Re: Scaling Organizations by Scaling Engineers

Some coworkers of mine at Mass Relevance shared this Surge talk by Bryan Cantrill which I quite enjoyed and wanted to share some thoughts on. Since I also would like to blog more, it seemed like a perfect opportunity!

So here goes:

On Bryan Cantrill
This guy kind of reminds me of a more enthusiastic Ryan if he were to give a passionate/rant talk on something. =)

On Formal Reviews
I really enjoyed the part on formal annual reviews. The ones I’ve experienced have been at a more frequent cadence, but I have never once found them to be valuable relative to just telling me “good job, continue to get stuff done.” I don’t mean this as a knock on any of my past managers at Bazaarvoice nor that I view myself as flawless, but these types of formal reviews always seemed like a way to herd the B+C players at the cost of being an annoyance to the A-players (“superlative engineers”). Please never make me fill out a form asking for a “weakness I will work on in the following quarter.”

IMO, excellent engineers will naturally learn and improve themselves. Particularly in the context of being able to do their job even better. Making one write their own arbitrary weakness to focus on for some set time period just to tick a checkbox will be met with resistance or simply not taken seriously. I have never once felt like this part of my performance reviews at BV was ever directly tied to my actual performance nor that anyone actually believed I should focus on this versus just shipping a great product. It always felt artificial and a formality that was immediately forgotten.

Like mentioned in the talk, I agree that feedback is valuable and encouraging improvement is also positive. The formal methods I’ve had experience with have not been very valuable though.

Note: I’m speaking critical of Bazaarvoice on this topic as it is the predominant part of my professional career. There are still a ton of great people there, and learned a lot from my 6.5 years tenure that I am incredibly grateful for. Despite the great experiences I’ve had there, no company is perfect, and this is an area that resonated with me after hearing this talk.

On Management Staying Technical
An aspect I admire most of Mass Relevance’s engineering organization is that it’s very flat and everyone all the way up to CTO still actually get their hands dirty with code. I have all kinds of respect for our leaders here as I’m sure it is quite difficult to juggle everything they’re responsible for PLUS find the time to add new features, fix bugs, and contribute code. This talk really made me realize that because our leadership does this, it gives me a lot more confidence in their ability to make decisions and know that they’re empathetic to the challenges we tackle. There’s a lot more sense of working with my boss cooperatively, rather than for my boss and taking orders.

Almost there!

Well, I guess I’m at a once a month cadence of blog posts. My builder is supposedly still on track for a September 30th closing date. cross fingers I’ll be picking up boxes and starting to pack this weekend. Wooo!

Mass Rel has “MR Nights” every Tuesday where a bunch of us (mostly devs, but not limited to) hang out late and we invite outsiders to join us at the office (or somewhere else nearby). A week ago, I had a bunch of my old BV team over and it was good to work late with them again, even if it wasn’t on the same stuff. =) That team meshed together in a way that will be hard to replicate and I’m starting to appreciate the experience more as I reflect on it. We’ve since scattered into the winds, so it’s likely to be a unique experience, though I’m optimistic to have other positive unique experiences in the future. =) That’s also not to knock on my time at MR thus far at all. I’m having a pretty good time there too.

I swear, it’s not me that picked the music:

I really want to make a duckling.js but I have no idea what to make it do so the minified version can be called ugly.duckling.js. Someone help me with ideas.

On the MTG front, I’m really looking forward to Theros. It seems pretty fun so far from the spoilers. I’ve been avoiding going to drafts of M14 because it’s so boring after having RTR block.

And… sibling hangout!

Sibling Hangout

Mass Relevance

Dang, blog. Sorry it’s been so long. =)

I was holding off on mentioning this because there was so much I wanted to talk about, but I’ll just go ahead and throw it out there and if there’s anything else for me to say, I’ll do it another time. =p After about 6.5 years at Bazaarvoice, I’m off to Mass Relevance starting July 1. BV’s been such a great experience filled with lots of opportunity for me that it’s bittersweet to say goodbye. The team I’ve been on for the past year-ish has been awesome and I’d be lucky to experience that type of passion, camaraderie, and teamwork in the future. I’ll miss you guys!

That said, it’s time I start a new adventure, so I’m headed to MR where I’ll have the benefit of working with a lot of ex-BVers who I think highly of. If they switch to first.last email addresses before I get there I’ll be very sad! ;)

I added more to my nerd XP by going to a Magic draft with Jonney on Wednesday. Despite drafting what I thought was the worst deck I’ve ever drafted, I got second place with it, so that’s good I guess. I’ve always thought that Magic was a game I could be really competitively good at if I wanted to invest the time into it and “go pro” despite how silly that sounds (hey, some of the prizes are no joke though). =) That said, I don’t know if I can handle playing it for days straight.


I guess I should post something before January is gone!

First, I got Oriana a puppy. He had a cool name at the humane society, Thor, but she changed it to Badger.

Badger 022

Badger 011

This guy also got Mozilla sick, but he’s getting over it now. He’s also very fat, and looks like he’s always sad. He seems like a pretty fun puppy though. Here are a few more photos of the little punk:

Badger 010

Badger and Mozilla 015

Badger and Mozilla 013

Badger and Mozilla 007


Badger and Mozilla 008

In other news, I am taking a six week sabbatical from Bazaarvoice and helping out the crew at Greater Good Labs. It’s bittersweet as the team I’m leaving is super great, but I’m looking forward to helping start something new. Super kudos to BV for giving me the opportunity to take some time away.

It’s been about a month and a week and I’m still sitting at about half a tank of gas. Given this, I think even when I do need to fill up, I’m not going to fill up all the way. Pretty pleased with the Volt so far. I did the calculation and during the winter, it’s probably around 65 cents to charge up all the way. In the summer, it’ll probably be around $1.

With that, I will leave you with this:


BV flew me out to San Fran this past week to spend some time with my BV West brethren. I didn’t do anything too crazy, but there was a mall and lots of food options around where I was (4th, between Mission and Market). Made me realize how much I like big cities and being able to walk/mass-transit my way everywhere. I walked over to the mall across the street and saw Cloud Atlas (not very good), and bought some clothes since I packed particularly light.

I have a special relationship with SF since I was born there and visited so often. I guess having that deeper history makes me wonder what my life would be like had I decided to go to UC Berkeley instead of UT Austin (which was my middle school plan). I can think of a whole crazy butterfly effect on my current life since I likely would have stayed in the bay area after graduation. What company would I have been working at? One of the hot startups of the past decade? Would I be married? Homeless? =p Where would my Austin friends be without me? How has my existence impacted their lives? Imagining an entirely different timeline post-2001 is kind of crazy. Would I be a significantly different person?

I have the itch to leave Austin sometimes, and though avoiding poop on the street on my daily commute is a mighty tempting proposition, I’ve yet to make the leap of taking off to one of the big cities I find attractive (SF/NYC). I suppose I still have too much in Austin to keep me around and vacationing suffices for now… ;)

Ultimately, I’m blessed with the life I have and certainly don’t regret going to UT, but it’s fun to think of alternate realities sometimes, eh?


Sometimes, I really enjoy watching really terrible movies. It’s even better if I can sucker friends to join me. I guess I’m kind of a masochistic troll like that. =p Last week, I saw both Red Dawn and Twilight: Breaking Dawn - Part 2. I went to see the first one, with Sam and he got the choice between the two, so he picked Red Dawn. It was pretty terrible.

Viraj, got left with the remaining option and we saw that this past weekend. We were the only pair of guys in the theater, which was quite hilarious. The fact that my suffering through the movie included Viraj suffering through the movie made it all awesome.

Here is Viraj with his shame:

The shame.

At the office, somehow I got added to the BV West office’s mailing list and I found out they were doing holiday decorations. That inspired my team (“code named” Firebird) to do our own in our little area. Here’s that:

We noticed the San Fran office was decorating for the holidays so we did too in our own way. I contributed the firebird-hand-turkey

I made the firebird-hand-turkey.


I hit my “unofficial” six year anniversary at Bazaarvoice near the end of last month (I was a contractor for the first two months). It’s certainly been a great experience for me as I’ve played multiple roles throughout the years. I’ve had the opportunity to grow immensely both technically and non-technically and have gained a lot of confidence in my own abilities.

Today (well, technically yesterday) I have the privilege of being the official team lead for one of the highest concentrations of talent and passion I’ve ever worked with. That’s saying a lot because many of my past teammates have been no slouches! I feel honored with the designation and look forward to continuing to push the envelope of what the team can accomplish. I’m super thankful to everyone who had a part in getting me here and on this team.

In other news, December brings a large mix of emotions to me. I have a hard time identifying my feelings often times, so this feels a bit like rapid spontaneous mood swings. I generally find myself listening to terrible music, then forcing Mozilla to cuddle. Seems to work well enough.

Overdue Pics and Stuff

Ok, as promised, here are some of those puppy pics:

More Ally Bro 005

More Ally Bro 006

More Ally Bro 009

More Ally Bro 011

More Ally Bro 013

More Ally Bro 016

More Ally Bro 029

Also, these earrings that I ordered a while ago came in:

Chomp chomp earings! They're not for me, but they were so awesome I had to buy them. Hopefully'll make a good gift for a potential misses.

They’re NOT for me, but they were too awesome for me not to get. I’m guessing they’ll go to some lucky nerd girl at some point, haha.

This past week, I gave a demo to the entire company, which is quite a lot of people now. It thankfully went well, which was awesome because the demo crashed and burned at the dry-run we had, but I guess that’s why you have dry-runs. =) I’m generally not nervous when presenting on topics I’m knowledgeable about, but now that we’re a couple hundred people and presentations like this are more of a production, I was really feeling the pressure. Like I said, it went well though, so I’ve got nothing to complain about. =)

Rapid fire news!

  • I ordered a new MacBook Pro (retina, of course).

  • Sam decided to introduce me to new people. ;)

  • Mozilla’s been farting a lot today. Think I’m going to switch to another brand of food.

  • Viraj ditched us this weekend for his cousins, who I guess he’s contracted Sam’s issue because according to Andrew, he’s really flirty with them. =)

  • BV All-Hands and TXJS

Oh, and I guess I’ll steal this from Oriana:

Photo Update

Okay, I finally went through a few photos. Here’re some of Mozilla from the new food trailer park where the Buffet Palace burned down:

MozAndMomoDay 002

MozAndMomoDay 003

Here’s the Mother’s Day gift I made my mom:

MozAndMomoDay 006

BV treated me to a fancy dinner, so I took Oriana to Uchi this past weekend. Here are some of my favorite dishes:

UchiWithOriana 001

UchiWithOriana 005

UchiWithOriana 006

UchiWithOriana 013

UchiWithOriana 015

Here’s Oriana:

UchiWithOriana 008

UchiWithOriana 011

UchiWithOriana 012


The Jorbs

A few months ago, I moved to a new team at work. I have no idea if I’m violating any insider trading rules by talking about it in detail, so I won’t. =) That said, I’m having a lot of fun on it now and I’m writing a whole heck of a lot of JavaScript which I’ve grown fond of. JS used to have kind of a “kiddie” language stigma to it back in the day, but I’ve learned it’s actually quite powerful and works pretty well for a lot of asynchronous tasks (which, in the world of the web, happen all the time). I’m itching to get some more open source projects (small ones, even) on my github account. Hopefully I’ll have the opportunity to soon.

I’ve got a few photos stuck in the camera that I haven’t processed yet from these past few weekends. I’ll get to them eventually.

Tomorrow night, Chad, Sam, Beika and I are going to see BATTLESHIP at midnight because it’s AWESOME. Honestly, I’m pretty sure it’s quite terrible, but I’m hoping in an awesome way. If someone yells “YOU SUNK MY BATTLESHIP!” I’ll call the whole adventure a success. I’ll give you all an update on how this goes. Stay tuned.