GORUCK Bullet 15L mini review

Or, another title could be, my quest for my perfect backpack. For quite a few years I’ve tried backpacks of all types. It’s a funny hobby for me to research different backpacks and see what makes the most sense for me.

I wrote previously about a trip I took with the Bullet 10L (shown at top right), and how well that worked. The downside of that, is on that trip (and several others) I often ended up with the backpack and a tote bag to carry the extra stuff I needed.

When I’ve taken the GR1 (shown at top left), it fits more stuff, but generally just feels more hefty and oversized for day trips and such.

When GORUCK announced a 15L last Fall, I was quite excited! It wasn’t till March that they finally came out in the black color, and that’s when I knew I’d need to give it a shot.

I recently upgraded to a 15″ MacBook Pro, and it doesn’t fit in the 10L anymore. I was quite pleased to find that it DOES fit in the 15L, and even slides into the inner pouch. That’s a big win.

So, where do I fall now on backpack choices?

Well, the 10L technically does fit what I need for short trips, but it’s a tight squeeze. I recently read that having an extra 20-25% spare space in your bag at the start of a trip is a safe bet. You’ll probably pick something up on your way, and you don’t want things to be too cramped.

So, if you want to be a one bag person, and you find something like the 21L GR1 too big (or heavy), then I’d recommend giving the 15L a try. It’s the same height as the 10L bullet, and the GR1, but its width is right in the middle.

In addition, it has a better handle on top than the older 10L (I think they’ve now fixed that in new versions).

I still love the 10L, but will be excited to see how the slightly bigger version does on my next trip.

What does “Not” crazy at work look like?

I’m just a few weeks into a new job, and I have a few observations I want to share. I’ve been inspired by a new book, It Doesn’t Have to be Crazy at Work. This book, combined with Deep Work, has encouraged me to explore ways to focus and get things done, without tons of unnecessary distractions. At Automattic I’ve noticed a few things that are positive indicators for my ability to focus on the things that really matter.

  • Async over live – I’m seeing a tendency expecting that responses and decisions will get made asynchronously. That gives everyone, regardless of timezone, time to spend a few hours (and maybe days) looking things over and responding when they have time to focus.
  • Longer time horizons for work – When you can measure your project goals over quarters and years, as opposed to days and weeks, you open up the opportunity for your team to think about the greater needs of your customers. You need balance of course, you usually can’t take 4 years to focus on shipping a product. When teams and individuals make decisions based on longer time ranges, they can often be more calm and thoughtful.

Those two factors help encourage time to think and focus. I love that, and I’m looking forward to seeing what the next few months bring as I get to dig into some projects here.

Moving to Automattic

Tomorrow I’ll be starting a new job at Automattic as a Product Designer. I’m both excited and reflective as I think about what’s ahead in 2019 and beyond.

For the past 3 1/2 years I’ve worked full-time at XWP. I started as a Team Lead, then brought the role of Product Owner (while learning it along the way) to the company in 2016. For the past two years I’ve led the company in bringing user experience design and product design to the projects we took on.

I’ve been able to work with some amazing teams in the enterprise WordPress space as a part of XWP. This has included working with Google on the AMP plugin for WordPress, as well as AMP Stories, working with Beachbody on Demand to help build a new CMS experience for their editorial team, and some amazing engagements with clients such as PMC, News Corp Australia, and more. I’m thankful for the whole team at XWP and the great times!

At the same time I’ve also been able to contribute to the WordPress project (thanks in part to XWP supporting my time), co-leading the 4.9.8 point release of WordPress, speaking at a number of WordCamps, supporting where I could on Gutenberg and other projects, and becoming a Team Rep for the design team.

During this time I’ve been at a completely distributed company. I live in Northern Idaho. My wife and I have two little children, and we’ve been able to live our lives in a way that maximizes time spent with friends and family. Since my daughter was born (she’s almost two years old) I’ve been able to spend so much time with her and watch her grow. That’s a gift and one I’m so thankful to have a job that’s allowed me to do.

Now, I’ve decided to take the next step and move more into Product Design in a way where I can focus on learning and working on projects at scale. The folks at Automattic have been amazing to work with so far (everyone who joins the team has to take a trial project), and I’ll have opportunity to learn alongside an amazing team of designers and developers.

Here’s to the future!

Why design matters in your team

Over the past few years I’ve been privileged to work with some amazing designers and engineers! When you can bring design and engineering together in a true partnership, great things can happen. If either of them are treated as second class citizens, you’ll fall into deep ditches that can sink teams and companies.

“Without a person at or near the helm who thoroughly understands the principles and elements of design, a company eventually runs out of reasons for design decisions. Without conviction doubt creeps in, instincts fail. When a company is filled with engineers it turns to engineering to solve problems, reduce each decision to a simple logic problem, remove all subjectivity and just look at the data. Data in your favor? Ok, launch it. Data shows negative effects? Back to the drawing board. And that data eventually becomes a crutch for every decision.” –¬†Creative¬†Selection

iPad Pro in 2019

Since January 2017 I’ve been an iPad Pro user. For a short period I even made it my primary computer.

It’s become one of the most important tools I have as a Product Designer. Each week I use it to create sketches during the research and conceptual stages of a project.

There are some situations where my MacBook Pro is better as a tool, and other times I prefer my iPhone or iPad.

I’ve tried the 9.7″, 10.5″, 11″, and 12.9″ iPads. Each time I return to the largest screen size. Anything smaller doesn’t work for me. Mainly I choose the bigger screen because I don’t have to zoom in and out of the paper when I’m sketching. Having a larger canvas helps me spend more time concepting and designing.

Following are the reasons I love my iPad.

As a sketching device

Before owning an iPad I sketched a lot with paper and pen. Now I have a digital piece of paper with copy+paste, as well as resize and layering.

This doesn’t mean paper and pen are obsolete. There are still times I need to step away from all electronics and scribble away on paper.

I’ve tried nearly all sketching and drawing apps for the iPad. Linea Sketch is the best for what I need. It has layering, resizing, copy and paste, snapping lines, grids, and simple drawing tools.

Once watercolor becomes a feature I’ll be in love.

As a reading device

This is one area where a smaller iPad is better. I don’t spend large amounts of time reading on this screen, think articles versus books. Anything less than about 15 minutes works well here. If I want to read an interesting article or Google Doc I’ll often open the link on my iPad instead of my MacBook Pro.

This actually helps break up my day! Getting to read on the iPad means I can lean back for a bit and pull away from my desk.

As a notation device

It almost feels like cheating when I use the iPad to redline a document or article. Since I work remotely we pass a lot of Google Docs back and forth between the team. When I’m reviewing something for a colleague I’ll save it as a PDF and open it in Notability. From there I’ll pull out my Apple Pencil and scribble across the document with red lines and notes.

Writing comments with a keyboard in Google docs is fast. But there are times when I want to think through something and write my thoughts by hand. This is where it it’s fun for me. I can again lean back (there’s a theme here) and absorb what’s on the page, giving feedback as I go.

As a consumption device

The iPad is my favorite way to watch videos. Watching on TV is too much hassle, watching on my phone is too small, and watching on my laptop is overkill.

When I’m watching a video for work (or for fun) I like to prop it up on the iPad and play it on my desk or lap.

As a gaming device

Long gone are the days of PC gaming. At least for now. As for console games, I own a SNES Classic.

In the evenings I love propping my iPad up on a pillow, sitting on my couch, and playing a game. Right now I’m enjoy PUBG Mobile. The experience on a 12.9″ screen is perfect.