If you’re even remotely into this whole blogging or content-creation world, chances are you’ve already heard of Markdown. It seemed intriguing in theory, the simplicity and readability (especially compared to HTML) made sense, but I never found a particularly motivating incentive to sit down and teach myself. That being said, I struggled more and more to actually create content, citing the disproportionate amount of time it took to write, format and publish my theoretical posts.
Recently making the switch from retina iPad to iPad mini, I’ve been following the growing discussion and debate around the usefulness and power of the iPad versus a computer. Finding that the portability of the mini has encouraged me to travel with it more often than I had previously, I’ve been increasingly interested in doing more with my iPad. Writing on the iPad always seemed a little daunting, but if so many popular and talented writers managed to do it, perhaps they were on to something. Each and every one of them seemed to extol the virtues of Markdown, which makes sense when you’re writing on a device that lacks a mouse, arrow keys, and makes any kind of rich-text formatting disruptive to the actual writing process.
First things first, what is Markdown?
Markdown is a markup language that was created by John Gruber to simplify the workflow of web writers. Many bloggers, like myself, usually write our posts in straight HTML, which can be cumbersome and difficult to read through. Markdown provides a much simpler and easier to read alternative that can easily and instantly be converted to HTML using any number of free tools. — design shack
iA Writer seemed super-highly recommended everywhere it was mentioned, happened to be on sale when I was poking around, and was named the Official Mac App of the Year. I purchased it on the spot. After using it for a month or so, I now completely understand why it comes so highly-regarded: it’s barebones, basic, and beautiful, making it simple and streamlined to use. It’s got great support across iOS and Mac devices, and iCloud actually works surprisingly well (it also has Dropbox sync). It’s pretty cool to paste a URL in on the iPad and watch it appear near-instantly on the same document open on my Mac. (My only complaint is that I wish the Preview window was a little more realtime, but I suspect parsing Markdown instantaneously would be a little jarring.)
Watching the tutorials and reading a few blogposts were all good and well, but I knew I wouldn’t really get the hang of it until I forced myself to use it. So I learned Markdown in an evening, writing this blogpost as the actualization and application of my learnings. Each subsequent post has only boosted my proficiency.
Turns out there’s increasing support for Markdown being built into a number of publishing platforms, whether Tumblr, wikis and collaboration sites like Teambox, and even to apps like Simplenote, which I’ve already been using for years. As Gmail continues to bury their rich-text editors and I find myself using Evernote every day for work, I’m often wishing I could be writing in Markdown.
Once you have started with Markdown it is likely that you will come to a point where it is indispensable. What you want is Markdown everywhere. If you’re in the browser typing an email to a fellow geek or in an editor with which has no out of the box Markdown support. — RocketInk
You’re going to love it.
In response to Yahoo’s work-from-home ban, there’s been no shortage of thoughtful pieces weighing the pros and cons of a telecommute-friendly office.
David Fullerton from Stack Overflow took the opportunity to write a great rebuttal to the Marissa Mayer situation: Why We (Still) Believe in Working Remotely. Read it. I’ll wait. It’ll only take a moment.
I’ve experienced both sides of the argument. The perks and freedom working from home can afford are no stranger to me; I’ve logged-on from flyover states while visiting family and I’ve also worked in sweatpants from a sun-drenched NYC home office. I’ve also endured the challenges being removed from your team brings. As project/product manager, my capabilities are significantly limited without the freedom to walk to the other side of the office and tap my teammate on the shoulder. (I’ve written previously about the tools used to try to overcome distance.) Still, managing and detecting the needs, moods, and sentiment of coworkers doesn’t often translate to flattened conversations on IMs, in a chat room, or via a phone or Skype session. Things take longer. Process becomes even more unwieldy.
I’ve been working remotely or with remote team members for so long, it actually surprised me how much more productive, effective, and fun my role as a manager has become after joining a primarily co-located team last Fall. Even still, we struggle with the challenges of those working remotely. We’ve got some incredible talent that commutes to NYC from Philly, New Jersey, and various parts of Long Island. We’ve also got a few developers in Boston, as well as an LA-based sales team. On occasion, the realities of weather, children, and the cable guy still force us to adopt some of the techniques used in a remote workplace environment.
Let’s come back to Stack Overflow’s retort. Not only did Mr. Fullerton make a few great points as to how he’s found a remote workforce beneficial for his company, but he took the opportunity to mention that they’re hiring, raising a flag to attract talent that might connect with Stack Overflow’s work-from-home policy. Or at very least, entice talent that respects the company’s values for embracing social technologies and an open-minded WFH policy, even if they themselves would prefer to work in-office.
That’s not the only carrot Stack Overflow is dangling to their talent. Take a look at the rather-attractive benefits they offer employees:
• 20 days vacation
• Flexible hours
• Ridiculous health insurance (no copay)
• Insanely great workstations, chairs, and desks
• All-expenses-paid conference of your choice once per year
• Gym membership reimbursement
• Free catered lunch and monthly metrocards (NY office)
• Employees will never be poked with a sharp stick
Speaking of perks, did you see that if a Google employee dies during their employment, their widowed spouse receives 50% of the Googler’s salary for a decade? No tenure requirement whatsoever. A huge feel-good perk with (I’m assuming) a very low payout risk to the company.
Other tech companies are becoming more and more transparent as to the flexibility they allow in day-to-day work. Zach Holman regularly speaks and writes about the (incredibly) flexible work schedule at Github:
Hours are bullshit. Hours are great ways to determine productivity in many industries, but not ours. Working in a startup is a much different experience than working in a factory. You can’t throw more time at a problem and expect it to get solved. Code is a creative endeavor. You need to be in the right mindset to create high-quality code.
By allowing for a more flexible work schedule, you create an atmosphere where employees can be excited about their work. Ultimately it should lead to more hours of work, with those hours being even more productive. Working weekends blur into working nights into working weekdays, since none of the work feels like work.
In the end, work-from-home policies will remain a conscious choice for companies based on their values and business priorities. The continued debate will force leaders to clarify their policies to both existing and future employees. Yahoo is bound to lose great talent, but may make huge strides in efficiencies and innovation. We’ll all be following Ms. Mayer’s experiment closely.
The problem with apps, particularly ones that suck, is that we often feel nothing when we use them. They are not refactored and refactored and loved before they are wildly given to the public. They are released as ‘minimum viable products’ and we make pathetic sequels that make the story marginally better and we expect people to come back each time, pay their money and sit for hours and watch. They watch while we flail around and try to get them to use the app, or figure it out. Frankly, it’s embarrassing.
Chances. is a fantastic piece from Aubrey Johnson (via Svbtle) arguing the ways mobile app development could learn from the artistry and process of Hollywood. She also argues how some of this arcane blockbuster-driven institutional knowledge should be challenged when applied to app development and the general tech industry.
Continuous improvement, experimentation, and tweaking almost always produces a better app—it’s just that most clients don’t want to pay for it. In an agency setting, they want a fixed price, ever-ballooning feature sets, and are seldom interested in this type of long-term engagement.
I hope that being a female developer will cease to be a novelty.
I hope that you attend conferences and find yourself complaining about long lines for the bathroom.
I hope that you never have to see that look of shock when you tell someone you are a developer. Mostly, I hope you never have to hear someone say “good for you”.
I hope that when you attend a meeting that is mostly male, that you never get asked why you are not taking meeting notes. I hope you say “fuck this” more than “it’s okay”.” —
Stacey states her inspiration came after her 8-year-old niece called to inform her that she plans to pursue a career in video game development when she grows up. The thought got her thinking about her own experience as a minority in an overwhelmingly male-dominated discipline.
Having actually been in the room one of the times it was expected that she was the PjM—not me, the actual PjM in this case—this really resonated with me.
The Ms. Mulcahy’s have been few and far between in my ten years of tech, but I hope that changes quickly.
NYC is a city full of incredible culture and opportunity, but it’s also a place with a vibrant and growing tech culture. Fewer people realize that there is also an abundance of great opportunities for continuous professional growth and networking.
Here are a few of my favorites:
- NY Tech Meetup: Boasting the title of largest and longest-running in NYC, this is by far my favorite tech event in the city. Whether you’re looking to stay up-to-date with some new tech creations, or just looking for a little inspiration or motivation to start your own, you’ll find it all here. Warning: there’s huge interest in this event, so you’ll need to be ready to buy tickets the moment they go on sale during one of their ticket release periods.
- Creative Mornings: The brainchild of Swiss Miss’ Tina Roth Eisenberg, this is a “monthly breakfast lecture series for creative types,” and my second-favorite nerdgathering in the city. Usually held early Friday morning, you’ll find free coffee and snacks, nerd networking, and a concise presentation. They’ve even gone global and regularly post their talks on Vimeo.
- Etsy Code-as-Craft Speaker Series: “Etsy Code as Craft events are a semi-monthly series of guest speakers who explore a technical topic or computing trend, sharing both conceptual ideas and practical advice.” Plus, you get to see their gorgeous Dumbo offices and look out on the Manhattan Bridge as someone waxes poetically about font faces or merging code. Plus beer!
- Hyperakt Lunch Series: This awesome visualization and design agency in Brooklyn hosts lunch events on occasion. While I haven’t been able to attend any events just yet, I’ve got a major crush on them. If you love luscious infographics, this place has dataporn for days.
- Huge Tech Events: Dumbo-based digital agency that puts on some groovy events in their awesome office space.
- The Product Group: A Product Management meetup with a fairly active member base, but sometimes a little dry.
- Brooklyn iOS Dev Meetup: Exactly what it sounds like. (Although usually it seems like companies or startups looking to shark some iOS developers.)
This is a sentiment you often hear from people: casual users only need «entry-level» devices. Even casual users themselves perpetuate it: «Oh, I’m not doing much on my computer, so I always just go with the cheapest option.» And then they buy a horrid, underpowered netbook, find out that it has a tiny screen, is incredibly slow, the keyboard sucks, and they either never actually use it, or eventually come to the conclusion that they just hate computers.
In reality, it’s exactly backwards: proficient users can deal with a crappy computer, but casual users need as good a computer as possible.” —I really like this writeup about “Crappy Computers” by Lukas Mathis. In fact, it gave me comfort and assurance in myself when shopping around for my recent MacBook Air purchase. (I went with the base model, deeply discounted on Amazon around Black Friday.)
How’s it different than Pandora or Spotify Radio or Rdio or any of the other 8zillion streaming services? Their human-curated playlists. As a moderate (but lazy) music snob, I can appreciate good taste, but I’m too lazy to compile my own for you.
Check out their “Concierge” feature—it’s a fun playlist discovery method that keeps you from suffering Restless Pandora Syndrome, where you only ever listen to the same few stations, or they all seem to merge into the same station. Concierge guides you to first pick a time-aware mood, drill down into a music style, then choose one of three eclectic playlists. You can click into each to get a feel for the artists, as well as enjoy a snarky, well-editorialized snippet to describe it’s style.
Still not convinced? Peep TechCrunch or Mashable. (I’ll be curious to eventually learn who the secret, strategic investor might be—Spotify? Pandora? Apple?) Regardless, take a sampling of my favorite playlists so far:From the Runway to the Afterparty
Indie Apartment Party
The world is your runway and this is your afterparty. Dance to these deep and sultry rhythms from some of today’s most fashionable artists and DJs.
Walking on Sunshine
Fill your apartment with friends, neighbors and strangers; pour some drinks and dim the lights; start this playlist of new, cool and stylish songs; play it loud.
Some songs just have a certain je ne sais quoi; when you hear them you start skipping down a crowded public street. Embarrassing? Absolutely. Will you care? Not likely.
Nocturnal and textural electronica for long nights spent by yourself or with someone special. Listen to this until the sun rises.
A varied mix of smooth downtempo and electronic grooves handpicked for sitting by the ocean with a refreshing beverage.
Apparently you can follow me on Songza and spy on all my favorite and recent playlists.