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Culture patterns: Serve hot beverages

You think you're company culture is bad? You feel stuck? You feel managment should fix it?

Sorry to say it: Managment can not fix culture.

A good (company) culture is build upon many little acts of mutual respect.

It is your responsibility to seed respect and trust from below.

In this series I want to show you how it can be done.

A can of tea

Let's start with a simple act of mutual respect.

You and your colleagues are probably drinking tea or coffee every day. Since you prepare a hot beverage daily anyway, why not transform it into a vehicle for changing the situation?

A can with hot tea has the power to change company culture

When to use this pattern?

  • Departments/people do not talk to each other
  • Everyone works in isolation
  • There is no synergy between departments/people
  • You wish for more openness and humbleness
  • It is cold outside
  • You yourself drink tea or coffee

How to do it

Cook a pot of tea or coffee every day, grab a few cups and serve them to your colleagues.

Exchange a few words every day. Listen.

After they have received there share, the last cup is for you. It will taste delicious.

Do not start with people, that you do not respect yet.

Start in your immediate surrounding (your team).

When you feel save enough, offer the beverage to another team.

Start with the friendly people you know there. Then include all the "neutral" persons.

When you feel comfortable doing that expand your circle even further. Maybe to the department/team that you understand the least. Or to the colleague that you have absolutely no respect for.

Keep going

In the beginning you might encounter resistance. Both internal and external.

People might ask themselves why the hell is she doing it?

Or you might find, that the offer does not come from your heart at some days. Reflect on this. Why do you expect mutual respect, without respecting the other person.

Do not expect anything in return. Do not stop, because nothing seems to change.

Persevere.

People will start to open up. And even if they don't: You will open up and feel at home at other departments.

Sounds naive?

Seems like a thing a lovely old lady would do.

Consider this: You feel respected at here table. You don't start a heated debate over nonsense. And she will feel great as well.

You know it.

Change you're workplace — one cup at a time. It is that simple.

breeze - Virtual wind chimes

Rain, thunderstorms, the gurgle of a stream — I love to listen to nature to calm down.

I used to use ordinary recordings, but I recently found something better: breeze.

breeze is a collection of virtual wind chimes. You can select the chime that you like the most (i prefer bamboo), select a nature sound and enjoy the chime in action on the screen of your iOS device.

breeze is great. If you are into nature sounds as well, give it a try.

How I fix persistent typos

Sometimes I feel really stupid. I have repeat the same typos over and over and over again.

Take "tapas" for example — I type "tappas" instead. Consistently.

So here's my fix for these kind of situations:

I add a TextExpander snippet that replaces my typo with the proper spelling.

I am not certain if this is the best way of doing it — but this is the first solution that works for me..

Resize panes in VIM with your arrow-keys

It's worth to write about your learning's. Even if they seem small.

Recently I turned of my arrow keys in VIM and blogged about it.

After reading my article Philipp Fehre suggested, that I could take this a step further and use the arrow keys for resizing panes.

So I went ahead and copied the following 5 lines from his .vimrc:

" Make arrowkey do something usefull, resize the viewports accordingly
nnoremap <Left> :vertical resize +5<CR>
nnoremap <Right> :vertical resize -5<CR>
nnoremap <Up> :resize +5<CR>
nnoremap <Down> :resize -5<CR>

Phil was right! This is a great way of resizing panes.

You are your own master

During the last years I realized that I play victim all the time. So I try to actively avoid this.

Let me explain what I mean by that. Every morning I walk to our local train station. Often the train will not arrive on time.

In the past I was angry and unrelaxed, waiting for the train on the same spot. I also complained to my colleagues about the stupidity of the train system.

Here is the problem: getting angry will change nothing. The train will still come late.

Here's what I do now, if the train comes late or if I missed it.

I use the time to walk. It's much better and I am not pissed that much. I am doing something meaningful and am not letting someone else waste my time.

Let me phrase it differently: I am not wasting my time.

If you look at all the instances, where someone else makes you miserable, there's a good chance that you make yourself miserable.

You are the master of your own life. If you choose to.

If you realize this simple fact, you can turn almost any situation. Do not excuse yourself by pointing to other people.

Changing your life — there's an app for that

I try to get rid of bad habits and to introduce benefitial behaviors. On a stressfull day however, it's hard to stick to all my resolutions. 2 months ago I have found a solution that works really well for me: Lift.

The basic idea

You start by feeding all youre good resolutions into Lift. Every day you check off all the one's that you achieved. This makes it very transparent, what you did and help's you to not forget your commitments to yourself.

Gamification

Lift has the concepts of streaks. If I did something for 5 days for example this is a 5 day streak.

For me this works great. I would not think about breaking my 66 day Lumosity streak for example.

Friends

On Lift you get support ("props") from other people. There are some pretty remarkable guys on Lift, that get a ton of stuff done every day.

This got even better, when my colleagues joined in. It's amazing to work on habits together and receive positive energy all the time. My colleageus and I also founded a group to work on some habits together.

Conclusion

Lift is the most important app in my life. It helps me to transforming myself.

I have over 30 commitments to myself in Lift. Common wisdom says that this is totally bananas. The amazing thing however is that, on a normal day, I finish most of them.

I am really grateful for this app. I think you should give it a try as well.

If you like Lift — and I am sure you will — become my friend!

The awesomeness tool-chain

I have an awesomeness tool-chain — command line tools, that increase my productivity dramatically. In this blog post I want to introduce you to these powerful tools.

Cowsay

$>  echo "I love strawberries" | cowsay
  _____________________
 < I love strawberries >
  ---------------------
             ^__^
             (oo)_______
              (__)       )/
                  ||----w |
                  ||     ||

Ponysay

If you like ponies and colors more - I understand. Depends on the use case really. I found ponies way more effective if you want to communicate something that could trigger bad feelings.

sl - The ls for pros

I often mistype ls. Gone are the days were this was boring. I just lean back and enjoy the show. Steam Locomotives are a big part of being awesome.

Fortune

If you are as new to programming as me you need help, when someone asks you for you're opinion.

Fortune produces profound answers to all kind of questions you did not even ask.

$ fortune
I am the mother of all things, and all things should wear a sweater.

$ fortune
Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from a rigged demo.
    -- Andy Finkel, computer guy

Conclusion

Being awesome requires a special tool-chain. Having ponies and quotes at your disposal is essential. I think you should give this a try.

My personal dashboard

I am collecting quite a lot of data on a continual basis:

  • Blood pressure
  • Steps
  • Weight
  • Tracked habits
  • GitHub commits
  • Follower counts
  • RSVP's for the events we host at Gutefrage.net

That's why I decided to visualize it on a personal dashboard. This weekend, I invested a few hours and came up with this:

I created a GeckoBoard, because that's what we use at the Helpster Team at Gutefrage.

All the widgets including Meetup.com, Twitter and FitBit are available on GeckoBoard already. The only widget that I had to populate myself was the Lift.do indicator.

Conclusion

Is the GeckoBoard worth 19$'s a month? I don't know.

Probably I will switch to something like Panic's Statusboard - but this requires a little more effort — I am not sure to invest this time until I know that a personal dashboard makes a difference.

Did you guy's try something similar? Then please tell me in the comments below.

Fighting bad habits with technology

I keep a list of stuff to improve. Whenever I catch something stupid it lands in there.

I try to get rid of these bad habits.

Often I find myself unable to solve the problem with willpower alone. Then I search for a solution that assists me. Maybe a little "barrier" or some kind of reminder. Let me show you, what I mean with this..

Looking at the keys all the time

When I started to program 5 years ago I looked onto my keyboard all the time. Sure - typing faster does not make you a better programmer - but typing with 2 fingers is not ergonomic.

I found a nice solution for my problem.

I bought a keyboard without letters. I was so bad to hit the proper keys, that nudged me towards learning it right. I have to admit though that I still have problems with some special keys 😉

Not moving enough during work

Like most people I had the problem that I did not take enough breaks. This was hard to change.

I started to work in Pomodoros (25 minutes of work and 5 minutes of break). Unfortunately I still did not leave my working space often enough.

So I took another iteration and added added a little AppleScript to my Pomodoro App..

After each Pomodoro my Pomodoro timer executes a little script that locks my Mac 😉

Surfing the web all the time

Unfortunately I am addicted to the internet. I am pretty OK with it most of the time — but not, when I want to be productive.

That's why i wrote a little script that blocks my internet access.

#!/bin/bash
echo "Enough of this filthy internet" | cowsay -s
sudo route -n delete default &> /dev/null

If I need to be more specific with the site I need to block, I use a program called SelfControl.

This works great! Of course as a computer guy I could circumvent this — but I do not want to.

Force pushing to master

It happened frequently that I forced pushed to master. This was really annoying for me.


Image Source: Flickr / Pascal (CC BY 2.0)

My colleague Nikolay proposed to fix it with a script. That's just what I did.

I have not force pushed to master since. This script is now also in use at some of my colleagues.

Checking working email at home

I checked working email at home. I love my work to much to let my fingers from it - but I realize that I need time of it in order to rest.


Image Source: Flickr / Tama Leaver (CC BY 2.0)

There's a simple remedy for not reading work related emails at home: Delete the freaking email account on your computers at home. It's baffling how often you will look into your empty email-client thereafter..

Checking Twitter really often

There's so much chatter at Twitter. I checked Twitter hourly. Here's what I did:

  • Remove people that write to much
  • Add a URL block-filter
  • Delete Twitter from my iPhone

    This works really well for me.

Not using arrow keys in VIM

Another stupid habit of mine was, that I used the arrow keys in order to move in VIM.

This was pretty simple to fix: I disabled them!

 not use the arrow keys any more
 nnoremap <up>    <nop>
 nnoremap <down>  <nop>
 nnoremap <left>  <nop>
 nnoremap <right> <nop>
 inoremap <up>    <nop>
 inoremap <down>  <nop>
 inoremap <left>  <nop>
 inoremap <right> <nop>

It took only a week until I was not trying to hit them any more 😉

Being to digital

Another problem of me is, that I use all my electronic devices to much. Here is what I build to prevent this: Productivity Protector 2000.

It works.

Conclusion

What is my point to show you this little collection of personal hacks?

Do not be a victim of you're bad habits.

As Nerd we have superpowers: We analyze problems. We solve them. All day long. Start applying these skills to the rest of your life!

Save a file as root in vim

I often edit files without having the right permissions in VIM.

VIM can not safe a file

I changed the file and when VIM told me that I did not have the proper permissions to save it, I quit VIM and entered sudo !! to try it again.

This was of course stupid of me. Currently I try to be more mindful about this kind of problems and to fix them.

Here's the lines that I just added to my .vimrc

" Use :w!! to save as root!
cmap w!! w !sudo tee % >/dev/null

When I enter :w!! now VIM saves the file as root.

I hope I will not encounter this problem again.

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