Week 20, 2024 - Collaborations and Layoffs

Week 20, 2024 - Collaborations and Layoffs
Poppy fields near Csákvár, Hungary

Today’s downpour made me grateful for the sunny spring weather earlier this week. During a short cycle trip, I saw a dozen rabbits standing on their back legs to see what was up, then sprinting away from me. The week went away slowly, with steady progress on multiple fronts. I especially enjoyed the experiments we’re doing with Jeremy within our podcasting journey at The Retrospective - but I can’t talk about those yet. Monday!

🌡️ What I learned this week

The Retrospective had its third episode (labeled as number 2, celebrating off-by-one errors) and we’re getting into a good rhythm. We discussed Jeremy’s post about Change and my Focus article, amongst other stuff, for example trying to figure out why companies push for Return to Office now. Watch it if you missed the live show on Monday.

I built a Proof of Concept temperature and humidity sensor for the balcony with ESPHome, in a cute cardboard box before 3D-printing something permanent. It turned out to be a good idea to start like this because I already learned that having the display in the same box as the sensor means I need to move it close to the window (so I can read it) - and this proximity greatly impacts temperature measurements due to heat loss from the flat.

Here’s the ESPHome setup running on this small microcontroller, driving both the sensor and the display. The data looks like this in Home Assistant — you can see the rainy weather coming in on the Humidity chart.

As a next step, I’ll either look for a thermometer that is attached to a cable or just separate it from the display and make a different device.

On the content side, I collaborated with Péter Batiz and started a series about Getting Hired as an Engineering Manager. Péter (which is a common name in Hungary...) is an experienced consultant specializing in finding tech leadership for startups and scale-ups, so his input is helpful when writing the series. The first part was published yesterday, about Capturing your Preferences before starting applications, to remain objective.

🎯 What I want to try next week

I’ll continue the Getting Hired as an EM series with an article about finetuning CVs and LinkedIn Profiles. We’ll also have an interesting podcast episode on Monday, I’m curious how it will work.

To push me further down the rabbit hole, the Waveshare e-ink display just arrived, I probably won’t be able to resist the temptation to play with it.

🤔 Articles Events that made me think

This week’s musings are less tied to concrete articles.

I thought a lot about layoffs. The first triggers were the end of Hopin, covered extensively by Gergely Orosz (paid article), and seeing their talented staff looking for new opportunities. It’s a brutal story: at one point the founders of StreamYard, by far the most valuable asset in the Hopin portfolio, had an offer to buy it back, but the board chose Bending Spoons, presumably the highest bidder. This wrote the fate of the team: despite working on a profitable product, half of them were immediately laid off, keeping the remaining staff around to help handover and then letting them go too. It’s not the first time Bending Spoons followed this script, and probably not the last.

I know, companies like these are supposed to be beneficial for the greater good, enforcing that products are either financially sustainable or shut down without wasting investor money. But I can’t help but feel sad about the team that built an amazing product, and am selfishly worried about StreamYard, the tool we use to record and stream The Retrospective.

In other news, a pissed-off CEO firing an entire 500-strong department when their boss refused to cut deeper than the 20% she just laid off, arguing that anything more would undermine business fundamentals.

Maybe this set the stage for my mood reading about Google’s Search AI-fication. As a user, I guess I’m happy not having to click through to any articles, just receiving answers on Google to a much wider range of topics than today. I’m pretty sure that soon I won’t even have to go to Google, the AI Assistant in my device will simply help me with whatever I need.

On the other hand, I can’t help but think that this is another nail in the coffin of Web 2.0. Ironically, the final blow is coming from a company that benefited a lot from user-generated content. The liberating feeling of the 2000s web was that you don’t need to go to big corporations or spend a lot of money to publish your thoughts, photos, or music: if you are passionate about something, you can put it online and people will come. Well, site scraping bots came with those people, and trained their large language models on your content, so Google doesn’t have to send any more traffic to your site. Thank you for your contributions, please close the door when you leave.

Last minute update: I just received the news that Reddit made a deal with OpenAI to allow them real-time access to their users’ content.

🚵‍♂️ Something cool: Virtual sightseeing on a bike

Speaking of Reddit, u/Shon_t combined their Meta VR headset, a cadence sensor, and an exercise bike to hack together a setup with Google Street View that allowed them to do a 9000-kilometer journey across Russia in 220 days. This is a great example of combining different hobbies — and also of persistent determination. Maybe something I should consider for the winter training months!

That’s it for today, sorry for the gloom above. Have a forward-looking weekend,


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