Happy 20th birthday Tannock.net!

It was an inauspicious start, and definitely the last few years have been really, really inconsistent, but Tannock.net turns 20 years old today. The domain itself precedes the site, and indeed there was a previous, hand-rolled incarnation for a year or so. But this particular log goes continuously back.

Over the past two decades it’s been migrated a bunch of times – Greymatter, MovableType, something else I can no longer remember, and currently WordPress have been the platforms; it’s been self-hosted under my desk, on a friend’s machine in a server rack, at wordpress, at Rackspace, now Digital Ocean.

I’ve had traffic in the tens of thousands a month and traffic of less than 10 a month. I’ve been inspired by this site, I’ve been terrified by this site (nothing like the fear of the blank page!). I’ve written some truly terrible takes and some good ones. But I love that I can see 20 years of thought, learning, change, interests here in the public realm.

Here’s to 20 more years of writing in public, theoretically more often!

Better time-leverage

I’ve started using Calendly to help manage my calendar & appointments. Right now, I’m using it bare-bones at the moment, to see if it works for me, because of a singular problem with all of these calendaring-automation tools that I haven’t figured out yet:

It feels dangerously self-important to ask people to schedule their own appointments with me.

I’ve always prided myself on my “human connection” skills within the tech industry, and the UI for all of the various calendaring apps still, in my opinion, feel like bots, not like assistants. Additionally, many feel like they want me to run my calendar in their UI, not work alongside my existing workflow.

Anyway — that’s just really an aside about the point of this post. Being a one-man-shop freelancer/consultant, time management is super-important. I’m also hyper-aware of how easy it is for a single meeting to run roughshod over an entire day’s worth of tasks, depending on its cognitive or emotional load. And so, when I book a meeting, I often then look to be most efficient by having other, adjacent meetings — a day of meetings feels productive. A day with a meeting, then an hour of heads-down time, then another meeting often feels like it was totally wasted.

Calendly, which offers a “buffer” around meetings, which is great — but doesn’t appear to offer any location data — which is important to me because I often (and indeed, usually prefer) in-person meetings. Which involves travel. So, if when booking an appointment, Calendly could ask for a where, then use my office location to calculate travel times, add that to *my* calendar time and buffer around that meeting, it would become vastly more useful.

But once I’m in a location, it would be great if I could schedule other meetings nearby:

  • On a hyper-local level, if I’m having a coffee meeting in Gastown, it would awesome if Calendly connected to my CRM of choice, and see which contacts are near my scheduled meeting (ie, also in Gastown), that I haven’t seen in a while, and send me a note letting me know it might be a good idea to try to connect with them.
  • On a regional/travel level, if I’ve got an upcoming calendar trip to, say, Toronto, check my CRM to see who might be available while I’m there to meet with, and suggest it to me. (next level: find people I don’t know, but suggest I should try to meet them)
  • aside: this is a problem with calendaring I don’t have a good answer for: When I’m away, I generally mark that time in my calendar as “busy”, because I don’t want anyone here to book time with me. but, I might totally want to book time with people there. I want a “busy-in-location” marker, or a “location change” marker to connote travel vs just being busy.

I recognize there’s a lot of data mining/analysis going on there. And, most likely, that’s a service that shouldn’t be provided by Calendly, but rather integrate via API (although, I do think not supporting location/travel time is a big problem for Calendly at the moment). And possibly there’s already services that sit between these data-stores to do just this task that I’m unaware of. And that’s also, personally, an area of interest — software tools that work with existing data-stores for people to help tie them together in interesting ways, and surface helpful things for you, so I think a lot about pulling data out of silos and tying it together.

New(ish) Tannock.net

So, it turns out that when one has a WordPress site that is so old that its content predates WordPress itself (indeed, WordPress is, I believe, the 4th in a series of CMS/publishing platforms that I’ve used to maintain this site), it gets some cruft. And when it is additionally sitting on a server that was new sometime in the 90s, occasionally bad things happened. And so, it came to my attention last week that the site was riddled with malware. Some investigation lead me to discover that while the current, immediate threat was easily contained, there were some 1400 suspicious files on the server that I wasn’t sure what they were doing – most were contained by the server itself, but, still – I clearly wasn’t being a good site owner.

So, rather than try to clean that all up in place, on a server that often chokes whenever I click a button, I simply exported the data, moved the site and re-launched it the least amount of time possible. So now I’m using the default WordPress theme for a while, and there’s likely tonnes of things missing. But the site’s now up on a Digital Ocean Droplet, so, in theory, modern technology that will keep it up and running smoothly.

It’s probably time to actually move platforms again, but I have neither the time nor the inclination at the moment, so this’ll have to do.

Miscellany: what’s up lately

Peekaboo Daddy!
Peekaboo Daddy!

I’ve been quiet around here of late, for a few reasons, only some of which are because I started to dick around with the design of the site, then got busy and so stopped and so now it sits in limbo, not yet finished. But some fun things from home:

  • Liam, who is dreaming of being a grown up, while everyday become more grown in my eyes as he plays chess and researches strategies and helps out with Kellan and generally shows signs of being a very interesting, if damnably distractable boy.
  • Liam recently wanted to be a detective when he grew up, and so magnifying glasses and forensic kits and books about detecting were bought, karate was taken, and everything we encountered was a clue to solving something else. It was a wonderful time that leant well to our mutual tendency to be lost in our heads dreaming of alternate futures.
  • Currently, Liam wants to be a bicycle-accessory inventor. He has described in such detail that I could never capture it his future shop, on Broadway, wherein the front of the shop people will buy bicycles and the accessories that he has made, such as an automatic rain-cover that detects the rain and creates mudflaps and booties for your feet; while in the back he and his team will work, in the open, so that everyone can see the craft that goes into his work
  • Craft & artisanship are a common theme with Liam. He’s very interested in the methods by which things are made, and cared for, and the seemingly inherent artistic-ness of watching something be made. He loves YouTube how-to videos, and he’s dead into arts & crafts and crafting, and dreaming of how things are made: not at a large-scale industrial way that you see on DiscoveryTV, but Brooklyn-hipster style, small-scale, hand-crafted. It is unfortunate that neither Leah nor I are crafty, at all, and I wish I knew of ways to let him explore this more. I wonder if I could get him involved in VanHackSpace, or carpentry camps, or cooking, or gardening in a way that is beyond my ken.
  • Kellan, in the last few days, has started addressing me as ‘Dadda/Daddy’ to get my attention, not just as a sound in the middle of a river of sounds. He’ll say DaddaDaddaDaddaDadda in the car, and when I look back, he’ll grin and  squawk “hi!”. He’s been pretty sick lately, and I’m so happy to have my crazy-non-stop-on-the-go-little-guy back again.


Happy Decaversary to me

As of today, this site, in this current incarnation as a blog, is 10 years old. My first post was stellar, and really, it’s just downhill from there. Over the past decade, this site was first hand-rolled, then run by Grey Matter, then Movable Type, briefly on Drupal and now on WordPress. I used to have a really large photo gallery, but some time ago I moved all my web-photo hosting to Flickr (which seems to be fading, but there’s nothing else yet). Traffic has varied from high point of 1000s of visitors a day in 2002 to the dozen or so I get these days. Posting frequency has dropped along with visitor counts & as real life grew more complicated.

Still, this feels good to have this record of the tumultuous past 10 years.

Blast from the Past: Pencilneck Creations Site Mockup

At the turn of the century, I was finishing my degree & running my company as a sideline. Today, digging through my digital archives to find a file from that era, I found this: My photoshop mockup for the original Pencilneck Creations site (Pencilneck Software was born when I joined forces with Jeff. Given the nature of the company, we changed the company name slightly from ‘Creations’ to ‘Software’):

Pencilneck Creations
The remaining mockup from my original "corporate" site

Simple, very plain – this is definitely the style I liked at the time. Not that there was any fear of anyone confusing me with a designer. But looking at our current site (woefully out of date as it is), we’ve come a long way, baby.

Wanted: A twitter/comment plugin combo

When I post an entry (such as this one), I have a wordpress plugin (called Twitter Tools) that sends out a tweet (meta-linking update: like this) telling everyone that I’ve posted something. To manage comments, I use Disqus, which, amongst other systems, allows people to authenticate at twitter to then post a comment. Which is nice, and I like it.

But! Sometimes, seemingly more often than not, people will @-reply to me on twitter with a comment on my post. And I will often @-reply someone else about their post (that was announced on twitter). So here’s what I want:

  1. When I post an entry that sends a tweet, capture and store the ID of the tweet that I sent.
  2. Whenever someone @-replies or retweets that stored tweet, aggregate that to the comment-section of my blog, so that the entire related conversation is visible in one place.
  3. For bonus points, given that everything I post is also pushed as a post to Facebook & everything I tweet ends up as a status update on there too, it would be great to extract any responses to those as well, in the comments section of my site.

Does anyone know if such a thing exists?

Minor site Tweaks

I’ve made some minor edits to the site:

  • The biggest change is the header: I’m now pulling in a random image to be the background for the heaader – these are all photos I’ve taken (with the exception of the “comrade”, who used to feature more prominently on this site, and is still my “icon” across virtually every social network I use).
  • Typekit: The site-title is now rendered using Typekit. I suspect which font I use will change over time – nothing stresses me out more than choosing appropriate typography, but for now, I’m using CarbonType by Vic Fieger. You’ll also see a little badge at bottom-right linking to a standarized colophon from them.
  • Less Clutter: I got rid of the “Stickers” in favour of an “Elsewhere”, listing where else you can find me, and did away with the flickr Badge, as I never did like the layout, so it’s a little cleaner down the right-hand-side. I may move to a two-column layout at some point, but this’ll do for now.
  • Colors: Gone is the blue, replaced with a grey, although. Not wholly satisfied with it, but it’ll do for now.

That’s it! Minor tweaks, but long overdue.

Looking back/Looking forward

Looking Back

Last year, in the scheme of thing, was pretty damn awesome. It started off ridiculously busy, as us Pencilneckers worked furiously to launch MyPypeline.com, a fitness-focussed Social network, that took nearly 8 months from conception to launch. It was a tough slog, and contributed directly to the complete lack of posts on this site for the first quarter of the year, but I’m well-pleased with the results – my team and I wrote some kick-ass code behind the curtains there to have it all running.

In April, Liam and I took a trip to England, and got to see my Grandmother, Mum, my brother Stuart and even my Aunt & Uncles – a rare treat for me, and hopefully a good trip for Liam too – I’m sure he won’t remember too much of the trip, although it was clear that he really loves his uncle Stuart – he took to him right away! Coming back from England, Liam then started at his new daycare – at Langara College, which has lead to such rapid development that we can barely keep up.

The summer was swallowed up by a combination of my foray into politics – I ran for a nomination for Vision Vancouver’s Park Board slate – I failed, but learned so much, met some amazing people along the way. In ways I never really expected going in, this exercise was transformational for me, and will continue to affect how I lead my life going forward. Not one to slack off, Leah and I also bought a house this summer, which, while an incredibly scary proposition, particularly given what happened to the economy a couple of months later, has been fantastic – we all love our house out here in South Van.

My friends Brahm and Laura also got married this summer, and I can’t say just how happy I am for them both!

It’s been a quiet fall around here, mostly due to a crushingly large amount of work (and the elections!), but Leah did finish her last-but-one year of school and went to Vegas with some friends to party after school, while Liam and I hung out here.

Looking Forward

I’m not really one for making resolutions, but there are a few things I’m pretty stoked about this coming year.

  1. I’ve joined the board of ThinkCity, the same group with which I helped organize the DreamVancouver conference back in 2007. I’m going to be focussing on neighborhoods – how and what that will entail, I’m not entirely sure, but my interest lies in devolving some civic decision making to neighborhood groups, and so I’ll be exploring that, along with how schools, community centres, neighborhood houses, residents’ associations & business improvement associations can all play a role and come together in letting communities have more say in what happens to them. I’ll probably use this site as a place to think out loud on this topic, so please feel free to let me know of people & groups doing interesting things in this arena, and I’d love to sit down with them and learn & exchange ideas.
  2. Leah’s going to graduate in 2009! December 2009 will mark the end of Leah’s time as a nursing student, and I am so excited & proud for her to finish!
  3. I’ve made a goal that I want to run this year’s Sun Run, and I’ve set myself a time goal of 50 minutes. That means some serious training between now and then, so that should probably lead to all sorts of good things that comes with being fit.
  4. Learning with Liam. Liam will be four this year, and is really becoming an awesome little boy. I can’t tell you how excited I am that he’s getting old enough to skate, go for a (short) hike, ride a bike, go skiing & snowboarding, play video games with me, start reading stories to me (rather than just listen to me read them to him), discover nature, and anything else that we can figure out to do together.
  5. Get my weekends back! Since Leah started nursing school 3 years ago, I’ve been working Sunday-Thursday, so that I spend a day with Liam at home. But that meant that we only got one day in common as a family, which inevitably meant that we spent all day running errands, rather than truly getting to get out and do fun things. I’m really hopeful that two family days a week will mean that even if one day is errand-filled, the other can be used to hiking, biking, watching football, reading, seeing movies and whatever else strikes us. Family time FTW!
  6. Posting more. I’ve made a goal of posting at least once a week on here. Back a few years ago, I used to write here more regularly, and I really enjoyed it. So while I don’t think I’ll manage hundreds of posts, I think a modest goal of 52 posts this year is doable, and will hopefully re-ignite the creative fires in all sorts of areas.
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