Ascent
Building great products is hard. Let's get better at it.
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The Dark Side of Startups

The startup scene is, in many ways, a plethora of good. But as the saying goes, the brightest lights cast the darkest shadows.
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Wizards of Our Age

I used to work with an engineer named Tim. Tim, for all i could tell, was a wizard. He employed advanced and arcane magics such a sed and awk to achieve bizarre but desirable outcomes.
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"I would describe my codebase as _____ and _____."

If you had to pick a pair of everyday words to describe the nature of your codebase, what would they be? Take a moment and fill in the following blanks. "I would describe my codebase as ______ and ______" Now, answer a similar question about your ideals: "I would
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Lessons from MicroConf Day 3

The third and final day of MicroConf 2017 was focused on a few themes: revenue, time and value. Any conference Patrick McKenzie (patio11) speaks at will surely have a simple message: double your prices. Patrick has been making this case tirelessly for years and with good reason. His own page
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Lessons from MicroConf Day 2

"Leverage your failures." if i were to summarize day 2 into a single statement, that would be it. In a conference focused on bootstrapping products, a lot of the information has been about parlaying opportunities. The first full day of talks was equal parts inspiring and exhausting. You
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Lessons from MicroConf Day 1

I bet you've considered building a product and earning enough income to quit your job. I'd even bet you already have one; partially built, sitting in digital mothballs. You are not alone. The dream is shared by us all. As is the reality: our SaaS products, incomplete, dashed upon the
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The One Thing to Avoid While Coding

At a recent talk, one of the attendees asked me, "What is the one thing to avoid when coding?" My answer lacked the foresight a question like that deserves. In the time since i've mused over this very topic. What is the most important thing to avoid when
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How to Communicate as an Engineer

There is a running joke at my company that i communicate with analogies. I take it as a compliment. Reason being that i have found no better way to explain abstract technical topics to lay people. Consider this common example. My coworker, Tim, doesn't understand why two similar-looking development tasks
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Scaling to Millions of Users

Companies are like boats. The small ones are quick and agile. They move fast and pivot on a dime. But that agility comes at a cost: they are notoriously unstable. The rough seas of the market define what they can and cannot do. Make a bad turn and they risk
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Quotes That Changed How I Approach Software

When you say enough words, the law of averages ensures that some of them will be profound. One of the neat things about blogging is that you have a record of when you manage prophetic statements. On that note, if you aren't current blogging or journaling, start. More on that
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Whiteboard Coding Measures Penmanship While Nervous

Every time i go through the interview process i am reminded just how terrible tech interviews are. We ask questions that tell us if a candidate has read an algorithms book lately and assume it speaks to their ability to code well. This approach isn't just flawed, it's uninviting. Interviews
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The Internet is Fundamentally Flawed

Why has the internet been so transformative in the last 20 years? I would argue any complete answer to that question would need to speak to 4 major points: Anonymity Interconnectivity Information sharing Equal platform for individuals and companies But these aspects are the drivers for the internet's success. The
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There Can be No Ego in Products

Software engineers are an opinionated bunch. We hold unreasonably strong opinions on how code should look, read, be styled and where it should go. Hell, we can't even talk about tabs and spaces without rising to violence. This isn't a bad thing. It is important that we feel strongly about
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Choosing a Stack for Your Side Project

Selecting a stack is the first technology decision in a side project. Unfortunately, it is also one of the biggest factors in determining whether or not your project launches. This is not because there are right or wrong technology choices. All widely adopted technologies are different flavors of good. The
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The Hardest Things to Learn in Programming

Coding continues to gain popularity in the professional world. As it does, people who didn't major in programming are using coding bootcamps as a way to enter the field. As my friends consider a transition, i am often asked, "What is the hardest thing to learn about coding?"
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User.pronoun() is a Time Saver

Usability is all about the little things. Small changes in how your copy reads can have big effects in how your users react to things. This is one reason why designers love to use gender-specific language in copy. For example: "Hey Ben, [first name] just sent you a gift!
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Untold Benefits of a Software Blog

Starting a software blog can feel out of reach to most. Without readers our time will be wasted, right? Wrong. Thousands of dollars. That is what blogging about software will make you, even if no human being ever reads your blog. Not hogwash. At first, readers may seem like the
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2017: The Goals

If i had to summarize my learnings of 2016 to a single lesson, it would be the importance of goal setting and measurability. In the same vein, it is time that i set some clear goals to tackle in the new year. Write 52 blog posts Blogging has become one
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Designing as a Developer

Software developers have two things in common: we write code and we suck at making things look nice. Or so we think. The truth is we aren't actually bad at making stuff look nice. Our issue is that the blank canvas of a new site is daunting. Ironic, given that
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Side Projects: Avoiding Failures to Launch

The story is a familiar one. An excellent idea, simple but valuable. A fresh codebase, like a world of possibilities. A side project is born. A weekend of delivered pizza and whirlwind coding lays the foundation of something wonderful. But then the novelty fades. Productivity slows. Eventually, between work and
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Software Engineering Lessons Worth Learning Early

College didn't teach me what i needed to know. It taught me how to learn what i needed to know. I read this quote on a pamphlet in RIT's Software Engineering office one day. I didn't understand it at the time, but it has turned out to be the most