Author Archives: Paul Silver

Weeknotes 22: 3rd June – 9th June 2019

Client work

Another week of changes for existing client sites, and a bit of social media promotion after sending out a newsletter for a client. One thing about the promotion was we have various messages from different departments going out to Twitter. Some of them are amusing and/or scary images of people doing industrial work in a very risky manner, which I bulk load in to their site then have them get released daily on to the site and then shared on Twitter. They’re used partly to amuse their customers who know what they are doing, but also as reminders to watch what you are doing at work to make sure you’re not making the same mistakes.

We do a similar thing for their news – it all gets loaded on to the site by their branding chap, then he and I build an email newsletter from it, then I schedule the stories to be fed out on Twitter daily over the start of the month.

Some of their news stories are about health and safety court cases in the UK, and they are grim reading – the results of cases where someone has been seriously injured or died as their workplace hasn’t been safe enough. While scheduling these in Tweetdeck, I fortunately realised we should not be sending out the amusing warning images to Twitter on the same day, their scheduling is a bit random and it would be very bad form to be reading about someone’s untimely death, shortly followed up with a picture of some grinning idiot doing something stupid on a work site. So, I nipped in to the database and rescheduled the pictures to go on different days to the grim stories.

So what’s the upshot of all this? It’s just a warning that while scheduling things to be released on social media is a great time saver, so great for the client as they save money, you need to think about what is released when. It’s a great way to make a company look bad as you haven’t considered everything that might come out in the same few hours.

Two more things came up to do with social media this week. The first was one of the news stories for this customer was about Brexit and the effect of it in their industry. In the end I did not set that for sharing on Twitter, as I did not want the company to be handling the knee jerk reactions and trolling that anything about Brexit seems to attract. This saddens me, as I’ve enjoyed Twitter for a long time, but for the last few years the community I like there has definitely dropped off and I think dealing with random people (or bots) acting like dicks when you put out a comment for your friends is a big part of the problem. Me not sharing a completely legitimate, non-confrontational story from a client there is all part of the drop off.

And finally, another client has recently changed their logo slightly to include a strapline under the logo and wanted this to come up in messages when they send text messages (SMS) to their customers. I worked out the SMS app on their phone was following the links sent in their text messages and taking the sharing logo used in the OpenGraph meta data of their HTML pages. The strapline was getting partly cut off due to the space the app gave for the image to be shown.

Unfortunately, resizing the logo and strapline within the image to fix this would also affect how the logo shows on Facebook and LinkedIn, which use the same OpenGraph tags to bring in information to the previews of shared links. After some back and forth we decided to go back to the logo without the strapline, which happened to fit more nicely in to the space and meant we could have a consistent logo on all the shares. As it is only slightly different to the one on the website, I don’t think anyone is going to notice the difference and think it is a problem.

My Projects

I found a competitor for my Brisk app that has in parts a very similar interface, and staff from the company are quite active in various places I was hoping to be able to promote my app. This, the realisation of just how much I still need to do on it and the lack of sleep has made me stutter a bit on the project. To try and get my motivation up, and also to get to launch something, I did some work to fix the app I use to compile up who to thank on Twitter when they’ve retweeted Farm messages.

That involved fixing some code Laura wrote for me so I could get tweet threading working again, and I amended the Javascript (originally written by Sky) to make it more clear which of the retweeters is selected, and to make it easy to bulk select people since the last thanks message sent. Sky’s code was very easy to work with, which was great as I don’t do a lot of Javascript programming.

Productivity

Sleep started badly, but got a bit better right at the end of the week. I think potentially hay fever has been affecting my sleep. I only get it for a short time at the start of the season, and didn’t think it was particularly bad this year, but realised I was getting stuffy. Since taking some hay fever medication I’m sleeping better, which is great.

As I got more sleep, my productivity did jump up a chunk, so hopefully that will continue next week.

Learning

A little more 30×500, running through some reviewing material and then working on a list-style article for the Farm.

The Farm

Attendance back up to 17, and once again at the Caxton Arms. My notes were…

  • The bottom end of site building work has gone to Wix/Squarespace
  • Design process
  • Shopify
  • Rack mounted kit that’s too narrow – how?!
  • Car trouble
  • Looka.com logos
  • Car leasing – time to go electric?
  • Client lock in (in a nice way)
  • Email marketing and building templates
  • SPF/DKIM records to deal with bounceback spam
  • Cheers
  • American vs British TV shows
  • American vs British food
  • Packaging design
  • Drupal migrations
  • Reducing confusing language
  • Test data – sweary or not?
  • What will we be doing in 20 years?

Family

Katie had to work a lot of the weekend so I was looking after Tom. On Sunday we went to a playground at the top of the beach in Worthing, then down on to the beach as the tide was waaay out. It really lets you see why the Shoreham-Lancing-Worthing area is popular with kitesurfers – there’s not a lot to hit under the water when you come off your board.

Worthing beach when the tide is very out

A chunk of the rest of the weekend was cutting down things and digging up weeds in part of the garden so I could properly plant the tomatoes. Still plenty to do in the garden over the coming weeks, but hopefully it’ll be nice for when BBQ season really kicks in.

Reading: Finished The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers. It was fun and had good characters, but didn’t quite hit top marks for me. Still, more than good enough that I’m looking forward to reading it’s sequel, which I’ll probably keep for when we go on holiday in the summer.

Writing in: I started a plain Notables A5 notebook, with a slightly furry cover. This is a cheap notebook that I got from the Range and it’s nice enough, but feathers a lot (ink spreads out) when using fountain pens, so I’m mainly using a Papermate Inkjoy Needlepoint in it at the moment.

Writing with: a mixture of the Platignum Studio fountain pen I started last week and the aforementioned Papermate. Both good for different things.

Weeknotes 21: 27th May 2019 – 2nd June 2019

27th May 2019 – 2nd June 2019

A busy work week

Client work

Lots of changes for two of my onrunning clients, but nothing particularly write about within it. For another I was doing Google Ads (Adwords) and more social media work, and looking back at what search terms they’ve received traffic for through Google Ads which I could then write content around to try and get them more visitors from normal search results.

My Projects

I used the alpha version of my app for some client work and have realised the page where you make negative keywords is more confusing now the suggestions are coming in. I’m pondering on how to change that without having to re-do the whole page. I think putting some thin lines between each chosen search term might be enough, so I need to put that in and see how it feels in use.

Productivity

Sleep started out OK, then went downhill as my brain decided 5am was a good time to wake up and not get back to sleep for several days in a row. This has happened before when I’ve been consistently worken up by my son at particular times of the night – eventually my brain decides that’s the time I’m supposed to wake up. I’m not sure how to fix it, but it has faded off before.

Katie had the week off to spend with Tom over half term, so I had full work days for the whole week. This meant I got a lot more done, apart from on Thursday which was knocked by really bad sleep.

Learning

I continued with 30×500, finishing a lesson on understanding my audience’s underlying worldviews and attitudes and how to look at which of mine overlap with them.

The Farm

Attendance was only 12 on a cold and drizzly night. As usual we met in the Caxton Arms. My notes were…

  • Growing your own food
  • Interviews
  • Boris Johnson to go to court over £350m lies
  • Chris Gibson’s security podcast
  • Brexit
  • Splits in the major political parties
  • Dog puns
  • Learning Vue.js – easy after learning React
  • Art and colour
  • Brighton Fringe comedy
  • Artists Open Houses
  • New children
  • Working when very tired
  • Burnout
  • Night storage heaters mean the landlord will be a bastard

Sky very kindly gave me some tomato plants and a courgette plant. I managed to get these in to pots full of compost we’ve made (developed? We don’t have a lot to do with making compost, we let the worms get on with it.) The potting was squeezed in late on Thursday as it was getting dark, but the plants seem to have survived OK. They’ll eventually go in to the garden, but they need to be kept alive while I find time to dig the weeds out of where they’re going.

Young tomato and courgette plants in pots

Family

It was Katie’s birthday at the weekend and we went for lunch with her parents at a local restaurant which has a climbing frame activity centre thing in their garden, which was great for keeping Tom distracted.

Reading: Still reading The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers. Still going well.

Writing with: a Platignum Studio fountain pen which I was given for my birthday. It’s a very nice writer, with a medium nib which makes the lines a bit thicker than I’d really like but it feels so good I can ignore that.

Writing in: the last few pages of my Flying Tiger “Bullet Journal” notebook. Pondering what to use next, I have another of these in a different colour, but I’d like to vary things a bit and maybe have a plain notebook after several months of dot grid ones.

Weeknotes 20: 20th May 2019 – 26th May 2019

20th May 2019 – 26th May 2019

Birthdays and work days.

Client work

Various updates for all of my clients. This included trying to use If This Then That to automatically post the items in an RSS feed to Twitter. That went badly as the only set up I could find for doing that was extracting the information differently to how I wanted. So instead I used dlvr.it to do the posting to Twitter instead.

Dlvr.it has been reliable for another client, their free account only allows the consumption of three RSS feeds, which is fair enough. This client had more than that that they wanted to post from, but they were all quite quiet so didn’t really want to pay for an account. I wrote them a new RSS feed which merged together the separate news feeds each main department had, and new jobs, which solved this problem.

I had a day at The Skiff coworking space with Laura to tackle a bunch of the work needed for our mutual clients. A lot of that was around the Apply with Indeed system two of the clients are using and working in the same place helped a lot with making progress. I love the flexibility of coworking for this – the ability to work together when needed, but not all the time.

My Projects

Some notes on a new section I need for Brisk, but no decent progress.

Productivity

Sleep was better, productivity was mainly curtailed by Katie having a lot of late shifts so I was doing a lot of the school runs, although family did one which let me have a good Monday.

Thursday was almost a complete write off work-wise as it was a big birthday for my dad and I went to lunch with my parents and lots of relatives, then went straight to childcare mode. It was great seeing everyone, although not great for billable time. Given the hours lost over the week I’d usually have caught up at the weekend, but as that contained my birthday, I didn’t do that.

Learning

This got lost in all the non-work time this week.

The Farm

Attendance was 17, we met once again in the Caxton Arms. My notes were…

  • Busy weeks
  • Fishing
  • iOS development
  • The problems of buying extra tall clothes, not extra tall and extra wide clothes
  • Big shoes stories
  • Bad hips
  • The joys of growing some of your own food
  • SCSS and when to use it over CSS
  • Structuring CSS sensibly
  • Influencer marketing
  • OCD and phones and cupboards
  • Giving webinars
  • Comedy/improv training
  • Working on your own projects
  • New high resolution monitor
  • Tomatoes

I had a long conversation with Dan as we both have the same problem – we have to buy very large tops to get a sleeve length long enough to reach over our wrists, but then have a body size large enough to fit two people in. And needing size 13 (UK) shoes means ordering from the internet and doing a lot of sending back. Tall people problems. Given how many men in their 20s are at least as tall as me, I’m hoping clothes manufacturers start providing more extra tall clothes in mainstream shops soon.

Hardware

The Samsung U28E590D monitor I got for the Skiff is a massive improvement over my 13 year old Mirai monitor, very high resolution and lots of space for everything. It came with a Displayport cable but I didn’t realise that of course my laptop has a mini-DisplayPort port, not a big version, so I’ve had to order an extra cable to be able to get the best from the monitor. Currently I’m using it via HDMI, but it should run at a higher refresh rate with the cable I’ve ordered.

I also ordered a Perixx vertical mouse, which is pretty comfortable. I’ve used a Perixx split keyboard for ages and so was willing to take a risk on another of their products even though they’re not a big brand name. The mouse is decent – a good shape, rubbery where your thumb rests so easy to move around, and a good buy at £15. It’s not as good as my Evoluent one I use at home, but is a heck of a lot cheaper so the Perixx is well worth trying if you’d like to test a vertical mouse. Now I’ve used one for a while, I hate using normal mice as I can feel my arm twisting when using them.

As I now have a bunch of ergonomic equipment, especially mice and alternatives, I was thinking of writing up some reviews of how I find them. Another thing to add to my list.

Visiting

Leonardslee Gardens. Recently re-opened under new ownership after a few years closed. They’re obviously still sorting the place out after it wasn’t maintained for a lot of the time it was closed, but it’s very beautiful.

Trees and small lake at Leonardslee Gardens in Sussex

Reading: Still reading The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers. Going well.

Writing with: the Papermate Inkjoy Needlepoint, almost empty but I got a new pen for my birthday so will likely be using that next week.

Weeknotes 19: 13th May 2019 – 19th May 2019

13th May 2019 – 19th May 2019

Tiredness with a side order of varied pain.

Client work

Various amends and new featured clients for Grafton Banks Finance, meetings with G2 Legal and Skillsearch about site changes and new services, then delving in to how to fix some problems and planning the new developments.

My Projects

No progress, but I did make progress on learning.

Productivity

Started badly as I still had some shoulder and neck pain on Monday and Tuesday, then was bad late in the week as I wasn’t getting enough sleep. Tom being ill on Saturday night meant I was up to 1am, and him getting up early the next day didn’t help me recover.

Both my hips went through a bad phase. I’ve bought a magazine that I think is potentially a bit full of woo as it is trying very hard to look like official information about health, but the one part of it I’m interested in is a long article on hips and a bunch of exercises for them. Hopefully there will be something buried in it which will help.

Productivity-wise it was a week to forget.

Learning

I got the rest of the 30×500 exercise I hadn’t finished last week done, and am working through the next lump of information, which is very interesting. I’d have liked to finish the info but mentally I got to the point where nothing was going in.

The Farm

Attendance was down a bit again at 15, we clashed for some of our time with the Brighton Product Tank meet up, which might have hit us a bit. We met once again in the Caxton Arms. My notes were…

  • Updog
  • Brexit
  • Downscaling
  • Carpentry
  • Bitcoin
  • The advantages of Portugal
  • Lowering stress
  • Projects we have on
  • Bad solicitors
  • Learning Laravel and Vue.js
  • Product Tank
  • Being near the Downs is terrific
  • Brexit Party propoganda
  • Brixton Windmill
  • Learning to delegate
  • Virtual Reality / Augmented Reality

Hardware

The thirteen year old monitor I store at The Skiff is on its last legs and I’d really like some more space for my work, so I’ve ordered a new Samsung monitor to replace it. The new one is very high resolution and I’m hoping it’ll be OK to look at as it was what feels like a bargain: £220 for 3840×2160 pixels. More about it once I’ve got it. Along with the monitor, I got an extra vertical mouse so I can have one at The Skiff too. It’s a Perixx model, and hopefully good as it was a very reasonable price too.

Reading: Still reading The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers.

Writing with: a Jetstream Alpha Gel Grip, and a Platignum disposable fountain pen.

Weeknotes 18: 6th May – 12th May 2019

6th May – 12th May 2019

Cold and shoulder pain delays… everything.

Client work

A shortish week due to the bank holiday and my cold getting a lot worse. On the positive side, the client we put “Apply with Indeed” in for last week found their candidates really like it. So, Laura rolled it out for their sister company.

Client-wise my week was lots of small jobs – bits of copy, interface changes, explorations of problems, sorting out picture changes. Lots of small, bread and butter changes, which was about all my brain could handle as I got worse over the week.

My Projects

No real progress. I tried to get some work done with Amazon’s Product API for a bit of a break, and after trying a couple of libraries which didn’t get me anywhere, I rediscovered Amazon’s test area, which kept giving me errors too. Researching the error I found Amazon have changed the access to the API so you can only get results from it if your Amazon Affiliate ID has made money for Amazon over the last month. I do have some pages displaying products using Amazon’s affiliate system on my site about fixing my VW Beetle, but earnings are sporadic and obviously not enough to keep Amazon happy in my case.

It would be very helpful if they’d update their site about using the Product API to reflect this situation.

Productivity

Got worse as the week went on as I developed a full version of the cold my son had last week. Thursday and Friday were particularly bad. Then Saturday and Sunday I had a lot of neck and shoulder pain, which might have been caused by running for the train when I was running late on Friday. So sleep is doing particularly badly at the moment.

Learning

I managed to re-start 30×500 and get a lump of time in to get through most of the exercise I’d stalled out on. I should be able to finish that early next week. It feels good to be moving forwards with it again.

The Farm

Attendance was back a bit more to normal at 19, we met once again in the Caxton Arms. My notes were…

  • Finding work
  • Upping your rate
  • Angular and React
  • Migraines
  • Moving/not moving
  • The Skiff coworking space
  • Office space
  • Travelling in South America
  • Old jobs we have had
  • The appeal of mindless tasks
  • Domain issues
  • Getting in to a new project
  • Juggling projects
  • Tinnitus
  • Restaurant service
  • CBD oil
  • Laravel PHP framework

Family

I helped Tom’s Cub group with their orienteering task in the South Downs on Thursday evening. As the pack leader admitted, this was really an excuse to get them all out in the fresh air as they haven’t been able to do much outside over the winter. As an adult this was mainly a shortish walk made long due to it being very stop start and having to motivate the slow movers, but Tom really enjoyed looking for the navigation stumps marked on the map, and wanted to do more so we went out again on Saturday and Sunday to try to find more.

Also during the weekend, we went to a Fair that had set up in our local park, and went to see the film Detective Pikachu at the Dome in Worthing.

Software

I discovered Macromates, who make TextMate, one of the text editors I really like on OSX, had made a new version… two years ago. I’d thought they’d given up on the editor and moved on to other things as it had received only sporadic updates over the 6-7 years I’d been using the original version. I’m glad I randomly checked for it, as the new version is good – the speed and simplicity of the original, with up-to-date features like resuming where you left off when you shut the program or have an unexpected reboot. It has some minor differences I’m still getting used to, but in general, it’s a nice, decent update.

Reading: Still reading The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers. I’ve started enjoying it now, although things still feel very slow. I’m sure that’s partly the book, but also a reflection of my being knackered when I’m trying to read it.

Watching: Detective Pikachu which is an odd live-action version of the Pokemon world with CGI pocket monsters everywhere. I’m not sure Tom understood the finer points of the film but it was OK for one both adults and children could watch.

Writing with: Mixing around between the J Herbin rollerball, a Papermate gel pen, and a Fountain Pentel.