Isaac Su — exercising my powers of observation

Attention Collectivism

Thu, 12th Apr 2018

…part of the power of the social media business model is that it introduces a type of attention collectivism, where I’ll promise to pretend to care what you have to say (by clicking “like” or leaving a quick comment), if you do the same for me. This is incredibly seductive, though ultimately hollow.
Cal Newport

This is harrowingly pertinent now that I've shared my very first blog post on LinkedIn. It's hard to tell how well the post is received on my actual site, but I'm glued to the 👍 Like count on LinkedIn. 😩

The :grimace: Epic

Thu, 12th Apr 2018

I've been thinking on how we rationalise different kinds of development tasks that engineering teams get up to.

For example, critical bugs absolutely need to be fixed now. Product features and improvements satisfy our customers who pay the bills that keep the lights on. We’ve even made strides in subtantiate classes of Tech Debt in terms of an on-going operational "tax" of sorts.

But what about the category of tasks that atones for the sins of the coders past, particularly in legacy software? Contemptible modules that lurk within the monolith? Arcane relics that work, but make the team feel less-than-proud to be custodians thereof?

It came to me in a random exchange:

"there is great value in not feeling ashamed of the code that we work on".

My proposal is an epic# called the "Grimace Epic" for a category of work that helps engineering teams feel less 😬 of our creations. Work that reduces cognitive friction, increases happiness (and therefore productivity) and inspires a team to take greater ownership, pride and care of the code that they tend to.

The Grimace Epic is an acknowledgement that instinct and emotions play an important role in the creation and operation of software. It affirms that software engineering is equal parts art and science - just because something hasn't been priced doesn't mean it doesn't have value.

This is not to say that we should just go by our guts, throwing all logic and reason to the wind. On the contrary, I expect that the true value of such work to be discovered retrospectively, so that the wisdom (or folly) that was once instinctual would be incorporated into the greater body of software engineering knowledge.

* In JIRA an Epic is a common mechanism that teams use to categorise development work. The terminology is also pretty... epic.

Old School Blogs

Fri, 16th Mar 2018

I chanced upon an old-school blog. The sort that was organised by months and years along the sidebar. It brought back memories of how I used to have a set of blogs that would be mass-loaded into tabs, and I would consume them one at a time.

It wasn't so much about the content as much as it was about checking if the person had actually written anything new. It was a little daring, a little unsanctioned. There was no curation, no algorithm prioritising what you should read next. It was about the person. It had to be about the person, because there was nothing else to fall back on.

Also, so much more thought would've been put into crafting those posts, which made them worthwhile.

Blogging vs Wiki-ing

Tue, 13th Mar 2018

I tried blogging from Standard Notes earlier this evening. It was a nice and satisfying experience to be able to whip up an entry just like any other note and simply hit Publish to Blog for it to be magically published to

I ran into a little snag when my note disappeared from Standard Notes (might've accidentally deleted) and now there was no way to unpublish the note other than asking the admin to help unpublish.

What was so different about blogging from Standard Notes compared to writing here?

It occured to me upon arriving here that in on typical blog platform, I get to start with a clean writing slate that then later gets automatically integrated back into a stream of posts.

Notes works more like a wiki, so I'm having to contend with a bunch of unfinished writings. It's just more mentally burdensome.