The illustrious Chance the Rapper was looking for a new intern.
I'm looking for an intern, someone with experience in putting together decks and writing proposals
— Lil Chano From 79th (@chancetherapper) March 27, 2017
Some people responded with regular resumes, replying as images, but Negele “Hopsey” Hospedales decided to make a website on WordPress.com:
maybe I'm extra, but I think resumes are old fashion. I built a website instead. #ChanceHireHospeyhttps://t.co/DmYvxAQu61
— madebyhosp. (@Hospey) March 28, 2017
The happy ending is written up in Billboard: he got the gig and went on tour with Chance. Hospey wrote a great article on it himself: How To Work For Your Favourite Rapper.
So, I’ve Been Thinking
Recently, I had the chance to sit down for a drink with Grady Booch. For anyone who doesn’t know his name yet, he’s a technology pioneer, innovator, and all-around fascinating guy. He was a primary creator of the Unified Modeling Language, and his career has included everything from work at NASA (where he was literally the guy sitting in front of the big red self-destruct button during launches) to his current gig serving as Chief Scientist for Software Engineering at IBM Research. I can also tell you he makes a mean Hawaiian-twist margarita.
Grady’s been at the center of some of the greatest developments in coding and technology in the past few decades which makes him a deep well for serious topics. Our conversation touched a lot of areas, but I was most fascinated by his take on one topic that the technology sector wrestles with every day: the ethics of code.
I don’t think it’s contentious to say that digital innovations are driving changes in every industry and sector at a pace that we have never seen before. Some of those changes have led to large-scale, fundamental shifts in the business landscape, and some of them have led to smaller, more nuanced opportunities for new and existing businesses. All of those changes, however, have the potential to affect people in more than just the positive ways we have in mind when we code.
From the Luddite Rebellion of 1811 to the Lamplighter’s Union fight against the electric arc lamp in the 1890s, worries about automation displacing human jobs has existed for literally millennia. Those fears have been offset by the reality that change typically takes place slowly. Robots, for a more modern example, didn’t take all the manufacturing jobs overnight. Instead, robotics has gradually reduced the need for “hands on” humans in the factory over the past several decades. The jobs lost weren’t effortlessly absorbed into the economy, but the shift happened slowly enough that they could ultimately be absorbed.
Today, the fear of automation displacing jobs that can’t be absorbed is far more possible. Technology is progressing at a breakneck speed no matter where you turn, and no industry seems insulated from waves of innovation that use automation to do things more efficiently and effectively. What was once just a concern for manufacturing workers is now a concern for everyone whose work has any analytical or repetitive features. Want to build a car with no factory workers? Look no further than the Tesla plant. If you need an appendectomy on the other hand, you’ll still need a surgeon for their dexterity for the very near future. It’s not far-fetched to imagine a future, however, when an attendant might oversee an automated appendectomy like a Starbucks barista making digital selections on a Mastrena Espresso Machine.
The work we’re doing in tech carries incredible weight that we may often take too lightly.
Factories or hospitals, the work we’re doing in tech carries incredible weight that we may often take too lightly. We are actively finding ways to increase efficiency in every field—and I laude that. But as our enterprise level efficiencies move up the hockey stick, we need to start thinking about jobs the same way we balance environmental impacts of our work. The impacts of our work goes well beyond the innovations we create. If it hasn’t been asked before, it’s time to ask now: what ethical responsibilities do we have as we use code to transform the world?
Concern over the ethics of code opens the door to larger conversation about how Artificial Intelligence, along with the changing ways we work, is incubating a new economic model in the West. It’s a model that requires different competencies and job types, but it also has the potential to empower humans like never before in our history.
The Implications of AI
Visions of AI have tantalized, inspired and terrified us for years. From Hal 9000 to Ex Machina, we portray AI as a conscious super intelligence or super villain. The reality is much more benign in the Hollywood sense and more insidious in its potential impact to our economy. The AI that’s real today is known as “Narrow AI” or “Applied AI” and it does very specific work like managing your calendar, finding a song that’s similar to others you like, giving you directions that route you around traffic and beating you in chess. It’s what many of us are working on every day, and, despite our fears of super-intelligence, Narrow AI is what is actually changing everything.
Dr. Rand Hindi, founder of Snips.ai, broke this down in detail in an article with a title that I love: “How My Research in AI Put My Dad Out of a Job.” Beyond the ethical jam, his point was that we shouldn’t worry about super-intelligence despite all the big names in tech who have come out with dire warnings. The reality is that super-intelligence could be a distant dream, and as Dr. Hindi puts it, we’re “missing the point that in the next decade, Narrow AI will already have destroyed our society if we don’t handle it correctly.” Though the warning is a bit hyperbolic, it’s true that when we focus on super-intelligence (also known as Strong AI for Artificial General Intelligence) we forget that Narrow AI’s inherently limited scope means that coders are working on discrete uses in every imaginable way. Narrow AI will replace or transform any job where information gathering and pattern recognition drive a volume business. That’s not just laborers. That’s accountants, traders, realtors, lawyers, software developers and on and on. The jobs can be low pay or high pay, but either way, AI can do it faster.
We’re already beginning to see how AI will become invaluable in these fields. For instance, one Canadian firm – Blue J Legal – is using AI to help accountants and tax lawyers predict how courts are likely to rule on a given set of facts and client circumstances years into the future. A Palo Alto-based legal startup, Casetext, is enabling lawyers to upload briefs and have AI do the case research work of hundreds of paralegals. In Japan, Fukoku Mutual, an insurance firm, is replacing 34 claims adjustors per instance with AI built from IBM’s Watson. In the US, we are particularly susceptible to Narrow AI affecting the industry. PwC found earlier this year that 38% of all US jobs are at a high risk for automation in the next 15 years. That’s just one of a number of studies that have reached the same conclusion: the next two decades will be a wild one for our economy if we don’t make planful changes soon.
Immunity to AI
That’s certainly not to say that every kind of job in the US is at risk. There is such a thing as “immunity to AI,” at least for the few couple decades. The simplest way to identify jobs that are insulated is to ask, “Does it require emotional intelligence or ‘non-patterned’ based decision making?” Ultimately, that leads to three broad categories of jobs.
The first category is jobs that require meaningful creative interactions with other people. Narrow AI can advise on the most successful closing strategies for a particular case, but it’s not capable of making a compelling closing argument in court. Even if we use an AI system to develop an argument based on the court’s preferences, to identify and incorporate all of the relevant case law and to select words and phrases that most people find persuasive – Narrow AI lacks a clear path to replace the human ability to deliver an argument to humans or to adapt mid-stride in reaction to others.
The same can be said for any number of professions. Marketing strategy and design will need human creativity and emotion. HR will need people to listen, empathize and make the right, context-based decisions. Nurses will need to bring humanity to patient interactions and treatment. Teachers will need to bring expertise and learner-specific strategies to education. Even customer service will need humans in place to receive escalations that go beyond an AI’s ability to address.
The second category of jobs are those that won’t be replaced (yet) due to limitations of robotics. Our ability to code has progressed far faster than our ability to build machines capable of fine motor skills or dealing with unpredictable physical challenges. Repetitive physical tasks are one thing, but as a report from McKinsey & Company last year pointed out, even maid service in hotel goes beyond the capabilities of autonomous machines. For example, everyone throws towels and pillows in different places, and automated robots simply can’t deal with that degree of difference in a cost-effective way. And though we are aggressively developing more advanced robots, it’s expensive and time-consuming to build them, meaning fields like on-site construction will largely have security for the foreseeable future even as the tools of the jobs change. None of that is to say that AI will not impact these first two categories of jobs. In fact, the most likely scenario is that many of these jobs will transform to work side by side with Narrow AI tools sooner than later.
The third category of AI insulated jobs are entrepreneurs. Be it a startup founder or a food truck operator who works alone, entrepreneurial roles require aspects of the of the first and second categories to various degrees. Small business entrepreneurs and solopreneurs wear many hats on any given day—be it CEO, CMO, CFO, CIO, etc. That diversity of work makes entrepreneurial work very difficult to automate.
Ethics of Code
So on one hand, we have jobs that are “safe from AI” while on the other we have jobs that are likely to be displaced. Where does that leave us as coders and technologists? If you listen to Grady’s Ted Talk on Superintelligence, you’ll hear him say, “The rise of computing itself brings to us a number of human and societal issues to which we must now attend. How shall I best organize society when the need for human labor diminishes?”
I don’t believe we should ignore the “I” in that question. The ethical dilemma we face in technology is one of our own creation, and that, to me, means it’s incumbent on the tech community to deliver the solution as well. Said simply, if you’re aware that the work you’re doing is going to displace jobs, you should be intentional in your effort to leverage technology to create new opportunities for the displaced.
Said simply, if you’re aware that the work you’re are doing is going to displace jobs, you should be
intentional in your effort to leverage technology to create new opportunities for the displaced.
Snap.ai’s Dr. Rand Hindi proposes an interesting idea for social and governmental programs that would support an economic framework that will make widespread, AI-driven transformation sustainable. His argument is that the end result of displaced or altered jobs due to AI is a population that must be more educated to do the job of managing or interfacing with AI. That means we need to incentivize people to have ongoing, skills-based education in technology.
Dr. Hindi poses Universal Educational Income, a system in which people would receive a monthly salary as long as they are enrolled in some kind of educational program. There are any number of challenges that come to my mind when any universal income is proposed—from who funds that scope of spending to can it ever be enough to make a difference. It’s not an obviously viable policy but I can certainly appreciate the beauty of the idea: create a system that engineers people into the AI equation. By incentivizing people to constantly learn, you have a more prepared workforce for a new economy. It’s a fascinating possible solution, and I believe the spirit of engineering our culture into an AI fueled economy is the right one. That said, I believe there are better ways to make that happen.
Engineering People In
First, I believe a simple premise is true: the faster we advance AI, the more we will drive demand for humans to manage and direct what AI makes possible. The reality is we are heading towards a huge supply of Narrow AI in the economy. Look at marketing for example, a field that is seeing a huge amount of investment in predictive AI technologies. Even as AI becomes acutely capable of optimizing ad spend and placement, the two select roles of the Marketing and Creative Directors actually grow in importance. The repetitive work is displaced, but demand for the creative thinking is actually on the rise. In other words, there has never been a better time to have the entrepreneurial spirit because technology and market forces are in place to support you.
Steve Case, CEO of Revolution LLC, gave a perfect example of this in a recent LinkedIn post. Two hundred years ago farming represented 90% of the American workforce. Now, that number is less than 2%. Rather than purely displacing jobs, technology made farmers more efficient and productive, and new jobs were created by the need to supply and support modern agriculture. In a modern context, it’s easy to envision new entrepreneurial roles that wouldn’t be possible without AI—ones made possible by bundling creativity and dexterity with deep analytical insights.
What jobs will best augment or enhance what AI can do? How can the tech industry be as instrumental in creating jobs as we are in displacing them? These are question that everyone driving tech automation should be thinking about. I’m pushing (at GoDaddy) to drive a platform to empower entrepreneurs to make their ideas real with the help of machine learning tools and predictive analytics to guide their decision making. I think that’s one important way to help make our economy immune to AI, but I’d like to challenge the industry to think of a hundred more solutions—and then get working to test them.
For entrepreneurial options, our goal should be to deploy Narrow AI in a way that encourages more and more people to experiment with the self-driven ventures. If we engineer tools that reduce the barriers to access through elegantly simple systems and widespread availability, then the technology we build for efficiency can help us empower economic participants at the same time. There’s no doubt that we can be the drivers of a new economy with new companies and new careers – but we have to be intentional about that role.
Finally, I think the tech industry needs to be a louder voice in the real risks to our economy that Narrow AI is creating right now. Grady Booch and other luminaries shouldn’t be left to carry the entire load. More of us need to clearly articulate why people should be excited about the promise of AI and its real economic dangers. We aren’t building Skynet, but we might be building something just as dangerous for billions of people if we don’t purposefully create new opportunities as the old economy passes.
Where I Land
Larry Niven once said, “That’s the thing about people who think they hate computers. What they really hate is lousy programmers.” That’s a timely and true quip in its own right, but it should also remind us that we are the one’s behind the code. We have an ethical opportunity to consider and attempt to address what will happen because of our code.
As we create new applications for AI that make it possible for seemingly once magical automation to happen, we should devote some of our time and energy to figuring out how to make more people magicians. Let’s help more people become builders of the new economy by putting the power of what we build in their hands as quickly and simply as possible. That’s how we’ll begin to see the new jobs and businesses emerge that will drive a new economy forward. No matter what, we need to bring our own humanity to bear every time we type a line of code. If we can do that, there will certainly be no reason to fear Skynet – but there will also be a lot to be excited about thanks to the future of AI.
Your Voice Wanted
One of the best ways for me to mature my thoughts on the ethics of code is to hear from you. Please share your thoughts below—I tend to be on my blog in the evenings, so look for my responses then.
The company Bayer is famous for inventing aspirin in 1898, which is arguably one of the world’s most beloved brands, and for good reason. But I was surprised to learn that just two weeks earlier, the same three guys who gave the world aspirin also created Bayer’s other big brand, heroin, which was marketed for about eight years as the world’s best cough medicine.
From Andrew Essex on his book about the End of Advertising. Hat tip: John Maeda.
I found this funny anecdote from a CNET article about the future of power:
Power and utility companies must exactly balance supply with what people consume at any given moment. UK grid operators famously must cope with a demand surge after the TV soap opera “EastEnders” ends, when thousands of people start boiling water for tea.
Last week we released version 4.8 “Evans” of WordPress, as I write this it has had about 4.8 million downloads already. The release was stable and has been received well, and we were able do the merge and beta a bit faster than we have before.
When I originally wrote about the three focuses for the year (and in the State of the Word) I said releases would be driven by improvements in those three areas, and people in particular are anticipating the new Gutenberg editor, so I wanted to talk a bit about what’s changed and what I’ve learned in the past few months that caused us to course correct and do an intermediate 4.8 release, and why there will likely be a 4.9 before Gutenberg comes in.
Right now the vast majority of effort is going into the new editing experience, and the progress has been great, but because we’re going to use the new editor as the basis for our new customization experience it means that the leads for the customization focus have to wait for Gutenberg to get a bit further along before we can build on that foundation. Mel and Weston took this as an opportunity to think about not just the “Customizer”, which is a screen and code base within WP, but really thinking in a user-centric way about what it means to customize a site and they identified a number of low-hanging fruits, areas like widgets where we could have a big user impact with relatively little effort.
WordPress is littered with little inconsistencies and gaps in the user experience that aren’t hard to fix, but are hard to notice the 500th time you’re looking at a screen.
I didn’t think we’d be able to sustain the effort on the editor and still do a meaningful user release in the meantime, but we did, and I think we can do it again.
4.8 also brought in a number of developer and accessibility improvements, including dropping support for old IE versions, but as I mentioned (too harshly) in my first quarter check-in there hasn’t been as much happening on the REST API side of things, but after talking to some folks at WordCamp EU and the community summit before I’m optimistic about that improving. Something else I didn’t anticipate was wp-cli coming under the wing of WP.org as an official project, which is huge for developers and people building on WP. (It’s worth mentioning wp-cli and REST API work great together.)
To summarize: The main focus of the editor is going great, customization has been getting improvements shipped to users, the wp-cli has become like the third focus, and I’m optimistic about REST-based development the remainder of the year.
I’ll be on stage at WordCamp Europe in Paris tomorrow afternoon doing a Q&A with Om Malik and taking audience questions, will also have a few announcements. You can get to the livestream tomorrow on the WordCamp EU homepage.
Christopher Mims writes for the Wall Street Journal Why Remote Work Can’t Be Stopped, also riffing off the IBM shift I wrote about a few weeks ago. I was excited to see an Automattician Julia featured at the top and a few other colleagues having their voice in the article.
I’m glad the New York Times is covering how to safely cut an avocado, because I’ve messed that up 100% of the time I’ve tried to handle an avocado in the past month. It makes you almost want to forgive them for that green pea guacamole thing.
Once a little boy sent me a charming card with a little drawing on it. I loved it. I answer all my children’s letters—sometimes very hastily—but this one I lingered over. I sent him a card and I drew a picture of a Wild Thing on it. I wrote, “Dear Jim: I loved your card.” Then I got a letter back from his mother and she said, “Jim loved your card so much he ate it.” That to me was one of the highest compliments I’ve ever received. He didn’t care that it was an original Maurice Sendak drawing or anything. He saw it, he loved it, he ate it.
From Maurice Sendak, the author of Where the Wild Things Are.
Today is 14 years from the very first release of WordPress. The interface I’m using to write this (Calypso) is completely unrecognizable from what WordPress looked and worked like even a few years ago. Fourteen years in, I’m waking up every day excited about what’s coming next for us. The progress of the editor and CLI so far this year is awesome, and I’m looking forward to that flowing into improvements for customization and the REST API. Thanks as always to Mike for kicking off this crazy journey, all the people chipping in to make WordPress better, and Konstantin and Erick for surprising me with the cool cake above.
As a computer accessory enthusiast, I’m excited that Verge did an in-depth profile of Anker, which makes some of the best chargers, cables, and batteries around. It also makes me more curious about the story behind Aukey and Jackery.
I am a road warrior who has racked up several million miles over the past decade, and since I’m also working more-than-full-time running Automattic (a totally distributed company) and leading WordPress I need the ability to be productive wherever I can find a comfortable place to sit. I carry a backpack with me almost all the time and obsessively tweak and iterate what’s in it, which led to posts in 2014 and 2016. This is the latest edition, and I hope you enjoy it.
This is a grey wool buff, which works as a scarf, a hat, or an eye cover if I’m trying to sleep. I tried this out because of one of Tynan’s also-great gear posts.
Theraband resistance band, which I aspirationally carry around to help stretch in the morning. Hat tip: Jesse Schwartzman of this blog post fame.
Some generic Maui Jim polarized sunglasses with rubber nose pads, which I like for running or hiking because they don’t move around or slip even when you’re hot.
Tzukuri “Ford” + charger, a super-cool Audrey company that is like a combination of a Tile and cool sunglasses. They connect via bluetooth to your phone and can notify you when you leave them behind, or use the app to locate them. A charge lasts 30 days. I think this is only available in Australia right now, but should be coming to other countries soon. (Or just buy them on vacation in Australia.) These replaced my fancy Maison Bonnet sunglasses.
Westone ES49 custom earplugs, for if I go to concerts or anyplace overly loud. (3rd year)
A Tile, which was a gift from my sister. I keep this in a pocket in my backpack and it helps me locate it if I lose it, or if I can’t find my phone I can press the button and it’ll make it beep. Surprisingly handy. Hat tip: Charleen.
Hermes business card holder. (3rd year)
A cut-out of a chamois cloth, which I use for cleaning smudges and such off glasses and screens. Mine is from Amazon but you can get at any car place or Walmart, use this guide to prepare, and then cut pieces off. Hat tip: Dean.
Airpods. These are just fantastic, and I highly recommend them. I use them for calls, podcasts, audiobooks, meditating, Duolingo… they’ve become an essential daily product for me. A cool trick is to use one ear while the other is charging in the “floss” case. Hat tip: Jony.
Bose QuietComfort 35, wireless bluetooth headphones. I misplaced my cool WordPress Sennheisers and picked these up in an airport before a long flight. They’re extremely comfortable, great battery life, and I keep an audio splitter and Lightning audio adapter in the case. I’ve hated on Bose many times in the past, but these are decent and I get why people like them, especially the comfort aspect. I am listening to them as I write this. I used Audeze EL-8 Titanium for a while, which obviously sound better, but the lightning cable was unwieldy and it was annoying (and ridiculous) I couldn’t plug them into my laptop. Hat tip: Every airport electronics store.
Jabra Sport Pace bluetooth earbuds, which replaced my Powerbeats for running and working out. They have been way sturdier. Pretty inexpensive, too, right now about $60. I know in theory you can run with Airpods, but I’d be too scared of one going down a street drain.
Cool carbon fiber money clip, which I use to hold a little cash for places like street vendors that don’t take credit cards, or if I’m in another country and need to carry around currency. The site is a little sketchy, they should upgrade to WooCommerce. Also pictured: The EasyPay XPress NYC Metro Card, which is super handy in New York as it auto-refills. Only downside is it doesn’t work on the PATH trains. Hat tip: Tynan and Rose.
Vapur Shades roll-up water bottle. Can hold a full liter, and rolls up to be small like this. Kind of new so I don’t have a strong opinion yet. Hat tip: Lululemon Lab in Vancouver.
Fidget spinner, I think this one is from Amazon. Try one of these if you haven’t yet, they’re surprisingly addictive. If you go over to 14 on the left you’ll see a custom metal one a friend made for me. Hat tips: Zach and Xa.
Apple Magic Mouse 2. A classic. (3rd year)
This is the latest Lululemon Para backpack, and unlike last year’s Cruiser it’s currently available in stores and online. I dig this iteration: it has a little less padding on the shoulders, but the big front zipper pocket is super handy and in general it’s a lot more streamlined and water resistant. Om clued me in to a similar one from Aer, I don’t know who designed it first. Hat tip: Rose.
So… there are two laptops, a custom prototype 13″ Automattic-logo Macbook touchbar, and the stickered 15″. I generally only travel with one of these, the 13″ for shorter trips or the 15″ if I’m going to be on the road for more than a few weeks. The performance is just better on the 15″. My favorite things about both are the 4 USB-C ports, that you can charge on any of them, and the Touch ID. (Automatticians after 4 years of tenure can get a custom Macbook, which we now offer with the WordPress, Automattic, or Jetpack logo. I usually get the test ones to make sure the quality is up to snuff.) I carry around the larger 87W brick from the 15″, and keep the extension cable now so it’s easier to plug in on those weak plugs on planes.
Kindle Oasis. I still love the Kindle. I’ve started listening to audiobooks this year and the integration with Audible is cool. The Oasis is great because of the real buttons and the fact that you can flip it to hold in either hand, but it’s been the most annoying model in a few generations because the screen brightness isn’t adaptive, and it gives “low battery” warnings when the extra battery cover is low but the actual device is not, which seems to defeat the purpose. Great form factor and ergonomics though.
Passport, because you never know when you’ll need to leave the country.
A pocket-sized Baron Fig notebook, which I use in meetings to avoid my phone. Hat tip: Rose.
Google Pixel. Best Android phone I’ve used, uses USB-C which I love, I love the size. I use this mostly for testing and staying current on Android, or as a backup. I use Google Fi for service on this one.
Forerunner 735, charger, and heart rate strap. I actually switched to the 935 since this picture was taken, but my notes apply to both. (Here’s a great review of the new 935.) Garmin makes the best fitness smartwatches in the world right now. Aspects are clunky: the app is not the most elegant, the add-on watch faces and such leave something to be desired, the sleep tracking is way worse than Fitbit, and there is no fine-grained control over notifications. That said, the battery life goes 8-10 days (!) so I often don’t even bring the charger when I travel. The stats are unparalleled especially for running. It’s waterproof and can also track swimming and biking. Finally my favorite feature: the screen is always on. I know that sounds basic, but I have been driven crazy by years of Fitbit and Apple Watch require tapping or wrist gesticulations just to see the time. (Extra awkward in a meeting.) My hardcore fitness friends love this one too. Hat tip: Aaron.
Three little fun personal care items: a great chapstick from Japan I don’t know what it’s called, but it says retaW aoyama / tokyo fragrance lipcream on it, Aveda Peppymint breath refresher, and an Aesop Ginger Flight Therapy roller similar to the Blue Oil one from last year. Hat tip Esther, Naoko, and my mom.
Belkin car mount, really handy when renting a car and navigating around. (3rd year)
This is a more-expensive but not-better version of what I had last year, which I’ll quote and actually recommend: “This is probably the least-travel-friendly thing I travel with, but the utility is so great I put up with it. It’s the Sennheiser Culture Series Wideband Headset, which I use for podcasts, Skype, Facetime, Zoom, and Google Hangout calls with external folks and teams inside of Automattic. Light, comfortable, great sound quality, and great at blocking out background noise so you don’t annoy other people on the call. Worth the hassle.” I leave the USB-C adapter attached to this. Cable still annoys me.
iPhone 7 Plus, on Verizon, with a Bellroy 3-card case. If you’re a guy I highly recommend trying out a phone wallet case, it’s a game-changer to only have one thing to keep track of and not having a wallet in your back pocket is good to avoid getting misaligned. I have three cards in it, an Amex, a Visa, and my drivers license. In NYC I also squeeze in the Metrocard. Hat tip: Craig (a previous Bellroy model).
The Japanese company Maruman makes this awesome grid-paper lie-flat notebook, which I fill and occasionally draw in. I love this thing, and having a work area where I can have my laptop, mouse, iPad, and this notebook all set up next to each other is my happy place. The paper is soft. Hat tip: Brian.
9.7″ iPad Pro + smart keyboard cover on AT&T. I didn’t expect to, but I really love this device. It gives me way more joy than my phone or my laptops. Gorgeous screen, long battery life, always connect, I can tether to it, write on it with the pen in 32, the keyboard is fast and silent, split screen is handy… I don’t know how to describe it. Like the Airpods, this product just excels in every area. I still have and need to use a laptop, but it’s less of my day and mostly because of some internal tools and security stuff we have.
I ended up with this beast Cable Matters USB-c mega-dongle to cover ethernet, VGA, HDMI, and old USB. Warning! To use the ethernet on MacOS you need weird drivers. Hat tip: Amy.
I’m not sure why I started using this Plantronics Voyager bluetooth headset, but it’s really good. This might not make the cut next year as the Airpods are pretty good, but if I’m going to be on a regular (non-Facetime) phone or conference call for a few hours, this is what I turn to. Hat tip: An Uber driver.
Lockpick set. (3rd year)
An awesome Hobonichi Techo pen (they have cool notebooks too), a sharpie (for signing fans’ items), and Apple Pencil for the iPad Pro.
Two rings: one Margiela one which has my lucky number 11 circled (for a long reason related to their numbering system), and one with the WordPress logo that was also a swag prototype for a ten-year tenure gift. I might wear these to remind me of something I’m trying to remember or focus on during a day.
I’m digging this Imazing 10k charger: it’s a cool color, smaller and lighter than last year’s, has a USB-C port, and outputs well. I found I never needed the 20k capacity of last year’s, hence the downsize to 10k.
This Aukey 30W / 6A travel wall charger I wish was all USB-C ports. I sometimes trickle-charge the laptop off this overnight.
A really mediocre Native Union two-port USB I got from TED. Not going to link since it’s not very good because of the way it plugs in. Since the photo I replaced it with the much-more-useful Aukey 2-port, which I highly recommend and give away all the time.
A pretty handy Ventev dashport car port charger that’s small and light. I found myself rarely using the USB-C on last year’s so I opted for smaller size and less weight in this one.
Mintia mints from Japan, yum. (I buy these there or ask friends to bring them back, they are much cheaper there than the cost on Amazon.)
This rat’s nest of cables and adapters is embarrassing, and I will further apologize and rant in the epilogue.
A random used mystery book I picked up at the Paper Hound Bookshop in Vancouver.
What blows me away making this list is that since last year almost every single item has changed, unusually high churn. I see now why y’all were tweeting me to update this post.
Two bonus items: Even in the summer I’ll often have something like this light Lululemon running jacket stuffed in a pocket for over air conditioned places or at the end of a flight when it gets chilly. I’m also currently testing out the assisted meditation device The Muse, but it hasn’t really stuck yet and I usually just turn to Calm.
Ensuring network continuity: One thing you’ll notice is the iPhone is on Verizon, which has the best network in the US, the iPad is on AT&T, and the Pixel is on Google Fi. This allows me to have a diversity of network access which is occasionally handy in the US and has saved my butt a few times when overseas. Whichever device has the best connection I’ll just tether the others to it. I almost never join coffee shop or hotel wifi these days, a good LTE connection is usually better.
USB-C Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things
Oh, USB-C, I love you. You’re reversible, fast, and work for everything, like I can charge my laptop with almost anything, and many new devices like Google Wifi use you for power. The dangerous cable on Amazon thing seems to have worked itself out, and having 4 ports on the laptop is amazing, I can charge everything I need off it. But as you can see from the mess of cables and how many other legacy USB things I’m carrying around, we’re (still!) in this really awkward in-between phase for computing. First, there are no good retractable cables, especially ones that have USB-C on one end and Lightning or Micro-USB on the other. I wish my headset, headphones, sunglasses, and Kindle didn’t need Micro-USB, and I wish the Airpods, iPhone, iPad Pro, Magic Mouse would just give up on Lightning and support USB-C instead. But we’re in this liminal space, and the number one thing I hope is better by next year’s post is that the USB-C accessory world has flourished and I just have a couple of neat retractable USB-C cables and things like the battery, wall charger, and car charger in 34, 35, and 37 just have all USB-C ports. A boy can dream, right?
Partly because the backpack is a little smaller, I’ve really tried to streamline and a lot of things from last year, like a small digital camera, the Chromecasts, travel router, etc I don’t bother carrying around in my backpack anymore. I hope these can get simpler and shorter every year. I tagged these with an affiliate ID for Amazon this year but mostly just to see if anyone actually buys stuff from these posts. I walk millions of steps a year with my backpack and wouldn’t carry something around unless I really believed in it, which is also why I’m always testing and trying new things. As you can tell a lot of this kit has evolved from recommendations, so if you have any please leave a note in the comments. I’ve also considered doing something similar for shoes, clothes, apps, suitcases, or toiletries, so holler if you’d like any of those. Alrighty, that’s it until next year!
The Economist writes about who’s wrong when flyers end up in the wrong cities. This has actually happened to me! Probably 7-8 years ago, it was an Air Canada flight from New York to Montreal, and I accidentally boarded the one to Toronto. The mistake was realized when we were on the ground, but had pulled away from gate. Being Canadian, they were exceedingly nice and asked me to stay on the flight but they’d find me one from Toronto to Montreal after I landed.
Like Yahoo a few years ago, IBM, an early pioneer of distributed work, is calling workers back to the office.
The shift is particularly surprising since the Armonk, N.Y., company has been among the business world’s staunchest boosters of remote work, both for itself and its customers. IBM markets software and services for what it calls “the anytime, anywhere workforce,” and its researchers have published numerous studies on the merits of remote work.
If “IBM has boasted that more than 40% of employees worked outside traditional company offices” and they currently have 380,000 employees (wow), then that’s 152k people on the market.
As I said when Yahoo did the same, it’s hard to judge this from the outside. A company that was happy about how they’re doing wouldn’t make a shift this big or this suddenly. It’s very possible the way distributed folks were interacting with their in-office teams wasn’t satisfactory, especially if they were forced to use subpar in-house tools like SameTime instead of Zoom or Skype. Yahoo didn’t have the best trajectory after they made a similar move, and hopefully IBM isn’t going to follow the same path.
In the meantime, Automattic and many other companies are hiring. If you aren’t going to work in a company’s headquarters, it is probably safest to work at a company that is fully distributed (no second tier for people not at HQ) rather than be one of a few “remote” people at a centralized company.
The bestselling novel of 1961 was Allen Drury’s Advise and Consent. Millions of people read this 690-page political novel. In 2016, the big sellers were coloring books.
Fifteen years ago, cable channels like TLC (the “L” stood for Learning), Bravo and the History Channel (the “History” stood for History) promised to add texture and information to the blighted TV landscape. Now these networks run shows about marrying people based on how well they kiss.
It’s from a few months ago, but Seth Godin is really on fire in The Candy Diet.
My colleague Sara has reached one million words posted to our internal sites, and has some tips for distributed work and communication. I just checked my stats, I’m only at 867k.
As I mentioned in the State of the Word this is the year we’re ramping up marketing. There is lots to learn and much to follow, but we have our first TV ads up in six markets to test. Each shares a story of a business in Detroit, and I actually got the chance to visit one of the businesses earlier today.
Dave Winer has one rule that matters and a number of other good points on making standards and protocols.
“When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe.”
— John Muir
One of my favorite talks from TED last week was by Laura Galante. The most hackable device on the planet is your own mind:
Amid the wreckage of fallen startups, Longreads is increasing the original reporting it funds:
Longreads has raised about $250,000 from “thousands of members” since it added memberships in 2012. The suggested monthly amount is now $5 a month or $50 a year, though readers can choose to donate any amount, and Armstrong said that the company’s gotten some thousand-dollar donations. All of that money now goes to pay authors, and WordPress.com matches every $1 from a reader with an additional $3, which clearly makes it a lot easier for Longreads to do what it wants to do.