426: Backlogs, Issues vs Discussions vs Chatting, and Trying Not to Waste Your Shot

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Dave's gave a talk on backlogs, Chris has issues with Issues vs Discussions vs Chatting (and GIFs), and trying not to waste your time on ideas and projects when you have limited time to do them in.



Chris Coyier and Dave Rupert in silly sunglasses and a sign that says Shawp Tawlkk Shough DOT COM

Chris Coyier and Dave Rupert

This episode is with just Chris & Dave, ShopTalk Show's hosts. Chris is the co-founder of CodePen and creator of CSS-Tricks, and Dave is lead developer at Paravel.

Time Jump Links

  • 00:32 Just talk faster!
  • 07:26 Dave's talk on backlogs
  • 13:21 Issues, Discussions, and Chatting
  • 27:24 Sponsor: Netlify
  • 29:02 Back to backlogs
  • 40:45 Sponsor: Framer
  • 41:50 Trying not to waste your shot


[Banjo music]

MANTRA: Just Build Websites!

Dave Rupert: Hey there, Shop-o-maniacs. You're listening to another episode of the ShopTalk Show, a podcast all about front-end Web design and development. I'm Dave Rupert and with me is Chris Coyier. Chris, how are you?

Chris Coyier: Very good. You're not listening to this podcast at 120%. You're just listening to it at a regular 100%. [laughter]

Dave: Yeah, just a regular 100%, but we talk fast now and so now everyone talks fast and now we're very smart. We sound a lot smarter. Have you noticed that how people sound smarter when they talk at 2x? Then you hear them at 1x and you're like, man, this person is stupid-stupid because they talk so slow.


Dave: That's my whole life. Anyway, I listen to so many podcasts at 2x and I think it's that thing where British people sound smarter because they have an accent.

Chris: Hmm. Mm-hmm.

Dave: Podcast people sound smarter at 2x because it sounds like they're forming thoughts a lot faster. I don't know.

Chris: I can see that. I can see that.

Dave: That's my experience.

Chris: Yeah. Sometimes it's not only accents but they use different words. You know people that speak any different language or from another culture or whatever use slightly different words for things. You're like, oh, that's -- how insightful of them to use that slightly different way of describing this thing. Just because it's unfamiliar, it makes you sound smart, I guess. Maybe that's a charitable way to do it. I'm sure some people are like, "You talk wrong!"

Dave: [Laughter] Well, you're like, "Oh, he called it brilliant and not awesome."


Dave: Anyway, yeah. I listen so I have this podcast I do with Danh Hoang and Zach Meyer called Aside Quest. It's all about video games. A cross-promotional episode here. But what's funny is it's just us talking about video games, and for me it's good, but it's so-so at 1x. But when I pump it up to 2x, I'm like, "I love this podcast." Even though it's just me, I'm just like, "I love it," at 2x. But when I'm listening at 1x, I'm like, "Man, we talk slow, don't we?" But then you go to 2x and it's like, "Oh, this is a podcast I'd listen to," because I listen to all my other podcasts at 2x, so there you go.

Chris: It transfers to real life a little bit too, right? You can't listen to a conference talk live at 2x but after the fact you could. As a speaker, you might choose to change your cadence on purpose. If you have a lot of material to get through in a short amount of time, maybe you gave the talk once in a 45-minute slot and you got asked to do it and you're like, "I'm going to recycle that talk and do it in a 30-minute slot." You might pull a few slides and/or just talk faster.


Dave: Yeah, so the new era of conferencing, have you don't a conference talk here in the Corona times?

Chris: I did one two days ago at the WordPress Growth Summit. Yeah, just not much, though.

Dave: No? Yeah, not much for me either, but the conferences I've kind of been asked to speak at, a lot of them are doing prerecorded talks, so you have to record your talk before. I thought, "Oh, I know what I'll do. I'll just record every segment of my talk and then stitch it up later." That was smart except for, like--/p>

Chris: Really?

Dave: --the time of day, the sun would set on me, you know.


Dave: It's morning in one portion. Midnight in the next one. It wasn't working out very well for me, and so I was like, "Okay, I have to do this all in one go." Splitting it up like that actually helped me. I was like, "Oh, this first section is eight minutes long and I don't even talk about--" You know? It was really like, okay, it really helped me, I guess, find checkpoints of how fast I needed to be, so it helped me in practicing, but I don't know. I'm just going to--

Chris: That's cool. That's cool.

Dave: It was a--

Chris: I could see if you're stitching two photographs together that the sunsetting would be a problem. It doesn't seem like it would be a big problem in a recorded talk. It's almost kind of funny, isn't it? You change shirts or whatever? [Laughter]

Dave: Yeah. [Laughter] Yeah and, by the way, it's nighttime now. No, it was interesting. I recorded a little video window, like superimposed myself using OBS or whatever--

Chris: Yeah.

Dave: --on top of my slides. J

Chris: Fancy!

Dave: Then I'm midway, like I'm recording it, and I'm like, "Oh, no. I have to redo all my slides because my face, my dumb face is covering up the slide," so I had to redo the slide deck and kind of make more like, you know, I guess askew, like weighted to the side my face wasn't on. It was interesting learning. Giving talks in these times, it's definitely different and I think also YouTubers have an advantage, and Twitch streamers, because they already have all this technology sorted out.

Chris: Yeah. Speaking of -- yeah, that's cool that you do it with OBS. That's extra super powerful. There's a newish app that was going around that got a bunch of notoriety. I think it may be Mac only but it's called mmhmm, which is--


Dave: Mmhmm.

Chris: [Laughter] It's a questionable name but it's memorable, so I kind of like it. But it's like OBS super-super light.

Dave: Yeah.

Chris: You get this little canvas and you can drop your camera onto it and then have this row of files below, which are whatever, PDFs or screenshots. I don't know if Keynote works, but stuff. Then you kind of position yourself and have these little basic options for how you want yourself to look. You can greenscreen yourself or put yourself in a circle and drag it around.

What's notable about it is that--I think like OBS--you just click one little button and it says, "On Air," Which turns itself into a camera input. When you're in, like a Zoom call, I can pick that camera instead of, you know, the normal camera that I use. I say Zoom, but on my app, on my computer, it doesn't work in Zoom. It just doesn't show up as a camera source.

Dave: Oh, really?

Chris: But on anything else it does, like a Google Hangout or I was on -- I don't know. I used one of those conference software things where you don't even remember the name of it. It's just some browser tab that you need to have open all day that day because that's the thing they use for the conference.

Dave: Yeah.

Chris: In there, it worked great. I kind of suspected Zoom being a little security conscious. They don't just allow any old app to be a video source or something. I don't know.

Dave: Right. I wonder what that reasoning is. I could see how something--

Chris: It could just be my computer is weird.

Dave: Installs a fake camera or whatever or pretends to be a camera but it's really just an always-on thing. I don't know.

Chris: Hey, that's a thought, though. You know? It's not something to be taken lightly, what your camera source is, you know, necessarily. Anyway, what was your talk on? You just gave this talk.


Dave: I was going to ask you the same question. I'm talking about backlogs, which is awesome, right? Everyone loves backlogs. I think it's wonderful. [Laughter]

The idea was, the whole story -- hopefully, I'll put this talk online at some point. The whole kind of background was, one day I was working and then my email notifications started going off. I quickly realized I was being assigned 313 accessibility issues in one day. It was just like, "Oh, boy. What do I do here for this?"

Chris: Mm-hmm.

Dave: It was sort of shocking to my system. It was like fight or flight. Then it just reminded me of a literal log jam. You know?

Chris: [Laughter]

Dave: I don't know if you've seen one of those before.

Chris: Oh, I have. It's kind of a town -- we used to have mills downtown. In Bend here, the river goes through, so there are photos all over this town of literal log jams that happened in Bend, Oregon.

Dave: Right, and I've been reading a bunch of business books and stuff like that. They all kind of relate to this, but the problem with a log jam is you chuck a bunch of inventory into a river, into the machine. The river is a machine. You chuck a bunch of inventory into the pipeline and then you have a constraint, whether it's a sandbar, a bend in the river, which I bet you have in Bend, Oregon. I don't know.

Chris: [Laughter]

Dave: A bend in the river. A rock. Any kind of bottleneck, you know, and then the logs just get jammed up and they're stuck there. They bounce on each other and lock into each other and stuff like that.

I think about that in a product sense. You have 313 issues in the backlog and they go down the river, the pipeline, and then one thing slows down.

Chris: Yeah.

Dave: Boom!

Chris: Yeah.

Dave: Traffic, right? You just have a whole backup and the whole machine is locked and everyone is mad. That's kind of it. It was just kind of about how do you get out of a jam like that is sort of the talk.

Chris: How about one little tip?

Dave: For me?

Chris: Yeah, avoiding a log jam. You know?

Dave: You know the conventional wisdom, it's sort of a how do you eat the elephant question. It's a big problem. How do you eat an elephant? Conventional wisdom is, one bite at a time, right?

Chris: Yeah, sure.

Dave: But for me, I've never eaten an elephant before. I would like to know the most delicious parts first.

Chris: [Laughter]

Dave: Is there an easy to eat piece of the elephant I could maybe get started with?

Chris: I'd start with the eyeballs, maybe.

Dave: Yeah, and maybe does an elephant have bacon? I would like to know this before I get started.

Chris: [Laughter]

Dave: But it's sort of like trying to figure out the good parts or the easy parts that could maybe help you go--

Chris: Sure. Yeah. Prioritize that backlog to either find the juiciest parts or the easiest parts. Yeah.

Dave: Yeah, and we are hitting issues. You look at 300 issues in Jira, like in a column, like in the to-do column, the backlog column of Jira. That doesn't help you. You have to click into each one.

We found it easiest just to dump it into a spreadsheet, but then you're in a spreadsheet and that's a boring suck.

Chris: Yeah.

Dave: Even in a spreadsheet, you can only do one column at a time, right? You may know where I'm going with this. I said -- I popped it over to my buddy Notion.

Chris: Hmm.

Dave: I went over to Notion.

Chris: You made a board?

Dave: Dumped all the issues into there. I made a board.

Chris: Okay.

Dave: A whole Notion board and so it's just a table. But then you can categorize. The issues we were having were, like, alt text is missing, alt text is missing, alt text is missing. It's like, well, what page is that on because that matters incredibly. If it's on the about page, it doesn't matter. If it's on the production database checkout page, that's super matters.

Chris: Yeah.

Dave: It was like, okay, let's just add the pages to this column. Then we were like, you know, we don't even develop on a page-by-page basis. We do component-by-component. Let's file, map these issues, these problems to components.

Chris: Cool.

Dave: That helped too, and so we started surfacing that information in Notion. Then the WCAG violation or success criteria is what they call it because they want to be positive. You know. What's wrong in the general sense? Not alt text is missing, but it's a non-text content issue.

Anyway, once you have these multi-select fields in Notion, you can then spit out Kanbans based on that.

Chris: Mm-hmm.

Dave: You think of Kanban like move the card from left to right, but really it's just grouped by a certain tag, right?

Chris: Exactly. Yeah.

Dave: We just would group and so now we can visualize these problems in multidimensions. You can just say, okay, I'm going to look at it from this way.

Chris: Yeah, that's the power of Notion, isn't it, that you can just switch between those views with no effort?

Dave: Yeah, and you can maybe tune your Jira to do this for you.

Chris: Yeah.

Dave: And that's cool if you can do it. I did not have access to that. I didn't. That's eight months of my life to add one field to Jira at this company.


Dave: It was easier to pop this out and manage the whole project in Notion. The whole talk is just kind of about that and how we did that, how we were successful. I think we got through about half of them in about two months, but that's better than the two years I thought it was going to take.

Chris: Wow. That's impressive. We just -- I'm looking at a tab right now in my browser window. We switched. For a long time, we were gitlab@codepen.

Dave: Mm-hmm.


Chris: We have just kind of decided to switch back to GitHub for various reasons. Maybe we'll do a whole podcast on this at some point. GitHub is so good, you know? [Laughter] Like visually.

Dave: Well, there was a time where GitLab was a competitive -- like had some advances, right?

Chris: Absolutely, they did. Their CI is super good at GitLab. We did self-hosted and we're reevaluating that anyway. Whatever. We're back on GitHub.

GitHub has actions now, which are fricken' cool, which is kind of like CI also, but a little more broad. Anyway, that's irrelevant too. I was just going to say that there are issue boards on GitHub that are pretty good, you know, lots of good features in there. I opened an issue on the wrong repo just the other day and it was like one click to go "transfer issue to the correct repo." I was like, "Whoa! That's nice. Thank you."

Dave: Yeah.

Chris: But then there's this thing called projects, which is their like-Kanban thing in GitHub. I think it's not tremendously old. A year or two?

Dave: No, a year or two.

Chris: Yeah.

Dave: Yeah, a year or two.

Chris: But it's Kanban-y too, like that's -- I like that you use Notion because Notion has those views that are so powerful and cool, but there's a reason people use GitHub issues. Even if it wasn't as good as it is, the fact that they're next to your code is a big deal. One thing, it's just the software that you're already using, so it's just attached because it's in there. But it's really actually attached, like you can make a pull request that references an issue that says that it closes it and when the pull request is merged, it closes the issue too. It's deeply tied together, which is great, but these projects are issues too, like a project board can be your issues, so it's just a different way.

I think most people are used to going to GitHub to look at their issue board and they just see this list. The one at the top is just the one that was opened last.

Dave: Mm-hmm. Yeah.

Chris: But the project board, you can arrange them. We've did that when we moved our issues over and just made two. Marie did this. I just happened to notice it. I was like, "This is a good idea." You can have a bunch of tags. You could have a high priority tag or something but then it's still on you to choose to look at the high priority tag.

Dave: Yeah.

Chris: But with projects, you can make the high priority tag a column and it's the first one you see.

Dave: Mm-hmm.

Chris: It's natural, when you come here to look, that the high priority tags are the ones that are right in your face, which is great. You know?

Dave: I love this, making tools work for you. Yeah, I love GitHub issues. It just works very well for me and the projects. What I really want is, there's a discussions feature. Have you seen that before? It's only available on open-source projects, I think.

Chris: Yeah. I mean I actually have not seen what the UI looks like. I heard that it was existing and I know that there's some weirdness because they bought spectrum and that was supposed to be that, but that didn't really pan out.

Dave: Yeah.

Chris: Then they bought some other thing that was discussion related that didn't go anywhere.

Dave: Yeah.

Chris: It does make sense that, on an open-source project, in particular, there is slightly more real-time-ish conversation happening that aren't issues. They're just chat.

Dave: Yeah, and so I was on one. Alpine JS, I was having problems with that this week. I was on theirs.

Chris: Oh, they have this feature. Oh, that's cool.

Dave: They have the feature and it's really handy to have discussions attached to your repo.

Chris: It's not chat. It's forums. Right.

Dave: Forums, basically, but you know. I was also on Netlify CMS this week, but I had to go to the Netlify forums to do Netlify. You know. I think it's a great way to be like, "Is this a problem? Do we--?" You know? I just think having discussions -- I really want it for, like, internal projects too because so much of product development is chatting about stuff, like, "Hey, wouldn't it be cool if we had a blah-blah-blah?" That would be much better in a discussion than in an issue where it's like, "Okay, now that idea that somebody had is forever a part of the backlog."

That's just, again, back to my backlog talk. Polluting the backlog or putting too much inventory in the river can really jam things up, so you really want it to be this kind of streamlined set of problems. I'm looking at Alpine. They have 18 issues. [Laughter]

Chris: That's good for Alpine. That seems low.

Dave: Thirty--

Chris: Doesn't it?

Dave: Yeah, and 60 unwanted or unanswered discussions, and that's okay too, but you know. It seems like it's pulling issues out of issues, you know? It's not people, like, "Hey, I can't get this to work."

Chris: I've done that--I don't know--a dozen times in the last year, probably. I popped onto some repo and said, "This is not an issue, so please feel free to close it or triage it otherwise." That's the first sentence I write. "But I'm trying to do X and I don't understand it. Is it a missing feature? Is it something I don't understand?" That's the only way I can find to talk to somebody -- talk to the community around that thing, whether it's the owner of the repo or just somebody who is highly involved somehow or whatever. It seems like issues was the way to do that, and so this is very smart.

Dave: I can't wait. I mean I just need it everywhere.

Chris: Yeah. I wonder if they'll go with chat. Chat seems more dangerous somehow. It just seems like if chatroom on Internet, bad, in a way, if it's open.

Dave: Yeah.

Chris: If it's open. I know we talked about Discord, just, what a week?


Dave: Discord is great. I joined.

Chris: And that is chat.

Dave: Yeah, I joined the 11ty Discord this week.

Chris: Oh, really? I want to go on the 11ty Discord.

Dave: Yeah.

Chris: That's fun. But you know, I'm in some game ones now and I'd say, overall -- like at first, when I first popped in there, I was like, "This community is great. Everyone is so nice and stuff." I was asking simple questions and stuff. Then the more I'm around and in channels and seeing the after-hours chat and stuff, I'm like, "Nope. Bad."

Dave: [laughter]

Chris: It's just--

Dave: Live chat is bad.

Chris: Sometimes, you know, it's actual misbehavior and sometimes it's just like this channel is just basic GIFs, just people just GIFing each other just constantly. They're not even funny. Uh, I'm over the GIF thing. I would ban it from my chats if I could.

Dave: [Laughter]

Chris: Nobody is Ethan. Ethan is funny. He set the bar really high.

Dave: Well, you've got to -- yeah, it's an art form that not everyone has mastered but it's -- take to random or something or on topic or something. I don't know. A lot of my chats, too, I'm dying for political channels. Hey, take that over to political. I was trying to have a good day. Anyway, yeah, it's a different world out there.

Chris: I posted something I was working on, on one of these Discord channels the other day and it was a little, like, look at how far I've gotten on this little particular thing.

Dave: Yeah.

Chris: Somebody posts, "That looks like some Apple bullshit to me."

Dave: Oh, good.

Chris: I was like, "Well, it's an electron app, so I guess it technically runs on your system too, but thanks for the feedback."

Dave: [Laughter] What do you want?

Chris: Yeah. [Laughter]

Dave: I'm not a million-dollar company. It's a good company.

Chris: Then my mind goes crazy, like, okay, who is this person, and what is their life like? Are they in chronic pain? Sometimes I'm in chronic pain and it doesn't make me a good person that day. I don't actually have chronic pain by my back has been hurting for weeks and I'm not at my best. But I don't choose to take out on chatrooms. You know? That's not the place. It doesn't feel like a good place to -- oh, my back hurts. I'm going to go -- so that's probably not it but maybe that's it, but what else is it?

Do they get some joy from it? Like if you just stomp on somebody else a little bit, is it the same little dopamine hit you get from completing four rows in Tetris? Is that what's happening? What is it?

Dave: Yeah, maybe that's it.

Chris: Yeah, maybe.

Dave: I don't know. Just like I zinged them. I zinged them with a zinger.

Chris: Ooh, it must feel good, doesn't it? Get a little zinger.

Dave: I told them Intel was bad. [laughter] Got 'em. You know?

Chris: Yeah.

Dave: Yeah, I don't know.

Chris: I mean I just brushed it off but I was like, if this happens more, and the irony was it's kind of like a paid Discord, this particular one. It was like a Patreon one where everybody in there is paying this other person literal money. One of the benefits is just to be in there to ask questions and stuff. It's like if Zach decided to say, "You can be in the 11ty Discord but only if you support 11ty on Patreon for $5 a month or something," which you could totally do, right? Which we might do. I'm not going to let just any old riffraff into the ShopTalk channel. You've got to contribute $1 a month to get in there.

Dave: Yeah.

Chris: Which we don't have yet, but maybe--

Dave: It's a dollar to get into there.

Chris: Even if you charge a dollar, I bet the behavior doubles in quality. [Laughter]


Dave: I bet. I bet. Well, and that's what's interesting is I think you almost -- I don't know. Communities. I guess HOAs aren't the best invention in the world, but just that we're bought into this community and I try to think of ways to do that. You could have contributions, like a GitHub base. A person is a contributor and, therefore, that's what they get. But yeah, how do you show or approve or vet that somebody has bought into the community?

Yeah, I don't know. It's tough. I wish I had a better -- I don't know. I wish I had a better answer but money seems like one way to make that happen. But also, mod tiers. Mods can set the behavior standards, you know.

There's a subtle thing, too, where it's like if somebody is really trolly or whatever, you just--whatever--bump them down a tier. You just say, "Sorry, dude. You're too negative. You go down. You now have limited access because you're just rude to people." That can maybe have a better conversation.

Chris: Yeah. Do you think that? I've never thought of it. I'm always so absolutist. I need to adjust my thinking a little bit. When somebody is rude, especially more than once kind of thing. If I was the owner of the particular community, my temptation is, you're gone. Bye.

Dave: Yeah.

Chris: I literally do that on CodePen. If you just make some tasteless crap, I just delete your entire account and everything you've ever built.

Dave: Right.

Chris: This isn't Twitter. I don't have to -- it's not like a mystery behind it. Who deleted my account? I did. Chris Coyier did, the owner of this website. I deleted you because I don't like your crap.

It's not because I woke up on the wrong -- this is all codified. It's in our code of conduct.

Dave: Yeah.

Chris: It's in our terms of use. It's in our privacy policy, if you do something that breaks that. There are these documents that lay it out, so it has to break something in there. But you're gone.

It's an interesting concept to think, well, that's pretty extreme, right? But to be honest, I don't do it to people that didn't deserve it. I mean that's just my opinion or whatever.

Dave: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Chris: But in a chatroom, can you just knock them down a peg as a "lesson"? Does that work or do you get even salty if that happens to you?

Dave: They might, but they might also be like, "This sucks. I'm getting shadowbanned. I'm out." It's like, "Okay. Cool. You solved my problem." [Laughter]

Chris: That's true. You've proved to them that there are consequences for it. If you do it again, then you're super out. You know?

Dave: Yeah. You can't post GIFs anymore after you post a boobies GIF or something. It's like, "Sorry. That's not something we do."

Chris: Yeah. It feels very adult to stop before an outright rejection from the community, you know, like a hand slap and having a tiered system of hand slaps seems like a way to go.

Dave: Yeah, just like--whatever--here's what happens if -- if this then that, basically. If you do this sort of behavior, if you're just rude, cool, you're down a peg. Then if it happens again, we can't take you down a peg, so you're out of the channel.

Chris: Mm-hmm.

Dave: That's kind of it, you know. It might be a good sort of thing. Then you could even have -- what I like about Discord is you can have different rooms have different access. Again, I don't think a cast system is necessarily the best system, especially when you pay for it, but, hey, all these people pay $5 a month. Let's give them an area that they can chat about stuff with other people who pay $5 a month. That's sort of like a country club model. Again, I kind of hate it, but in terms of self-policing a community, it might kind of work.


[Banjo music starts]

Chris: This episode of ShopTalk Show is brought to you in part by Netlify. You know them., the Web hostest with the mostest for all your JAMstack sites. You know sites that are hosted on a global CDN, so you prebuild as much of it as you can because it's just going to arrive to users smokin' fast. Then do your logic somewhere else. Don't head a php file. Come on. You can do better than that.

Just kidding. It's an architecture that I happen to really like and I think is kind of the future. You know a lot of people have bought into it. You know how many? Well, at least a million because they've been celebrating their one million developer and business milestone.

Let me see. Let me see where my spot in line is here. I'm sure it's not that impressive but it's kind of cool. A lovely site here built by Sarah Drasner and friends, which just goes through a bunch of milestones for Netlify, which is super rad.

I have to authorize the application here. It's going to tell me which place in the one million developers I am. When did I first put a Netlify site out? I'm number 125,143, so in the top, you know, 20% there. Not bad. I'm pretty proud of that. It would have been nice to break that sub-1,000 level, but I'm not that cool. Anyway, Netlify is a great host. They have tons of great features. Just because you're hosting a static site doesn't mean that it's literally only static. Of course, JavaScript can take over and do anything and they'll help you do that a bunch.

One of the obvious things is just like, well, how do I process my forms then? Well, there are lots of services that can do that, including Netlify themselves. The easiest way to handle it is just to put the Netlify attribute on your form and then Netlify just kind of takes it over, will process for you, save the data, and allow integrations and all that stuff. It's pretty rad. Thanks, Netlify. Bye-bye.

[Banjo music stops]


Chris: I like it. This is all fascinating stuff to think about. The last time backlogs were in large, public discourse, I think, was because every word that the Basecamp people say becomes a thing. I applaud them for it. They're very good at stirring up just the right -- getting people talking. It's quite the skill they have in that way.

Their thing was, just throw away your backlog. Remember that? I can't remember the post.

Dave: Hashtag #nobacklogs.

Chris: No backlogs.

Dave: Yeah.

Chris: I think it resonated with people because it was accompanied by this concept that you're not going to forget.

Dave: Yeah.

Chris: It's not like you're going to wake up this morning without your backlog and be like, "I have no idea what to do to improve this project. Just nothin'. I accidentally deleted my backlog, so I don't even know what key to press on my keyboard now."

No way! It's top of mind. You know exactly what to do next.

Dave: [Laughter]

Chris: You're going to do that thing that's obviously super important to do and then you're going to do it. I kind of like that because the negative part of having this huge backlog is that you're weighed down by it. You look at it and you're just like, "Ugh! We're never going to get to this stuff. My god. Look at all these hopes and dreams we have codified on this huge list. We're useless people. We'll never get there."

That sucks. That's a negative feeling that you don't need in your life. You need to get up and get some work done, so why don't you delete that backlog and get to it?

That was the implication, you know. How true that at all is, I'm sure, is more nuanced than that, you know.

Dave: Yeah, I bring it up in my talk because, again, if you have too many logs in the river, [laughter] I'm sure you're just like, "Hey, we're not going to do that again, James." Don't put too many logs in the river.

Chris: Yep. Yep.

Dave: We only take on what we can actually get down the river. That makes total sense. I think it's a very smart thing but a lot of people can't do that. I can't roll into--whatever--Microsoft's backlog and just delete it. [Laughter] I would get some emails, some terse emails, or something. You know?

I guess, with my situation with the accessibility stuff, it was like we had to battle it. I can't just be like, "Sorry, I don't believe in backlogs." Somebody put that in there. I have to deal with it. The idea of getting there, I think, is very interesting. How can you get to that point where you're not just beholden to a backlog? How can you get through your backlog?

Actually, I'm having this problem. Can I bring it back myself, talking about myself for a bit more?

Chris: Let's do that.


Dave: [Laughter] I finished this talk, right? I finished the talk. Yay! It's done.

Now I have free time, right? In my evenings and afternoons. I'm like, "Oh, man. What am I going to do?"

I have this list of side projects in Notion. I have 35 different side projects in Notion and it's a lot.

Chris: Thirty-five?

Dave: These are just ideas.

Chris: Yeah. Little? Okay.

Dave: Thirty-five.

Chris: It's a lot. These aren't blog posts. These are like, "I should write an app to measure my back spine alignment with the moon phases," or whatever.

Dave: Yeah, I've got two podcasts here, a talk, a VS Code theme I want to write, a little static site I want to do based on my grandpa's POW memoir, whatever. That's what I want to do. Another app, a conspiracy theory app, [laughter] a neglected GitHub projects, stuff like that. Video games, dozens of video game ideas.

I'm just sitting there like, "Oh, no. I just finished this talk on backlogs. I have a backlog of side projects." My whole life is just a backlog.

Chris: Yeah.

Dave: For whatever reason, my brain chemistry is just like, "Hey, let's do stuff. Let's come up with an idea." I've been going through this and trying to, like--whatever--organize my personal life backlog, which is so dumb but I just have these ideas in my brain or projects. One is like building my shed to work from or whatever, but these are just dumb ideas but I want to do them. I feel compelled to do them.

I went through and I made an effort impact matrix. Have you ever done that before?


Chris: Tell me about this - effort to impact. I like it. Low effort, high impact is the goal, right?

Dave: Low effort, high impact, right? I actually labeled ShopTalk as low effort, high impact, just in terms of, like--

Chris: I agree with that.

Dave: We have it down.

Chris: Yeah, right.

Dave: Right? We pay Chris Enns and Tina to do a lot of the work, the production work. For me, I have this figured out. It's low effort to do.

Chris: Okay.

Dave: The same with the Side Quest. We have a system. Then impact is probably high just because I get a lot out of it. It's something to talk about each week. It actually informs conversations I have at work and stuff like that. It's like, "Oh, I just talked about that," or "with an expert," or something like that.

Anyway, I feel like it's a high impact activity for me, and it's hard to gauge that, but that's how I feel. Anyway, I have low effort, high impact, and it can be low, medium, or high on each of those.

Chris: Mm-hmm.

Dave: Then I found a formula but I put it in here and it creates a priority matrix based on that. If it's low effort, high impact, it's a one. That means, do that thing, right?

Chris: Okay. Yep.

Dave: If it's low effort, medium impact, that's a two. That means do that thing next. If it's low effort, low impact, that's a three or a high effort, high impact, that's a three.

Chris: Yeah.

Dave: It's kind of weird, but those extremes happen.

Chris: Right.

Dave: Then there's a four and a five-level, so high effort, low impact. What's a good example? [Laughter] I think that Arduino thing we talked about with Susan where I have a Bluetooth receipt printer that prints me a ticket every time I get assigned a ticket in GitHub.

Chris: High effort, low impact?

Dave: It's a high--

Chris: [Laughter]

Dave: Yeah, it could maybe--

Chris: Sure.

Dave: It could be maybe medium effort but it's a lot of effort. I'd have to--whatever--beef up my Arduino chops or whatever, but that's probably not the first thing I should do in my list, so anyway.

Chris: That's true. This is just a framework, right? You could wake up some Saturday morning where--I don't know--the family is at the pool or something and your mind is really fresh. You're just like, "I'm actually going to do that Arduino thing because I just fricken' want to right now."

Dave: No. Yeah, and that's it too. You can also just do it. But there's maybe -- I also started a status, so I have Kanban statuses now, which is terrible. I have prototyped as like the first level, like I have built a prototype for this. I thought about it enough. I built a prototype for it.

In progress is something like, okay, I'm actually noodling on this activity.

Released is like it's out. I want to change that a bit because ShopTalk is released, but ShopTalk is an ongoing thing, so I have an ongoing tab.

Chris: Mm-hmm.

Dave: Then I have "Needs Attention" as a status too. That's--

Chris: Interesting. Yeah.

Dave: That's like, "Oh, hey. I need to actually maintain this." [Laughter] That's kind of maybe -- it could factor in. I could maybe make that factor into the priority matrix to some degree, you know.

Then stalled, like projects that are just, for whatever reason, blocked or stalled out. Then I created a dead pool, too, and I've really enjoyed chucking stuff in the dead pool because it's this balance of having that idea written down.

Chris: Yeah.

Dave: It'd be awesome if it was in a discussions format. Having an idea written down and having an idea worked on.

Chris: Mm-hmm.

Dave: It's good to have the idea logged and maybe even in some column, but you don't have to look at it every time. Again, Notion is great for this because I can just hide all the dead pool stuff from my regular view and just know it exists.


Chris: You know what's interesting? [Laughter] I don't know. This is a thing between Andy Bell and I. We're just fascinated by the fact that Notion has this API. They don't actually have it but they talk about it regularly. He's always on the prowl for little times when they mention it, even just a little bit. You know? Because it's like, "Are they actually going to do it?"

Dave: Yes!

Chris: Because it's so obvious that they should.

Dave: They should. I saw somebody. I looked at a repo this week and it was like, "Oh, I'm using the Notion API." I'm like, "The Notion what now?"

Chris: [Laughter]

Dave: How did you--?

Chris: They don't actually have an API. They have ways that you can scrape it and there are third party things. People have done clever things. None of that appeals to me. In fact, it anti-appeals to me. I am not going to use something that's not official.

Dave: Yeah.

Chris: I'm just not an unofficial API using kind of guy.

Dave: Yeah. I need a V1 at least.

Chris: Yeah.

Dave: But I would love -- like with this backlog, multidimensional backlog thing I've been doing, I would love to not import a CSV. I would love to have a stream from Jira or something, like a JSON that makes a table from Jira, straight up. That would be cool because I could just extend Jira inside Notion and I wouldn't have to basically make my own Jira.

Chris: Extend it exactly. The API just would keep it in sync. Maybe you'd treat Notion as read-only but you'd just use it for its organizational abilities where the source of truth is still Jira because it has to be because that's where the rest of the company does stuff or whatever. That could be -- that could be possible.

Dave: Yeah.

Chris: Or it could be the other way around. You could manage all your issues in Notion and have it just sync over to GitHub because that needs to be public or something. It'd be really cool if it was a two-way street. You could update them either place, but that seems like -- when has that ever worked?

Dave: Right.


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Chris: Anyway, that's cool. That's cool. That was fun stuff to talk about. Oh, my gosh.

Dave: Yeah, I guess we've been talking about it a long time, but I'm definitely in this -- I don't know. I have free time and I want to apply it on something.

Chris: Right.

Dave: I'm trying to make the best decision but I realize, oh, I have too much stuff in my -- I have too much junk -- too many farts in my engine, so I need to just--

Chris: Can you Marie Kondo it? There's 35? Does every one of those ideas bring you joy or do you look at some of them and you're like, "Meh"?

Dave: Oh, my gosh! I need a joy column.


Dave: I'll do that. I'm going to add a joy column to my thing. No, I think that's it. I think I need to Marie Kondo some of this stuff.

Chris: I mean maybe, but I think Marie Kondo would -- I don't know. I actually don't know much about Marie Kondo. I've not read the book or seen the show or anything. I just know the popular culture references to it.

Dave: Yeah.

Chris: But I suspect that it's not like, "Then bury it deeper in your closet, Dave." I think the idea is literally delete it so that it stops occupying mental space.

Dave: Yeah, delete it and if it comes back, do it.

Chris: Yeah.

Dave: I could probably--

Chris: If you love this open-source idea, delete it. If it comes back to you, you love it.

Dave: Yeah.

Chris: [Laughter]

Dave: That's definitely in my brain. I'm like, there is too much. I'm 40 fricken' years old, man. I'm not going to make 12 video games in the next year and a half.

Chris: I know those thoughts creep in, don't they? It's like you got kind of one big swing in ya' on some things.

Dave: Yeah.

Chris: You don't get to have two -- you have to make these big decisions like, where am I going to work? What am I going to do? What's the impact I'm hoping to have? I don't get to do it four times. Maybe twice.

Dave: Right.

Chris: The greats to it four times. Me, I'm going to get one, probably. You know? I'm going to make sure that the thing I do matters.

Dave: Well, I remember when I was 20 or so, I was still hoping I'd be in a band that toured and everything and was super cool, you know, like a blog buzz band. You know?

Chris: Mm-hmm.

Dave: But I remember I just was like, "You know? I'm going to do computers instead of trying to be in a band." It was a heart-crushing decision to give up that goal. What's weird is my wife was in a band. She was actually very successful in music, from my point of view.

Chris: Yeah.

Dave: I just was like, you know, I'm going to just not pursue this, and it actually paid off for me. I think I was able to apply myself at code and become a better coder because I kind of gave up this dream. The message here is not give up on your dreams, but just kind of like, you know, what do I need to do now? What do I need to focus on now? I think that helped me.


Chris: That made me think of, we're going to have, I hope -- and this is usually bad practice on a podcast to talk about a future podcast you're going to do because, unless you've already recorded it--

Dave: Oof.

Chris: There's a decent chance it just doesn't happen. You know? But it probably will because this is a reliable dude. David Dylan Thomas, we've met him. You've met him, right? We met him right in your hometown of Austin.

Dave: Yeah, Artifact.

Chris: Super interesting guy. Has a new book out called Design for Cognitive Bias, which I have not read yet but is on the way and should be cool. It's such an interesting topic. Sometimes, these things are a little wish-washy to me, but the cognitive bias one is fascinating to me. It's these little phenomena that influence how you think in ways that you might not even be aware of. You're thinking back on your own career and how you made this choice and how you think it was the right choice now but you don't really know. You probably are remembering that through--

Dave: No.

Chris: --with a little bit of rose-colored glasses like things worked out. Even that one, it has a name. But what I didn't notice, and I feel bad because it's been a couple of years now, his podcast. He's a great podcaster, has a cognitive bias podcast, and they tend to be, especially the early ones, are like eight minutes, six minutes, seven minutes, where he's just like, "Here's one of the cognitive biases."

Dave: Yes.

Chris: "I'm going to just explain it to you in really clear terms what it is and why it's important to know about," and then that's it. It's great little bit sized pieces of this stuff, so I'm so glad he's got a book out and, God willing, Dave, we'll have him on the show.

Dave: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. No, he has a great podcast and there's also another one, "You are Not so Smart," Which is an hour-long episode, usually.

Chris: Mm-hmm.

Dave: It's in that same vein and I love those just kind of like, hey, here's the thing your brain does. [Laughter] Good luck. Good luck in life because your brain is kind of working against you. It's working for you but it's also working against you in a lot of things.


Chris: Yeah and now this is making think of that article that was going around the other day, "Tech Brain." Did that come across your radar?

Dave: No.

Chris: I'm going to post it to you because it's really great. It has this -- it makes--

Dave and I are in this Slack, too, where just this morning -- it tends to be high action in the morning and then everybody falls off. Wouldn't you say? Isn't that weird?

Chris: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.

Chris: This particular morning, the conversation got going about tech Twitter and the like and the, like, cheesy motivational stuff that's all over it sometimes, you know?

Dave: Yeah.

Chris: Just these silly tweets that just are meaningless but somehow are pervasive. We were just making fun of them, essentially. That's what we do sometimes.

Dave: Like "Empower your heart with JavaScript," or something.

Chris: Right. Right.

Dave: You know? It's like those motivationally--

Chris: But sometimes really, really smart, successful, rich, famous, whatever people do the same crap and there's this article called "Tech Brain" that calls out one of these tweets in particular. I have to paste this in for you. Okay. I have to just stop what I'm doing because it's so important.

Dave: Okay.

Chris: It's so funny. It ends up being a Nat Friedman that somebody was quoting on Twitter, but this is the tweet is, "Pessimists sound smart. Optimists make money."

Dave: Ooh.

Chris: That's supposed to must be like, "Mm-hmm."

Dave: Dang.

Chris: That's just the way it is," you know?

Dave: Get it.

Chris: The article is about, like, how the reductionism of that and how there's something about tech that kind of brings out this, like, "There must be a bouillon answer to this complicated life phenomena, and I have deducted it to be this." Anyway, the article is very funny.

Dave: Yeah, I'll read it. In my wheelhouse. [laughter] Yeah. There's a lot of, you know -- I don't know. I don't want people to die because of an AI's decision or something. That's my pessimistic view or whatever. But it's like, you know, an optimist is like, "Oh, look how amazing life is going to be with this new AI GTP-3," or whatever. You know? And it's just like, oh, boy.

Anyway, I had that experience the other day. GTP-3 -- is it GPT or GPT? I forget.

Chris: The only reason I even know about it is because I saw some poll that was like, "What are you most excited about in tech: serverless, GPT-3, or something else?" You know?

Dave: Yeah. The demos are really cool. You can type out, like, make me a page with a button that says, "Click Me," and it….

Chris: Who wrote that code, then? Did you just have to input that sentence and it worked or did somebody write some very complicated code to make that work?

Dave: Yeah. I type that sentence and then the AI figures it out and stitches some React components together and spits it out. They've taught a computer how to write React, basically.

Chris: Oh, okay, so the React demos I've been seeing aren't -- because this thing can do anything. It can find an elephant on the plains of Moab or whatever. It doesn't do that.

Dave: Yeah.

Chris: It writes React components. That's what it does?

Dave: It could, yeah. Then there's somebody did it in Figma.

Chris: Okay, so it is more generically intelligent. You can have it do all kinds of stuff.

Dave: Yeah. Yeah, you get an output from your input. Then there's even -- you could just type, "Oxygen is," and it'll just write a Wikipedia article based on Oxygen, sort of like basically it'll autocomplete or auto-infer what you want from something.

Then somebody showed a demo where you just type, like, "Two Muslims walked, and then the way it autocompleted was, like, "Into a church with bombs and blew it up." And you're like, "Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa! No!"

Chris: Yeah.

Dave: That's not okay. [Laughter] You understand where it got that source data. You know?

Chris: Input. Yeah.

Dave: But, again, AI cannot be doing that. AI cannot be exuding a racial bias or, I guess, xenophobic bias. We really have to watch what it's doing. Anyway, again, back to--


Chris: It reminds me of that algorithms book that we never ended up getting the author on. She's a little too famous for ShopTalk Show, I think.

Dave: Oh, yeah.

Chris: Math not Bombs, or whatever. What was it?

Dave: Weapons of Math Destruction?

Chris: Yes! That's the one.

Dave: Cathy O'Neil.

Chris: Yes, that's it, which is a great book, but talks about how that system is when you get that output of two Muslims walking into a church with a bomb, you need to technologically slap its wrist or inform it that that's not the kind of output that you're looking for and then it needs to be able to learn from that. The system needs to be correcting. It needs to be correctable. It can't just be like, "Welp, the thing spit it out so that's the truth."

Dave: Yeah.

Chris: Those are two different situations. She always brought up -- I always liked the Amazon one. The Amazon algorithms try to sell you products that are related to other products. It's an algorithm that does that but it has all the right motivations. You might not like that because you're like, "Ew, computers telling me what to buy," but it's correcting in a big way. They're highly motivated to not show you things that you're not interested in, and so it has this correcting quality to it because if it's not working, it's not doing the job that they want it to do, then they fix it to do the job they want it to do. That's actually a good system. The dangerous ones are the systems where it's like, "Welp, the machine told me you're a bad teacher so you're a bad teacher and you're fired."

Dave: Yeah.

Chris: There's no feedback loop. There's nothing to say, like, "Wait! Wait! Wait! That teacher was a good teacher."

Dave: Yeah.

Chris: Why can't this system be corrected? What the hell?

Dave: Or, like, you're going to jail longer because you're more likely to go to jail. [Laughter] It's like, wait, what? The computer--

Chris: Is this demolition man?

Dave: Then I also heard, not a counterpoint, I read Malcolm Gladwell's new book Talking to Strangers, and he actually kind of spins it more positive.

Chris: Yeah.

Dave: Like sentencing is actually more fair when a judge is -- because judges have inherent bias and stuff like that. Anyway, again, can of worms. What's the truth? I don't know. Again, I'm going to choose to be a pessimist, not just fully optimistic about it because--I don't know--I value a little bit of humanity. I want that to be preserved. That's just me.

Chris: [Laughter] I hope so.

Dave: Hey-yo! We probably need to wrap this up. We're getting a little theoretical. We'll do questions on the next one. [Laughter] We'll have questions or a guest or something the next ShopTalk Show. Does that sound good, Chris?

Chris: Yeah, that sounds good. That sounds good. We were even going to talk about Web Workers, but we'll just have to wet your beak.

Dave: Uh-oh.

Chris: Nah, let's not. We'll do it next time.

Dave: Yeah.

Chris: Everybody, get yourself in that mental--

Dave: We may have another correction to issue.

Chris: [Laughter]

Dave: Not a correction. An addendum--

Chris: Addendum. Sure.

Dave: --would be more concise, but, hey, we're never wrong here on the ShopTalk Show. It'll be a first that we'd have to ever correct or extend some sort of previous comment. [Laughter] We'll figure that out, but thank you, dear listener, for downloading this in your podcatcher of choice. Be sure to star, heart, favorite it up. That's how people find out about the show. Follow us on Twitter, @ShopTalkShow, for tons of tweets a month.

Head over to and get a brand new one because people want to hire people like you, even in this economy, so stay safe out there.

Chris, do you got anything else you'd like to say?

Chris: [Hands slapping legs]