Owning freelancing

Seth’s latest post is all about ownership.

If you want to build a career as a freelancer, or a business as an entrepreneur, it helps to own something. Really valuable public companies are worth so much because of the assets they own and the market position they can defend as they grow. A hard-working but disrespected worker (whether an online freelancer or an actual factory worker) struggles because they’re not seen as owning enough. People have choices, and they often choose to hire and do business with entities that own something that they want to use or leverage.

What do you own?

A big problem with my initial stint as a freelancer was that I walked away from it with very little in terms of ownership. Sure I had skills and knowledge, but so do tonnes of other developers. Looking back, there are a few things I should have owned that could have prolonged my time as a freelancer.

I should have used the time to build a product. By owning a product that helps others, I am creating value that others can see.

I should have marketed myself more. By owning my own freelancing landing page, I am able to share my value to others.

I should have written and published my experiences. In writing about my experiences as a web developer and the problems and solutions I encountered, I’m showing how I own problems and the value others can get from my solutions.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing. It doesn’t change what happened in the past, but it can help change what lies ahead.

Deciding on a new camera

When it comes to taking photos, I always resort to my iPhone. It’s a great camera and provides an adequate level of quality in most of the photos that I take. Lately though, I find myself looking towards an actual camera itself.

There’s lots of reasons for this, but the main reason is that I want to understand more about taking photographs as opposed to just pointing and clicking with my iPhone. I also know that I will, with time, take better pictures than my iPhone does. I’m hoping to use the camera for a wide-range of photos, but mostly I’m looking to using it for wide landscape shots, action shots and portraits.

I’m looking at a DSLR camera, specifically the Canon EOS 4000D DSLR. It comes in at an affordable price and many of the reviews I’ve read, rate it as a good entry camera. The next model up from this is slightly more expensive, the 2000D. At about £40 more, I’m not fully convinced though if it’s worth the jump up.

Whatever I decide, I think both are good enough starter cameras to begin with.

Trust people’s common sense

Senior minister Michael Gove has said he does not think face coverings should be compulsory in shops in England, saying he trusts people’s common sense.

Speaking to the BBC’s Andrew Marr, Mr Gove said wearing a mask in a shop was “basic good manners”.

Coronavirus: I trust people’s sense on face masks - Gove

The problem with this approach is that by and large, people will ignore what’s common sense and just do what they think is right by them.

I don’t always agree with Nicola Sturgeon’s politics, but I agree wholeheartedly with the move to make masks compulsory in shops in Scotland. It keeps the staff safe, it keeps the customers safe and it removes any grey area in between where people wonder whether they should wear a mask or not.

The 3 x 5 card

Nicholas Bate gives us a productivity system so simple it can fit on a single index card.

A fresh 3 by 5 card taken from the stack. One side is work. One side is home. Each side is divided in half with a vertical line. On the LHS side are things you need/have to do. E.g. at work return a client’s call; at home buy some pasta. On the RHS are things you don’t have to do but you will do because they will make your future life easier by reducing the things you have to do on the LHS.

The Tools of Excellence for a Brave New World, 8: The 3 x 5 card

My review of The Last of Us Part 2

This week I finally finished The Last of Us Part 2.

I’ve been waiting patiently for this game to come out for a few months. Being a fan of the first one, I eagerly awaited its release. I preordered the game through the PlayStation store and started playing it a couple of days after the release date. This post is just a few thoughts I had on the game. I’ve tried to avoid any spoilers, which is why this review is short.

The game starts five years after the first game with Joel and Ellie settled in the town of Jackson. From here, the story begins to unravel with a good pace, and you’ll soon find yourself in the thick of the action once again. You’ll find yourself taking out the infected, as well as searching for crafting items and munitions to top up your supplies.

There are some differences to the first game that I liked. For a start, there are more characters in this game which is a nice change from the smaller cast of the first game. With more characters, you get more story, and I do like games that have a good story to them. There are also more places to explore in the game. You can wander off the path of the game a bit more, and with the added option of jumping and climbing, you can use elevation to your advantage in combat. Stealth is still the best option in combat, but you can also use speed to your advantage, as your character can switch between actions more smoothly.

The setting and story are two areas of the game that I particularly enjoyed. Seattle, where most of the game takes place, has been recreated with incredible detail. While the setting was fantastic, it’s the story between the characters that I enjoyed the most. There are cinematic scenes in between the action that fills in parts of the story. I thought there were more of these scenes than in the first game, but to be honest, they did add to the game and its story.

The game also has its dark and violent moments. That’s not to say these moments shouldn’t be in the game. They should. It’s these moments that add heightened tension to the game. By the end of it, you’ll wonder how you’ll ever manage to play the whole thing again.

Despite these dark moments, I thoroughly enjoyed playing the game. It’s a different game from the first one but also a different game from many other games. I think it stands up there as a great game, and those involved at in producing the game at Naughty Dog, have done a fantastic job in creating a successful sequel to The Last of Us.

Hello Hey!

I’m sold on Hey email.

In the last six days that I have been using it, I’ve been getting my head around its features and workflows that make Hey different from most other email services.

The screener is a nice feature. When you receive an email from someone from the first time, Hey asks you if you want to continue to receive email from that person. Instead of you trying to determine if you have received an email from someone, Hey lets you know. Nice touch!

What I like best about Hey though is that it doesn’t look or act like a typical email client. There are some similarities sure, but instead of going down the same route as every other email client and using the same view for each collection of email, Hey goes a step further to make different groups of email more comfortable to read. The Paper Trail allows to scan recently received receipts, but The Feed page shows recently received newsletters and also makes them easy to browse through much like you might scroll through RSS feeds.

One advantage I’ve found from signing up to Hey is that I can stop using an email address tied to my domain name. Sure, it’s nice to own your domain name as well as use it for your email address, but I often wondered if tying these two together was a bit of a hindrance. Over the years my email address has been used for all manner of accounts and is probably on quite a few mailing lists that I would rather it wasn’t on.

In signing up for a Hey email address, it felt like I had a clean slate to start over with again. When Hey adds the ability to use custom domains, I might not transfer over my domain right away. I think I’ll keep going with Hey’s email address for as long as I can.

I’m going to pull the trigger on the subscription tomorrow at some point. Sure, it’s early days for Hey, and there are lots of things that are missing, but for a product in its first few weeks of launch, it’s got more than enough new features to make me switch over.

Giving Hey a try

With Basecamp’s Hey email product now open to everyone, I have decided to try it out for myself over the next two weeks. The plan is to send some newsletters over to Hey and forward a few emails to my Hey account. During this free trial phase, I’ll decide whether to stick with Hey or not. There are, however, several factors which will influence my decision.

I’ve been a FastMail customer for years. I have several email addresses redirecting to a single FastMail account. I’ve never queried the service and what it offers in all those years, but even though I am happy with the service, Hey’s rethink of email has me wondering what else they can provide in the long term.

My primary email address uses my domain for my email address. I also have a few email addresses on other domains as well in FastMail. Hey have indicated that they will support custom domains in the future, but what will that support entail? A single domain, multiple domains?

Like most online services my family uses, we are usually all in them together. iCloud, Netflix, FastMail as well as a few others. Email is one service we use that we are all in one. It would be nice if Hey included a family plan as well. Especially one that supported custom domains for each user as well.

The next couple of weeks will be interesting to see how good Hey is, but I’m not sure that two weeks will be enough to see what Hey is capable of doing. And with it being a new product, there are many features that we won’t see until after a few weeks or even months of usage, by which time I will definitely need to have bought into using it.

I like the new GitHub

This week, GitHub shipped a significant change in its user-interface. And with it comes the same reactions from people that we see whenever any product does a significant user-interface change. Some people like it, some people love it, some people are indifferent, and some people want it back to the old design.

I like the new design, but I did find one particular aspect of it a bit weird. The white space between the repository name and tabs on the left and the repository actions on the right is quite big on my 24-inch monitor. Maybe it’s the alignment of the repository tabs being on the left and not centred in the middle. Yeah, that’s it. Other than that, I like the new GitHub.

This morning as I trawled through my RSS feeds, I found a few links to CSS stylesheets and extensions that revert the GitHub design to the old design. As I’m sitting in the camp that likes the new design, I took a pass on reverting the GitHub design.

Having seen lots of user-interface upgrades over the years on different platforms, I’ve rarely had a moment where I dislike the new interface so much that I would install a plugin or stylesheet that reverts to the old one interface. This stylesheet or plugin won’t always ensure I can use that same design and if it does stop working, then the transition to the new design is that much harder.

These design changes improve the product and also give it a fresh coat of paint to keep it relevant. Also, this new design change from GitHub is not complete yet. GitHub will use this new design as a foundation for more minor changes to come. And with it, there will be a growing appreciation for the design.

That is until they start thinking about a new design change ten years down the line. But that’s okay. I can work with this new one until that happens.

We, the NFL, believe Black Lives Matter

An apology from the NFL’s commissioner, Roger Goodell:

We, the NFL, condemn racism and the systematic oppression of Black People. We, the NFL, admit we were wrong for not listening to NFL players earlier and encourage all to speak out and peacefully protest. We, the NFL, believe Black Lives Matter.

We, the NFL, believe Black Lives Matter

This apology from the NFL’s commissioner Roger Goodell, is a move in the right direction. Some might say it’s too late though. It’s been four years since Colin Kaepernick started protesting by kneeling during the US national anthem. His action’s are now being replicated at protests all across the US. Sure, the NFL have admitted that they are wrong, but the real test in their words will be during the upcoming season. Will players be allowed to peacefully protest during the national anthem?

Fun gaming with Minecraft Dungeons

Tonight I bought Minecraft Dungeons. To be honest, it might have been more of a nostalgia hit. Ever since I had my first computer, I’ve always had at least one form of dungeon crawler game installed. I also played a bit of Dungeons & Dragons as well, so the idea of a new dungeon crawler game was always going to appeal to me.

I’ve not really had a chance to delve into the game yet, but the review from The Verge paints a great picture of enjoyable the game will be.

What really makes it work, though, are the Minecraft trappings. Dungeons is a new way to explore an incredibly familiar setting. Yes, the gameplay is vastly different from the original, but there’s something satisfying about charging into a crowd of creepers while swinging a blocky sword and firing magic spells. It helps that the world is lovingly rendered and incredibly charming, from the beautiful landscapes — I especially love the desert areas — to the wonderful soundtrack. Even when you’re surrounded by pools of lava or giant gelatinous cubes, there’s something about the Minecraft aesthetic that makes it all very light and playful. Even the puzzles can be funny, like the dungeon keys that will run away when you’re attacked.

Minecraft Dungeons is a lighter, more family-friendly take on Diablo

The over due pull request

I have a pull request that’s been sitting in Github for about two weeks now. It’s for a Rails app and the pull request includes some breaking changes. I’ve done my best to limit these breaking changes but there are some parts of the application that I need to update after the deploy.

I haven’t scheduled this into my day as I know it’s going to take a chunk out of my day so I’ve just let it lie there for the last two weeks.

I can’t put it off any longer. I’ve scheduled it in for this afternoon. I just need to get it done.

Bringing back blogs

I hate to play down the benefits of blogging, but I think the author here has a point. There used to be so many blogging platforms. Google even had a filter on their search engine for blogs. Now though, it feels like there are fewer blogs out there.

But they would be the one thing I’d bring back to the internet if I could bring one thing back. They’re the thing I miss the most and the most often. They were the most valuable thing on here, besides freer availability of news, free although low quality video content on YouTube, and I guess some kinds of social media. But blogs are something you can sit down and read and get really into to the point you forget where you even are, and think about how you want to try those things maybe in your life, or just enjoy their writing, and you can read deeper into them into past blog posts, and tune back in later and see what they’ve posted since the last things you read about them.

If I could bring one thing back to the internet it would be blogs

I think this is a bit ironic me pointing this out. I’ve definitely not been blogging as much as I have in the past. I’ve been struggling with blogging frequently again for the last two years, but the want to publish just isn’t there as much as it has been in the past.

Stay focused with context

Curtis McHale offers some important productivity advice for those working from home which you can use. And yes, that includes those of you with kids at home as well!

So take some time and evaluate the context you have around you. What steps can you take within those limits to reduce your distractions and improve your focus? Make those changes so that you can have the most productive work area that’s possible.

Setting the Context for Productivity by Curtis McHale

A bird’s-eye view

I spent the morning finishing off a few components for a theme for my Caddieclix product. This is the fourth theme that I have done for the product. The idea is that organisations can select one of these themes for their websites and it will apply the theme’s look and feel to their own website, much like the way themes do for other content management systems.

This morning I was finishing off the fourth theme, but along the way, I felt that I got my intentions for the third and the fourth theme crossed over. It wasn’t until I took whole page screenshots of each of the themes and looked at them as images sized to my screen when I started to see where I was inconsistent in the layout of some of the themes. I could also see where I had applied the wrong styling for each of the components in the third and fourth themes.

In the last few months, I’ve been working at close range with each of these themes. I’ve been getting each of the components right for each theme and then moved onto the next one. I haven’t really taken a step back and seen if all the parts of each theme work together.

With these screenshots of each theme, though, I can see where I need to make changes to improve each theme and where I haven’t applied each theme’s styling consistently.

In the future, I’ve added a task to my theme review process so that I capture a whole web page screenshot of each theme. I’ll use this screenshot to ensure that each theme is adhering to its own design guidelines.

Goodbye mattisms.dev

After a few weeks of not posting to my dev blog, I’ve decided that over the weekend I will delete this blog.

I don’t see the long term value in having this resource on a seperate domain or in collating the links for this blog. Instead of posting to a blog, I’m going to start collecting web development and Rails guides and resources on a number of pages on my personal website.

Don’t worry folks, I’ll keep posting here and any major changes in this web development content will be shared here as well.

The benefits of bootstrapping

Today’s blog post from Seth Godin highlights what for me, is the most significant benefits of bootstrapping a product.

You’re not a bootstrapper because you are thinking small. You’re a bootstrapper because it offers a chance to chart your own course and to serve your customers without conflict.

Innovation almost always comes from individuals who see a chance to make things better. Instead of waiting, they go first.

The bootstrapper creates value

I really enjoyed my time freelancing. Working from home, setting my own hours, but most importantly, having more time to do meaningful work and being able to spend more time with family.

I’ve been trying to steer back towards this in the last year, and while I am making progress, I’m still not quite 100% there yet. I’m still in the early days of bootstrapping this product of mine, and I’m only now just starting to onboard the first few customers. Sure I’m spending some time at night and at weekends building this, but I’m in control of how much time I want to spend on it. It’s short-term pain for a long-term gain.

The product itself is hardly a game-changer, in fact, it is really just a content management system geared towards golf organisations. I choose this market after doing some research into current systems for this market and finding that most golf clubs and professionals are making do with poorly implemented websites. Also, some golf clubs are using a handful of third-party solutions to put together a working site. Hardly ideal.

There’s more to this than just delivering a product though. Through my product, I would like to see organisations in the golf industry prosper.

I would like to see more golf clubs attracting and retaining new members. I would like to see more golf unions promoting their junior development squads. I would like to see more local professionals succeeding as the preferred retail outlet for golfers as opposed to online outlets.

I can’t solve every problem for everyone. Still, by putting these organisations first and creating solutions for them, I hope that I can help these organisations succeed. By bootstrapping my own product, I can keep the focus on these organisations.

Bootstrapping my product will take time, energy and money. I hope that in the long term though, I will eventually have a business that will create value for organisations and in turn, allow me to create my own path.

New DualSense controllers revealed for PlayStation 5

Sony has revealed their new DualSense controllers for the PlayStation 5. A familiar look for the controller with the button layout, but what stuck out for me was the two-toned design.

Now, let’s talk about the colors. Traditionally our base controllers have a single color. As you can see, we went a different direction this time around, and decided on a two-toned design. Additionally, we changed the position of the light bar that will give it an extra pop. On DualShock 4, it sat on the top of the controller; now it sits at each side of the touch pad, giving it a slightly larger look and feel.

Introducing DualSense, the New Wireless Game Controller for PlayStation 5

I look forward to getting my hands on these when the PlayStation 5 is released.

The things I miss

We’re now into our full second week of the stay at home advice issued by the UK government. Everyone in the Lang house is doing just fine, but there are a few things we miss. Inspired by Bethany Gladhill’s post on “The Things I Miss”, I thought it would be good to do the same.

I miss the golf. We’ve had some great weather over the last few days and over the weekend the golf club would have been hosting it’s first competition weekend of the season. I would have been playing on the Saturday and Ethan and the rest of the juniors would have been playing on the Sunday. I miss the opportunity to get out and play a few holes.

I miss our favourite restaraunts. Within a ten minute drive of the house, we have a number of local restaraunts that we like to go to. We typically go to these more in the spring and summer. With Easter around the corner, we would have typically visited a number of these since the beginning of March. I miss the good food of these restaraunts and the deli counter of one.

I miss family walks. Sure we can go a walk as a family around our local streets, but I miss the walks we talk at our local country park which coincidentally sits right beside the golf club. Again, the weather would have made this an ideal time to go for these. We could drive to the country park, but I’m of the mind that there’s probably lots of other people doing this and it makes the walk crowded which isn’t great for social distancing.

I’m quite an introverted person anyway, so I’m probably equipped to handle this stay at home and social distancing quite well, but that’s not to say that I don’t miss human interaction. Just chatting with people, visiting family and friends and socialising is what I miss the most. Technology is there to help out, but there’s no replacement for good old fashioned face to face chat.

Monday firsts

First day for a number of things. Some are actual firsts and some are just reboots.

  1. Home schooling the kids while the school is closed. School has been giving out timetables for the kids to follow at home. Great to have a plan for Drew to follow.
  2. Using my new Logitech K380 keyboard. Those full-size Windows keyboards aren’t great on a desk with limited space.
  3. Seeing the Star Wars Mandalorian series on Disney Plus. I’ve been waiting a long time to see this.
  4. Committing to a blog post a day for the next week. I want to write more. I need to write more.
  5. Returning to daily logs for bullet journaling. Usually just use bullet journaling for the monthly logs and a few other things, but I’m returning to daily logs while I’m working from home.
  6. Sticking to the schedule. Scheduled a few hours today to do a few tasks. Trying to stick to these so that I’m not tempted to let the task just slide by.
  7. Skipping. Yep, bought skipping ropes as a cheap way of getting some exercise in.

Managing the firehouse of pandemic information

In light of everything that’s been happening in the world in the last two weeks, it can be easy to become overwhelmed by the volume of information that is being broadcast.

I subscribe to some news sites through RSS, and I read my Twitter timeline through RSS as well. It generally works well for me as all the content I see is listed in chronological order, and I read it at a pace that suits me. Since the end of last week, I noticed a significant rise in the number of posts that were coming through that contained information about the virus and pandemic.

I’m not suggesting in any way that all the information I am getting through these sources is all false, there are some truths in the information that I’m reading. Still, there is conflicting information about the situation and what should be done. While the situation is concerning for all of us, it can be hard to truly see the facts of the situation and not be clouded by speculative news posts and retweets of information that have no credible source.

I decided to mark all unread posts that contain information about the virus as read using Feedbin’s actions feature. A mute action if you like.

For the moment I’m getting the information I need from my government’s website and by checking in on a couple of UK news sites. It’s much easier this way as I can still get a bit of positive vibe from going through my RSS feeds without having to worrying about filtering through the volume of information about the pandemic.

New homescreen in iOS 14?

It looks like the homescreen is getting a big change in iOS 14.

Furthermore, the list view will include several different sorting options and other details. For instance, you’ll be able to filter applications such that you see all apps that currently have unread notifications. There will also be support for filtering apps by recently used, giving you better awareness of the apps you use most and least often.

iOS 14 to include new homescreen list view option with Siri suggestions and more - 9to5Mac

I could do with having less apps on my phone at the moment. However, I’m using some of my commute time to do some development with it so I do have a handful of extra apps on there.

I don’t think the number of apps that I have installed on my phone is over the top, but it would be nice to have extra options to keep my homescreen a bit more organised.

Pleasantly surprised by the Apple Watch

Pleasantly surprised.

That’s exactly how I would sum up my own personal review of the Apple Watch. I’ve been on the fence for a long time regarding the Apple Watch. Last weekend though, I bought a series 5 and I have been pleasantly surprised by the device and what it can do. According the Cult of Mac, I’m not the only one.

I often listen to podcasts when I’m cooking, cleaning, etc. Being able to skip forward in a show, or pause it, from my Apple Watch without having to stop what I’m doing and walk over to my phone is very convenient.

I thought Apple Watch was pointless but now I love it

The fitness tracking is by far the best aspect of it for me though. Getting in enough exercise and movement through the day is important, which I why I’m already won over by the three rings feature of the Activity app.

The Last of Us is coming to the small screen

The news that I’ve been waiting for. HBO is adapting The Last of Us into television series. And with Craig Mazin, the creator of Chernobly, on board, it’s off to the most positive start fans of the game could hope for.

I’ve been sticking with The Walking Dead series despite the drawn out story lines, but I’m hoping that The Last of Us will add a fresh spin to the zombie genre with its mutant Cordyceps fungus infected mutants.

Arriving at the height of the zombie media resurgence, The Last of Us pushed the subgenre forward with its emotionally resonating storyline and surprising character developments and attention to detail. The game has already been praised for its cinematic qualities pertaining to its plot, design, and vocal cast led by Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson, leading fans to wonder what more a series can do for the property, particularly within a subgenre that has largely exhausted itself on the small screen thanks to The Walking Dead and zombie shows that followed in its wake.

HBO’s ‘The Last of Us’ and the Art of Adaptation

The sequel to the game is also due to feature in the series, but the game itself won’t be out until May, so everyone is pretty much in the dark there about how the story will go.

I can’t wait to see the The Last of Us hit the small screen. As one of the highest rated games ever made, it’s a truly unique game at a time when gamers were flooded with multiplayer first-person shooters.

I hope that the series features the music of Gustavo Santaolalla as well. He created the original scores for the game which are well worth a listen.

Deactivating Facebook is good for you

I’ve had this opinion for a long time despite not having a Facebook account, but even if you do currently have one, deactivating Facebook is in fact good for you.

“Deactivating Facebook freed up 60 minutes per day for the average person in our Treatment group.” Much of this time was reinvested in offline activities, including, notably, socializing with friends and family.

Top Economists Study What Happens When You Stop Using Facebook

The study also reported that the Treatment group in this study felt less up to date with the news. Using a single platform for your source of news is never a good idea. It’s like buying the same newspaper all the time. The benefit of the web is that we can get news from multiple sources. I do have a number of websites I get my news from, but I also have a number of news websites that I check less often, just to give me a broader reach of what’s happening in the world.

First paragraph: La Belle Sauvage

Three miles up the river Thames from the centre of Oxford, some distance from where the great colleges of Jordan, Gabriel and Balliol, and two dozen others contended for mastery in the boat races, out where the city was only a collection of towers and spires in the distance over the misty levels of Port Meadow, there stood the priory of Godstow, where gentle nuns went about their holy business; and on the opposite bank from the priority there was an inn called the Trout

La Belle Sauvage by Phillip Pullman