Wrapping up National Blog Post Month

Between writing a blog post almost every day and going back to the beginning of this blog and re-reading stuff I wrote over twenty years ago, it’s been a bloggy month over here!

I only missed two days. I can live with that. I’ve blogged more this month than I have in years, and that was the whole goal.

My big learning from this experience is that social media really killed my blogging. If you look at the first few years of posts, I sometimes posted multiple short posts in a day and maybe one longer thing a week.

Now, I never write short posts. They’re all longer than a paragraph, and that’s what blogging means to me now, which I think is misguided and too inspired by more “professional” blogs. This is my personal space, and I should use it to post whatever inane nonsense is on my mind. It’s not a diary, but it is kind of a public journal of what I’m thinking about – a perennial first draft of things that might become something more professional in the future.

I need to give myself permission to post the first draft (sorry in advance), and be OK with it living forever(ish). Because that’s what blogging should be – the great empathy engine of the web. It’s our thoughts, our selves, out there for anyone to stumble across and get a glimpse of our lived experience. Whether you’re me, a cishet white male with serious dad energy, a writer in Minnesota, or a famous sci-fi author in Ohio, your life is worth talking about. Your thoughts are worth sharing.

I probably won’t post once a day, but I’m hoping I make blogging a habit again. Fingers crossed!

The expert is calling from inside the house

I’ve played product manager more often this year than I have in years. It’s been a fun role to get back into.

It’s also been a long time since I played product manager at a larger company. The last two times were tiny startups, and well, it’s a very different experience.

With tiny startup product management, I didn’t have a lot of internal expertise to rely on, so most of the research was external – I had to find people to talk to, find research, do a lot of research, and figure out how to validate assumptions.

A lot of that is similar in a larger company, but, the expertise is inside the walls at a larger company. I’ve had great results in all of my recent projects by just asking for folks who have expertise in big public Slack channels and they just appeared!

I think we frequently discount our own, and our peers’, expertise when doing discovery and research, especially our peers in customer support roles. I think that’s a huge mistake. Who talks to your customer more than the folks in customer support? Nobody. Who knows your product better than the people who have to support it? Pretty much nobody.

I was able to jump start onboarding to new subject areas a whole lot faster by asking our support teams about their processes and doing user interviews, just like I would with a potential customer, and that lead to some really interesting discoveries and avenues to explore.

So, don’t take your internal experts for granted! Ask them things! Praise them! Share your results back with them!

Categorized as work Tagged

Avoiding cynicism

I mentioned this last week, but while I’ve been fixing formatting issues on my old blog posts, I’ve made the mistake of reading some of them. Getting a glimpse of me 20 years ago has been interesting – he was so angry, usually about work, and talked about it a lot.

That guy was on the verge of burnout every other week, and I think he was actually burned out quite a lot.

I’m not angry about work anymore. I was last really burned out over five years ago.

I think if I’d kept going the way I was headed back then, I’d be a cynical burned out husk. I haven’t read beyond the beginning of 2003 yet, but I can’t wait to see when the switch flipped (having a “coming attractions” for my own past is pretty weird).

If you asked me right now how I avoid being a cynical husk, I think it comes down to my rules for working:

  • Never miss a chance to celebrate. We’re confronted with failure so often at work, that we should celebrate every little win.
  • Focus on the who and the how. We don’t control what we work on most of the time, and pinning our self-worth to the success or failure of the things we work on is a recipe for sadness. So, I no longer really care what I work on. I care about enjoying the people I work with, and focus on how I work. I can control how I work more than I can any other part of it.
  • Compete only with yourself. I try not to compare myself to other people. I’ve got my challenges and other commitments, and I know nothing of theirs. So, I only compete against Past Me™️ – which also helps make sure I’m constantly improving, even if it’s just a little bit.

That’s not a lot of rules… but they work for me. I might change them…

Categorized as work Tagged

First day back

I was off all last week for Thanksgiving, and I had a very hard time getting back into work mode… which I guess is the sign of a good vacation (even though we didn’t go anywhere).

On top of that, I’m prepping for a big allergy test, which means I’ve been off of all antihistamines for 5 days (and have 16 left to go… sign) and I am really starting to feel it. I’ve only got a couple days left of National Blog Post Month and I’m not going to stop so close to the end! The posts just might get dumber from here on out.

Football, no, the other one

I just searched my old posts for “soccer” and there are a bunch, but none about the Premier League and proper football.

I’ve been going through the 2,500+ posts on my blog, fixing things broken by moving platforms, and there are so many posts about American football. Jen and I used to Tivo all the games, watch for hours on Sundays and then the recordings throughout the week. We had Sunday Ticket and everything… for probably the first 15 years of our marriage.

And then we just stopped. We realized we were spending way too much time and money following a sport where we couldn’t balance out the long term health effects for players with watching it. So, we just stopped cold turkey. That was probably 10 years ago. And then we just kind of stopped paying attention to sports at all.

Until COVID. The Premier League was the first major league to come back, and Peacock not only streamed the games, but all the replays were there. So, I started watching and the spectacle of football played in completely empty stadiums where it was so quiet you could hear the players talking to each other. And I fell in love. The action is nonstop, no five minute commercial breaks every five minutes and the anticipation of misses and build ups – it’s just great.

Now I’m back into sports and back into football, it’s just the other football. I love that the games are on in the morning on the weekends. I love that I can pick up a replay whenever. I’ve been trying not to be so attached to it that I have to watch the matches live, but… I did get up and turn on Man City vs. Liverpool at 7 this morning.

It’s fun. I even love the video game version. And, I’ve gotten into the women’s game and the WSL thanks to the World Cup and Big Kick Energy (the best sports podcast in the world).

I think I can keep it under control this time. I probably only really watch 2-3 matches a week.

Nothing to say

Brian and I successfully accomplished Thanksgiving dinner yesterday, and today I’m very tired.

I think it’s because I’m in the “everything’s worn off” part of the prep for an allergy test that’s happening in a couple of weeks. No antihistamines means I’m a snotty tear-streaked mess, which is both a fashion no-no, and exhausting.

So, this is all I’ve got today. Hope you’re having a happy Black Friday if you celebrate.

The past is embarassing

This blog is twenty-something years old, and has moved blogging platforms at least three times, and between various WordPress installs at least another three times. Some of the older posts got messed up along the way, so I’m going back through them and trying to fix them.

Re-reading stuff I wrote from 2001 is… something. I talked way too much about work (this was before “dooced” was a verb). I don’t remember what exactly I was angry about back then, but I was often very annoyed and not good at not writing about it. I also posted a lot. I’d totally forgotten how short and frequent my post were back then, pre-Twitter.

I’m glad those posts exist, even the stupid ones. They’re fun to look back on and laugh at what I was excited about (like waiting for a new mac with a 60gb hard drive, and triple booting it – I also did a lot more compiling software than I do today). It turns out, 2001 was the year of linux on the desktop?

I think the saddest thing is how many of the links are now dead. Most of the blogs I linked to back then don’t resolve, or are for sale.

Rediscovering blogging has been the best part of , and I probably won’t ever top the 5 posts in one day I used to do in 2001, I’m going to try to post more regularly if only so I can look back in 20 more years at how stupid I was in 2023.

A Simple Thanksgiving

“Dad, don’t ramen it.”

Brian Lawver

That’s how my son tells me not to overdo it. Why? Well, I had a thing about making overcomplicated ramen recipes, and now it’s a thing.

I’m not going to ramen Thanksgiving this year! It’s a good year to keep it simple, play the hits, and have some fun. What’s the menu? Glad you asked!


  • Pimento cheese
  • Fancy crackers
  • Relish/veggie tray
  • Deviled eggs

Main: Turkey & gravy



  • Pumpkin pie
  • French silk pie

Ok, that seems like a lot, but most of it is just assembly and something we’ve made before. This is Brian’s first year of being fully involved in the cooking, which is exciting.

And that’s it! What’s going to be on your table tomorrow?

Mid-caffeination Mastodon Thoughts

Derek Powazek posted this on Mastodon yesterday:

An actual use for machine learning that I’d want: a bot that records all the posts that cause me to block someone, saves them into a db, and then automatically hides posts that match above a certain threshold.

Derek on Mastodon

I love a good brain exercise, so I’ve been thinking about it, and I don’t actually think this is that hard, and is very possible using tools you already need to run Mastodon in production.

I might play with actually implementing this during my week off around cooking and family time, but if someone else wanted to do it, this idea is 100% free.

To enable search in Mastodon, you have to install and use ElasticSearch. It has machine learning goodies in it already like nearest neighbor and vector search.

Basically, we should be able to build a very personal spam/block bot for Mastodon given some training data (posts that pushed you to block someone) and some fiddling about (which is the hard/fun part).

Right now, there are no dates on blocks in Mastodon (I haven’t checked the schema yet to see if they’re there but not returned), and you can’t see which post “triggered” the block. I think that could be added fairly easily – or at least something like “Add this to Blockbot” to use it to train the bot.

Mastodon doesn’t really have a plugin architecture yet, so I’m not sure if this should be a standalone app that sits alongside your running Mastodon instance or a feature – I’ll probably try it as a feature to get familiar with Mastodon.

Basically, we take “blockworthy” posts, index them, and then use that to compare posts to the blocklist to get a semantic distance. Once we have the distance we can start manually testing for accuracy and tweak settings until we get something close to a “block score”. Users could then say, “yep, don’t show me anything with a block score greater than 1.5” and ta-da, a little robot janitor is just cleaning up your feed for you. That’s probably computationally intensive to do on every post, but I think you could apply it to people you don’t follow who reply to you to weed out the worst Reply Guys and riff raff.

You could also have community-wide block bots that are trained on a communal collection of blockworthy posts. It could help get around rigid blocklists by allowing targetted removal of replies from timelines instead of blocking whole instances.

It could also be used for finding good stuff too… Imagine something that found you people who post things like you do and brought them to you. It could be used as an “attract” bot as well.

I think ideally, it could be used like left and right handed whuffie. When you come in contact with a profile, how alike and how different are your posts from theirs’? Do we agree on anything? Are our disagreements strong enough, and on topics that are sensitive enough, that I probably don’t want to engage with them? Then it’s more informative than just a robot going out and sweeping up my replies.

Yeah, this is hand wavey, but a lot of this stuff is just built in to ElasticSearch already, so it’s not like we have to invent anything (yay, because that’s hard). We just have to assemble it and feed it enough data.

It should be fun, and I think it could be helpful, especially for folks who get inundated with awful replies.

And if you beat me to implementing it, that’s great! Then it’ll be out there in the world and we can all play with it!

Sunday night’s alright

Especially when you don’t have to go to work the next day! I spent this weekend recovering from all the people time from the work trip, and unpacking.

This week is all about getting ready for Thanksgiving, my favorite holiday. It’s all food, no presents, and being thankful. I love it.

I hope you have a good week, and a good holiday, if you celebrate it.