It's Never Been Easier to Build Online, It's Never Been Harder to Find It

Hot take: R.E.M. is an enigma.

They are simultaneously beloved (or at least their catalog of hits are) and forgotten. This is perhaps because the members of the band are reclusive or inaccessible. When a band’s front man is Michael Stipe, entering the zeitgeist of popular culture is an uphill battle. However, their discography is chock full of seminal songs of the 80s and 90s.

Anyway, this is not a post about R.E.M., but about another enigma: the internet.

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Improving this Feisty Little Blog's Lighthouse Score

The short version of this article goes something like:

Improve your Lighthouse score with this one simple trick!

The longer version is only slightly more complex, and owes much of its simplicity to Netlify (for providing the simple Lighthouse integration and seamless PR-based workflows to test my changes) and Hugo (for making it easy to tinker around in theme templates).

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My Take on 'Good Product Manager, Bad Product Manager'

After taking three or four months off from work, I’ve been looking around for my next landing spot after leaving Pantheon in November of 2023. That amount of time bought me a lot of clarity in how I want to practice the art of product management. It also gave me a lot of time to read! I’m still cranking through a lot of books, but one that I’ve been thinking about a lot is Ben Horowitz’s “Good Product Manager, Bad Product Manager” essay, especially as I’ve been interviewing again and it’s hard to avoid thinking about what makes me a good (and bad) product manager.

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Making the Most of My Netlify Setup

Along with learning about Hugo, I’m also digging through Netlify as a customer for the first time. This isn’t my first time examining their offering. As a product manager at Pantheon working on the Front End Sites product, they were a platform that was definitely on my radar.

In November 2023, I left Pantheon and, as I did so, took my blog off WordPress for good. Over the years, this content has lived on WP Engine, GoDaddy, and Pantheon. Now that I was venturing off WordPress platforms, it was both freeing and nerve-wracking. What was the port for this little boat? I knew I wanted to shift to a static site generator, and so Netlify and Vercel were top of mind. Ultimately, Netlify won out as I think their product caters to smaller hobbyist sites, like this one.

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Digital Farming: The Great Slog

If you use a computer, you are a digital farmer. Maybe you are tending to your garden of emails. Perhaps you are pruning your digital catalog of photos. If you’re particularly advanced, you might be moving around old flower beds as you refactor a codebase.

Whatever it may be, you are now the proud manager of a digital landscape. It doesn’t matter if this farm produces for you (although for many people it’s their lifeblood); the tending must happen regardless lest the weeds run amuck. This the the great slog. Our systems, our digital gardens, they require constant vigilance and cleaning. You can put it off, but avoiding it entirely is not a winning strategy.

My gardening today consisted of a variety of small tasks around the blog.

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Kringle Kayak 94: A Santa Collection

The Decembers of my childhood were brutally cold. We lived in a converted general store and post office near a railroad in Waterloo, Montana. Our section of the Jefferson river valley was narrow. Bracketed by mountains to the west and east. In the winter, it was a wind tunnel.

Before our furnace was installed (sometime in my middle school era), we warmed our house with the three wood-burning stoves scattered about the house. I remember my mom frantically stoking the fires before we went to bed. No matter; our beds would be frozen against the walls every morning. Winter vacation during the school year was less a vacation and more an exercise in fighting off cabin fever while chopping wood.

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Why Hugo, Why Not WordPress

My first tour of the WordPress admin was in 2009 (version 2.8 - Chet Baker). In my four years of freelancing after college, I dug through and created countless themes and plugins. After moving to Seattle, I ran product development at LexBlog, a digital publishing company where WordPress was front and center. In the past two years, I worked at Pantheon, a WebOps company supporting Drupal and WordPress website teams.

In sum, WordPress is a large part of my life.

Even now, as I make the decision to walk away from the WYSIWYG editor that is closest to my heart, I know it will remain a large part of my life. If not in my day-to-day, then in my memories.

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A Look Back at Georgia Tech’s Master’s in Computer Science

I’m still getting back into the hang of writing for fun after the last few semesters at Georgia Tech wrung me dry with paper after paper painstakingly filled with Matplotlib charts and LaTeX. The first two semesters were more of a programmer’s dream of building FTP servers, implementing MapReduce with gRPC, diving deeply into architecture, and dipping my toe into artificial intelligence.

Once the rubber met the road and my brain turned toward the machine learning curriculum, all bets were off. ISYE 6420 (Bayesian Stats) served as a brutal reminder that my algebra and calculus were not up to snuff, requiring more than one weekend doing nothing but going through a Coursera course or two while making precious little progress against any homework. CS 6601 (Artificial Intelligence) provided some heady moments of implementing Tri A*-search and the Viterbi algorithm, but brought reality crashing down with a 50 page midterm and an equally long final. Meanwhile, CS 7641 (Machine Learning), pushed me further than I thought possible with 4 projects, each requiring a rather large program to support a paper of 10-15 pages. And I’m still not recovered from CS 6476 (Computer Vision).

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Cracking My Favorite Products

My time in school has come to a close. It is bittersweet in that my love of learning seemingly knows no bounds. I could spend years exploring more nooks and crannies in computer science, but the time has come to say goodbye.

If that’s the “bitter” part, then the “sweet” part is the job hunt! I’m finding that I enjoy the process of looking at companies, wrapping my head around their business, and evaluating if their product interests me enough to apply to an open position. As part of the job hunt, I am prepping for interviews. A vital step considering I’ve spent the last 18 months with my head down in the land of bits and am applying mostly to product management positions which are a blend of bits, business processes, and user needs.

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