You are more than your job title

A brick wall that read 'We like you too"

In this time and age, it seems like career is all that matters. You have to do this, you have to accomplish that and is your career what defines you. If you ask me, that’s utter bullshit. Your career is just a little part of who you are as a person and of what you bring to this world. Your job is what you do to make money. To survive in a capitalistic world that is harsh and relentless.

Obviously, in an ideal situation, you like your job. I’m lucky to say that I like what I do. It has good and not so good moments (like everything), but overall I’m satisfied. Not so long ago I wasn’t that happy about it. I had that attitude towards my job that I was describing a few lines above. I was obsessed with reaching certain goals, accomplish what I thought it would demonstrate that I was worthy. Because if I didn’t reach my goals as a professional I was a failure.

It has taken me lots of unhappy (and scary) moments and almost two years of fighting anxiety and depression to realize that I’m much more than a what my job title says. I’m a partner, a son, a brother, a friend… I’m a naturally curious person with countless hobbies and a strong creative gene that I’m still trying to develop every day. Fuck, I’m even an occasional blogger 😀

In this two years of struggle I’ve changed the way I look at my job and my career. I’ve learnt to develop myself as a person instead of as a professional and the benefits of it have translated to my workplace.

Your job is just that, and it’s ok to set goals and wanting to progress in your profession, but don’t let it take your happiness away. I can tell you from personal experience, is not worth it.

Photo by Adam Jang on Unsplash

Internet privacy matters but we don’t protect ourselves

Internet privacy

I’ve never been an advocate for internet privacy. I’ve used all types of services without reading any of those privacy policies (who reads that shit? It’s unreadable), I’ve had location services active in my phone for long time, etc. I think at some point I let myself go, I trusted the don’t be evil motto. When they give you great products for free you  don’t question as much what Google (and others) are doing with your data.

But this attitude has negative effects. I (we) have given this companies a message: do whatever the fuck you want, I’m not going to do anything about it.

The Instagram listener and  behavioral retargeting

I think what made me think about it seriously about it, was this Medium article about Instagram making use of the phone’s microphone to listen and process the collected data to show relevant ads. If what is explained on that articles is 100 percent accurate is irrelevant. It’s consistent enough with my personal experience using Instagram/Facebook/Google/whatever.

Reading that article made me think about what I already knew. Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Apple… they all have an extense file on my with interests, internet habits, search, how I use their software, etc. This data has my name all over it. That way they can show me “relevant” ads everywhere, all the time.

I’m not going to go into why this is a bad thing. If you don’t thing it is, good for you. If on the other hand, you don’t like massive corporations having so much information about you, I’ll move to share some tips I believe can be helpful. But first let me be clear about something. This will not save you from this problem, it will only help you you in some fronts.

Start using Firefox Quantum

Mozilla Firefox has been with us since the late 90s. Their last version, Firefox Quantum, is a great browser, fast and efficient. More importantly, Firefox is developed by Mozilla, a non-profit organization that has demonstrated over 2 decades that the care about internet freedom and the users right to  surf the net safe and privately.

In addition to this, they give the user a lot of control and what do they share with mozilla and the default privacy options are already very reasonable. While  preparing to write this post I’ve read their privacy policy.  It is reasonable, clear, easy to read and understand. Because when a company is not trying to use you as their product, they don’t need to hide anything.

Search with DuckDuckGo

But Google is the best! What are you talking about? Yeah, well, I’ve been using DuckDuckGo for a few weeks and there’s  barely any different. Actually I’m gonna say something crazy: DuckDuckGo results are better thatn Google’s.

DuckDuckGo only personalizes your results based in location. That’s not the case with Google, they try to predict the most accurate results having in mind your previous searches (and I think other factors like pages you’ve visited). This could seem like a great idea, and  I think it’s done in good faith, but the result of this system is biased search results. This might seem irrelevant.  It probably is when you’re looking to  buy a new tv, but it is not when you are looking for things like politics, news, etc. What Google will show you will be biased and will reinforce your belives  without letting you see the other point of views. If you can’t see what is bad about that…

I highly recommend you to read this post by DuckDuckGo’s CEO in Quora.

Review your phone settings

I’ve spent some time lately going through app permissions on my phone. Things like location, mic, etc. are rarely going to be used by apps to offer you their service, but they still ask you for it. I was amazed by how many apps on my phone had location perms requirement, when at the end only 5 or 6 do we really needed them.

Taking five minutes to review these permissions can help you avoid sharing undesired data. Same applies to your desktop OS of choice. Spend some time  looking at what you are sharing with the OS provider.

Other steps you can take

  • Consider using Linux: Yes, I’m serious. Linux can be rough, but there are distributions that are very user friendly (Ubuntu, ElementaryOS, etc). Unless you need a specific software not available for Linux (photoshop, 3d studio…) there is no reason to stick to Windows/Mac OS.
  • Use Proton mail: Proton Mail is a secure and encrypted mail service. It’s free and has apps for the main OS  in the market. I’m seriously considering this move, but is no doubt one of the most painful you can do. I’m sure there are other options out there that offer a similar. approach
  • Be careful with what you share in  social media: if Facebook or other SM can identify your face in photos, bad.

There aremore things that can be done, but I’m not an expert on the mater and I don’t  want to talk without knowing.

Protoct yourself

We are not products, but massive companies with huge ecosystems and advertising interests are using us as such. We must be aware that even if their intentions are not bad, their actions are guided by the rules of capitalism. That is not bad per se, but it can become an issue with actors of this size.

I, Designer

Web design

My first job was as a web designer / front-end developer. It was a different time, and I was fresh out of university where, apart from a bunch of other things, I studied some design. That first job was quite easy, I had clear guidelines that I couldn’t bypass and web design wasn’t as complex as it is today. After that first job, others came, but never as a designer. I fashioned myself more as a coder (I still do) and, being completely honest, I’m not good at designing. I can appreciate good design, I understand the theory behind it and I have the knowledge. But anyone with a bit of experience in life knows that from theory to practice there’s a long way.

I’m writing about this because I’ve spend the last (almost) five years working on a designer-less environment. It never bothered me. The CEO had a clear vision of the company’s brand and image, so between my limited designing skills and his input we’ve managed to create a product that is quite decent, if not good. Or that is what I used to think. Recently I’ve been reviewing our website in detail and I’m not happy with what I’ve seen. But not everything is negative. Yes, we have a lot of inconsistencies and some poorly designed elements, but I believe we have the foundations of a good design.

So I got back to work (is not like we can hire a designer at the moment) and I’ve started a digital Design Guideline. So far I’m just trying to put things together. We have a lot of good stuff on our website but is not standard. There are variations of the same elements here and there, and that is the first thing that needs to be addressed. I’m using the Material Design guidelines as a reference. We have relayed on Google’s guidelines in the past and I believe is gonna help me find the consistency that we need.

In the near future I’d like to post the new guide and some examples of how we have improved things. I’m never gonna be an excellent designer, but I trust myself to do this job.

Wins & Fails of Q4 2017

My first visit to India with Aneesha

At the beginning of 2017 I decided to set some goals for myself. Instead of setting yearly goals I did it for every quarter of the year. Yearly goals are easy to forget as you don’t review them often. So for the past year I’ve been doing quarterly reviews, and this is the last one. You can check the previous ones here(1st), here(2nd) and here(3rd).

My idea was to write this a few weeks ago but Christmas got in the middle. I’m (finally) starting to get out of the food coma that comes with the combination Christmas + going back home, so let’s have a look to the last quarter of 2017:

  • Keep learning web development stuff: I’m actually quite happy with this. I’ve been learning a lot of Javascript lately. More importantly, I’m happier with the way I write JS code now. There’s still a lot to learn, but I’m on the right path. Win
  • Improve my exercise routine: It’ll be great to be able to do exercise for a few weeks without getting injured or sick, but I haven’t been very lucky on that front so far. If we forget about that, I think I’ve done some improvements. Now I’m playing football once a week with a group of guys in Al Quoz and I’m still doing Yoga. I’ve gone with Aneesha to a couple of extra classes, including a Muay Thai class that was both difficult and fascinating. Win but I can do better
  • Keep improving on time management: I fricking suck at this. It has been probably my worst quarter of the year on this matter. Fail
  • Do some creative work: I have actually done some. Didn’t know what I was gonna do when I put this on my list and it turned out that I wrote a short story. Well, part of it. Anyway, it was cool to do that. I might or might not publish it on the blog in the future, if I finish it. But the point was to do something different, even if it was only for a few hours and I did it. Win

As you can see, I’m not setting goals for Q1 2018. I haven’t decided if I’m gonna do it this year. I could do it, but I’m going to need some time to think about what I want for this 2018. Anyway, I hope all of you have accomplished whatever you wanted this past year And I hope you have a great 2018 too 🙂

P.S. The picture was taken on my first trip to India!

Fe-men-ism: boys do cry

ian-espinosa-223462

Twitter is a great place to be. You can find all kind interesting stuff on the social network. Yesterday I came across a series of tweets by a guy called Matt Haig that I believe it’s an important thing to discuss:

I don’t know the accuracy of the data he talks about in the first tweet, and to be honest, I don’t care. I don’t think that’s the point. We tend to keep an idea of men and women that are not a representation of reality. You can’t group people by their sex and just tag them as strong or weak. That’s not how it works.

I’m pretty sure that being a man, and from Spain, some people might tend to think I’m some kind of Spanish macho that runs in front of bulls or some nonsense like that. But it takes 5 minutes of talking to me to see I’m not like that. In fact I’m a sensitive and emotional person, I’m scared of a bunch of things and I’ve experience some of the issues described above, like anxiety and depression.

As this Matt guy says, it’s okay to cry or being scared being a man. As it is ok to be the bravest or the strongest of the group being a woman. Don’t let anyone tell you how you should be.

P.s. Obviously that title is too much word play for me, thank you Aneesha for helping me all the time with my blog 🙂

Photo by Ian Espinosa on Unsplash

The one-man development team

It’s a bit weird when you are your company’s whole development team. We’re used to work in groups and collaborate with others. It can be pretty stressful, specially if what you develop is the software that the whole company uses to do their work.

That’s been my case for the last 4 and a half years. Most of the time it’s been fine, but it has had its little drama here and there. I still remember when I had to look for a laptop in the middle of the night while on holiday in Thailand to solve an issue that was too urgent to ignore.

With all these years of experience, I believe that there are a few things that you can do to deal with it without going crazy in the process:

  1. Understand that you are the only one doing this. We all want to take our time to do our job, we don’t like to be interrupted, and we don’t like to change tasks continuously. But in this kind of job, that’s a luxury that you can’t afford all the time. There will be times when you need to solve an issue, bug or maybe change your priorities. That’s how it is, but you should also…
  2. Mark your territory. This is very important. Software development is your thing, you are who knows about it. You have to be able to tell people that they’re wrong. It doesn’t matter if the one who is wrong is your boss. You’re the expert and you have the last word.
  3. Learn to say no. This apply to life in general, but it is extremely important on this case. I’ve learnt it the hard way. It took me a few years to realize that I’m not Superman (yeah, I’m dumb). Sometimes what you’re asked is just not feasible, and you shouldn’t try to demonstrate anything. This is about getting things done, and done properly. You don’t have to demonstrate anything.
  4. Be aware of your limitations. You don’t know everything. And you’re gonna make mistakes. Probably lots of them. There will be things that you do really well, and other maybe not so much. That happens when you’re asked to do many different things. But don’t get angry, just learn from you’re mistakes and keep going.

I think when you’re in a situation like this, the most important things are not about coding, are about the way you work. This is the best advice I can give. Ah yes, I almost forgot, don’t reinvent the wheel.

P.s main pic is by Simon Abrams

Wins & Fails of Q3 2017, Q4 goals

Francisco & Aneesha trip to Spain

I feel like this 2017 has gone really fast. I can’t believe we’re already at the last quarter of the year. Q3 has been a bit strange, as I had a long holiday (19 days), something I’m not used to. It was a wonderful trip and I wish I could do that more often.

Anyway, regarding my goals for Q3…well, you can see the title. I was aware that this quarter wouldn’t be easy for various reasons, and when I wrote my goals I tried to be less ambitious. It didn’t work. Let’s have a look at the list:

  • Manage my time better: this is probably the only thing I have improved over the last 3 months. I’m more aware of when I’m losing my time procrastinating or surfing the web for no reason. Now I force myself to stop and do something more useful or something that I truly enjoy. It’s an improvement but there’s a lot of margin to get better at this. I can”t say it’s a win, so I’m gonna give it a Meh.
  • Continue working on my Unity project: there are a few reason I haven’t worked on this. I’ve gone through a deep introspective analysis of my life and bla bla bla… I’m gonna stop game development. It’s not like I’m gonna forget about it but I need to put it on hold. I might write about the reasons soon. Anyway, this is a FAIL.
  • Keep my exercise routing going: I didn’t add anything to my routine as I wanted. I’m happy that I keep going for yoga with Aneesha, but it is not enough. On top of that I’ve put some weight back. You lazy bastard. FAIL.
  • Keep learning web development stuff: I did learn some things, but because IS MY FRICKING JOB. I haven’t been proactive, and haven’t done much outside of work. I’m changing that routine now, but I started too late. FAIL.

Ok, so now let’s try to do a list for the 4th quarter. I’m gonna try to be a bit more serious about it and avoid disaster:

  • Keep learning web development stuff: I’m working on it right now. I’m starting with Javascript and taking it seriously. I’m doing Pluralsight courses on the topic, and I plan to dive deep on it. If you have any recommendations of websites or other resources, I’ll be happy to hear about it.
  • Improve my exercise routine: stop being so lazy and do something more than just yoga. This is gonna be difficult, my sofa is giving me eyes.
  • Keep improving on time management: first step is taken. Next goal is to just stop checking social media and my favorite websites so much.
  • Do some creative work: it doesn’t matter what it is. It doesn’t have to be big or complex. But if I’m not gonna be doing the gamedev thing, I want to do something else.

That’s it for me. I hope this last quarter of the year is better than the last one. I’d like to end the year full of energy, as 2018 looks like is gonna be a very important year for me. Salud

The picture is from the trip to Spain that Aneesha and me did on August.

Referendum of independence in Catalonia

I’m incredible tired of this topic. Really. I know is stupid to write about it but I feel the need. Some people has been asking me lately, outsiders to my country, who didn’t have enough information to understand what the hell is going on. It’s difficult to be unbiased when talking about anything, even worse at something like this. So I’m gonna give my opinion first, and if you don’t like it… bye and thanks for coming.

I’m not in favor of the independence of Catalonia. I don’t have anything in special against it (at the end I’m Catalan), I just don’t think that’s the way to go. I believe we should get together as the human race, not split our current countries into smaller ones. That being said, I’m in favor of doing the referendum. People is asking for it. A huge amount of people. And all parts, those in favor and those against it, should be able to go to vote and decide.

Now that we got my opinion out of the way let’s talk about how we got here. But before I start, I want to clarify that I’m not an expert on the topic or the history of our region.

(Very brief) History of Catalonia

Spain hasn’t always been united. Through history, different kingdoms have been part of the Iberian peninsula. After being part of different kingdoms and empires, the region became independent in the 10th century as the County of Barcelona. The County expanded on the next few years, remaining independent until the union with the Crown of Aragon in the 12th century. After the union, Catalonia kept a high degree of autonomy, having their own laws and developing its own culture inside the bigger crown.

Jumping forward to the 19th century, we find the birth of the catalan political nationalism. One of the main focus of this movement was to promote the use of the Catalan language and the empowerment of the catalan culture.

Want to read more about Catalan history? Click here

The 20th Century

This movement found big troubles during the 20th century. Spain went through two different dictatorships during this period. The second one, after the Spanish civil war, was a long dictatorship that lasted for forty years. The level of repression in the whole country was huge. In Catalonia, the government of Franco took away the region´s autonomy and prohibited the use of catalan. They went after the language and the culture, and on those years, it was a risk to even speak the language. I can´t even come close to imagine how horrible it has to be to have your own language forbidden.

After the death of Franco at the end of the 70’s, a democratic system was set up in Spain. Catalonia went back to have a certain degree of autonomy and self government. The autonomy of the region became bigger with the pass of the last few decades of the 20th century, seeing the creation of the catalan police (Mossos d’Escuadra), the High Court of Justice of Catalonia, etc.

Want to read more about what happened during the 20th century? Click here

Current conflict

So how do we get from a situation that was looking good to what we have now? There are lots of reasons for it, but self-government and money are the main things.

Probably, all started with the fight for “L’estatut”. The Statute of Autonomy of Catalonia was being changed on mid-2010’s. The president of Spain at the moment said that whatever was approved in the Catalan parliament would be accepted by the central government. That never happened and it led to an early regional election. That was what started the flame. After that a new Statue was created and voted in referendum by the people of Catalonia, but it had lots of changes, with less autonomy for the Catalan government to operate.

Another important issue is money. The new Statute was supposed to let the Catalan government manage the money paid by their tax payers. Again, that never happened, and the money is managed by the central government. This is seen as a great issue in Catalonia. As one of the most important and economically powerful regions in the country, Catalonia generates a lot of money, and people thinks that we don’t get enough return.

Diada at Barcelona 2012

Diada at Barcelona 2012. For this year’s National Day see this

The fact that the government didn’t approve the Statute of Autonomy that the Catalan people wanted, plus the crisis and other social factors, led the people of Catalonia to take the streets on national day and ask for a referendum of independence. The Catalan government asks to do a referendum, as people is asking for it and the same government is formed mainly for pro-independence people. Spain refuses to do it, simply saying that the Spanish constitution doesn’t allow for something like that. The two governments have been fighting since then, and the scene on Catalan National Day repeats every year, adding new people to the protest.

For the last election in Catalonia, all but one pro-independence party went together to the election. They won, and they promised a referendum, no matter what. Therefore, today 1st of October of 2017,  that is actually happening. The referendum is illegal by Spanish law, but Catalan authorities are determined to do it.

If you want to know more about what’s going, just open your preferred newspaper and see for yourself. I’m sure they’ll explain it better than me.

As for me, I just hope we can solve this once and for all soon, so we can focus and what makes people lives better.

Main pic by Kayla Velasquez

The humility of the Catholic Church

On our trip through Spain we’ve seen a lot of liturgical art. Spain is a country deeply connected to the Catholic Church. For centuries, their influence on the people, the kings and the governments was huge. That makes for an extensive collection of architectural work, sculptures and paintings, that is either in the hands of the church or has religious motives.

Throughout my life, I’ve travelled all around the country with my family and seen countless examples of this type of art. But never before I felt so profoundly offended by it. It is not only the fact that for centuries, we’ve wasted the time of our artists with religious work. But the fact that all this art, specially the one seen in churches in cathedrals, is in direct conflict with what the church preaches.

The intricate work seen on these buildings is full of gold, marbles and other expensive materials. The grandiosity of these very same buildings. The extremely complex altarpieces. All of them are nothing else than displays of greed and arrogance.

This is an institution that says that killing is a mortal sin. But at the same time, in the 12th century, they created a group inside their organization to hunt, judge anyone they considered heretic. That lead to a countless amount of killings. Probably most of these people were innocent.

In recent times, the church has been involved in a  number of scandals. The most notorious being the alarming amount of cases of pedophilia inside the church. Instead of denouncing, the church decided to hide these cases, becoming a partner in crime. That’s just horrifying.

This type of attitude seems to be the normal for an archaic institution that has done a lot of harm to mankind. And we’re still waiting for an apology that we can truly believe. As I found out while writing this post, the pope John Paul II apologized for a bunch of things the church has done in the past. And to lot of people too. But how can we take his word as the word of the whole institution? They keep lying and hiding the atrocities perpetrated by their own people.

Wins & Fails of Q2 2017, Q3 goals

Here I go again. I made this list last April, and I’m going to go through it to see how I’ve done. This helps me see what I can and can’t do, and also put a little pressure on myself to keep going and not let myself go. So, let’s get to it:

  • Manage my time better: I suck at time management. I think I’ve even gotten worse through the last three months. Not happy at all with this. Big Fail
  • Develop at least one game prototype: have I ever told you that I’m not very smart? Let’s see, I started a new and exciting project. A little puzzle-adventure game that I think looks pretty good so far. But I committed a few mistakes that had led me to not finish it. The first mistake was to do it in Unity. Unity is a wonderful tool but it’s not easy. There’s lots of technical stuff to deal with and, to be honest, I don’t have the time nor the knowledge and patience to deal with it. On top of that, on mid May there was this game jam going on, and I decided to participate. So, to make it clear, while I was struggling with one project I started another one. After that Ramadan came and my brain was already fried so I haven’t done anything in the last month. Silly fail
  • Do a web project with a JS library / PHP framework I’m new to: I haven’t created a full project, but I have experimented with a couple of things. I started the EmberJS tutorial, what made me question the way we do things on this industry. Also made some silly “instastories” mini webapp. That made me learn to use the javascript camera API. I’m gonna be good and give myself a little Win
  • Getting my #*!$ driving license: finally! And I got a car! WIN
    Me and my car
  • Again with the exercise routine: I haven’t been back to the gym on a daily routine, but  I have started a new one with yoga. I go once or twice a week with Aneesha. It’s pretty good and it surely makes my body work way more than running on the treadmill or doing some cycling. I’m half happy with it, but I think i could complement it with some extra gym time. Win (for now)

Now that I’ve gone through my objectives for Q2, I’m going to set some for Q3. To be honest, I don’t want to be ambitious at all this time. I feel like I’m aiming for too much, specially when it comes to develop stuff. I’ve been struggling with doing coding related stuff, as my mind is a bit tired by the time I can really get to work on my side projects. Also I have a really nice, long holiday planned on August so I won’t be able to do anything for 3 weeks. With that said, let’s do the list:

  • Manage my time better: as I said last April, this is more of a general purpose thing. I want to improve. but so far is not going well. Let’s see
  • Continue working on my Unity project: I wish I can say I hope to finish it, but I think is going to be impossible. At least I would like to make good progress and have something that people can try.
  • Keep my exercise routing going: I’m happy with where I am right now. If I can add to it one or two days of some gym stuff that would be awesome.
  • Keep learning web development stuff: a good thing would be to dive deep in ES6, the last javascript specification.

That’s all for today. O’ll come back to this post at the beginning of October. BTW, the main picture is from our holiday in Budapest, wonderful city