A tribute to Brutalist web design
Apartment block near Alexanderplatz, Berlin

A tribute to Brutalist web design

I spent a good part of last year living in Berlin, encountering large, Cold War era constructions like the apartment block pictured above on my morning walk. This style of architecture, distinguished by exposed concrete cast in hard lines, with little paint or ornamentation, is part of an architectural school known as Brutalism, and was very popular through the mid 20th century, especially in Eastern Europe.

The term has since been transposed to the online realm with brutalistwebsites.com, a site put together in 2016 by Pascal Deville (now Creative Director at the Freundliche Grüsse). I wanted to pay tribute to the tongue in cheek term by recognizing some of my own favorite Brutalist websites.

Nostalgia for the golden age of the Mac desktop platform

In 2009 I got my first Mac laptop. I had been running Mandriva Linux on a beat up HP Pavillion through the first two years of my computer science program, and the week it finally died on me a Gizmodo “Dealzmodo” post advertised a liquidation of last-generation 15 inch Macbook Pros by a reseller. I got my Mac and promptly discovered the unprecedented ecosystem of fantastic, passionately-crafted desktop software built for the platform by small, independent software houses. In retrospect I’ve come to believe that the period from around 2005 to perhaps 2010 was truly the golden era of desktop Mac applications.

Remote workforce as a superpower
Puzl Coworking Space in Sofia, Bulgaria.

Remote workforce as a superpower

Throughout the year 2017 I found myself working in a half dozen spots across 3 continents and many more timezones. This experience led me to develop an increasingly lucid conviction about the profound benefits that remote workforces can bring to a business.

Pre-requisites

I feel that often when a company rejects remote hiring, or revokes remote work policies (such as former Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer famously did in 2013 while kicking off her tenure that ultimately ran the company into the ground) an implicit or explicit dimension of the decision is lack of trust. If you cannot trust your employees to do work when you are not watching, then indeed you should not have a remote team. I would caution that if you find yourself this circumstance it may be a signal of a much larger issue with your team makeup and probably demands urgent introspection.

Defaulting to non-disruptive communication

One of the most profound benefits of having a remote team is that generally team members will default to asynchronous and non-disruptive forms of communication. This can benefit workers in any role but it is particularly valuable for developers, who rely on having blocks of uninterrupted time to focus and think through complex problems.

2 weeks in Saigon
The Saigon skyline at night (Photo credit: TripSavvy)

2 weeks in Saigon

I spent the final 2 weeks of the year in Ho Chi Minh City (colloquially/formerly “Saigon”), Vietnam with a group of friends from Hacker Paradise. I wanted to share some quick impressions of the city while the experience is still fresh in my head.

Piña Colada Driven Development on the island of Ko Lanta

Piña Colada Driven Development on the island of Ko Lanta

I have spent the past month on the island of Ko Lanta, on the Andaman Sea in southern Thailand. I couldn’t have imagined a place more dramatically different from the cities I’ve spent the majority of my time for the last decade. It’s been a welcome departure, and I’ve even managed to work while here, without sacrificing enjoyment of the natural beauty, swims in the ocean and sunset drinks.

A retrospective on one month in Chiang Mai
A Chiang Mai alleyway. Photo credit: richardhwc (Flickr)

A retrospective on one month in Chiang Mai

I just wrapped up my month with Hacker Paradise in Chiang Mai, Thailand and have settled into my accommodation in Ko Lanta. I had done a post a month ago when I’d just arrived detailing my first impressions of the place and figure I should do a retrospective post now that I’ve spent quite a bit more time in the city. I loved Chiang Mai, and hope to return in the future. That said, I wanted to highlight both the good and the bad, to try and give people an accurate picture of what it is really like to live there for a month.

Tips for seamless travel from one year abroad
Chiang Mai, Thailand, November 2017. Photo credit: amurbb (from my Hacker Paradise group)

Tips for seamless travel from one year abroad

This year is the first in which I’ve spent more time outside the US than in it. Through all of this, there are a few things that contributed in an outsized way to making all the travel surprisingly seamless. I wanted to highlight a few of those things here.

A stumble through my favorite dive bars of Berlin
Ä Bar on Weserstrasse in Neukölln. Photo credit: Hostelworld

A stumble through my favorite dive bars of Berlin

Those who know me well know that one of my most beloved pastimes, odd as it may be, is meeting strangers and trading stories in a friendly local dive bar. Having not had much of a permanent residence for the last year, getting to know staff and regulars at dive bars has been an important part of feeling like I belong wherever I am. In the interest of perpetuating the good vibes, and easing the work of others who might be on the same quest, I wanted to highlight my favorite dives in the cities I’ve stayed. As I spent about 5 months of this past year in Berlin, and had plenty of time to appreciate and settle into many of the city’s dive bars, this first installment will focus on Berlin. Here are some of my very favorite dive bars, by neighborhood.