Yesterday, the wonderful Doc Pop drew up a cartoon for Torque that made the rounds and got some attention from a few pals and ex-colleagues that work on the Jetpack plugin for WordPress.
For some reason, this comic bothered me. Well, not the actual comic itself, but my reaction to the comic bothered me, which then further bothered me enough to publish this here.
I noticed right away that the man on the right pretty closely resembles Doc Pop himself, and so it’s safe to assume it’s probably literally him having drawn a reasonable facsimile of himself that he titled “Me.”
On the left are two women having a conversation about a lack of Jetpacks in their lives, and Doc has written them to be relatable, and really… normal.
But… I’m actually worried for Doc.
My recent experience with strangers on Twitter is developing into its own type of PTSD where I’m beginning to censor myself and change my behavior to try and continuously re-prove that inclusion and diversity are important values to me, ones I prioritize.
Then someone says “no they’re not because of that we’re true you’d do this” or “you’d do that” or “I’m offended because you used this word this way.”
And so an innocent comic from a creative acquaintance made me worried that his portrayal of two women as being “not as into tech as he is” would turn out poorly for him in a way that I know he doesn’t actually believe.
This is me having been bullied, and trying to protect someone from attackers that might not ever even exist for him, and so it’s completely irrational to intervene.
I’m not offended, and I know Doc didn’t intentionally draw his comic in a way that’s demeaning towards anyone but maybe himself and what he sees as his own quirky passions, but because I could imagine a very real threat, it became really hard to not interrupt other people’s conversations to say “hey look at this potential threat I’ve identified.”
The interesting thing about this realization, is what I just laid out IS the cycle. It’s exactly the way that the abused become abusers, and the bullied becomes bullies. Someone beats me down, and now I want to prevent others from being beaten down, but that’s impossible unless I become the person who mentions something first, making me the bad guy.
It’s a really complex problem that has me seriously considering giving up engaging on social sites like Twitter and Reddit entirely. I feel like I have an intimate understanding of these types of elements of human interaction (more than most?) and am really growing tired of people assuming that “you need to learn a lesson” or “you can’t possibly understand what I’m going through” when I know that I deeply do, more than most, am more willing and able than most to help, but the offer to help actually will make things worse for everyone somehow.
For what it’s worth, I don’t think the comic is offensive because I know Doc didn’t intend for it to be. I don’t think it portrays anyone poorly. I don’t think it’s an issue. But other people might, and other people might be mad at me because I don’t feel how they feel. It’s all behavior that I don’t subscribe to, think is unhealthy, and try to avoid.
But, I wanted to write this out, and didn’t feel comfortable shouting it all over social media.
It just snowed here in southeastern Wisconsin; like there’s a winter storm warning and there’s probably 13 inches of the stuff everywhere.
I haven’t put the winter tires on the BRZ yet, because there hasn’t been any indication or need until there is now, an immediate need – and it’s too late to do it because the car is undrivable in the snow without them.
That’s the thing about snow, and stuff… by the time you can get something, it’s usually already too late and you don’t need it anymore.
WordPress, to me, is an independent publishing platform. It grants me the right to complete & total autonomy when it’s desireable, but also allows me to group up with others when that makes sense too.
An article from The New York Times puts into a nice perspective why I think WordPress is really important to the future of the web.
Every pirated music video or song posted on YouTube or Facebook robs the creators of income, and YouTube in particular is dominated by unlicensed content. Google’s YouTube has an over 55 percent market share in the streaming audio business and yet provides less than 11 percent of the streaming audio revenues to the content owners and creators. But Facebook, which refuses to enter into any licensing agreement on music or video, is challenging YouTube in the free online video and music world.
“They are taking all the money,” he noted. “They have algorithms we don’t understand, which are a filter between what we do and how people receive it.”
I don’t think this is anything new – tides will shift, and new technologies will emerge to try and help with distribution of content – but it’s scary to me now that so much of what’s being published funnels out into our enormous world through only a few hoses.
There’s more money in the world changing hands than every in recorded history, and I suppose it’s always been this way – content creators are starving artists and content distributors are benefactors – but the trickle-down distribution of wealth continues to run perpetually dryer vs. wetter.
I think in the WordPress space, companies like Envato are undervalued. Their operating costs are surely not as low as one may think, yet they continue to pay out millions of dollars to digital artists & creators. I think there may be room for more Envato’s to carve out their own niches, and WordPress plugins like Easy Digital Downloads and WooCommerce are the long-term solutions for people hoping to have a sustainable independent lifestyle.
Users of the Internet in the United States are starting to experience what millions of others in many other nations have dealt with since the widespread deployment of the world-wide web:
As the web evolves, an increasing amount of control is being exercised, or at least recognized as an opportunity that maybe wasn’t really achievable until more modern generations of client & server technologies emerged.
Even a simple Tweet becomes a questionable, yet enticing, click…
— Barton Gellman (@bartongellman) December 12, 2016
This is an experience I haven’t really felt – at least not since being a teenager galavanting around AOL chat rooms where literally everything was a risky click – but it is a relatively common way of life for so many already. When there’s so much unchecked information about us out amongst the world, it becomes really easy for someone to create their own narratives based on your search history, browsing history, bookmarks, online chat histories, et al.
I think all most of us can do is continue doing whatever we can to keep the web a free & openly accessible place, and try our best to create safe places to congregate with one-another.
I’ve experienced (and deeply investigated) the same exact trackpad issues on my 2012 retina MacBook Pro that people are now reporting in 2016, and Im going to share my experience with y’all.
Here’s how you replicate this issue on ANY retina Mac since 2012:
- Put the cursor on any side of the screen
- Remember where the cursor is on the screen
- Don’t touch your Mac for at least 5 seconds
- With any number of fingers, and from any side of the trackpad, try to move the cursor to the opposite side of the screen
- You will notice a split-second where the cursor jumps
- The trackpad is listening because the cursor does quickly catch-up
TL;DR – it’s working as it’s designed to work. Some Apple employees will go to great lengths to listen and help; others will say they do not see what you’re seeing & get annoyed with you quickly.
I had these same /exact/ trackpad issues the day I unboxed my maxed out 15″ retina MacBook Pro. Before that, I had a 13″ Air and a Mac Mini which did not exhibit any trackpad delay. I even paired the Magic Trackpad from my Mini to my Pro to rule-out the onboard hardware, and the trackpad issue was persistent across both.
That rMBP had a bevy of other issues. Aside from trackpad delay from day 0, a stick of RAM died, the display was the LG that had severe image retention, the hard drive failed, and eventually a GPU, all of which led to me paying $350 for Apple depot in 2015, and Apple eventually swapping out the top half (screen) and bottom half (main board, internals, including glass trackpad & keyboard.)
I had made so many repair trips, I started fiddling with demo units, and was able to narrow down which exact PCs had this issue. I also travel frequently for work, so I started going into every Apple Store in every city I was in, to check their machines for this problem, and all retina laptops have it – not the Air, Mini, or Pro (even when connected to 4K displays.) Maybe not the iMac, but I don’t remember because I was never interested in purchasing one.
I ended up buying an 11″ Air as my daily machine to replace my lemon of a 15″ rMBP, and it was a flawless workhorse. [I now use a 12″ MacBook, and it had a rough start to life, but is now also very great (even with the cursor delay.)]
Anyways, after back-to-back trips to Apple depot for top & bottom replacements, my old laptop was now comprised of only new-to-me hardware & still exhibited the exact same trackpad delay even on the El Capitan installation screen (I checked before I left the store.)
I chucked at the (very nice) Apple employee, and told him they could keep the stupid thing – I didn’t want it anymore & I already had an Air to use. He gave me the number to Apple corporate, and I gave up – I never called, because I was the only person annoyed by this, and it issue was much bigger than me.
So… rather than fix the issue, Apple introduces a mouse-jiggle animation to find a lost cursor instead.
The problem is palm rejection. It was originally an option in System Preferences, but Apple decided you’d never want this off, so they force-activited it & removed it for us. Here’s how it works:
- You move the cursor to do something, and stop for a few seconds
- Apple averages the time between input transitions to be about 5 seconds (if you haven’t moved the mouse again, it’s unlikely you’re going to soon.)
- In software, macOS feathers the edges of the trackpad that are listening for input, to cancel out the tiny palm nudges you are bound to make on a laptop
- If you start from the center and move outwards, the trackpad works perfectly
- If you start from the edge and move inwards, the trackpad appears broken and glitchy
Bigger trackpads and external displays exacerbate the was a User perceives this glitchiness
- There is no cure for everyone for this problem, because everyone uses the trackpad differently, and everyone perceives the delay differently
- All modern retina Mac devices have this issue, but many people never notice it. Even when you show it to them, they are able to tolerate it & work around it.
- It’s plausible there’s an old bug in the accidental palm rejection software, since this is retina only. Maybe the calculation between trackpad-size to display DPI is off, causing the larger 15″ tbMBP to make this more obvious?
- If there’s a terminal command to turn off palm rejection entirely (or to tune its sensitivity) I never bothered with it. Maybe the old setting is still in there somewhere and users can disable it.
- Why it isn’t disabled when using a Bluetooth Magic Trackpad seems like a bug to me, but I never filed a report to Apple aside from the numerous in-store visits and what-not.
Hopefully Apple is able to debug this further for an improved UX. As display technology improves and more people move towards externals for production, the delay becomes more noticeable to more professionals with high expectations on expensive hardware.
If anyone has questions, I’ll try to reply when I see them. If anyone from Apple wants to chime in, that’d be pretty neat too. ❤️
Do you remember The Berenstain Bears?
Do you, like millions of others, misremember them as the Berenstein Bears? I remember reading about this years ago, and now the web has caught up – people are freaking out about glitches in the Matrix, alternate realities, and other malarkey.
Brace for impact…
It’s always been “Berenstain”.
I very vividly remember my 2nd grade teacher “correcting” my saying “stain” in front of the entire class. I used to read books to the class, repeatedly, every week. The Pokey Little Puppy, The Monster at the End of This Book, and a bunch of other favorites that my mom used to read to me.
The Berenstain Bears was one of them.
This phenomena was created by adults without appreciation for detail, who propagated one mispronunciation to impressionable young minds. It’s the same as everyone playing Monopoly incorrectly for decades.
Human minds naturally trust ubiquity & do not reprocess solved problems.
The lesson? People all around you accidentally influence your perceptions, in ways that have seemingly invisible yet long-lasting effects.
Concepts like discrimination, racism, classism, ageism, and so on, are ideas handed down to us by the people that came before us.
You can continue believing what your memories have convinced you over-time as real, or you can accept reality as it presents itself today, tomorrow, and everyday thereafter.
There are no super heroes or villains. No aliens. No ghosts. No time travel. And definitely, without question, no Berenstein Bears. 🐻
Tone is more important than the words you use, until all you have is words. On the web, we’ve skirted tone for a long while with emoticons.
:) Thankfully, the wide adoption of Emoji is rescuing us from writing obscure combinations of syntactically invalid punctuation, and I think that’s a good thing.
If you read as much as I do, then you already know words like “just” & “that” unintentionally discredit your ideas and pitches; you know body language & confidence will win people over more than a lexicon of jargon; you know how hard it is to put biases aside and trust the data.
The data about written communication, is that we all suck at it.
Everyone, across the board, at both reading & writing, sucks at it, including me. I spend a lot of time, most of my professional career, not just thinking about social software, but how to improve both the value and the return-on-investment of the ways people socialize online. I think the answer, for me, is etiquette.
Different groups of people, teams, factions, etc… have an established rapport. They found communication styles & mechanisms that work well enough for them to have considered that problem solved-enough, so they can move onto solving bigger problems. When these patterns deviate outside of traditional or societal norms, is when it becomes increasingly difficult to break into those groups.
On a large scale, I can’t break into the Japanese WordPress User Group because I don’t speak a lick of Japanese. On a smaller scale, I can’t help my village planning commission make decisions because I don’t know any of the ordinances. At home, I can’t tell what Paul the dog is really thinking because he only understands a few dozen words and I don’t speak dog very well.
For teams of humans, working together to address intersecting needs, we’ve worked for thousands of years to lower the barrier of entry into these groups. Grunts turned into syllables, words, phrases, and sentences. We introduced syntactical structure to convey pauses, stops, and rests. But when the web exploded, we froze almost all written language because it’s now the web’s biggest dependency. We can’t delete “Q” from the English language entirely because
wp_enqueue_script wouldn’t work anymore.
All of this is to say, that we need to learn how to do better with what we have today, because there won’t be much new for the rest of our lives when it comes to written communication. To do that, means a few different things…
- Lurk. We all need to read, listen, & absorb. This includes understanding the general vibe of who is all involved, and deciding if it’s compatible with you.
- Respect. Groups of people have established processes. No one can change these easily, especially someone new & full of enthusiasm to rock everyone’s worlds.
- Decide. You need to choose where you think you fall in the pecking order, and make no mistake, there is a pecking order. Even flat organizations have a hidden social hierarchy. Understanding Social Dominance Theory will help you, here.
- Introduce. Once you have enough data from lurking, you can slowly start to apply what you’ve learned. Sometimes this means humor, sometimes strictly business, or other times it means only lurking and not getting involved at all.
- Pace. Now that you understand the social dynamic, and have decided where you think you belong in the group, it’s time to try to keep the pace. Traditionally, this is called “fitting in” but it’s important to earning the trust of your new acquaintances.
- Pass/fail. You’ll know pretty quickly whether any of your above efforts have resonated positively or negatively, and each interaction will echo through-out the group. Someone will mention you, one way or the other.
- Stay/bail. The level of joy you receive from any group of people should be the underlying motivator for driving your decision to stay or leave. If it’s rewarding, healthy, and fun, then stay. If it’s causing harm to yourself or others, my advice would be to consider anything else.
“Us vs. Them” is a real feeling, because we are – all of us – are constantly at odds with each other. In our base programming, we are animals, sizing each other up, and fighting for scraps. Sure; we are mostly domesticated animals, but during times of distress or high-anxiety, you can watch people become animals & treat other people that way too, and triggers could literally be anything from allergies to relationship issues to PTSD and on…
When it comes to WordPress’s leadership, or BuddyPress/bbPress, or really anything else, these same rules apply, but increasingly so because almost all of our communication is non-verbal. This means a million people may read your words and hear kindness in your written voice, but the one person you want to hear kindness may only hear rage, for reasons that may or may not have anything to do with anything you did or did not do. Phew!
My proposed solution, is etiquette. More pleases, more thank-you’s, more awareness of who is involved in what, who is in charge of what, who has earned what, and who the who’s are and what they want to be when they grow up. This means a base-level respect for everyone, regardless of your history or lack-there-of. It means reading your words back to yourself and trying to convey a smile without using
:) or 😀.
Ultimately, it means being patient, and taking the time to craft your words so they will sound like a well-intentioned contribution to your audience.
For slowing down, I’ll recommend you try switching your keyboard layout. In 2010, I switched to Dvorak – when my 100wpm plummeted to 20, those 20 words needed to matter most. Twitter’s 140 character limit maybe helps with being succinct, but I don’t know that length is as important as word-choice and knowing your audience.
Lastly, it helps to know yourself, and have a relatively clear idea of who the people around you think that you are, and how similar that is to who you think you are. If people think you’re always goofy, and you think you have something serious to offer, changing that perception is not going to be easy, and it may take a number of years to swing people around to accepting your style & approach for what it is.
I think if everyone has a bit more patience with each other, and we all take the time to consider the ripples we leave in people’s lives, we can communicate with written words in ways that don’t sink ships or hurt feelings. <3
Are you a software developer? I am, and everyday I’m embarrassed by my profession.
Every single day, I run across some website, app, video-game, program or plugin that is egregiously broken; embarrassingly broken; 5000-developers-with-six-figure-salaries-and-free-catered-lunches-and-still-can’t-get-it-right, broken.
Apps on my phone, tablet, computer, tv, and car, crash constantly, sometimes resulting in actual data loss. We shoved television behind a pay-wall in a cube that buffers and loads more than it presents anything. We broke copy & paste, because who would ever want to paste a password anywhere? Form fields do this shit where they want to autocomplete and autocorrect and autofill 3 different suggestions at once. We connected wrist-watches to the internet to draw doodles back and forth that don’t even send half the time. We hid mechanical engines behind electronics so complex there is noticeable lag driving performance cars. We connected entertainment systems to airplane diagnostic systems, so passengers can see how high up they are. We connect doors to the web to unlock them remotely, but firmware updates brick them and now you’re locked out of your house. We connect smoke detectors to the web and now the entire house & every connected device in it is beeping because you grilled a burger-patty, and the app on your phone to stop them isn’t responding.
Today’s software is a perpetual nightmare machine of non-stop frustrations.
Writing software is hard, mostly for reasons that don’t actually involve the software itself. I could go on about stakeholders, or how project managers are whatever. I could say that developers should be left alone to concentrate. I could say it’s nobody’s fault because it’s everybody’s fault. I could say all kinds of trite crap to poorly defend the people that populate the position I hold most dear, and currently the most fun job I think anyone could ever hope to perform.
I could say lots of things, but they’d all be lies.
The harsh truth is that many of you shouldn’t be writing software for production use, because you’re just not that good at it yet. You’re not experienced. You haven’t shipped anything. You don’t know how to recover from the damage you will inevitably cause.
You break people’s shit – constantly, anonymously, and without repercussion. You aren’t meticulous in your life, you don’t care about etiquette, so you won’t do your employer any better, and you certainly won’t care if any of your users complain on Twitter.
Sure; mistakes happen. We all overlook stuff. That’s how you learn, right? By repeating and improving and discovering what you missed the previous times. And there is more to discover everyday, because there are more & more design patterns and philosophies and dependencies and processes and teams and stakeholders and deadlines and Carl called in sick and no one understands what he even does here anymore but it’s suddenly critical to today’s problems and why is this line of code 500 characters long and who messed up all this whitespace and why can’t we all agree not to use ternaries and why does this class inherit from 5 other classes and on and on and on.
Software is eating the world, but… garbage in, garbage out. So, what can we do?
- Be meticulous. Someone will undoubtedly refer to you as OCD, or apply some other insulting derogatory bullshit label. Screw them; they suck at their job anyway.
- Pay attention, to everything. You are the Axel Foley of software development. Writing code and fixing bugs is target practice for your soul. Do it constantly, rearrange the pieces in your mind while you shower, and take everything in. This means watching, listening, learning, while writing less and solving more.
- Be vigilant. Everything around you is intricately balanced and ready to come crashing down at a misplaced semi-colon’s notice. I’m not joking. You can very easily cause millions of dollars in revenue losses by breaking just 1 dependency in a complex chain. Code is poetry, but it’s also contagious.
- Be respectful. Push your chair in. Hold the door for everyone. Smile at people, even when you’re grumpy. Someone has to maintain the terrible decisions you’ve made once you level-up & move-on, and that’s easier to do when you like the person who’s shadow you’re in.
- Contribute to open-source. This is where you earn your lumps; not behind closed doors, not in a sweet corporate environment, and not sitting at a desk sipping a mocha-latté. You need to jump up on stage, give your best performance, and embrace the tomatoes and boos, because you’re probably going to be terrible for your first few rounds.
- If it ain’t fun, it ain’t right. Once you stop feeling joy from the software you’re writing, it’s time to move onto something else. Sitting still and being complacent isn’t healthy, even if it feels pretty natural not to burn all those calories moving on to newer and more exciting endeavors.
- Make friends. Like, real ones. Ones that will come to your wedding from across the country. These are the people that will remind you how good you are when you need them to, and they’ll have your back when you’re not having fun anymore.
- Learn how to make soup. Not even kidding. Understanding how to make the best of what few ingredients you have is essential to writing good software. Embrace your constraints, and don’t be afraid of butter or salt because they’re universally delicious.
- Challenge authority constantly. Most people have no idea what they’re doing. They were asked or tasked with a problem, and either they follow the above methods or they pass the problem on to someone else. They’re in a holding pattern, until the next big thing happens to them, instead of making big things happen around them.
- Find mentors everywhere. Follow a person around that you want to be like, take bits of pieces of what works for them, and apply them to your life. Steal, plagiarize, and sample small enough traits until you’re an amalgamation of the hippest, funniest, most awesome people you’ve ever come across.
Then, after all of that, sit down and write the best ‘effing software anyone has ever used. ❤️