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StoryBots Astronomy

I’m not quite sure what the StoryBots are but my almost four-year-old daughter loves them. Their Astronomy videos? I love them. My whole family loves them. Catchy hip hop songs with cute animation. If you have kids or have no shame about enjoying videos made for kids check them out. I’ve ordered them by relationship to the sun and catchiness. The moon hook (“It’s my time to shine”) has been in my head all week. Enjoy.

Bonus: The StoryBots Baboon video is hilarious.

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Brevity

Brevity (the soul of wit) is my favourite principle for good writing. It may seem impossible to, say, arbitrarily cut any one text in half but the challenge of attempting it forces you to consider the importance of every phrase, word, and punctuation mark therein. Do it.

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Build Things You Want To Use For Yourself

Languages, food, package tours, sitcoms, or (for my followers and myself) plugins and themes. Build things you want to use for yourself.

In the original Java white paper, Gosling explicitly says Java was designed not to be too difficult for programmers used to C. It was designed to be another C++: C plus a few ideas taken from more advanced languages. Like the creators of sitcoms or junk food or package tours, Java’s designers were consciously designing a product for people not as smart as them. Historically, languages designed for other people to use have been bad: Cobol, PL/I, Pascal, Ada, C++. The good languages have been those that were designed for their own creators: C, Perl, Smalltalk, Lisp.

From Java’s Cover by Paul Graham.

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The Cost of Mistakes

I started reading through Paul Graham’s archives today. (It’s on the Automattic recommended reading list — yes we have a reading list, how cool is that?) I’m spending about 15 minutes every morning reading through it to start my day this year. Expect more random programming quotes from the past 20 years of programming and web development. Like this one!

This is just what the new model of programming does assume. Instead of hoping that people won’t make mistakes, it tries to make the cost of mistakes very low. The cost of a mistake is the time required to correct it. With powerful languages and good programming environments, this cost can be greatly reduced. Programming style can then depend less on planning and more on exploration.

That’s from the first chapter of ANSI Common Lisp by Paul Graham. Yes, really. Anyway, I think “the cost of a mistake is the time required to correct it” is a great aphorism but I think it’s corollary about planning and exploration is what really sticks for me. The idea that a project can depend less on planning and more on exploration when the cost of mistakes is reduced is really powerful. It’s something that I’ve slowly had to learn as a web worker. It didn’t feel natural to me as someone coming from the expensive “real” world of physical, printed design. The cost of mistakes is very high there. On the web? Not really. And you can take advantage of that in “exploration”.

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WordPress

Me and Twenty Fourteen designer Takashi Irie

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I’m lucky enough to get to see Takashi Irie several times a year but on a recent trip to London he and I took our photo together with the intention of helping me complete my weird collection of photos with default WordPress theme designers. Takashi is the designer of the super-cool Twenty Fourteen.

You may notice that Takashi and I are both wearing button-down oxfords and navy sweaters. This was not planned but we enjoyed having our photos taken like two boys who had mom and dad dress them up to match. :)

I’ve worked together with Takashi since 2011 and it’s always awesome to see what he dreams up. He’s designed several favourite themes of mine. His default theme contribution to WordPress is available now on WordPress.com and will ship with WordPress 3.8 on December 12, 2013.

Special thanks to Kathryn Presner for putting up with multiple retakes from two ridiculously demanding subjects!

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Raise your work communication IQ with a blog

It’s been a while since I’ve done this but lately I’ve been communicating back and forth in a big email thread. You know the type. Multiple carbon copies to different people, varying subjects, very hard to search, very hard to keep your place. I don’t know how people do business this way.

At Automattic we use blogs to communicate. Check out the P2 theme (soon to get an upgrade with the launch of o2) to get an idea of how it works. Google seems to make us smarter with super-fast search and I feel like the WordPress-powered communication system we use does as well. I can communicate asynchronously with a team of developers and designers across the globe at any time in easy to read threaded conversations that are all taggable and easy to search. Anyone can join in at any time and read the whole history of a conversation. It’s no harder than email — except when you actually need to find something at which point it’s one hundred times easier. I’d forgotten about just how easy it is until I tried to find something in this email thread today.

Are you getting involved in the same email bog at your organization. Think about communicating like we do. It could make your company smarter.

(Scott Berkun wrote a book about the crazy things we do at Automattic. It’s worth reading if you’re interested in learning more.)

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