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Links Technical

Link: How Generative Music Works

Amazing presentation, exploration, interactive… thing on generative music and the role of systems in creating that stuff.

Beautifully put together.

Link: How Generative Music Works

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Links

Link: You Are A Strange Loop

Fantastic video, amazing summary of the work of Douglas Hofstadter. But rather than being a tl;dr, it has served to make me pick up and study Gödel, Escher, Bach again, I never made it through the whole thing first time around.

Link – You Are A Strange Loop

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Links Technical

Link: The Power of “Yes, if”: Iterating on our RFC Process

Awesome humanistic approach to RFCs from Tanya Reilly – moving from binary “computer says no”s to a more iterative process by changing some simple wording.

Link – The Power of “Yes, if”: Iterating on our RFC Process

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Links Technical

Link: Letters of Exclusion

Jeremy is spot on here. Acronyms are such a simple way to keep someone needlessly out of the conversation.

This is certainly something I need to work on within myself.

Link – Letters of Exclusion

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Links Personal Social Stream

Link: Letterboxd Love Letter

Jim Cummings directed and starred in two great films I’ve watched in the past year, Thunder Road and The Wolf of Snow Hollow. Here he talks about why Letterboxd is such a great platform. I just subscribed at the end of last year, and going forward, I’ll definitely be keeping it going.

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Technical

Exporting my Outlook daily agenda to Roam using Hammerspoon

Recently, I posted on here about using Hammerspoon to scratch a personal itch. It was a nice exercise in documenting stuff for myself while hopefully putting something out into the ether that might be of use to others. So I thought I’d try it again.

The problem

During the summer, I started using Roam Research for all of my note-taking and personal knowledge management. You don’t need me to tell you why you should or shouldn’t be using it, there are enough of us out there already proselytising about this thing. But the long and the short of it is that absolutely everything I come across and think about is going in there – personal stuff, work stuff, little snippets of data that might one day be useful to me again. It has become a vital tool in my day-to-day thinking and planning.

One of the templates I’ve been using to take personal notes for meetings looks like this:

- [[Meeting/MEETING TITLE]]
  - Category:: #meeting #OTHER #KEYWORDS
  - Attendees
    - [[Simon Scarfe]]
    - [[Unfortunate saps talking to me...]]
  - Agenda
  - Notes

I find this fantastically useful, the “Attendees” section is particularly good for some of the natural cross-referencing it provides. But when you have a day of six or more meetings, filling in those can be tiresome, to the point where I actively avoid doing it (even with TextExpander shortcuts). When this happens, I both lose the value it provides, and I feel like a bit of a failure – which is never nice.

The solution

I decided to see if I could script exporting those meetings to markdown – trying to turn what is a bit of a laboured, several-times-a-day process into a simpler, single keyboard shortcut. And without wanting to spoil too much, it turns out I could. Not only that, but it was pretty straightforward.

I started out by using MacOS’s Script Editor to hack around the Outlook API so I could see what I might query on. When researching this, I found several pages about getting information using the frankly-quite-weird AppleScript language, but very few using Apple’s JavaScript for Automation extensions (JXA). After about 20 minutes of screwing around, most of what I required could be retrieved using Application("Microsoft Outlook").selectedObjects() (seriously). The trick to enable this is to activate Outlook Calendar’s “list view” (CMD+CTRL+0), so you can select several meetings without triggering extra UI elements.

Once I’d accessed those events, I turned them into plain ol’ JSON with the intention of letting Hammerspoon deal with them – before realising that Lua is not a strength of mine – so I continued using JavaScript to transform those objects into Roam-compatible markdown. You might wonder how bad Lua not being “a strength of mine” could possibly be by looking at the digital “chicken scrawl” that is the chained JavaScript I assembled to do that here.

Finally, it was a matter of hooking it all into Hammerspoon. Hammerspoon provides hs.osascript.javascript to execute JavaScript, hs.pasteboard.setContents to copy the results of that JS to the clipboard, and hs.hotkey.bind to hook it all up to a keyboard shortcut. I’ve probably overused the sentence a bit in this post, but it was all rather straightforward. Honestly, look.

Limitations

This isn’t without some slight flaws, the biggest one is Roam’s (or maybe it’s MacOS’s?) treatments of soft line breaks. I couldn’t find a way in Roam to paste in soft breaks, which leads to agendas pasting in as multiple blocks. That may be less problematic for more traditional outliners, but a lot of Roam’s power comes from blocks being first-class citizens that stand on their own. To get around this, in the short term I replaced them with `------` text, which I can quickly edit around if/when I find it appropriate. Fortunately, most agendas are a bit rubbish, and I only need a couple of lines of a LOT of (usually Zoom-related) bumph.

Also, none of this has been tested on “New” Outlook 365. I am a bit worried that if I upgrade (forced or otherwise), this functionality will quickly disappear. Maybe then I’ll finally start using a more portable/flexible email/calendar client?

And on a similar theme, as I have been reading around Applescript / JXA, those technologies might not be in Apple’s long term plans. That the information on how to do all of this was hard to find, could probably be taken as a symptom of this. However, if you are interested in digging more into JXA, the JXA Cookbook is a decent starting point

But all of that aside, once I’d got my head around the JS/Applescript nastiness and weird Osascript APIs, it was a pretty simple experience. Even if it all went away tomorrow, I’ve likely already saved some serious time manually adding people’s names to [[Meeting/]] posts.

Categories
Links Technical

The Lean Web

Chris Ferdinandi has thrown in some absolute gems in this talk he put together for wordpress.tv – The Lean Web, well worth 48 minutes (or less at > 1x) of your time.

Link – The Lean Web

Categories
Links

Lovely piece from Terence Eden on squeezing more out of tech: What would happen if computers never got any faster?

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Links Technical

TIL: Use a Submit Button Outside of a Form!

Categories
Personal Social Stream Technical

Review/Recap – “Accelerate: The Science of Lean Software and DevOps: Building and Scaling High Performing Technology Organizations”

I originally gave this book 3/5 on Goodreads, however, now I’ve revisited the book and made some personal summarisations from my highlights – I feel I need to revisit that.

My original just-finished-it instinct was that the research part of the book was too deep and took me into methodologies that I ultimately don’t care about. In fact, I nearly dropped out during that section. Having battled through, I realise that would have been a mistake – after that, there is a great leadership case study that really hits home some of the messages around the culture the book promotes needing to be developed and learned, rather than being the result of blindly applying archetypes.

Still, the research methodology part is a third of the book – at least structurally. I would advise any potential readers that that is entirely skippable if you’re prepared to trust the source and take the advice it’s pushing at face value. After all, the advice is backed with logic and reasoning – which for me, is more persuasive than “we spotted correlation in these heuristics for high performing organisations”, which isn’t as compelling for me as it may be for others.

The first part of the book is full of absolute gold, end to end. Mostly backing up a lot of the literature around the benefits of things like Continuous Delivery, Lean Product Management and working in agile teams. But it presents it in a nicely joined-up way, built around the hypothesis that high performing teams deliver quickly and build stable systems – offering four simple heuristics that theoretically cement those two features.

It digs a lot into building organisational cultures – citing some of the good research into what makes for a performing team at Google (Westrum generative cultures, learning organisations, etc).

It examines technical practices that contribute to the above – why and how continuous delivery works, the benefits of automation, versioning everything, test strategies, embedded disciplines (devops, devsecops, the job of testers in a highly automated world etc).

There’s large importance put on security, reserving a full section to it – where the conclusion (naturally, given some of the authors’ previous DevOps literature) is that you should build it into your process as early as possible.

I found the culture and leadership sections to be particularly good – backing up a lot of my own personal thoughts and biases. Lots about organisations forming their own paths and not just mimicking their way to culture change – which feels obvious, but probably isn’t given how much Cargo Cultism there is in tech.

I think that all in, there aren’t any new conclusions drawn in this book, but it is great to have them in one place. The book sees its own USP as the exhaustive research, but as I say, I found it exhausting, and not to be its real strength. The density and jumping off points & onward knowledge journeys are what really made it a great read for me.