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Taylor Swift and the Good Girl Trap

You know an essay is going to be good when this is the preamble:

I am writing this piece in good faith (that you, as a reader, like to think more about the culture that surrounds you, whether it’s culture you love or hate or are ambivalent about) and that you are in turn reading in good faith (that I do not hate Taylor Swift, that this is not a takedown, that we’re talking about Swift’s image but we’re also talking about people’s reaction to that image).

But yes, this is a really timely and poignant piece by Anne Helen Peterson about Taylor Swift and the impossible trajectory of celebrity:

But sometimes, when you keep on winning — awards, sure, but also in your career — it doesn’t matter who you are or how hard you worked for those achievements. People are going to find it harder to root for you. It’s when domination turns into over-saturation: when honest missteps become weaponized, when the interpersonal comes to feel emblematic, when every move becomes overdetermined.

Whose job is it?

This is another fantastic post on career development from Johnathan and Melissa Nightingale. This bit really resonated with me:

I want to feel like I’m making progress. And to feel like the various work experiences I’ve had are all building toward a thing. I want to be able to talk about work, not as a string of jobs I’ve done, but as a career.

The Law of Propinquity And The Work From Home Dilemma

Here’s a solid, research-based take on remote work by Paul Taylor. He discusses what type of work is usually more successful when done in person vs. remotely:

If you are doing solid repeatable work, or work that requires intense solo concentration, you can work from pretty much anywhere. If you are in a discovery phase of work, and trying to fuse ideas together from multiple viewpoints remote working might be a hindrance.

It reminds me of a saying I heard somewhere: “In-person is where decisions happen, remote is where work happens.” I also really like this (new to me) concept:

The law of propinquity states that the greater physical (or psychological) proximity between people, the greater the chance that they will form friendships or romantic relationships. Other things being equal, the more we see people and interact with them, the more probable we are to like them.

No running in airports

Every time I travel, just before I leave the house, I do a weird thing. I stop at the front door of our house, look myself in the mirror, and say out loud: “Remember, no running in airports today”. Travel is inherently stressful and I’ve found that once it boils over into having to run to catch a flight, I lose my ability to deal with things well. So I try to remind myself to keep calm and walk on.

Of course, there are a lot of variables in the “no running in airports” equation that are out of my control. A delay might cause a tight connection. A messed up security line could take longer than expected. I could miss a gate reassignment and try to board the wrong flight (yes, that happened). And yet, that statement helps to ground me in the two most important things I can do to stay in control of my travel day: be prepared (know when to go where, renew my Flighty subscription, etc.), and pay attention to detail (um, just, you know… read the gate assignment right).

I was thinking about this as I was getting ready to head into another workweek. There seems to be a lot of “running in airports” going on in the tech world right now, and it sometimes feels like it gets too much to handle. So what would it mean in a work context to look in the mirror on Monday morning and say out loud: “Remember, no running in airports today”? Yes, lots of variables are out of our control, but how could we be prepared and pay attention to detail in a way that reduces some of the likelihood of that happening?

For me? I could be prepared by looking ahead at my calendar and making sure I am spending my time in the right meetings—and that I go into them knowing exactly what is expected of me and what we expect to get out of them. I could try to anticipate “delayed flights”—those unexpected wrenches in projects—and what I could do to get things back on track if that happens.

I could pay attention to detail by listening intently when people speak, by hearing the meanings and feelings underneath the words in meetings where things seem a little wobbly. By noticing when “a gate assignment changed” (no, I’ll never stop being embarrassed about that one) and preemptively figuring out how and why it happened and what I can do about it.

There are, of course, no guarantees. But I still firmly believe that teams make better products in calm environments. Just like in travel, we can’t really create calm. The planes are going to do what they do. But we can remind ourselves that the goal is not to run, and that we have some agency over that.

Here’s to not running in airports this week.

Why using a Now/Next/Later roadmap might be right for you

I was recently asked by a colleague to write up our team’s reasoning for using a Now/Next/Later roadmap to plan our work (instead of quarterly/annual roadmaps with dates). If you already use Now/Next/Later nothing in here will be new to you, but I thought I’d share what I wrote for this internal document in case it’s useful to anyone hoping to make this shift as well.

We use an adapted version of a Now/Next/Later roadmap to plan our work. You can read more about this approach in Introduction to Lean Roadmapping by its creator, Janna Bastow. In short, here are the guiding principles for using this roadmap and why it is effective:

  • Deadline-driven development is fraught with issues that make it a fairly ineffective way to plan delivery work. This includes:
    • Long-term priorities frequently change based on new data and developments, so any planning past a few months out is mostly fiction and rarely happens as planned.
    • Deadlines are often set without input from the delivery teams who are building the product, which makes estimates inaccurate and difficult to attain.
    • Because deadlines are often arbitrary, delivery teams have to make quality tradeoffs to meet the dates, which introduces unnecessary technical debt into the system.
  • Using a Now/Next/Later approach helps delivery teams know what is most important to work on, and what is coming down the road.
    • “Now” means Now–it is literally the work that is in flight. This work should be limited to 1–2 projects per team to ensure effective delivery.
      • Changes to “Now” should only happen in the rarest of occasions so as not to interrupt work in flight.
    • “Next” means anything from 2–8 weeks from now. This is work that is planned and ready to go as soon as a team becomes available. It has been spec’d and scoped, and everyone agrees it’s the next important thing. We limit not only Work In Progress (Now), but also Work in Next, so that there are not too many priorities vying for attention.
      • Changes to “Next” should happen infrequently since the work is planned and the team will be ready to go at any moment.
    • “Later” means anything from 2–6 months from now. This is work we believe is important to be prioritized, but it hasn’t been fully spec’d and scoped yet.
      • Changes to “Later” can–and often does–happen whenever new data becomes available that makes us shift priorities. This is expected and encouraged, until the project moves to “Next” where it gets locked in and fully spec’d.
    • We cheated and added “Much Later”, which lists things that we think will be 6–12 months out. The likelihood of these projects changing are high, but it is good to have a long-term view on what we believe, with the current information we have, will be important for the business and our customers to work one.

We do acknowledge and recognize that delivery dates are important. We prefer to work with high-integrity commitments, which are dates that delivery teams commit to once they have had a chance to properly scope out a project (which sometimes means getting started without a completion date set).

The teams are accountable to these dates because they have been involved in setting them, and though they can change based on unknowns, these changes should be infrequent.

Removing React is just weakness leaving your codebase

I’ve been seeing a lot of this type of sentiment about React recently…

By my reckoning, if you’ve maintained a React codebase for the past decade, you’ve re-written your application at least three times and possibly four. […]

By choosing React, we’ve signed up for a lot of unplanned work. Think of the value we could have produced for our users and company if we weren’t subject to the whims of whatever the cool kids were doing over in React.

Domestic Inequality Starts in Childhood

We already know that actions > words but this is still really interesting research:

Daughters of dads who talked a good talk about gender equality—but who nevertheless didn’t do as much as their partners in terms of domestic labor—had lower career aspirations than daughters of dads who pulled their weight around the house.

How platforms killed Pitchfork

This is such a good point about music discovery and the abundance of choice:

Before Spotify, when presented with a new album, we would ask: why listen to this? After Spotify, we asked: why not?

I also like this sentiment:

On one level it’s impressive that Spotify can perfectly capture my musical taste in a series of data points, and regurgitate it to me in a series of weekly playlists. But as good as it has gotten, I can’t remember the last time it pointed me to something I never expected I would like, but ultimately fell totally in love with.

For that you needed someone who could go beyond the data to tell you the story: of the artist, of the genre, of the music they made. For that you needed criticism.

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