Specifically how the iPad Pro isn’t a computer replacement


I recently grabbed an iPad Pro 9.7, and the new Logitech Create keyboard case for it. It’s nearly the best little laptop / tablet I’ve ever owned, because the way it handles multitasking both works and keeps you focused on whatever main task you should be focused on. Of course, it works best with apps that have been built with multitasking in mind, but you can still switch between multiple apps easily enough where it just sort of works. However, there are unfortunately a few deal-breakers that prevent it from being my new computer.

The main one is that iOS assumes that you never need to connect to physical media. Apple sells both a USB and SD Card adapter, but they’re really only focused on connecting as a way to import images or movies (although the USB connector can also work for connecting MIDI keyboards and MIDI controller devices for music, which is cool).

Unfortunately, that still leaves tons of use case scenarios on the table where you still need to have a regular computer around and an iPad Pro alone won’t suffice. For example, last Wednesday night, I played some rock and roll with my little jam band of friends in Austin. I recorded the entire 3 hour session on my Zoom H4N audio recorder. The H4N is not a wi-fi capable device and saves all it’s recordings to an SD Card. I can use Apple’s SD Card adapter to connect the SD Card to my iPad Pro, but doing this simply opens up an image import dialog and there is no way to see, hear, playback, or copy over the files on that SD Card.

The only way for me to get that audio onto my iPad is to first upload it to a computer, then either sync it over iTunes or load it onto iCloud or some other cloud service so I can access it via the iPad.

This is just one failed use case, but there are many others. We all have lots of data backed up on multiple storage devices that aren’t in the cloud and aren’t images. Currently there is no way to connect that data to an iPad Pro without going through a computer.

This is stupid. Apple, you need to fix this if you are serious about making iPads the future of computing. If it’s just marketing and you’re too busy thinking about building connected cars, then you can ignore my recommendation that you fix this and allow the ability to access external storage and all data types via some sort of file manager.

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Home Office in 2016 (now with more kids!)

For a solid stretch of years, I worked almost exclusively from a home office, both while working at Netscape, during the first part of my time with Mahalo, and then for the early Crowd Fusion years up until we landed The Daily as a customer and I was often working out of the NewsCorp building in downtown Manhattan, and eventually, we had our own offices. I would work from home from time to time during the later years of Crowd Fusion and the beginnings of Ceros, but these were when Jackson was just a baby so there were lots of moments like this one:
It's bring baby to work day!
Jackson sleeping in a baby bjorn or some sort of sling, while I gleefully typed away at my computer, working, and thinking smugly “Man, I’m such a pro-dad and multitasker!”

Fast forward to today. Jackson is 6. Darcy is 2 and a half years of total attitude. And it’s summer time so they are often home. And I’m now working for YouEarnedIt remotely from Dallas for a good percentage of my weeks (although I am down in Austin quite a lot too). However, despite two kids and summer time, the home office thing is still working rather well so far (knock on wood). Why?

Things needed for a successful home office

A room of one’s own

Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own in the highly politicized backdrop of 1929 England specifically addresses what a woman needs to write fiction in an essay that concisely thinks carefully through the subject. I highly recommend it. However, ever since I read the essay in college, I’ve seen having a room of one’s own as being a requirement for any focused endeavor, especially any creative endeavor. All of that is to say: you need your own room if you’re going to work from home.

Mine isn’t even closed entirely off from the rest of the house, and even though it is summer and the kids are around more than they’re not, it’s been working out very well.

A good headset

We use Slack quite a bit at YouEarnedIt (we even have a YouEarnedIt Slack integration that works quite nicely), but we also sometimes have Google Hangouts and phone calls and even Slack with audio sessions. In those scenarios, it’s best to have a headset that works and is wireless and affords you with some freedom of movement about the house. I got this wireless headset and it works nicely. I can get up and walk over to get a drink of water from the kitchen and it still keeps a strong signal. It also does a good job of filtering out the noise from around the house for both me and the people on the other end of the line. Only in circumstances where there’s someone mowing right outside my window or Darcy is screaming bloody murder is there really anything heard through the mic. And the best part: just flipping up the little mic arm mutes it whenever I’m not talking.

A variety of places to work from

I have a desk. I also use a laptop, so I can go sit on the back porch or move to a back room for an important call if the kids are being raucous. I also have both my laptop and monitor on stands, so that I can either remain seated and be looking up at a good angle for my back, or stand up and look down a bit. This stand sits under my laptop when I am at home, and when I travel, I can fold it up and it fits in my bag alongside my laptop, so I can have a similar set up wherever I go. I also have an Apple Wireless Keyboard and Trackpad that I use with this set up.

Most importantly

Good work life balance is important when you work from a home office. 10 years ago when I did it, I very much couldn’t stop working. Now I can. Maybe it’s just because I’m older. Maybe it’s because I have two kids and I realize that they are more important than anything else. When I visit the YouEarnedIt offices in Austin, we take breaks, we eat lunch, everyone leaves work at a reasonable hour. Just because I’m at home doesn’t mean I shouldn’t be doing the same thing.

I’ve noticed after the past 3+ years of working at Chaotic Moon in an office, I now have a little voice in my head now that I’m working remotely again that is slightly neurotic, feels slightly like “what am I missing right now,” and tries to push me towards being hyper-available online. It’s been an odd struggle for me to adjust to, given that I’ve done remote work like this extensively in the past. Fortunately, the YouEarnedIt team is great, and I feel very connected even when I’m not onsite, and they’re used to several of our YEI family members, like Chris Rice, our VP of Engineering, working remotely.

The important thing in hybrid work scenarios like this, I find, is to treat everyone in the office like they are remote, and everyone who is remote like they are in the office. Everyone communicates better with that in mind.

In any case, it’s odd how 10 years changes your perspective on things. This isn’t a deep post, but it’s something that I’ve been thinking about, so I thought I’d share.

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Back to a focus on product with YouEarnedIt…

I just updated my LinkedIn profile with the news that I’m joining YouEarnedIt as Chief Product Officer.

About 3 and a half years ago, Kristin and I moved from New York to Texas for me to start working for Ben Lamm at Chaotic Moon. It’s been a fun ride, I learned a lot, and I got to help a really amazing services company grow from good to great, building an amazing development and quality assurance team along the way. This past summer, looking at the growth of our business and what was needed to take the next steps in growth, the management team at Chaotic Moon, under Ben Lamm’s leadership, decided to sell to Accenture.

This is natural. Businesses evolve and change and need different things as they grow. I’ve had over 12 years of success helping build startups into successful small to midsized companies. I’ve worked my way out of previous jobs in the past, helping a company grow, and while that’s not what happened here, it became clear to me, after losing Alex, and then after Ben left Accenture, that I wasn’t finding the same joy in my work that I used to. Also, in a larger company structure like Accenture, the development and QA team that I built at Chaotic Moon had more room for growth without me there. It was time for me to start thinking about moving on.

So I did, and I have.

Joining YouEarnedIt as Chief Product Officer

Thanks to Guthrie Bunn for the half pound solid brass bottle opener going away gift #youearnedit

I’m overjoyed that I was able to reconnect with Autumn Manning and the YouEarnedIt team. Several months of conversations with Autumn and team culminated in a job offer from them to join as their Chief Product Officer. I’m excited to begin nurturing this already great product into a growing positive force in today’s workforce. From a recent press release, about YouEarnedIt’s new Slack integration and latest mobile release:

YouEarnedIt is a SaaS HR technology platform that redefines the way companies engage with their employees. By providing tools to connect, reward, reveal and report in real-time, YouEarnedIt is able to consolidate employee engagement initiatives into one, easy-to-use mobile platform for teams of all sizes. Since launching in 2012, YouEarnedIt has delivered its flexible software to small enterprises and Fortune 500 brands across several industries.

YouEarnedIt also recently received an investment from Motley Fool to grow their development and product teams, so it’s a great time for me to join the company to assist with that growth. I’ve always tried to position myself in businesses where I think I’m not only helping the business grow, but where the business itself is helping make the world a better place. I think YouEarnedIt’s mission of creating happiness at work is the first business opportunity I’ve had that fully aligns with that “life betterment” focus. I’m also excited to leave the services business grind behind and return fully to a professional focus on product.

Not only that, but the team at YouEarnedIt is a great group of happy people doing good in the world. I was fortunate enough to make some time one night during my last trip to Austin to hangout with my new team and they all welcomed me into the fold with open arms for some fun festivities, including some team-building time spent breaking out of an Austin Panic Room, and some good old-fashioned arm wrestling!
Team Brute Force YouEarnedIt

A little friendly arm wrestling with Chris Rice @youearnedit #iwon #chipower

A photo posted by C.K. Sample III (@cksample3) on

If all that sounds amazing to you, you should know that we’re hiring! Check out our YouEarnedIt job postings here.

Kristin, Jackson, Darcy, Misha, Thatcher, and I are all staying in Dallas, but I will be traveling down to Austin regularly now, and we’re all excited about what lies ahead. Stay tuned…

Posted in Alex Johnson, Chaotic Moon, Chaotic Moon, Personal, YouEarnedIt | Tagged , , , | Comments Off on Back to a focus on product with YouEarnedIt…

Chaotic Moon sponsor video for Moontower Comedy Festival: “Don’t be that guy.” starring me!

As you may remember, last year, I starred in several videos for Chaotic Moon’s sponsorship of the Moontower Comedy Festival in Austin, Texas. Well, this year, we only did one, but here it is (with CGI and nudity!):


It was fun to do. Last night, I got to attend a few of the shows myself, and had multiple people recognize me and congratulate me on doing such a good job. #nailedit #ineedanagent

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Some thoughts on Software Development vs Engineering

Someday I may write a much longer piece about this, but for now, here’s what I’ve been noodling on for well over a year:

My sorely-missed friend Alex Johnson used to say that calling Software Development by the title Engineering was a great disservice to our industry because it casts what we do as a science with clearly defined measurable parts throughout. The problem with that, as every developer knows, is that there’s still quite a lot of art and magic involved in software development.

Engineers build bridges and solid structures, and applying that metaphor to the entirety of software development is problematic, because developers are never building brick and mortar on solid foundations. They’re normally building structures of code on top of other people’s pre-existing structures of code within operating systems, software platforms, and programming languages that other people have built. And all of those systems, no matter how clean the code, or how well documented, will inevitably have some sorts of bugs. Bug free code is a misnomer and an impossibility, because as any good quality assurance analyst will tell you, you can have bug free use cases, but there are always edge case scenarios where you can produce bugs. The balance is determining what bugs matter and are a real risk and where things need to be iron clad.

How much technical debt is acceptable and low risk enough in order to ship your code? What’s the timeline on that technical debt becoming higher risk? What’s the natural entropy built into your software? When do advances in technology render your code problematic?

I have to get on a plane, so this is rough, but it’s been sitting in my drafts for months, and it’s time for me to start blogging again…

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