Posts Tagged: Waterstreet

Working remotely

In the wake of a brewing storm around an essay from Paul Graham about immigration (of all things), I got thinking about the last three months at work.

Graham argues in Let the other 95% in that immigration laws in the US (and likely Canada as well) are excluding 95% of the best programmers from emigrating and working with all the great companies in the US. Many have since argued that through effectively building a remote workforce, these 95% are still available for hire. Matt Mullenweg started it off:

I started working remotely with 10up in September and thought the three-month mark was a good time to reflect on how things have been. Some observations:

Working remotely is extremely flexible. This has been unbelievably good for me. If I need to take our little guy to the doctor one morning, I just tell my team when I’ll be back and fit those hours in later in the day. No problem. I can also go for a run or work out whenever I want. I can put supper on in the afternoon before my wife gets home from work. It’s a huge plus.

Working at night “counts” now. For as long as I’ve been computer-ing, I’ve been working at night. Client projects, personal projects, redesigning this site, learning something new, etc. My wife is a teacher, and spends time most nights preparing for the next day, so we both generally do at least some work every weeknight. Now that I work remotely, I can fit in 2, 3 or 4 hours in a night to catch up on hours that I’ve missed for whatever reason throughout the week. It’s fantastic. This time I work in the evenings “counts” now, adding to the overall flexibility benefit.

In the past three months, I’ve worked on some crazy projects, for some huge clients. I’ve been exposed to tools I’ve never heard of, and (quickly) sharpened my skills in the tools I’d been using all along. I thought I knew Git before starting at 10up, for example, but I really, really didn’t! Within two weeks, I’d made a thousand mistakes and really fixed and solidified my workflow.

The range of people I work with is incredible. Almost every day, someone will try and convert me to their favourite tool or way of doing something. Having access to so many knowledgable and experienced people keeps you constantly curious and on your toes.

Communication is lightyears ahead of (the) standard offices (I’ve worked in). When you work with people all over the globe, you just need good communication tools. At 10up, we use the best tool for every job. People are constantly evaluating new tools for meetings, calls, screensharing, group chat, etc. The combination of all these tools allows me to collaborate much more efficiently with my co-workers than I ever have in a standard office. There are very, very few emails, and 99% of communication happens in real-time via HipChat or a face-to-face Google Hangout.


Team meetup in Chicago, Oct. 2014. Also definitely in the “pro” category.


So those are all the pros, but what about the downsides? Honestly, if you’ve been reading along, waiting for the bit about being isolated from co-workers and longing for “real” interactions that you have in normal offices, I don’t have it. At least not yet. I feel extremely connected to the people I work with — and generally to the outside world as well. Granted, it’s only been three months, and I may feel very different in a year’s time, but so far it’s really been great.

If I had to list one downside — or more of a difficulty really — it would be dealing with timezones. In Newfoundland, we get the first sunrise in North America, so I’m often up hours before my west coast co-workers. It can be a bit of a challenge when I need to ask them a question, but have to wait till lunchtime for an answer, but it works both ways. If I want get up and go for a run, and start my day at 10:30am that works perfectly. Doing this in a regular office setting is almost impossible — unless you want to get up at 5am.

So that’s how remote work feels, three months in — just great. If you’re getting discontent at your current office situation, you should have a look around for remote opportunities. Honestly, the idea of working remotely seemed absurd to me just a year ago (actually, it still kinda does). I thought it was only for people in San Fransisco or Portland. But really, it’s a very legitimate option these days for certain careers. If you’re actively searching, CSS-Tricks has a new job board, and WeWorkRemotely is a more established board. Have a look. Of course, if you’re into WordPress, you should definitely have a look at 10up!  

Jack Sutton

Introducing Jack Robert Thomas Sutton. Born in the wee hours of November 9th, 2013 — right on his due date! He was the perfect size at 7lbs 3oz and a lanky 20″ long.

Jack will immediately assume assistant storekeep duties here at WaterstreetGM.

Rethinking Mail with SmartMail

Photo:William Selman

We’ve lived in our house for five years now. In that time, we’ve had all sorts of things come in the mail: boots, jeans, coffee makers, cameras, computers, watches, Christmas gifts from mom and dad, etc. Lots of stuff.

I suspect that we’ve had at least 40-50 packages delivered to our door in the last five years — that’s roughly ten per year or one per month or so. Of course, when I say “delivered” I don’t actually mean delivered. Only maybe 5 of the 50 packages were actually delivered. For all the rest, I’d receive a notification on the door that someone came by and tried and failed to deliver the package because we weren’t home, and we’d eventually go to the depot across town and pick it up.

This happens to you too. I don’t even know you, but I’m certain this happens to you. You’re at work all day, and the delivery people are out delivering your packages all day—of course you’re not home to receive them! You couldn’t think of a more absurd way of delivering mail than the system we have now. Trucks full of packages go around to homes with no one in them, dropping off stickers to tell the homeowner that their package was here earlier, but is now available at an inconvenient location across town. Just completely absurd!

A Better Mail System

Let’s rethink the mail system for a second. Not cable bills and birthday cards from you mom—that’s separate. Let’s just think about packages for a moment:

Imagine you order a new alarm clock online from Amazon. When you go through the checkout process, Amazon collects your email address. When they hand off the package to SmartMail, they hand off that email address as well. When your package arrives in your city, it gets delivered to a central depot where you can pick it up, and you get an email telling you it’s there. No more silly trucks driving around knocking on the doors of empty houses.

SmartMail, of course, has a few pros and cons:

Mail should be cheaper. SmartMail should be able to cut out door-to-door delivery trucks completely. This will save money on the trucks, the salaries of the people driving them, auto insurance, maintenance, etc.

It would just make sense. Email me when my package arrives, and I’ll pick it up. If I wanted the package delivered to the door, I could still select UPS or Canada Post or similar in the checkout options, but if I’m 100% sure I won’t be home when they try and deliver, it would be great to be able to choose the cheaper SmartMail.

Urban centres only. To avoid getting into the issue of having to deal with local carriers, SmartMail would probably have to be urban centre only. But not everyone lives in a big city!  I know. That’s why I’ve clearly listed this in the “Con” category.


Please note: I know nothing about the mail system. Literally nothing. The only thing I know is that I find the current system a bit silly and inefficient. That said, I think this could actually work. Just imagine a much, much smaller version of Canada Post that only sent packages, and only served urban centres. Each city would need a few depots, a few delivery trucks and a few staff in each depot. Compare that with the army of people required to run the current mail systems that exist, and I think you’ll agree that a new system could work.

Given the trouble that traditional mail companies are in right now, I think SmartMail could really work.

Update: Minutes after posting this, I was told about BufferBox. Oh well. Just when you think you’ve had an original idea.

A small list of the things that I want to do

I want to write a cookbook. A beautiful cookbook, with nice paper and a nice cover on it, and with lots of black & white pictures and colour pictures with lots of nice muted texture like the ones from VSCO like this amazing one here. I want to make this cookbook because I want to go through the process of buying the food so that I can make the meals so that I can have the people around to eat them with and finally open one of those special-event-wines that I keep sitting in the cupboard. I also just want to just have the photos. I want to look at them and feel them printed on that nice paper. I want the cookbook to be like Tartine’s or Donna Hay’s. I want it to make people want to rush home from work and cook supper and drink wine and not eat until 9pm on a work night. I want it to make me do that.

Besides food, I want to take more pictures in general. I want to take more pictures of just being outside. Early in the morning and late in the night and in the late evening when the sun is just about to go down and everything looks perfect and new and fresh. I want to take pictures of and on the beach, which is great because that’s something else I want to do. I want to go to the beach more, and throw rocks and sit down and watch the waves and see the tide coming in. When I’m not doing that, I want to be eating an ice cream, or stopping at a roadside stand to buy vegetables, or waiting for the barbeque to warm up to put a thick steak on. I might even take a picture of the steak too.

When I’m not eating ice cream, cooking steaks or buying vegetables, I want to run the Tely10. I just want to do it once. I just want to do it and feel happy about my time and feel good as I cross the finish line and feel like I’ve done something. I want all of those 6:30am runs to mean something—to accumulate to something. I want all those mornings I ran in the rain and the snow and the wind and the cold and the pain and the frustration and the joy and the sun and the warm summer breeze to all just add up already. I just want to do that once. I also want to do another century ride — 100km — on my bike like I did about 10 years ago with a best friend. I want to sit on my bike and feel strong for hours and push up the hills and through the wind and ride with a group and take a turn at the front. It’ll be harder and harder to do all that with some of my other competing wants—like the huge one to finally get my house in shape. To finally finish some of the dozens of half-finished projects I’ve got going on like the basement or the attic or the entire outside or get the hardwood laid or get the bathroom finally painted and put in that fan.

Then there’s all this work stuff. Will I ever actually, truly learn to program? Will I ever be satisfied if I don’t? Do I even want to actually learn, or do I just want to continue to skim the surface of it all. The way I skim the surface of everything else. Am I actually, deep-down ‘just’ a designer? Am I actually ‘just’ a teacher? A something else?  Is this where I should be putting all my energy? Should I be out there writing cookbooks and taking pictures and going to the beach and eating ice cream and feeling connected to something all day? Does anyone out there feel connected to anything? Anyone? Do you people have this level of noise go on in your heads all day? This unending doubt and self-doubt and distraction and constant stream of questions? Will I actually publish this? Will I leave it published or will I delete it?

A recipe for happiness and success

Hard to add or subtract anything from Dustin Curtis’ recipe:


Wake up early. Show up. Learn how to think. Be genuine, but appear nice. Use envy for motivation instead of destruction. Do what you say you’re going to do. Ensure balance in every area of your life. Confront repressed thoughts immediately. Surround yourself with people who are better than you (but remember the thing about envy). Work out every day. Be good at what you do. Make money doing what you love. Have good friends. Never settle.

This is my personal recipe for happiness and success.

The part in the middle is particularly good, so make sure you don’t miss a single word of it:

Wake up early. Show up. Learn how to think. Be genuine, but appear nice. Use envy for motivation instead of destruction. Do what you say you’re going to do. Ensure balance in every area of your life. Confront repressed thoughts immediately. Surround yourself with people who are better than you (but remember the thing about envy). Work out every day. Be good at what you do. Make money doing what you love. Have good friends. Never settle.

And the first part is essential too:


Be sure to read it in its natural environment, and have a look around while you’re there.