How to be a good manager. The D.A.M.N. job.

A couple years ago, right after my son (above) was born, I became a manager of an engineering team.

It was an overwhelming time in my life, and I didn’t really know what to expect — I wasn’t handed a job description, just a title.

My boss had registered me (and the other managers) for engineering management training, but that was a few months in the future.

It was a bit anxiety provoking.

How was I supposed to know if I was succeeding when there wasn’t a description explaining the job.

I would call myself a “power user” of the iOS Reminders app.

I don’t know anyone else who uses it to my same level.

To be honest, I didn’t start using the app until 2020 — Reminders sat idle on my phone for over 10 years.

I keep all of my todo lists in there:

  1. Work
  2. Family
  3. Career Development
  4. Weekend Projects
  5. Grocery List
  6. Costco List
  7. And more…

There is one strange thing: I don’t use the “reminder” feature at all. I use it solely for lists.

The “killer feature” that tipped me to using Reminders: Home Screen widgets. You can…

Track how you feel via text message

Over the past 7 years, I’ve maintained a journaling practice.

Some might not actually call it “journaling”. The posts are not long-form. I rarely (if ever) review them. Sometimes I write on a piece of paper and throw it away after I’m done.

Often I’ll just write a number between 1 (bad) and 5 (great) that quantifies how I’m feeling. Then I’ll add some notes that dives-in a little deeper, for example:

“2.5 Feeling grumpy today because I didn’t sleep well. Need to go to bed early tonight.”

The real value I’ve found from this practice is simply just taking…

Have you ever needed a quick, free, online database with an easy CRUD REST API? Here’s how to do it in 3 steps and about 5 minutes using Firebase.

Step 1: Setup your database

  1. Create a new project in the Firebase console.
  2. Set up a Realtime Database in your Firebase project. Set permissions to public read/write (you’ll lock these down in step 3).
  3. Copy the address for your database. It will look like: https://[PROJECT_ID]

Step 2: CRUD your data

Write data to a specific node/location in database

From your command line, execute a cURL (obviously replacing the domain part of the URL in the command with the address to your database):

curl -X PUT -d '{ "first": "Jack"…

Throughout my 20s, I got really into productivity.

I read anything I could find on the topic (e.g. Getting Things Done by David Allen), tried everyTodoapp I could download (R.I.P. Tadalist), and experimented with non-digital formats (Bullet Journal).

I tried scheduling every minute of my day using Google Calendar. I even tried throwing out productivity altogether with a “Year of No Goals” (that lasted about 12 days).

Throughout this decade of experimentation, I kept revisiting one tool, expecting it would become a core tool in my productivity toolbox: Google Tasks.

Google Tasks — it’s looked like this for a long time.

It just seemed sensible that Google would make…

Some good ol’ CSS.

A few weeks ago, I wrote a short post on “What you should focus on as a new web developer?” In it, I suggested just learning how to build things, and not worrying about the frameworks/languages.

But after talking with a few readers, I can see there’s a need for help when deciding which framework/language/skills a new developer should learn (even if they are focusing on learning how to build things).

This makes sense. Besides basic HTML, CSS, and Javascript, there are so many frameworks/languages. And every job post seems to require different skills.

I remember navigating this time in…

A few years ago, I had the opportunity to mentor and work with some junior developers from the Epicodus program in Portland, OR. I loved it.

Probably the world’s best interns, @amyvshorn (left) and @kyleasmithh (right) when they were new software developers (circa 2014). Now seasoned vets in Portland, OR. Photo Credit: Kyle Smith.

During their internship, Amy and Kyle built a rather complex on-boarding system for my startup company at the time, LuckySteps. It involved UX problem-solving, server-side PDF generation in Ruby, client-side JavaScript, customizing Bootstrap’s CSS, and using a variety of Ruby on Rails core components. It was inspiring to watch them confront and overcome each engineering problem.

One of my favorite parts of that experience was answering questions that arose. These questions forced me to…

A friend recently asked me for help. He had been teaching himself web development for the last 18 months, but felt overwhelmed by the vastness of online tutorials. “Should I learn Angular or React? Do I focus on front-end or back-end?” I’m sure many more questions were flying around in his head.

Sometimes I would get overwhelmed and stare into my keyboard like this.

I remember feeling like this. I think everyone does. It’s brutal. I spent entire weekends stressing over “Ruby vs Python” articles (I chose Ruby for that project, but honestly, either language would have worked just fine).

To me, what really matters as a new web developer is one…

Hey world, over the past year I’ve been working on an app in my spare time: Guidable.

Guidable helps experts create and sell guided programs.

Let’s say you are an expert at cooking simple, healthy meals. With Guidable, you can create a guided step-by-step program that teaches others how to “Cook 30 easy recipes in 30 days”— and sell it for a few bucks.

Guidable gives you a simple interface to create the program, and the app handles all the billing (iOS and Android in-app payments) — you just supply the content.

Maybe you already have content on a blog…

I like making things. I also like reviewing what I learned. It seemed only natural that I should combine these interests into a “things I learned making things” list.

A few things I made in 2017:

Making things out of clay

And what I learned:

  1. I like to make things that are beautiful, useful, and efficient. I already knew I liked to make things. But this year, I realized that I find no enjoyment making things that are ugly…

Ryan Tinker

Short, useful articles on building software products, engineering, and management. Side projects:,

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