reasons apply to almost all writing–whether magazine, comments on social networks, twitter, medium, answers on stack overflow or something else.  So why continue to write on “Dan Moore!”?  Well, I did try medium recently, and am relatively active on Twitter, HackerNews and StackOverflow, and slightly less active on other social sites like Reddit and Lobste.rs.  All these platforms are great, but my beef with all of them is the same–you are trading control for audience.  As long as I pay my hosting bill and keep my domain registered, my content will be ever-present.  In addition, my blog can weave all over the place as my available time and interests change.

If you blog, I’d love to hear your reasons for doing so.  If you don’t, would love to hear what is keeping you from doing so.


Year in review, aka what did I ship in 2015

What did I ship (or help ship) in 2015?

(I did this a few years ago, and then became an employee.  Though it is probably even more important to think about what you ship as an employee, when I am a contractor it is easier to publicize it.)

  • Rewrote my farm share directory to support multiple states, numerous bugfixes and a new feature to let folks add reviews.
  • Sent seven newsletters for said farm share directory.
  • An email course to educate consumers about farm shares.
  • Helped take a video to structured data project from failure to success.  I was brought in as a senior engineer to a team and helped with porting an admin app from one environment to another, reviewed and fixed python program which took video and generated images, managing datasets for training, writing java microservices around C libraries, documenting processes, and coordinating with an overseas team as needed.
  • Set up secor to pull logging from kafka to s3, as well as setting up java processes to log to kafka.
  • Helped integrate Activiti into a custom workflow engine, and promoted a test first culture on the team I worked with.
  • Dropped in and helped troubleshoot an e-commerce system with which I was totally unfamiliar during an emergency.
  • Learned enough ruby on rails and Stripe to add an online order form to an existing Heroku website.
  • Helped build a backend system to monitor phone and car locations to prevent texting and driving.  My role on this small team varied between devops, java development, QA, code review, defining process and documentation.
  • Installed and tuned an elk stack used for business intelligence and developer debugging.
  • Took my wife’s writing and turned it into a book (best surprise ever).
  • Wrote 34 blog posts.

Of course, there were other personal milestones too, like camping with the kiddos, getting solar installed, road trips, and date nights with the wife.  All in all, a great year.  Here’s to 2016.


The power of SQL–WP edition

lightning photoI’ve noticed a lot of comment spam lately, and had been dealing with it piecemeal. I have all comments moderated, so it wasn’t affecting the user experience, but I was getting email reminders to moderate lots of comments that were not English and/or advertising something.

WordPress lets you turn off comments for a post, but it is tedious through the GUI. So, I dove into the wordpress database, and ran this SQL query:

update wp_posts set comment_status = 'closed' where post_date < '2014-01-01';

This sets comments to closed for all posts from 2013 or earlier (over 1000 posts).  The power of the command line is the ability to repeat yourself effortlessly.  (The drawback of the command line is its obscurity.)

I should probably write a cron job to do that every year, as posts older than two years old aren’t commented on much. To be honest, the comments section of ‘Dan Moore!’ isn’t used much at all–I know some blogs (AVC) have vibrant comments areas, but I never tried to foster a community.


RSS Pick: Dion Almaer

dion almaer photo

Photo by marcosfernandez

I think that the RSS reader is such a fantastic invention. It lets me monitor many bloggers and news sites, and see new content.  This lets you have an eye on lots of writers, including some that haven’t written for a long time.  I’m going to be highlighting blogs that I follow, one per month.

The first is Dion Almaer’s, who, unfortunately, has moved most of his writing to Medium.  But Dion is a great technologist.  He currently is employed at WalmartLabs Mobile.  He’s written such gems as:

Your coding voice:

When people ask me about Java and why I don’t often write applications in it, my answer is not that I think “Java sucks”. I think the JVM is amazing technology, and there are a ton of fantastic APIs. Using Java is a great answer for many situations. However, the least amount of fun that I have had programming has been when using the Java language. It isn’t just that it feels frustratingly verbose, although that is part of it.

and Browsers are Finally Catching Up (in 2009):

But, the browsers are finally changing. The new crop come with technologies that show that the browser vendors are thinking about building a platform for desktop quality applications. The Chrome comic book was full of this.

Remember the Chrome Comic Book?

Dion, thanks for sharing your knowledge, please resurrect your blog!  (Dion, I know this is an old photo–feel free to send me a new one and I’ll update this post.)



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