Best Of: A Series

Some of my favourite articles from over the years.

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 →

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...

3 min read →

Dungeons & Developers

December 1, 2022

How to simulate tricky conversations.

You open the door and see three orcs. They’re seated at a fine oaken table watching a glowing rectangle on the west wall, which displays the ominous text “2023 Strategic Planning”. The orcs look up at you, and one says “You’re late.” What do you do? Depending on your perspective...

4 min read →

Giving a Shit as a Service

July 1, 2022

A mental model for service businesses.

A few years back, my team decided to get a custom meeting room table. In our search for something great, we were referred to a small studio that does great work: East Vancouver’s Union Wood Co. The team there met with us, showed us various samples, and asked thoughtful questions...

2 min read →

What Doesn't Need to Be Done

February 1, 2022

Finishing things requires simplification.

Project management is, roughly, the art of ensuring a team gets what needs to be done, done. Given that, a lot of the focus ends up being on those needs. Checklists, breakdowns, schedules, updates – all focused on the things that need to be done. While that’s all very important,...

2 min read →

The Persistent Gravity of Cross Platform

September 1, 2021

Coordinating a large product org is hard.

Agilebits recently caused a stir with their announcement that they’ve rewritten 1Password 8 as a cross-platform Electron app, replacing their well-loved native Mac app. The takes came hot and fast. Like many developers, I love and appreciate a well-crafted native UI, and I’ve been somewhat skeptical of the consistent trend...

7 min read →

Books Are a Seed You Can Plant

April 30, 2021

Why every diet could use the occasional book.

For most of my life, I rarely read books. I’m a pretty high-energy person, but a rather slow reader. Ever since I grew into an Extremely Online teenager, books have felt a bit… sluggish. Less informative, per hour invested, than the alternatives. Low density. I’ve always loved the idea of...

4 min read →

Two Birds, One Scone

December 31, 2020

On retiring words from our vocabulary.

Humans are wired for language. Soon after birth we start noticing phonemes, and within a year we’re recognizing words. Then we’re off to the races, absorbing vocabulary, trying out new words, and refining how we communicate. Despite having learned enough words to get by, as teenagers we continue to rapidly...

7 min read →

Don't Drink the Cream

February 28, 2020

Social etiquette proves hard to navigate.

As I was told, some years ago a team of contractors were visiting the office of a big potential client. Hoping to impress, the sales lead on the deal brought a skilled product designer along to the meeting, as well as a software developer who was well versed in the...

3 min read →

The Coming Supremacy of AR

November 29, 2019

How augmented reality is far more than a phone on your face.

An annoying thing about the future is that, at first, it sucks. The original iPhone was, to many people, obviously great. Although even the most optimistic iPhone users of 2008 mostly underestimated the impact smartphones would eventually have on work, play, and society, the iPhone was still clearly a product...

7 min read →

Navigation Should Be Boring

January 31, 2019

Apps should be interesting, but not like that.

When launching a product, especially a consumer-oriented one, you want it to be interesting. A novel, bold, or distinctive UI can make an app stand out from the crowd, be memorable, and inspire curiosity. Plus, it’s cool. Luckily, there are a lot of ways you can make an interface interesting....

4 min read →

The Great Bug Hunt

May 30, 2018

A crashing Xbox proves hard to debug.

A fun thing about programming is that most days, you make progress. Maybe you fix some issues, maybe you add a feature, maybe you build towards something bigger. Your code moves ever forward. Until it doesn’t. On occasion, you will hit a Bug. Not a mundane bug, some trifle you...

5 min read →

Bright Side of the Moon

August 31, 2017

We see an eclipse.

Most things in our world are continuums: you can have none, a little, a lot, or the whole thing. A few things are binary – it’s either there or it isn’t. A total solar eclipse is one of those binary things. Even when the the moon has covered 99% of...

5 min read →

The Principle of Least Surprise

March 31, 2017

An iceberg looms, and we take evasive action.

The status meeting is going well. Your demo was well received, the new feature is looking great, and you’ve been nailing your estimates. The product manager glances at her notes, and remembers one last thing. “Oh also, a lot of customers are asking for offline editing support on this screen.”...

5 min read →

The Disclosure Indicator

October 31, 2016

Idea Guy wants an NDA signed.

Every week, I receive roughly a dozen new project inquiries. Since Steamclock works with perhaps a dozen clients in a year, I triage roughly 50 leads for every one that turns into a real project. The time I spend doing sales is neither fun nor directly producing revenue, so I’m...

5 min read →

The Worst App

November 24, 2015

Stephanie isn't the only one upset about an app.

Update 2: This story now has an epilogue. One of the various things I do at Steamclock is provide support for our apps. Our music apps don’t require much support, and much of the email we get is positive, so tending to support is generally pleasant. Or at least it...

8 min read →

A JS Framework on Every Table

February 28, 2015

There are too many JavaScript frameworks.

Most programming languages support a small number of popular, stable application frameworks. Objective-C and Swift apps use Apple’s excellent Cocoa framework. Ruby apps more often than not use Rails. Java has a handful of established web app frameworks, and they come and go relatively slowly. In the meantime, the latest...

7 min read →

Feeding the Baby

May 31, 2014

Running a startup turns out to be weird.

Like all respectable businesses, Steamclock started in a basement. Four years ago, we outfitted Nigel’s basement with the old desks we’d imported from our corporate jobs, and some basic office chairs. Our presence was fascinating to Nigel’s kids, and they’d come downstairs to visit whenever they could find an excuse....

3 min read →


December 24, 2013

Being real brings the haters.

Acting professionally and being a professional are different things. One year ago, we released Party Monster, our fun little DJ app for parties and road trips. We take our work seriously, but we included something a little unprofessional: by default, the app wouldn’t play Nickelback. Here’s what reviewers had to...

5 min read →

Providing joy at 60 fps

July 15, 2011

We make an app feel fast.

At Steam Clock we go to a lot of effort to make sure we ship apps with a high level of polish. Making your app solve the user’s problems well is the first 90% of building a great app. Polishing the hell out of that experience so it’s a joy...

5 min read →

The California Guys

March 4, 2009

I run a project. Poorly.

Some lessons in contracting learned by being a slave programmer. When the tech bubble burst, I was young and inexperienced. The local ISP where I’d been learning PHP laid me off, so I struck out on my own doing freelance web development. They say you have to learn through mistakes...

5 min read →

FantasyTech 3: GOTO FUN

November 22, 2006

A kid tries to make an RPG in BASIC.

Of all the things I’ve written in my ten years of programming, my first big project, FantasyTech 3, was one of the most provoking. I like the word provoking because it doesn’t say something is good, just that it provokes. FantasyTech was a huge, unmaintainable, frightening hack job that seemed...

3 min read →

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