Scott Hanselman

Scaling Mentorship

October 15, '17 Comments [6] Posted in Musings
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You may have had a mentor in the past. Often these are more senior/elder people who are further along in their career. The presumption usually is that if they are "ahead" of you that they likely have something profound to offer you in the areas of advice or strategy.

This is a classic mentor/mentee situation and while I think it has value, it has a few problems that are worth pointing out. Does it scale? Is a senior person the right mentor for you? Is just one mentor the right number? Does that person's time support mentoring you?

I've been blessed to have several mentors over the years and I've been fortunate to be a mentor myself. But there's only so much time in the day. Even if I could truly mentor 4 people a week, and meet with them a few times a month, that could fill up many days. Plus, I have to ask my self - am I giving them what they need? Personal advice? Career advice? Technical advice? Getting promoted advice? Life advice?

Create a Board of Directors for Your Life

I've been experimenting with a few other models for mentorship. Five years ago I set up a Board of Directors for my life. You can learn more at http://lifesboardofdirectors.com.

Companies have mission statements and a Board of Directors. Your life is pretty important. Why not create a Life Board of Directors to help you through it? Pick 2 to 5 of your friends. Not necessarily your closest friends, but friends that are close enough where you can really confide but not so close that they can't see the big picture. Email them one a month, once a quarter or "once a crisis." Ask them for advice, lean on them, trust them and help them as well.

Assemble "Team You" and use your team to brainstorm directions and implementations of big decisions like moving to New York, or changing your business's direction, starting a new venture, or getting fit.

Use your personal Board of Directors as one of the compasses in your life. You've got family, friends, perhaps faith, hobbies, values, etc. Add your Team to this list of personal compasses.

It might sound like a silly mind game, but that's common with many hacks. Hacks feel insignificant but can have huge effects. The trick is to remember that it is a hack - you're hacking yourself. The idea of life's board of directors is a relationship hack meant to remind you in difficult times that you can agree on something fundamental and you have a team to support you in your endeavors. Set a direction and head in that direction with the confidence you've got a supportive group behind you.

Go assemble your Life's Board today.

Host Mentorship Meals

Over the last several months I've been quietly hosting "Dinner for people on the come up." These are dinners where everything is FrieNDA and we talk frankly about our jobs, our levels, our work situations, and most importantly - we find new mentors and people with whom to brainstorm. It's a mentorship multiplier. We encourage folks to pull from the pool of potential peer mentors.

Tonight we had one with almost 20 people. These were 20 mostly young people, many women and people of color who were all trying to find their way in tech. I have some life experiences to offer this group, but most of all what I can lend is my privilege. I can use my standing within the company and the industry to invite folks together and let them take over and mentor each other.

I host the mean, kick it off, sometimes invite guests to speak, and the attendees often break off into small groups, meet up separately and network. Peer mentorship is just as important as "elder/senior" mentorship.

It also helps mentor people in the the fullness of their personalities. Where I might help with speaking at conferences or technical issues, someone else can better speak to issues of harassment, or how to get a promotion, or how to be better seen and heard in meetings. I can also learn from younger people - and I do - every day.

The goal of mentorship isn't to lecture and preach, it's to guide and counsel, inspire and motivate. Most of all, to listen. Once you've truly heard your mentee, then you can help them think strategically and better plan their career, no matter what their challenges and strengths.

What do you recommend as positive ways to Scale Mentorship?

* Stock photo from The Jopwell Collection


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About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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Monospaced Programming Fonts with Ligatures

July 20, '17 Comments [64] Posted in Musings | Open Source
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Animation of how ligature fonts change as you typeTypographic ligatures are when multiple characters appear to combine into a single character. Simplistically, when you type two or more characters and they magically attach to each other, you're using ligatures that were supported by your OS, your app, and your font.

I did a blog post in 2011 on using OpenType Ligatures and Stylistic Sets to make nice looking wedding invitations. Most English laypeople aren't familiar with ligatures as such and are impressed by them! However, if your language uses ligatures as a fundamental building block, this kind of stuff is old hat. Ligatures are fundamental to Arabic script and when you're typing it up you'll see your characters/font change and ligatures be added as you type. For example here is ل ا with a space between them, but this is لا the same two characters with no space. Ligatures kicked in.

OK, let's talk programming. Picking a programming font is like picking a religion. No matter what you pick someone will say you're wrong. Most people will agree at least that monospaced fonts are ideal for reading code and that both of you who use proportionally spaced fonts are destined for hell, or at the very least, purgatory.

Beyond that, there's some really interesting programming fonts that have ligature support built in. It's important that you - as programmers - understand and remember that ligatures are just a view on the bytes that are your code. If you custom make a font that makes the = equals site a poop emoji, that's between you and your font. The same thing applies to ligatures. Your code is the same.

Three of the most interesting and thoughtful monospaced programming fonts with ligatures are Fira Code, Monoid, and Hasklig. I say "thoughtful" but that's what I really mean - these folks have designed these fonts with programming in mind, considering spacing, feel, density, pleasantness, glance-ability, and a dozen other things that I'm not clever enough to think of.

I'll be doing screenshots (and coding) in the free cross-platform Visual Studio Code. Go to your User Settings (Ctrl-,) or File | Preferences, and add your font name and turn on ligatures if you want to follow along. Example:

// Place your settings in this file to overwrite the default settings
{
    "editor.fontSize": 20,
    "editor.fontLigatures": true,
    "editor.fontFamily": "Fira Code"
}

Most of these fonts have dozens and dozens of ligature combinations and there is no agreement for "make this a single glyph" or "use ligatures for -> but not ==> so you'll need to try them out with YOUR code and make a decision for yourself. My sample code example can't be complete and how it looks and feels to you on your screen is all that matters.

Here's my little sample. Note the differences.

// FIRA CODE
object o;
if (o is int i || (o is string s &&
int.TryParse(s, out i)) { /* use i */ }
var x = 0xABCDEF;
-> --> ==> != === !== && ||<=<
</><tag> http://www.hanselman.com
<=><!-- HTML Comment -->
i++; #### ***

Fira Code

Fira Code

There's so much here. Look at how "www" turned into an interesting glyph. Things like != and ==> turn into arrows. HTML Comments are awesome. Double ampersands join together.

I was especially impressed by the redefined hex "x". See how it's higher up and smaller than var x?

Monoid

Monoid

Monoid prides itself on being crisp and readable on retina displays as well as at 9pt on low-res displays. I frankly can't understand how tiny font people can function. It gives me a headache to even consider programming at anything less than 14 to 16pt and I am usually around 20pt. And my vision is fine. ;)

image

Monoid's goal is to be sleek and precise and the designer has gone out of their way to make sure there's no confusion between any two characters.

Hasklig

Hasklig takes the Source Code Pro font and adds ligatures. As you can tell by the name, it's great in Haskell, as for a while a number of Haskell people were taking to using single character (tiny) Unicode glyphs like ⇒ for things like =>. Clearly this was a problem best solved by ligatures.

Hasklig

Do any of you use programming fonts with ligatures? I'm impressed with Fira Code, myself, and I'm giving it a try this month.


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About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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URLs are UI

July 7, '17 Comments [50] Posted in Musings
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imageWhat a great title. "URLs are UI." Pithy, clear, crisp. Very true. I've been saying it for years. Someone on Twitter said "this is the professional quote of 2017" because they agreed with it.

Except Jakob Nielsen said it in 1999. And Tim Berners-Lee said "Cool URIs don't change" in 1998.

So many folks spend time on their CSS and their UX/UI but still come up with URLs that are at best, comically long, and at worst, user hostile.

Search Results that aren't GETs - Make it easy to share

Even non-technical parent or partner things URLs are UI? How do I know? How many times has a relative emailed you something like this:

"Check out this house we found!
https://www.somerealestatesite.com/
homes/for_sale/
search_results.asp"

That's not meant to tease non-technical relative! It's not their fault! The URL is the UI for them. It's totally reasonable for them to copy-paste from the box that represents where they are and give it to you so you can go there too!

Make it a priority that your website supports shareable URLs.

URLs that are easy to shorten - Can you easily shorten a URL?

I love Stack Overflow's URLs. Here's an example: https://stackoverflow.com/users/6380/scott-hanselman 

The only thing that matters there is the 6380. Try it https://stackoverflow.com/users/6380 or https://stackoverflow.com/users/6380/fancy-pants also works. SO will even support this! http://stackoverflow.com/u/6380.

Genius. Why? Because they decided it matters.

Here's another https://stackoverflow.com/questions/701030/whats-the-significance-of-oct-12-1999 again, the text after the ID doesn't matter. https://stackoverflow.com/questions/701030/

This is a great model for URLs where you want a to use a unique ID but the text/title in the URL may change. I use this for my podcasts so https://hanselminutes.com/587/brandon-bouier-on-the-defense-digital-service-and-deploying-code-in-a-war-zone is the same as https://hanselminutes.com/587.

Unnecessarily long or unintuitive URLs - Human Readable and Human Guessable

Sometimes if you want context to be carried in the URL you have to, well, carry it along. There was a little debate  on Twitter recently about URLs like this https://fabrikam.visualstudio.com/_projects. What's wrong with it? The _ is not intuitive at all. Why not https://fabrikam.visualstudio.com/projects? Because obscure technical reason. In fact, all the top level menu items for doing stuff in VSTS start with _. Not /menu/ or /action or whatever. My code is https://fabrikam.visualstudio.com/_git/FabrikamVSO and I clone from here https://fabrikam.visualstudio.com/DefaultCollection/_git/FabrikamVSO. That's weird. Where did Default Collection come from? Why can't I just add a ".git" extension to my project's URL and clone that? Well, maybe they want the paths to be nice in the URL.

Nope. https://fabrikam.visualstudio.com/_git/FabrikamVSO?path=%2Fsrc%2Fsetup%2Fcleanup.local.ps1&version=GBmaster&_a=contents is a file. Compare that to https://github.com/shanselman/TinyOS/blob/master/readme.md at GitHub. Again, I am sure there is a good, and perhaps very valid technical reason. But another valid reason is very frank. URLs weren't a UX priority.

Same with OneDrive https://onedrive.live.com/?id=CD0633A7367371152C%21172&cid=CD06A73371152C vs. DropBox https://www.dropbox.com/home/Games

As a programmer, I am sympathetic. As a user, I have zero sympathy. Now I have to remember that there is a _ and it's a thing.

I proposed this. URLs are rarely a tech problem They are an organizational willpower problem. You care a lot about the evocative 2meg jpg hero image on your website. You change fonts, move CSS around ad infinitum, and agonize over single pixels. You should also care about your URLs.

SIDE NOTE: Yes, I am fully aware of my own hypocrisy with this issue. My blog software was written by a bunch of us in 2002 and our URLs are close to OK, but their age is showing. I need to find a balance between "Cool URLs don't change" and "should I change totally uncool URLs." Ideally I'd change my blog's URLs to be all lowercase, use hyphens for spaces instead of CamelCase, and I'd hide the technology. No need (other than 17 year old historical technical ones) to have .aspx or .php at the end of your URL. It's on my list.

What is your advice, Dear Reader for good URLs?


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About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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Get Solarized - Awesome command prompt colors for VS, VS Code, cmd, PowerShell, and more

June 17, '17 Comments [18] Posted in Musings
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imageI was on a call with my co-worker Maria today and she commented on how nice my command prompt in Windows looked. I told it was "Solarized" and then our conference call fell apart as we collected all kinds of fun info about how you can get Solarized in your favorite apps on Windows.

Solarized is a sixteen color palette (eight monotones, eight accent colors) designed for use with terminal and gui applications. It's by Ethan Schoonover and it's spread all over the web. You can see screenshots and learn about it on GitHub.

Solarized for your Windows Command Prompt (cmd, powershell, bash)

By default when you right click and hit properties on a shortcut for a prompt like cmd, powershell, or bash, you'll get a dialog that looks like this.

Default Colors in CMD

You'll see there's 16 colors, usually 8 colors on the left, and then the "light/intense/bold" version of each color on the right. I usually used Intense Terminal Green on black before Solarized.

Those values (the defaults) are stored in the registry here HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Console

Where default colors are stored in the Registry

Those defaults are used for NEW shortcuts or consoles that start afresh, via Windows+R. This won't change existing shortcuts you may already have created. There's a few ways to fix this.

I've found the easiest manual way is to recreate the shortcuts. You can do this by just copy-pasting a shortcut and using the new one.

However, there is talk of programmatically updating .lnk (Start Menu link files) with PowerShell.

You'd just go to the location of each LNK file you want to change, then run Update-Link.ps1 YOURLINK.LNK "light|dark" and it'll load up the .lnk file using Windows APIs and save it with a new Color Table.

I've started that work here and I'll PR the main repo if I can solve one issue - I can't get it to switch to Solarized Light, just Dark. It might be something wrong on my side. Please take a look if you're a Win32/PowerShell internals type.

Here I went to where the Start Menu stores most of the LNK files. You can also search for an item in your start and right-click "Open File Location."pow

Programatically Update your LNKs with PowerShell

Here's before and after with my Developer Command Prompt for Visual Studio 2015.

Solarized!

NOTE: Once this is done, in cmd.exe you can also switch between light and dark with "color f6" or "color 01" which is nice for presentations. I'm not sure how to do this yet in PowerShell or Bash.

Here is the palette after:

Solarized Palette

For PowerShell there is also an extra-step you'll want to put into your Microsoft.PowerShell_profile.ps1 where you map things like Errors, Progress Bars, and Warnings internally in PowerShell. Be sure to read the instructions.

Solarized in Visual Studio and Visual Studio Code

As for Visual Studio and Visual Studio Code, they're far easier. You can just Ctrl-K then Ctrl-T in VSCode and pick Solarized.

Solarized in VS Code

For Visual Studio (all versions) you can head over to @leddt's GitHub and download settings files for Solarized that you can then import info VS from Tools | Import and Export Settings.


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About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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Suggestions and Tips for attending your first tech conference

May 17, '17 Comments [13] Posted in Musings | Open Source
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This last week Joseph Phillips tweeted that he was going to his first big tech conference and wanted some tips and suggestions. I have a TON of tips, but I know YOU have more, so I retweeted his request and prompted folks to reply. This was well timed as I had just gotten back from OSCON and BUILD, two great conferences.

The resulting thread was fantastic, so I've pulled some of the best recommendations out. As per usual, the Community has some great ideas and you should check them out!

  • @saraford - Whenever you get a biz card write down why you met them or what convo was about. It might seem obvious at time but you wont remember at home
  • @arcdigg - Meet people and speakers. Tech is part of your success, but growing your network matters too. Conf can give you both or not. Up to you!
  • @marypcbuk - if approaching people is hard for you, just ask 'what do you work on?'
  • @ohhoe - don't be afraid to introduce yrself to people! let them know its yr first conference, often people will introduce you to other people too :)
  • @IrishSQL - connect with a few attendees/speakers online prior to event, and bring plenty of business cards. When u get one, write details on back
  • @arcdigg - Backpack and sneakers beat cute laptop bag and heels (ed: dress comfortably)
  • @scribblingon - You might feel left out & think everyone knows everyone else. Don't be afraid to approach people & talk even if seems random sometimes :) If you liked someone's talk, strike a convo & tell them that!!
  • @arcdigg - Plan session attendance in advance, have a backup in case the session is full.
  • @jesslynnrose - Reach out to some other folks who are using the hashtag before you get there, events can be cliquey, say hi and make friends before you go!
  • @thelarkinn - Never feel afraid to say hi to maintainers, and speakers!!!! Especially if you want to help!
  • @everettharper - Pick 3 ppl you want to meet. Prep 1 Q for each. Go early, find person #1 in the 1st hr before crowds. 1/3 done = momentum for rest of day!
  • @jorriss - Meet people. Skip sessions. You'll get more from meeting and talking with people then sitting in the sessions. #hallwaytrack
  • @stabbycutyou - Leave room in your schedule, Meet people, Eavesdrop on hallway convos, Take notes, Present on them at your job
  • @patrickfoley - Don't forget to sleep. Evidence that long-term memories get "written" then
  • @david_t_macknet - Drinking will not help you remember it better or have a better time mingling. Most of us are just as introverted & the awkwardness fades.
  • @carlowahlstedt - Don't feel like you have to go to EVERY session.
  • @davidpine7 - Try your best to NOT be an introvert -- in our industry that can be challenging, but if you put yourself out there...you will not regret it!
  • @frontvu - Don't rely on the conference wifi
  • @shepherddad - Put snacks in your bag or pocket.
  • @sod1102 - Find out if there will be slides (and even better!) video available post conference, then don't worry about missing stuff and relax & enjoy
  • @rnelson0 - Take notes. Live tweet, carry a notebook, jot it all down at 1am before sleeping, whatever method helps you remember what you did.
  • @hoyto - Sit [at] meal tables with random people and introduce yourself.
  • @_s_hari - Ask speaker when *not* to use product/methodology that they're speaking on. If they cannot explain that, then it's just a marketing session
  • @EricFishor - Don't be afraid to discreetly leave or enter an on going session. It's up to you to seek out sessions that interest you.
  • @texmandie - If you get to meet and talk to your heroes, don't freak out - they're normal people who happen to do cool stuff
  • @wilbers_ke - Greatest connections happen in the hallways, coffee queue and places with animated humans. Minimize seated conference halls
  • @CJohnsonO365 - CLEAR YOUR SCHEDULE. Don’t try to get “regular” work done during the conference— you’ll end up missing something important!
  • @g33konaut - Tweet with the conf hashtag to ask if people wanna meet and talk or hangout after the conference, also follow the hashtag tweets to find ppl. Don't sweat missing a talk, meeting people and talking to them is always better than than seeing a talk. Also the talks are often recorded
  • @foxdeploy - Who cares about swag, it's all about connections. Meet the people who've helped you over the years and say thanks.
  • @jfletch - Ask people which after parties they are attending. Great way to find out about smaller/more interesting events and get yourself invited!
  • @marxculture - The Law of Two Feet - if you aren't enjoying a session then leave. Go to at least one thing outside your normal sphere.
  • @joshkodroff - Bring work business cards if you're not looking for a job, personal business cards if you are.
  • @benjimawoo - Go to sessions that cover tehnologies you wouldn't otherwise encounter day to day. Techs you don't use in your day job.

Fantastic stuff. You'll get more out of a conference if you say hello, include the "hallway track" in your planning, stay off your phone and laptop, and check out sessions and tech you don't usually work on.

What are YOUR suggestions? Sound off in the comments.


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About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer's view in any way.