Why I don’t talk about where I work, and why it’s important to me

Earlier this year I changed jobs. I decided not to tell most people where my new job was. A lot of people were really curious when I announced I was leaving. I expected this and made it through the transition period. But I’m still fielding questions about it often.

Did you know, people ask you where you work all the time? I probably did this too. And in tech/silicon valley, “I do computer programming at a tech startup” is not enough. People really want to know where.

That’s when I have to explain that I’m not talking about it. I try to move the conversation on quickly, but that doesn’t always work. Often it leads to much increased curiosity. There’s usually a joke about the CIA then and awkwardness. Lately I’ve been talking to people that have heard where I work through the grapevine. This makes me kind of sick and sad, because I’ve requested that people not talk about it. Some people have been really amazing about this, though, and I am so grateful for them.

The purpose of this is to explain to people I know, in one fell swoop, why I don’t talk about it, and help them understand why it’s important to me that they not make it a gossip thing. For one though, the nature of my job is not why I don’t talk about it. If I did tell you where I worked, you’d probably be underwhelmed. It’s not important, except to me.

Here’s why:

Last year, my coworker at the time became mentally ill. It seemed to be a gradual/sudden thing. Some people think it was adult-onset Schizophrenia. He developed grandiose ideas about the universe and AI and other such things. Unfortunately some of these delusions involved me. It didn’t play out well. Eventually he left the company, but persisted in walking around the entrance to the office every so often. Being worried when you come into work every day is a horrible feeling, I discovered, and I left too.

When I left, I realized I had a huge opportunity to turn a new page. My first day coming in to work at my new place was exhilarating. And it was mainly because I knew there was no way he knew where I worked. It was such a huge, gleeful feeling of relief.

By not telling anyone where I work, I’m trying to control that information and keep it from reaching him. I’m not sure that he’s active in my former work circles with his mental state, but it’s something someone could easily forget and mention on Twitter or something relating to my company, and I think he’s still on that. By not telling anyone, I’m increasing my safety, and more than anything giving myself the freedom to go into work without wondering.

I think it’s probably okay now –it’s been a year since he last contacted me, and awhile since I heard he was spotted around the old office. But really, I don’t know. As I learned, I have no real way of predicting this. When someone has no respect for you, anything is possible and you have no control over it.

Sometimes in moments, I’m tempted to talk about what I’m doing now. It would help professionally to be able to talk and network over it, show off publicly what I’ve worked on and how I’ve grown technically. And stop the awkward conversations! But if I did, and he showed up on the street in front of my office, I would feel so stupid for trading off anything for that.

Another thing I learned last year is that there’s only so much companies are willing or able to do to help you. If this became a situation again, I might have to leave my job again. At the end of the day, these things end up as your responsibility. I’m on my own and I have to own my decisions.

If you know me I have a couple things to ask: 1) If you know where I work, no need to talk about it to anyone. 2) Don’t ask where I work if you see me. There are other things to talk about, I’ve discovered.

New Bugzilla Todos Features

A few months ago I created Bugzilla Todos out of a need to see all the Bugzilla-related things I had to do in one place, and also quickly see what other people had to do (for example, when picking someone to review a patch).

It’s a basic UI that shows your review and flag requests, patches to check in, unfulfilled requests you made of other people, and assigned bugs. I just added a few features that I desperately wanted for it:

Live Updates: Bztodos now checks Bugzilla periodically for any new requests, and shows notifications of these new requests:

Favicon counter

Screen Shot 2013-05-02 at 9.18.01 AM

It shows the count of the new requests in the favicon (thanks to the tinycon library), and highlights new items in the list. It checks every 15 mintues. I hope that’s okay with Mozilla’s Bugzilla.

Remember Last Tab: When you visit the page again, the last tab you had selected will be open by default.

Keyboard shortcuts: Visit the ‘Review’ tab by simply typing ‘r’ when the page is focused. The shortcuts are based on the first letter of the tab, and ‘p’ for the ‘Respond’ tab.


The Bugzilla queries used to fetch these queues are always in need of tweaking for unforseen situations. Please file an issue if the wrong items are showing up in a tab, and especially if something is missing. Also file if there are any suggestions at all.




Open Source Rocks – Follow Up

My last blog post was quite a downer, so I want to do a short follow up for posterity.

First of all, there were some nice responses to it from Steve Klabnik and especially Corey Haines, who gave a sincere straight-up apology. Several people have told me they are usually very nice, so keep that in mind.

The emails I got really stuck out to me. Some people had their own stories that were way worse than mine. Sadly, several said that this is why they’d never open sourced anything.

But I also got emails with people telling me how useful they’d found some of my open source projects. That right there makes it all worth it. Make sure you let people know when you appreciate their work, it might help balance out some of the bad.

I want to make it clear that you should definitely still open source your code. I still wouldn’t hesitate to open source something if I thought it could be useful to someone.

Being Ridiculed for My Open Source Project

Yesterday my colleague mentioned that a script I wrote was getting a lot of attention on Twitter. This particular project was something I wrote a couple years ago to help me out with a workflow. I had a lot of fun writing it and have gotten a ton of use out of it, and several people have expressed that they have too. I’d put it up on Github, so that others could potentially use it or use the code.

So I went to see what people were saying about this project. I searched Twitter and several tweets came up. One of them, I guess the original one, was basically like “hey, this is cool”, but then the rest went like this:

1 2 3

At this point, all I know is that by creating this project I’ve done something very wrong. It seemed liked I’d done something fundamentally wrong, so stupid that it flabbergasts someone. So wrong that it doesn’t even need to be explained.  And my code is so bad it makes people’s eyes bleed. So of course I start sobbing.

Then I see these people’s follower count, and I sob harder. I can’t help but think of potential future employers that are no longer potential. My name and avatar are part of its identity, and it’s just one step for a slightly curious person to see the idiot behind this project.

I queried some tweeters for more information on why exactly it was so bothersome. I didn’t get apologies from these tweeters.

The response to this from other people was overwhelmingly reassuring. The tweets were called out by several people, and I got a bunch of reassurance and support. I’m lucky to have friends in this industry that know me in person and through my work, and thus feel more compelled to speak up.

I evangelize open source whenever I meet new coders or go to meetups. I tell them to make something that they would find useful and put it out there. Can you imagine if one of these new open sourcerers took my advice and got this response, without the support I had. Can you imagine?


I got some apologies: http://programmingtour.blogspot.com/2013/01/im-sorry.htmlhttp://blog.steveklabnik.com/posts/2013-01-23-node, and I wrote a follow up post here: https://harthur.wordpress.com/2013/02/01/open-source-rocks-follow-up/

Also, it was hard for me to convey this, but the snarkiness of the tweets really made it so much worse. I wish I could explain why.



Creamy Lemon Ice Cream

Makes 1 1/2 quarts of ice cream.

2oz cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
2 tbsp lemon zest
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cup whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
pinch of salt

Mix the cream cheese and sugar. Add the lemon juice, lemon zest, salt and vanilla and mix well. Wisk in the milk and cream. Pour in your ice cream maker and use according to directions.

Dealing With (Not Dealing With) the Open Source Assholes

Jumping into the open source and js world has been a surprising psychological crash course/nightmare for me. There’s something about open source and open forums that encourages socially-inept jerks to deride people and software. It’s especially prevalent in certain communities. It can make you doubt yourself, or even worse, force you to adopt a behavior you don’t want to.

This can be off-putting to say the least. Your world can turn into a crazy, competitive, self-questioning altworld if you’re not careful and there are some things I’ve learned about turning that around.

Go to the right meetups. Meeting some of the people in your community in person can actually be a relief of sorts. People that sound stern on the internet are usually way nicer than expected in real life. But don’t stick around meetups or conferences that aren’t welcoming or have an “Glitterati” feel, being physically in such a high stress environment does nothing good for you, and it’s unlikely your single presence will change anything.

Follow the right people. Twitter and Github are the best things to happen to open source since IRC. But as soon as someone says a software project is “retarded”, unfollow them. Seriously, you don’t need to hear that crap. Follow people that are saying positive things, giving constructive criticism, encouraging people, giving propers where propers are due.

Don’t let anyone cramp your style. Feedback is important and of course you should listen to it. If someone says something negative about your project in an unreasonable way, don’t take it to heart. There’s something good in every project (it’s open source, it already has one thing going for it), no single project is complete crap, keep the good things and learn from the criticism.

All this boils down to basically “surround yourself with good people”, it’s advice that applies to everything, but it’s good to remember that it’s just as important to apply it to your work and hobbies. Tina Fey (<3) sums it up in Bossypants (<3):

When faced with sexism or ageism or lookism or even really aggressive Buddhism, ask yourself the following question: “Is this person in between me and what I want to do?” If the answer is no, ignore it and move on. Your energy is better used doing your work and outpacing people that way. Then, when you’re in charge, don’t hire the people who were jerky to you.

If the answer is yes, you have a more difficult road ahead of you. I suggest you model your strategy after the old Sesame Street film piece “Over! Under! Through!”

Again don’t waste your energy trying to educate or change opinions. Go “Over! Under! Through!” and opinions will change organically when you’re the boss. Or they won’t. Who cares?

Do your thing and don’t care if they like it.

This brings an important point, sometimes you can’t avoid collaborating on a project with a smartass. Take the high road and don’t ever respond to snarkiness with snarkiness. If you get anything from this blog post it’s…don’t let it change you.

Jetpack: Showing Search Terms in Awesomebar

Note: this is not about searching from the awesomebar.

download addon·code on github

The awesomebar is one of my favorite things about Firefox. Especially compared to alternatives in other browsers – the awesomebar remains the fastest way for me to find where I want to go. Sometimes a site’s url and title aren’t enough to jog my memory however. At some point I wished Firefox would do full-text indexing for me. Then I realized that Google was already doing that, and there might be a way to hijack that power – by remembering what search terms you used to find the site and displaying that in the awesomebar. You can’t really get better than search terms, they put the value a site gives in your own words. Of course, you might find the site valuable for other things after viewing it, then you have no real choice but to manually tag it (or do you?).

I made a quick extension with Jetpack to do just that, implemented in the simplest possible way. It parses the referrer for ‘q=’, and appends that to the page’s user-set title (which is matched on in the awesomebar). It can be very helpful, but it was less helpful than I thought. It would be more helpful if the referrer persisted across link navigation, the referrer didn’t terminate after #, and more sites used ‘q’ to hold the query, but it was an interesting experiment, and I’d love to see more experiments in Firefox inferring tags for webpages.

Jetpack impressions

I enjoyed using the new Jetpack SDK, I’m a big fan. It took more than a couple minutes to get started but the docs were excellent and I love the CommonJS. I had to bust out the Cc but that’s just because the Places API isn’t quite ready yet. I only had to write 42 lines of code. I can confidently say I won’t be making a ‘regular’ addon again.