Young Reacts #126

I mentioned a few weeks ago that I wrote a vision document for a cross-functional effort. I had a chance to get feedback on the vision from my org’s VP last week. I sought tactical advice on how to socialize, but he instead gave a thought-provoking perspective; he asked why we UI engineers still need to be responsible for setting up the correct data access. Why can’t our backend engineers who own the domain do it?

Trying to answer why, I could find several practical reasons why we couldn’t make that big jump in the next one or two quarters. But I never envisioned what the ideal state should be, and I appreciated the nudge. This conversation reminded me of the article Director to VP Engineering: what is expected and how to prepare? which emphasized the longer time horizon executives operate at.

Software Engineering ⚙️

Thinking in Relay

A key difference between Relay and Apollo, two most popular GraphQL clients, is that Relay uses Fragments to describe the data requirements. Apollo, on the other hand, is far more lenient on how you fetch and use your data. I’ve been learning Relay to prepare for the query level nullability proposal.

Sucrase: An alternative to Babel that allows super-fast development builds

I tried moving my app to Vite.js recently and couldn’t finish migration due to a bug in Vite’s monorepo handling. I am hopeful that Sucrase could provide an easier migration path by working with my existing webpack config.

Solving a Mystery Behavior of parseInt() in JavaScript

This article wasn’t useful but still fun to read. When parseInt gets a non-string input, it first converts the input into a string and then parses it into an integer. That explains why parseInt(0.0000005); returns 5.

People ❤️

Being Experienced Doesn’t Automatically Make You a Great Mentor

I’ve been asked to mentor a colleague on his technical skills. This article reminded me that I shouldn’t pretend to be the expert on everything (when I do that, my frustration over my lack of knowledge comes out).

Business 💸

96% of US users opt out of app tracking in iOS 14.5, analytics find

When users opt out of app tracking, many platforms will have a hard time retargeting and measuring performances. The previous opt-out number was around 30% and now it’s 96%. How will Google and Facebook ads perform after more users upgrade to iOS 14.5?

What Roku and Google are fighting about: Video codecs, voice search and millions of eyeballs

Roku and Google have been feuding publicly over the availability of Youtube TV on Roku devices. The article explains the likely motivations for both companies.

What Is an Entertainment Company in 2021 and Why Does the Answer Matter?

The answer: Create/tell stories, Build love for those stories, Monetize that love. And you need to meet your fans where they are: comics, TVs, theaters, phones, or even metaverses.

Young Reacts #125

A colleague asked me last Friday if I have any memo-writing tips for him after reading my memo. It was a major milestone for me. I had not read or written a memo before joining Netflix, so it took a while to get used to our memo-writing culture. After two years of reading many and writing a few, I am glad to have someone who wants to learn from my memos.

Unfortunately, I didn’t have a great tip to share. I talked to many others who care about the topic, put a lot of time synthesizing the conversations, and distilled it into two pages. Some flair may help but the clarity of the writer’s thinking ultimately decides the quality of the writing.

Photo by AbsolutVision on Unsplash

Software Engineering ⚙️

RFC: Query Level Nullability

I co-authored a new syntax proposal to GraphQL, which the main author will present at this month’s GraphQL Working Group. This will be my first meaningful open-source activity.

corepack will be part of Node.js by default.

In this vote, Node.js Technical Steering Committee decided to include corepack as part of Node.js. corepack is a library to enable package managers other than Node.js to work “natively.” This change will allow newcomers to experiment with yarn or pnpm much easily.

Localization vs. Internationalization

I learned last week that internationalization is different from localization. Per W3C, internationalization practices are “design and development practices which allow such a migration to take place easily in the future but which may have significant utility even if no localization ever takes place.”

People ❤️

Changes at Basecamp

The founder CEO of Basecamp publicly posted a blog on a list of policy changes. The most controversial was the ban on political discussions. I said this when Coinbase implemented the same ban, but I will repeat this: silence is a privilege and a political act.

How to Mentor Someone Who Doesn’t Know What Their Career Goals Should Be

I read this HBR article to prepare for mentoring at work, but I learned something more important: our career paths are no longer linear. The term “career path” is outdated as everyone needs to make their own path.

Young Reacts #124

Even in this virtual working environment, I choose to go to most all-hands meetings. The presentations are recorded and made available after, and I can watch them at 2x speed later. But I go to join the live Q&A at the end. If I miss the live Q&A, it’s cumbersome to ask questions and get an answer on a presented topic.

I will suggest to my VP that speakers prerecord their talks and make them available for a week before and host a live Q&A session.

Photo by Gabriel Benois on Unsplash

Software Engineering ⚙️

Product Vision vs. Mission

I’ve been on a strategy kick. I am creating a vision for a large cross-functional project at work to align and excite my partners and build a coherent roadmap towards the vision. Then I was confused by how abstract the vision should be. This article clarified that the vision should describe the future customer experience. The examples linked from the article also helped explain the difference (I particularly liked Asana’s and Airbnb’s).

Understanding TypeScript’s Popularity

At this point, every JavaScript project seems to be migrating to TypeScript (except Facebook with its Flow language). Even Chrome Dev Tool is now in TypeScript. An engineer on the TypeScript team recounts the language’s history and points out two key enablers: emphasis on incremental value and close collaboration with the rest of the ecosystem.

JavaScript Labels and Returning Early

JavaScript labels with the break statement are like the goto statement in C. It was fun to learn about this feature in JavaScript. But I don’t recommend using it in your code. goto statements are notorious for their bad readability.

People ❤️

The Feynman Technique Can Help You Remember Everything You Read

I read a lot. But I find it upsetting that I don’t retain as much as I would like. The author says we need to recall and summarize after reading to make it stick. Copy-pasting the highlights doesn’t suffice.

“Asynchronous” Working In 2021

Even though I don’t use recorded video messages for 1-1 communication like the author, I agree 100% that video recordings are great. It’s been great to rewatch the recordings to ensure I understood everything and follow up with action items.

Director to VP Engineering: what is expected and how to prepare?

It was interesting to read how these leadership roles differ. Two differences: a VP plan over a longer time frame of 2-5 years and a VP should not be domain-focused but business-focused.

Business 💸

Amazon 2020 Shareholder Letter

Jeff Bezos sent out his last shareholder letter as the CEO of Amazon. In addition to the current mission, Earth’s most customer-centric company, he shared two new missions: Earth’s best employer & its climate pledge.

Young Reacts #123 – The Discovery Problem in Your Career

My wife and I got our first COVID vaccine shots last week, and I got very emotional. I finally see the light at the end of the tunnel. I pray that the light doesn’t fade due to a variant or a bad policy. Stay safe and sane through this last stretch.


People ❤️

The Discovery Problem in Your Career

“If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” In a corporate setting, I don’t think it does. Our work needs to be understood and built upon to make an impact. Even if we feel uncomfortable, we need to promote our work.

How to take good meeting notes

In a similar vein as the article above, we need to make sure the decisions in our meetings not get lost. The way to do that is to take notes and share them widely. Plus, the notes will become more important as we shift towards remote work. The post is a good step-by-step guide for note-taking.

From Vision to Values: The Importance of Defining Your Core

Without a strong vision, it’s easy to get pulled in many directions with nothing to show for after years of work. I am seeing that at work, so I am pushing us to define what we want to be in 3 years.

Customer Inspired; Technology Enabled

I used to believe that product managers own why and what, and engineers own how. That tended to make me give lots of feedback to proposed projects but not propose ideas myself. This post asserts that product managers should provide constraints, not requirements, and leave what to engineers.

Business 💸

Introducing OpenSearch

AWS renames its fork of ElasticSearch to OpenSearch. It will rename its hosted service to Amazon OpenSearch as well. This feels like a big middle finger to ElasticSearch. In the midst of this, are ElasticSearch users and its open-source community winning?

Federal investigators looking into breach at software code testing company Codecov

Hackers hacked into a SaaS vendor to access its customers’ credentials. Considering that code testing usually happens in an isolated environment, I don’t think the impact will be high. Regardless, it’s a good reminder that every layer of our software stack is a potential vulnerability.

Young Reacts #122 – Return to the office

Netflix has announced that most of us will be expected to be back in the office after September 6. We finally see the light at the end of the tunnel.

An interesting fact: during the pandemic, my team has become much more distributed. Before the office closed, only one worked out of LA, and the other eight were in Silicon Valley. When we return to the office, only two will be in the Valley, and the others will be in LA, Georgia, and Canada. We are even hiring in Mexico City. I doubt I need to be in the office at all.

Photo by Dane Deaner on Unsplash

Software Engineering ⚙️

Eagerly discerning, discerningly eager

I’ve been working on an internal API and gotten contradictory feedback at times. This article clarified why. An API needs to serve two types of developer users: those eager to solve their problems and move on and those who want to dig deep.

Sending gifts to future-you

I shared this article before, but I read it once again as my organization is updating our strategy bets for the next couple of years. It will be important to have a forward-looking perspective.

Announcing TypeScript 4.3 Beta

Like a clockwork, Typescript 4.3 is here. I like these quality-of-life improvements: @link tags for better documentation, an explicit override check, and #private methods.

People ❤️

Cut down on reports with the 5-15 method

A 5-15 method is to write a weekly report that takes less than 5 minutes to read and less than 15 minutes to write. It discusses wins, roadblocks, and plans. This looks like a lightweight tool to share more context with my colleagues.

Some rough notes on running learning circles.

I used to run a learning circle three years ago where I met the most interesting people in the industry and learned to articulate my thinking clearly. I’ve been thirsty for that kind of opportunity and am thinking of starting a new one in my organization.

Business 💸

Google’s FLoC Is a Terrible Idea

I researched more about FLoC I shared last week and found this scathing criticism from The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF). The EFF points out that FLoC will aid fingerprinting, expose more information to websites than a user needs, and opaque ad targeting.

Supreme Court sides with Google in Oracle’s API copyright case

This old lawsuit over Android’s use of Java API was finally concluded this week with Google’s win. This lawsuit paves a clear path for businesses such as Amazon’s DocumentDB (which maintains API compatibility with MongoDB).

Young Reacts #121 – My 360 Feedback

I had gotten feedback from six people last week, and I’d like to share them here and what I plan to do about them.

The positive feedbacks:

  • I care about business goals and provide valuable feedback on our projects to meet the goals.
  • I maintain strong relationships with partners. My partners trust me to deliver what I committed.
  • I bring new technical ideas from my participation in working groups.
  • I promote the voices of the newer and the less vocal colleagues.
  • I reflect on my work often and make necessary adjustments.

The constructive feedbacks:

  • Pursue more opportunities to share ideas and lead in our product domain. Two shared this feedback. I provide plenty of feedback on others’ ideas, but I don’t proactively develop new ideas.
  • Better communicate what I am working on. As I spend more time on working groups, I’ve failed to communicate my lower bandwidth to my product partners.
  • Pay more attention to the details and the user flow. I see this related to the above feedback. I’ve rushed features as I have less time, and it shows.

I haven’t talked to my manager about all this feedback, but here are my current takeaways:

  • I’ve leaned heavily into engineering-focused projects, such as feature flags, so far. I should start focusing more on my product domains and suggesting new projects (say, implement a no-code tool for admin tools).
  • My partners have been very supportive of my “extracurriculars.” So when I don’t have time for that, I need to say so. Once we hire a new engineer for my squad, this conversation will get easier.
  • Keep being empathetic and introspective. Maintaining my emotional capacity will be key.

Software Engineering ⚙️

Announcing the Deno Company

Deno, an alternative server-side Javascript runtime, has received funding and formed a company. The announcement snipes at the Node Foundation and then shares its vision for web-first abstraction layers, where web developers can reuse their skills in other domains.

GraphQL Mesh

GraphQL Mesh is a library that automatically generates a working GraphQL API based on other strongly typed APIs such as gRPC. It’s not just GraphQL Mesh; many tools try to solve the pain point. But I am a huge skeptic. The main benefit of GraphQL is in providing an excellent client developer experience, and these tools seem to optimize for the wrong audience, the graph producers.

The Complete Guide to useRef() and Refs in React

I wasn’t aware that updating a reference doesn’t trigger a component re-rendering. That one nugget was worth my time reading the article.

Business 💸

Implications for cookiepocalypse

The situation is complicated and fascinating.

Third-party cookies have been used to track users across websites, but they will be sunset next year on Chrome (other browsers already blocked them). This change, known as cookiepocalypse, has pushed the Adtech industry to start “fingerprinting” users with other signals and store the user identities on their ends, not on users’ devices. Users won’t have any control over their identity at this point. So Google is coming up with a new, less bad solution called FLoCing, which has its own privacy and business concerns.

More companies announce the office reopenings.

More than 25% of the US population are fully vaccinated, and more companies announce reopening plans. Amazon, Microsoft, and Google will eventually require everyone to be back in the office.

Young Reacts #120 – 360 Time!

After the canceled 360 last year due to the pandemic, I am now going through 360 at Netflix for the first time. 360 is a process where you are invited to give feedback to whoever at the company. I could give feedback to our CEO if I wanted to. The process is overhauled this year, from written feedback to verbal and from once a year to twice a year. The goal of the overhaul is to help people get more accustomed to giving feedback to each other.

I am relieved that feedback is to be given verbally; I am not confident that I can write feedback in such a way that there is no way for miscommunication. I am planning to give feedback to 5 people this cycle and I believe I am receiving it from 3 people. Some get anxious yet I am mildly excited to hear the feedback. As the saying goes, feedback is a gift.

Photo by Jess Bailey on Unsplash

Software Engineering ⚙️

Comparing Svelte and React

I am not sure about the other points, but I agree that useEffect and other hooks with dependenciesare headaches. It’s not easy to keep the dependency list in sync with the logic manually. But it doesn’t look easier with Svelte either. Regardless, it was interesting to compare React and Svelte components line-by-line.

Error Cause in JavaScript

There has been no good practice on how to handle an error from subsystems. Error Cause, a Stage 3 proposal for Javascript, enables chaining errors to expose the underlying errors properly. The proposal will improve error reporting significantly.

People ❤️

Situation-Behavior-Impact framework for feedback

Netflix hasn’t mandated the feedback framework for 360, so I chose this Situation-Behavior-Impact framework. It boils down to:

  1. Describe the specific situation in which the behavior occurred.
  2. Describe the actual, observable behavior.
  3. Describe the results of the behavior.

This framework should stop me from accidentally making character judgments.

Article Link

The Art of the Awkward 1:1

This blog was great to read after reading Things your manager might not know. It’s reinforced my courage to bring up uncomfortable topics like our tendency to hire external candidates for managers.

Business 💸

Facebook and Uber set reopening dates.

Uber plans to open its San Francisco office today (March 29) and Facebook to open its Menlo Park HQ on May 10. The general public is so close to getting vaccines (April 15 in California), and I worry that we are opening a little too fast.

Article Link

Young Reacts #119 – One metric cannot represent engineering productivity

One perk of working at a large tech company is our people’s network at other companies. A director invited me to a meeting between Netflix and Twitter about how the two companies use GraphQL. There were about 20 engineers from both companies—including a Twitter engineer whose blog posts I read many times! I initially expected to sit silently and observe, but I was asked the first question, so I even spoke for a few minutes. It might not have been exciting for those who give talks regularly or have large professional networks, but I got very excited.

After the meeting, I found out that we had similar engagements with Coursera and Atlassian and watched the recordings. It was eye-opening to see that the challenges we’ve seen internally, such as GraphQL schema governance, microservice migrations, and the federated Gateway’s responsibility, are universal. It was a big validation that my work is applicable more broadly. I am now thinking about writing a blog post on schema governance with my working group.


Software Engineering ⚙️

One metric cannot represent engineering productivity

Managers or executives often look for one true metric to track an engineering team’s performance. However, any single metric will be gamed or explained away. So it is important to measure holistically and find balance. For example, not only do we need to look at the completed story points, but also the business KPIs. (Link to the paper, The SPACE of Developer Productivity)

Yalc – Better workflow than npm | yarn link for package authors

I used to find working on libraries annoying as I could not test the changes quickly. I published beta versions like “0.9.0-beta.7” and pulled them into my main app. But it had two problems: the releases made the feedback cycle slow and polluted the package repository with broken versions. Not anymore with Yalc. I can now test my changes locally with “yalc publish” and “yalc add.”

Codetour

When I showcase my code to other engineers, my explanation often becomes confusing as I jump through different files. Codetour is a Visual Studio Code extension from Microsoft that can record markdowns with specific lines of code so that I can share in a reusable and coherent way.

People ❤️

Things your manager might not know

The ability to have a meaningful conversation with your manager is a superpower, yet I am not good at it. I am fine chitchatting with my manager for 30 min every week. But it’s been hard for me to discuss what matters. Julia Evans shares some great tips in this article.

Business 💸

Dark patterns are banned in California

Dark patterns are “tricks used in websites and apps that make you do things that you didn’t mean to.” We run into them everywhere, most recently Clubhouse. But I’ve been skeptical about regulation efforts since it’s difficult to describe design issues in writing. On the contrary, the updated text looks clear enough to give me hope. (Link to The Verge article)

Reflections & Lessons Learned from Roblox, After More Than a Decade of Partnership

I was surprised to learn that Roblox was founded 18 years ago, considering that its game is a leading example of the metaverse concept. Surely, a great story for both the founder and the investors. But the skeptical part of me wonders how the IPO turned out for the early employees.

Young Reacts #118 – The hidden cost of responsiveness

An unusual thing happened to me this week.

A startup CEO reached out to me about a job opportunity, which isn’t unusual. I turned down the offer like I usually do. Then, he responded with “we will still be hiring in 10 years” and forwarded his investor letter and the most recent all-hands recording. I could see the company’s strategies, challenges, and even updated financials. I’ve never seen this level of transparency to an outsider and am deeply impressed. I still don’t think the opportunity is right for me, but I am now rooting for them.

Totally Unrelated Photo from Unsplash by Stephen Phillips – Hostreviews.co.uk

Software Engineering ⚙️

There are no “best practices.”

For most important questions at work and in life, the answer is “it depends.” Because our personalities and circumstances are different, a single answer will not work for all of us. How Stack Overflow optimized for speed and forwent the “best practices” like unit testing is one example. Link

People ❤️

The hidden cost of responsiveness

A common compliment I give to my colleagues is that they are responsive to my questions or feedback. I enjoy their prompt responses and try to return the favor; I always have Slack in the foreground and keep an eye out for DMs and mentions. The result is that I don’t get to do anything meaningful during normal business hours (interestingly, many colleagues said the same). This HBR article made me see that painful truth. Link

Uniform compensation across a company

A company decided to pay everyone the same amount of cash salary across different seniorities, locations, and even roles. “That can’t work” was my first reaction. But as I gnawed on the idea, I realized that all compensation structure precludes some of the candidates. If transparency from this uniform structure is important to its employees, why not? I wonder if they are as transparent with the employee performance. Link

Right to Be Anonymous? Not at Some Company Meetings

I’ve been against asking questions anonymously and believed that I should take responsibility for my words. But after reading this article, I remember several occasions where I chose not to ask a question because I did not feel safe to do so. The ideal would be for the leadership to create a safe enough environment and for the employees would choose to ask questions under their names.

It’s Not Just You. A Lot Of Us Are Hitting A Pandemic Wall Right Now.

It’s now been more than a year I’ve been working from home. The working from home part hasn’t been too difficult for me. But I am tired of being constantly in crisis mode. I feel burnt out.

Staff Design

There is not just a staff engineer, but also a staff designer. The project interviews industry veterans about how they got where they are.

Young Reacts #117 – It Can Happen to You

I was pleasantly surprised to receive my green card (permanent resident card) in the mail this week. When I look back at my past nine working years, there wasn’t a time when I was free to look for another work or quit. For the first four years and the last two years, I was on my work visa in the US. While I was lucky to get one in the first place, being on a visa meant my job change would need to get reviewed and approved. A bad legal misstep could kick me out of the country, and I wasn’t comfortable risking it.

Even when I was in Korea, I worked to satisfy my civic obligation instead of active military duty. Again, my job change would mean a round of reviews and approvals. If I had quit my job then, I would have been drafted into active duty.

So the freedom to work wherever and quit whenever brings me a fresh feeling of freedom. I am now truly free to work. I look forward to what I can do with this newly earned freedom.

Welcome Packet from USCIS

Software Engineering ⚙️

It Can Happen to You

Grand Theft Auto Online, a popular online game, had a long-standing, slow loading time. The internet recently discovered that two simple fixes could make a 70% improvement. It’s easy to blame the issue on whoever wrote that code. But a senior software engineer ought to be able to see that they can make the same mistakes too.

Nullability in GraphQL

Whether to mark a field nullable or not has been a contentious topic internally. I believed that fields should be marked non-null if their values should always be defined in business logic because non-null fields are simpler to handle. However, I recently learned that in our federated GraphQL architecture, a non-null field could make a query less resilient to a service failure. So we recently agreed to mark all fields as nullable by default.

Your Linux processes are already “containerized.”

While I’ve used containers and serverless extensively for stateless applications, I felt uncomfortable using them for databases. This article explains that PostgreSQL in a container is not too different from one on a Linux system in how it can go wrong: OOM killer, Storage, Restarts and “in motion,” and Custom Deployments. Link

People ❤️

Don’t create a sense of urgency, foster a sense of purpose.

At big and small companies, I’ve seen the chaos created by the sense of urgency. When we have a deadline lording over us, we stop questioning the basic premise of projects. Not only the sense of urgency fails to maintain the throughput in the long term, but we will also fail to build the right thing. If it’s worth building, it’s worth thinking through.

Taming the Mammoth: Why You Should Stop Caring What Other People Think

My mammoth is that I want to be recognized at work and by my social circle. But I am not sure if I really want something else.

Business 💸

Clubhouse Is Suggesting Users Invite Their Drug Dealers and Therapists

Dark Patterns are defined as “tricks used in websites and apps that make you do things that you didn’t mean to, like buying or signing up for something.” It’s far more prevalent in consumer-facing applications since consumer data is where they make money. As part of their growth tactic, Clubhouse aggressively goes after its users’ contacts and makes suggestions, even if the contact belongs to a blocked harasser.