Reading List May 22, 2020

May 22, 2020

Things I read over the last week. At first glance this week might appear to have a theme of “everything is broken!” but I prefer to read it as “look at all these things we can do better!”.

Second-guessing the modern web

But the cultural tides are strong. Building a company on Django in 2020 seems like the equivalent of driving a PT Cruiser and blasting Faith Hill’s “Breathe” on a CD while your friends are listening to The Weeknd in their Teslas. Swimming against this current isn’t easy, and not in a trendy contrarian way.

Low-Challenge, High-Skill Tasks in Terrible Times

For the last month I’ve found myself subconsciously jumping on “easier” tickets where I feel a high level of expertise (CSS tasks, layouts, prototypes) and I’ve struggled to get through tickets that have a high learning curve or cognitive load. Those deep work tasks are hard to sustain when reality, in the form of kids or breaking news, comes crashing through my door. That’s where the broader concept of Flow is helping me. If I understand the psychology correctly, lowering the challenge level raises my relative level of skill and that gives me a sense of control in an otherwise uncontrollable world. I’m able to move fast and not break things.

A Static Future

A thorough (and well illustrated) explanation of how static site builders like Gatsby work.

Students are failing AP tests because the College Board can’t handle iPhone photos

One of my favorite books is To Engineer Is Human by Henry Petroski, particularly the stories of uncaught or seemingly minor issues that went unconsidered that resulted in catastrophic failures. I don’t think there’s a software engineering equivalent (if there is, let me know!), so I have to find them in news articles like this.

Chris Coyier had a somewhat related tweet this week. You’d think operating systems and software would fundamentally get image formats and text formatting correct, but it’s been an ever-repeating problem since computers had screens.

Your Day Care Probably Won’t Survive the Coronavirus

While nearly every other developed nation supports child care as a public good, the United States treats child care providers as private enterprises — more like gyms than K-12 schools.

The child care sector, like your favorite fitness enterprise, is propped up mostly by private dollars paid into the system.

There’s a whole Greatest Hits album worth of things that parents in the US get screwed on compared to other countries, but the #1 best seller is the fact that child care between the ages of 0 and close to 6, basically one third of the time the child is under your care, is on the individual structurally and financially. I have a lot of other thoughts on this but they mostly involve 🤬 so I’ll stop here for today.