Hi, I'm Allen Pike. I run Steamclock – where we design and develop nice apps in Vancouver – and host Fun Fact and It Shipped That Way.

At least monthly, I write an article and publish it here.

Build a Deck of Heroes

October 31, 2023

A way to relate to inspiring people.

It helps to have heroes. Heroes are people whose stories inspire us. Steve Wozniak, in my mind, used curiosity and audacity to rewrite the rules of what technology can do. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez pursues truth and change with clarity and tenacity. Marie Kondo systematically seeks joy and simplicity in the spaces...

4 min read →

The Curse of Dialup World

September 30, 2023

An acquisition gets weird.

A long time ago – at the turn of the century, as kids would call it now – my first job was at a dialup internet service provider. Officially, I was hired to be a sort of errand-boy. Instead, the role was more interesting: a front seat for one of...

7 min read →

Make the Thing a Link

August 31, 2023

A quick way to level up prose.

Links rock. An awesome habit when writing – for example, in a Slack message or doc – is to add a link to the thing you’re talking about. We’ve updated the Octopus Report, which you can find here. Feedback is due by Friday. Cool. Now people don’t need to hunt...

3 min read →

The Feedback Wizard

August 28, 2023

We had fun this month making a little experiment called The Feedback Wizard. It’s a tool that helps you (or your reports) take a problem you’ve seen and transform it into useful feedback. It’s been well received by our early users, both for its ability to phrase feedback in an...

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Do Something, So We Can Change It!

July 31, 2023

A habit for addressing two-way decisions.

Sometimes teams get stuck on a decision. My favourite trick for getting unstuck comes via Pixar’s Michael B. Johnson. In 25 years there, he helped Pixar build the production workflows they use to make and iterate their stories, and was tasked with helping teams “fail as quickly as possible.” To...

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Going Way Beyond ChatGPT

June 30, 2023

Techniques for building products on LLMs today.

Modern instruction-tuned language models, or LLMs, are the latest tool in software engineers’ toolboxes. Joining classics like databases, networking, hypertext, and async web applications, we now have a new enabling technology that seems wickedly powerful, but whose best applications aren’t yet clear. ChatGPT lets you poke at those possibilities. You...

11 min read →

How Leaders Manage Time & Attention

May 31, 2023

Some findings on productivity.

Last month, I wanted to better understand into how leaders manage their time and attention. While this seems like a core leadership skill, a lot of the managers I know have a fractious relationship with productivity tools. Given this, I had two high-level questions: What are the popular approaches in...

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Collect Stories, Not Generalizations

April 30, 2023

An approach for product interviewing.

Humans are unreliable narrators. Even the most honest interlocutors will confidently say untrue things. We recount false memories, accidentally imply speculation is fact, succumb to cognitive biases, misinterpret causal relationships, struggle with cognitive dissonance, engage in lossy paraphrasing, and kind of just say nonsense sometimes. It’s part of being human!...

5 min read →

32K of Context in Your Pocket

March 15, 2023

A wild large-context LLM appears.

One month ago, I wrote about on the limits of 4K-token AI models, and the wild capabilities and costs that large-context language models may one day have. Today, OpenAI not only debuted GPT-4 with a doubly large 8K token limit, but demoed and began trials of a version that supports...

2 min read →

A 175-Billion-Parameter Goldfish

February 16, 2023

The problem and opportunity of language model context.

It has been a wild week in AI. By now, we’re getting used to the plot twist that rather than the cold Spock-like AIs of science fiction, large language models tend to be charismatic fabulists with a tenuous understanding of facts. Into that environment, last week Microsoft launched a Bing...

13 min read →

Humans Need Play

February 1, 2023

On a vicious pattern that breeds burnout.

People are, by our nature, resilient. We adapt to the pressures placed on us. It’s pretty incredible. However. When we’re under pressure – mental pressure, time pressure, or otherwise – we tend to be less thoughtful. Less intentional. Under stress, we focus on what we need to do: submit the...

4 min read →

The Care and Feeding of Feeds

January 1, 2023

Three new apps make for healthier scrolling.

If you could manifest your ideal social and media consumption diet, what would it look like? Maybe it would be deep, meaningful, and personally impactful. Maybe it would be a healthy mix of informative, educational, and fun content. Maybe it would just be cute dogs. A veritable herd of pups....

6 min read →

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© Allen Pike. 👋🏼 You can contact me, or check out Steamclock.