The WordPress.com Desktop Apps Will Make You Want to Blog More Often

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Just before Thanksgiving Automattic opened sourced Calypso and released the beautiful WordPress.com Mac App. The Mac app and the Calypso post editor within it are the main reasons why I’ve been able to keep up this blogging streak for as long as I have (this post will the last in the streak at day #30).

For me the editor makes all the difference in the world. If the UI is bloated or slow or contains frustrating bugs, it really distracts me from the writing experience. Fortunately the new Calypso editor is none of these things. It’s clean and fast and makes me want to write more often, not less.

We also released a Windows and Linux version this month giving you no excuse not to try one of them out for your WordPress.com or Jetpack-enabled site.

Thank you to everyone at Automattic who made them possible.

JavaScript Dates with Moment.js

One of the biggest frustrations developers deal with is working with dates. For an excellent overview of why dates are so complicated, check out JavaScript dates, trains, Passover, and Henry VIII by Curtis Autery.

When it comes to working with dates, JavaScript will make you want to hit your head against your desk. Even for simple tasks, working with JavaScript’s Date object can be a major hassle. It lacks a lot of basic functionality that you’d expect like being able to format a date/time a certain way, adding or subtracting from dates, working with locales, and a lot more.

There are hacky ways to accomplish these things as the thousands of StackOverflow posts about JavaScript dates can attest, but save yourself the trouble and check out moment.js.

Moment.js is an awesome library that makes working with dates in JavaScript a lot less painful. Dare I say it, maybe even enjoyable. Rather than give an incomplete introduction to its features here, scroll through the Moment.js docs page to see everything that you can do with it.

And next time you find yourself writing new Date in your code, take 30 seconds to download moment.js and save yourself hours of frustration.

What we can learn from the math behind small probabilities

In high school stats class we had a homework assignment during our section on probabilities that went something like this:

A rock climber estimates his odds of dying on an individual climb are 1 in 1,000. What is the probability that he’ll die before his 1,000th climb?

Kind of morbid, but I’ve always remembered it because it has a non-intuitive answer for reasons that we can apply to a lot of real-world situations.

Many people will answer that the climber’s odds of dying after 1,000 climbs are 1 in 1,000, but that’s incorrect. It’s true that his odds of dying on an individual climb are 1 in 1,000, but we have to account for the fact that he’s doing those individual climbs 1,000 times.

The math works out like this:

His odds of dying on an individual climb are 1 in 1,000 (0.001) meaning his odds of surviving are 999 in 1,000 (0.999). His odds of surviving 2 climbs is 0.999 * 0.999, his odds of surviving 3 climbs is 0.999 * 0.999 * 0.999, his odds of surviving n climbs is 0.999^n. For 1,000 climbs, his probability of surviving is 0.999^1000 or 0.368, meaning he’ll die 63.2% of the time before he reaches his 1,000th climb. Ouch.

How can we us this to our advantage? Consider a more uplifting example:

You’re a junior developer and estimate there’s only a 1 in 50 chance of getting hired by a large Silicon Valley software company. What are your odds of getting hired after 10 interviews? 1 – 0.98^10 = 18%. After 25 interviews it’s 40%, after 50 interviews it’s 64%. For each individual interview there’s a 1 in 50 chance of getting hired, but because you keep interviewing, that 1 in 50 will likely eventually happen [1].

To sum it up:

Unlikely risks will likely eventually occur if you’re exposed to them often. Similarly, unlikely opportunities will also likely eventually occur if you’re exposed to them often.

Use the latter to your advantage by pursuing big opportunities even if you don’t think it’s likely they’ll ever happen because if you keep at it, chances are one eventually will.

[1] The reality in both situations is a little bit more complicated because the odds aren’t static. A rock climber that begins climbing with 1 in 1,000 odds of dying will improve his skills as he climbs which decreases his odds of dying. But he or she will also likely be increasing the difficulty of the climbs, possibly negating the decreased odds of dying due to the improved skill. Similarly, the junior developer will hopefully be improving his interviewing skills along the way, making his odds of getting hired better than 1 in 50 the more he interviews.

Busyness implies unclear priorities

In Tim Ferriss’s recent interview with Derek Sivers (transcript here) there’s a really interesting discussion on the idea that being busy implies a lack of control and unclear priorities:

Derek:

Every time people contact you, every time people contact me they say “I know you must be incredibly busy”, and I always think “No, I’m not.” Because I’m in control of my time. I’m on top of it. Busy, to me, seems to imply out of control, you know? Like “Oh my God, I’m so busy! I don’t have any time for this shit!” To me that sounds like a person who’s got no control of their life.

Tim:

No control and unclear priorities.

Derek:

Yes! Exactly. So you asked how it’s applying in my life: on the little tiny day-to-day level, even personal things, even people you meet, even as I’m dating, you have to do the hell yeah or no approach. People ask you to go to events or even people asking to do a phone call or anything. I think “Am I really excited about that?” Almost every time the answer is no. So I say no to almost everything.

As someone who feels busy a lot, this really resonated with me. I’ve accumulated too many things, too many projects, and too many time commitments because I don’t say “no” often enough.

Here are a few work related changes I’m making to try to help:

  • This morning, I left about 25 Slack channels at work. I normally have two groups, one of favorited channels whose disucssions I try to read completely and another larger group of channels that I’m in but don’t try to read completely. I left almost all of the channels in the second group and several from the first. While this won’t free up a ton of time because I wasn’t reading the channels in the un-favorited group anyway, it did declutter Slack a lot which will help me focus more on the discussions that are important to me.
  • I attend several regular virtual hangouts at work that aren’t directly related to what I do on a day to day basis but I usually attend anyway just for awareness of what’s going on at other areas of the company. Some of these aren’t “hell yeah” meetings for me (to use Derek’s terminology) so I probably won’t attend in the future I’m needed.
  • I was following 51 P2s (internal blogs) at Automattic, but many of those were left overs from when I was part of a different team (I was on the Store Team but am now on the Data Team). I unfollowed a bunch, bringing my total to 36 30. Automatticians: there’s an easy way to figure out how many P2s you follow – ping me for details.
  • I uncommitted myself from some projects to allow me to focus more on the projects that are really important to me and to the company. I was a bit uneasy going into the “I no longer want to work on this so that I can focus on these other things” conversations, but folks were understanding and I’m really glad now I did it.

I imagine this exodus will looked pretty suspicious to any coworkers that happen to notice, but rest assured I will be returning after Christmas vacation :).

To wrap up: if you find yourself overwhelmed or busy all the time, try cutting a few things. It might not be easy, but you’ll likely find yourself much more relaxed as you decrease the number of things your plate.

SaaStr

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If you want to learn about venture capital and the world of enterprise SaaS, it’s hard to beat SaaStr, a bullshit-free online resource for all things SaaS.

Reading it over the last few months has really opened up my eyes to how the industry works. The topics range from raising capital, managing companies, the economics of venture capital firms, pricing, hiring, company culture, and more. Check out their best posts for the highlights.

Also, if these topics interest you, you can subscribe to new posts in your favorite RSS reader by searching for “saastr.com”. Highly recommended.

 

Tracking Blog Post Ideas

My friend Adam asked me how I’ve been keeping track of ideas for blog posts. For that and pretty much anything else that involves lists or notes, I use Workflowy:

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When I started this little daily blogging challenge I would have laughed at the idea that I could write every day for more than a few days. I just didn’t feel like I had that much to write about.

But when you force yourself to do a daily blogging challenge, you have to set the bar much lower in your mind for what’s worthy of writing about. If you restrict yourself to only one or two topics or only publish long, insightful posts then you probably won’t be able to blog daily for very long.

When I committed mentally to doing this, I suddenly had a lot of ideas for things that I could write about. They’re kind of scattered and some posts won’t be interesting to many people (and some to none at all), but that’s fine. It gives me enough to write about to keep it up and that’s what the challenge is all about.

On that note, I’ll hit a 30 day streak on Christmas Eve at which point I’ll take a break and start up again in January. I probably won’t try to do it daily again, but will try to keep posting once or twice a week going forward.

Thanks all for reading.

My Star Wars Action Figure Megacollection

In honor of the release of Star Wars The Force Awakens today I’d like to share with you all my flash talk from Automattic’s Grand Meetup this year.

Flash talks are short talks that every Automattician has to give at the Grand Meetup, a once a year gathering where the entire company gets together for a week to work and play. We can talk about anything we’d like so I showed off my childhood Stars Wars action figure collection.

Enjoy.

Related SNL clip from last week: