I am dain

and these are my thoughts mostly on technology

Indiewebify yourself

The web should be open and it needs you

I recently spotted a reference about the Indie Web Camp somewhere – most likely on Twitter – and reading a bit about it I was immediately sold on the idea and principles.

The core principle is to take the control back from silos, or the walled gardens of the Web and make it personal and open again. Which is all very well and something I agree with, but I just didn’t really know what are the small, incremental actions I can take to get there.

The Semantic web, microformats and taking content back have been in the back of my mind, but reading standard drafts or mulling about what’s the point of a social network without people never sounded like good starting points.

Now it’s easy to get started

So it was very refreshing to see simple to do and practical guides to get my personal website and blog up to speed with a couple of simple class names and missing metadata additions. What I found particularly useful and fun to get started with is the Indiemark checklist and easy to use validators on IndieWebify.me for things like the rel=me links to other web profiles, home page h-card indenty and h-entry markup for blog posts.

So far I got everything in mark 1 done which was fairly easy with my static, Jekyll / Octopress based website mostly just by adding some classes to existing markup and restructuring it here and there, but level 2 has some more challenging requirements, especially with creating some nice automatic way to cross-post notes to Twitter. I’ll update this post once I have these figured out, I’ll either need to find or create some small libraries to help with this.

But why bother?

Cluetrain’s New Clues give some answers which are much nicer formulated than how I could put it:

(77). Non-neutral applications built on top of the neutral Net are becoming as inescapable as the pull of a black hole.

(78). If Facebook is your experience of the Net, then you’ve strapped on goggles from a company with a fiduciary responsibility to keep you from ever taking the goggles off.

(79). Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple are all in the goggles business. The biggest truth their goggles obscure: These companies want to hold us the way black holes hold light.

(80). These corporate singularities are dangerous not because they are evil. Many of them in fact engage in quite remarkably civic behavior. They should be applauded for that.

(81). But they benefit from the gravity of sociality: The “network effect” is that thing where lots of people use something because lots of people use it.

(82). Where there aren’t competitive alternatives, we need to be hypervigilant to remind these Titans of the Valley of the webby values that first inspired them.

(83). And then we need to honor the sound we make when any of us bravely pulls away from them. It’s something between the noise of a rocket leaving the launchpad and the rip of Velcro as you undo a too-tight garment.

Worths reading the rest of the points too if you care about the Web in any way!

Containerise everything

Why you should stop installing development environment locally

This is a placeholder post for my talk about containers / Docker from re:develop conference 2015 conference in Bournemouth. I’ll eventually write up the main points in a proper blog post form, but for now have a look at the embedded slides and video recording.


Daniel Demmel at re:develop 2015 - Containerise everything from Base on Vimeo



Make sure to also have a look at the companion repository on Github, which shows how to set up a Node based development environment with Docker. Of course it would work with anything else which runs on Linux, but this simple working example should give you a good starting point.

Why YOU — not Henry Ford — should design your working life

Your life was designed 150 years ago

Western middle-class living operates on a working pattern invented in the 19th century, grudgingly accepted by progressive capitalists like Henry Ford in the beginning of 20th century and finally written into law early to mid-20th century in most countries.

While certainly a lot of people realise this might not be ideal, just why are we — as global society — so timid about changing this pattern?

First world problems

Much of my argument doesn’t apply if you’re struggling with low pay, shift-based work or live in a developing country. But many of you reading this post will be fortunate enough to be getting paid to think about and solve problems in creative ways. Yet we know that our brains are incapable of working at their peak, for hours in a row, while our bodies are tied to a desk and our colleagues are buzzing around us.

Chances are that you also earn more than what you really need, to spend the surplus on stuff you want but don’t need or have the time to enjoy anyway.

Funnily, some of the nicest things which you do actually need and can really make you happy (as science shows) don’t cost a lot of money: taking a walk in nature, relaxing with people you like, cooking some fresh food from scratch, giving time to enjoy the meal together with your family and friends immersed in conversations, or keeping a gratitude journal.

So why do we still choose to join the rush hour congestion every day, and with that, collectively invest in expensive and destructive infrastructure developments just to serve these one-hour time windows? Or, why do we create a binary choice between unemployment and low paid jobs or burning out with no time to rest in sight until we retire, being too old and ill to enjoy it?

Is it about co-location then?

Yes, being next to teammates and interacting in person is something which can’t (fully, yet) be replaced by telecommunication, but do or should we have meetings all day with the same people?

Couldn’t we organise our discussions a bit smarter into clusters — both within a day and a week — and spend the rest of the time away from the hustle of the workspace, with space to think when we need it the most?

Wouldn’t we still have enough chance for serendipitous conversation between colleagues from other parts of the company if only we made sure to spend our lunch time and coffee or tea breaks in the communal area rather than in front of our computers?

Planet, people and economy

What really changed my way of thinking about time is a brilliant and provocative study by the New Economics Foundation, called 21 hours (as in work week). In this paper they argue that by shortening our time spent at work we could decrease overconsumption, stress, and traffic congestion while increasing the number people employed in quality jobs, community and political involvement, and general mental and physical wellbeing.

Once you stop looking at life as a treadmill of 5 long working days and a short weekend — barely enough to gasp for breath —and give yourself permission to explore what else is possible, magic starts to happen in your mind.

If you want a second opinion or to dig deeper, also take a look at the Institute for the Future’s Future of Work study.

Credits: © 2015 Institute for the Future | http://www.iftf.org/our-work/people-technology/technology-horizons/the-future-of-work/

So what do I do?

It’s all very well, I hear you say, but we can’t all just move to France with their leisurely work hours, can we? Well, as an example there’s a law in the UK that allows you to ask for any form of flexible work arrangement and unless your employer has a very good reason why they can’t accommodate for your request — which is unlikely for an office job — you should be allowed to have your way.

So this is exactly what I did, about a year and a half ago, just after my son was born.

My pattern is every Wednesday off with and an extra hour worked each day for the rest of the week. While first I thought about getting a long weekend, slicing the week into half and not having to work more than two days in a row — ever! — works incredibly well.

To make this happen I had to sacrifice 10% of my salary which might sound a bit off-putting at first, but if you think of it this way: you’re giving up the highest taxed bit first, or you could also just decrease hours with the same percentage instead of a pay rise next time, suddenly it hurts much less.

Power to the parents

Apart from the decreased normal working pattern, I’m lucky enough to work for ustwo with a progressive paternity policy, enabling fathers to take over maternity time from mother and topping up the statutory pay to full salary.

I can’t even begin to describe how wonderful it was for me to be able to spend 2 months during last summer with my little boy, but having some discussions with a few colleagues I realised that this paternal time off has profound implications beyond a healthier, more balanced child and less stressed young mother — if these weren’t enough already!

If men also take months off after a child has been born — and in general share looking after the little ones — the ridiculous and often subconscious stigma of mothers as “less dedicated” workers will all but disappear.

Needless to say I was more than happy to bask in the glory of a gender equality champion after this realisation, but this is just a small step to close the gap for a more inclusive workplace. For me personally that is, I can’t feel grateful enough for this forward looking and generous policy!

Time to design your life

There’s no ultimate recommendation as everyone’s different, but you should give yourself time and space to think about what would be the best working pattern for you and what matters the most to you in life by filling in The Living Legacy workbook (PDF). As part of this you should realise that it’s not a lack of dedication to your career at all to find the way to sustainably give your best instead of burning yourself out!

This post was originally published on the ustwo blog: http://ustwo.com/blog/you-should-design-your-working-life/