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Working on Chrome at Google, #indieweb enthusiast, passionate about building great teams, great products, and making the world a better place.

Jonny Mack

Be humble

1 min read

People say education is the most important thing for the future of our society. But I don't think it is. I think it's humility. Because if you're humble, you're able to do two very important things; the first is admitting that you don't know, the second is admitting that you're wrong. Both are prerequisites for improvement of any kind.

I'm surrounded by really smart, highly educated people every day, very few of whom posses the ability to freely admit their own short-comings. This prohibits course-correction and produces perverted feedback loops.

Jonny Mack

The reason waterfall doesn't reflect the best efforts of a team is because it assumes all the learning that can happen has taken place during the research and design phases. But that's not true. There's a lot learned during implementation that can (and should) be incorporated back into the design, but often isn't, because waterfall.

Jonny Mack

Leadership vs. Stewardship

1 min read

Leadership = identifying a goal and inspiring team members to work together toward achieving it. Done well, this process will achieve something bigger and better–together–than what any individual could have accomplished alone. A good leader can do this repeatedly with a hand-picked selection of the very best. A great leader can do this repeatedly with team members of various backgrounds – age, race, gender, creed, sexual orientation, or nationality – and abilities.


Stewardship = ensuring the health and well-being of the people and projects engaged in the achievement of a shared goal. Done well, stewardship removes roadblocks, facilitates progress, and creates long-term sustainability.


Many organizations conflate these two; they ask for leaders when what they really want (and reward) are stewards.

Jonny Mack

A work email about working remotely

2 min read

For me, a big part of being happy and productive on a team comes down to how connected I feel; to project decisions and team members. And I think that sense of connectedness is largely a result of how we communicate.


For teams that are 100% remote, communication is pretty straightforward. Same for teams that are co-located. But for teams that have a mix of both, things get complicated.


I think the reason why is because the communication styles necessary to maintain sustained team homeostasis are very different. For example, remote teams tend to spend a lot of time in VC, chat rooms, and project management trackers where the majority of decisions are well documented and can be referenced later. The overhead is high but it's worth it because everyone experiences the benefits. Everyone stays connected in the same way. Co-located teams tend to make decisions less formally via spontaneous interactions. State isn't distributed as efficiently, but that's okay because overhead is low, and everyone keeps everyone else up-to-date (more or less). Again, everyone stays connected in the same way.


But when some decisions are documented and some aren't, when state gets unevenly distributed between digital tools and chance encounters, the folks who tend to miss out the most are the ones working remotely.


This asymmetry is what makes remote/co-located hybrid teams really tricky. WAYWO, Peer Roulette, G+, Hangouts, etc. kinda sorta work, but to be honest, since moving to Seattle, I haven't really found a good way to stay connected in any meaningful way other than traveling to MTV.


I think this is why many companies eventually trend toward one or the other. Google is a good example, as is Yahoo, and Reddit. Basecamp and GitHub are the only companies I'm aware of that encourage both, but Basecamp is notorious for enforcing remote-style communication even in their physical location and GitHub has only been around for ~7 years. I wonder if they'll have the same policy in another 7?


Sorry for the long email! This is something I'm pretty passionate about and wanted to share my thoughts on.

Jonny Mack

Good email is short, single-subject, actionable. Bad email is long, multi-subject, ambiguous.

Email is good for answering Who What Where When, not so good for discussion of complex ideas. Ergo, when our emails are short and simple, we're on the path. When long and complex, something's wrong.

Responding inline is easy for you, but not the receiver. To achieve your desired outcome, optimize for the receiver.

Important for everyone, *especially* PMs, who often get and send the most email, and rely on others to get what they want.

Jonny Mack


Leading some spicy 5.10 at Exit 38.

Jonny Mack

New device setup should be: @ThePhysicalWeb broadcasts URL > URL surfaced in OS > web-based setup app > Done.
Simple. Interoperable. Ephemeral.

Jonny Mack

Businesses lucky enough to print money (Google, Apple, etc.) have both blessing *and* curse. Blessing: $$$ Curse: organizational blindness to failure.

Jonny Mack

Been sharing w/ PMs & engineering managers – old gold from @paulg on how to understand & optimize work time. Highly recommended.

Jonny Mack

Let the day begin.