Not on Facebook?

A few years ago I remember I’d be in a conversation with my parents and they would ask me about some person. Proudly I’d say what they are doing now and how I keep up with them from Facebook.

Flash forward to this weekend and we had the exact same conversation in reverse. I asked about an old family friend that I haven’t seen in years and they both told me details about their life, their recent vacations, and more.

I’m actually glad I quit Facebook because it was cool to hear about them but I think all the time I’ve not wasted scrolling through that feed looking at people I’ve not seen in years.

A Decade Ago

I just had this image from ten years ago pop up in my “on this day” feed and it’s crazy thinking back over the last ten years. My life is a complete 180 from when this was taken.

It seems every day I make a todo list and try my hardest to get it done, and I feel like I accomplished nothing when my head isn’t down pounding out “work” all day. Or if all I come with is one or two big things and little things keep from staying on task.

I have to remind myself that a day, a week, even a month are all just minuscule time frames over the course of our lives. I can’t look back on a single day years ago and say that was a good day, or that was a bad day.

However, if I look back over the past ten years I can see how the smallest decisions have seemed to have changed my life for the better and those are not things I would have ever put on a todo list.

It is easy to get discouraged that you aren’t hustling hard enough, but if you take a step back you’ll see how all the little things compound and make bigger changes than you might imagine.

TablePlus Workflow for Alfred

It seems many developers are making the switch to TablePlus because it supports a wide range of different database types, has an active development team, and is a stable app.

I started using it yesterday and I’ve been fairly impressed, plus they are working on an iOS version which I’m super excited about. If you are using it on a Mac here is a cool Alfred workflow by Chris Renga for opening a database quickly.

TablePlus Workflow for Alfred

If you are interested in this you can grab the workflow from GitHub.

Stripe Checkout

Normally when I sell advertising spots on Laravel News it’s a one off purchase so I’ve been using Quickbooks Invoices for it. This works okay but it doesn’t support recurrning payments. So I have to regenerate an invoice every month for those customers. It’s not an idea workflow but it works.

Today I had a request from a customer that wanted this payment to be automatic and my first thought was that I would need to integrate something like Laravel Cashier which is overkill for a single customer. After doing some research and talking with some friends I was pointed in the direction of Stripe Checkout.

Example Stripe Checkout

In about 10 minutes I had it all setup and I could sent the customer a link to initiate the flow and make the payment. Thinking back to how hard this would have been before Stripe makes me really appreciate the tools we have available to us now.

From this I do have two thoughts. The first, is always try to find the simplest solution to a problem you are facing, and the second is to keep your eyes open on new tools. I had heard of Stripe Checkout before but I didn’t see the value in it so didn’t pay it much attention. Now that I needed it I’m thankful I had a friend that could point me back to it. Without that I might have wasted an entire Saturday building a complicated setup.

Find Your Top 10 Shell Commands

Ever wonder what shell commands you use most often? Copy and paste the following into your CLI and see your top 10.

history | awk '{print $2}' | sort |uniq -c | sort -rn | head -10

Here is a list of mine from my dev machine:

  • 574 git
  • 461 cd
  • 422 vim
  • 314 ls
  • 202 gss
  • 109 exit
  • 97 php
  • 68 sudo
  • 64 ag
  • 41 ..

I think it’s fun to see what you use most often. Also, as a bonus, if you are a PhpStorm user go to help -> productivity guide to see what features of the IDE you use most often.

Keep Going — Austin Kleon

Austin Kleon has a new book out named Keep Going which gives you 10 ways to stay creative in good and bad and for me it was a fun read. The pages are short and the wisdom easy to digest.

Although it’s written for artist I feel like a lot of the book carries over to being a developer as well. We all have to be a little creative when solving problems and it does a great job of helping you when you are having those bad days. It’s also a natural next step to his previous book Show Your Work.

The book is fairly short, around 200 pages, and is a quick read. Here is the list of chapters to give you an idea what it covers:

  1. Every day is Groundhog Day
  2. Build a Bliss Station
  3. Forget the noun, do the verb
  4. Make Gifts
  5. The Ordinary + Extra Attention = The Extraordinary
  6. Slay the art monsters
  7. You are allowed to change your mind
  8. When in doubt, tidy up
  9. Demons hate fresh air
  10. Plant your garden

It’s full of quotes and drawings and just a fun book. I’d recommend you pick up a copy and get the paperback because the format is great.

🔥 Code Tips Sketch Template

People love to share coding tips on social media and I’ve seen some take screenshots of their editor and share it, or others might use a dedicated service that allows you to copy and paste your code into it. All these options are fine but I like to make mine standout by using something custom and I have a Sketch file where I can paste my code into it and then export.

Sketch Code Editor Templates

The way I have this setup is in your code editor screenshot the code you want to share (shift + control + command + 4) and then open the Sketch file and paste it in. The file currently comes with four artboards. Twitter light and dark, and Instagram light and dark.

In the included samples the code in the “light” artboards are from Sublime Text using the “Inspired GitHub Color Scheme” and the “dark” artboards are using the “Dracula Theme” in VS Code. The theme you use is really not important but I’m sure I’ll have people ask me what I used. Below is an example of one of my recent tweets using this template:

If you’d like to grab this file I have a zip available here. It’s made with the latest version of Sketch (v53.2) so it may not work with older versions. But you are free to do as you wish with this and consider it licensed under MIT.

Finally, if you have any feedback or would like to see any improvements please comment below. I hope you enjoy!

Macbook Touch Bar

I recently got a new MacBook Pro, and this is my first time with the Touch Bar style of keyboard. First, let me say I love this machine so far, it’s been running all the huge apps without trouble and I haven’t heard the fans spin up once. I’m sure this will end after a few months, but right now it’s fantastic.

Now the Touch Bar is a different story. It’s just annoying and feels like a gimmick. Not having a “real” escape is grim but worse than that is the touch id. I’ve been using an iPad Pro and the face to unlock is so much nicer than the touch id.

Apple should go back to a real keyboard and use Face ID on all the Mac’s. It’s so much faster and better as a user.

Awesome Uses

Wes Bos recently launched a new Github repo called Awesome Uses that let’s everyone list their personal “uses” pages and I’ve added mine.

If you are not familiar with “/uses” pages the goal is to be able to point people to a single spot to find out everything about your setup. What happens is when you share things on social media you’ll get hundreds of responses asking the font, the editor, and everything else so this makes it’s easy to tell them to just go here.

Mine is already a little outdated so I’m going to work on fixing it up. It’s sort of funny how often I adjust my tools.

Winston Churchill on Napping

“You must sleep some time between lunch and dinner, and no half-way measures. Take off your clothes and get into bed. That’s what I always do. Don’t think you will be doing less work because you sleep during the day. That’s a foolish notion held by people who have no imagination. You will be able to accomplish more. You get two days in one-well, at least one and a half, I’m sure.”

I came across this quote today and because of confirmation bias I think we should listen to this man.

Crash Illustration

My friend Mohamed Said asked me, “When are we going to see a cartoon on people who crash on a bike?”, and not wanting to disappoint I decided to make one of him.

This one was fun to make and I had the idea of just having a huge head screaming but then you couldn’t tell it was a bike crash, so I had to include some of the other features. For something I did over my lunch break I think it turned out decent.

That photo of my iPad is how I created the image by finding one of him and stealing some of the colors and getting a basic outline. Then just attempting to make the facial expression funny.

Backdraft

Lately, I’ve been having a lot of fun making quick little comics and here is one I just put together tonight while watching TV. This one is targeted toward Twitter, but I’ve seen the same thing on all the social networks. The questions never end and that is why many are now creating uses pages on their sites so it’s easy to answer all the questions.

Office Art

As part of my goals to make more illustrations this year I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about what to draw and I thought drawing a simple rubber duck would be something fun and simple. This weekend I spent an hour or so creating this illustration in Affinity Designer on the iPad:

I posted it up on social media and the response was pretty good. I decided I liked it so much it would make some cool wall art for my office. All from the iPad I exported the image, sent it to CVS, and in an hour I had an 8×10 ready to picked up.

I headed to the pharmacy and bought a $5 frame and $4 for the printing. All in all a $9 investment for what I think is a cool art piece.

I did change the text to ask one of the primary you should always be asking yourself, “are you solving the right problem?”. So many times when we hit a complex problem the easiest answer is to start over from the beginning and figuring out what you are actually solving and if there is a better way.

Rearranging

I have a problem where I want to rearrange my office every month. I don’t know why but it just starts to feel stale and I feel like it gets to routine. This is only February and I’ve already moved stuff around three times this year. I may need an intervention.

Pictured above is my latest setup. I moved the desk in front of the window so I can look out and see the little patch of woods. Every time I look up I can now see squirrels and birds doing their thing.

The only downside with this move is it’s been raining for what feels like weeks so I’ve yet to sit at the desk when the full force of the sun is out. So that might turn into a huge issue, but until then I’m enjoying seeing the animals and talking them as Bob Ross would. Haha

If you ever get tired of your workspace don’t discount rearranging. With no money invested it makes you think you have an entire new space.

Giant Moon Background Image

This 81 megapixel giant moon picture has been making the rounds and according to DIY Photography:

This image was acquired by taking 50,000 images of the lit surface (25 tiles at 2000 frames each) and stacking the best 50% of the frames. Acquisition was done with a ZWO ASI224MC. The earthshine portion of the moon was captured with a Sony a711, and was a mosaic of 13 tiles with the best of around 20 images per tile stacked. The stars were taken with a stack of 50 images with the Sony. The telescope I used was an Orion XT10, mounted on a Skywatcher EQ6-R Pro.

You can find the full discussion on Reddit and grab the image here: https://i.redd.it/d1aehdnbq0h21.jpg

It works great as a background image.

Digital Minimalism

Recently I started reading Cal Newport’s new book Digital Minimalism and although I’m only a few chapters in it’s pretty enlightening. The beginning talks a lot about the habit of social media and how the apps are designed to keep up coming back for the next “hit” when you are bored.

He talks about going on a 30-day detox from all social media and then after you’ve broken the habit slowly add things back that will enrich your life. Not bad advice but I love the Twitter water cooler and I’m not willing to give it up. Sorry Cal. But I did decide to take it to heart and try to rework the way I use all social media.

Starting this weekend I’ve deleted all social apps off my phone and even chat apps like Discord and Telegram. I did keep work the apps like email, Slack, and Basecamp, but these aren’t time wasters like the others. Here is what my current phone screens look like:

I’m trying to not use Safari to access social channels and I’m logged out of all of them. Then if I really want to check it then I must use a computer. If you need to get in touch with me your best bet is email and I’ve turned off public DM’s on Twitter and all notifications.

You don’t realize how addictive the apps are until you delete them all and then stuck in the slow line at the grocery store. It brings back some nostalgia seeing the headlines of the tabloid trash at the checkout aisle for the first time in years.

Pricing is hard

I’ve been talking to a friend about pricing a new product and figuring out what to charge, especially when you are first launching, is hard. Really hard. It feels like you are just putting out a guess and hoping it works.

As I thought through the pricing I wanted to share some of my thoughts on it, and what I would do if I was launching a new product today. Much of what follows should be looked at through the lens of a brand new product.

Before even thinking about pricing I’d want to have a pretty good idea on what my expenses are. Without that how do you know where your break-even point is? You don’t, and you are just guessing. Watch any business show on TV and the first thing anyone wants to know is what it costs for a single item. It should be the same with your product. How expensive is a single customer.

Once I had this I would try to figure out how I could fairly price my product. If it’s B2B how can I charge a fair price to a small business, and a fair price to a company of 500? Usually this is done with different plan levels, and a good differentiator is the number of users. To take common pricing terms a single user might be $9 a month, 5 users might be $49, 25 users $129, etc.

This is a simple way of segmenting your customers and also easier on your codebase because you aren’t putting feature flags on a million different things. It’s one code base, everyone gets the same features.

Of course, users are just one way of doing it, there are tons of others. Just remember to have your packages on simple things that are easy to understand. As a buyer I want to know instantly what package I would need.

Out of all the pricing models, I think the two I dislike the most are charging for things I can’t control. For instance, if you are a selling a SaaS CMS and billing based on views or podcast hosting charging by downloads. In either case, the actual amount is outside my control, and I don’t want to have to go create a spreadsheet to see if I’ll fit within a specific plan. Plus neither has any bearing on if I’m successful. I feel like the product creators think income is related to these, but I’m not sure that is the case. It’s never been that way for me.

The second model I don’t like is one price for everyone. Basecamp does this and charges $99 a month. I’m a small business and $1,188 a year is substantial. Where a company with 50 employees and 7 figures of revenue this is nothing more than a rounding error. As a true small business, I get screwed every year.

Like I said in the beginning pricing is hard and there is no right or wrong way to do it. In my opinion, when you launch your first product it’s better to undercharge and make just a little profit than to overcharge and not get any customers. It’s always easier to raise prices than to reduce them, and once you’ve turned someone off it’ll be very hard to get them back.

Think of a new launch getting featured on Product Hunt. Thousands of people will be hitting your site finding out about your creation, if the price is too high, in relation to the market, there is a big probability you’ve lost a lot of really good customers, and you’ll probably never get them back to the site again.

I’ll say it again, pricing is hard and I think all we can do is use our best guess and gut instinct to figure out where to start.

Sharing My Illustrations on Dribbble

I’ve been doing a lot of illustrations lately and I’ve been trying to create one a night as practice. Here is tonight’s that I named “Triggered”:

Triggered
Triggered

I’m not sure the best place to share these since it’s not tech stuff I typically share on Twitter, so I figured I’d giver Dribbble a try. If you are interested you can find me at @ericlbarnes and I’m going to continue trying to create a new drawing each day.

I’d eventually like to make some geeky comics with basic drawings but coming up with a funny story is quite difficult. If you have anything you’d like drawn just reply below in the comments. I’d be happy to create you something to the best of my abilities and it’d give me some practice.

Find and Replace Colors in Sketch App

For Laravel News we use a lot of icons for the featured images and these usually come from the Noun Project or Undraw. They are quick to use and work really well. Sometimes I need to change the colors of the icons and a simple method for doing this is with the Sketch App.

Just go to Edit -> Find and Replace Colors, select your colors, and hit replace. It’s instant. Here is a quick animated gif showing it in action:

That’s all it takes to quickly change an icon and it’s a feature I will use a lot in the future.