Young Reacts #197

I came back from a 3-day team offsite in Atlanta. It was my first time meeting my team and also my first time planning an offsite. I was busy and stressed out finding activities and booking restaurants, but I enjoyed shaking hands, sharing bread, and laughing with my team. I also appreciated my team members leaning into uncomfortable situations such as the improv workshop and in-person 1:1s. Once I recover from the trip, I will share how I planned this offsite.

We graffitied our team logo at Krog Street Tunnel together as a team.

Software Engineering ⚙️

Strategy: Change The Problem

My team is running into severe performance problems for the larger customers. It is tricky because we support database operations that can change the entire state of their accounts while guaranteeing consistency and keeping the complete history of their accounts. At times, it feels like a no-win scenario. Instead of continuing to upgrade our machines, should we relax some constraints?

Slack releases platform open beta powered by Deno

Another win for Deno. Deno’s big selling point has been its permission model (closed by default, unlike Node.js), and Slack calls that out as a reason it partnered with Deno.

People ❤️

Is your boss telling you the truth?

This article makes certain assumptions (1~3) to get to the conclusion (4):

  1. While a manager is responsible for the team-level result, their reports are for individual results.
  2. What’s best for the team and what’s best for individual reports are not the same.
  3. More information incentivizes the individual reports to pursue what’s best for them.
  4. Therefore, a capable manager will choose to tell the partial truth.

If I accept the assumptions, the conclusion sounds logical. But I suspect that 2. and 3. may not always be true (early-stage startups, for example).


My habits drive how I show up during discussions. I find it difficult to actively engage in a prolonged conversation while avoiding my go-to’s, such as “I can help with X.” So I am habituating some cues such as “I want you to lead X.” This 4-min video has other short sentences worth habituating. I liked these: “Can I interrupt for a moment…?” “How would it be for you…?” and “I would prefer to do X because I have a need for Y.”

Business 💰

What China, Marvel, and Avatar Tell Us About the Future of Blockbuster Franchises

I remember the Korean film industry fighting for domestic screen quotas in the late 90s and early 2000s. Twenty years later, the industry has grown to the point that Parasite and Squid Game are winning the top awards. More industry centers worldwide will replicate the same successes and beyond, shrinking the American share.

Interesting Finds 💡

“If you don’t make it beautiful, it’s for sure doomed”: putting the Vault in GitHub’s Arctic Code Vault

GitHub put a snapshot of every public code, Wikipedia, and Stack Overflow into a literal steel vault under an artic mountain. Reading this made me wonder what part of my work will survive 10, 100, or 1000 years. Also, do I care about that?

The Blackpink Fans Looking to Outfox YouTube

Blackpink fans run experiments to understand YouTube algorithms and maximize the view counts of their stars’ music videos.

Young Reacts #196

My organization published its priorities for the next year, of which my team’s initiative sits at the top. I find it very exciting. To show impact, we not only need to do good work but also at the right spot. I happen to find myself in such a spot and want to prove to myself that I can deliver.

Software Engineering ⚙️

Reliability Tech Tree

This tech tree shows a journey from one-nine (90%) availability to five-nines (99.999%) with different techniques to move to the next level. I already found helpful concepts such as Eliminating Toil.

Use One Big Server

The author argues vertical scaling with larger machines often provides better cost and performance than horizontal scaling with more machines. I’ve never considered this tradeoff.

People ❤️

Comparison and Self Judgment

It’s so easy to compare myself to others. Sometimes, it hurts my ego because some seem to do better than I; they make more money, have more significant titles, or enjoy industry-wide fame. When that hurts my ego, I compared myself to those worse off to feel better. But I am learning to stop doing that as we are all on different journeys.

Coordination Headwind

This deck explores why complex work moves so slowly. Uncertain rewards and costs and competing priorities make coordination much more challenging. In addition, possible interpersonal conflicts add more risks to completing the work. To solve that, the author recommends more time; 1-1s, team events, strategy summits, etc.

Shopify Lets Staff Decide Cash-Stock Pay Mix as Shares Dive

I always thought the fixed ratio of salary and stock did not make much sense. People with different risk profiles were pushed out. I benefitted from a similar policy at Netflix and wish more companies get on board.

Business 💰

Bill Gurley on Surviving Downturns

Bill Gurley was an early investor in Uber who was also instrumental in ousting Uber founder Travis Kalanick from Uber. He talks about how the current tech downturn came about and how the venture capital landscape is changing.

Interesting Finds 💡

US government reveals big changes to open-access policy

Biden administration is pushing for all federally funded research to be made available to the public immediately after it is published. The publishers currently use their market power to get paid by both scholars and research institutions, which I find distasteful. I hope this policy brings an end to their monopoly.

Young Reacts #195

I felt stretched this week. Labor Day compressed my meetings into four days, and I ended up having 6-7 hours of back-to-back meetings. I was dreading it the Monday night, and I wasn’t wrong. This kind of week is when I feel the pressure to do extra work after hours to prepare better feedback for my reports, follow up from the meetings better, and read one more memo. But it will worsen for the next two months as we plan for 2023. I am not looking forward to it.

“a clock melting away” – Generated by Midjourney

Software Engineering ⚙️

Improving Meta’s SLO workflows with data annotations

My team’s dashboard has autogenerated annotations, such as when an alert is triggered or when a new deployment goes out. But we cannot annotate our dashboard manually, so we resort to taking screenshots during our oncall handoff. Being able to annotate with some metadata sounds incredibly useful.

Introducing Signals

Signals is yet another Javascript state management solution. But I quite like this solution from Preact. Their insight that “an application’s state graph is generally much shallower than its component tree” lets the app skip rerendering intermediate components.

People ❤️

California Legislature Passes Bill That Would Break New Ground on Pay Transparency Requirements

There are many impactful changes for pay transparency, but the key clause is: “An employer with 15 or more employees shall include the pay scale for a position in any job posting.” When Colorado passed a similar law, tech employers excluded Colorado residents from job postings. But they won’t be able to bypass California.

Six Things We Get Wrong About Empathy

Of the six, two stood out for me:

  1. Empathy is not one thing but three: “vicariously “catching” their feelings (emotional empathy), thinking about their experiences (cognitive empathy), and wanting them to feel better (empathic concern).
  2. Empathy is not always good; caring professionals, such as nurses, social workers, physicians, and teachers, often burn out after being inundated with others’ pain.

Business 💰

Finally, some details on Netflix’s ad-supported offering — but buyers are stunned at what they’re hearing

Netflix will launch the ad-supported tier on November 1. I am looking forward to seeing how it will pan out.

Vermont Regulators Didn’t Use the Word, but I Will: Celsius Was a Ponzi

Celcius, which promised a high yield of up to 18.6%, was paying some of those yields with the assets of new investors. It’s the definition of the Ponzi scheme, and it doesn’t surprise me at all.

Interesting Finds 💡

Integrating Stable Diffusion in Photoshop for human/AI collaboration

This video shows how Stable Diffusion could be integrated into an illustrator’s workflow.

Young Reacts #194

The climate crisis has hit me hard at home this weekend. There is a record-setting heatwave in California and a record-setting typhoon in Korea. It’s challenging to stay optimistic about the future outlook on days like this. Wherever you are reading this from, I hope you are safe.

Generated using Stability AI’s stable diffusion model

Software Engineering ⚙️

Big Changes Ahead for Deno

Deno plans to support 80-90% of Node modules, which makes sense for its ecosystem given that there are only about 4,600 Deno modules while there are more than a million Node modules. I am eager to learn how Deno implements Node compatibility when the support comes out in the coming months.

The Writing Engineer

[I]n their first few years on the job, engineers spend roughly 30% of their workday writing, while engineers in middle management write for 50% to 70% of their day; those in senior management reportedly spend over 70% and as much as 95% of their day writing.

People ❤️

How to Be an Inspiring Leader

Our performance is context-specific. Just as a pro athlete’s career can change dramatically after moving a team, we need to find an environment where we can thrive. Finding the right environment is especially crucial for a leader whose style needs to match their organization’s needs.

Kiwi Farms is Down After Cloudflare Boots The Site As a Customer

Kiwi Farms is an online forum where its users dox and harass trans people and women. Cloudflare used to provide the security service to protect the forum from cyberattacks. A week ago, Cloudflare initially resisted the pressure campaign to stop providing its service, saying its security service is a utility. But they now have switched their position.

I bet it wasn’t an easy decision for Cloudflare. But inaction is action. When we choose not to act when we see injustice, we become complicit. We must have our moral compass and courage to follow it.

Business 💰

Shopify warns merchants against using Amazon’s ‘Buy With Prime’ service

When the pie is growing, it’s easy to be gracious with your competition. Given that Shopify recently laid off 10% due to the slow eCommerce growth, Shopify’s reaction here is not surprising.

How Apple pushed its ad-vantage

Apple supposedly rolled out the App Tracking Transparency program to protect its customers’ privacy. And it now pushes for its closed ecosystem ads. That is after Apple asked for a revenue-share program from Meta. It disappoints me that their privacy talk was just a marketing gimmick.

Netflix Eyes $7-to-$9 Price for Its New Ad-Supported Plan

It’s surprising that the ad-supported plan will still require a subscription payment. I suppose having a card on file makes upsells easier, even though it makes sign-ups harder.

Snap is canceling several projects and laying off 20 percent of employees

Another bad day in the tech world.

Interesting Finds 💡

How to Disable Ad ID Tracking on iOS and Android, and Why You Should Do It Now

Disabling ad IDs will make it much harder for advertisers to track your online activities across different services.

Young Reacts #193

Have you seen a shooting star before? I went on a trip and saw two shooting stars over the weekend. Unfortunately, I couldn’t make my wish in time. That made me realize this: it’s impossible to think of a wish in the blink of an eye unless you are constantly thinking about the wish. If you are already obsessed with the wish, you are already much closer to realizing it than you would be. So a shooting star is a test, not a wish maker.

My phone camera sadly couldn’t do justice to what I saw.

Software Engineering ⚙️

Gardening Platforms

This lengthy presentation is about adding compounding investments to the platform by aligning the ecosystem to the north star and reacting timely to the demands. I liked the visualization of how to rationalize a platform gradually (from slide #123 to #141) and the pull and push analogy between a platform and its customer (from #94 to #112).

Deprecation Notice: GraphQL for Packages

This notice surprised me. The value of GraphQL API is connectedness. When an API loses a core primitive, the value doesn’t decrease from n to n-1; it instead goes from n*n to (n-1)*(n-1). Is it signaling a shift away from GraphQL at Github?

People ❤️

The state of startup compensation, H1 2022

This report from Carta is a bit dated. But it still has good information on how location, company stage, and other factors affect an employee’s compensation.

Don’t Focus on Your Job at the Expense of Your Career

The article applies to me not just as an employee but also as a manager. How can I provide the time for my reports to do speculative or developmental activities? Better yet, how can I build that into the team’s standard work process?

Business 💰

The AI Art Apocalypse

I am not sure if you noticed, but I updated the logo for this newsletter with an image I created with DALL-E 2. The tool was sometimes frustrating, but I got what I wanted within 30 min. So when the author worries about the livelihood of some designers, I can understand that.

Interesting Finds 💡

Hackers Used Deepfake of Binance CCO to Perform Exchange Listing Scams

I suspect that the hackers chose to fake the Chief Communication Officer since they would be the most publicly visible, thus making deepfake most effortless. But as AI advances, it would be possible to use just a single image to fake a person. I worry that we won’t be able to trust a phone call from our spouses in the near future.

Mobile Usability for Cats: Essential Design Principles for Felines

This article is clearly an April Fool’s Day joke, but I had a good laugh while reading it. And you’d be surprised what some researchers are studying: Forming the Dog Internet.

Young Reacts #192

“When you look back at your life a year from now, what do you want to have achieved?” My coach asked me this question last week. I didn’t have anything in my personal life I wanted to achieve, but I had three career goals:

  • Keeping my team perform at a high level
  • Write down my leadership principles and management philosophy
  • Build my personal support network both inside and outside the company

I want to use my current role as a launch pad to become a manager of managers. Given the importance of my team’s domain for the larger org’s strategy, I think it’s possible as long as I can continue to execute. That’s me. What do you want to look back on next year?

Software Engineering ⚙️

Redis Explained

One of the mitigation strategies we will employ to prevent a similar incident to the one we experienced last week is to add a Redis cache for added redundancy. So I read about different ways Redis clusters can be structured.

People ❤️

The Sustainable Workload Loop

We all have more work to do than we have time. Ask first if it’s worth doing the work, then if I am the only person to do it, and if it’s the right time to do it.

Apple pushes Bay Area employees into stringent return-to-office plan

The author sees a connection between the worsening job market and the return-to-office plan. But I am not convinced as I suspect execs also see value in working remotely. Time will tell.

Business 💰

Teens, Social Media and Technology 2022

YouTube leads the pack with 95% of teens using it, followed by Tiktok with 67%, Instagram with 62%, and Snapchat with 59%. Facebook was in fourth place with 32%.

Does Apple Keep its Commission After You Refund a Purchase?

Given how Apple created App Tracking Transparency for the preferential, incremental revenue, I will not trust Apple, or any company, to not abuse the technicality for its growth.

Interesting Finds 💡

Why is far-right ideology taking hold in LGBT+ communities?

This article was mind-boggling but did make sense to me. We have intersecting identities, and some may choose to prioritize their privileged identities.

Lionsgate’s ‘Fall’ Used Deepfake-Style Tech to Change 30-Plus F-Bombs, Bringing Movie From R to PG-13 Rating

I find it cool to see how technology advancements from one industry bleed over to another. Another good example is how Disney used Unreal Engine to produce The Mandalorian.

Young Reacts #191

As I wrapped up interviewing a candidate and getting ready to start my weekend, I saw a message about an ongoing outage for my team. What I thought was the usual, straightforward outage turned out to be the worst one I’ve ever seen. I eventually became paralyzed by the sheer number of things I had to handle. But the more tenured, experienced people at the company joined us to understand the impact and handle communication, which saved the day. While I am not happy about the impact on our customers, I learned how to manage customer-visible outages by observing them.

Software Engineering ⚙️

Unleash the power of Fragments with GraphQL Codegen

Once you adopt non-Relay GraphQL clients, the migration to Relay gets prohibitively expensive. So you couldn’t enjoy the benefits of colocated fragments. The Guild’s GraphQL Codegen tool enables non-Relay apps to colocate fragments.

Phishers who breached Twilio and targeted Cloudflare could easily get you, too

I heard before that SMS-based two-factor authentication is not safe enough. But this is my first time seeing a real-world example where social engineering defeats the SMS-based two-factor authentication.

People ❤️

CEO posts crying selfie on LinkedIn after laying off employees — and it goes viral

There is a subtle line between authenticity and gratuitousness. When I see articles about the backlash when someone steps over the line, I get wearier about opening up.

Business 💰

Back to the trend line?

When Shopify laid off 10% of its employees a few weeks ago, its CEO attributed the decision to the eCommerce spending reverting to the previous trend. But this analysis shows that even though the ratio is reverting, eCommerce still saw a big pull-ahead in absolute terms.

Growth is No Longer the Best Predictor of a Software Company’s Value

As interest rates increase, investors discount the large future revenue & profit streams of high growth companies more heavily.

But revenue growth is still an important indicator, second only to net income.

Interesting Finds 💡

The people of the cloud

This article details stories of people who operate the data centers. The joke that “the cloud is just someone else’s computer” never felt truer.

Young Reacts #190

I got leadership training based on the famous personality test MBTI last Tuesday. I hadn’t had such training, so I was curious about how the MBTI results could help us work better as a team.

Unfortunately, I found the training reaffirm my skepticism over personality tests. The coach emphasized a few times that these test results are merely meant to drive conversations. But during the 4-hour exercise, those nuances were lost, and I felt boxed by the four letters of my MBTI test — some commented how someone got good scores, which upset me.

I understand that when at scale, we need a way to group many people because it’s impossible for one to understand thousands deeply. But we are talking about a dozen close colleagues that we interact with daily. We should rely on open and honest conversations, not these tests, to understand each other.

Software Engineering ⚙️

What’s TypeScript compiling? Use a treemap to find out.

It will be slow if JavaScript has to chug through 100MB of source code. This source code bloat is why faster native code-based tools like swc and esbuild are gaining popularity.

RedwoodJS vs. BlitzJS: The Future of Fullstack JavaScript Meta-Frameworks

I enjoyed reading this deep-dive on new generations of JavaScript frameworks. While the author preferred the less-opinionated nature of BlitzJS, I prefer the opinionated technology choices of RedwoodJS: serverless, React, and GraphQL ❤️

People ❤️

Talking About Layoffs

I appreciated the author’s courage to share her pain of getting laid off. Before reading this article, I hadn’t considered how people who were let go cannot have closure around why now, why me, etc.

Becoming an Organizational Leader

A few of my reports expressed interest in growing to be organizational leaders. Since I am not at that level either, I had difficulty guiding them. That’s when I found this thorough article by the Square engineering team. I loved reading about different areas one can effect organizational changes.

Business 💰

Y Combinator narrows current cohort size by 40%, citing downturn and funding environment

Even the most prestigious funds and accelerators are not immune to the economy.

Interesting Finds 💡

How I Used DALL·E 2 to Generate The Logo for OctoSQL

I’ve seen lots of weird images DALL-E generated. But this is the first one where the image serves a valuable purpose. This article got me interested enough to join the DALL-E waitlist.

Earth is spinning faster than usual and had its shortest day ever

What’s more shocking is that Meta has dedicated engineers working on the leap second problem.

Young Reacts #189

Even though it’s not official, I believe the recession is here. It is my first time experiencing a recession as a working adult. While I haven’t heard anything at work, it does worry me to see other companies laying people off. Now I am wondering if I should start practicing LeetCode again.

Software Engineering ⚙️

My Big Fat Monolithic Alert

My team’s service is a monolith, with multiple teams contributing to it. Like in this article, we suffer from pagers from other teams’ code. Adding metadata to the alerts and routing them based on the metadata is a simple yet powerful technique to create accountability for other teams.

The CSS behind Figma

Figma is one of the tools that pushed what’s possible on the web. So it’s worth learning how they built their app, and the author did a great job explaining it.

People ❤️

Exclusive: Leaked salary data show huge pay disparities at Twitter

Since money is finite, all compensation structures make trade-offs. Equal work, equal pay is a perfectly valid structure, just like the cost-of-labor-based structure. The companies should be upfront about their policies so that the job candidates can walk away if they don’t like them. Twitter’s failure here is not its compensation structure but its lack of transparency.

San Francisco’s Zuni Cafe removed tips a year ago. Despite pushback, it won’t bring them back.

Related to the article above, changing the compensation structure once you already have staff will always be painful.

Business 💰

Changes to Shopify’s team

Shopify laid off 10% of its employees. It’s obviously painful for a lot of people. But at least the CEO admits that he got it wrong:

It’s now clear that bet [that the channel mix – the share of dollars that travel through ecommerce rather than physical retail – would permanently leap ahead by 5 or even 10 years] didn’t pay off. What we see now is the mix reverting to roughly where pre-Covid data would have suggested it should be at this point.

This word shows a much clearer thinking than other CEOs just blaming the macroeconomy.

Zuck turns up the heat

Meta, for the first time, had its quarterly revenue drop from the previous year. In response, the leadership urges the employees to rise above the occasion and accept the lower compensation due to the lower stock price. The article shows that some of the staff are not happy.

Young Reacts #188

I made my personal record of deadlifting 405 lb! It was my goal for 2020 (my record then was 365 lb), but it went out the window with the pandemic. I am stoked to hit this milestone.

I attribute this achievement to the psychologically safe environment at my current gym. People at the gym celebrate your progress regardless of where you are on your journey. Even when you fail your rep, they applaud you for trying. It would have taken me many more months if I didn’t feel safe trying a bit heavier than I knew I could. Psychological safety is not just for our work.

Onwards to 495 lb 🏋️‍♂️! (maybe?)

Software Engineering ⚙️

Hardcoded password in Confluence app has been leaked on Twitter

Obviously, hardcoding the master password is not great. I am very curious about the circumstances behind this. What motivated the developer to hardcode this? How did the team and the process miss this?

Introducing Zed – A lightning-fast, collaborative code editor written in Rust.

Even as Atom sunsets, new code editors are born. I found it interesting that Rust has enough positive aura that the team chose to include this implementation detail in the marketing title.

People ❤️

Advice for Engineering Managers Who Want to Climb the Ladder

As one climbs the corporate ladder, there are exponentially fewer positions available. So it is vital to broadcast one’s interest and prepare oneself for when the opportunity shows up. Reading this article reminded me of how I regretted not publicizing my interest in managing at Netflix.

A Staff-shaped Hole

For some, a staff engineer role sounds like a perfect job—they can work on interesting technical problems without the stress of managing others. But the reality is more complicated. “Leading without authority,” the hallmark quality of a staff engineer, is easier said than done.

The 5 Levels of Delegation You Need to Know to Lead Well

Task-relevant maturity is a concept I am familiar with, but this framework gave me a practical guide on how I can delegate to my reports with different skillsets. The five levels of delegation are:

  1. Level 1: the report does the research, and the manager makes a decision based on the investigation.
  2. Level 2: the report does the research and makes a decision, but the manager needs to approve.
  3. Level 3: the report does the research and makes a decision, and the decision is implicitly approved unless the manager intervenes.
  4. Level 4: the report decides without requiring approval and shares their decision with the manager.
  5. Level 5: the report makes a decision, and the manager does not need to know.

Business 💰

Understanding America’s Labor Shortage

There are many reasons for the labor shortage, but one I found most interesting is that there were 4 million more new businesses started in 2020 (employees are turning into entrepreneurs).

Google exec suggests Instagram and TikTok are eating into Google’s core products, Search and Maps

I was mindblown by this stat 🤯:

40% of young people, when they’re looking for a place for lunch, they don’t go to Google Maps or Search