Priorities and Twitter

Priorities and Twitter

I joined Twitter on May 30, 2007, not long after its release to the public on July 15, 2006. My first tweet was pretty innocent:

When I first started tweeting, I had a handful of followers, mostly friends from the local conference scene. As I continued tweeting, I met more people, many of who became good friends. It was exciting going to conferences and using Twitter to coordinate meeting people I had only known online.

Those were the days of frequent outages and the infamous “fail whale”, so during one outage, an IRC channel was created where a bunch of us spent time together and chatted. That deepened the connection for many of us.

Twitter was fun, and for a long time, it felt small and intimate.

I remember hitting 100 followers, then 500, then 1000. I always wondered what value people got from following me because many of my tweets were nothing more than snark aimed at my friends. I never tried to be anything more than myself on Twitter. I never tried to be an “influencer”.

At some point though, things started to change, and it became less fun. I tried to keep my following list small, but it still ended up being close to 600 people, a far cry from the couple dozen at the start. My timeline started getting cluttered with retweets and then Twitter started showing me what people Liked. Those things truly reduced the usefulness for me. It became a chore to reduce the noise and increase the signal.

Elections years were never fun on Twitter, and they only became worse as time went by. I ruthlessly filtered and blocked, and tried to use Twitter for productive things, but it was getting increasingly difficult to justify the time I was spending on it. I took a few breaks over the years and it always felt good to step away.

“The true price of anything you do is the amount of time you exchange for it.”

Henry David Thoreau, Walden

After a great deal of thought, and after reading So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson and Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport along with watching Social Dilemma on Netflix, I decided to take another much-needed break starting on June 29, 2020.

After about 4 months away and not missing it in any way, I finally decided to deactivate my account on November 7, 2020. In roughly 13 years and about a month, I tweeted roughly 21,000 times and had 2,640 followers.

I didn’t make some big proclamation about leaving, I just quietly deactivated my account and went on with my life.

My last tweet was on June 19, 2020, and was also pretty innocent:

That link resolves to hey.com, a great email service from the guys who brought us Basecamp.

By the time this post is published, I will have been off Twitter for about 14 months, and except for this post, I haven’t thought too much about it other than to remind myself that it was a good decision. Every so often a friend or a new story will send me a link to something on Twitter. I’ll read it and then close that browser tab. I have no desire to stick around and look at anything else.

I believe social media can be a force for good, and it is all about how you choose to use it. Some people follow thousands and use a myriad of tools to filter the firehose, and I’m sure they get a lot of value from it. Some people use it to ask questions and to help others learn. Some people use it as a write-only tool, only posting, but never scrolling and reading messages from others.

On the other side, some people use it to engage in awful behavior. Some people use it to bully and shame others. It’s a place where people can hide behind their somewhat anonymous handles and snipe at others. It’s a place where blue checkmarks can say some really stupid things and be celebrated for it. Seeing stories in the news about dumb things people have done on Twitter always seemed strange to me. Twitter is NOT (IMO) the real world.

In Digital Minimalism, Cal Newport said:

“in an age in which the digital attention economy is shoveling more and more clickbait toward us and fragmenting our focus into emotionally charged shards, the right response is to become more mindful in our media consumption”

There was a time I prioritized Twitter because it seemed important. Its importance in my life has dropped to zero. I do try to be more mindful of how I spend my time, whether it’s on other social media sites, playing video games, reading, or spending time with my family. I have started to put far more emphasis on real connections again, and that feels good. The human brain is not meant to communicate in 280-character bursts with no other context. It’s meant for a higher-bandwidth mode of communication, and that’s what I prioritize.

YMMV.

Interesting links of the week (2022-2)

Here are some interesting articles, blog posts, and videos I’ve run into over the last week (January 3, 2022 – January 9, 2022):

Technology

Non-Technology / Random

Video

Books of 2021

Books of 2021

“The man who does not read has no advantage over the man who cannot read.” – Mark Twain

I read a lot, and 2021 was no different. By New Year’s Eve, I had read 53 books during the year. While I’m not going to list them all here, I wanted to call a few out for various reasons.

The first book I read in 2021 is one I think everyone should read: The Diary of Anne Frank. Apparently, I’ve read this before (based on my Goodread’s history), but it felt new to me. I’ve written in a journal almost every day since November 19, 2019, so I really felt a connection to someone who, while under awful conditions, spent a lot of time writing about her hopes, dreams, questions, concerns, and more.

I have enjoyed every one of Michael J. Fox’s books, and No Time Like the Future: An Optimist Considers Mortality did not disappoint. He’s a great writer and his humor (and humanity) come through in his books.

I read Tom Clancy novels for years, and always enjoyed them. Well, at least until Red Rabbit which was a terrible book. I always liked the genre so after finding a great Youtuber, C.W. Lemoine aka “Mover”, I took a chance on his books. I finished Spectre Rising on March 23, Spectre: Origins on March 24, Avoid. Negotiate. Kill. on March 28, Archangel Fallen on March 30, Executive Reaction on April 3, Brick by Brick on March 8, Stand Against Evil on March 11, Absolute Vengeance on March 16, The Helios Conspiracy on March 21, I am the Sheepdog on March 22, Fini Flight on March 27, and when it was released later in the year, N.O. Justice on August 1. To say I enjoy his writing is a huge understatement. 🙂 I’m looking forward to what’s next!

In the same genre, I stumbled onto Jack Carr. Jack is a former Navy SEAL who spent 20 years in Naval Special Warfare doing what SEALs do. As with Mover’s books, I read The Terminal List, True Believer, Savage Son, and The Devil’s Hand in just a few days. I pre-ordered his next book which doesn’t come out until May 2022. Oh, and The Terminal List is being made into an Amazon series starring Chris Pratt! From what Jack says, the series is going to kick ass.

On a more serious note, I really, REALLY enjoyed The Death of Ivan Ilych by Leo Tolstoy. It’s a pretty quick read, but thought-provoking.

Another really short read was Jack London’s To Build a Fire. I’ve read a few Jack London stories over the years with The Sea Wolf being one of my favorites. I don’t like the cold, so To Build a Fire struck a chord.

If you’re interested to know what Critical Race Theory is, Critical Race Theory: An Introduction is a good way to dip your toes in. It is written by prominent scholars in the movement/theory, so it’s as close to the horse’s mouth as you can get. My copy is now heavily highlighted and underlined because I believe it’s important to understand, not just pontificate. It was an enlightening read. I don’t agree with any of it, but I’m still willing to understand it. Educate yourselves. Don’t just listen to the talking heads on your news channel of choice.

Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe was outstanding! It took some turns I wasn’t expecting, but I’m glad I read it, and I highly recommend it.

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood was good, but the ending…GRRR. I won’t spoil it here, but when I hit the ending I’m pretty sure I yelled a few choice words. Her writing style was different and a bit hard to get used to, but again, I’m glad I read it.

Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury has found its way into my top 5 favorite books. It was so good that I can see myself reading it again in the not too distant future.

Overall, Goodreads tells me I read around 16,000 pages in those 53 books. The longest book I read was Once an Eagle by Anton Myrer and the shortest was Courage Under Fire by James Stockdale.

Interesting links of the week (2022-1)

And, I’m back.

Here are some interesting articles, blog posts, and videos I’ve run into over the last week (December 27, 2021 – January 2, 2022):

Technology

Non-Technology / Random

Video

549 days and a new start

My last post was written on June 17, 2020 right before I started a new job. It has been 549 days since that day (1 year, 6 months, and 1 day).

As priorities shifted over the last year and a half, I let things go here (and on my writing blog). I’m planning to pick things back up starting the first week of January with the weekly link blog posts, along with some commentary about life, jobs, job interviews, leadership, and anything else that jumps out at me that others may find interesting.

Until then, Merry Christmas!

63 days

63 days.

That’s the number of days between the time my 90-day furlough started and the day I resigned from that company.

On April 8th, me and 48 team members were notified we’d be furloughed. I saw it coming. I think many of us did. There had been talk of reduced hours, voluntary furloughs, as well as reduced pay. They even asked us what we’d prefer in the weeks and days leading up to “the day”. Unfortunately, our choices didn’t matter. In a series of meetings with at least two “survivors”, we were given the news – 90-day furlough with plans on bringing everyone back. The 48 of us were the “lucky” ones – they also laid off another 19 that day.

On April 8th after finding out I was going to be furloughed, I posted a short message on Twitter.

And I was furloughed for 90 days due to the impact of COVID-19 (starting on Monday). Good times.

On April 9th, I received a DM on twitter from a friend I have a lot of respect for that had a link to a job and a short message saying, “I think you should apply”. After some back-and-forth, I did.

I also posted this on twitter

For everyone furloughed or laid off during the COVID-19 pandemic (or really anytime) – remember, you own your career, not the employer that put you on the bench. There are still plenty of companies out there that value what we all have to offer. #hangTough

We all had to finish out that week of work, which was incredibly awkward. The walking dead were numb. The survivors were freaked out. I did what I could to wrap up my tasks. I attended standups. I tried to keep myself busy. By Friday, there was nothing else to do, so I pretty much took that day off. Oh, I also shared lots of Hunger Games memes with my manager. My last message in our team Slack was this

In Avengers: Infinity War, who are the heroes that disappeared ...

My furlough officially started on April 13th.

I spoke to the friend that sent me the job offer late afternoon on the 13th. We talked more about the company and the role I’d be filling. He filled me in on the timeline and said a recruiter would be getting with me.

For most of that week, I watched Pluralsight videos, played video games, and hung out with my family. Oh, did I mention that my wife had also been furloughed from her job back in March? Good times.

On Friday, April 16 – day 4 of my furlough, another friend contacted me via FB messenger and asked if I was interested in a short-term project. Why not! It’d give me something to do and keep some money flowing! After a short conversation with the client that afternoon, they asked me to start on the project the following Monday!

The project was interesting and kept me busy for most of 6 weeks. It felt good to be doing something and not just waiting. It felt good to have some purpose and to feel the accomplishment of submitting PRs and watching new features come to life. The money didn’t hurt either.

I was still waiting to hear from the recruiter, and eventually did after several days. It turns out he had been sick and was a bit behind. After talking to him about the organization, the role, salary requirements, etc. I was finally in the interview pipeline.

On May 18, day 35 of my furlough, I had a technical interview over the phone. I recall having a good time and clicking well with the interviewers. I know for sure I struggled on at least one of the questions, but overall, I had a good feeling.

On May 27, day 44 of my furlough, I had the second interview – a panel interview with four people. This one was on video. All the questions were behavioral. In the days between the interviews, I had done a little preparation – thinking of stories and events that I could talk about when they asked me the hard questions. In the end, it wasn’t as bad as I thought.

On May 28, day 45 of my furlough, I was contacted by my friend and told to expect an offer.

On June 3, day 51 of my furlough, I was offered the job.

On June 4, day 52 of my furlough, I accepted the job offer.

The recruiter called and said the background check would take a few days. We set my start date for June 22, 2020.

On June 11, day 59 of my furlough, the background check cleared.

On June 15, day 63 of my furlough, I officially let the employer that furloughed me know that I was resigning.

On June 17,  I found out that my furloughed comrades are getting bad news – MOST will not be coming back.

While I’m really disappointed with my former employer, I am looking forward to the new job. I’m excited to be on a team again and feeling like I have some purpose. I’m excited to jump into a new domain and learn. I’m excited to work with someone I have a great deal of respect for. I’m excited to meet new people. I’m excited to see steady paychecks hit my bank account again. I’m excited to have new places to go when the country opens back up. 

Having a strong network got me through what could have been a horrible couple of months. Having a strong network brought me work when I didn’t expect it. I am grateful for my network of friends, and for them reaching out. They could have done what most did and simply said, “Let me know if I can help” or “Sorry to hear that”. I don’t fault those people for those replies; I’m just saying it was nice to have people reach out with solid leads. The fact that I never actually said I was looking for work makes this all the more fascinating.

Three things I want people to take away from this:

  1. You own your career, not your employer. You cannot expect them to act in your best interest, especially in times of crisis. They need to protect the company, and sometimes they do that at the expense of the people that made the company what it is.
  2. Having a network of friends, colleagues, former co-workers makes a huge difference. Build that network. Maintain that network. It’s important!
  3. When you interview in the future, ask prospective employers how they handled the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s important.

Interesting links of the week (2020 #22)

Here are some interesting articles, blog posts, and videos I’ve run into over the last week (May 25 – May 31, 2020):

Technology

Non-Technology / Random

Video

Interesting links of the week (2020 #21)

Here are some interesting articles, blog posts, and videos I’ve run into over the last week (May 18 – May 24, 2020):

Technology

Non-Technology / Random

Video

Interesting links of the week (2020 #20)

Here are some interesting articles, blog posts, and videos I’ve run into over the last week (May 11 – May 17, 2020):

Technology

Non-Technology / Random

Interesting links of the week (2020 #19)

Sorry for the lack of links this week. Due to being furloughed from my job a few weeks ago, I took on a short-term gig that’s keeping me really busy. Next week will be better!

Here are some interesting articles, blog posts, and videos I’ve run into over the last week (May 4 – May 10, 2020):

Technology

Non-Technology / Random