One of the tricks I have recently learned for Slack, the chat program, is that they have a star system for messages. The star is a feature I have seen but I did not understand how to use it that well. After reading a page in the Slack documentation I learned stars are a todo list. It is not to be thought of as a bookmark but as a way to keep track of posts that you have to take action on. Suddenly the stream of overwhelming stuff is tamable.
Once I learned that trick, the stars in Gmail suddenly made a lot more sense to me as well. Now I use Gmail stars as an indicator of things I need to take action on or am waiting for others to take action on. No longer do those messages sit in my inbox. Stars no longer indicate random emails I thought were important. Instead they are this special place where I go to get things done.
The lesson of this is that sometimes the purpose of a feature in software is not obvious. While many software developers have done a great job of designing their software to be usable without a manual, sometimes reading good documentation can make a big difference in making the most of my tools. The best part is when different developers follow the same patterns or trends, learning something in one software program like Slack then easily transfers to Gmail. Everyone wins.
(Also if you need keyboard shortcuts for a web application try hitting “Shift+?” on a website. You will often get a reference card with keyboard shortcuts.)
After spending a week trying to increase the amount of sleep I get I have been unable to push myself to be in my bed for than seven and a half hours. However the difference between under and over seven hours feels like the world. Yesterday waking up with nearly six and a half hours was a bit of a struggle for the day. This morning I woke up with seven hours and twenty minutes and I feel great. I am not sure if I will ever successfully push eight hours, but today writing this blog post was easy, while yesterday I missed it.
Tomorrow is the BAA 10K, the second in the BAA Distance Medley. I am excited as the weather is supposed to be nice and my friend Marco is coming up from Connecticut to run it with me. It is also one of the fastest 10K courses in the country. So I should be able to make a good time on it. My hope is that I will beat the time that I made in my Salem 10K last summer. Given that this race occurs earlier in the season that may be tough, however.
As a part of this race series the BAA held a pre-race clinic at their Boston Marathon Runbase. It was a great experience to see Boston Marathon winners Meb and Des. The thing I love so much about this sport is that we are running in the same exact race as the most elite athletes in the world. I probably won’t be hitting the basketball court with Michael Jordan or play baseball against Big Papi or football with Tom Brady, but in running we all get to be in the same race.
The best piece of writing on the 2018 Boston Marathon I have read:
A deluge of icy rain drenching the 26.2-mile route to Copley Square, the relentless 25-mph headwinds, and the temperatures hovering in the high 30s had already made the 122nd running of the prestigious road race historic. It was clear that 2018’s Boston had a late entrant to field: Mother Nature.
What unfolded during the next two hours, 39 minutes, and 54 seconds wasn’t what Linden—or anyone else—expected. On her sixth try, haunted by the memory of losing this race by two seconds in 2011, the 34-year-old woman ran with doubt, in fear, and ultimately with unbreakable resolve down Boylston Street to become the 2018 Boston Marathon champion.
One of the ideas I picked up from our colleagues at the NYC Planning Labs while we were at the Code for America conference was to build a ritual of spending one day a week where we show off our work. The idea behind this ritual is to give us something to strive toward. We want others to understand our work better so we are planning to open up our Friday demos to the rest of our department after we have done them a couple times. Instead of having big deadlines at the end of a project we can now triangulate our work towards these smaller goals.
The other upside of this ritual is it enforces some accountability. In order to demo we need to have software that is up and working on a staging server. So we no longer are putting off the deployment step until later in the software development cycle. It also gives us a gentle nudge to consider some user facing features and changes instead of focusing merely on technical improvements. No longer will we wonder what our co-workers have done all week.