Posted by & filed under being awesome, Safari News.

Whether it’s a developer writing code, an accountant assembling a spreadsheet, or a rock climber ascending a route, we all strive to find that moment when we are at one with our task, our “flow state.” These scenarios, experienced individually, can be powerful and rewarding. However, if you can collectively enter a communal form of flow state by working simultaneously with your colleagues, then that’s like lightning in a bottle.

As a manager of a distributed software engineering team based in Boston, I enjoy being able to work with a diverse array of colleagues located in places like Oregon, North Carolina, Puerto Rico, and Dublin. We work together and collaborate regularly through a mixture of Google Hangouts, chat, and GitHub PR’s, but there is value in sometimes getting together to work with each other in person. We’ve seen the team grow significantly over the last year, and many of these new Safarians who have worked together on the same projects have never met face to face.


Descending on Boston from many far-flung locations

Last month we decided to try something new. We invited a number of individuals from our Engineering, Infrastructure, and Business Intelligence teams to get together for a week in the new Boston office that we share with O’Reilly Media. We wanted the week to be for special projects, so we threw around some ideas:

“Hackathon!” some suggested. “24 Hour Hackathon!” the more extreme among us chipped in.

Eventually we found a compromise between the two: “How about a 24-Hour Hackathon re-defined as occurring over three 8-hour days!” (We are grownups, after all.)

Instead of using the term “hackathon,” we settled on a new phrase: Build A Thing, a product hackathon spread out over five eight-hour days. In order to make the “things” happen, we started by soliciting project proposals from the product teams. The criteria were as such: the project had enough details to support immediate work (i.e. don’t burn more than a few hours in the beginning debating on what you will build), and the project was achievable in three days. That’s it! We then gave all the participants 100 votes, and let them decide what they wanted to work on.

We specifically set up the project assignments as volunteer based so that people worked only on ideas that interested them. Individuals would see the entire list of projects, and voted for projects that they wanted to build. The “things” were varied and often surprising, ranging from “Invite a friend” to Safari to a Safari radio for us to see what our colleagues were listening to. (Neither of these projects had high votes attached to them.)

Our week was laid out as such:

Day One was set aside to discuss the project proposals and form teams. Days Two, Three, and Four were to focus on building your Thing. Day Five was to demo your Thing. We specifically cleared everyone’s calendar so that they could focus on their projects, and their only meetings on Days Two, Three, and Four, was a one-hour group status update.


Safarians love wearing plaid

Spoiler: it was awesome. In many ways, we reached the communal flow state.

Perhaps most importantly, Build a Thing reminded us how much our developers care about our users. If everyone wanted to volunteer for something that was fun but frivolous, they could have, but excitingly, many of the most sought after projects were ones that had a clear user benefit attached to them

In three short days, every team was able to build something that could be demoed, and we wound up making progress on a number of great, user requested features and ideas that we think all Safari members will appreciate. We will discuss those in more detail in subsequent blog posts, but as a preview, here are a few features that you can expect to see soon:

  • User generated ratings and reviews
  • Paypal payment support
  • Interactive books based on EPUB3

Users of our Safari for Schools platform had the most immediate benefit as the S4S Build A Thing team had a wildly successful time shipping video player upgrades, UI updates, automated O’Reilly Media content uploads, and new searching features.

Beyond the immediate excitement of creating a bunch of exciting new features, we rediscovered a few things about ourselves and our teams in this week.

For one, remote work tends to be highly asynchronous, and it’s been easy for us to forget about the effectiveness of realtime collaboration. Three or four way conversations that span multiple time zones may drag out over days because everyone is having lunch at different times, or ending their days as others are getting started.


Jake showing us how it’s done!

But, when you’re all dedicated to one effort at the same time, you can be present for each other. You can draw on whiteboards and ask questions as ideas emerge. A question that may take three days to sort out in a series of message and comment exchanges can be answered in five minutes if all of the right people are present for the conversation. Pairing occurs naturally as people share their work with each other as they’re engaged in their tasks.

I should also point out that one of our most productive teams in Build A Thing was still distributed!  A few folks couldn’t make the trip for personal reasons, but they still participated remotely with each other, working intensely over chat, hangouts and screen shares.  Being geographically close certainly helps with communication, but getting people working together at the same time can achieve similar results.

Further, by boiling down project goals into something achievable in a short amount of time, everybody can hold a general idea in their head of what has to be done, and who can do it. The need to interrupt work to log tickets for followup tasks goes away. Questions of scope and effort can be boiled down into: what can you finish by today? What can you demo by Day 5?


Feeling the collaboration. Martha lives in Ireland and Sasha lives in Puerto Rico, so getting together is a big deal for this team.

Once all of our various forms of focus came together, one could see teams entering into a communal flow state where their own collaboration with each other was feeding into their own immersion into the project. It was a fascinating experience and one that we hope to replicate again in the future.


Brian and Andrew, hard at work.

If you’re interested in running your own version of a 3 day, 24 hour hackathon, let us know how it goes or what’s worked for you. From our side, the tl;dr for making something like this effective:

  • Protect the time of the participants. Allow people to be focused.
  • Keep the teams small. Most of our teams were made up of three people. A few were four.
  • Put in all the work up front so that project pitches are compact, actionable, and achievable. Many teams just ran with three paragraphs in a short doc as their mission statement
  • Encourage project ideas from everyone in your organization, not just from hackathon participants.
  • Schedule one meeting at the end of the day to allow people to show off.
  • Have fun and get out of the way for creativity to thrive.

Posted by & filed under android, content, mobile, Product Updates & Tips, Safari News, Safari Queue, Tutorials, video.

How have we made Safari more valuable to you in the past 30 days? Let’s take a look.

New Publishers, Acclaimed Titles

Cover of No One Understands You and What To Do About It Cover of The Innovators Dilemma Cover of Your Strategy Needs a Strategy

This past month, we were thrilled to announce the addition of two new publishers. Harvard Business Review Press added to Safari over three hundred books and two hundred videos/webinars, including classics like The Innovator’s Dilemma. Paul Michelman provides more details and links in his post.

Cover of A Field Guide to User Research Cover of Smashing Book 5: Real-Life Responsive Web Design Cover of Understanding Advanced JavaScript

Smashing Magazine was another terrific addition to Safari in September. We on the product and design teams can’t wait to dig into new titles such as A Field Guide to User Experience. Check out Chris Simpson’s post for a closer look.

A Brand New Video Experience

Variable speed video/audio playback has been among the most highly requested features. In September, we made it happen. Now you can watch videos faster (or slower) in Safari’s new video player. Here’s a screen shot of the player, taken from an OSCON 2015 conference talk (a favorite from our team), “Freedom and Responsibility @ Netflix: Centralized Team in a Decentralized World.”

Screen grab of the Safari video player, featuring variable speed playback.

This new player also includes new features like thumbnail previews and a source selector. We’ve also updated the interface to show transcripts and supplemental course materials, when available. See Introduction to Java 8 for an example.

Read more »

Posted by & filed under being awesome, Business, career advice, content, Daily Learning, education technology, growth, innovation, Learning & Development, work culture.

When it comes to the survival skills that your organization needs to navigate today’s volatile and competitive landscape, curiosity may not be the first one that comes to mind… or the last one, for that matter.

Whether you see it as a skill or characteristic, curiosity is a powerful mindset that can be developed and nurtured. And increasing the curiosity quotient in your company can keep your business ahead of the curve with tangible benefits such as:

  • innovative solutions to complex challenges and opportunities
  • more and better ideas for products and services
  • faster time in filling skills gaps with the team you have
Screen Shot 2015-09-28 at 12.32.51 PM

Here are three ways to cultivate curiosity in your workplace:


According to the authors of The Innovator’s DNA: Mastering the Five Skills of Disruptive Innovators from Harvard Business Review Press, it’s the relentless questioners who are most successful:

‘Innovators ask lots of questions to better understand what is and what might be. They ignore safe questions and opt for crazy ones, challenging the status quo and often threatening the powers that be with uncommon intensity and frequency.’

While a barrage of questions — and working through the answers — can feel threatening or seem like a waste of time, it can very well lead to a breakthrough, solution or new idea that takes your company from surviving to thriving. Encourage your team to start asking away about the hows, whys, what-fors and what-ifs. And, remind everyone to leave their ego at the door when it comes to asking and fielding questions. Here are some great ideas from Brad Aronson to improve your question-asking skills.   Read more »

Posted by & filed under Content - Highlights and Reviews.

by Sander van Vugt

Sander van Vugt is a Linux trainer from the Netherlands working with customers all over the world. Sander has recorded both the best selling RHCSA and RHCE Live Lessons video courses and he is the author of the Red Hat RHCSA/RHCE 7 Cert Guide.

The Red Hat Certified System Administrator (RHCSA) exam is among the most popular IT certifications available today. It is a hands-on exam in which the test takers perform real-life tasks on an authentic installation of Red Hat Linux. Unfortunately, many people fail on their first attempt. So how can you make sure that you pass on the first try?

First, make sure you practice as much as you can. It really doesn’t make sense to try to learn the exam by heart since it is a hands-on experience. You will take your place behind the exam computer and start working on the assignments. At that point is where many people find trouble because they will start working immediately without reading what through all of the instructions. Before hitting the keyboard, make sure you truly understand what you are being asked to do in the exam. Read more »

Posted by & filed under Business, career advice, communication, culture, hiring, influence and persuasion, innovation, leadership, management.

by Carol Vallone Mitchell

Carol Vallone Mitchell is the author of the new book “Breaking Through ‘Bitch'” from Career Press. She is the cofounder of Talent Strategy Partners.

Breaking Through 'Bitch'

Five of the 23 female CEOs in the Fortune 500 work at technology-sector companies. Two of the five women run a company in the Silicon Valley. These statistics are surprising for an industry that has been regularly labeled a ‘boy’s club’ and spotlighted for its dearth of women in leading roles.

But, it’s not surprising when you review the culture of the companies helmed by women. The culture is one of innovation, where risk-taking and openness to new ideas leads to the creation of new products, markets, customers, and opportunities.

Studies indicate that women are more likely than men to have the type of competencies needed to thrive and lead in this culture. Successful women leaders use a collaborative leadership style that is infused with the characteristics of emotional intelligence and encourages talented people to be creative. My research on gender differences in leadership style, which resulted in the women’s leadership profile of success described in my book Breaking Through “Bitch”: How Women Can Shatter Stereotypes and Lead Fearlessly, confirms these findings. Read more »

Posted by & filed under Business, information security, Information Technology, security, Tech.

As we approach National Cyber Security Awareness Month, we kick off our Author Q&A series with Courtney Bowman, John K Grant and Ari Gesher, who along with Daniel Slate, authored The Architecture of Privacy, published this month by O’Reilly Media. In this practical guide, the authors describe how software teams can make privacy-protective features a core part of product functionality.

On October 6, Safari will host an author talk in Washington, DC with Bowman, Gesher, and  Grant. If you’re in town and can join us, RSVP in the link below before all the spots get filled:

Architecting Privacy: Responsible Design for Information Systems Author Talk

Before our Q&A, the authors had a few words on how privacy architecture relates to the concept of information security: Read more »

Posted by & filed under Business, change, Content - Highlights and Reviews, energy efficiency, Information Technology, management, Tech.

by Laura Ippen

Laura Ippen is a consultant with Sustainable Business Consulting, a firm that helps organizations realize the business value of sustainability. She works with organizations to fully integrate sustainability into their operations to enhance environmental and social impact, improve financial performance and strengthen brand value.

You’re looking to cut your company’s energy use to save money while lowering your environmental impact at the same time. So, where do you start? You would likely turn to your facilities team to look into efficiency upgrades for your office buildings.

You may want to look at your IT department first. Read more »

Posted by & filed under Business, Content - Highlights and Reviews.

We are thrilled to welcome Safari’s newest content partner, Harvard Business Review Press. One of the world’s premier brands in business and management publishing, Harvard Business Review Press offers a broad range of business titles, from groundbreaking ideas from the likes of Clayton Christensen,  Rita Gunther McGrath, Vijay Govindarajan, and John Kotter to practical advice on developing the core management skills that are essential to successful careers.

Safari customers may be particularly interested in some of Harvard Business Review Press’s newer branded lines, such as the 20-Minute ManagerHBR’s 10 Must Reads, and the HBR Guide Series. Safari’s partnership with Harvard Business Review Press provides our customers with access to more than 300 HBR Press books, as well as a curated selection of more than 200 videos and webinars.

Most the content is live now; look for more additions in the coming weeks. Please see this press release for more details.