Picture of Michael Lee
:wave: Hey hey, I'm @michaelsoolee! I'm a full-stack developer, maker of one too many side projects and dad.

:clap: Thanks!

Written on May 16, 2019

On a day-to-day basis I use a lot of apps to stay productive and do the work that I do. Apps that have been made by real people, most of which don’t get the credit for the amount of value that their work brings to my life. So this is my way of saying thank you to all the designers, developers and makers for their apps that bring value to my life.

Junegunn Choi

  • vim-plug - A minimalist Vim plugin manager. Super easy to setup and easy to use.
  • goyo - I enjoy writing in Vim since it’s minimal and gets out of my way and lets me focus on the task of writing. Goyo provides an environment within Vim that lets me focus even more.

Ngoc Luu

  • 1Writer - I write in markdown and I enjoy writing on my iPhone/iPad. When I do, I do it in 1Writer. With its seamless Dropbox integration, I can write whenever and wherever.

Anders Borum

  • Working Copy - My site, Spell It Out and many of my other projects are all versioned using git. Being able to have access to my code and push up updates from my phone has been a phenomenal experience.

Running faster than the lizard

Written on April 13, 2019

A couple of weeks back I wrote about a phenomenon I was experiencing called the lizard brain. It was because I was working on launching a new project and as I was getting close, I kept running into fear and distractions.

I eventually defeated the lizard brain or like to think, I just ran faster than the lizard and eventually beat it.

There were three things that helped me stay focused and beat the lizard.

The first was setting a deadline for myself. I told myself I only wanted to invest three weeks of my time to building this project. What this forced me to do was cut things that I felt like was unnecessary and get creative in my solutions.

I focused on things like the copy and the check out flow, instead of worrying insanely on extra UI fluff. I also couldn’t allow myself to get distracted by shiny object syndrome because of my very limited time.

The second was telling others. I told my wife first. She kind of rolled her eyes because she thought the idea was silly. I took it as a challenge cause I wanted to show her even though it’s a silly idea, it might just work. She also didn’t believe I would finish the project so I took that as a challenge too and decided to time lock my time spent on building the project and finish it.

I also shared it with my friends. They were able to give me crucial feedback while I was building. Things like new ideas to try or things in my copy that didn’t make sense. It was also helpful that they would check in with me and see how the progress was going. They were my personal cheerleaders as I was running towards the finish line.

The last thing that I did that helped me beat the lizard was simply to acknowledge that I had reached my deadline and launch it. Whether or not I felt ready. I just pushed go and went to bed.

What was nice was in doing this I was able to step back and think about what I should focus on next and also it helped me to see things I needed to refine. Which was only possible by putting my project out into the world. My friends graciously sponsored my first few days and that helped me figure out some of the post sponsor steps that I didn’t quite see when I was in the pre-launch, building phase.

I hope the next time you find yourself wrestling with the lizard brain that these lessons I learned will help you outrun and defeat it.

Because I was able to outrun the lizard I can proudly share with you my newest project. I’m super stoked because this project is something that I’ll be able to do with my kids. It’s called Sticker Dad Up and it was inspired by my kids and their love for stickers.

For an entire year my kids and I are on a journey to sticker me up with all sorts of neat stickers. What I was building is an opportunity for individuals and businesses to get the word out about their service or products. Through our website Sticker Dad Up, you can help sponsor our project by sponsoring a day out of our year long project and sending us your stickers.

Then on the day that you sponsor my kids and I will creatively reveal your sticker and I will walk around wherever I’m at that day, with your sticker on me. All while sharing the experience on Instagram, our website and newsletter.

It would mean so much to me if you gave us a follow @stickerdadup on Instagram and share Sticker Dad Up with someone who has stickers and would like to sponsor a day in our project.

Determine current route in Rails

Written on March 6, 2019

Let’s say you’re building a sweet navigation in your Rails application and the design you’re implementing shows that you’ve got different states that have different visual cues.

Those states might be inactive, hovering and active or current. Inactive and hovering seems pretty straight forward, you can do all that in CSS.

.Nav-Item {
  // Styles for the "inactive" nav item state
  // would go here.

.Nav-Item:hover {
  // Styles for the "hover" nav item state
  // would go here.

But the active or nav item state that indicates you’re currently on the same page as an item in the nav isn’t a simple CSS solution. To solve this, you’ll need to use a built-in Rails helper called current_page?.

With the current_page? helper you can pass it things like a relative or absolute path that you’d like to check or you can even pass it actions and controllers with parameters for it to check. Doing so will return either a true or false.

How this could look in your mark up is this,

<%= link_to({ controller: 'page', action: 'about' }, { class: "Nav-Item #{'is-current-page' if current_page?(controller: 'page', action: 'about')}" }) do %>
  About Us
<% end %>

I’m using the current_page? helper inside a link_to helper block. Specifically it is being passed to the class attribute where it is saying, if the current page current_page? is the same as the page handled by the about action in the page controller, then add the value of is-current-page to the class attribute.

Now I could have this in my CSS,

.Nav-Item {
  // Styles for the "inactive" nav item state
  // would go here.

.Nav-Item:hover {
  // Styles for the "hover" nav item state
  // would go here.

.Nav-Item.is-current-page {
  // Styles for the nav item that corresponds
  // with the current page the user is viewing

Now we’re able to handle inactive, hovering and current page states in a Rails application nav.

Silencing the lizard brain

Written on March 5, 2019

Seth Godin describes a phenomenon of what happens when someone gets close to shipping something. He calls it the lizard brain or plainly, the resistance. The lizard brain is what often sabotages a project. It tells you to slow down, be careful or back off.

And it’s something I’ve been dealing with lately. There’s a project that I’ve been thinking about for about two years. Two years ago when I came up with the idea, I got really amped about it. I told my wife about it, I told my friends about it, I even worked on it for a few days and then the lizard brain came in and it fizzled. I don’t even remember why I stopped but I stopped.

Recently the idea popped into my head again and for some reason I’ve felt compelled to pursue it again. Again I told my wife and I told a different set of friends about it. My wife rolled her eyes, my friends think it’s a great idea and I’m off to building it.

But as the days go by, and as I chip away at the idea, I noticed the lizard brain is starting to kick in again. I have been dealing with the fear of what if it actually works? I’ve been focusing on the hypothetical and trying to think through so many future scenarios that my brain can’t possibly understand. This sort of thinking actually almost left me paralyzed in fear to keep working on it again.

I spent 15 minutes working on it tonight and that silenced the lizard brain. I think being in the state of concentration of working on the project was good for silencing the lizard brain temporarily. I’m now at a place where I’d like to get to shipped faster in order to subdue the lizard brain. The more I let the project drag out the easier it is for the lizard brain to get louder.

Reusable UI patterns

Written on February 24, 2019

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about reusable UI patterns. Things like a nav element and such. I’m not sure why I hadn’t done this before, but I’d like to put together a library of reusable UI patterns. This is so that I can get up and running quickly with projects, but also not having to rebuild the wheel every single time I need to build a common UI element.

For this reason, I spent a couple hours tonight putting together a nav element that is also fully responsive. It’s a common element that’s needed in pretty much any web application or web site nowadays.

It isn’t anything fancy, just HTML, CSS and vanilla JavaScript. I decided to go this route instead of building it in some fancy JS framework because it’s more portable and I think future proof. I’d like to also iterate on it by adding things like proper role attributes and accessibility minded things.

Spell It Out: 600+ acronyms spelt out

Written on February 22, 2019

A little over a year has passed since I started a little project called Spell It Out. I started the project when I started working at CloudBees. During my first few weeks there as I was learning about the different projects at various meetings, I observed that there was a frequent use of acronyms. Being the new guy, I didn’t interrupt the meetings because of my lack of knowledge of what an acronym meant, instead I would jot it down and either ask another team member what it meant or Google it.

Since running Spell It Out I’ve observed a few things around the use of acronyms.

First, it is totally ok to make someone pause and ask them to explain what an acronym means. I’m now on a different team at a different company and they have their own set of acronyms that they use. Now when I hear an acronym and aren’t sure what it means, I’ll usually ask what it means at the moment it is used. This usually leads to the person who used the acronym to be more than happy to explain what it stands for.

Second, I think most of the time the person who uses the acronym makes an assumption that it’s a commonly used acronym that the person hearing it should know it too. I don’t think it’s something that happens just with acronyms but in general. It reminds me of doctors. I’ve had doctors in the past blurt out a medical term for something I’m describing and look at you as if you’re supposed to know what it is.

I’m not sure if there is some correlation or if it’s a more generalized thing that humans do, but I’m observing that it happens outside of just acronyms.

Third, those who both uses and spells out an acronym in the same sentence are often seen as more inclusive. I remember being in meetings where people would use acronyms and no one pausing the speaker to ask what it meant. This would make me feel like I wasn’t on the inside or the know of things. When a speaker is able to both use and spell out an acronym I find them to be more caring and thoughful. And I appreciate it, even though they might be speaking to a group who might already know what the acronym means. I also don’t think anyone will scoff and be disgusted by someone who uses an acronym and also spells it out.

I’m not honestly not sure what I’ll add to Spell It Out to enhance it or make it better in the future. I know I have a desire to put context around acronyms so I might start there. For example the acronym GoF (Gang of Four) refers to the four authors who authored a book on design patterns in object-oriented programming.

I’ve also had an itch to put together an API to perhaps make a plugin that could be used to spell out acronyms as you find them when reading in your browser or computer.

What is sure is, I’ll keep curating and adding acronyms that I find almost daily to the growing list of acronyms on Spell It Out.

A few highlights since starting Spell It Out:

  • My first project I’ve shared on Product Hunt
  • Got mentioned on a national radio called Sound*Bytes
  • Hit 600+ acronyms :tada:
  • Added one Easter egg :egg: