Freelance Friday 068 - August 30

We had a short week around here because we took the kid's backpacking to the Northern Terminus of the Pacific Crest Trail. I just thought the campsite was cool when I ran through it a few weeks back, but the campsite wasn't the coolest part. The best part was seeing all the PCT hikers that were finishing months on the trail.

We got to share marshmallows and chocolate with people that hadn't had any in months. We shared morning coffee and hot food with people that had been eating cold for months and hadn't had coffee. My kids loved it, and the hikers thought the kids were pretty awesome.

Now I want to head back for a week every year around PCT finishing time to hand out coffee and snacks to people that haven't had any creature comforts in months.

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I Shipped

Monday I shared the why of my move from WordPress to Statamic. In short, I'm not super impressed with what WordPress is now.

Wednesday I wrote about Unschooled by Kerry McDonald. If you've wondered what unschooling is, it's a decent book. The big question it doesn't answer is, how do families with two working parents do it?

Over on Liquid Web, I wrote about building a productive workspace. If you've been looking to revamp your space so that you can get lots of work done, go read it.

Friday Five

1. Similarities Between Mac SE and iOS

A nostalgic piece on a 30-year-old Mac from The Atlantic:

Now that laptops are ubiquitous, working on a computer at a desk is an ergonomic misery. At coffee shops and co-working spaces, people hunch over them, staring down toward screens perched at table level.

And

Laptops are even common in offices now, because their portability allows workers to take the job into the field with them--or more likely, to bring it home.

I've gone back to a desktop for my computing needs and use my iPad Pro with a Brydge keyboard usually. In some ways iOS with it's single modal window harkens back to computers that could do less and made you focus on the thing at hand.

In other ways, they're distraction machines if you don't turn off notifications.

As iPadOS 13 has been buggy with Trello and I've been forced to us my Mac Mini to get client work done, I've continued to miss my single small window that forces me to focus on the task at hand. My hours of focus per day take longer to get with my Mac than they have in 18 months with my iPad.

This article also made me think of a recent article by Craig Mod on fast software. Here he laments how bad software has become regarding speed. It seems insane that on my new Mac Mini I ever see a wait cursor, and yet I regularly do when I type longer articles. Yet vim on a cheap server still opens up 100,000 word manuscripts or deal with 5000 files in a directory without any hiccups.

2. Lack of Open Source Sustainability Keeps Women and Minorities Out

This is a sad look at the economic sustainability of open source software. It also brings to mind inequality since you have to have some alternate form of income to run an open source project. That likely limits women and minorities from even looking at contributing because they have bills to pay.

For women it may even be worse since they take a much bigger share of unpaid work around the house, even if they work full-time like their partner. It's less likely that women will have the leisure time to contribute to open source software, which means we're missing some excellent developers having input into our software. It also means we're limiting our input from these crucial groups of women and minorities in usability.

That only exacerbates the problems we have with software designed by white dudes, used by white dudes, that doesn't take into account the needs of anyone but white dudes.

I don't have an answer to make it better, but we need to be looking.

3. Another Flawed Study on the Productivity Boost for Multiple Monitors

Here is another study, this one from 2018, that shows that multiple monitors increase productivity.

I think the testing model is flawed though since users are give a task with no opportunities for distraction or to make choices outside of what they're supposed to be doing. In this scenario I believe that they're right, multiple monitors are faster.

I still don't believe that they're more productive for most people when they're given free reign over what they choose to focus on. As I've been forced back to macOS while iPadOS is too buggy for some of my tasks I've seen that it takes me longer to get my number of productive hours in the day done.

I want to see a study that looks at what real world people do with their big screens vs multiple screens vs iOS vs other tablet operating systems. No contrived tasks in a lab setting, but what do people actually do when given freedom to do what they want. How does screen size and operating system windowing model affect that?

If you've heard of this study, I want to know about it.

4. The Gig Economy Is More About Reduction of Worker Rights Than Almost Anything Else

From Invisible Women:

Zero-hour contracts, short-term contracts, employment through an agency, these have all been enticingly rebranded the 'gig economy' by Silicon Valley, as if they are of benefit to workers. But the gig economy is in fact often no more than a way for employers to get around basic employee rights. Casual contracts create a vicious cycle: the rights are weaker to begin with, which makes workers reticent to fight for the ones they do still have. Page 132

The more I read about typical Silicon Valley companies and their practices, the less I want to have to do with any of them. Where 12 months ago I wanted Uber or Lyft in BC, now I'd say let's invest more in public transit instead.

Earlier in Invisible Women they showed that most public transit is set up to cater to the typical male "working" commute instead of the commutes of women that are more often making more stops that aren't in the city centre of work.

That leaves women and care givers stuck with Uber, which is way more expensive than public transit. With the gender pay gap, we're saying that those with the least access to cars (also overwhelmingly women) should pay more to be mobile in our cities. Women are also more likely to be part of the gig economy or part-time, so they have less access to capital. They spend more if it to be mobile than a higher paid full-time male employee.

We have some serious problems around here.

5. Chris on His Move Away From WordPress to Hugo

My friend Chris talked about his move off of WordPress after 10 years.

Simple fact is, I still love WordPress and make my living with it but it simply isn’t the best tool for every job. Since the release of WordPress 5.0 I’ve found actually writing content in WordPress to be a tedious and aggravating experience. I’ve come to realize that Gutenberg is a wonderful editor for compiling content from various sources into a single page. It isn’t however, a good editor for writing simple blog posts.

I'm not sure I still love WordPress, but I do still make a living working on it. I think my issue is less with the software and more with how the community is being run lately. Seems more VC than Open Source, and really not something I'm interested in.