mark cerqueira well-rounded nerd

Effective JIRA

Whether you love (few people) or hate (more people) JIRA, effectively using it can minimize the time you spend on it and maximize the value you get out of it. Ineffective JIRA looks like:

  • Browsing for issues from the Projects view - Good luck finding what you’re looking for!
  • Creating, curating, sharing a list of custom Filters - Good luck navigating between filters and getting people to start leveraging a new filter!
  • Creating a custom Dashboards - Good luck introducing any change when everyone has their own dashboard!
  • Manually reviewing things to keep issues in order - Good luck remembering to do this consistently and not lose your mind!

Effective JIRA gives you everything your team needs in one place. When issues are in a bad state, you don’t have to remember to clean them up, you get notified. How do you get here? Rich Filters and Subscriptions to Filters.

Rich Filters let you define a base filter (e.g. project = Android) and then add a variety of Static Filters (i.e. fixed JQL), Dynamic Filters (e.g. dynamic fields like Assignee), Smart Filters (e.g. converting Last Updated to distinct values using JQL). Creating a dashboard based on a Rich Filter allows you to present all these filters as buttons. My team has moved from using personal, custom dashboards to using a single Rich Filter powered dashboard. When we talk about anything in JIRA now, it’s all in one place and we’re all speaking the same language.

Buttons along the top filter everything else on the screen

Subscriptions to Filters leverages individual filters but don’t worry - you won’t be visting the filter much because the filter is only used to find issues and email you if any are found. For example, if an issue is marked as closed but doesn’t have a Fix Version, someone looking at it won’t immediately know what version of the app has the fix. To stay ahead of these situations, create filters for issues that aren’t compliant and then add a subscription that notifies you via email. You’ll get pinged closer to the time the issues fall into a bad state which makes cleaning them up much easier.

Let trouble come to you!

These two tools have made our team much more JIRA-effective. It won’t make people fall in love with JIRA but you’d be surprised how much less people dislike something if it starts being useful and easy to use.

Thoughts on the Pixel 3

A colleague recently asked me for my thoughts on the Pixel 3 as he was considering picking one up given the recent $200 off promotion.

Here’s what I think:

It can’t be that bad, can it? Here’s what the last four months have been like with a Pixel 3:

  • When I call people in speakerphone mode, more often than not, they cannot hear me. I got my Pixel 3 replaced after talking to Google customer service about this and sending them system logs. They never told me what the root cause was and even worse, the replacement still has the same problem!
  • Three times I’ve been talking to someone on the phone and suddenly the entire network stack will kick the bucket. The call disconnects, it says No Service, and WiFi shuts off. I tried toggling Airplane Mode on and off to soft restart this stack but no dice. It required a hard reboot.
  • When turning on hotspot functionality the icon will blink as everything gets set up and eventually it turns solid once the hotspot is on. Every once and a while the icon stops blinking and the hotspot just stays turned off. I’ve gotten around this by going to the Settings app and turning on the hotspot from there but sometimes that’s not enough and I have to hard reboot.
  • People will call me and my phone will be sitting on my desk with good cell service, but the call goes directly to my voicemail. This one is absolutely egregious.
  • Recently, I will be talking on the phone using the Google USB-C Headset and the person on the other end will say they can’t hear me very well. Bringing the mic closer to my mouth doesn’t help fix the audio issues.
  • Once, my Google USB-C Headset was not recognized by my phone as a headset. I plugged it in and nothing: sound still came out of the speakers. I rebooted the phone and that didn’t resolve it but a few hours later everything started working again.

I had none of these problems in the 2.5 years I owned a Pixel 1 so I’m fairly confident there’s no cell carrier issues here.

My experience with the Pixel 3 so far easily makes it the worst smartphone I’ve ever owned and I don’t plan on ever buying another Google phone. The Google Support folks are kind and try to be helpful, but from where I stand Google is only focused on swapping bad phones out for new phones and hoping that resolves issues instead of actually digging into the problems and fixing them. I love the ecosystem (i.e. Google Photos is amazing and Google Assistant blows Siri out of the war) but I strongly, strongly recommend against buying a Pixel 3.

Why not just return the phone and get something else? I’ve asked Google several times if I can just return this phone given all the problems I’ve had but I am always told I am outside the “remorse period” (their words and a paltry 30 days) for returns. Google - I am overflowing with remorse right now because of your phone.

Vicious and Vengeful - Villains

The next book in my reading journey once again comes courtesy of the Goodreads Choice Awards of 2018. Vengeful by V.E. Schwab won in the Science Fiction category and given it was a sequel to Vicious I read both of them.

I enjoyed reading both books. The anti-hero superhero theme gave both books a very fresh starting point. Here there are no heroes or singular villain but rather people - some ExtraOrdinary - doing what they feel is right and others taking serious issue with their interpretation. While Vengeful picks up where Vicious left off and generally wraps up the story, I found the opening act - Vicious - to be a more enjoyable read. Vengeful introduced a lot more characters and story arcs to follow that made it a bit more difficult to track.

Vicious hooked me but there were times where I didn’t feel bad putting Vengeful down. If you’re into superhero stuff but want to spice things up a bit you should check out these two books. If Vicious hooks you, definitely pick up Vengeful.

Remembrance of Earth's Past

On February 2nd - my birthday - my friend John ignored my wishlist of books and instead gifted me the Remembrance of Earth’s Past trilogy by the acclaimed Chinese science-fiction author Cixin Liu.

On February 7th, I started reading the first entry in the trilogy: The Three Body-Problem.

On February 9th, I dove into the second entry: The Dark Forest.

On February 14th, I started leading the conclusion to the trilogy: Death’s End.

On February 18th, I was done reading the Remembrance of Earth’s Past trilogy.

This reading velocity is definitely on the more extreme end for me but when you stumble upon really good literature you can’t help but be pulled in and obsessively spend time reading. This series is a fantastic read from start to finish and I can easily recommend it. Liu is an expert universe builder (world building doesn’t capture the magnitude correctly) that keeps readers hooked and keeps pages turning.

The last time I remember being this enthralled with a series was back in 2017 with N.K. Jemisin’s Broken Earth trilogy.

For ignoring my wishlist, many, many, many thanks John!

The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs: A New History of a Lost World

When speaking to a Twitch colleague a few weeks ago he shared his Goodreads account so I dug my account up and started logging my reading activity there. I stumbled upon the Goodreads Choice Awards and leveraged those for guidance on what book I should read next.

Further diversifying my reading roadmap in 2019, I decided to expand the pool of books beyond leadership and fiction. Dinosaurs are super cool and I haven’t read a non-fiction book in a while so The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs: A New History of a Lost World, which won Goodreads Choice Awards of 2018 in the Science and Technology category, was an easy pick.

The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs walks us through the time before dinosaurs, the rise of dinosaurs to dominance, and the eventual downfall of the dinosaur empire. Spoiler alert: the Earth goes through very cruel phases where it becomes a very, very, very inhospitable place to live. These periods are like hitting the reset button: clearing out old-timers and providing space for new species to emerge and dominate.

A new species of dinosaur is currently being found, on average, once a week. Let that sink in: a new dinosaur every… single… week.

Steve Brusatte, a young but already very accomplished paleontologist and evolutionary biologist, walks us through the dinosaur journey. He provides both insight into the tools used presently, and in the past, to piece together the story of dinosaurs. Brusatte is passionate and it comes through repeatedly and clearly even in his writing. He loves dinosaurs and wants to infect everyone with dinosaur passion! He goes over some amazing factoids like how fast a T-Rex had to grow during its teenage years, how much destruction occurred in between the geological eras, and how dinosaurs are still with us today. If you’re into dinosaurs and want some real deal information, you can’t go wrong with this book.

During its teenage years, from about ages ten to twenty, Rex put on about 1,700 pounds (760 kilograms) per year. That’s close to 5 pounds per day!

That said, I feel this book could have been enhanced with more photos. There are many concepts covered in the book that could’ve been aided greatly with visual aids: how Pangaea split apart over each era covered, cladistic analysis, the basin geographical feature, and the size of T-rex to its ancestors to name a few. Brusatte went into so much detail to describe what could’ve been better described by a helpful visual aid. Even color would be cool to see in the book. While Power Rangers has taught us the T-Rex is red, the triceratops is blue, and so on, Brusatte covers how we can actually determine the color dinosaurs by analyzing melanosomes in fossils! It’d be awesome to see these facts come through explicitly in images.

The dinosaur empire may be over, but the dinosaurs remain.

If you’re into dinosaurs you’ll love The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs. But for someone who doesn’t know all the dinosaurs, all the dinosaur sizes, all the geological terms, I hope to see an enhanced edition of this book that makes it easier to put all the amazingness of dinosaurs into a more digestible and understandable visual format. Color would be nice too! 😀