A Crash Course in Remote Management

Curious about managing teams while working remotely? Watch this free webinar for best practices.

A Crash Course in Remote Management — The WordPress.com Blog

Simplenote is Back!

Still the best on-the-go notes app, clean and simple. Syncs instantly across devices, light/dark themes, always fast.


After a short hiatus, Simplenote is actively being developed again! We’ve been busy cleaning up the user interface, bringing old code up to date behind the scenes, and fixing some long-standing bugs. Check out the recent release notes below.


  • Added search sorting by date created, date modified, and alphabetically with search history and suggestions.
  • Added a resizable note widget to view a note and open it in the app from the home screen.
  • Added an option to the Theme setting to follow the system day/night mode.
  • Updated dark theme with darker colors for less eye fatigue and better battery life.
  • Fixed multiple bugs with cursors for notes with checklists, syncing for deleting tags and emptying trash, and networking causing interface slowness.

Full Release Notes for Android

Electron (Linux/Windows/Web)

  • Added a sync indicator to show changes that haven’t yet been sent out to synchronize with the server and other devices.

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Aaron Douglas: Being Mindful During Video Calls

Tips from my coworker and prodigious mobile app maker Aaron Douglas on being mindful during video calls. Great tips, not just for remote workers, either. “I’ve come up with a bunch of little tweaks to help with attentiveness and mindfulness during the call. It is important to show you’re listening.”

Kerry Liu on Team Leadership: Three Important Things

Insight on team leadership and management from my colleague and technical team lead extraordinaire Kerry Liu.

Remember these three things: don’t fall into the safety of your old job, listen, and provide useful feedback.

These are the three most important insights I gained from working as an Engineering Team Lead at Automattic. 

Read the full article: Three Important Things.

2018 Design in Tech Report

The 2018 Design in Tech Report from John Maeda is alive and kicking (I’m late to sharing this as it debuted at SxSW in March.) This year’s deck places a strong focus on inclusive design and artificial intelligence.

2018 design in tech report by John Maeda

Computers aren’t good at inclusion. They’re good at exclusion, because they’re only based on past data. The business opportunity for the future-thinking designer is in inclusion. — Fast Company

View the key highlights summarized on LinkedIn and visit the website for more: designintech.report.

Perception Versus Reality

Question: “How are things going, both in perception and reality?”

This topic comes up a lot for me lately. As I dig into a reply I find myself grappling with a significant gap. I know there’s bound to be a distance between perception and reality, yet often I don’t know how something is perceived because I’m not listening well. Or, I don’t know the truth in order for my answer should point to something real.

Answer: I have work to do on both ends in order to answer first for myself, then provide the feedback to the original asker.

The beauty of this prompt is that it rewards more questions.

Agile Thinkers Know When a Best Practice Isn’t Best

I have a hiring heuristic called ABCDEF, which stands for: agility, brains, communication, drive, empathy and fit. For gatekeepers, I’ve found agility is the most important attribute. To test it, I ask them: ‘Tell me a best practice from your way of working.’ Then I ask: ‘Tell me a situation where that best practice would be inappropriate.’ Only agile thinkers can demonstrate that a best practice isn’t always best,” says Ries. “For an attorney, that might be probing for a situation where you shouldn’t run everything by a lawyer. Hopefully they don’t say ‘criminal conspiracy,’ but you want someone to say something like: ‘You know what? If you’re a two person team, and you’re just doing an MVP, and six people are involved, you don’t need a lawyer.’ It requires some common sense and mental flexibility.

Via First Round Review: Lean Startup’s Eric Ries on How to Make ‘Gatekeepers’ a Source of Power and Speed.


You can build something that the cool kids love. You can build something that the bystanders love. Or you can build a cult favorite. Best to do it on purpose.

Via Seth Godin’s new podcast, Akimbo.

Inclusive Design, Day 7/15: Roku and the 10-Foot Rule

This is day 7 of 15 in a short series on inclusive design. If you missed earlier posts, see day 1 here or view the full list.

“Solve for one, extend to many” is a key principle of inclusive design which I learned from Kat Holmes and her work with Microsoft.

Via fellow WordPresser Leo Postovoit, I learned more about how Roku followed this principle to achieve commercial success. “From a small hardware start-up to a publicly listed company with an estimated 2017 revenue of $500 million and a $5 billion market cap,” according to Variety.

A typical Roku home screen. One click Netflix is as simple as it gets.

Roku is successful because of how user-friendly everything is. Along with Apple TV, Chromecast, Android TV, and others — the experience is a big improvement over traditional TVs.

CEO Anthony Wood explains in Variety:

Roku’s original user interface was anything but flashy. Wood instead aimed for simplicity, banning all but the most essential buttons from Roku’s remote control, and calling apps “channels” to help TV viewers in their transition to the new medium. “Companies commonly overdesign something and make it kind of pretty, but not easy,” he says. “Customers, what they really want is easy.”

Here’s what people love about Roku:

— The minimal interface takes full advantage of “10-Foot UI” principle by using simple, intuitive navigation based on a grid. Large and readable from ten feet because you have no mouse/keyboard, viewing from the couch. (The navigations options are limited to left, right, up, down — click to select). Requires no fancy 100-button or huge user manual. Setup is a breeze.

— A trimmed down TV remote with programmable buttons; plus dedicated buttons for popular streaming services like Netflix. No menus to scroll through, go straight to viewing.

— Voice commands to search via the remote, and the search matches available content quickly from your input. Leo says: “My favorite feature is the universal search, where it actually queries every channel for listings, fuzzy searches too. You can find every “Batman” movie, including the Dark Knight!”

— Packaged as low-cost hardware — basic streaming kit sell for $29 — Roku positions itself as an attractive alternative to regular TVs that require a cable or satellite subscription. Streaming requires WiFi, and increasing broadband speeds boost the value of high-quality, always available content.

— One of my favorite features is the earphone jack in the remote control — great for private listening and for those who need a little extra hearing assistance.

[More about the 10-foot UI, if you’re curious like me: Wikipedia article and a user design guide.]

Though I couldn’t find evidence for it, the person Roku seems to have in mind in solving the typical TV problems is a cost-conscious, non-technical person over a certain age. Your grandparent might prefer a simple gadget that does one thing well, for example.

Fewer cords to plug in. No need to tinker or walk through endless steps of complicated menus to set up the TV. They certainly don’t love or wish to understand how to operate 100-button remote controls. [That’s why they call you over! “Fix my TV again, please.”]

Roku — a player for every kind of streamer; and more than a smart TV.

Featured-packed. Entertainment filled.

The beauty of “solve for one, extend to many” is that the same elegant UI and intuitive remote works well for seniors and the elderly — but also works great for everyone else.

As Leo told me, “It benefits all people.”

Erica Manfred explains her love for Roku as a hard-of-hearing senior citizen: Aging With Geekitude: Why Roku is My New Crush:

Roku has terrific little feature, a headset jack on the remote so you can listen to your favorite shows and movies without bothering anyone. For a hearing aid wearer like me this is a godsend. The Roku also supports closed captioning, another huge benefit for the hearing impaired and anyone who can’t understand current slang.

(Leo notes 30-40 percent of Roku content still isn’t captioned.)

Roku proves to me that simple and inclusive hardware+software is good design and good business.

For day 8 of 15 of inclusive design, I’ll share a business success story — how to expand your market by solving for one, extending to many. Because inclusive design is great for business.

About this Inclusive Design series Coming up next week I’ll give a talk on inclusive design at WordCamp Phoenix 2018. Leading up to the conference I’m publishing notes on voices, stories, products, and other resources: everything I’m learning about this emerging practice. This is day 7 of 15. Read more about the series.

Top 5 Recent Sensible Leader Posts, and What’s Up Next

Here are the top 5 posts on this site — as measured by your visits and likes — published in December 2017 and January 2018.

What else interests you? I’d love to hear your thoughts for what I should write about next. Do have any burning questions? Want to hear more about a given topic? Let me know in the comments here, or privately via my contact page.

What’s up next? In February: 15 days of Inclusive Design

Automattic is passionate about inclusive design: design.blog/inclusive

Next on Sensible Leader I will share a short series — “15 Days of Inclusive Design” — the stories, principles, products, and people that I’ve found most compelling and inspirational in my journey of learning more about inclusion in technology. Fits with our clear and public company goal for Automattic to share everything we’re learning.

This short series leads up to my talk on Inclusive Design at WordCamp Phoenix 2018 in two weeks.

Stay tuned!