Hello, Automattic

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I cannot be happier to write my comeback post to say that I’ve joined Automattic, the parent company of WordPress.com. A8C is an open-source-focused, remote-first, distributed company that has many other cool products in its arsenal, like WooCommerce, Gravatar, Day One, and Tumblr. I’ve joined the WooCommerce division.

Joining this wonderful bunch of like-minded people passionate about making the web a better place is a dream come true for me. This is my chance to work at a product company after more than 10 years of working at consulting/services firms. Product engineering is quite different from the mind-boggling pressures of life in deliveries. It was one thing sorely missing in my resume.

From product development experience, what I want to take away is:

  • thinking in terms of creating high quality software directly for the end users rather than a creating custom software for handful of business folks
  • meaningful impact made through software to a wider community
  • getting paid while working on a popular open-source project 😜
  • a feeling of pride when I could walk to a bunch of random people discussing a software and say, “hey, I am part of the team that created this software”

Automattic is a flat hierarchy organization where everyone is a software engineer, including me. So, there’s no manager, director, architect, etc. Each team does have a lead, but it’s not a higher-up or a special role. Having worked in hierarchies for over a decade, it’s a substantial change for me (which will need a bit of adapting) but one I am looking forward to.

I see my new role as an adventure with plenty of opportunities to learn, work without interruptions, live life freely, travel, and do what the flock I want to do. To know about life at Automattic and the various benefits/perks that come along, head over to our Work With Us page.

Structured Entertainment — An experiment in fulfillment and productivity

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My consolidated entertainment wishlist

When it comes to entertainment, fulfillment and productivity do not have to be mutually exclusive. Let me start with a definition.

Structured Entertainment. The practice of performing purely-for-entertainment and potentially wasteful activities—such as watching movies and tv, tuning into sports, and playing PC games—in a deliberate, structured way during off-work hours or weekends with the intent of avoiding interruptions during working hours.

Do you often sacrifice entertainment time in order to be more productive? Perhaps you’ve read Deep Work or The 4-Hour Work Week and have forced yourself to accept that entertainment is evil?

That might have meant putting an end to playing games or leaving a tv series mid-season. Did that leave gaping holes in your heart? Is dissatisfaction the cost of productivity? Doesn’t have to be, and that’s what my experiment is about.

I’m not sure if this term already exists or whether the concept is famously labeled as something else. Perhaps I just made it up? Either way, it’s something that I’ve recently started experimenting with for increased productivity without a loss in satisfaction levels.

I first announced this experiment on Twitter a few days ago:

I consider the following for-entertainment activities to be good for productivity:

  • Reading books—technical or literary. Helps in picking up new perspectives.
  • Watching documentaries. Helps in finding motivation from others’ stories.
  • Listening to music. Helps in calming me down and bringing me in the zone.

The following activities I consider to be bad for productivity:

  • Watching movies, tv, YouTube. Pure entertainment; transport you to desireable, fanciful world, and leave you high-and-dry when you are back to reality; less often to offer new perspectives.
  • Following the news. Most news is manufactured, clickbait, or sensational. Any news that is important or will impact you will always reach you from trusted sources—tried and tested.
  • Playing video games. Same as movies and tv but with a bigger high-and-dry effect.
  • Watching sports. Extremely addictive; easy to get lost for hours and then miss completing an important task.

With this in mind, I decided to do the following:

  1. Stop doing ALL wasteful activities during weekdays.
  2. Reserve evenings purely for unwinding and family time.
  3. Catch up on my entertainment as much as possible during the weekends.

It’s critical that you execute step 3 methodically. So, rather than watching movies or tv randomly only to later realize that previously wishlisted shows are still pending, it helps to put a structure to your consuming content.

For example, maintain a consolidated wishlist (screenshot) of movies, tv series, documentaries, sports events, games, etc., and plan in advance what to consume during the upcoming weekend. This post’s featured image shows my entertainment wishlist — a Notion page to put a structure around my weekend.

A time table to reap maximum fulfillment and productivity returns
Organize your weekends or off-work hours for maximum satisfaction

Sometimes you would be traveling during weekends, meeting an old friend, or even completing pending household chores. In such instances, you might not be able to give enough time to entertainment activities. That’s okay. The important thing is to reserve at least one day or a few hours during the weekend for structured entertainment. That way, you’ll have a sense of “completion” and feel less dissatisfied when Monday arrives.

All the advice I’ve given above sounds logical to me. But that doesn’t change the fact it’s still an experiment, a work in progress. Perhaps I will be able to derive the intended benefits and be more fulfilled in life. Or maybe the experiment will be a catastrophic failure. Even worse, it may turn out to be a mid-way success.

Only time will tell.

As with any scientific experiment, I’m going to try and log my updates each week.

Weekend 1 (Oct 2-3)

  • I saw Sherlock season 4 episode “The Lying Detective.” — 1.5 hrs
  • I continued playing Halo 2. — 1.5 hrs
  • We went to a nearby mall to dine on Saturday. — 2 hrs
  • I had to visit my in-laws on Sunday, so could not pick anything else from my wishlist.

Result: Satisfied

Weekend 2 (Oct 9-10)

  • I continued playing Halo 2. — 1.5 hrs
  • I was traveling on Saturday (to visit my hometown) and lazed around on Sunday with family, so could not pick anything else from my wishlist.

Result: Neutral

Weekend 3 (Oct 16-17)

  • I continued playing Halo 2 (finished it). — 2 hrs
  • I was traveling on Sunday from Jalandhar to Delhi.
  • Apparently, piling up of entertainment items starts causing dissatisfaction.

Result: Dissatisfied

Weekend 4 (Oct 23-34)

  • I saw two brilliant movies — 1917 and Green Book. They were the highlight of my weekend. Quite impressionable. And, needless to say, exceptionally scripted and played.
  • I resumed playing Life is Strange after 4 years! Finished episode 3, a bit into episode 4 now. It still felt touchy and deep.
  • I started watching Westworld. The pilot episode was too… heavy. I’m not sure if I’m going to continue watching. Perhaps it’s not for me? Then again, I had the same feeling after watching the pilot episode of Game of Thrones 🤷‍♂️
  • It was the first time when I felt I had accomplished my weekend structured entertainment goals. I have to admit, though, at some point it did feel like work — following a schedule to get things done. Perhaps a little randomness about it would help next time.

Result: Satisfied

Weekend 5 (Oct 30-31)

  • I continued playing Life is Strange episode 4. Max and Chloe are getting closer to finding what happened to Rachael. — 1.5 hrs
  • I started playing Wolfenstein: The New Order. Looking like a fast-paced mindless kinda shooter with an interesting story. — 1 hr
  • Started watching Murder on the Orient Express. Couldn’t finish it the same day. — 30 mins
  • I was traveling all of Sunday for Diwali gift exchanges. By now I guess it’s safe to say that I get only Saturdays for proper structured entertainment.

Result: Satisfied

Made the switch back from Mac to Linux

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After serving me dutifully for more than 4 years, my MacBook Pro 13″ (early 2015)’s battery died. It was a terrible sight. I was in the mid of a programming spree when that happened. There was a powercut and, whoosh, everything disappeared from the screen. It was puzzling at first. I thought my laptop had shutdown under the strain of my app’s build process. On powering it on again, my Mac appeared to behaved normally. That was until I noticed the battery health icon in system tray. All of a sudden, it was asking me to service the battery and power source was set to power adapter.

CreditMake Tech Easier

I was stunned, to say the least. I immediately googled around and found a few things to try and fix the situation, like tips mentioned in this article (reset SMC and all). Unfortunately, nothing worked for me. I was left with no option but to accept that my MacBook was not going to be the same.

During the next few days, I continued to use my Mac with adapter as power source. With frequent power cuts, it was annoying to see the laptop shutdown suddenly and then waste precious time restore everything. For a while, I considered getting a new battery. What held me back was its prohibitive cost (Rs. 10-12k) and lockdown due to COVID-19. To make matters worse, my MacBook strangely got slow and sluggish. I could feel a noticeable 20-30% reduction in speed and power. Software builds took more time, browsing and scrolling web pages were janky, etc.

For the next couple of weeks, I resorted to using my wife’s old, insanely under-powered laptop. It was hard at first, but when I had set it up with Ubuntu Linux things got a lot better. I could run VS Code, Docker, Firefox, all at once. It took some time and patience to get used to the new speed standards, but at least this thing was presently more reliable than my no battery MacBook.

Days passed by. I continued to do my daily work on the oldie, and found myself not touching my MacBook for days at a stretch. It was a weird feeling – I had never not opened my Mac at least once a day in all of its four years.

In the following days, I started feeling like getting a new laptop. For a professional programmer like me, a laptop was his “tool of the trade”, and it was not wise to keep using an old tool on the cost of productivity. After a couple of days research I settled on Dell Inspiron 7591. It was a far cry from the premium world of Apple laptops, but it was respectably ahead in terms of sheer performance.

I’m typing this post from my new laptop, running Ubuntu side-by-side with Windows. Linux is my primary OS once again, and I’m happy to be back. Although, to be honest, I will certainly miss my Mac’s convenience and premium feel. But the new thing has a lot of good stuff to offset that:

  • way more power*
  • larger screen
  • decently lightweight
  • a nice keyboard
  • I can finally play games again 😎

Intel Core i5-9300H
16 GB DDR4 2666 MHz RAM
512 GB SSD
NVIDIA GeForce 1050 GTX

* My Dell Inspiron 7591’s configuration

Here’s the customary desktop screenshot:

Ubuntu 20.04 running on my new Dell Inspiron 7591

Leaving Accenture (after 9 years)

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Today is my last day at Accenture. I am finally leaving it (for the second and last time) after more than 9 years of giving myself to it. In today’s rapidly moving world, that’s a very long time. Long enough to see so many colleagues come and go until you were the only one left. It’s the rightest time to move out for me. I had a mix of fond and not-so-fond memories during my two stays. I’ll ever be so thankful for all the good ones. Mostly there was a lot to learn, but the learning had dried up since a year or so. I dragged it too far. The learning should never stop! Goodbye, Accenture.

Running + Cycling = Fun + Routine

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Today I completed 23 days of consecutive morning workouts. 23 days… my gosh! It was once believed that the magic number of days after which doing something daily became a routine was 21. I am 2 over. However, recent studies have shown that 21 is a little too less. The actual magic number is 66.

At any rate, I think 23 days is sufficient to make one feel great about a regular morning ‘routine’. I wake up between 4-5 am each morning, do work related to whatever side project or experiment I’m working on, and at 7 am I hit the road.

I’ve been running regularly since 4 months now. But until the end of March, it was not more than 3-4 days a week, sometimes even less. I wanted to be more regular in order to fight and reduce my stupid belly fat. Then one day–almost suddenly–I decided to alternate my morning workouts between running and cycling. It was an experiment to see if a day of hard exercise (running) followed by a day of relatively less stressful exercise (cycling) would help me get into a habit. And of course, I wanted to use that cycle of mine lying around unused since long. Guess what, it worked!

I’d been doing 3 kilometer runs before my new routine. Mixing in 10+ kms of cycling helped me very soon amp it up to 5 kms. Now, I consistently do 5 km running and 13+ km cycling sessions. That’s around 35-40 mins of daily workouts. Amazing, isn’t it? Yesterday, I broke my time record for 5 km run and today I broke my total distance record for cycling. Screenshots below.

I use Nike+ Run Club app for tracking my runs and UnderArmor’s MapMyRide app for cycling. And since I have plenty of ‘free’ time while working out, I listen to a podcast or an audiobook. After having finished The Stories of Mahabharata podcast, currently I am listening to the audiobook The Power of Habit. I am 35% through it, but how much I miss the Mahabharata podcast! Sudipta Bhawmik’s storytelling skills are really something. I’ll soon be doing a blog post on briefing all characters of the famous epic tale as have been covered in the ongoing podcast till now.