Chris Shiflett http://shiflett.org/ en-us Chris Shiflett is an entrepreneur and web developer focused on building community and bettering the open web. Two Years http://shiflett.org/blog/2022/two-years http://shiflett.org/blog/2022/two-years “Is it here?”

It was Thursday, March 19, 2020. It was COVID-19. Later that night, we would get a notification that school was cancelled until after spring break. It was here, and school administrators were scrambling.

That was two years ago. It feels like a lifetime ago, but also recent, a phenomenon that I’ve been fascinated by ever since. (More on that later.)

For almost 20 years, I’ve been posting yearly highlights at the start of a new year. I didn’t do that last year (for 2020), and I didn’t do it this year (for 2021). Instead, I’m going to give myself a mulligan and highlight a few memories from what was a rather challenging couple of years.

2020

Jessica visited Colorado to promote her new book. We ate one of the largest slices of pizza I’ve ever seen, she gave a great talk at BookBar, and then we had a couple of drinks and talked about old times.

I flew to London and took the train to Nottingham with Chris, Doug, and Henry for New Adventures . I didn’t know it at the time, but it would be my last trip for a long time.

The night before the conference began, David, Henry, and I took the train to Manchester to watch Manchester United lose to Burnley. We missed the last train back to Nottingham and ended up having a surprise adventure.

Faculty sponsored the conference, and we had a booth where we encouraged attendees to write notes of gratitude that we would deliver. Perhaps it wasn’t the best marketing strategy, but it was fun to spread a little bit of joy.

We unveiled Keybase Book, a website dedicated to educating people all about Keybase and what makes it great. You can read more in the case study. It was especially nice to work with Kelli on some fun design elements inspired by visual cryptography.

Black Lives Matter protests all over the country (and the world) demanded change. I was so inspired by the bravery of protestors, especially considering the prevalence of police brutality at the protests.

We unveiled a new website for Faculty, the first redesign since we launched.

I finally watched Ted Lasso and loved it. It was exactly the kind of show we all needed, with a protagonist whose optimism was disciplined and genuine, and who eventually won everyone over, including me.

We unveiled a new ecommerce site for Jessica Hische.

Despite a substantial increase in voter suppression, we overwhelmingly elected Joe Biden as President of the United States.

Both Pfizer and Moderna received emergency authorization from the FDA for their vaccines. Incredibly, Moderna designed their vaccine in just 2 days. (Pfizer’s timeline was surely similar.) Thank you, Kati Karikó for making such an incredible feat possible.

2021

Roost moved into a new, larger space in the Steel Yards. It has soaring ceilings and plenty of room to grow. I’m grateful that Roost survived the pandemic. For several months, Jace and I built custom-designed desks for the new space. I hope to write more about the design and the process, because I love how they turned out. We have 11 custom desks for full-time members and enough room to accommodate at least 22 part-time members. I also hope to be able to host more events now that we have more room.

In March, a devastating mass shooting took place at our local King Soopers. I was so grateful that Christina and the kids were at Roost on the other side of town rather than at home. Christina organized a lovely vigil for the community where she also gave a brief speech. (The video starts with Nicole introducing her.)

I got vaccinated in April. I would never have imagined being so excited about getting a shot.

Christina and I celebrated 20 years of marriage.

The Euros were a lot of fun. I almost won Guessi. I was 1st going into the final and guessed England to win (they didn’t).

The kids got vaccinated in November. I was so happy to finally have our whole family vaccinated.

We visited family in Tennessee over the holidays, most of whom we hadn’t seen in a long time. It was an extremely hectic trip, with no more than a day in any location, but it was nice.

Devastating fires destroyed over 1,000 homes near us. Our home was spared, but many families lost everything. My heart hurts for everyone affected, and especially for all of the local kids who have endured so much overwhelming tragedy during the pandemic.

At the end of the year, I met a neuroscientist.

To be continued…

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Sat, 19 Mar 2022 14:23:20 -0600
Monday in Boulder http://shiflett.org/blog/2021/monday-in-boulder http://shiflett.org/blog/2021/monday-in-boulder Yesterday was the first day of spring break.

On Mondays, I like to get to work early to prepare for the week. Roost, my coworking space, has a new home in the Steel Yards. We live on the opposite side of town, in South Boulder, so my commute is about half an hour by bike. It’s a nice time to be alone with my thoughts.

Since the kids are out of school, Christina took them to the Museum of Boulder, where they spent hours in the Google Garage. She offered to bring me and Jace (a friend who’s in town) a late lunch from Shamane’s, my new favorite lunch spot. A little after 1:00, she texted:

Have to go all the way back to the museum because Riley left something.

It didn’t occur to me until later that Riley’s forgetfulness was a blessing in disguise, because my whole family was safe at Roost when we first heard the news: there was an active shooter at King Soopers, our local grocery store.

Close to home doesn’t fully capture the emotion, but I can’t think of anything better.

Although it was only yesterday, I don’t remember too much about the first few hours. It was all so surreal. There were tears. Updates came rapidly and in many forms. I was so thankful that my family wasn’t home, or worse, dropping by King Soopers on the way home—a scenario that’s so likely it’s terrifying. (The kids love any excuse to do so.)

Christina was responding to all the incoming texts from friends and family who wanted to know we were safe. It became clear pretty quickly that this was national news. I used Twitter to let everyone know we were safe at Roost on the other side of town, and we planned to stay until it was safe to go home.

Christina is active in the local chapters of Mom’s Demand and Everytown, and she had a meeting about what was happening. I set up a computer in one of the meeting rooms for her and set up Netflix in another room for the kids. I walked to Fresh Thymes to grab some dinner. The kids watched Waffles + Mochi. It was the best we could do to make things feel normal for them.

Once Christina’s meeting was over, we decided to try to make our way home. It was difficult to determine if the roads near our house were still closed, but at least it was safe. Christina took Riley in the car, and I took Tegan and Killian in the bike. She called as I was getting close to the scene—police were telling her there was no way to get home. I offered some additional suggestions for routes to try, and we hung up, hoping we’d all make it home safely.

The bike path pops out on Table Mesa, just west of the closed intersection. I had planned to go around, avoiding as much as possible, but we were blocked in. Knowing how much trouble Christina was having, I decided the best way to get home was the one way I wanted to avoid—biking right by King Soopers. What seemed like hundreds of emergency vehicles of various sorts were all flashing their lights. The front of the store was destroyed. The gravity of the situation was clearer to the kids than it had been all day.

Safe at home, all five of us in one bed, kids crying. Christina checked in on a handful of parents, so she could reassure the kids that their friends were safe.

Helicopters overhead woke us before the kids this morning. Our little neighborhood is on the front page of every major newspaper in America.

Christina had a planning meeting for a vigil being held this Thursday at Fairview High School, after which she and the kids brought flowers to all the shops at Table Mesa they could get to.

All of the people in the shops we dropped off flowers to were so grateful and so emotional.

Me, too.

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Tue, 23 Mar 2021 10:39:00 -0600
Black Lives Matter http://shiflett.org/blog/2020/black-lives-matter http://shiflett.org/blog/2020/black-lives-matter George Floyd. Breonna Taylor. Ahmaud Arbery. So many others. Their murders are tragic, and racism toward Black people is as pervasive as it is horrible. We must do everything we can to eradicate it.

I have been silent these past couple of weeks, listening and reading and watching and learning, but I am inclined to agree with the sentiment expressed so eloquently by Desmond Tutu:

If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse, and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.

Remaining silent makes room for other voices, but it also supports the status quo. Each of us has a voice, and that voice can be more powerful to our own circles of influence — however small — than the voices of others, even if theirs are more eloquent, more refined, and more important.

Here are my thoughts.

Violence

It’s important to understand why people are angry. This Twitter thread provides some insight into the injustices that Black people face in America. This Twitter thread simply asks, “how old were you when a cop first pulled a gun on you?”

If you want to speak out against violence, make sure you heed the advice of Randall Telfer and get your priorities straight:

You keep saying, “it’s horrible that an innocent black man was killed, but destroying property has to stop.”

Try saying, “it’s horrible that property is being destroyed, but killing innocent black men has to stop.”

Police brutality and the leaders who are encouraging and glorifying violence deserve nothing but our strongest condemnation.

In short, if you’re angry at protestors, I encourage you to educate yourself on what is really happening and why.

What can you do?

I am so inspired by all of those who are protesting, risking their safety against the dual threats of police violence and COVID-19, but you don’t have to protest to make a difference. Whether it’s speaking to friends and family, donating money to bail funds, or committing to anti-racism, there are plenty of ways to help.

What can we do?

Real change takes all of us.

Vote. Of course we need to defeat Trump and his enablers in November, but as President Obama reminds us:

The elected officials who matter most in reforming police departments and the criminal justice system work at the state and local levels.

In that spirit, one thing you can do at the local level is advocate for the immediate adoption of these eight policies that can decrease police violence by 72%. Meaningful change takes time, but if your city adopts these eight policies, it can make a difference now.

Black Lives Matter.

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Fri, 05 Jun 2020 09:39:05 -0600
Leaders Wanted http://shiflett.org/blog/2019/leaders-wanted http://shiflett.org/blog/2019/leaders-wanted In the best companies, everyone is a leader. Decisions are made by those best suited to make them, everyone feels trusted and respected, and a shared purpose provides unity and motivation.

I’ve been trying to be a better leader my entire career, and I still have much to learn. Nevertheless, some lessons I’ve learned along the way have stood the test of time, and I’d like to share them with you.

Mind your morale

Morale is a currency; spend it wisely.

One of the most important responsibilities of any leader is to manage the morale and energy of the team. If you’re a freelancer, self-awareness is key, because you must manage yourself, and tending to your own morale is critical to your success.

Managing morale doesn’t mean avoiding hard work. In my experience, providing an environment that lets people do their best work is what keeps morale high.

Decide who decides

Clearly defined roles and responsibilities help everyone. A leader’s job is to trust the right people to make the right decisions, and to provide the necessary context to do so.

When someone is a designated decision-maker, they are more likely to listen carefully to other views, because they don’t have to spend energy presenting or defending their own. Others will feel heard, because the decision-maker is actually listening. Everyone wins.

Choose words carefully

Language is important. The words we use shape our perspective and the perspectives of everyone we work with.

Make we a habit. They didn’t make a mistake; we made a mistake. The client doesn’t have a big opportunity; we have a big opportunity.

When you’re certain about something, say so, but also make it clear when you’re not. Expressing uncertainty doesn’t erode trust, but expressing certainty and being wrong does.

Set healthy boundaries

Communication is good, but be deliberate about it. The cost of real-time, always-on communication tools shouldn’t be overlooked, especially when used with clients. When possible, stick to email and scheduled meetings.

Avoid working outside of normal working hours, too. It’s more sustainable, and often more productive, to use a strict work schedule to help you and your team stay focused and driven. Don’t let the possibility of after-hours work excuse lacklustre performance during the day.

Make meetings count

Meetings are often unfairly maligned. It’s true that a poorly-organized meeting can be disruptive and wasteful, but a good meeting can be invaluable.

Every meeting needs a goal. Agendas are good, but goals are better. With a clear goal, it’s easy to intuit when the meeting is the least bit off-track, so you can correct course as you go. It’s also worth making clear if a meeting is meant to be divergent (new ideas welcome) or convergent (time to reach a consensus).

Make a habit of designating someone to take notes, and email the notes to everyone after the meeting. This will help you move more quickly, because no one will be worried about missing something. It also gives you a good excuse to exclude optional attendees; they can just read the notes. Small meetings without bystanders are more efficient.

Create your own rules

Some of the best lessons will come from your own experience.

A rule we adhere to on my team, for example, is to never estimate someone else’s work. This gives each person a sense of responsibility to the schedule and helps prevent unreasonable expectations.

Try to avoid treating any rule as dogma, however. ‘It depends’ is the only rule that is always dependable, so be willing to make an exception for a really good reason.

Stay humble

Leadership is a skill that requires study and practice, just like any other, and learning from one another is a great way to continue to improve. As peers, we share common threads, so the lessons we learn do as well.

I’m convinced that the most meaningful work is teamwork. Let’s learn together and work together to deliver on the web’s promise. Leaders wanted.

The original version of this article was commissioned for New Adventures magazine, January 2019.

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Fri, 06 Sep 2019 11:55:33 -0600
Domain Registrars http://shiflett.org/blog/2019/domain-registrars http://shiflett.org/blog/2019/domain-registrars A few years ago, I wrote about domain registrars. Realizing how often people still reference that post, and how old it is, I decided to ask what people are using these days.

There was a lot less variety in the responses than last time I asked. In fact, four registrars accounted for almost all replies I received, even via in-person and private conversations.

Here they are.

Gandi

My personal choice remains Gandi. Their new, JavaScript-heavy website belies the robustness of their platform, but if we judged companies by their websites, most would come up short. (This is why I want to rebuild every website I visit.)

The projects they support can give you a good idea of their principles, which is something that matters to me.

Gandi is committed to being the ethical choice for creating a web presence.

Notable features include:

  • Free SSL certificate
  • Whois privacy
  • DNS management
  • DNSSEC

Gandi is recommended by Derick Rethans, Simon Jones, Seppe Stas, and Graham Christensen.

Hover

Like Gandi, Hover is trying to make the web better.

From podcasts to festivals, we’re proud to be patrons of inspiring projects that help fuel the internet.

Most people who recommend Hover cite their excellent customer service as a reason. They also have a helpful article on how to register a domain name.

Notable features include:

  • Whois privacy
  • DNS management

Hover is recommended by Kyle Meyer, Paul Reinheimer, and Tim Cheadle.

iwantmyname

iwantmyname has an awkward name but a loyal customer base, and they have a wonderful sense of humor. The one-click setup of popular services like Google and AWS is a convenient way to get started quickly.

Notable features include:

  • Whois privacy
  • DNS management
  • Developer API

iwantmyname is recommended by Aaron Gilmore, Dan Duncan, and Chanpory Rith.

Namecheap

Namecheap continues to be a popular choice, and their mission and values are admirable. They even advertise their support for the EFF and Fight for the Future in the footer of every page.

Their domain search is one of the best I’ve seen, with a beast mode that unlocks the full gamut of search options.

Notable features include:

  • Whois privacy
  • DNS management
  • DNSSEC

Namecheap is recommended by Ben Bodien and Jeff Lupinski.

Summary

I hope these recommendations can help you choose the domain registrar that’s best for you, especially if you don’t already own your own domain name(s). As I wrote in a recent article about personal websites on 99U:

Owning your own domain name is important, and if this article can convince you of only one thing, let it be this.

If you have any additions or corrections, please let me know.

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Mon, 19 Aug 2019 15:07:31 -0600