a blog by Sara Farquharson

what i'm reading: Oct 4

I spent a lot of September in a bit of a funk with regards to reading, especially technical topics. I also started building a Slack bot on a whim, so a lot of time I would otherwise have devoted to reading and collating links went instead to poring over API docs for the Bolt library and various AWS services. Hope to write a post about that soon!

I spent today merely curating the things I’d already read, leaving next-week-Sara a massive reading list that I’m sure she will have time for. In the meantime, I’m going outside today while the autumn weather is still pleasant!


  • After a Board of Directors strategic retreat for a charity I’m involved with, I thought I’d better get more acquainted with the literature on strategy for nonprofits. Started with Creating Your Strategic Plan workbook by John M. Bryson & Farnu K. Alston, followed up by the more readable Strategic Planning for Nonprofit Organizations by Michael Allison & Jude Kaye

  • Courtney Milan’s new book The Duke Who Didn’t dropped in late September, so when my preorder showed up I read it immediately. I loved the subversion of a trope at the end, and deeply enjoyed the attention to detail of the Chinese inhabitants of the fictional English village of Wedgeford, down to the different languages and name choices used depending on the character’s background. For the latter reason I also adored the author’s note, since I wasn’t familiar with Hakka culture at all.

  • After being reminded of new works by historical romance authors I like, I also picked up the newest Tessa Dare (The Wallflower Wager) and Julia Quinn (First Comes Scandal), each the latest in a quartet of related books.

  • I asked for The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman for Christmas on the strength of the cover and the summary, and finally pulled it off the TBR shelf. It delivered a fun, Steampunk-y spy adventure.

  • Finished the Gut audiobook and started on Liquid Rules: the delightful & dangerous substances that flow through our lives by Mark Miodownik, which is a fun scientific romp as I expected, but the framing device of a plane ride is a little grim so far.


Engineering leadership

Skills for developers

  • Nicolas Carlo’s When should you stop refactoring Legacy Code? ends on a helpful list of tips on how to avoid getting lost in the weeds of refactoring.

  • Trisha Gee’s Reading Code is a Skill is an excellent breakdown of why admonishing developers to “write readable code” does not absolve us from having to learn and practice code reading as a distinct skillset.

  • Alex Bachuk’s article about taking better notes is not as actionable as I’d like, but contains some suggestions I don’t do (prepare for the week ahead by re-reading notes & scheduling follow ups) and some things I do poorly (extract action items from notes and complete them on time), as well as links to additional resources on note taking.

Software best practices revisited

Career moves

History and COVID

  • I’ve enjoyed a lot of funny pieces from salty Medieval historians about how their era gets an unfair bad rap, but this massive essay by Renaissance historian Ada Palmer about how the Renaissance was pretty bad, actually, and also Golden Ages are propaganda is funny, insightful, and jam-packed with great images and many facts I didn’t know. Now I give the side-eye to anyone who talks about how the Black Death led to an economic revival…

  • Mar Hicks wrote a fascinating history of COBOL and its amazing stability, which covers why systems in the venerable language were scapegoated when unemployment systems failed under the pressure of claims during the early part of the COVID pandemic.

False economies of software development

Security & Privacy

Environment news

Architecture at scale

  • Archie Gunasekara posted a fascinating look at new cloud architecture at Slack using features such as AWS shared VPCs and Inter-Region Peering, and how they implemented incremental migration to the new architecture. I know almost enough about AWS now to understand this!