You must stop coding, you must keep coding
Our dev team’s grown to twenty-three and when the summer intern zenith hits we’ll be — this is weird to type — forty for a few frightening days.
My biggest personal challenge now, by far: How do I stay connected to our product amidst all this scary m͓͇̘̗a̴̹̠̜̝͖̘n̩͙̘͙̫ͅa̬͙̖̬͍̦͔g͓̼͈͇̙i̪̺̘̙̻͘n͕̠̰̦̗g̗? Do I launch the damn editor? Write a single line of code?
I’ve been trying to squeeze every last bit of advice out of role-models I respect. I’m seeking stories from folks who’ve successfully navigated these waters. From personally writing tons of code in v1 to scaling and managing teams who then receive profuse apologies for all those v1 hacks. If this is you, plz send tips.
Here’re the various mentor voices in my head so far.
You must stop coding. But you must not stop coding. Stay very connected to your product. Make mockups and decisions and docs. Scale your team. Intimately know your tech and your tools. Don’t get out-of-date. Be a coder, but don’t waste time in the code.
You absolutely without a doubt need to keep coding, but under no circumstances should you be coding.
Got it. ✔ Chhhheck!
As confusing as that seems, there is solid agreement for how a technical manager should spend, say, 85% of her time. Scaling, recruiting, empowering, refining some teams’ focus, blah blah blah BLAH we’ve all heard it. Everybody agrees.
It’s the other 15% of the day that’s up for debate. This is that short bit of time when you do something creative that magically keeps you tied to your product and on top of your tech stack and generally immunized against pointy-haired-boss disease. Some suggest mockups, some suggest small production bug fixes, some suggest unit tests, some suggest writing code that you never intend to check in.Being a coder without coding
There’s leeway here, so for anybody else who’s trying to figure it out, here’s how I’ve chosen to spend my intentionally non-managerial time.
- Fixing small bugs for various teams. From a performance tweak to fixing a x-browser bug. Small, maybe 1 hour of work. I see the code, I make sure my dev tools are up-to-date, I ship, I communicate what I fixed. In and out. I can lightly connect with multiple teams this way.
- Pairing with somebody for 1 or 2 hours a week. I work with a developer who’s extremely effective at making use of my time if I give it to him. I put a block on our calendars, show up at his desk, and do exactly what he tells me to do. His project moves a bit faster, he steals whatever codebase knowledge I have left from earlier days, and I get to make a difference in our product by following his lead. I don’t personally think this would work if I showed up at just anybody’s desk. He’s unique, I’m lucky.
- Asking teams to send 1-4 hour dev tasks my way. I’d normally assume that this would overload me and I’d have to turn everybody down, but I’m actually still waiting on these tasks. *wink*.
- Participating in hackathons. I am excited to run another healthy hackathon this summer just so I can drop my managerial hat, hide in a corner, and hack.
- Using the weekends. This is a dirty secret. Little management needs to happen on weekends, so I use some free time to hack. Controversial and not a great tip to give everyone, but it’s important to me.
- Shutting myself away for a few days and coding a small feature. Last time I did this? Months ago. Last time I did this without feeling that I’d shirked more important duties? Over a year ago. I no longer think it’s wise. “You must stop coding.”
Rands’ Technicality is the authoritative piece on this search for maker/manager balance. He opens with “Stop coding.” By the end he commands, “Don’t stop developing.”
What’s clear is these waters are murky. Any good technical manager must go through the difficult transition from coding to spending almost their entire day empowering smarter teammates. But how you maintain that certain je ne sais quoi that separates you from the non-technical manager you never want to be is a pretty personal choice.
Me? I have to launch the damn editor. Just for 30 minutes. Not to code, but to code a single line.
Thoughts on Tumblr and Yahoo (in rebloggable form, upon reader request)
obitoftheday asks: What do you think happens if Yahoo buys Tumblr? And why do we all agree that it seems like a bad idea?
» SFB says: I think Tumblr starts monetizing itself more effectively. For years they’ve tried to do everything but the obvious, but the problem is, they’ve turned down a lot of good ideas as a result.
(Comparison: WordPress.com has succeeded at profitability by both offering paid premium features and revenue sharing-style advertising for bloggers—both things Tumblr has chosen not to do, but could arguably do better than WordPress if it chose to do so. Nobody really complains about Wordpress’ ads. Think that might be because they created a context for it that didn’t bug users?)
But this could come at the cost of a very strong community. I know of one heavily-active user I liked reading, The Callus, who has quit Tumblr and deleted all of his posts as a result of the whiff of a rumor of this buyout happening. I don’t think you or anyone else should follow suit, but that’s what people are doing.
As for the “bad idea” chunk of your questions, the problem is this: Yahoo has a reputation for letting acquisitions flounder under its corporate structure. Even the big ones. Delicious, for example, was nearly shut down before the founders of YouTube swooped in and saved it. And Yahoo has also tried the user-generated market before, including with Geocities and Yahoo Meme (which was effectively Yahoo’s failed attempt to create a Tumblr clone). Yahoo has a long list of discontinued products. And while Laurie Voss has a good point about Flickr, there’s a better point here: Building a community with integrity is tough, and change at the top can ruin everything if done the wrong way. I can understand why people might be worried. I’m worried, too. — Ernie @ SFB
P.S.: One key line from the story we linked last night: “sources say the company only has a few months of cash runway left.” Who knows if that’s true, but this is a company that unceremoniously fired its editorial team recently—a move that could be seen in a different light considering that line, though that’s speculative. Tumblr can’t run on dreams and reblogs and investor money forever. Something has to change on the business front to ensure the likes can keep coming. That change can come from the inside, but the change can come more easily from an exit.
I bought my first (tiny fraction of a) bitcoin
I’ve been tracking and occasionally writing about bitcoin for a year, but I’d never actually bought or tried to spend one. Clearly, I wasn’t going to make it out of a weekend at Bitcoin 2013 without changing that.
People here are evangelical about the cyber currency and get really, really excited about showing newbies how easy it is to take the first step away from Ben Bernanke’s printing press.
If you’re not surrounded by Bitcoin advocates, it’s not quite as simple as they’d like: Putting U.S. cash in and getting bitcoins out through an exchange service like Coinbase, BitInstant or
Mt.Gox (hold off on that one for now) requires waiting a few days to link your bank account (Coinbase) or going to a bank or money-transfer point like a convenience store (BitInstant).
If you’re buying directly from a bitcoin holder, though, you can do the whole thing in about five minutes. “I’ll show you how,” said my very patient guide and moneychanger, Julian Tosh of CoinBus.
First step: I needed a software “wallet” to hold my coin. There are dozens if not hundreds of options. Julian recommended I start with BitcoinSpinner, a free, well-regarded Android app with a very simple user interface. (Apple doesn’t allow Bitcoin wallets into the iTunes store, but a few people have made it through with sneaky workarounds. Hint: The “Paytunia” app stores more than just euros.)
Once I had BitcoinSpinner installed, Julian suggested I immediately back up my private key. Bitcoin wallets have two key pieces of information: Your public key, which allows other people to send you coins, and your private key, which gives you access to your stash. It’s literally the keys to the kingdom. Anyone with your private key can spend your loot, and if you lose it, it’s irrevocably gone. The Web is filled with tales of sadness and woe related to lost or hacked private keys.
I backed mine up by copying the private-key QR code to my phone’s clipboard and emailing it to myself. All set.
Next, the purchase. BitcoinSpinner’s interface is very, very easy. It shows your Bitcoin address, your balance, and offers two options: Send Bitcoins and Transaction History. I tapped the QR code icon for my Bitcoin address to make it large and readable.
Julian hovered his phone over mine, opened his Bitcoin wallet software and snagged the code. His wallet offered two transfer options: You can specify an amount in bitcoins or in a traditional currency like U.S. cash. Julian told it to zap me $5. The software ran the conversion on the fly, using Mt. Gox’s rate, and sent me a sliver of a bitcoin: 0.04053244 BTC. (For that, it charged a transfer fee of 0.0005 BTC — about a nickel.)
"Angry Birds" To Hit The Big Screen In 2016!
From iPhone app to movie the Angry Birds are set to take over theaters come the summer of 2016. The film is being funded by Rovio Entertainment who are the creators of the game. John Cohen (Despicable Me) and former Marvel Studios chairman David Maisel are attached to the project. Earlier this week it was announced Sony Pictures had won the distribution rights to the film, and they couldn’t be happier!
“We’re thrilled to be distributing this film and we hope this is just the beginning of what will be a long relationship with Rovio as we look for ways to work on future projects together,” Sony Pictures co-chairs Michael Lunton and Amy Pascal said concerning the project.
Angry Birds comes complete with a target audience, as the game has been downloaded over 1.7 billion times. Since its inception in 2009 Angry Birdshave spawned soft drinks, toys, an animated show, and even a theme park! It seems like a movie would be the next logical step.
Keeping checking PopWrapped for updates on the film!