Issue 49 – Rubber Duckies in The Garden of Facebook

Posted on June 3rd, by katestull in issues. Comments Off

The best article I have read in a long time was the post from Ryan Patterson on his 4 years at Facebook.  So much good stuff to think about, so if you only read one thing that would be my recommendation. – KateM

This week I loved looking through the images in Principles of Flat Design and learning a bit more about that aesthetic. I was also quite intrigued by Breaking Workplace Taboos: A Conversation About Salary Transparency, about the decision by Buffer to base everyone’s salary on an equation and to make those salaries public knowledge. – KateS

As always, we hope you enjoy this week’s TLN. Share your favorite article with us by replying to this note, and feel free to send feedback or suggestions for future articles that way too. Enjoy! :)



News to know



Leadership – The Garden of Facebook

This week marks the beginning of my 4th year at Facebook

I think every engineer should read this post. I had to stop myself from cutting and pasting the whole damn post. So here is the first good snippet, but you really should read the whole thing (and another example of how Facebook is doing things right – if I ever did want to work at a big company, it would be my first choice):

Code is a tool you have for solving problems. If you were gardening, you might plant flowers or pull weeds. Increasing your scope does not mean planting more flowers or pulling more weeds (though you should expect to be faster and more proficient at that as you become more experienced). What it really means is looking up from the ground at the garden in its entirety, considering how your section fits in, and eventually helping to decide the whole garden’s plan.”

Nine Things Developers Want More Than Money

Most engineers become engineers because they can’t imagine doing anything else for a living. That is to say, they do it for the love of the work, not just for the paycheck. (Which isn’t to say there aren’t people in other fields with the same passion.) But, when money isn’t the motivating factor for your employees, how can you make sure they are still satisfied?

  • Setting them up to succeed. This means realistic deadlines, so developers don’t have to rush and turn in a second-rate product.
  • Being recognized for hard work. Recognition is easy to give but often ignored. Everyone likes it when people notice how well they did.
  • Building something that matters.
  • Building software without an Act of Congress. Essentially, autonomy. Creative freedom to build what is right without having to get an okay from 10 managers.

When Managers Think They Are Leaders

We all want to be good at our jobs. And for managers, being considered more than a boss — being a leader — is what most of us strive for. Unfortunately, many of the people who use the “leader” title are not leaders at all. This post is a guide to identifying if the manager you’re dealing with is the real deal or just a pretender.



Teams & Process – What’s Your Number?

Open-plan offices make employees less productive, less happy, and more likely to get sick

Many startups favor the open-office layout because it makes collaboration so much easier. However, this article outlines the way in which these super close quarters may not be so good for your team. Some of the biggest factors cited in the article were:

  • increased numbers of sick days
  • lowered productivity
  • increased levels of distraction.

In some cases, they found that not only were people sick more, but office relations broke down more as a result of getting closer together. The article mentions that some people love sharing space with their coworkers, but just as many are negatively impacted by being too close.

Breaking Workplace Taboos: A Conversation About Salary Transparency

Pretty intriguing things are going on at Buffer, a company that made all employee salaries public knowledge this year. Salaries are figured out using a simple equation based on role, experience, and location, and employees can choose whether to add extra salary or equity to their package.

“‘In Silicon Valley, there’s a culture of people jumping from one place to the next,’ [Buffer founder Joel Gascoigne] says. ‘That’s why we focus on culture. Doing it this way means we can grow just as fast—if not faster—than doing it the ‘normal’ cutthroat way. We’re putting oil into the engine to make sure everything can work smoothly so we can just shoot ahead and that’s what we’re starting to see.’”


“There are three situations that can easily trigger members of your team. They involve: title, compensation, and location. That’s right. The title on a business card, the amount of money someone receives, and where they sit. The Big Three, right or wrong, have accreted unexpected status; they’ve become disproportionately highly valued. They’ve become a yardstick by which a person measures success.”

When you encounter one of these triggers with someone on your team, it’s important to look at the situation from their perspective. What might cause them to react in a way that surprises you, and how can you prepare for that?

  • Understand that judgment is temporarily impaired by triggers. People’s first reaction to a big trigger isn’t always the reaction they stick with. Giving people time to absorb information and collect their thoughts is important.
  • You can’t be too paranoid. Always try to figure out how a person will react to a trigger, based on what you know about them. How have they handled salary discussions in the past? Have they made any comments recently that betray their real feelings about their compensation?



Tech – Clearly Cloudy

How to keep up to date on front end technologies

This little site is a big list of resources and places all over the web to stay on top of all that is happening in the world of front end development. Handy.

The curious case of statsd and netcat [thanks to Felhő for the article & summary!]

An interesting post about how to Philip made some low level TCP debugging to find out the cause of a problem related to statsd’s admin interface and netcat. This can be interesting story even for those who are not using statsd but just like debugging stories like this.

DevOps – the Product Owner [thanks again to Felhő for the article & summary!]

Being a Product Owner is not easy, it needs diverse skills and focus. This post is a great introduction to what being a product owner is all about and introduces it from the perspective of a devops minded organisation. It is a must have read for everybody involved/interested in this topic.

Clear in the iCloud

This was a great technical post on some of the challenges integrating Clear (the app) with iCloud. It is even relevant to non-iOS developers, since a lot of their challenges around consistency and reliability are present in many API based services from 3rd parties. Lots of good things to think about when building this sort of integration.

Using HTML5 prerendering to speed up a multi-page registration process

I hadn’t heard of pre-rendering, but given how easy it is, you should know about it. The only downside – it only works in Chrome.

<link rel=”prerender” href=”/path/to/page-b/”>

“Here’s how it works. Say you have Page A and Page B, where the user always visits them in that order. You can put a bit of code in Page A’s markup that says “prerender Page B right now. Thus, when the user visits Page A, her browser will download and render Page B in the background, such that when she clicks through to Page B, it’s displayed nearly instantly, because all of the loading and rendering work has already been done. It’s so fast it seems magical — it must be experienced to be believed.”

[useful tool] JSON generator – Handy if you need some json for testing and the like….


Product – Rubber Ducky You’re The One

Why I Need to Know Your Budget

I liked this post – both the writing and the story. But it made me feel better about telling designers my budget up front.

Starters Guide to iOS Design

If you are a developer working on iOS for the first time, you should bookmark this page. It goes through the basic elements of designing for the iPhone and iPad, and walks you through the everything from understanding pixels to creating flexible designs that can transition from horizontal to vertical, iPhone to iPad.

Rubber Duck [UX] Debugging

Have you ever heard of rubber duck debugging? Essentially, it’s the process of finding bugs by explaining your app, line by line, to a rubber duck. Kind of like the interview question: “Explain a complex engineering topic to me like I’m your grandmother.”

When you are creating your next wireframe mockup of your new app, follow this process to start rubber duck debugging.

  • Define your flow with user stories.
  • Wireframe your flows.
  • Prepare your fake screens.
  • Fake it til you make it. This is where the debugging comes in. When you have a fake app, you need to work it through an actual fake process. The most important problems will be revealed as you work through this process and create a realistic experience of using the app.

“Hopefully by forcing yourself to mimic a real flow, you will have spotted some early UX problems. The kind of stuff you want to find before a developer spends a week putting a basic feature together.”

Principles of Flat Design

I am a big fan of the flat design aesthetic, but I really like this author’s perspective on whether or not it’s the right choice for your product:

“Good design is about creating something useful that works. If the answer is designed in the fashion of flatness, so be it. But the trend may not work for all projects, so it should not be forced.”

This post goes over the essentials of flat design, which are: 1. No added effects. 2. Simple elements. 3. Focus on typography. 4. Focus on color. 5. Minimalist approach. There are also tons of visuals to help explain the different elements of flat design, which are awesome for inspiration and just browsing…

The post also explains “almost flat” design, which is a favorite of many designers because it uses the elements of flat design while incorporating small effects, like shadows on buttons or slight gradients, to add a bit of texture throughout the app.

Bookmark worthy: The Anatomy of a Perfect Web Page – Lots of smart tips and ideas for building a web page that works for users and drives the desired behavior.

Bookmark worthy: Stylify Me – Pretty handy resource for generating a style guide for your site.


Recruiting – Get Him To The Google

Four Steps To Google, Without A Degree

Lots of engineers find that college isn’t the right path for them. And though it is increasingly common to see super successful founders and engineering leads who never got a degree, there is still a certain stigma attached to not having your college degree when you’re on the job hunt.

This post is the story of how one college dropout managed to get hired by one of the most sought-after and exclusive companies in the world.

Five Things To Ask Your (Potential) iOS Developer

Contracting mobile apps is pretty common these days, and it makes sense for a lot of companies. I really loved this list of questions – and they are really applicable to all kinds of contract work. Here is the short list (although I also think you should add a few more of your own):

  1. Can you provide a sample project bid? // I liked this one because it gives you an idea what you will get if you have anything more than one meeting – great way to start the conversation over email. Although I can also imagine a lot of contractors having a bit of trouble providing this….
  2. How accurate are your bids?  // great question
  3. What is your average app rating?  // not sure I would ask this one….
  4. What is your testing procedure? // always good to ask about quality
  5. What is your code review process?

I might also add something about handoff, maintenance, and even coding standards, but…



Quick Bytes

[ Links we liked ]

Give them an inch and they take $773,074,040

Southwest Airlines proves that small optimizations a at scale really do matter.

The New “Handmade” (Part Two)

A wouldbe goldsmith/artist uses 3D printing to create intricate works that wouldn’t normally have been possible without the technology.

“‘It’s more than hype,’ van der Horn asserts. ‘I do like to think we’re at the beginning of development and we’re only just exploring what anyone – people like you or me – can do with those techniques. For me, it feels like the new industrial revolution.’”

Japanese man creates stunning art in Excel

Pretty amazing – a 73 year old man uses Excel to “paint” beautiful pictures.

[ Inward Focus ]

Letter To A Young Programmer Considering A Startup

There is a lot of cachet today associated with being an entrepreneur or someone who runs their own startup. As such, there are a lot of people who aspire to fill that role — but not all of them are actually a great fit for an entrepreneurial lifestyle. This “open letter” addresses people who have convinced themselves they want to do a startup before asking the big questions about their real passions and abilities. Definitely worth a read.

[ Geeking Out ]

Unheralded Mathematician Bridges the Prime Gap

Ever heard of “twin” primes?

“‘Twin’ primes often crop up — pairs such as 3 and 5, or 11 and 13, that differ by only 2. And while such pairs get rarer among larger numbers, twin primes never seem to disappear completely (the largest pair discovered so far is 3,756,801,695,685 x 2666,669 – 1 and 3,756,801,695,685 x 2666,669 + 1). […]

[Zhang’s] paper shows that there is some number N smaller than 70 million such that there are infinitely many pairs of primes that differ by N. No matter how far you go into the deserts of the truly gargantuan prime numbers — no matter how sparse the primes become — you will keep finding prime pairs that differ by less than 70 million.”

Pretty impressive discovery if you ask me :)

New technique may open up an era of atomic-scale semiconductor devices

This new technology allows scientists to create chips 1-atom thick–something that used to be thought impossible.

NASA investing in 3-D food printer for astronauts

“All the ingredients are designed for extremely long shelf-lives, making them suitable for long stays in space. ‘The 3-D printing system will provide hot and quick food in addition to personalized nutrition, flavor and taste,’ the company wrote in its proposal to NASA. ‘The biggest advantage of 3-D printed food technology will be zero waste, which is essential in long-distance space missions,’ it added.”

[ Wordly Reading ]

The Graduation Advice We Wish We’d Been Given

For my money, Heidi Grant Halvorson’s advice is the best. :)

There will be obstacles, setbacks, challenges. Many things will be more difficult than you thought they’d be. The key to success (scientifically speaking) is perseverance. You’ve just got to hang in there — there’s no other way to win. But how do you do it? A great way to be more resilient is to stop comparing yourself to other people, and compare yourself to your own past performance — last week, last month, last year. Are you improving? That’s the only question that matters.

Which advice do you wish you had been given?

Zach Sobiech Leaves Behind Inspiring Legacy

Absolutely loved this…. In case you ever needed a reason to embrace the day and squeeze those close to you a little tighter.

KPCB Internet Trends 2013

Mary Meeker compiled her yearly Internet Trends and this this presentation captures the key learnings. Trends include major growth in both broadband and mobile users, despite this growth Meeker suggests that there is still massive opportunities in smartphone adoption. Also interesting to note the huge growth in sharing, content, photos and video.

[ Just for fun ]

Satellite Shoots Beautiful 6,000-Mile-Long Panoramic Photo from Orbit

It is actually a video, not a picture – but it is pretty cool. And as mentioned in the comments it is pretty cool to think about how it was recorded, namely the Coriolis effect.

“I haven’t been fully honest with you…”

Imagine sending this text to a person you are dating, and then holding silent for an hour.  The results are not unexpected but still amusing :)

This 23-Ton, 5.3-Million-Brick X-Wing Is the Biggest Lego Model Ever

A real life Star Wars ship — made from Legos!

[ Useful & Productive ]

5 Ways to Sneak Fitness Into Your Day

It’s so easy to stay stuck at your desk all day, but as we all know, you’ve got to keep moving to prevent many serious diseases. I like the tips in this article because they’re relatively simple to incorporate and easy to do like:

  • Change your commute. Park farther away or get off the bus a few stops early, and plan to add an extra 5-10 minutes to your commute where you walk the rest of the way to work.

  • Visit the park at lunch. Walking to a nearby outdoor area has the double benefit of stretching your legs and allowing the outdoors to recharge you mentally.

A Tourist’s Global Guide to Tipping

Never wonder, “Do I need to tip? How much?” again. :)

7 Ways to Work Faster, Through Documentation

One of the best ways to stay productive is to track what you do and how you do it, so you have data to look at and improve upon. This post has some great suggestions for tools, software, and people that can hold you accountable for getting things done.

Spice Up the Conversation by Skipping “What Do You Do?”

“In an ideal world, we love what we do for a living — and it creates part of our identity. We spend a large portion of our waking lives working at our careers, so it should stand to reason. This is why an easy opening question often surrounds career.

But for many people, careers represent little more than conduits to income, and their true identity and passion comes from their activities outside of work.

So why not open the conversation with a question that allows somebody to talk about something exciting; something that makes them bubble over with enthusiasm — and which can ultimately lead to new frontiers of conversation?”



“Talent is cheaper than table salt. What separates the talented individual from the successful one is a lot of hard work. “ — Stephen King

That’s all for this week’s TLN! Go have an amazing week.


Kate + Kate

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