Issue 47 – I’ve Got 99 Problems, But My To-Do List Ain’t One

Posted on May 12th, by katestull in issues. Comments Off

Are you born to be wild?

Oh, you say you were born to be amazing. Great answer, I bet it is true.

Kate M – Let’s see I am on the upswing from a rough, and difficult week. And I just know that this week ahead is going to be great (lots of coding, which I always like).

And for my picks this week – Is the Sunk Cost Fallacy Actually Smart Business? really resonated with me; I know I have made bad decisions thanks to sunk costs combined with aggressive estimates.  And I loved this presentation Sprinkling Pixie Dust and is definitely worth the 6 minutes.

Kate S – This week, one of my very favorite articles was What Is Love?, on why customers just love some products or companies and how branding and storytelling can make you one too.

I also really liked How To Accept and Decline Job Offers, which is a super helpful guide to the many scenarios you could face during the final stages of the hiring process.

What was your favorite article this week? What do you want to see more of? We love getting your feedback, and we read and reply to every single message — so don’t be shy. :)

Enjoy this week’s TLN, crazy kid!



News to know



Leadership – Come On Get Happy

You Won’t Regret Positive Feedback

“I can’t think of a time I’ve ever regretted giving someone positive feedback on their work. But I still cringe years later when I think of the times I’ve been overly critical in past feedback.”

This post is a pretty great reminder of the importance of positive feedback. I like that the author acknowledges that his first reaction to most things is to criticize them (KateS here — that’s my first reaction a lot too) and to feel that picking apart even great work is the best way to make good things even better. But — his conclusion — that intense criticism might make better products, that’s not really as important as making a better company, is awesome. Because a better company is one where employees aren’t burnt out, where they feel like their work is appreciated, and where they keep on making amazing products with even more drive than before.

Crucial Tips On Delegating The Right Way, So Everyone Wins

Delegating is an essential technique for not only making sure things get done, but for empowering the people on your team and letting them take over new, challenging tasks. But, if your idea of delegating is closely hovering over your employee they make a mistake, you’re doing it wrong. This article has tons of tips for how to delegate well, but here are a few of our favorites:

  • Don’t take away the motivation to learn. In other words, don’t make the punishment for failing on a new project so severe that your team never wants to try anything new again.
  • Don’t put limits on learning. This one’s tough, because as a manager, you don’t want to train an awesome employee so well that they get promoted out of your team. But if you stifle them, they’ll probably leave the company anyways. It’s always better to pursue the option where *you* are the one investing in and empowering your people, not their next boss somewhere else.
  • Fail small or fail big. If individual people in your company don’t have the chance to try (and fail and learn) new things, then your company as a whole will ultimately be worse off. Embrace the fails on an individual level in favor of the bigger wins at a company scale.

Is the Sunk Cost Fallacy Actually Smart Business?

In addition to the situations presented in this article, a lot of technical teams fall victim to this phenomenon.

Many big rewrites or larger infrastructure investments with positive ROIs at the outset have turned into negative ROI projects when it is realized the actual amount of work involved. And as we make decisions on whether to proceed the facets are never just on the man hours spent, but the morale hit that would happen if the project wasn’t finished.

Most of the time we move forward and finish, but like in this article, it can cause a “pro rata bias” for future, similar projects (and is part of the reason many of us dread the words start over and rewrite when coming from a junior member of the team who hasn’t yet learned these lessons).

And another good lesson for new team leaders: “Our research suggests that it may be prudent not to ignore the decisions made by your predecessors. They might encode things you don’t know, and may never know.”

The Ripple Effects You Create as a Manager

Positive and negative relationships with your managers, employees, and peers have wide-ranging effects throughout our lives, especially when it comes to creating a work-life balance. Do you feel bound to your desk until 10 every night under your boss’ watchful eye, or do you feel free to leave once you’ve accomplished all you need to? How does your team feel? Being flexible and trusting with others matters; here’s how you can help create an atmosphere of positivity for your team:

  • Be a role model for work-life integration. Lead by example.
  • Be willing to experiment. Instead of saying now, be open to trying out work-at-home options and other work-life balance strategies on a trial basis.
  • Appreciate others as whole people.

Kick Mediocrity to the Curb in Pursuit of Extraordinary

“As a manager, you play a critical part in either perpetuating mediocrity or helping your team break free in pursuit of extraordinary.”

  • Start with the belief that your attitude and your actions will make a difference.
  • Extraordinary starts with the behaviors you model you set as a manager. Define “extraordinary” in your environment and then teach and model the behaviors.
  • Remember, extraordinary isn’t just for external customers.
  • Make hiring for extraordinary a religion.

Sprinkling Pixie Dust

I loved this presentation on making people feel special and there are some good lessons on how to make every employee feel like their job is the most important. 6 minutes well spent.



Teams & Process – I’ve Got 99 Problems

Is It Ever Worth Pulling An All-Nighter?

The title on this one is a bit deceiving, as the real point of the article is this: why scramble to complete every item on your to-do list, when you can devote a huge chunk of time to knocking one thing off it for good? In the example here, a marketing exec decided to devote her whole team’s energy to knocking one huge item off their “want to do” list in one 24 hour period — and not only got it done, but created a whole new avenue for their agency to do great work.



Tech – NoBackend? What would Sir Mix-A-Lot think?

Explaining (DOM) Futures

Also called “Promises”, “Deferreds”, or “Thenables”. What do they do exactly? They help with asynchronous events (and other things like chaining):

“One of the most annoying things to handle when doing async code (besides chaining, more chaining, and errors) is synchronization. If you have a single async operation you want to run some code after, that’s fine. If you have two async operations, and you want to wait until they both finish and call some function with both of their results, you’re on your own.”

NoBackend: Front-End First Web Development

Now this is both a little frightening and a little innovative at the same time. I think there are definitely some “things” on the web for which this sort of architecture could make sense.

However, I can’t help but think it means “no backend because we are using APIs” (wow, just like a service-oriented architecture) or they just don’t need to persist data or resources in a scalable way. Still, interesting to see this move towards “architecture in the front end”.

Writing a good README

You should bookmark this under: best practices I should be following.  Seriously.

This is an great checklist of all the things that *should* be in your README files.

5 Things You Should Stop Doing With jQuery

There really need to be more guidelines and best practices docs for these kinds of things.  However since I have been doing a lot more js programming recently, this intro totally resonated with me:

“When I first started using jQuery, I was so excited. I was using vanilla JS and really struggling with understanding when elements on a page were ready and how I could access them. When I learned about jQuery, I think I did what many people do. With tears of joy running down my face, I opened up a document ready function and then just vomited up massive amounts of jQuery.”

What Computer Science Isn’t.

A bit of a rant/manifesto, but I thought at least of few of you might enjoy it.

The 2 things the author says that Computer Science isn’t is computer programming and tech support (fixing/troubleshooting software).

I did like this quote though:

“Computer Science is math; it is the study of what is computable and what is efficiently computable, and it is about the design and analysis of those procedures that can efficiently compute things.”  I <3 math.

And on that note:

Here is a cheat sheet of Big-O complexities of common algorithms used in Computer Science

I Am a Bad Software Developer

So I came across this link via one of my forays on Hacker News this week. And interestingly enough, I can’t tell what is up with the guy (also the site in general; just check out the duplicate content when you scroll down the page).

However, I decided to include it because I think it both interesting from an anthropological point of view, but also it emphasizes the point that all things are not created equal. Jobs, open source contributions, and reading papers are all good things, but perhaps choosing different ones would make that time much more leverageable to your career. #justsayin

Git – When to Merge vs. When to Rebase

For those of you who don’t already know… “Rebases are how changes should pass from the top of hierarchy downwards and merges are how they flow back upwards.”


This was pretty awesome: a JavaScript library to “Make that shiz draggable” (their words, not mine).



Product – What’s The Story, Morning Glory?

What Is Love?

Why do customers *love* the products they love?

  • Storytelling. What’s the point of your product and who’s it for? This should be driving your brand and company voice at every turn. Make it bold, and talk directly to your customer instead of trying to appeal to everyone at once by being bland.
  • Every interaction counts. Ever tweeted a thank you to your favorite restaurant/coffee shop/retailer and gotten a reply? It feels good, even for such a small gesture. Cultivate those warm fuzzy feelings in your customer by giving interaction some serious attention.
  • Delight. Surprise your customer in a good way. Keep this idea at front of mind, and seize the opportunity when it arises.

Why good storytelling helps you design great products

“In story-centered design, teams critique work by looking at dozens of sequential mockups that function like frames in a filmstrip. Designers present every sentence the customer reads, every action they take, and every screen that system generates in response. The designs follow a customer from an initial trigger all the way through completing a goal, and they show how the design supports every step in that flow.”

Telling a story helps you create a product that’s connected. Rather than a series of screens and features that each do this or that cool thing, you need to think of design like a customer would — ie. moving from screen to screen in a way that’s intuitive and helpful. Telling a story helps you follow that path and make sure no transition or screen or feature that will be super important to your customer is left out.

Don’t build. Compose.

“You’re writing a novel, not constructing a bridge.”

It is so true – very few products (at least these days) are built with a blueprint and then build-to-spec construction.  Most of the products are iterative, with the original version evolving and being edited – much like a great piece of writing.  It is a very poetic analogy :)



Recruiting – Must Be Nice

How To Accept and Decline Job Offers

Being in the final stages of the hiring process can be really overwhelming, and there are lots of details that can slip through the cracks in the excitement and stress. This article focuses mostly on communicating with the hiring manager making an offer, and has great templates for the many responses you might give. The post also helps you close the loop with other people you encountered during the process, which is not required, but which can have a huge impact if you do it and do it well.

What are the Best Interview Follow-up Emails?

Confused about what to say in an email to that person who just interviewed you for your dream job? Worry no more — here’s a breakdown of all the elements of a good followup.


Quick Bytes

[ Links we liked ]

Life Lessons: What is the best advice you have ever received? [via Quora]

Feeling directionless or in need of some wisdom? Scroll through a few of these and feel yourself getting smarter and happier. :)

April 2013 Report Card

“Each month we review 37signals based on specific criteria: App Uptime, Customer Happiness, and App Speed. This is how we did in April. Get this monthly report in your inbox.”

Love this transparency – way to go 37signals.

Brain, Interrupted

Multitasking feels good, but it’s no good for your brain.

From a study in which one set of test-takers were allowed to work uninterrupted, and one was interrupted: “In other words, the distraction of an interruption, combined with the brain drain of preparing for that interruption, made our test takers 20 percent dumber. That’s enough to turn a B-minus student (80 percent) into a failure (62 percent).”

Jony Ive is not a graphic designer

“I think that sort of striving for simplicity is not a style. It’s an approach and a philosophy. I think it’s about authenticity and being honest. Not just taking something crappy and styling the outside in an arbitrary disconnected way.” – Jony Ive

I had never heard of Jony Ive until I read the Steve Job’s biography last year (a book I would definitely recommend), but if you hadn’t heard of him, he played/plays a big part in Apple’s design process – and this author conjectures that the new iOS7, due out this fall, is going to be a lot more than just a new layer of makeup.

[ Inward Focus ]

The Zen of Anger: 5 Tips to Overcome Negative Reactions

This post really resonated with me, since I am one to have negative reactions – especially to emails.  I have been told I need to have more patience on many occasions. One of the best things I learned to do (for both anger and other “upset” emotions) was to try and slow down, pay attention to my body, and control the physical response.  When you are focusing on the physical sensations it is easier to control of the situation vs. diving deeper into the emotional feelings.


The story of a startup junkie who decided to stop being a slave to the Internet, his to-do list, and physical “stuff”. I love reminders like that to take a step back, look around, and see if the way you’re spending all your time is really making you happy — and then do something about it.

[ Geeking Out ]

Coming Soon: A Cure For Gray Hair?

“Researchers are studying a cream that restores pigmentation to people with a skin condition called vitiligo. Theoretically, there are hints it may work for people who are going gray from age, too.”

Love these kind of innovations.

Replace Your Lights With These Genetically Engineered Glow-Plants

I don’t know if you could really light your home with these glowing plants, but a glowing rose does sound pretty appealing… :)

Google Visualizes Massive Changes To The Face Of The Earth With New Timelapse Project

“A lot can change in 28 years, and Google has put together a very graphic demonstration of just how much can happen geographically with a new effort that combines global, annual Landsat satellite image composites with its Google Earth Engine software.”

PayPal exec aims to “obliterate passwords from the face of the planet”

There has been a lot of talk about the trouble with passwords lately — and Michael Barrett wants to find a way to solve the problem once and for all. “The key is to make security better without making it difficult for users.”

[ Wordly Reading ]

4 Sisters Photographed Every Year For 36 Years

Pretty amazing to scroll through.

What You Need To Know About The Liberator 3D Printed Pistol

“What’s next? The cynic would say we will soon see the first murder with a 3D-printed gun. The cynic will also say that this will cast 3D printing in an entirely new, more sinister light and could affect the home printing industry dramatically.”

Drugs, porn, and counterfeits: the market for illegal goods is booming online

A peek inside the world of online crime…

How the Internet of Things Changes Everything

I have been hearing this term a lot lately (Internet of things) and if you don’t know what it means you should read up since I expect chatter will only increase.

[ Just for fun ]

12 Beautiful Photos Of Ridiculous Cell Phone Towers Disguised As Trees

Okay so these had me laughing out loud because I thought they were a joke.  Maybe it is the 12 year old boy in me, but I also found this pretty hilarious: China tries, fails, to censor jokes about penis-shaped skyscraper

And if you can’t get enough here is another laugh out loud comic (especially for people with kids).

What is the stupidest thing you’ve ever done?

Love Andy John’s answer. :)

The Onion’s Tips On How To Prevent Your Major Media Site From Being Hacked

Nothing like some actionable advice: “Shoot out an email reminding employees to be really careful online.”  ha.

The 10 best words the Internet has given English

Some of these I haven’t heard of, and some of them I know I use every day. Kind of crazy to think that no one had heard of these things 15 years ago…

The Origins of 8 Curious Body Part Names

So your palm *is* named after a tree.

[ Useful & Productive ]

How To Behave At A Sushi Restaurant

I had no idea you were supposed to eat the sushi in all one bite.  I have a little mouth so I can only hope that in less traditional sushi restaurants they won’t mind if you take two bites. :) Oh, and don’t dip the rice side of the sushi (something I am also guilty of).

Working Alone, Together

Interesting NY Times article on the benefits of working in a coworking space.



“Fall down. Make a mess. Break something occasionally. Know that your mistakes are your own unique way of getting to where you need to be.” — Conan O’Brien

Aw yeah, you just finished another amazing TLN. Look at you go! Now go out there and have a truly spectacular week, you go-getter, you.

Kate + Kate

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