Archive for October, 2013


Friday, October 18th, 2013

There is a person somewhere in the world whose job it is to create an account on CodePen and create a bunch of spam Pens (we call a demo that you build on CodePen with HTML, CSS, and JavaScript a “Pen”). They look like “landing pages” full of cheesy stock photography, keyword ridden text, and huge buttons. They link to nefarious places to buy prescription drugs illegally or apply for a payday loan.

When I’m particularly frustrated, I think about changing my opinion on the death penalty. This asshole is using my software, which I work so hard at making awesome, to cheat and steal from others.

And not only are they trying to hurt others, they hurt me. Their spam puts CodePen at risk of Google thinking it’s a spam farm and displaying nasty warnings when people come there and removing us from search results. A devastating blow for any website.

And not only are they hurting others and me, they are hurting my team. All of us want CodePen to succeed because we believe in it, but we also need it to succeed because we’re trying to make a good life for ourselves and not succeeding means taking a step back.

And not only are they hurting others, me, and my team, they are hurting the internet. Think of how much better the internet would be if so many smart people didn’t constantly have to spend so much time and mental effort battling nefarious crap like spam and online fraud. Straight up, it would be better. Information would be easier to find, at least.

So this asshole is basically roundhouse kicking everything in my life that I love. And for that they should die.

But then I’m having a better day and new thoughts replace those murderous ones. Surely life is quite hard where this spammer lives. Maybe getting a job at the spam factory is the only way they can feed their family. They are just clicking some buttons and hitting some keys — how bad is that really? Certainly it’s not as bad as their cousin who shovels industrial waste into the river.

And here I am, with my great life in my happy home on my high horse thinking awful things about them. Should I just shut up and deal with it? Or are these really terrible people who need a dose of wrath? Or is there some middle ground? I wish I knew how to do life good.

Originally published at The Pastry Box Project.

Can you return it first?

Friday, October 18th, 2013

Next time you ask for a favor, think about how you might reciprocate that favor. Can you do it before you even ask?

Originally published at The Pastry Box Project.

Evolution of Social Media

Friday, October 18th, 2013

Blogs were the first round of social media on the web. Medium length writing with links and images and such.

Then we got Facebook. We still write, but it’s shorter and doesn’t have the complexities of running a blog.

Then Twitter, just 140 characters of text. Even simpler, but you still have to write.

Then Instagram, where you just have to point your phone at something.

Then Pinterest, where you don’t even have to take the photo you just post other people’s photos.

I think the input mechanic for the next popular social network will be that you just have to grunt approvingly at something.

Originally published at The Pastry Box Project.

On Deleting Code

Friday, October 18th, 2013

It doesn’t take very long on a project to get to the point where deleting code feels better than writing it.

Sometimes it means you found a better way to do it that requires less code.

Sometimes it means you discovered a way to re-use some code from elsewhere in the project. That’s exciting because next time it comes up you can re-use it again.

Sometimes it means you are ripping something out of the site, which means you have the good sense, authority, and cojones to do that. That also means you are in a good place.

It always means that there is less code to support in the future. Supporting code is mental weight and reducing that load is as good for your health as losing physical weight.

It always means that you aren’t afraid of that part of your site. Anymore, at least. The longer you go without touching some code the more unfamiliar (read: scarier) it becomes.

It always means that you grow up as a developer a little bit when you’re done.

Originally published at The Pastry Box Project.

Things that would be interesting to watch/read/listen to:

Friday, October 18th, 2013

People talking directly about what they do is nearly always fascinating to me, regardless of the job, as long as they exude some passion about it.

This was part of the inspiration for The Lodge on my website CSS-Tricks. Less about dry “training” and more about the fact that it can be interesting and helpful to watch someone do what they do while they talk about it. Working in public, as it were.

Originally published on The Pastry Box Project.

It sure is easy to waste time sitting at a computer.

Friday, October 18th, 2013

I’d list the ways, but you know the ways. Some of that time is required because we’re decompressing. But some of that time is because we’re being lazy, procrastinating, or worse, lacking the self-awareness to even realize we’re burning hours.

I don’t have a solution, but I have one little idea. Every time you sit down at the computer, do at least one thing of significant lasting value. Think through a problem. Write an email that connects with someone. Design something new or iterate a design that needs it. Help someone. Write something intended for publication. Work on the digital empire that is you.

Originally published at The Pastry Box Project.

Mediocre ideas, showing up, and persistence.

Friday, October 18th, 2013

I don’t have much advice to give, but if I have any, it’s that little recipe.

Truly great ideas are rare. Jokers like us will probably never have one. That’s OK. We have mediocre ones all the time and they work just fine. I once had an idea to start a blog about CSS. I sucked at writing. I sucked at designing. The vibe at the time was that everything important about CSS had already been written. Nobody told me.

I didn’t just have the idea, I did it. That’s the showing up part. Hands on the keyboard, go. I barely knew what I was doing. I stumbled through even following simple walkthroughs on how to install the software. Executing your ideas is never overly comfortable.

Then never stop. Don’t get distracted by some other idea and prance away to that tomorrow. Keep doing it until you’ve done everything you set out to do and everyone and their mom knows it. I didn’t stop blogging when barely anyone read it for years. I didn’t stop when people told me I was dumb or wrong. I didn’t stop when redesigns were met with vitriol. I didn’t stop when faced with mountainous challenges like inexplicable server failure, legal trouble, and theft of the site itself.

Oh, plus, try not to be a dick. I’m convinced that helps.

Originally published on The Pastry Box Project.


Friday, October 18th, 2013

Says the designer as he rips open a mustard packet too forcefully and it spatters on his sleeve.

If only these idiot mustard packet designers took pride in their craft, like I the web designer do. They shouldn’t be packets at all, but little syringes that excrete mustard in perfect lines. We could add a rate-limiter so it’s impossible the mustard comes out too fast. And pneumatics to help excretion once it has begun as to not exert ourselves or limit mustard consumption to only the strong-handed. If only these packet-designing fools had one ounce of common sense.

Never mind that lady over there in the white shirt who opened three in a row without incident. Never mind that I was able to open the second packet with no trouble. You only get one chance to make a first impression, Big Mustard, and now I’ll never think of you as anything but a careless, greedy corporation that cares more about profit than product.

Hold on, I need to tweet this picture of my sleeve. My designer friends are going to get a real snicker out of your incompetence. My day is ruined over here and now I’m out to ruin yours, you yellow bastards.

If you hired my firm to design these packets, as you obviously should have, we would have considered the user right from the start. Each packet would come with a full body plastic suit that auto-deploys around the person opening the packet to prevent incidents like this. We would mix mercury into the mustard to weigh it down and arrowroot to thicken it up so it’s impossible to splatter. And what’s with yellow? That’s a stain waiting to happen. Mustard should be as clear as water. Didn’t think of that, did you?

What is really embarrassing though is your lack of presentation. What mustard really needs is more thoughtful packaging. I’m thinking a little nested box made from shredded tires and bent road signs. Inside the packet lies on a bed of dried hemp. The logo is letterpressed into the box top and then it’s all tied together with twine. WAIT. And the packet is wearing a lucha libre mask. There are 15 different ones you can collect. Ever hear of “gamification”? Of course you haven’t you bourgeoisie rodent.

Originally published on The Pastry Box Project.

Land Contract

Friday, October 11th, 2013

I signed the papers and wired the down payment to buy my first home yesterday. I don’t actually own it yet though. The papers were for a 2-year land contract deal. The current owner still technically owns it for two more years. At the end of that two years, I owe him the rest of that money. The idea is that I’d get a loan then to pay that, then I’d have a traditional mortgage. If anything goes wrong, I lose everything I have vested in it (bad).

I would have gotten the mortgage now if I could have, but banks basically laughed at me since I don’t have very much time being self-ish employed. It was surprising to me. I have no debt, great credit, a large down payment, pretty good income, and no dice on a loan. I’ve even been a member of the credit union for about 20 years! Oh well.

My lofty goal is to have the money to pay off the house before I need to get the mortgage, but that’s extremely wishful thinking.

Mister Splashy Pants

Sunday, October 6th, 2013

So this was the greatest thing Reddit ever did right?

Stargate SG-1

Friday, October 4th, 2013

I’m rewatching the entire series just for kicks. It’s the comfort food of TV for me. Not much thinking, but enough that it’s not boring. No characters or plots that are so annoying that it distracts my calm. By the tenth episode of the first season, they have a really solid sci-fi universe built that you can feel comfortable in and just go for the ride.