How to build human connections in an async workplace

This is a great post by Chase Warrington for the Twist Async newsletter on How to build human connections in an async workplace. They make this really important point about what human connection is actually about on a remote team:

I’ve come to realize that team culture and human connection is primarily built by how you work together—not how you socialize together. […]

The work we do is what actually brings us together. That’s ok (and frankly healthy) to admit. One of the biggest benefits of remote work is that it provides you the opportunity to spend more on the people and things you care about outside of work. Let’s not sabotage that with a bunch of forced and awkward social events for teammates to attend on top of their work duties.

I think we forget this too often. Doing a fun online social activity together doesn’t improve team culture if we haven’t also made sure that actually working together is safe, healthy, and enjoyable.

How the fediverse can help us collaborate better at work

Mehul Kar says he’s not super excited about the “fediverse” in the context of social media. However, he sees a huge need for The Fediverse At Work. The issue? The lack of integration across all the tools we use at work has become incredibly tedious and hard to keep track of:

Sometimes there are Figma design specs, with their own set of comments. And Loom walkthroughs, also with comments and likes. And any number of other things over time. The combinatorial complexity of these tools across these platforms (not to mention emails) can be quite messy to track. It’s really hard to remember where a conversation took place. Coworkers often repeat the same text in multiple places, prefixing with phrases like “Shared this in Notion comment also, but…” or “Just left a review, but high level: …”.

He believes that a decentralized platform for all these tools to effectively talk to each other would be hugely beneficial:

Maybe the protocols that make up the Fediverse can help. What if, instead of sharing a Github Pull Request URL in Slack, your Slack team channel could instead be subscribed to the Github repository. Maybe new Pull Requests are broadcasted to followers, and replies from Slack users to those posts are sent as comments to the Pull Request in addition to being threaded in Slack. Maybe the Notion document is treated the same way. Maybe the Loom walk through is a reply to a Slack thread, and comments on the video appear in Slack. Maybe the Slack thread is a series of comments displayed on a Figma design.

There are more examples in his post. I really hope we can get to this type of philosophy for our work tools. It does sound a little bit like the problem that Luro is trying to solve.

Link roundup for February 15, 2023

AMEN by Jessica Hilltout. “The aim of AMEN was to shine the light on all those in the shadow of the World Cup, far from the big stadiums and the corporate carnival-nature of the event. To embrace Africa and everything that makes it unique. To speak of the authenticity and sheer ingenuousness of a continent that manages to do so much with so little. To capture people with simple needs and huge hearts. To express football in its purest form.” []

God Did the World a Favor by Destroying Twitter. I love Paul Ford. “Our smarter, richer betters often preach the idea of a town square, a marketplace of ideas, a centralized hub of discourse and entertainment—and we listen. But when I go back and read Genesis, I hear God saying: ‘My children, I designed your brains to scale to 150 stable relationships. Anything beyond that is overclocking. You should all try Mastodon.’” []

SolidGoldMagikarp (plus, prompt generation). This is all super weird and shows that we really have no idea what’s going on with these LLMs. Are we really ready for this stuff to become the backbone of internet search? “We’ll demonstrate a previously undocumented failure mode for GPT-2 and GPT-3 language models, which results in bizarre completions (in some cases explicitly contrary to the purpose of the model), and present the results of our investigation into this phenomenon.” []

Hey, Ease Up; A Load-Bearing If-Statement. What happens if, for health reasons, you need to use a fitness tracker to move less? “But if you’re trying to conserve energy, you don’t want to reach that goal. You want to stay under it. Sure, you want to maybe get up and about, I guess? Take a very slow short walk outside? But you are supposed to be resting.” []

Scientists Develop Compound That Kills So Efficiently They Named It After Keanu Reeves. “The molecules ‘kill so efficiently that we named them after Keanu Reeves,’ German researcher Sebastian Götze said in a press release, ‘because he, too, is extremely deadly in his roles.’” []

Buy Nothing groups and the culture of free stuff. This deep-dive into the things people post in Buy Nothinggroups (and that actually get picked up!) is quite something. “There is something about free stuff that makes us abandon all rational thought.” [, soft paywall]

The mystery of the disappearing vacation day. Why have we stopped taking regular vacations? “Many were on a paid-time-off (PTO) plan that lumps sick days, personal days and vacation days in a single bucket. While workers often appreciate the flexibility of PTO and employers find it easier to administer, such plans can deter taking long vacations by making us feel as if we’re cutting into the PTO we might need in case of sudden illness or tragedy.” [, gift article link]

Nope, coffee won’t give you extra energy. It’ll just borrow a bit that you’ll pay for later. Ok listen, don’t come at me with your “facts”, please. “While it feels energizing, this little caffeine intervention is more a loan of the awake feeling, rather than a creation of any new energy.” []

Principles for building software for developers

Kathy Korevec started a series about her principles for building software/tools for developers. Since I work on Postmark—one such tool—I read the intro post with great interest. The second installment is on the principle she calls You are a chef cooking for chefs:

Developers are masters of building applications, so when you’re building tools and experiences for them, you’re cooking in their kitchen. You can marvel at the delight you bring to the experience because no one can appreciate your hard work more than another developer. Developers can spot inconsistencies, antipatterns, and hurdles a mile away, so you must pay close attention to these details. At the same time, they know the challenges, understand the concerns, appreciate the details, and can provide crucial feedback to make your product even better.

This is one of the main reasons why I love working on developer tools. It’s an audience that can be brutal critics. But for the most part they do that because they care and want to see the product succeed—not because they want to fight just for the sake of it. And because they care, feedback generally have a degree of specificity that is invaluable for troubleshooting, use case discovery, and improving the product.

Anyway, this looks like a fantastic series and I can’t wait to read the rest. You can sign up for Kathy’s newsletter here.

Mono no aware

What would happen if we look at time through the lens of attachment theory? That’s the question my friend Simon asks in Attachment Styles to Time. I definitely have an “anxious attachment style” with time:

An anxiously attached person to time will try to arrest it: to find comfort again in a space where time felt distant. A coping strategy is to try and keep things the way they were. To hold onto people and places even if you aren’t present anymore.

The framing also reminds me of the Japanese phrase Mono no aware:

Mono no aware (物の哀れ), lit. ’the pathos of things’, and also translated as ‘an empathy toward things’, or ‘a sensitivity to ephemera’, is a Japanese idiom for the awareness of impermanence (無常, mujō), or transience of things, and both a transient gentle sadness (or wistfulness) at their passing as well as a longer, deeper gentle sadness about this state being the reality of life.

That is also basically what the entire “synthwave” genre is about so if you’d like to hear what that concept sounds like as a song, just make your way over to Los Angeles by The Midnight.

Advice For Engineers, From A Manager

Marco Rogers has been an engineer and manager of engineers for 20 years. In this post he shares some short, practical (but not always easy to follow!) advice for engineers. A few of my favorites:

  • Learn what the true scope of the project needs to be. Back away from “story points” and understand what the project needs to accomplish. More context about the goals will help you negotiate what’s in and what’s out of scope.
  • Collaborate on designs. Designs never have the level of detail that matters. When you run into UX problems, work with people to develop a solution. Don’t just ask for more mocks. Own the details of what you’re building.
  • Don’t just write code. Solve problems. Make sure you understand the value of your work and you talk to people about that. Not just “features”. For example, “this needs to ship by Fall because it’s our big strategic bet for the year.” Tell people how to achieve the strategic goal.

Read the rest of his post for the others.

Link roundup for February 11, 2023

Cassettes Are Making a Comeback, But Can Production Keep Up? “After music cassettes died in the late ’90s, National Audio kept busy with cassettes for instructional materials, spoken-word bibles and Library of Congress work until indie bands and labels came calling as early as 2006. ‘Suddenly, we were back in business,’ Stepp says.” I love that story. []

Things I Do Not Like Hearing. I appreciate a well-written personal grievances post. This one—about phrases the author doesn’t like—is bound to become a classic of the genre. “I have never read the words ‘friendly reminder’ and not imagined that person seething, incandescent, smoke blowing out of their ears like a hot kettle, just absolutely furious. I simply don’t believe you. I do not think that you think we are friends or that this interaction is friendly. If you want to fight, we can fight.” []

Engagement, Attention, Shining a Light. This is a great writing goal: “My goal is for my writing to engage readers on a ‘shared inquiry’ level, where whatever I am saying is not viewed as a declaration that demands agreement, but an exploration attempting to illuminate the subject at hand in a way that encourages the reader to go exploring with a light of their own.” []

A library of words. I bet you didn’t think you’d want to read about the real purpose of a Thesaurus today, but you’re going to have to trust me. This post is fantastic. “The purpose of an ordinary Dictionary is to simply explain the meaning of the words. After you look up the word, you are given the idea the word is supposed to convey. The Thesaurus is supposed to work in the opposite direction: you start with an idea, and then you find the words to express it. A dictionary turns words into ideas and a thesaurus turns ideas into words.” []

SF’s Market Street Subway Is Running on Floppy Disks. This is quite something. “SFMTA is hardly unique in using them, however. As recently as 2020, British Airways was loading avionics software onto 747s via floppy disk.” I also love that they felt the need to include a photo of a floppy disk in the article. []

Latex, severed legs and fake erections: why is a whole new generation obsessed with DVD menus? This is a wonderful homage to the lost art of DVD menus. “Some turn-of-the-century landing pages were so imaginative they cut through into popular consciousness: 2003’s House of 1,000 Corpses featured a murderous clown directly addressing (and mocking) the viewer, while the Harry Potter DVD let viewers choose a wand, cast spells, and solve puzzles to access deleted scenes.” []

An Imperfect List of Books Like “Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow”. This is my favorite book I’ve read in a long time. Good list of others to try. []

20 Things I’ve Learned in my 20 Years as a Software Engineer

Old technologies that have stuck around are sharks, not dinosaurs. They solve problems so well that they have survived the rapid changes that occur constantly in the technology world. Don’t bet against these technologies, and replace them only if you have a very good reason. These tools won’t be flashy, and they won’t be exciting, but they will get the job done without a lot of sleepless nights.

—Justin Etheredge, 20 Things I’ve Learned in my 20 Years as a Software Engineer.


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