John Barton
Yep, a newsletter
Yep, a newsletter

Salutations dear readers,

Startmate has been amazing so far but it has also thrown my schedule completely out of whack. I was hoping to announce in this edition that the Slack integration has launched… but it hasn’t. Expect it by the end of this week, and follow @HecateApp on Twitter if you want to hear when it comes out.

I have a favour to ask those of you who are potential Hecate customers: Engineering Managers of teams from 6 to 30 developers. I’d love for you to get off the fence either drop the “potential” from potential customer and sign up here (big red button in the pricing section) OR totally anonymously tell me why you’re not. Revenue or honest feedback - either one is as massive help to getting this thing off the ground. I will be bumping the price once the Slack integration drops so this is a smart time to jump on board.


Classic Programmer Paintings
Captial C Classic.

Reconciling GraphQL and Thrift at Airbnb
Sshhhhhh. You had me at “GraphQL the Religion”. Any manager or architect thinking of adopting GraphQL should read this, is a practical articulation of how to adopt it within an existing architecture and without having to drink four gallons of kool-aid.

Camille Fournier - The Manager’s Path
This is my must watch recommendation this fortnight. Camille articulates a key part of the Hecate philosophy incredibly well: that engineering management sit in the intersection of engineering and management. Read her book - it’s amazing.

The Last Line Effect
Fascinating data on errors in copy/pasting code. Spoiler: it’s usually the last line of repeated code that has the bug in it. Would be cool if you could lexically scan for blocks that look copy/pasted and prompt a developer to double check

Towards Productive Technical Discussions
Excellent set of techniques to nudge technical feedback into a more productive place. Worth sharing with your team to improve pull request behaviour.

John’s ‘resilience-engineering’ books on Goodreads
Another newsletter, another list of books.

Using Go modules with Travis CI
For Go developers it’s time to dip our toes in the new module system. Dave’s got a short post here that will save you some time experimenting with it in Travic CI.

Michael Feathers: The Flawed Theory Behind Unit Testing
Old post on why mock-heavy automated testing may not be the unmitigated disaster zone a lot of my engineering friends believe it is. This is an idea I want to explore further in my own work, will definitely dig into the earlier research.

Business & Management

The role of ESOP in Start ups
The how and why of Employee Stock Option Pools. The number one thing I think SV gets right is making startups work for founders AND employees and something I definitely want to replicate when I get around to having employees. Which you, dear reader, will obviously help with by buying my product.

Understanding the Mendoza Line for SaaS growth
I’ve been doing lots of spreadsheets trying to guess how much money this business is eventually going to make. This is a one of many things I’ve put in those spreadsheets.

Steve Blank Secret History of Silicon Valley
Haven’t watched the video yet but did go through all the slides. Super interesting look at the key ingredients in the SV ecosystem BEFORE Shockley and Fairchild semiconductor.

What Cracking Open a Sonos One Tells Us About the Sonos IPO
This post maybe draws too long a bow but it’s an interesting exercise to see what you can infer about a company’s underlying strategy by examining their hardware.


The Anthony Bourdain Interview
Long but very worthwhile interview with Anthony Bourdain covering a lot of ground. Strong recommend.

The esoteric world of deep sea cable laying. One of my all time top five favourite niche topics. Written by Neal Stephenson, and author I enjoy immensely.

Introducing the Marvel Curriculum: A look at film history via the MCU
Using the Marvel Cinematic Universe as a jumping off point into the rest of cinematic history. Will be dominating my watch list for a while.

Broad Band: The Untold Story of the Women Who Made the Internet by Claire L. Evans
If you’re interested in tech history read this. If you’re not, read it anyway, at this rate tech history is just going to be regular history pretty soon.

Contractually Obligated Nautical Fact

There was a bit of a backlash on last issue’s C.O.N.F, apparently fish aren’t nautical enough.

Thinking about employee stock options this week reminded me of an early incarnation: Naval Prize Money! The legal right for enemies at war to steal each other’s ships was first articulated in 1608 (though the practice pre-dates that) in what is possibly my favourite named legal document of all time: De Iure Praedae Commentarius (Commentary on the Law of Prize and Booty). Historically in the British Royal Navy any captured ship became the property of the Crown (capital C crown, the royal we, etc). For the Crown to motivate the common sailor to capture said ships it became customary for the price of any captured ship to be given to the capturing captain and distributed through the crew. This practice was formalised and became law via the Cruisers and Convoys Act of 1708 and was only abandoned by the Royal Navy in 1918. Naturally Admirals and Captains came off better than the common sailors - much like the relationship between investors, founders, and regular employees today. Fun!

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