What Women Tell Me

Someday I’ll write a companion blog post about what men tell me, but today I want to write about what I’ve learned by listening to women over the last few years.

Why do I care? It’s because women tell me things that men rarely, sometimes never tell me. I failed to notice this for the longest time, but when I started to, I decided to sit up and listen, hard.

Disclaimer: I’m not saying that men don’t care or talk about these types of things. In fact, many of these episodes of sexism came to me through a man’s Twitter post. BUT WOMEN RETWEETED IT TO ME.

Gramophone

I will now present things I have heard only or mostly from women, in many cases without attribution to the original author or the woman who drew this to my attention (because I think that’s the safest thing to do).

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Feelings and Behaviors

It’s a new year and I drew a diagram.

Feelings and Behaviors

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Why I Don't Give Personal Tech Support

I don’t give personal, one-to-one technical support for open source software I’ve created, nor do I help people with SQL or other questions. The reasons are not obvious to many people, and this blog is meant to document them. What do I mean by personal tech support? I mean I don’t use private email or other means to answer questions about software I’ve created. I don’t troubleshoot bugs or answer how-to questions individually.

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Beware Of The Only Correct Way To Do It

Everyone who’s been successful at creating something remarkable, and scaling it, likely has developed into a repeatable process. If they hadn’t, they wouldn’t have scaled it, and you’d never have heard of it. (There are lots of geniuses you’ve never heard of who’ve created remarkable results at an individual level.)

A lot of times they’ll go through several iterations of massive success with this, then write some books, found a consulting company, go on the speaking circuit, and so on. And almost always, they seem to demand rigid adherence to specific sacred-cow principles that must remain inviolate.

You should be really skeptical of anything that smells like this. Sacred cows make the best steaks, and here’s why.

Mugs

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The Ultimate Pen

In The Ultimate Notebook, I reviewed a large list of notebooks I bought in my quest for the perfect one for me. (I’m happy to say that I’ve been using the Quo Vadis Habana in Raspberry exclusively for a while). But what about the perfect pen? Ah, pens. As much a personal matter as notebooks are. I’ve tried a variety of pens. Here’s my review of some of them.

Pens

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Respectful Introductions and Recommendations

In the last few years of my career, I’ve increasingly been involved in meeting people. This often involves requests or offers for recommendations, introductions, and so forth.

I’ve learned to be very careful about making or accepting such offers or requests, and I’d like to share my current thoughts about that with you, because a lot of trouble can come of a seemingly innocent request or offer.

Elephant

The Stakes Are High

“Martha, that’s so great that you are starting a business in the diabetes care industry! You should really meet my friend Jack. He could be extremely helpful to you, and I am sure he would appreciate knowing about your startup.”

Does that sound so dangerous? Believe me, it is. A lot is on the line for you, Martha, and Jack. Consider:

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Early-access books: a double-edged sword

Many technical publishers offer some kind of “early access” to unfinished versions of books. Manning has MEAP, for example, and there’s even LeanPub which is centered on this idea. I’m not a fan of buying these, in most circumstances. Why not? Many authors never finish their books. A prominent example: Nathan Marz’s book on Big Data was supposed to be published in 2012; the date has been pushed back to March 2014 now.

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Napkin math: How much waste does Celestial Seasonings save?

I was idly reading the Celestial Seasonings box today while I made tea. Here’s the end flap: It seemed hard to believe that they really save 3.5 million pounds of waste just by not including that extra packaging, so I decided to do some back-of-the-napkin math. How much paper is in each package of non-Celestial-Seasonings tea? The little bag is about 2 inches by 2 inches, it’s two-sided, and there’s a tag, staple, and string.

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Freeing some Velocity videos

Following my previous post on Velocity videos, I had some private email conversations with good folks at O’Reilly, and a really nice in-person exchange with a top-level person as well. I was surprised to hear them encourage me to publish my videos online freely! I still believe that nothing substitutes for the experience of attending an O’Reilly conference in-person, but I’ll also be the first to admit that my talks are usually more conceptual and academic than practical, and designed to start a conversation rather than to tell you the Truth According To Baron.

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Get out of your comfort zone

One of the most valuable life skills you can ever develop is to overcome the urge to stay within your comfort zone. If you stay where you’re familiar and feel safe, two things might happen: You might find out that it’s not safe after all. Bad things can happen where you feel at home just as well as out of the familar. Nothing good will happen. You might skate through life without even living it.

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Is soliciting a review commercial or transactional?

I’ve booked rooms through hotels.com a few times, and they always send me followup emails asking me to rate the stay and so forth. In my view this is commercial/marketing email, not transactional, and I should be able to opt out of it. I don’t want to get the emails and I don’t want to rate the hotels, in part because I don’t believe in the validity of such ratings/reviews (reference, reference).

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More Notebooks and Journals!

Something interesting happened after I published my ultimate notebook and journal face-off blog post a couple of months ago. I received an email from a company called Grandluxe, asking if I’d like to receive some stationery products in hopes that if I liked them, I’d write a review on them. I had never heard of them before, but they’ve been making paper products for 68 years, and apparently are trying to break out of the Asian market into international territory.

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Using encryption? You're suspicious

Yesterday more details on the NSA’s secret and illegal monitoring activities were revealed. (Yes, the NSA revealed some things themselves, but as far as I can tell, that was only a conciliatory effort and didn’t actually reveal more details – just more talk.) Remember my recent series of blog posts, where I claimed that privacy in today’s world is impossible without trustworthy hardware/software, privacy is impossible unless it’s default, and privacy is essentially unachievable because of the scope of the problem, and the way we’ve built our society and technologies?

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The Ultimate Notebook

If you’re like me, you spend so much time typing on a computer that a good notebook or journal is one of life’s finer pleasures. I’ve kept a diary of my personal life for close to 30 years now, and I have a shelf full of journals. I’ve found a great many that I enjoy writing in, and choosing a different one each time is part of the fun.

But thus far, my quest for a notepad has been unsatisfying. Many notepads have loved me, but I’m sorry to say their love has been unrequited. I’ve tried all the usual things: Moleskine, loose-leaf paper, binders, what have you. But I never found something that is practical, functional, a joy to write on, and a pleasure to look at and hold. I just can’t settle into a long-term relationship with my notebook, because I haven’t met The Right One yet.

Notebook

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The moment I first held my newborn daughter in my arms

This is a personal post, not a technical one. We tell ourselves a lot of lies that are not okay. I want to out one of them. It is important to be real, to be true to oneself. This matters. The lie starts something like this: the moment I held my newborn child in my arms, I looked into her tiny face and felt an all-encompassing, pure love. I was breathless.

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Why building a free service can be a disservice

Like many others, I don’t think that RSS is dead. It’s my favorite way to keep up with highly valuable content on the Web. So I’m in the market for a replacement for Google Reader, along with millions of others. As I’ve evaluated options, I’ve had to eliminate some of them because I’m not sure they’re serious about what they’re doing. This post is about my thought process and why I think entrepreneurs should challenge themselves to get serious, and signal that intent, by not building free services.

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What's the lesson from daily deals sites?

I found myself in a, ahem, lively discussion with someone recently. It started when I said “there was always something wrong about the daily deals businesses (i.e. Groupon), but I’m sure they’ll teach us what’s really needed.” Turns out this person ran a local daily-deals site. Oops. My feeling is that anytime something doesn’t take root and grow into a lasting business, there’s a lesson to learn. Early social-networking sites weren’t quite a match with needs.

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Model-view-controller considered harmful

In 2001 I created a PHP 4 web application framework from scratch as the backbone of a sophisticated application. Back then frameworks weren’t cool. Smarty templates were the hotness.

My framework had URL routing, templates with a capable templating syntax similar to mustache, loosely coupled and tightly cohesive object-oriented design, an elegant way to access the database without dumbing it down, and nicely separated business logic and presentation layers – among many other nice things you find in good frameworks. As the application grew more and more complex, the framework continued to serve well with only occasional enhancements. It’s still in use more than a decade later.

I mention this because I think I’ve been reasonably capable of designing maintainable systems for a long time. But the so-called MVC paradigm (model, view, controller) has never made sense to me.

Rectabular Excrusion Bracket

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A review of Republic Wireless's cellphone service

I’ve been trying out Republic Wireless, a startup that offers very inexpensive wireless service: $19 for unlimited talk, text, and data. In a nutshell: they resell Sprint’s network, and you agree to connect to wifi as much as possible; they use the Internet instead of the cell network when you’re on wifi. I thought for $19/month it wouldn’t hurt to give it a try. After several months, my experience has been that it isn’t worth using at all, no matter how cheap it is.

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The right way to do social

The technology industry moves incredibly fast, from one bubble to another. Web 2.0. Online auctions. (Remember when the Internet was filled with hundreds of eBay clones?) Social. Mobile. Location-based. Big Data. Whatever. I don’t think anyone will call me insightful for observing that the general idea of “social” had a peak in its hype cycle some time ago. I’d say three years ago was really the peak. At some point, lots of people were excited about applying social-ness to everything.

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