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August 2022 Menlo Bits


The Lines of Code That Changed Everything
...or at least a lot

Part of a PDP-1 system at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, CA
Image by Marc Smith (Creative Commons

In this article by Slate, the editors polled influential technologists to document the most impactful pieces of code of all time. From the trading floor to the living room floor, and from aircraft to spacecraft, the contributors show how small bits of code have been impacting our lives and world for generations. Filled with tales of caution, the authors lay out a simple truth to start the journey:

"One clear trend illustrated here: The most consequential code often creates new behaviors by removing friction. When software makes it easier to do something, we do more of it."

Equal parts worrying and inspiring, read on for a wide ranging selection of stories of peril, prosperity, and the massive impact of the unexpected.

Up for a challenge?: Look at the code snippets first and try to determine the code's purpose before reading the section title!


The Rise and Fall of Getting Things Done
Systems beat willpower!

We recently received this article from a friend of Menlo! We were impressed by the insightful exploration of issues that are very relevant to the way we work. To give just one example of many:

"Up until now, there has been little will to instigate this shift in responsibility for productivity from the person to the organization...[M]ost knowledge-work companies have been more focussed on keeping up with technological breakthroughs that might open up new markets. To get more done, it’s been sufficient to simply exhort employees to work harder.”

In this New Yorker article, professor and writer Cal Newport draws forth a long history of academic and industry perspectives on how knowledge workers can improve their productivity. This one is a hearty read; full of helpful gems, influential works, and rounded off with a pop of optimism!

Click through to enjoy.


Gather with Purpose, How to Host a Jeffersonian Dinner
Anyone up for running this experiment? 

Interested in having friends over for dinner? How about shaking things up a bit and hosting a Jeffersonian Dinner? "What's a Jeffersonian Dinner?", you ask. We didn't know either until we came across this article from Purpose Generation and were intrigued. 

The concept is named after Thomas Jefferson who had a very specific format for hosting a dinner party that involved:

  • A small group of people, who don't know each other closely
  • A topic of interest to the group
  • A format for discussing and debating the topic that gives space for everyone to contribute
"The purpose was simple: to listen, learn, and inspire one another through meaningful dialogue around a particular topic."

Click here to learn how to host your own Jefferson Dinner.

Bonus points! Host your own Jefferson Dinner and tell us about it and we may highlight your "experiment" in a future Menlo Bits!


We Are Expanding the Team!
A warm welcome to Annika and Leigh :)

Due to the growing need for High-Tech Anthropology® work, we're expanding the team by onboarding two newly minted HTAs! We're excited to see the impact they will have for Menlo and our clients. Welcome Annika and Leigh!

Live Your Possible: Ignite Your Happy, Authentic Self and Live a Fulfilling Life Rooted in Joy, Inclusion, Love and Possibilities!

Author: Darrin Tulley

Recommended by: Rich Sheridan, Menlo CEO and Chief Storyteller

From the book foreword, written by Rich: 

"I met Darrin Tulley when he was an executive at MassMutual Corporation. I had just given a talk to 300 leaders at MassMutual on an unusual topic - the business value of joy. Joy had become my life's journey and pursuit. Not just any joy; specifically joy in the context of work. For most, the workplace is the last place we go looking for joy.  Darrin sought me out at the conference's meal break to talk about a dream that he had been considering for awhile and that my talk had reminded him of its importance.  I am privileged to have had many of these kinds of conversations with people. Sadly, the pursuit of such dreams fizzles for most shortly after my talk. Darrin was different. I could tell his pursuit came from a place of deep personal conviction. He wasn't going to let go. 

Darrin later called to tell me how excited he was to write a book to help others foster his dream of re-engaging our very happy selves and unleash the possibilities that live within us...

Live Your Possible isn't a feel-good book, rather a feel-good guide for those who wish to relearn the art of Ignite Happy. It has practical lessons to help you build a small fire inside yourself everyday and ROAR.  It is a book you can come back to again and again to see exactly how to use the two matches you were given today to start your flame of possibilities burning bright each and every morning. You will change. The people around you will see it. They will also change simply by your presence."

Get a copy for yourself here!


Just recently, one of our developer teams started running the experiment of having two pairs of developers work together on the same task at the same time. This is a practice known as mob or "ensemble" programming.

In this case, the team has used mobbing to share specialized knowledge with a wider portion of the team and wrap up the highest priority tasks quicker! However, there is some risk in this practice. It could be easy for someone's contributions to be left out in a crowded conversation, especially if a strong voice or pair of voices were to take control of the work. This would significantly decrease the value of the mob.

To mitigate this risk, the 4 devs (a Menlo pair and a client pair) decided to use a timer that goes off every 15 minutes. When the timer goes off, the keyboard is passed (virtually) to the next person. This rotates responsibility for driving on a regular basis which keeps everyone engaged by forcing constant communication, dialog, explaining, and learning!

From Wade, a Menlo Developer who participated in this experiment: "We find it helped ensure everyone has a chance to participate and encourages collaboration for team members who might not feel confident enough to volunteer to drive on their own."

Whether this experiment becomes a regular practice or not, what is important in experimenting is identifying a problem, developing an experiment to solve it, and most importantly, running the experiment!



Menlo Bits

The Menlo Bits is Menlo's monthly newsletter, filled with all the latest in science and technology trends as well as what's been happening at Menlo.