I'm Wynn Netherland. I follow Jesus. I dig APIs, dotfiles, and text mode. I work at GitHub. Folks call me @pengwynn.

Nobody. Understands. Punctuation.

Peter Welch on English:

But if we accept the chaos that informs the language, there's a lot of expressive power to be found.

Holds true for Ruby, too, perhaps the most English-like of all programming languages.

Fifty Years of BASIC, the Programming Language That Made Computers Personal

Edsger Dijkstra, a year before my birth, on what would be my first programming language:

“It is practically impossible to teach good programming to students that have had a prior exposure to BASIC,” he groused in a 1975 essay titled “How Do We Tell Truths That Might Hurt?” “As potential programmers they are mentally mutilated beyond hope of regeneration.”

When I was in the sixth grade, without any peristent media on my Atari 800, I spent hours copying, recopying, and later completing my brother's high school computer homework.

While kids today can pop open a JavaScript console in the browser and poke around, I wonder how many of us would have become developers without such an accessible language that just turned 50.

Radio silence and the remote worker

Years ago, before I began working remotely full time, I would often steal away to a hidden conference room on some sparsely inhabited floor to hide out and work. Getting work done often meant getting away from the office chatter.

The sounds of other people working can be overwhelming. It doesn't take much to overload my senses and shut down my brain.

The nature of remote work changes the nature of communication. Chatter for remote workers comes in a different form. Messages are often asynchronous and non-blocking. The result is longer periods of intense focus and concentration. Productivity ensues.

As much as we still complain about our clogged inboxes, for remote workers, noise is seldom the problem. It's silence.

If a little quiet is good for work, then more quiet should be better, right? For me, a prolonged lull in email, chat room conversations, and @mentions can have its own negative effects.

Isolation

Even the most independent people need regular human interaction. I normally work at home, where we also homeschool our kids. When not at home, I frequent local coffee shops with friends in the industry. I'm rarely alone.

Yet the co-workers I work with most are in North Carolina and South Dakota, quite the hike from North Texas.

When online communication lapses, it's easy to feel isolated with that kind of distance between team members.

Identity crisis

We all have our areas of expertise within our organizations. We are the keepers of certain domain knowledge. While it can become taxing to constantly field questions, there's a joy in sharing that knowledge with others. For better or worse, we often form our identities on being The API Guy, The JavaScript Gal, The HR Lady, or The Product Person.

When people stop asking you questions it's easy to begin doubting (however misguidedly) the value you bring to the team.

Tips for handling the silence

Chatter is seldom constant. Every din will eventually recede during periods of travel, holidays, and life events. It's the artificial lulls that you have to watch. Here are some things that help me handle that cycle.

  • Never work alone. It sounds obvious, but your chances of getting isolated decrease considerably when you're actively part of a team. Enlist support for features or initiatives you want to work on, or pitch in on someone else's efforts. We're better together.

  • Look out for each other. On the flip side, don't become so blinded by your own TODO list that you fail to notice when a co-worker has gone radio silent. An email, IM, or phone call has real power to help someone feel more included. I have no official HR responsibilities, but I try to reach out to new GitHubbers a few weeks after they're hired, just to say "I'm glad you're here, are you getting plugged in?"

  • Embrace the rhythm. Take advantage of those brief periods of peace and quiet, knowing things will get loud again soon.

Embrace the noise as the soothing sounds of :ship:-ing.

Will trade Atom invites for pull requests

GitHub's new Atom editor is out in limited beta.

logo

I've been blessed with a finite number of invites to share with you, my Internet friends. One can be yours for opening a pull request on someone else's public GitHub project that makes a meaningful contribution. Here are some ideas:

Just mention me on the pull request to claim your invite.

Aesthetics

Not sure it's my color, but too clever for a tee geek to pass up.

Aesthetics tee

/via

Every line of code is always documented

Code quality still matters a lot. But when pondering how you could improve your coding even further, you should consider aiming for better commit messages. You should request this not just from yourself, but from your entire team and all the contributors. The story of a software matters as much as its latest checkout.

Excellent tips from Mislav for investigating changes using a project's Git history.

Everyone on the Internet

Thoughtful piece by Timothy Clem on how we choose to craft the stories of our lives online:

My favorite hashtag by far is #nofilter. It’s the dichotomy of needing to communicate that No really! It looks exactly like this, with the wonderful truth that the existence of the photo is a very strategic filter on how you want the world to perceive your life. And to top off the irony, you make sure to connect said directed experience with every other #nofilter going on in the world at that moment. Brilliant!

And later:

And yet, I secretly revel in the experiences that I don’t share. The moments that happen off the grid. I go out of my way sometimes to not record and not broadcast.

I'm reminded of Captain Miller, sharing stories with Private Ryan trying to escape their battlefield reality:

Private Ryan: Tell me about your wife and those rosebushes?
Captain Miller: No, no that one I save just for me.

vimtronner

Learn to navigate using the core vim keys in a Tron-inspired multiplayer game.

demo

A field guide to static apps

A promising resource for building "static" web apps from Divshot:

Rather than assemble content in server-side processes, static web applications rely on the user's browser to drive interaction and content rendering. Once considered only useful for static content, modern static web apps can dynamically fetch data, synchronize multiple users in real time, and more.

While I think web developers who want to build apps should seek fluency in a server-side technology, there is a place for static web sites for small micro apps and MVP prototypes. Thanks to the rise of APIs that support CORS and services like Parse that provide a ready-to-go backend, these apps are more powerful than ever.

showdown

GitHub is also sponsoring an upcoming hackathon, the first such contest I've seen just for static web apps.

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