Week in Review – September 24, 2017

Top down view of coffee mug on a yellow surface

A lot of work this week, possibly fueled by too much caffeine (3 cups in 4 days is a lot for me). But I am practicing deep work techniques to avoid email, single task and stay in the flow.

How to answer questions in a helpful way

Jvns post from a couple days ago caught my attention. Just today I encountered both sides of how to answer questions in a helpful way.

How you phrase a question is important:

  • Rephrase a more specific question back at them (“Are you asking X?”)
  • Ask them for more specific information they didn’t provide (“are you using IPv6?”)
  • Ask what prompted their question. For example, sometimes people come into my team’s channel with questions about how our service discovery works. Usually this is because they’re trying to set up/reconfigure a service. In that case it’s helpful to ask “which service are you working with? Can I see the pull request you’re working on?”

When asking a question, you need to be cognizant that the other person may not know your level of understanding. Set the state by giving them some insight into your point of view. Maybe start with a drawing.. Visualizing the problem often makes it easier to communicate.

Figuring out what your question-asker knows already is important because they may be confused about fundamental concepts (“What’s Redux?”), or they may be an expert who’s getting at a subtle corner case. An answer building on concepts they don’t know is confusing, and an answer that recaps things they know is tedious.

Building on the idea of visualizing the problem, when talking about how you solve a problem, try to show what you did and explain your thought process

New person: “I’m seeing errors on the site, what’s happening?”
More Experienced Person: (2 minutes later) “oh that’s because there’s a database failover happening”
New person: how did you know that??!?!?
More Experienced Person: “Here’s what I did!”:
Often these errors are due to Service Y being down. I looked at $PLACE and it said Service Y was up. So that wasn’t it.
Then I looked at dashboard X, and this part of that dashboard showed there was a database failover happening.
Then I looked in the logs for the service and it showed errors connecting to the database, here’s what those errors look like.

High Frequency Trading

If this doesn’t seem like a company run by a Bond villain, I don’t know what does: Citadel

And Reading for the Emmys

The Handmaid’s Tale

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Week in Review – September 10, 2017

Tomorrowland entrance at Disneyland

Book, Articles, and Readings

Are Your Lights On? Thanks DHH

On Writing Well

Telling people what you are working on

To determine what is not a hotdog, use Keras 

It’s all a hack

The fall of Juicero and ICO Fever

If a Silicon Valley executive does something, it is “hacking.” Doing your laundry? That’s a life hack. Eating lunch? A biohack. Not eating lunch? Sure, yes, also a biohack.

Skepticism not cynicism

And Multicultural USA: The 200+ year experiment
Dan Rather on The Ezra Klein Show

Just focusing on being the best offensive lineman in the NFL I can be

John Urshel on Freakonomics

WordPress did this

https://www.wired.com/2017/08/uncanny-valley-internet/

LA Weekend Musings

I’m on the plane to LA. We are about to land. I read the September issue of Nat Geo on the flight, and I have a lot on my mind. The main article was about the brain and addiction. Technology creates new stimuli not before considered, and there is ongoing research into how the internet affects our brain. Plus there’s an article about how agriculture in the Netherlands yields more food per square mile than any other country.

I also listened to podcasts on the way to the airport. The Ezra Klein show with Dan Rather had a relaxed, calming pace (I didn’t realize Rather had an issue at CBS for bad sources). Then I started the 99PI podcast on algorithms. Not too far into yet, but kicking someone off a United flight was an unexpected example of algorithms in the real world. It makes me consider my status on airlines as an infrequent flyer. (The flight attendant just asked me to put my seat back up, but I never reclined. Ahem Ryan Holiday).

The article most on my mind is from Ezra Klein on the Google memo. What struck me as different about Klein’s perspective is how he critiques the lack of refinement and supporting arguments for the claims presented. It left me thinking a similar thought to Zinsser’s on Writing Well about editing. I could see Klein thinking about what he wrote while planning and reviewing his own writing. It’s a meta, writing about writing, that makes me think about how I can be more expressive as a writer.

I am thinking a lot about how people can clearly articulate their ideas, and tell stories about their experiences. John Urshel impressed me in his interview on Freakonomics. He told a compelling tale about his life as a full time PhD student and full time NFL lineman for the Ravens. The podcast focused on risk vs uncertainty, which was interesting in itself, but his background added intrigue.

Wrap up

More fun included Disneyland, two football games, burgers, fries, ice cream, hotdogs, chicken, enchiladas, and a brewery in a dentist office.

 

Random

This happens far too often