On "Working" Outside of Work Hours

Etsy’s culture puts a very strong emphasis on work-life balance. As someone who has mostly worked for startups, this took some adjusting to. The fact that Etsy IRC and email pretty much goes silent outside of normal business hours struck me as odd initially. But, I really appreciate it. Startups are stressful, and they left me feeling that there was always something work-related that I should be doing whenever I had some “free time.”

However, I love my work. I love the people I work with and the projects I work on. I love solving problems. I love coding. I wish I had more time to spend doing it. Having a family puts a massive dent in your free time. Don’t get me wrong, I love my family and am [usually] happy to spend any available time with them, but I so miss having large blocks of time to myself to just get into the zone.

So when I or other colleagues mention coding (or even checking email) after hours, or on vacation, we’re often castigated for doing so. I love that my colleagues are looking out for my well-being, but hey, we’re all individuals. If you have no desire to be anywhere near a computer outside of work hours, that’s awesome. It’s pretty cool to work at a company where that’s not only possible, but encouraged, isn’t it? But please don’t judge me for thinking that my ideal vacation would be go somewhere alone, with my laptop and a fast internet connection, and just code.1

If you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to get to bed. I like to wake up crazy early so I have a couple hours of alone time with my laptop.

  1. There is an argument that a senior engineer working after-hours sets a bad example for more junior engineers, making them feel like they should be doing the same. This is certainly something to be cognizant of, but so long as the prevailing culture makes it clear that this is in no way expected behavior, it should not be an issue. 

Two Tools for Packaging Mac Apps

I ran across two apps yesterday that make packaging Mac apps for distribution a breeze:

To easily build a professional DMG-based installer, look no further than DMG Canvas. There’s a free version with some limitations, but honestly $15 is a bargain for such a useful tool.

For more complex installs, you might need to create a .pkg file, in which case grab the free (and ungoogleable) Packages app by Stéphane Sudre.

Write a Mac Menu Bar App in Swift

This past week I taught an Etsy School class on how to write an OS X menu bar (aka status bar) app in Swift, and the walk-through is now public. I hope you find it useful.

If you have any suggestions on improving it, let me know. (Or better yet, submit a PR!)

Sublime Text Guide

I’m a big fan of the Sublime Text text editor, and I’ve become one of its biggest evangelists at Etsy. A few months ago I gave an internal presentation/tutorial session on it, and used those notes to create a guide on our internal wiki. I’ve ported that guide to my blog so I can spread the Good Word to others. Since the source code for my blog is available publicly, I’m also hoping that people will help make it even better.

So head over to my Sublime Text Guide and let me know what you think.

Speeding up Jekyll's LSI

Jekyll’s Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI) indexes your posts to create the “Related Posts” section you see at the bottom of the individual post pages. However, if you have more than a handful of posts, it is very slow, and it seems to get exponentially slower as the number of posts increase. I ran it on this site, with ~140 posts, and I finally killed it after 3 hours.

There’s a fix for this, though, buried in the README for classifier-reborn, the library used to do the post classification. Install GNU GSL and rb-gsl. On OS X with homebrew, it’s as easy as:

brew install gsl
gem install rb-gsl

Indexing time for me went from, well, 3-∞ hours to less than 5 seconds.