236. Editor Picks 2021

To celebrate the close of the year, and another year's worth of fun and illuminating conversation on this podcast, we are doing our customary round of editor's picks, where we look at highlights from the last 12 months. After the upheavals of 2020, in some ways, 2021 felt a little more settled, and discussions were able to move forward into some exciting and inspiring directions. From the 'bus factor' to 'quality without a name,' we covered some great ground here on the show and we look at all the standout moments, talking about their continued value. We get into the episode we had with Kara Swisher about influencing companies, the benefit we all accrued while discussing our notetaking habits, practices, and processes for improvement and education, our series on Aristotle, and a whole lot more. So, if you enjoyed these episodes as much as we did, or are looking to go back and catch up on some great content, join us today. We look forward to reconnecting with you all in the new year!


Key Points From This Episode:

  • The inspiring idea of QWAN and the episode we had on how it can be applied. 
  • Exploring the idea of 'product versus developers' and the interesting chat we had with Rob O'Brien.
  • The fun and illuminating series of episodes we did that focused on Aristotle! 
  • Surprises about the 'bus factor' and how little awareness there is about the concept. 
  • Our spicy chat with Kara Swisher, the idea of influencing companies, and her own podcast. 
  • Our episode on notetaking and the different tips we all learned from each other. 
  • How to build up subtle superpowers over time and become a better developer slowly. 
  • The rising tide of the digital nomad and the conversation we had looking at this current trend. 
  • William's commitment to terraforming the planet!
  • Training and deep practice; our episode on learning new skills and increasing success. 
  • Looking back to 2020 and the series we did on SOLID. 
  • Dungeon and Developers: another favorite fun episode from 2021!


Transcript for Episode 236. Editor Picks 2021


[0:00:01.9] MN: Hello and welcome to The Rabbit Hole, the definitive developer’s podcast, living large in New York. I’m your host, Michael Nunez. Our co-host to day —

[0:00:09.3] DA: Dave Anderson. 

[0:00:10.1] MN: And our producer —

[0:00:11.3] WJ: William Jeffries.

[0:00:13.8] MN: And our panelist.

[0:00:14.9] SC: Sophie Creutz.

[0:00:16.3] MN: And.

[0:00:16.3] RL: Raymond Lam.


[0:00:18.1] MN: Today, we’re talking about the Editor Picks for 2021. Can you believe it? 

[0:00:22.8] DA: Yeah, not only did we survive 2020 but we survived 2021 as well. This is a good streak we got going.

[0:00:29.9] MN: Yeah, a round of applause everybody. Yes.

[0:00:31.2] WJ: Hot streak, staying alive.

[0:00:32.7] DA: Hot streak, yeah.

[0:00:34.3] MN: Staying alive, staying sane, right? Staying healthy. Hopefully, everyone has gone through 2021 in one piece.

[0:00:43.0] DA: Yeah, some of us are – 

[0:00:43.8] SC: Here’s the thing though, next year, next year is going to be 2020, too.

[0:00:49.4] MN: Oh boy, oh no, not again.

[0:00:53.4] DA: Yeah, they just keep coming but you know, like some of us are in the same place that we were, some of us, we got some new friends though. Sophie and Raymond, welcome and some of us are just wherever we are in the world, William, just spinning the wheel or throwing a dart, I guess.

[0:01:11.4] SC: William’s rabbit hole is on the other side of the planet.

[0:01:14.3] DA: Yeah, he has followed the rabbit hole, not through to China but somewhere in Africa.

[0:01:20.5] MN: There is a Bugs Bunny skit in there somewhere, right?

[0:01:24.2] DA: Yeah, there were some good episodes this year, really good conversations. Mike, do you want to start us off? What was your favorite episode from this year?

[0:01:31.8] MN: I think it was – well, as I was thinking and looking back on this particular set of episodes and wanted to choose, don’t know why, but the QWAN episode just burned into my head. I think we had so much fun, we found this particular phrase, quality without a name on C3 Wiki in a different episode. I was like, no, we need to find out what this is, I’ve never heard this before and I want to write QWAN software.

Quality so good it does not have a name, and it was just great for us to have a conversation on what that is, what are some examples that we’ve seen in software that we use or have built ourselves. Whether it’s software that we can name and whether if it’s nameable then we know that there could be something wrong or something good but quality without a name, that QWAN. I would like for people to listen, reflect on 2021. Have you written QWAN software? If not, you got to get that ready for 2022.

[0:02:35.2] RL: Yeah, I feel like, C3 Wiki is just a treasure of late '90s thought and QWAN is just even further of a treasure.

[0:02:47.4] MN: Yeah. Dave, what about you?

[0:02:51.6] DA: Good question. I really like the episode that we did with Rob O’Brien. Episode number 205 with Rob O’Brien, Product versus Developers. I really love this rivalry that we hyped up between the product owner and the developer, it felt like a wrestling rival where you’re grandstanding and trying to figure out what your opponent’s weakness is. But I think there was a really good discussion also about the anti-patterns of antagonistic relationships and how you can overcome that.

[0:03:35.0] MN: Yeah, I mean because oftentimes, we have developers or we talk really developer-centric but we’re often working with product owners, product managers and it was great to have Rob in and tell us some of the bad habits that we have to set us straight so we’re better developers to our product managers.

[0:03:54.3] WJ: "My bad habits."

[0:03:57.9] MN: There was a term that we used there, I forgot, I learned the word that day. I remember vividly remembering that that was like – a faux pas, that was it. Faux pas.

[0:04:08.1] DA: Yeah, we’re learning French.

[0:04:09.9] MN: I’m learning French, baby.

[0:04:11.2] DA: International. Sophie, what about you?

[0:04:14.8] SC: Oh yeah, I have so many favorite episodes. I’m just –

[0:04:19.3] DA: You were on quite a few.

[0:04:22.2] SC: Yeah, I mean, I had favorites before I even joined though. I am the diehard Rabbit Hole fan.

[0:04:31.5] DA: Wow, I’m blushing. Blushing is not a radio friendly behavior I guess.

[0:04:37.9] SC: The listener will have to imagine. But yeah, I mean, I did really enjoy helping create the Aristotle series, that was super fun. We got to dig into some kind of really deep nerdy, philosophical concepts and then tie them back into our day-to-day work as developers and consultants such as meaning like what is meaning, how do we find it in our work and in our lives, what are the parallels there, what is impact, which can also seem like a really overloaded term but we did our best to kind of deconstructing it for ourselves in a way that made sense to us. I think that was really fun.

[0:05:14.4] MN: Yeah, it was really cool. I mean, I always liked the ability to have series within the Rabbit Hole because it’s just – the way that we can dive into the episodes and into what we’ve – multiple episodes into the thing that we’re talking about is great and that was a really good one. It wasn’t really, software development heavy, but it’s about the teams that we’re building and that we’re a part of and that actually could be a longer lasting effect on us in the workplace versus the amount of semicolons we hit and the efficiency of code.

[0:05:49.5] DA: Yeah.

[0:05:50.6] SC: Well, we’re never going to resolve that.

[0:05:54.2] DA: I was actually surprised like looking into this a little bit. I was in episodes but I really enjoyed learning about it and how academic it was actually, there was a lot of management research papers. Actual scientific journals that were published and it had been a while since I read a research paper but it was intense.

[0:06:18.7] SC: Yeah, it was one for the science nerds for sure but I also really dug the bus factor episode. That was an essential thing for me to learn about and then communicate to teams that I was on if they didn’t already know about the bus factor.


[0:06:33.4] MN: Yeah, I mean, it’s very interesting to know when – because I feel like for – we recorded that episode and I’m thinking, “Oh yeah, everyone knows about this and we’ll talk about the bus factor because we know it really well” and you’d be surprised the amount of teams who aren’t familiar with the term and then realized, when they understand the term, they realize how crazy their situation – yeah, the situation is yeah, exactly. It’s like, “Oh wow, that’s us right now. We need to do something about it.”

[0:07:04.5] SC: Exactly. The reaction can vary too because when you tell someone about the bus factor, they’re like, “What? That’s a really morbid concept, what’s wrong with you?” I feel like I had no I didn’t make it up.

[0:07:15.5] MN: Yeah. I’ve been trying to change my verbiage from Bobby getting hit by a bus to Vladimir going on vacations.

[0:07:26.2] SC: Oh sure.

[0:07:25.7] MN: It’s like a vacation factor.

[0:07:28.6] SC: Or wins the lottery or.

[0:07:29.9] MN: The lottery factor.

[0:07:31.5] DA: Yeah. 

[0:07:31.0] MN: Yeah, that’s a good one. When you win the lottery, you’re out of here. 

[0:07:36.9] DA: That’s 2022 everybody, we’re all going to win the lottery, it’s going to be great.

[0:07:40.2] MN: Don’t get hit by a bus. William, what about you? You’ve been traveling all over the place and every time, I know you time zones are really hard, I really appreciate when you get on the pod, just letting you know that. I’m letting you know live on air.

[0:07:54.5] WJ: Aw, thanks buddy.

[0:07:56.3] MN: Any particular episode that resonates with you in terms of this past year and 2021?

[0:08:01.8] WJ: I mean, I think my favorite episode was a really spicy episode with Kara Swisher, talking about whether engineers can sway companies to be more ethical, which was really interesting to discussion just to begin with and then I don’t know if anybody else is a fan of Kara Swisher’s podcast Sway but I’m a really big fan and one of the things that I really like about her podcast is that she gets pretty spicy with her guests sometimes.

That’s something that we usually don’t get to do because we’re not, we don’t usually take guests who are able to handle that kind of heat but Kara Swisher, you know, there’s really no question that’s too hard for her so we were able to throw quite a lot at her.

[0:08:45.8] DA: I mean, I like it pretty bland like you know, as bland as "it depends" gets really, you know? That’s the amount of spice that I can handle in my oatmeal.

[0:08:55.5] MN: There was definitely a lot of spice in that episode for sure and it was great for us to have an episode like we recorded that really early on in the year. I think it’s like one of the first episodes of, yeah. As tech went on, there was definitely a lot of things that were revealed, especially with Facebook and changing their name to meta to kind of gloss over the idea that they’ve been F’ing up a lot, which is really interesting stuff.

It was great for us to actually have Kara come in and William brought the spice, he brought the spice in that episode. If you want to hear some spicy William, you definitely – 

[0:09:32.4] RL: Yeah but you know, you can’t have spice without a tasty meal, so I think the podcast episode itself was a tasty meal of philosophical debate and good thinking. I appreciate that one as well.

[0:09:43.8] WJ: Yeah, I was more than just ghost peppers, there was other stuff in there.

[0:09:46.5] RL: Yeah. You got to hold it down.

[0:09:53.6] WJ: Yeah, I mean, if you're looking for an episode that is different from most of the Rabbit Hole episodes, just to mix it up. Go back and check out Kara Swisher’s episode. What number was that? You want to check the tats Dave?

[0:10:05.4] DA: 196, March 3rd.

[0:10:10.0] MN: Dave’s going to have to install limbs just so he can put tattoos on them. This is going to be a little crazy.

[0:10:14.8] DA: Right, yeah. 

[0:10:16.0] MN: Raymond is the newest panelist we have here. Raymond, how are you? How are things? Great to have you on. Any particular episode you have in mind in terms of like an editor pick you would love for people to go back to check one more time? 

[0:10:29.7] RL: Yeah, so I just recently joined you guys not so long ago and it’s been a lot of fun. I think the most recent one, which was the note taking one that we did last week because I was really curious as to how all of you guys were using note taking to help you guys better yourselves as programmers and it was really interesting to learn about the Cornell method from Sophie and also William’s interesting note taking habits. It was really interesting to hear his perspective. 

[0:10:59.9] DA: The spicy note taking. 

[0:11:02.2] RL: The spicy notes, that’s what I’m talking about, yeah. 

[0:11:06.5] MN: Did it go? 

[0:11:08.7] SC: I really like that episode too. It actually got me into having conversations with other people in my life about how they take notes and finding even more interesting ideas out there in the world. 

[0:11:20.5] RL: Exactly. 

[0:11:21.5] MN: Yeah, I mean it was crazy for me to hear, you know, you don’t write things on an index card and then lose it and then forget what you wrote and then just feel anxious all the time. No, people actually have a process and it is actually really interesting but that was revealed in all the panelist and the episode was pretty dope. 

[0:11:38.6] RL: Yeah and I think the other one that I like was the senior engineer being superpowers I believe.

[0:11:44.9] SC: Oh, I hear that if you listen to that episode, you gain superpowers at the end. 

[0:11:51.5] DA: Yeah, be very careful what you eat for breakfast before watching that episode. It will be related to what you eat. 

[0:11:58.6] MN: Exactly and yeah, that was episode 193. 

[0:12:03.4] DA: Yeah, that was actually our number one most listened episode of the year. So yeah, it was definitely a fun one to record and I still don’t have laser superpowers, but I’m working on it. I’m working on it but I think there were some great conversation about the subtle things that you need to build up as a senior engineer in order to expand your skills. It is not just crunching the commits and writing lines of code, it’s a little squishier. 

[0:12:39.2] MN: I would say one of the – you know, looking back definitely within 2020 and 2021, there has been a change in how we do our work because I want everyone to think for a second, a time where you would go into an office. You would wave to your colleague, “Hi Bobby, how are you? I got to go finish this pole request,” in an office. Now, that just doesn’t exist. 

We’re out there, we’re moving around different places and William is the best person for this and it was great to have William on the episode of Digital Nomad because that is the life that exists right now. Bobby is vaccinated and he’s ready to go, which was great and it was awesome to get that insight of like, hey, there are actually tools in place because the world is changing and adapting to this new lifestyle of identify where is the safe space to get some work done with some good Internet and good life style and night life culture. 

To get that insight from William who is out doing that, living that life and I’m home. I’m in Westchester County. I’m not going anywhere so like living vicariously through William in that was like really cool and I imagine that it gave a lot of people information on what are some things they can do to kind of spice up their remote life if you will if they are capable of doing that. Digital nomad 215, it was pretty, pretty solid. I learned so much. 

I had Google maps opened the whole time because I don’t know any of these places geographically but it was great for me to learn a thing or two about that. I just learned about Cape Verde actually when William was mentioning that before we started recording. I had no idea that that was an island that existed. But it does and check it out, it’s pretty dope. 

[0:14:26.2] WJ: Yeah, there is a whole nomad community that’s coming up over there. You should check it out, there’s a Discord server you can join if you are looking for a group of nomads that you can plug right into. They have a co-working space, we have a 150 megabits per second down, super-fast internet, you know housing is cheap, there is a cool community. 

[0:14:42.1] DA: Yeah, buy a plan now. Buy a plan. 

[0:14:44.8] SC: I’m convinced. 

[0:14:47.3] MN: You got it, Gio is going to get a suitcase and we got to go, that’s what’s going to happen. 

[0:14:50.5] DA: Do they accept BTC? 

[0:14:56.0] MN: Well yeah, I mean – 

[0:14:56.6] WJ: The other place that I would like to shout out is Nairobi because that’s where I’m working remotely from at the moment and the West Lands neighborhood is actually a really good spot for nomading. There is a co-working space called Nairobi Garage. There is lots of great restaurants, internet is stable. It’s a good spot. I mean, if you’re down for nomading in Africa. 

[0:15:16.0] MN: That’s awesome.

[0:15:17.5] WJ: Not just to Cape Town, which is where everybody goes. 

[0:15:20.2] DA: An adjacent episode to digital nomad, I just want to quickly mention also since we’re almost on the forefront of niche transcend tech worker lifestyle. Also, we did an episode of the four-day work week but I think both of those don’t have the most engagement of people but it’s like a long tale. It’s something that people who are interested in it are curious in it over time and people come back to it because the way that we’re thinking about work is definitely changing. 

[0:15:50.3] MN: Yeah. 

[0:15:50.8] WJ: Yeah, speaking of topics that I’ve been trying to get everybody on board with, check out Terraform the Planet. That episode, episode 197, it’s a great listen and I’m trying to get more people doing infrastructure as code because you know, having all of your infrastructure in version control and easily reproducible, it really does make a big difference, especially when it comes to bus factor. 

[0:16:16.8] DA: Yeah, that is nice to be able to have everything laid out and it’s much better to terraform the planet than to hack the planet, I suppose. 

[0:16:24.8] MN: Hack the planet, hack the planet. 

[0:16:29.7] DA: Yeah, I appreciate having you on the podcast this year to share your perspective and your adventures in like DevOps land like Kubernetes and continues delivery and continuous integration and GitOps. There is a lot of different DevOps topics that we were diving into this year. 

For me, one of my favorite episodes was the Episode 218 about deep practice and becoming a better developer. I really enjoyed this because it kind of put into frame, like the general framework of like how you can train yourself to be better at anything and I actually read a book, which I was very proud of, so I will continue shouting from the mountain tops that I read a book. It feels good and – 

[0:17:21.9] MN: There you go, do it bro. 

[0:17:23.9] DA: Yeah but I definitely think that there is so many people who are trying to change their careers to become software engineers and one of the things that you definitely need to learn how to do in order to be a software engineer is how to learn. If you can abstractly understand how you can best help yourself learn a new skills and get that muscle memory for executing on that skill, the more successful that you’ll be as a developer, be it as a technical skill or a non-technical skill. 

You know, there are a lot of different superpowers that we need to practice. You don’t just getting zap with a radioactive ray. You need to actually flex those muscles. 

[0:18:08.0] MN: There you go and then I guess as we start calling out, I guess lightning round-ish if you will, I’m always going to be an advocate to a series of episodes that we did and SOLID, it was a solid one, no pun intended. I think the idea that we went back to talking really software engineering specific topics and solid being one of them was great for us to be able to dive in and talk about.

[0:18:32.6] DA: Yeah, that was a 2020 episode actually but it just kept going. People keep coming back to it because, I don’t know, it’s a great acronym and people want to know what it actually means.

[0:18:43.5] MN: I mean, that’s one of the things that I would like to continue returning from 2020. Everything else, I don’t know about the rest of 2020 to come back, I’m not too sure but SOLID was definitely one of those things that we want to continue to listen and then lastly, 219, Dungeons and Developers because I don’t know anything about D&D and the fact that we were able to kind of compare D&D and developers, I thought was pretty awesome. I thank everyone, Sophie was on that episode as well. 

[0:19:12.4] DA: Friendly nerd things.

[0:19:12.8] MN: They were guiding me through what it is to be a D&D and developer.

[0:19:17.8] DA: Yeah, I think for me my lightning round one would be like developer friendly reminders as my life flashed before my eyes and I realized all the technical things I needed to do after my phone died. I was like, “Oh yeah, I should have been using a password manager more frequently and backing up my security tokens.” 

[0:19:32.8] SC: Oh, I got to listen to that. Yesterday, yeah, wow. 

[0:19:37.6] DA: Yeah, it will save your life. 

[0:19:39.9] MN: Yeah and if there are any of the episodes that you are interesting that didn’t make it to the editor pick for 2021, I’d love to hear it and feel free to reach out to us via Twitter and we hope to see you in 2022. 


[0:19:54.5] MN: Follow us now on Twitter @radiofreerabbit so we can keep the conversation going. Like what you hear? Give us a five star review and help developers like you find their way into The Rabbit Hole and never miss an episode, subscribe now however you listen to your favorite podcast. On behalf of our producer extraordinaire, William Jeffries and my amazing co-host, Dave Anderson and me, your host, Michael Nunez, thanks for listening to The Rabbit Hole.


Links and Resources:

Episode 207: QWAN: Quality Without a Name

Episode 205: Product versus Developers with Rob O’Brien

Episode 198: The Bus Factor

Episode 196: Can Good Developers Sway Companies From Evil? with Kara Swish

Sway Podcast

Episode 234: Notetaking

Episode 193: Senior Engineering Superpowers

Episode 215: Digital Nomad

Episode 170: 4-day workweek

Episode 197: Terraform the Planet

Episode 218: Deep Practice & Becoming a better developer

Episode 219: Dungeon and Developers

The Rabbit Hole on Twitter


Michael Nunez on LinkedIn

Michael Nunez on Twitter

David Anderson on LinkedIn

David Anderson on Twitter

William Jeffries on LinkedIn

William Jeffries on Twitter