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Running a software business like a local restaurant

Written on May 9, 2021

I recently ran across Wildbit’s video celebrating 20-years of business on their website. Wildbit’s business is inspiring, especially as a software company.

You might know Wildbit as the makers of Postmark. If you don’t know who they are, check out their anniversary video as it is inspiring.

For me the video was inspiring in two ways:

  1. The first was when the CEO, Natalie at 3:12 shares what the future of Wildbit holds—that it might be more than just software.

  2. There’s a clip of Peldi Guilizzoni, founder + CEO of Balsamiq at 8:34 describing running a software business like a restaurant down the street.

Future of Wilbit

I love Natalie + Chris Nagele’s vision for the future of Wildbit and what it might hold. That it isn’t just a software company, but it’s a company made of creative folks, that builds things with many raving customers.

Instead of being beholden to what a software company “looks” like, they are imagining and planning for a future where they can build and do things outside of software.

I for one am interested in what that’ll look like and what they’ll produce from these plans.

Business like a local restaurant

I really enjoyed Peldi Guilizzoni’s description of what running a software business looks like for him.

Yes, we make software, but we run our business, the same way the restaurant down the street runs their business.

Take a moment and imagine going to your favorite local restaurant near where you live. Why do you keep going back?

Obviously the food is yummy, but it is also likely the restaurant provides you with a positive experience.

While you’re there they provide you service with a smile, patiently answer all your menu questions and bring you drink refills without you asking.

If they’re really good, they might even know you by name.

That’s the type of experience you get with a small business. And I think that’s what Guilizzoni is describing in his portion of the video of how he runs a business.

A business that cares for its patrons and survives by providing a service in exchange for a fair fee.

I wonder what would happen if more tech companies took this approach? One that’s focused on people-first instead of profit-at-all costs.

Simple email forwarding with Forward Email

Written on May 2, 2021

One of the drawbacks of having a bunch of domains for side projects is that it takes a lot of effort to set up email for them.

You might want to set up an email with your custom domains if you want to send out a newsletter coming from the domain.

The two options that I’ve used are, either setting up an actual inbox with a service like Fastmail or using AWS, or more specifically SES to set up the ability to receive email on a custom domain.

Both of these options have their drawbacks.

With Fastmail, you’re paying for and managing an additional inbox.

With AWS SES, it is a lot of technical overhead and it isn’t the cleanest solution.

Simple and clean email forwarding

I recently found a service called Forward Email and it solves both of the drawbacks mentioned above.

It is simple, you don’t have to manage a separate inbox and the solution is clean.

The process for getting emails forward to a custom domain takes updating three records with your DNS—two MX records and a TXT record.

Once the DNS resolves, any emails sent to your custom domain will be forwarded to an email of choice.

So let’s say I have a custom domain at pizzafriendsunited.com and my personal email is hi@michaelsoolee.com. By using Forward Email, when folks send emails to anything @pizzafriendsunited.com, it’ll automatically forward them to hi@michaelsoolee.com.

If you wanted to, you could additionally send emails from the custom domain simply by adding an additional TXT record in your DNS.

Super handy tool for projects

Next time you come up with a new project idea and you nab a new domain, check out Forward Email. It provides a simple and clean solution for handling emails without the need for managing a separate inbox.

My favorite Apple device, Apple Watch

Written on April 25, 2021

I’m a latecomer when it came to getting an Apple Watch.

While most Apple devices made sense to me, the Watch never appealed to me.

After all, the watch seemed to be focused primarily on an audience who were active and health oriented.

It wasn’t until last year, when I was dealing with bouts of anxiety that the Watch suddenly became interesting to me.

I had experienced chest pains from the anxiety and so I naturally was worried also with my heart. I had read that the Apple Watch had a way to track heart rate and warn against any irregularities.

So for a few weeks, I used my wife’s Series 3 Watch to track my heart rate. Thankfully the watch never detected anything and I restored my wife’s watch and gave it back to her—without much interest of getting one for myself.

It wasn’t until this year when I started to incorporate more walking and exercise into my daily routine that I was interested in getting an Apple Watch of my own.

I ended up getting the Apple Watch SE.

The watch definitely delivers on the health benefits and data that I bought it for, but I quickly found out that it provides a lot more value to me than just the exercise perspective.

My favorite Apple device, the Apple Watch

Improved sleep schedule

In iOS 14, Apple introduced a new feature called Sleep Schedule. While the idea of Sleep Schedule was interesting, on the phone it wasn’t that compelling to me.

Setting a target sleep amount and then working on alarms for when to go to bed and when to wake up wasn’t really habit forming.

I had set up the feature when it first arrived on my phone, but I always bypassed it.

Then I got the Apple Watch and noticed that the Sleep Schedule is also tied to Watch. The Sleep Schedule feature does two things, it tells you when you should go to bed via a prompt and then also tells you when you should wake up via a prompt. That prompt is usually an auditory alarm.

While it was acceptable in the evenings, in the mornings, I always felt bad because it would disturb my wife’s sleep. For this reason, I always kept the alarm off. Which meant my kids were the ones to wake me up in the morning.

I didn’t enjoy this as a dad, because instead of getting my best in the morning, the kids often got my worse. I woke up groggy, sometimes annoyed because I was snapping out of sleep. While all they want is breakfast.

With Apple Watch, I’m able to set an alarm an hour before my kids usually wake up. It silently vibrates on my wrist in the morning, enough to wake me up and not my wife. I roll out of bed, spend some time to myself in the morning and when the kids find me—I’m fully awake.

The kids are able to get some of the best part of my day.

Sleep tracking

In the same line as the Sleep Schedule, what has been really compelling to me about the Apple Watch is that it provides insights into your sleep habits.

As a dad, I’m waking up throughout the evenings for various reasons—kid has nightmare, kid goes to restroom, kid needs water. While my phone is nearby and I could check the time. But I usually answer to my children’s needs, then go right back to bed.

With Watch, it tracks everything for me so that I can review it at a later time. The Watch tells me when I woke up, how much sleep I got and when I was restless.

While the default Sleep app does a decent job tracking your sleep, I found that it doesn’t pick up an accurate picture of what my sleep really looks like. I think this is because Sleep is bound to the Sleep Schedule that the schedule you set, skews the data around your sleep.

Instead I started using an app called Sleep++.

I found that Sleep++ gives me a more accurate picture of when I fell asleep, when I woke up and all the different stages of sleep that I experienced throughout the night. Having a more accurate picture of my sleep has allowed me to be more willing to follow the Sleep Schedule in iOS because I know how many phases of sleep I’d need to feel rested from the data.

Answering a call on my wrist like Dick Tracy

In the 90s there was a film called, Dick Tracy. In it, the title character by the same name had a wrist watch that had a built in two-way radio. When I first saw the Apple Watch, it immediately made me think about Dick Tracy.

While I chuckled at the thought of answering calls with my watch, it wasn’t until I finally had an Apple Watch, that I understood the extreme convenience of having this feature.

Again, as a dad, my hands are sometimes tied up and I’m in the middle of something when someone calls. It is much easier to tap my watch to answer a call versus, reaching into my pocket and fumbling to retrieve my phone.

I also love being able to tell Siri to send text messages and make phone calls for me via the watch.

Magically unlocking stuff

Perhaps my favorite part of owning the Apple Watch is being able to unlock things with it magically. And when I say magic, it’s the same level of user experience magic you get when multiple Apple devices just seem to work seamless together.

In this case, I use my Apple Watch with my MacBook Pro.

In my current desk setup, I usually keep my MacBook Pro’s lid usually closed. What this means is I can’t unlock it using TouchID. A minor but inconvenience nonetheless when you’re used to getting into your laptop with a single touch.

Well with an Apple Watch, I can simply sit down at my desk, and the watch unlocks my laptop for me—magic.

Where the magic gets even better is that, I can also use Apple Watch to unlock my password manager of choice 1Password.

1Password has the option to unlock using the Apple Watch.

When it is set up, instead of asking for your finger to unlock, a prompt shows up on the screen to unlock with your Watch.

My Macbook Pro with 1Password, asking for the Watch to unlock it

Lift up your wrist and double-pressing the side button unlocks 1Password—more magic!

The Apple Watch prompt to unlock 1Password

Fitness+

There are many benefits to being part of the Apple ecosystem, but Fitness+ to me felt like a drawback. Not so much for the content, but the forced necessity to only access the content via a Watch.

Around the time we got the HomePod Mini, Apple One came out. Seeing that I had already a few of Apple’s services, the cost of bundling with One was appealing to me.

To my disappointment when we first signed up for Apple One was that to use Fitness+ you needed a Watch.

It wasn’t until months after Fitness+ was released that I was able to actually use it.

The programs themselves by the trainers are top notch and quite impressive. And while I admit the tight integration with Watch and the Apple TV is impressive, I honestly don’t think it necessary to gate such a positive service from those who are without a Watch.

But then again, Apple is a technology company, so maybe that’s their push all along, selling more hardware and not a health service.

Once I had the Watch I do feel like it was a motivator to open up a Fitness+ workout to close my rings and see my rings interact on my television, but not a super value-adding feature.

I still think Fitness+ has much room to grow, for example I’d love to see the ability to support multiple Watch users simultaneously. My wife and I workout together, to be able to see both our individual vitals and metrics on screen would be magical.

Bought it for health, but found more value out of it

I bought the Apple Watch for its intended use case which was health oriented, I found that there were a lot more other use cases for it.

While the Watch isn’t the most value producing product—in terms of being able to produce work—from Apple that I own, I do agree, with what Tim Cook claimed when releasing the Watch to the world, that it is the most intimate of devices.

It’s the one device that is with me much more than my iPhone and the one device, that surprisingly has become my favorite Apple device.

Refreshed my about page

Written on April 18, 2021

Tonight, I finally did what I had been wanting to do for quite some time now on this site—which was to update my about page.

I always found it hard to write about myself because well, it’s hard to write about yourself.

This past week I came across Kaleigh Moore’s tips on how to write an about page and thought her tips provided some good guidance on how to feel less cringey about writing an about page.

Combined with how I’ve been approaching my writing lately and reading through Gary Vaynerchuk’s Crush It, I wanted to update my about page to better reflect who I am and the things that I care about.

I don’t think the about page is yet at where I want it to be, I do however feel like it is a step in the right direction—in being more authentic.

If you’ve ever struggled with writing your own about page, do check out Kaleigh Moore’s tips. If you’re interested to see how I used them to share about who I am a bit more authentically, check out the about page.

How to create drop-down lists in Google Sheets

Written on April 14, 2021

Drop-down lists in Google Sheets are helpful to have because it can include a predetermined set of values.

This is helpful in scenarios where you might designate a cell to indicate a type of category or to communicate status for a line item.

Create a drop-down list

  1. Select a cell in Google Sheets where you want to create a drop-down list.
  2. Select Data > Data validation from the menu
  3. For the section that says Criteria select List of items from the drop-down.
    • Alternatively, you could select List from a range if you rather use existing cells to fill your list.
  4. In the field next to the drop-down where you selected List of items, enter the items you’d like in your list separated by a comma , and without spaces.
    • For example:
      • Todo,In Progress,Done
      • Small,Medium,Large
  5. Hit the Save button and you should now see a little down arrow in the bottom right hand corner of your cell.
    • Clicking on the arrow will show you the options of your drop-down.

Google can't tell me what to write about, so why don't you?

Written on April 11, 2021
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That’s the hash of the git commit for this site from three weeks ago when I removed Google Analytics. You may be thinking, “🙄 NERD!”.

Hahaha…yeah, I know.

Removing Google Analytics was something I had been thinking about doing for a while. The reason being, it serves no value for my readers.

Yes, it told me which of my posts was the most popular month-over-month. Yes, it made me sad when overnight a year back, when Google cut my traffic in half. Yes, I had been eyeing traffic go back on the rise.

But for a while now, I’ve known that it doesn’t serve you, the reader any value.

Whether my traffic was on the rise or fall month-to-month, I’d still consistently publish a post a week.

Even though Google tells me, my most popular posts were about how semantic versioning works in npm dependency files or the post and video on how to resize panes in tmux, I’d still write about what interests me outside of those things instead of doubling down on them.

I can tell you, in removing Google Analytics it did give my site a speed boost according to Google. So, I guess we can credit Google for that value to you, dear reader.

According to Page Insights, my site got a boost in speed!

That “might” even boost my traffic, but in the past three weeks I’ve been without Google Analytics, I haven’t missed it at all.

It’s one less metric to fixate on and instead spend that energy on creating more posts and creating things you might find useful, dear reader.

So, how will I navigate what to create for this site you might ask…

Well, instead of Google telling me…

Why don’t I ask you?

Dear reader, whether you’ve been following my writing for a while or just stumbled onto this site for the first time, I’d love to hear what you’d like to read about.

While the skies aren’t the limit, here’s some topics that may interest you:

  • Marriage
  • Parenthood
  • Workflow automation
  • Career as a developer
  • Transitioning to a role as an IT manager after being a developer
  • The many jobs I’ve held before becoming a developer
  • Side projects – starting, maintaining, failing and sunsetting them
  • Being a second generation, Korean-American
  • Dropping out of college twice
  • Working remotely

All these and more are part of my story and I’d love to even cross-pollinate topics.

Dear reader, if any of these interests you, and you’d like for me to write more about a topic, hit me up on Twitter or send me an email and let me know.

“Will you ever add analytics back onto the site?” you might ask.

I may.

But before I do, I’d need a compelling reason to do so.

And if I do, it won’t be Google Analytics, but rather a service like Fathom.