Johnathan.org

June 2015 Archives

StackEdit

StackEdit is a in-browser markdown editor that takes on the likes of iA Writer and GitHub Pages in terms of its capability. If you’re a fan of Markdown in even the least bit, it’ll be easy for StackEdit to be your go to text editor.

The interface window features the basic text editor and styling controls like text format, linking, inserting code and images, and creating lists. In fact, it’s so easy to pick up, you really don’t need any instructions.

Screenshot 2015-06-30 15.57.20

The dual pane editor/preview layout is like that of the NodeJS-powered Ghost blog platform. Everything you type shows up in real time on the right-hand side of the screen in proper format. When you’re done, you can sync your texts to Dropbox or Google Drive, save them in the editor, and even push them to various end points including Blogger, WordPress, GitHub, Tumblr, and an SSH server if you have your own static site platform you wish to use.

What’s really cool? If you have a CouchDB instance, it’ll push straight to it. Pretty nifty.

Give StackEdit a try. I think you’ll like it.

48 Hours of Slack

Two nights ago, I convinced my team to pick up Slack. I wanted them to stop slacking on effective communication and while I can cut them some slack on being in different time zones, there’s no excuse with today’s technology.

That’s about all I have for Slack puns and euphemisms. We’ve been using Slack for about 48 hours now and we’re loving it. I think I might be loving it the most because I championed the idea.

Given its super low barrier for entry (free!) it wasn’t hard for us to pick it up and give it a go. My team is only twelve people but I think we’ve communicated more via text than we’ve communicated via Lync and email in a week.

I described it in our meeting as IRC for this decade, but it’s a lot more than that and I’m striving to find ways to expand the service for my people as much as possible.

For those who don’t know, I’m the Senior Technical Support Lead for Zephyr’s Americas support team. That puts me at second in command and makes me responsible for my teams success. One struggle I’ve seen is keeping effective lines of communication open between each staff member and creating open dialog about technical and customer-facing issues we encounter on a regular basis.

We really didn’t have any sort of real-time collaboration going on.

This is why I brought in Slack. I can see who’s available, strike up conversations with them, discuss particular issues in channels, and get notified from various other systems right away, without having to leave Slack.

I’ve found out about support requests faster through Slack than by staring at ZenDesk all day (our ticketing system). Getting notifications on all my devices at the same time about what’s happening as its happening is a boon for me and that only drives my desire to integrate more.

One thing that bothers me though is autocomplete requires some fancy service on the other end in order to work. I don’t want to sit down and write middleware to tie into Slack so I can shorthand with a /slash command. I should be able to say /ticket 12345 prints in chat http://ticket.system/12345. I don’t see what’s so hard about that.

Webhooks are super cool though and being able to touch them with 3rd party service and update my channels with relevant information is awesome. Being able to be notified in real time about anything that’s happening in another system with minimal code change is sweet. All our custom apps can push notifications, now.

Even well-known 3rd party services can integrate well. Some leave things to be desired like my ZenDesk-Slack integration, but I can’t blame Slack for that.

For a service that’s had next to no marketing done and has survived on majority word of mouth and small advertisements here and there, Slack is killing it in the real-time collaboration space.

Someone on my team suggested we look at HipChat, too… is it bad that I sort of don’t want to?

Crozdesk

I’m always looking for new places to discover great services and products. Last night Crozdesk followed me on Twitter and I couldn’t help but check them out and see what they offer. Really, I check out just about anyone that follows me on twitter. I’m by no means a superstar on the social network so I have time for things like that.

Crozdesk is a place to find a company, service, or product offering to fulfill a need you might have in various spaces, be it web design, hosting, social media, marketing, or anything relatively similar.

Their offering list is small-ish but I see it growing quickly as there’s no charge for submitting your product or service to the site. If you’re an indie developer or a small startup that has something cool, this would be the place to share it and let the community rate and offer their opinion on it.

The Great Discourse

I’ve been meaning to tinker with Discourse for a while, now. It’s used at several of my favorite sites for their communities so I found it reasonable to try it out for myself and see how it works out.

My end goal was to use it as a comment replacement.

Did I get there?

I think so…

Creativity

So I’m sitting here, pondering what to write about. I’ve been a terrible person, not sticking to the plan.

If you know me at all, you’ll know it is indeed a chaotic scene when there’s no plan and I’m involved.

Steven Pressfield is one of my new favorite authors and his book Turning Pro speaks great truths about what it takes to transition from average joe doing some crap somewhere to becoming a professional and doing what you really want to do.

There’s a small passage in Turning Pro that fits well in today’s post:

Twelve-step programs say: “One day at a time.” The professional says the same thing.

He’s right though. I could sit here and ramble about how I can’t figure out anything to write, how my creativity is available for just a moment, and how planning out a crazy level of future posts would be fruitless and a waste of time.

If I said all that, it would be true. Sitting here thinking about planning out content makes me tired and want to just watch HBO (which I plan on doing after I finish writing this, anyway). Planning isn’t going to bring creativity. Inspiration is just a trigger for creativity. I could sit and stare out my window at the street and get inspiration creative.

There’s a million ways to come up with an idea, but the best one is the one where you take it one step at a time, one day at a time.

Incapacity

What do you think of when I say that amateurs look for excuses?

It’s a rhetorical question and I don’t expect an answer. Instead, that sentence should really be a statement. It’s an obvious one to someone who’s paying attention, but on the inside, it’s harder.

Also known as the easy way out, looking to find a way out of a tough situation by copping out or giving up is modus operandi of those who can’t hack it. Amateurs.

I’m not talking about people who aren’t good enough at a specific thing. No one should expect to be experts at everything they do. What I’m talking about is life. Sticking with the s–t that comes your way. Dealing with less than ideal situations.

Whoever first said “s–t happens” is the realist realist the world will ever experience. One thing a professional understands is that sometimes you step in it, but the best route is to clean it off and keep moving.

This idea became one I find myself gravitating towards after reading a relevant passage in Turning Pro:

The habits and addictions of the amateur are…self-inflicted wounds…[Amateurs] no longer have to face the real fight of our lives, which is to become who we are and to realize our destiny and our calling.

That’s not some hippie s–t from a guy smoking weed. That’s real talk from a guy who used to be an amateur. If you’ve ever thought about reading what it takes to rock life and kick it’s @$$, he’s the guy to go to.

Think about this: how easy is it to make an excuse? It just slips right on out there without anyone noticing… except you… time and again… uttering the same garbage… because you can’t accept the fact you failed at something… or many somethings.

A pro would admit wrong and rectify it. Today. Right freaking now.

You also don’t see pros telling their boss they didn’t have time to create that presentation that’s due today, even though all they did was sit on Reddit and b—h about their boss. An amateur is quick to make excuses for themselves to protect their mediocrity and constant state of incapacitation of potential.

I made a small resolution to kick @ physically, to rock my goal.

One of the many ways it starts is by accepting the challenge that lays in front of me, every day. Each moment, there’s a hurdle, and each moment I can jump or smash into it like a lumbering blob of crap.

The latter doesn’t sound so appealing, does it…

Keeping Score

I decided to start a project for the wrong reason. It’s because of this reason that I ended up giving up said project for the short term.

I thought I had it all figured out. I carved out time on my calendar, I made plans, I had an idea…

Turns out, the measurement for success in this project was grossly incorrect, and I realized it a couple days ago when I picked up Steven Pressfield’s Turning Pro. I never finished the book, so I felt it was appropriate to continue.

I came across this passage and it really hit home surrounding this project:

The real utility of money is its convenience as a medium of exchange. If you and I have a goat in Smyrna, we don’t have to carry the poor beast in our arms all the way to Aleppo to trade it for a carpet. We can sell the goat in Smyrna, stash a silver dairy in our pocket, then take the dairy to Aleppo to buy the carpet.

But when we’re addicted to money, we become hooked on the metaphor.

Is money how we keep score? Is it magic? Is wealth a currency that opens doors, realizes possibilities, produces transcendence?

– Turning Pro

In my case… it was.

I thought I could craft this project and end up getting rich quick. I’ve seen enough documentaries on how that’s never the case but yet I thought otherwise. When my project started, I got a huge influx of traffic to it and I thought it was going to be smooth sailing.

Then the traffic died off, and everyone left. Not a sole gave a damn. I was hoping they’d throw their digital selves at me in the form of coming back or contributing, but they didn’t.

I wanted to make money off this project. I wanted it to become a full-time thing. I didn’t think about the other battle I was waging that would ultimately affect this one.

Losing sight of what’s most important in any project is common and while sometimes it’s recoverable, other times, there’s no way to go but to the bitter end.

I canceled my subscriptions to all the things necessary to keep it running. It’ll die in a few days, and that’s OK by me. It shouldn’t have ever lived. I wasn’t ready for it and I made a Frankenstein.

Such is life.

Learning experiences can be tough sometimes, but when you’re keeping score for all the wrong reasons, it’s bound to happen… and it should. It keeps reality in play.

So instead, I’m focusing on what’s most important and fulfilling for me. I need to keep my head in as few places as possible, while still getting enough stimulation to keep myself fresh and mentally alive.

Too many outlets can lead to burn out, even if all said outlets are appealing. Sometimes, going back to the basics is exactly what the doctor ordered.

Learn Up

LearnUp provides entry-level job seekers with job-specific training and coaching to help them get hired.

I really like the idea of this. I wish this was around when I was just starting out in the professional world.

The Cost of Cutting the Cord

People talk about “cutting the cord” a.k.a canceling their Cable or Satellite service and opting for internet-based services. One thing that doesn’t seem to get a whole lot of coverage, in my opinion, is the cost of cutting the cord.

While this might be a bit biased because of circumstances, I wanted to compare what I’m paying every month for Comcast and how much it would cost to cut it out and switch to online services.

So here’s the breakdown. When it comes to single-purchase items, we’ll divide it up over 12 months.

Comcast Xfinity Double Play: $125/month (after taxes/fees)

Subtract Internet Serivce: x 50%

Cable Price: $62.50

So we have $62.50 to work with. Let’s start:

Netflix: $9

Hulu+: $9

SlingTV (plus add ons to match): $20 + $5 + $5 + $5 + $5

HBONow: $15

HD Antenna (for locals): $40/12 = $3.33

Total: $76.33

Adding the cost for subscribing the same speed Internet package as a standalone service will add as much as $40/month on top of the Internet half of the above $125. All in all, we’re looking at $176.33 to match what I already have. That doesn’t seem like much of a good deal.

Let me be clear about a couple things: I aimed high on purpose. Not everyone would need everything and maybe if you only watch a few channels, you’d be able to save some money. However, Internet-only packages are expensive and unless you’re okay with the bare minimum speed from your provider, you’re going to end up paying quite a bit which really doesn’t make it worth it, in my opinion.

I also need to say that I watch a lot of variety of television programming in addition to the simple stuff that’s easy to access via one of the above services.

Perhaps at some point when Internet-only prices come down, this might make sense, but adding an extra $50 to “cut the cord” that I still use for Internet doesn’t make sense.

Get Your Gear Out

Historically, the weekends have been hard on my hobbies.

There’s a photographer that I follow on an occasional basis, mainly because his typical subjects aren’t necessarily family friendly. His name is Matt Granger. He has a saying that I’m finding myself stuck to more now than ever: “Get Your Gear Out.”

He’s right. I need to. If I call myself a landscape photographer, why is my camera gear sitting in my bag all the time?

I have a couple locations I want to visit this weekend that are relatively close by (one is just down the street, actually). I’m looking forward to what I can capture this weekend.

Johnathan Lyman
Kenmore, WA,
United States
 
blogging, design, technology, software, development, gaming, photography