The Sphere Weekly Journal! 📓

Hey folks :wave:

One of my favorite things about new forums is starting new rituals. And one of my guiding principles for this forum is that I’d love for you all to get to know as many of the awesome folks here at Sphere :sphere: as possible. After all, we’re building this thing together with all of you :muscle:

So here’s something :new:

Every Friday, a different staff member will post in this thread to talk about what they’re working on this week. I’ve set up a bot internally to randomly select someone each time!

But we’ll start with me!

This week:

I’ve been working on setting up this very forum, inviting both staff and beta users to it, making sure it looks good, and laying the foundations for what we hope it can become. I also launched our LinkedIn page and encouraged those of us who are on LinkedIn to update their profiles.

That aside, I’ve been doing preparation for our event tonight (it starts at 7pm!) and also something really fun that involves writing. Writing what? I’m going to keep that secret until a little closer to publication :wink:

Myself, @Lily, @jeremy and Katherine (our Marketing Lead) have also kicked off the first meeting of a brand new squad. It’s all about taking the steps to be way more public about what we’re building and again, more info will be shared on that soon but it is super exciting!

That’s it for now… Next week, you’ll hear from…

drum roll…

Anders from our iOS team! :apple:

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Well, this is embarrassing :joy: Anders appears to be off today (should probably have checked that beforehand) :joy:

Hold on while I nominate someone else!

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Classic! :rofl: :rofl: :rofl:

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Never fear, we will have @Alec dropping his weekly diary later today! :purple_heart:

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Good afternoon everyone! Here’s what I’ve been up to this week…

I’ve been working almost exclusively on our next take on events!

You might know that we’re building a first events version right now (if not… surprise! :tada: ). Main focus is to give you the ability to host events and make sure you can get accurate RSVPs. Hoping we’ll be able to show off some beautiful sneak previews late next week :eyes:

While that’s being built, I’ve been testing some ideas with the team for how an event flow could work outside the app. For example, what if only one person - the host - needs to have Sphere to start hosting events? So this has been most of my week, chatting to people about how we could do this best.

Beyond that, I’ve been eating too much cake and drinking too much Stella, as my housemates and myself have birthdays all in one week :sweat_smile:

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Dear diary,

I am one of the three iOS cowboys at Sphere. :cowboy_hat_face:

You might be aware of a feature called Offline Feed Browsing in the iOS 1.26 release last week. What is special about it? It is the first deliverable of AppCore coming to fruition!

AppCore (boring name, but it sticks) is an initiative in building a new, shared GLaDOS for both our iOS app and our Android app. Its endgame is to foster one consistent experience across both mobile apps. (Note for the nerds: AppCore uses the Kotlin Multiplatform Mobile technology).

So what I have been working on this week, is the next major AppCore deliverable — it will extend Offline Browsing to another important area of the app experience. The work is still in its early stage though, so I am gonna stop here. :zipper_mouth_face::kissing_heart:

Part of my work also includes supporting other engineers on AppCore matters — AppCore is secretly expanding its reach into many upcoming features, including the 1st version of Events as mentioned above by @Alec. Fingers crossed! :shushing_face::crossed_fingers:

In any case, I am sure you all will enjoy the upcoming app release from us. No spoilers though, or otherwise @CharlieP will chase me with a stick.

Anders out.

P.S. The crystal ball has selected @Laurie for next week’s diary.

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Awesome stuff - Thanks Anders! :raised_hands:

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:wave: Hello Sphere community!

I’m Laurie, the newest addition to our kickass product management function (with @Alec and @CharlieP) :muscle:

Much like everyone else’s (at Sphere at least), my week was INTENSE. With the end of the year so close, it’s really the last opportunity to deliver on all those promises you made (when you thought you had 12 months to complete everything…).

Since I joined the team I have been working on figuring out the next big product feature that delights and delivers the most value to our users :star_struck: Does that sound quite broad and a tad too ambitious? Maybe. Did we know we would be successful? Definitely!

After weeks of user interviews, market research, brainstorm sessions and a few heated conversations, we think we got it :bulb: What if your messenger gave you a summary of what you missed, showed you what requires your immediate attention and enabled you to take quick action :dart: without having to scroll through all those unread messages one-by-one? No more wasted time reading through messages you don’t really care about. No more anxiety looking at the number of unread messages skyrocket.

This week, we have put :pen: to :page_facing_up: and started speccing out an elegant solution. We are getting everything in place to start building the 1st week of January and make it available to our users towards the end of February. We can’t wait to show you, so stay tuned for updates :smiley:

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Welcome, Laurie! Love the post and all sounds very exciting :heart_eyes:

Well done on the amazing work and hope you get some good rest over the holidays! :heart:

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Hey guys,

Aleksei from the Sphere design team here. Hope you all had wonderful holidays and rested well!
We’ve kickstarted this year with exploration of some exciting new features, like Events, which you’ve just seen a sneak peek of. Imagine if when you’ve organised an event for your group on Sphere, that all photos and videos taken during the event automatically transform into vibrant albums available for everyone to see.

Or imagine if you want to organise a paid event. With Sphere it will be easy! We’ll take care of all payments, so you can focus on what matters! So this week I’ve been working on the designs for these, which will hopefully form part of the “V2” version of Events that we ship later in the year.

These are both ideas that we are exploring and have started thinking about how could get designed if we do build them.

I feel excited about what 2021 will bring to us.

Stay tuned :call_me_hand:t3:

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I’m Sphere’s newest employee! I joined the Product team on Jan 4 (Along with @Alec , @CharlieP , @Laurie and Nick)

I’ve joined to lead the effort to build a long-term product roadmap. In a customer focused company like ours, this means understanding what people are trying to do with our product (Such as reducing the effort someone has to put into managing a group). Then judging each potential solution against each other so we can bring the most useful features to our app as soon as possible.

This week I’ve run a kickoff workshop and an ideation session to make sure our whole team is lazer-focused. For both of these, I’ve used the brilliant Miro to get everyone working together. I like to promote connections between our team and our users so I ask questions like “Tell us about a time when you were in a group that felt productive” and getting everyone to share stories.

All of the work our team is doing on this plan will be fed back into our Public Product Roadmap. We’re trying to be as open as we can with our product process. So we’ll be sharing updates on what we’re building and the decisions behind them. As well as getting more and more input from our community as we navigate through 2021.

Next week we’re starting to put together a plan for how we can transform a feeling of togetherness :hugs: into product features that welcome everyone into a Sphere community.

I can’t wait to share more!

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Lol. I love how much of a Miro evangelist you are! :sunglasses:

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Hello people,

I’m Alexandru and I work on the backend side of things. This week:

  • I’ve worked on a new admin pinboard specs alongside the rest of the squad. We’ve managed to finalise the specs and the frontends seem to be in agreement.
  • I’ve also started implementation of the new enhanced permission system in order to support the new roles we’ll introduce with the admin pinboard
  • I’ve had several interesting conversations on difficult subjects with @simon and @jeremy

Hope I’ve been inappropriately efficient and machine like!

Alex

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Nice. Really excited to have more granular permissions. Think Discourse does this really well.

I definitely enjoyed our chat and you gave me some good stuff to think about :relaxed:

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Hi everyone :wave:t4: This might be a short one as I’m between meetings… :grinning:

I was Sphere’s second ever employee! Just writing that because I saw Sam’s post about being Sphere’s newest one :slight_smile:

The week has been good overall. I’ve been experiencing headaches and feel like I’m working a bit more than I’d like to (because of no commuting, being at home etc), so am planning to start walking more - starting tonight! Think the fresh air will do me good.

Work wise, I really enjoyed the Town Hall Simon hosted last night. Have heard some lovely feedback from people, eg this from Grace:

The meeting yesterday felt different, more openness, supportive too.

That really means a lot to me because they’re things we’re really trying to build into our community and ultimately, our app.

I’m also really enjoying working with @Katherine! She and I used to fight a lot (two stubborn people who take pride in their own perspective, lol), but it feels more than ever like we’re in tune with each other’s needs and are collaborating to get some awesome stuff done.

Also super happy with all the great work I see @Lily doing on social media and @simon on Medium. Finally, we’re having some great product conversations about possible things we can build this year.

Right, update done. Two more meetings, then time to drink, walk and chill. Maybe watch some more Mr Robot :robot:

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My prediction for this post (where I am to share what I’ve been up to this week), which I am going to type and post without reading through a second time:

  1. I will go off-topic (arguably already doing that)
  2. Bring it back to what I am meant to be typing
  3. Summarise

Let’s see how I do…

I was off for the previous 2 weeks, so coming back into a start-up after 10 working days can be equated to someone being in a bunker for the whole of 2020.

What have I been doing? A lot of reading! Things move/change and evolve so quickly at Sphere that something as simple as a ‘word’ can go from being:

THE THING THAT WILL MAKE SPHERE THE BEST APP EVER!

And turn into something that makes everyone cringe when it’s brought up in a meeting. Luckily, the very nature of this word means it is likely to disappear soon anyway.

Don’t say it Don’t say it Don’t say it

I’ll move on…

When building a product there are numerous pieces which always need building, very loosely these can be listed as: -

  • Tech/Infra changes
  • Features
  • Bugs
  • Improvements

At Sphere, we have processes for 3 of the above…But not improvements! So, I have been researching how others do it and trying to build out a process that allows us to make subtle improvements to the product alongside Tech/Bug/Features changes. In this case, an improvement is something that builds on top of an existing feature rather than being a NEW piece of functionality. For example, we know that our important information feature has the capability to actually be one of the major benefits of using Sphere, but…we are still on V1.0!

The reason for this is the constant battle in our heads between:

‘New functionality vs. Bug fixing vs. Improving existing functionality’!

Whenever we have these discussions, we are always putting ourselves in the shoes of a customer. What is going to have the most impact? Should we build out Search V1.0 or spend our resources building Important Information 2.0? The proof will ultimately be determined by how many new customers we end up gaining and communities we end up bringing onto Sphere.

So, there it is…my one-shot rambling post of my week at Sphere. Anddddd post.

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Lovely post, Charlie :smiling_face_with_three_hearts: Loved seeing the progress you made on the improvements process this week! :clap:t4:

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Hello lovely people! :wave:

My name is Máté and I work on the backend side of the engineering team.

In order to understand what I’ve been working on, I need to share a tiny bit of insight into our feature development process. Being big fans of autonomy at Sphere, we form independent ephemeral teams for every feature project we work on — we call them squads. Each of these squads is designated a tech lead from the engineering team, who will wear the metaphorical hat for that project. This provides engineers with the challenge and experience of being accountable for the overall success of the technical aspects of the project.

For our newest feature, the admin pinboard, I was selected to fulfil this function. As such, most of what I’ve been working on recently is making sure that the engineers involved in this project are able to do what they do best — create beautiful code as efficiently as possible. In order to achieve this, it is important that we have alignment between the different functions involved, requirements are clear, and individual workflows are not blocked by each other. I like to think that it’s the job of the tech lead to identify risks in these areas and ensure they are attended to before they become problems. Being a tech lead is first and foremost about being the team’s personal assistant in order to enable each and everyone to do their job as well as they can — and hopefully have fun doing so :smiley: .

Luckily the squad I’m working with is absolutely world-class and our product lead, @Laurie helps loads with communication and alignment. :muscle:

I’m really grateful for being given this opportunity and looking forward to improving as a squad tech lead in the future.

Thanks,
Máté

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:sparkling_heart:

Máté’s also got one of the deepest voices at Sphere and is available for Barry White-esque voiceover requests. Rates available on request :tipping_hand_man:t5:

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:wave: Hey guys!

On the infrastructure :building_construction: side of Sphere :sphere: , this week has been really much in the contuinity of the others: “aiming towards a more reliable, scalable and maintainable platform”

More particularily, there is a topic which we have been exploring of the past few weeks which I feel could be interesting to highlight.

Adding sustainability to the equation!

In case you missed the recent Apple Inc’s announcements towards their new CPU chip, the M1, here is a quick TL;DR about it:

  • They are “supposedly cheaper” to produce for them than bundling 3rd parties ones
  • For the same amount of power consuption, they are “generally way more performant”

A good proportion of these benefits can be attributed to the reduced instruction set computer (RISC) they are using as part of their Advanced RISC Machines (ARM) architecture they are using.

As we are also aiming for success :grin:! Being able to power our platform using cheaper and more energy efficient servers was a priority for us.

This is why we worked extensively towards it and can happily share today that all of our backend softwares and middlewares are now running over machines based upon the same architecture :tada:

Most of this transition was fairly straightfoward as the industry has been leaning towards that path for a while now (eg: @amazon). However, it required substantial effort to get to a 100% cross-compatibility-score.

If you are interested into the topic, we can definitely get a new discussion started somewhere in the community!

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