Web Performance Full Time

I’ve been at truTV, formerly Court TV for 11½ years which by industry standards is pretty long run with any company. Well, I’ve worked with some great people and done quite a few interesting projects in-house and outside, especially in Web Performance space so I consider it a good and productive run.

Keynote SystemsAnyway, doesn’t matter how long something lasts, there will be a moment when it’s time for a change and now is that moment for me. I am leaving truTV/Turner to join Keynote Systems as consultant for their Insights team that helps company’s clients with Web Performance needs.

truTVNeedless to say, I’m proud of the team at truTV Web Services that has a grasp of their tech, can both innovate and know when to stick to proven solutions and more importantly, is a bunch of great and passionate people! I’m positive they will only be pushing the boundaries of what can be done by a small team within a large organization and be able to sustain rapid pace required by media industry!

As you can imagine joining Web Performance-centric team is an important step for me personally and a chance to do what we do at NY WebPerf meetup – speeding up the web, but now on a full time basis. Obviously, I will continue to run New York meetup, help other organizers around the globe and promote Web Performance with talks, blog posts and every other possible way, and now with help of Keynote, I will dedicate more time to this public work.

There is no better time to rid the web of slowness!

Get distracted by ideas!

I don’t know why, but my brain is constantly wandering away when I read an interesting book. Sometimes it makes me re-read paragraphs or even whole chapters over again because I completely miss the point while reading automatically with my eyes, but being somewhere else in my thoughts.

My first reaction was to shake it off and get back to the book paying closer attention to what I was just reading for past few minutes. It happened again and again throughout the years of reading and I was always annoyed at loosing time having to re-read the same text over and over again. But the feeling was so curious and so repeatable that I thought that I should start observing this behavior to try make sense of it.

As it turns out, the distractions were not the problems of the brain having hard time concentrating, but on the contrary, the process of generating new ideas. Triggered by the topic of the book or blog post, my brain was connecting prior thoughts with something new or bringing up memories that were long forgotten and never coming back in that particular context.

Basically, it’s like electric short in the brain that happens between two previously “unrelated” areas and this short builds some new bridge that allows for thoughts to travel faster between the two concepts in the future (disclosure, I’m not a neural surgeon nor I have any idea how brain actually works).

In “The Myths of Innovation”, Scott Berkun’s attributes a lot of inventions to the associative thinking that people employ connecting different things together, observations of nature, memories and so on. The shorts in my brain are much like those associations in the making.

So, getting back to the annoying distraction and the need to re-read what was just read with a blank expression on your face…

After observing it for a while I realized that getting back to reading was the worst mistake I could make – basically I was forcing myself to block the thoughts that were working hard on building that neural bridge effectively killing the associations that were being created. My desire to finish the book and to optimize reading time was prevailing over desire to get some meaning out of it completely defeating the whole purpose of reading itself.

… so I started to think of what to do instead …

There are a couple goals here – first of all is to try preserving the thought that I was previously trying to subdue. After all, I really hope those ideas are useful and not just day dreams.

Pen and paper never worked for me for some reason and I waited all this time for technology to catch up which it did bringing us mobile devices. Emails to self work very well for me and Blackberry started (literally) saving the ideas also helping with putting them into personal search engine (thanks Gmail) and effectively adding them to task list (inbox). Some people just use notes app on their smartphones and others tweet with #notetoself hash tags – whatever works best.

The second goal is to not stifle the brain activity and let it go for as long as it can naturally do so to helping those bridge-building ants in my brain create something stable and reliable and capable of transferring the thoughts between the newly connected concepts in the future.

Now, with better mobile devices with web browsers and apps, there is no need to just record your thoughts, I’m adding tasks to my issue trackers for software projects, writing blog posts, tweeting, updating my presentations and so on the go, right when I had the “blank reading” moment.

Switching from the book to working on the idea is as easy as pulling out the phone or taking iPad from my backpack (or switching the app if it’s an ebook). Luckily bookmarks were invented long time ago and there is not much to learn to be able to re-start the reading.

I urge everyone to not read a book while train ride lasts or until you go to sleep or until you reach the cover. Read it until it sparks the thought, until your brain wanders away coming up with an idea. Use reading material as a trigger for creating associations, try to catch the creative moment – don’t loose it, build on it!

This post came out pretty long, the thought is thinning and it’s time to get back to that book…

ShowSlow 0.10 More metrics and a bit prettier details page

New ShowSlow version 0.10 – all measurements are now surfaced in the breakdown sections on details page.

A few particularly interesting ones, like Page Speed’s Transfer Size and Page Size and dynaTrace’s Total time on network / JavaScript and rendering, for example.

Also some visual prettying up is done with CSS3 gradients for bars (falling back to plain ones for less fortunate browsers) and some better looks for URLs that were just added for monitoring (if you have it enabled on your instance as ShowSlow.com has).

This is a start of the overhaul of details page which is going towards the version 1.0 with the goal of picking your metrics to be displayed on the graph. Stil long way to go though ;)

Follow the upgrade instructions if you already have an instance running.

Or you can download code package and install it.

Semantic FaceWeb: RDfb is strong use of RDFa

Great news for Semantic Web, Facebook announced that they are going to use more structured metadata in shared web pages then just their original meta tags.

There are two parts to it – first they are going to provide storage about all things withing Facebook and on the internet in JSON format so people can write applications that use this data.

For example, public information about me on Facebook can be seen at this URL:
https://graph.facebook.com/sergey.chernyshev

And here how it looks:

{
   "id": "504972292",
   "name": "Sergey Chernyshev",
   "first_name": "Sergey",
   "last_name": "Chernyshev",
   "link": "http://www.facebook.com/sergey.chernyshev"
}

This way all you need to know is ID, which in my case is sergey.chernyshev or 504972292.

Another side of this is that Facebook is going to also store data from pages that were shared using their share button or added to interests or in any other way loaded into facebook’s system. They will be extracting this data using RDFa format and interpret it using a vocabulary that they call Open Graph Protocol (I will be calling it RDfb).

<html xmlns:og="http://opengraphprotocol.org/schema/">
<head>
<title>The Rock (1996)</title>
<meta property="og:title" content="The Rock" />
<meta property="og:type" content="movie" />
<meta property="og:url" content="http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0117500/" />
<meta property="og:image" content="http://ia.media-imdb.com/images/rock.jpg" />
...
</head>
...
</html>

This will allow sites to add a few lines of code to their pages to get them recognized as meaningful data instead of just human-readable documents – this will allow smart agents like search engines, mobile applications, embedded systems and just simple widgets to make sense of this data and help people see it in the context that is most usable for them.

I have a feeling that Facebook being a great driver for many business decisions related to promotion and marketing through social media, this change is going to be a best thing that happened to Semantic Web so far, might be even bigger then Yahoo’s and Google’s efforts in universal search.

P.S. Such a great present for my presentation about RDFa tonight ;)

Listen to the lizard brain and walk on the path of the most embarrassment

I was listening to a long awaited interview with Seth Godin that Bob Walsh and Patrick Foley from Startup Success Podcast just released and Seth said something (11:38 in mp3) that resonated with me immediately:

…I use a resistance as a compass. If I’m uncomfortable about doing something, if I hear the voice of the lizard brain, that’s exactly what I choose to do…

This is exactly the “path of the most embarrassment” that I wrote about some time ago. This is the feeling that I found. The one that is so easy to differentiate from the comfortable fuzzy feeling that boring stuff brings.

It feels so good to have a validation by Seth, I think I should listen to this lizard brain more often not to step away from the path of the most embarrassment. Wait… good feelings should be avoided, don’t they…