Digital Entomologist. Learn, do, teach; iterate.
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Photo by Andy Li on Unsplash

Like most development teams, our team at Koan is always looking for an edge in the quality and velocity of our work.

We made an early bet on an all-JavaScript stack with these goals in mind. By embracing a single, general-purpose language, the thinking went, we’d be able to standardize tooling and logic and create a familiar development experience across our entire platform. Some of this panned out and some of it didn’t. JavaScript’s benefits come with some big downsides, and the challenges of writing and evolving large JavaScript applications haven’t lessened as our team and platform have grown.


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Photo by Sean Benesh on Unsplash

So you didn’t start day zero with your infrastructure as code? No problem. Our team at Koan didn’t either. But keeping infrastructure in version control comes with serious benefits, and if you’re already using AWS, the journey towards managed infrastructure may be easier than you think.

In a previous post we shared how we used Terraform and Ansible to start moving infrastructure into version control. Our initial work was manual, repetitive, and ripe for automation — music to a development team’s ears.

Here’s how it went down.


Infrastructure as code is a good thing. Instead of infrastructure changes only turning…

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Photo by EMAR DI on Unsplash

You can build things out of pebbles. Working with so many unique pieces isn’t easy, but if you slather them with mortar and fit them together just so, it’s possible to build a house that won’t tumble down in the slightest breeze.

Like many startups, that’s where Koan’s infrastructure started: with lovingly hand-rolled EC2 instances sitting behind lovingly hand-rolled ELBs inside a lovingly — yes — hand-rolled VPC. Each came with its own quirks, software updates, and Linux version. Maintenance was a constant test of our technical acumen and patience (not to mention nerves); scalability was out of the question.

Koan company pages are the easiest way to share your mission and get everyone pulling in the same direction.

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“No plan survives contact with the enemy”
— Helmuth von Moltke

It’s no secret that autonomy is a key factor in employee satisfaction, and since you’ve recruited great people and set clear objectives, the responsibility for making tactical decisions is likely already in their hands. Congratulations! You’re already much of the way towards more autonomous, purposeful work.

But what about longer-term, strategic decisions? When the time comes for your team to reassess its position and set new objectives, is there a North Star available to keep them on course?

Your mission and vision, your guide

At most organizations, mission and vision statements provide that guiding light…

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This post is part history lesson, part speculation — why web programming is hard, why it’s hard to fix, and how React might help. It’s heavy on context and light on code, and if you’re looking to better understand its technical underpinnings, Dan Abramov‘s deep dive, “React as a UI Runtime” is well worth your time.

Pete Hunt almost looks sheepish. “We announced this crazy new JavaScript library, and we were lampooned by everybody. Everyone was making fun of us. We had these weird angle-brackets in your JavaScript, and we just didn’t do a great job of messaging it.”

The truth is, it’s complicated.

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Photo by Treddy Chen on Unsplash

At first glance, Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) seem a natural fit for a performance management process. OKRs communicate strategy through clear, measurable goals; performance management makes sure it’s delivered efficiently.

But look closer and this happy union isn’t all that it seems. Where performance management encompasses many different concerns about engagement, development, and retention, OKRs are focused on strategy. Where management leans heavily on contextual nuance and interpersonal dynamics, OKRs boil it down to hard numbers. And where performance management starts with the performance of the individual, OKRs give purpose to teams and entire organizations.

None of this prevents…

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Credit: unsplash

When we launched Koan, we promised managers a new way to foster transparent, constructive conversations with their teams. Fast-forward to 2019: our simple, focused reflections now offer more than 1,000 teams a weekly opportunity to build visibility and open dialog. We’ve heard awesome stories about Koan’s transformative impact on companies both large and small — but we’re only getting started.

Our mission — to help every team realize their purpose — is much more than weekly dialog. Transparency matters, of course, but so too do the vision and focus needed to drive great results.

Today, we’re excited to announce the…

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Last place in the English dictionary is nothing to sneer at, nor are the 25 points up for grabs in Scrabble by laying down the Z, both Ys, and a clutch of lesser tiles as “ZYMURGY”. It has a definition, too: it’s the science of fermentation, and despite its formidable Greek roots it’s a relatively recent invention.

“Zymurgy” came about as these things usually do. The French scientist Louis Pasteur was fermenting sugar into alcohol in his lab when it dawned on him that the process also produced new yeast cells. This realization was novel to the microbiology of the…

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There’s a bit of a love/hate thing between Golang and me. Using Go for greenfield development can feel dull and repetitive. The language is boilerplate-heavy, feature-light, and leaves little room for metaprogramming or syntactic cleverness.

But if Erlang has processes and Rust has a type system, Go’s killer feature is maintainability. On big projects, small projects, or projects actively developed by a small army of contributors, the same restrictions that can make Go feel like a chore make for software that’s unusually easy to maintain.

When you’re on the hook to deliver beyond the next sprint, maintenance matters. So, whether…

Remember Nielsen Media Research? When 84 million people tune in to watch two septuagenarians slinging schoolyard taunts, Nielsen’s how we know they were watching. Those numbers don’t materially affect how most of us live our lives, but to the cable networks and the advertisers buying up their gaps, Nielsen matters. A lot.

Nielsen matters to me, too, because a few weeks back a letter arrived in my mailbox and two crisp dollar bills fell out. “Complete a brief survey,” it invited, “and we’ll send you another, very crisp $5 for your trouble.”

What could I say? A dozen demographic questions…

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