Archive for January, 2021

Snowblower Mat

Thursday, January 28th, 2021

I’ve never been able to find a good system for what to put beneath my snowblower in the garage.

After you blow snow, the thing is covered in snow. This janky system I have catches it as it melts back into water, so it’s not a big sprawling puddle. You can wipe the snow off to some degree outside, but you won’t get it all.

A perfect mat would be:

Free startup idea.


Wednesday, January 20th, 2021

An Interview with an Anonymous Amazonian:

… we make it easy to migrate and difficult to leave. If you have a ton of data in your data center and you want to move it to AWS but you don’t want to send it over the internet, we’ll send an eighteen-wheeler to you filled with hard drives, plug it into your data center with a fiber optic cable, and then drive it across the country to us after loading it up with your data. 

What? How do you do that?

We have a product called Snowmobile. It’s a gas-guzzling truck. There are no public pictures of the inside, but it’s pretty cool. It’s like a modular datacenter on wheels. And customers rightly expect that if they load a truck with all their data, they want security for that truck. So there’s an armed guard in it at all times. 

Perplex City

Wednesday, January 20th, 2021

I was so excited about Perplex City when it came out in 2005.

I ordered cards and set about solving the puzzles on the cards. The big idea was that real life mixed into the puzzles a bit (“alternate reality game”) in a search for “a priceless scientific and spiritual artifact” known as The Cube. It was found a few years later.

I never got that far into it. But I did solve some cards, and at one point I even sent some of them in and received back some kind of prize. The details are fuzzy now on how that all went down. I tend to save physical artifacts from fun things like this in my life, so last night I got out the ladder and got down my box of stuff like this and rooted through it. I was almost sure I saved my Perplex City stuff, but I couldn’t find anything. Epic sad trombone.

Anyway, I was thinking of it, because I just read that the last Silver card was solved. The card difficulties went Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Purple, Black, and Silver. One of of the last Silvers is to solve The Riemann Hypothesis, which is not done (and wasn’t designed with a solution in mind). Other than that, the last one was to Find Satoshi.

This video was before it was found:

And it was finally done.

Unmoderated Doesn’t Work

Monday, January 18th, 2021

Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian, poking at the Parler mess:

Every few years, there’s some quote-unquote free-speech platform that gets founded in response to changes or policy changes that have been made. But the thing that all these platforms ultimately realize is that you hit a ceiling because people actually do want moderation because there’s always going to be some portion of the user base that exploits it to the point where people are just, like, Oh, this is annoying. Either they consider it spam or they just consider it just sort of low-effort content. The great irony here is all these platforms fail because it turns out there’s only a small number of people who actually want a fully unfettered, unmoderated platform.

Reddit is no haven of online moderation perfection, but they do pretty OK considering the scale they are at.

I’ve never been on Parler. By the time I’d heard of it, all the talk was how awful it is and how it’s being shunned. It didn’t take John Gruber long to get the vibe:

… trust me, having spent more time today digging into Parler than I’d recommend to anyone, Parler is a haven for fucking Nazis. Like, however many Nazis you think are cavorting on Parler — and let’s just say for the sake of argument that you’re a pessimist and you think there are a lot of them — there are more than you think.

Then there was this big data dump of everything on Parler, including deleted messages, which had metadata including geolocation data. Which makes it extra ironic now that they are “back” and talking about why they started the platform: privacy. Ryan Broderick:

Parler’s homepage now features a message from its CEO, John Matze, promising to let users back on soon. I have to say, I think it’s very bold of Matze to claim Parler is somehow defending internet privacy seeing as how it inadvertently got all of its users doxxed by antifascists last week because it was too much of bumbling Republican dark money cash grab to remember to clear EXIF data from its media uploads.

Maybe they should make the new site http:// only too, and talk about how secure it is. And make the database password “admin”.

1992 Tennessee Banjo Institute

Friday, January 15th, 2021

I randomly watched The Librarian and The Banjo the other day. It was a short documentary about Dena J. Epstein and her effort to document the history of black slave music. That culminated in the book Sinful Tunes and Spirituals (I’ve ordered it).

The 1992 Tennessee Banjo Institute was mentioned in it, which I had never heard of it. It was “The greatest summit in the history of the world!” according to the title of the video that came out after it, Banjo Meltdown. The whole thing is on YouTube and it’s awesome:

Old-time and bluegrass are there for sure, but so many different styles. Folk, blues, jazz, irish, cajun, classical… very multi-cultural, and in a way that is electric and exciting. It would definitely be a stop on my tour once time machines are invented.

The Award For The Essay That Nobody Can Stop Thinking About Goes To

Friday, January 15th, 2021

Indi Samarajiva for I Lived Through A Stupid Coup. America Is Having One Now.

Frankly, I expected more epaulets and tanks, but this is all you get. A bunch of dumbasses throwing chili powder. Someone at Four Seasons Total Landscaping, next to a dildo shop. What a fucking stupid century. This is what our coups look like.

Two months after publishing, the terrorism at the capital. It wasn’t as stupid as chili powder, people died, but it was still stupid.

I try not to be too doom-and-gloom though. I’m actually fairly optimistic the vast majority of people in the US are decent and don’t want and won’t stand for chaos. I’m optimistic that de-platforming terrorists and white supremacists will temper those movements. I’m optimistic that the change in power will benefit everyone.

My typical day

Friday, January 8th, 2021

I got tagged by Colin Devroe, so I had to!

5:00am – Pitter patter. Shower. Feed the dog and let it out. Empty the dishwasher. Off to work. My office is a few miles away. You go to an office during the pandemic? I do, as it is just my wife and I. It’s a neat place we have dialed in just for us.

6:00am – The early morning hours are my favorite for creative productivity. I allow myself to work on whatever I feel like working on. It could be anything. Working on a feature or bug fix for CodePen. A blog post. Editing a video. Answering email. I feel the most “fresh” at this time, so if I’m going to tackle something big, I feel most up for it right away.

8:00am – The day starts giving way to communication. Email and Slack messages flow in more heavily. I work on things that are my true work responsibilities.

11:00am – I almost always have a meeting of some kind.

12:00pm – Lunch. I feel guilty about eating it at my desk (often watching a YouTube video), when I should eat at a table like a grown up and take a walk.

1:00pm – Work on the things that feel the most pressing. Smaller meetings through the afternoon. Pairing sessions are the most common, tackling things that two of us can do better than one.

3:30pm – I’m still just working, but I’m starting to get faded. Answering one email might take me 15 minutes where in the morning it would have taken me 2 minutes. I might flip on the music at any point during the day, but almost always here at the end of the day, I will flood the office with sound.

5:00pm – Kick off home. I absolutely should entirely log off at home, and sometimes I do, but most often I don’t. We eat dinner as a family one way or another. We watch TV and do activities and chat.

7:00pm – Bath time for Ruby. She’s 3. Stories and bed time shortly after, always in bed by 8.

8:00pm – A lot of days we both go to bed right away, especially when we’re feeling tired, sick, or stressed. But somedays we’ll stay up another hour or so watching TV or doing a light house project.

If it seems a bit much to be doing 11-12 hour days, well, it kind of is. But I do a lot of work for companies that are small and trying to grow, and I’m theoretically partially in charge of that.

That long of a workday means that I can be very flexible without feeling behind. If I need to run any sort of errand, I do. If I need to stay home a morning, I do. If I need to come home “early”, I do. And I can do that without feeling like I’ve meaningfully eaten into my work, which is a major stressor for me. It means there is some space in my day for play and exploration.

WooCommerce + Printify: Almost!

Tuesday, January 5th, 2021

Printify is a pretty neat company. They print custom designs onto products and ship them. (Printful is a similar alternative).

They are the technology middle man. They don’t actually do the printing, they outsource that to actual printing companies around the world. Those companies print and then ship the product. Printify is very upfront about this, and you can see which products are printed and shipped by what companies.

Printify is the website where you pick the products, design them, price them, and list them for sale.

It is also the dashboard where you can see the status of all orders.

What it’s not is a storefront. Printify expects you to bring your own storefront website. Meaning a Shopify site or BigCommerce site or even an Etsy account (that feels weird to me, isn’t Etsy like homemade goods not dropshipped stuff? But OK).

As a WordPress person, WooCommerce is the interesting one to me. You don’t even need a special plugin to make it work, Printify uses the WooCommerce APIs already on your site to make it all happen. You even create and manage the products right on Printify, and it syncs those products over to your WooCommerce store.

Once that’s set up, now people order directly from your store and Printify immediately gets the order. They farm that order out to of their printing partners who prints and ships it directly to the customer. This is all appealing, as it means you can have a nice store on your site and have to manage very little.

I once worked with my friend Sara Cope for years and years on a product-shipping business. Sara had multiple walls of her house filled with products that she would package and ship. This meant that:

  1. We had to print the products ahead of time, always keeping an inventory
  2. Packaging and shipping was entirely manual, involving literally driving to the post office to send things.
  3. People didn’t get shipping notifications. We’d have to dig up reciepts and stuff.

An awful lot of work. The big idea is that if you grow large enough you can finesse the margins to be worth it. We never really got there.

If you don’t really care about making all that much money, you just think having a store would be neat because it’s fun and good for your brand or whatever, this Printify + WooCommerce setup is far easier to handle.

That’s not to say that you can’t make money though. Because it’s your storefront and you collect the money, you can charge whatever you want. The trick is making sure you’re charging well over what Printify charges you (make sure to factor in shipping costs correctly!).

The kicker is that because you’re the storefront and you’re making money off the top (hopefully), you’re also the customer support.

People buy things from your store, so it’s absolutely sensible that you are who they contact with questions and problems about their order. This is an email that you’re definitely going to get:

So now that’s your problem, and the solution is to go to the Printify dashboard, find the order, and see what kind of state it’s in.

That last one is a bit helpful, but tracking on international orders isn’t very helpful. I’m in the US (and our products ship from printers in the US) so the tracking tends to stop when the product leaves the country. (This makes me think I should look at products that have international printers as well as domestic… hmm…)

Shipping, in general, is long. I don’t have a great understanding of it since people don’t exactly write to me to tell me when they’ve gotten their item, but from what I can tell, domestic orders are at least a couple of weeks, and international orders are at least 6 weeks. Not terrible, but longer than most people expect.

Here’s the weird part.

I can put an order in directly right from the Printify dashboard. If I do, I can check this all-important checkbox, which automatically sends me tracking information:

And it totally works!

Printify even goes so far as to not brand the email, so it looks like it comes from our store.


If an order comes from WooCommerce, that checkbox isn’t checked, so the customer never gets a shipping/tracking notification.

Only if you catch the order right after they place, hop into the Printify dashboard and edit the order such that it has that checkbox checked will they.

If that one thing was fixed, it would reduce like 80% of customer support emails. That’s what the “Almost!” refers to in the post title. I feel like this one little issue with the integration is almost enough to not use it. I’m curious if it’s just a bug, or some setting that I’m missing, or what, but I’ve tried customer support and they confirmed it:

So, if you wish for your customers to receive the tracking via email, you can edit the order and tick the box before sending it to production.