Freelance Friday 057 – May 31 2019

This week was a loooong week as we wind down the skating season with a bunch of “fun” events that has my whole family going to support my wife (the coach) and my oldest (a skater). In theory next week starts to calm down, but that’s only a theory at this point.

Watch for a review of the Logitech Slim Folio Pro next week and likely a review of the Brydge keyboard for my 12.9” iPad. I’m also working on a longer piece about getting out of software lock in and changing my whole writing workflow so that it can be easily operating system and software agnostic.

If you’ve found my content helpful then new in 2019 I’ve opened up a Patreon page. You can help ensure that more helpful content keeps coming.

I Shipped

Monday I took a look at Reeder 4 vs Unread to see which one was the best RSS reader for me. Reeder 4 wins for now, but Unread still has the best reading experience.

Friday Five

1. I hate the term “full-stack” developer

I like this post from Chris Coyier. This quote in particular.

A full-stack developer on that stack means you know Linux, Apache, MySQL, and PHP. (Abstractly: server software, web server, database, back-end language.) This site runs on that stack, and I’m solely responsible for its development, so I guess I’m a full-stack developer in some loose sense.

But “loose” is a generous interpretation. I don’t know the first thing about Linux, except that’s what runs my web servers. I don’t know much about Apache, except that I sometimes use HTAccess directives to do things. I could count the number of MySQL queries I’ve written on my two hands, and I only really know PHP in the context of WordPress.

I agree with him talking about JavaScript means your “full-stack” for whatever that’s worth because a bunch of the stacks are now all JS.

I don’t think that most places looking for “full-stack” developers or people saying they’re “full-stack” have a solid definition to go with it. Most companies use the term so they can hire a single person that can maintain anything. No specialization needed, just do it all and do it well or you’re not “full-stack”.

2. Two notes on a decade of remote work

I found both of these posts and realized that I have also crossed a decade of remote work recently. 99% of that time was spent working for myself with no official “boss”.

Let’s pull some highlights, first from Tom’s article.

It takes a certain type of person to be able to work remotely for long periods of time. Are you comfortable in your own company? Do you enjoy putting everything into a specific task for a few hours? Can you do that without being distracted? These are the sort of questions I ask people when I’m quizzed about remote work avenues.

Are you that person? Can you focus or do you need someone else to set deadlines for you? What about interaction with people? Do you need a bunch or not much?

At one point my wife worked from home alone, and she needs lots of contact. Then I’d come home from a construction job and she’d want to go out and enjoy the hot sun with me, but I just spent the day sweating in the sun. It was not the best arrangement.

Whether you’re working from home or on a beach, you need to be productive. This can only happen with periods of intense focus in my opinion. Remote work often does not lend itself to this.

I disagree with Tom on this one. You’re at home you have the option to not answer the phone. No one can swing by your desk to “chat”. You just have to be focused instead of only thinking about the freedom that can come from working at home.

Put your phone on do not disturb. Use an app to mute social media. Get the game consoles out of your office.

Yup

A common attraction to remote work jobs is flexibility. No one looking over your shoulder, make your own hours up as long as you get the work done, go for a pub lunch, take an early finish if you need it.

Flexibility is a definite perk, but I’m also a firm believer in baselines routines. What I mean by this is how a standard work day should typically go.

I work from Starbucks the same day at the same time every week. I do the same tasks there every week for the same clients. Routine is awesome.

Remote workers often miss out on the end of week drinks and the Christmas parties. So with that said, extra effort is usually required to be social.

I try to head out every Friday afternoon to talk with people that I like. Coffee with a friend is awesome.

As a remote worker with a home office, there is always that temptation to carry on working. It’s like reverse distraction.

It took a while for me to stop heading back to do just one more thing. Now my wife can’t remember the last time I worked on a weekend or headed back to the office at night for a bit of work. Conversely, vacations are still a sticking point with us. I don’t do those well, yet.

Now to Viktor, which Tom’s post above pointed me to.

The first thing that I would like to point out is that remote working is not for everyone. Over the years, we have had a few team members that could not work remotely. In some cases these people discovered this themselves and chose to leave, and in some other cases it became clear that it was not a match.

I worked for a big WordPress agency, as employee 6, and found out that I was a terrible employee. I discovered this and initiated the call to figure out how I didn’t work there anymore. It wasn’t the remote part, it was the boss part for me.

Hiring remote means a larger talent pool. I’m hardly the first to point this out, but one of the major reasons why it makes sense to be remote-only. You are no longer limited to hiring in your geographic area.

Can’t count the number of times an interesting opportunity has come up but they say I have to commute to Vancouver (at least an hour each way if traffic is good) or worse, move into the US to some big tech area. Hard nope on both of those, not worth the life trade-off.

If I commute to Vancouver, I don’t get to see my kids. Way too much paperwork to move to the US.

Perhaps not related to remote work itself, but more the startup culture. VC used beat it in to young and naive early 20-something kids that it was cool (and even expected) to frequently pull all-nighters and sleep under their desk. I feel like the tide has finally turned on this.

Have I mentioned that I finish work at 3pm most days of the week and hang out with my kids. I have about 6 working hours a day and I focus on work during those hours. The rest of the time is for running, and family.

3. Today’s Actions are Votes For Tomorrow’s Life

Figure out what success means to you. Don’t accept others’ views or conventional wisdom. Write down what your successful personal and professional life looks like in 20 years. Then roll the clock back to today. Make sure your choices are in service of those goals. – Strauss Zelnick in Tribe of Mentors

I was telling a coaching client just the other day that every action he took today was a vote for what his life would look like in 5-years. That working every night and not spending time with his kids was a vote for not spending time with his kids when they got older.

So I pose the same thought to you….what type of life are your actions today voting for?

4. All consuming subscriptions

From Nick Heer in response to this WSJ article.

I think users will find it fatiguing — at best — to live in a world where we pay hundreds of dollars a month to listen to music, use software, and store files. There are advantages: we can listen to most music of our choosing on demand; our software is constantly up to date and regularly has new features; the files we store are synced across our devices.

I’m currently feeling subscription fatigue from file storage services. I use iCloud with a 2TB plan because that’s what my family and devices need. I have a Dropbox plan with 2TB, because I need to share big folders of stuff at least once a month. Those two together have me spending over $40 CAD a month on subscriptions.

I’m going to be looking hard at replacing my Dropbox features with a personal private cloud service. Getting a Helm is currently the front runner, which would also divorce me from Google Apps email.

5. Taking on Debt to Keep Up with People Who Took On Debt

I was already frustrated by the lack of financial sense shown in my fellow Canadians by this article but this is crazy.

Canadians are under social pressure that is pushing them into debt, with 91 per cent of millennials admitting in a new survey that they have taken on debt to keep up with their friends.

That means you took on debt, then your friend took on debt to keep up with your lifestyle. So you took on more debt to keep up with their lifestyle.

My wife and I worked hard almost 8 years ago to pay off all debts and the freedom this has brought us let’s me pursue business stuff that I want to and let my wife take courses to become a figure skating coach again. None of what you see in my life would be possible if I hadn’t paid off my debt.

I would have likely declared bankruptcy or been homeless with my family a few years back when I changed my business and my income took a big dive. It was hard without payments, I don’t see how it would have worked at all with payments.

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