(TTFS) Time to First Smile

Page load times are important to customer happiness, and if you haven’t used the Chrome User Experience Report tool yet on your website or web app, I urge you to do so.

Screenshot from the free Chrome UX report tool.

Tracking things like:

  • Time to First Byte
  • First Paint
  • First Contentful Paint
  • First Meaningful Paint
  • Time to Interactive

These are important numbers to measure and improve. However, I think we can add a qualitative measure to the list. Introducing…

Time to First Smile.

When does your customer feel delight? Do they know what to do next? Are they telling all their friends about your product? Do they feel a cha-ching moment soon after signing up?

Time to work on getting that first smile.


A Conversation Shines the Light

When you need to find common ground, a conversation shines the light.

Talking with Group A:

“Oh, they’ll [the “others” in Group B] never go for that.”
“Have you asked them yet?”
“Well, no. We tried to get a meeting and they declined.”
“What about just quickly posting your questions?”
“Oh, OK.”

Later, talking to Group B:

“What do you think about the proposal?”
“Well, we had some alternate ideas but they [the “others” in Group A] would never want that.”
“Oh? What did they say when you brought it up?”
“We haven’t talked to them about it yet.”

Facepalm moment for me as the facilitator. It turned out the two groups hadn’t ever connected on this topic. Once a conversation shined a light on it, we saw the shared goal in plain sight. Assumptions dissolved.

Alignment is knowing versus thinking we know.

Continue reading A Conversation Shines the Light

TOA (Thoughts on Acronyms)

Have you ever seen an acronym in a work chat or read it in an online article — or anywhere — and immediately had to Google it?

“Like, ummmmmmm, WTH does this mean? SMH.”
“Ohhhhhhh. I see. OK. TIL.”

The utility of acronyms is proven when the resulting phrase is easier to parse. The details are abstracted away nicely, hidden from view, and the reader gains quicker understanding. If the details aren’t essential to understanding and you don’t need to know what the concept is behind each word to grasp the bigger picture, such as DNA. — Douglas Hofstadter in Surfaces and Essences

Just like we don’t know all the inner workings of a cell phone, yet can understand how to operate it. We don’t call it a “cellular transmission device” — just “phone.”

Simpler is better, usually. WFM.

If acronyms are popular enough they can become common and useful — often lowercased — words such as radar, scuba, modem, or yuppie. These are considered “dead acronyms” because most people won’t know a) that they are acronyms at all, and b) if they do know they probably don’t remember the exact words represented. Which is fine.

Insight from REAMDE by Neal Stephenson, “Among geeks, the cool-soundingness of an acronym is more important than the existence of what it refers to.” Note, case in point: SCUBAT. Fun to also redefine existing like John did with PHP (People Helping People).

Oh my gosh, get me outta here! Credit: computergear.

My tips and guidelines for acronym usage. YMMV.

    1. Consider your audience. Posting for an entire company? Assume no knowledge of your team’s insider lingo. Consider both your existing coworkers plus future hires that will join later and read back in the archives.
    2. Expand and explain at first use.

      In formal writing for a broad audience, the expansion is typically given at the first occurrence of the acronym within a given text, for the benefit of those readers who do not know what it stands for.

      Define the term the first time it appears in your text using longhand, with the acronym in parentheses. Then use the acronym, the shorthand, in the remaining text of the same post or page. “This week we launched The Awesome Sauce (TAS). Since inception TAS has truly been a team effort.”

      A perfect act to follow is The Economist. The magazine has a particular style that encourages an inline definition for the first appearance of a new word, something possibly misleading — not just acronyms — unknown or proper nouns, too. For example, “Automattic, a web platform company, announced today…”

      If you don’t define it — ideally using expansion at its first appearance — I will have fun with it.

    3. Use HTML title attributes. When publishing hypertext, say on your WordPress website, take advantage of hyperlinks and tooltips to give acronyms meaning and a visual explanation. You can use the abbr tag with a related title attribute. Here’s an example: WP. Here’s a good visual example of the HTML code, from Mozilla:mozilla-abbr-examples
    4. Beware lazy abbrevs such as pw, ty, yw. This may save you time in the moment, yet if you’re following along you’ll already be considering others’ needs above your own. Avoid the confusing usage by either typing the words out, or use a tool like TextExpander to do that for you. You’ll be known for your helpful attitude by using clear, unambiguous communication. If in doubt, spell it out.
    5. If you see something you don’t understand, just ask. Fun tip: you can play with your own version of the acronym’s meaning while you wait for the author to explain. At Automattic, when I see an acronym I don’t understand I’ll ask — but sometimes I can’t resist sharing back my phony interpretations on the thread, too.

Bonus acronymivia, HTH.

A recent fun acronym seen in my hometown, Tucson: BRO (Breault Research Organization, Inc). Heh, say it out loud. LOL.

More acronym geekery on Wikipedia — my favorite in the list there is PAYGO (pay-as-you-go). I learned the word “initialism:”

“Initialisms” are words where you can’t pronounce the resulting “word.” The spelled-out form of an acronym or initialism — what it stands for— is called its expansion.

FYI: this video is a funny take on how badly acronyms could go: “Corporate Acronyms: You may not know it, but some of the world’s most recognizable apps and brands are all acronyms.” YOLO.


A quick list of all the acronyms I used in this article, in case you’re like me and still learning a new one each day. In the order they appear above:

WTH: What the heck/hell (can also have an F at the end for f***)
SMH: Shake my head
OK: Okay
TIL: Today I learned
DNA: Deoxyribonucleic acid
WFM: Works for me
SCUBAT: Scaffolding contigs using BLAT and transcripts
YMMV: Your mileage may vary
HTML: Hypertext markup language
WP: WordPress
pw: Password
ty: Thank you
yw: You’re welcome
HTH: Hope that helps
BRO: Breault Research Organization, Inc
LOL: Laugh out loud
PAYGO: Pay-as-you-go
FYI: For your information
YOLO: You only live once
TTYL: Talk to you later

Slow Slack

Slack is an amazing chat tool for teams, we use it daily at Automattic. Unfortunately it is unusable on slow connections, something I run into sometimes when traveling; recently in Nicaragua, rural Ohio, and Silver City, New Mexico. I wish it worked better in those situations.

To their credit, the loading messages are humorous and keep me from punching the wall because I’m smiling at the clever copywriting and positive attitude.


If you haven’t yet, try out Slack.

My Kind of Todo List

Remember Teux Deux? Me, too. Stumbled upon an old screengrab of my todo list from 2009.


— Rock it
— Kick some butt
— Laugh
— Have fun
— Say thank you

This is my kind of todo list.

Photo Booth Selfies

Fun with Photo Booth on an iPad mini.

Inspired by Ian Stewart.


This piquant thread on Twitter made my week: http://storify.com/Jtsternberg/conversation-with-nacin-simpledream-zamoose-johnpb

I love the global nature of the WordPress, and how the community can come together for something silly and fun on Twitter.


In the Abstract, Yes

A pun-splosion in IRC today—at work—about naming children programming language terms reminded me of one of my all-time favorite puns.

A child psychologist who is all in favor of new, alternative discipline for kids comes home one day to find his two kids putting their hand prints in the freshly laid sidewalk in front of their house.

As he gives them a good wallop his wife gasps, “I thought you were against punishing your kids that way?!” He replies, “In the abstract, yes—but not in the concrete.”

(First seen in the ever-punderful book Treasury of Atrocious Puns by Bennett Cerf.)