How I Hire the Best People

I have a very good track record of building incredible teams. At TSN, I found and recruited my first truly amazing team by getting to know great people, working with them for a while, and then bringing them on board along with me.  I met Loc, and John through the Globe and Mail’s technical team, and I was introduced to Liam from Discovery’s group. When it came to recruiting new people, I saw literally hundreds of resumes, interviewed dozens of people, and eventually hired both Neil and Kate.

My hiring back then was all trial and error, and I happened to luck into great people because I knew that I was looking for both a specific skill set, and also people that I would want to spend eight hours a day around.


Effective Web Design and Development – COMP-1363

Starting February 4th, I’ll be teaching a five week (one session per week) course on effective web design at Fanshawe College’s continuing education program.

The course is called “Effective Web Design and Development – COMP-1363“.

I’m breaking the five weeks up by doing foundational work first, and building on that work weekly. My idea is to build a very simple HTML website, using the fundamentals that we learn weekly to build upon each week’s lesson. At the end, the attendees will have a very simple, semantically correct, SEO optimized, modern, responsive, and accessible website.

Here’s what Fanshawe’s course outline says:

Effective web design and development is about more than code, and pretty pictures. This course is designed to help you understand the things required to build an effective website for yourself, your business, and your clients. This course will review strategies, software, marketing, promotion, content creation, and modern website design techniques while not requiring coding in-class time.

About Me Business

Stuff I Like: Dollar Shave Club

I hate shaving, but I like to be freshly shaved. It’s a dichotomy that has plagued me since my teen years. I am what the old folks call “hirsute”, meaning I’ve got a lot of hair, but it’s thick and shaving wrecks my skin, so I only shave every three or so days. My usual routine is Sunday night and Wednesday night (unless we’re doing something fancy which requires a touch-up). I shave my head too, but that’s usually once a week.

I have an electric razor, but it is slow, and hard to groom around ye olde goatee. My preferred battle weapon is a wet blade, usually a three bladed job (although a twin blade works well on my head). Of course like most men, I usually forget to buy blades, so I’m left hacking up my skin with something dumb.

I’m not gonna say Dollar Shave Club saved my life, but it probably saved my skin. Literally.

I initially signed up for “The 4x”, for $6.50/month, which gets you a monthly shipment of a package of four – four bladed razors. Your initial shipment also comes with a nice metal handle which has some heft to it.

I quickly found that four blades a month is too many for me, I only go through about 2 a month. I switched to the “Humble Twin” for a couple of months at $3.50, which I used for just my head.

The blades fit perfectly on my “HeadBlade“, which takes Gillette Atra style blades.

The only problem with The Humble Twin is that the handle is really flimsy plastic that is intended to bend, but a couple of trips across my head, and I broke the thing.

I’ve stopped ordering the Twins, and now I just get The 4x every other month (they have a “not so hairy” option), so every two months, I get charged $6.50 to have blades delivered right to my mailbox. It’s a pretty good deal, and I never think about whether or not I want to get one more shave out of that blade, I just chuck it and use a fresh one after about two shaves.

Their packaging is pretty bare bones, but comes with one little feature I really like. Every month they spotlight one of their members’ businesses. It’s about post card sized, and it’s usually a fun little story.

Dollar Shave Club, I’ve been a member for two years now, and as their ad says “I’m practically a genius”. I highly recommend them.


Three Simple Steps to Turn Your Small Business Blog From Blah to Awesome

We have a pretty good thing going on with our blog. We’ve been inspired by lots of people who are doing it the right way. My personal favourite right now is the Groove team who has one of the most fascinating blogs on growing a small business.


You Need a Mission and a Vision

This past weekend, the BalanceDo team got together for an all day strategy session. We do these once every three months. The idea is to get together, talk about what we’ve accomplished, what our goals are, and what we plan to get done.

This one was the first meeting under our new official name. We recently federally incorporated as “BalanceDo Business Management Software Inc.”.


See You Around Mike


Today is my friend Michael Halliday’s last day at work.  I’ve been at Info-Tech for seven years, he’s not the first person who’s left, and he won’t be the last…but he’s the one I’ll miss the most.

It all started when I didn’t hire him.

Mike came in for an interview at Info-Tech with my boss Gord and I.  He was charming, personable, and incredibly bright.  He’d worked with Gord before, and was a solid coder.  He answered everything right, and told us he was doing iOS development (this is four years ago when that was still a relatively rare skill).

We left the interview promising him we’d get back to him, and had him on our short list.

But I didn’t hire him.


The Magic Word to Transform Developers into Designers

One of my favourite parts of RailsConf is the lightning talks.  These are 5 minute talks that can be about anything.  As a result, you see a lot of cool stuff in two hours, and if you get a bad one…you just need to wait 5 minutes until the next one comes along.

This year, inspired by not only my own team, but also by the many talks I saw about harnessing your creativity at RailsConf, I decided to give a talk on one of my own personal pet peeves.  People who say “but I can’t draw”, and how that internal script is holding you back.

I got a really good reception from people, which kind of surprised me since most of the talks were super technical, and mine was only one of two or three that were about non code related skills.

This is my talk from RailsConf – The Magic Word to Transform Developers into Designers


Are You Building the Right Stuff?

“Am I building the right thing” is one of the hardest questions to answer. There always seems to be “one more feature” you could add, one more tweak you could make, or one more “Absolute Must Have” that you could do.

When we started working on BalanceDo, we knew there was a ton of things to do, but because we’re such a small team, we would need to aggressively prioritize. Because of that, we decided to use a favourite prioritization exercise of mine.


Making the Sausage – My DIG London talk

I’m speaking at DIG 2012, it’s my first formal speaking event, though I have tons of public speaking experience on the radio, TV, as well as live at department meetings, company functions, colleges, and as a panel member at the Banff Interactive Festival.  It’s a 50 minute session too, so I’ve got a lot of time to make good use of.

I thought it might be an interesting exercise to publicize all of my prep, document all of the steps, and see what it looks like.  I have an outline done, and this week I’m starting on the actual narrative.

So this week, here’s my Dig 2012 talk outline – Innovation for Small Teams.  Let me know what you think in the comments.


What Matters to Me at Work

This year I turned 40, and I looked at a lot of different things in my life.  One of them that I focused the most on was what was meaningful work to me.  I spend 8-12 hours a day working for someone who isn’t me, and in those 8-12 hours I need to do things that make me happy, otherwise I should probably go off and become an organic hybrid chioat (half chicken, half goat…egg bearing of course) farmer.

So I sat down and figured out what matters the most to me at work.

Don’t Do It Unless You Can Make It Awesome
I love Captain Pike’s line in the JJ Abrams Star Trek Movie. “You know, your father was Captain of a starship for 12 minutes, he saved the lives of 800 crew including your mother’s and yours. I dare you to do better.”

My goal is to make everything I touch better, no matter how small that improvement is. That should be your goal too. Everything you do should be better than it was before you touched it.

If you can’t do that, stop touching things.

What You Do Is More Important Than How You Do It!
The minute you have written that last line of code you will figure out a better way to do it. I can’t count the number of times that I’ve finished a project, looked back at a bunch of the CSS classes I declared, and said “Well whoever did that was obviously stupid.”, that whoever was me…and at this point…who cares? Get it done, refactor through iterations, and move on.

Just Get It Done!
Seriously, get it done. Don’t spend endless hours wondering what you could do, writing intricate specs, and trying to figure out exactly what user base will use exactly what feature.

Experience tells me that we’re wrong 90% of the time anyway.

Users don’t use your product the way you think they will. They’ll hack it into new configurations, and figure out new ways to ruin it. Just get it out there, refactor it through iterations, and move on.

Just Ship It Already!
It’s good enough. You have no idea what users are going to do to it anyway. Why are you optimizing the network code if you don’t even know that 5 people are going to use it? Get it out, and if 1000 people start using it, throw up a “Oops, you guys are kicking our asses” post and get busy refactoring it…then refactor it further through iterations, and move on.

Make sure you know who you’re coding for
This is where “As a (type of user) I need to (do something) so I can (gain a benefit).” comes into play, if you’re unsure of exactly what you’re doing, make sure you look hard a the user type, what they want to do, and what benefit they get out of it. If you’re missing any one of those you’re probably doing something that doesn’t need to be done.

A system is NOT a type of user
Don’t ever say “as a system I need to do something”, systems aren’t actors, and if you’ve identified a system level task, congratulations…you just discovered a task. Figure out who the person is who gains the benefit, and you’ve got a task.

Know when to throw out the rules
As a (type of user) I need to (do something) so I can (gain a benefit). It’s a great way to remember all of the actors and benefits, but frankly if “The publishing tool needs to PUBLISH A GORRAM BLOG POST WITHOUT BREAKING” gets the point across…WHO CARES (besides the Scrum Police ™).