Author Archives: csp8484

Eight Ways to Unwind From Work and Relax

Writer: Christian Perry

Cassie recently wrote an awesome post on Self-Motivation and Productivity. (Thanks, Cassie!) I thought I’d follow up by writing a complimentary post on relaxation.

As anyone who’s ever started a company knows, startups are challenging work. Not only do they demand a huge amount of time, but they can also absorb you in emotionally and mentally, such that it gets difficult to separate yourself from your day job. (Or more accurately, your day-and-night-and-weekend job.)

Don’t get me wrong: I absolutely love my work, and I wouldn’t be doing anything differently. That said, I feel that I do my best work when I’m calm, collected, and relaxed — and all those things require a wee bit of not working. So with that said, here are eight things that help me unwind from a busy day at the office:

Take a Computer Sabbath
walterrollonshabbosFollowing in the footsteps of The Big Lebowski‘s Walter, I take off every Saturday as a sort of Computer Sabbath. The rule is simple: no laptop, and no email. By taking off one day a week, I can decompress from a long workweek, and focus on all the things that can’t be done in front of a computer screen.

Take a bath
One night, when I was feeling stressed out, my girlfriend suggested I take a bath. She swore by them, she told me, and promised that I’d feel better the moment I got in. I gave it a shot, and never looked back. Moral of the story: listen to your girlfriend.

Play an instrument
For a number of years I’ve played the Irish flute. On a good morning, I’ll hop right out of bed, and spend a half hour playing a lively set of reels, jigs, and airs. I’ve noticed a subtle but consistent boost in my mood when I start the morning off with music, as oppose to the dread-inducing drone of the alarm clock.

Meditate
My mom started practicing Zen meditation before I was born, and introduced me to the practice when I was a lad of 16. Ever since then, I’ve been hooked. I sit a half-hour a day, usually at night before going to bed. No matter how intense a day I’ve had, it’s amazing how quickly all those thoughts and stresses melt away.

Stretch and do Yoga
The human body isn’t meant to sit in a chair for eight hours a day, but apparently this rule hasn’t been communicated to startup founders, whose habits would make you think the human race is slowly evolving to be tetris-block-shaped. After a day of sitting, stretching pays amazing dividends: it loosens up my body, improves my mood, and guards against nasty things like carpal tunnel syndrome.

Read for fun
I love non-fiction. On the weekends, you’ll usually find my nose in some meaty text or another. (Check out my GoodReads bookshelf for a list of what I’ve been perusing recently.) That said, I also love fiction — in particular, a juicy, pulpy fantasy novel — and nothing helps me drift off to sleep better than reading a few chapters in a book that stokes my imagination. (Check out A Game of Thrones and Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, two of my favorites.)

Exercise
After hours upon hours of sitting sedentary, nothing quite beats the feeling of moving around and breaking a sweat. Since I work in downtown San Francsico, I got a membership to Crunch, a decent gym where I hit the treadmills a couple times a week. Exersize seems pretty close to a too-good-to-be-true type of deal: it makes you lose weight, look sexy, feel better, AND might even make you smarter. What’s not to love?

Get out of town
With everything I’ve just written about, I probably sound like a pillar of serenity. The reality couldn’t be farther off. Despite all the things I do to relax, I still face the same stress as anyone living a busy life in a busy city. My days are long, my schedule is packed, and there are ten times as many things as I want to do as I have time for. So what do I find to be the best way to break out of city life? I leave! I’m rarely as relaxed as when I’m back home with my family in Princeton, New Jersey, or leaving the Bay Area to visit friends.

Everything on this list is easy to do (besides the musical instrument), and comes to you highly recommended. By incorporating relaxation into your schedule, you’ll give yourself the necessary steps to work hard without burning out.

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Pros and Cons of Building a Site Around FBConnect

fbconnect1FBConnect is one of Facebook’s newest initiatives; it lets you login to third-party sites using your Facebook login and password. Further, if you’re logging into a site for the first time, it’ll auto-fill the page with your existing information (such as name, interests, and location).

Up until now, most of the sites that use FBConnect, such as Digg, give you the option to login with either a local account or your Facebook account. We’re going to go a step farther, implementing FBConnect as our exclusive login system.

While FBConnect is powerful, it isn’t perfect. Here are the Pros and Cons that factored into our decision to use it:

Pros
Faster development time. Our goal is to launch Trogger as quickly as possible. By choosing to use FBConnect, we cut out the time it takes to build our own registration form.

More context and specificity for users. Since everyone logs in using FBConnect, we can fully incorporate all the rich, structured data that Facebook has to offer. This means you can find out more about what your friends are doing, incorporate Trogger activity in your newsfeeds, and even be shown relevant conversations based on your list of interests.

Viral growth on steroids. One of my favorite parts of FBConnect is that it lets users publish their activity to their Facebook newsfeed. For example, if you start a conversation on Trogger, you can post it to your feed in a single click. Instantly, all your friends will see a prominent feed item when they visit your profile: “John Smith has just started a conversation on Trogger,” complete with link and description.

Simplified login and sign-up. Long sign-up forms are a great way to discourage visitors from signing up and becoming full-fledged members. FBConnect helps solve this problem by allowing you to login with your current Facebook account. If it’s your first time signing up, your Facebook information gets transferred over, so that there’s no need to fill out page after page of fields describing yourself.

Cons
You’re locked into a single system. By relying on Facebook as our sole point of entry, we face several potential pitfalls. Facebook’s servers might go down for minutes, if not hours, effectively preventing anyone from logging in. Some people may object to entering their Facebook information on a third-party site. Not to mention, Facebook might decide, for whatever reason, to prevent us from using FBConnect, to start charging exorbitant access fees, or to shut down the service altogether.

Limited user base. Lots of people use Facebook, but not everyone. Their user base is roughly 100 million people, which, while large, could certainly be higher. If someone comes to Trogger and doesn’t have a Facebook account, I imagine that most of them will leave deterred.

No email addresses. When a user signs into your site with FBConnect, Facebook provides you with some information about them, but leaves out one crucial data point: their email address. The only way to get someone’s address is to ask for it separately, adding an extra step to the sign-up process. While this isn’t the end of the world, it does add an extra step to what is supposed to be a streamlined login process.

Limited photo caching. Facebook lets you cache a user’s photo for a maximum of 24 hours. As a result, when you’re visiting a page with a lot of photos obtained via FBConnect, a distinctive “pop” appears as they suddenly all show up,  2 to 10 seconds after the rest of the page loads. This is distracting, obnoxious, and utterly preventable. A friend of mine within the company tells me that they’re working on a way around this, and I’m hoping it comes soon.

Overall
We decided that the Pros of FBConnect outweigh their Cons. We’ll be opting for FBConnect’s speed, engagement, and deep integration in exchange for a smaller base of potential users, less control of the login process, and restricted access to user data.

As we grow, we may look at incorporating other authenticated login systems, such as Google Friend Connect. For now, though, we’re sticking to FBConnect so we can build our site faster, and focus on integrating with Facebook’s powerful News Feed distribution.

WordPress has the ugliest password-strength gradient ever.

The password is strong. The tastefulness is not.

From the Department of Misplaced Holiday Cheer.