Aleen Mean


Christmas tree branches with a glittery bulb ornament, the word "Silver" in the lower right.

When I was little, I loved putting icicles on my grandparents’ Christmas tree. I remember grabbing the long whispy strips of silver in my tiny hands and flinging clumps of the stuff on the branches.

“Don’t use so much,” Granny and Papa would say, “Just take a strip or two at a time.”

It was less fun to drape the icicles meticulously upon the tree, but the effect when everything was placed was beautiful. Their metallic surface would glitter and gleam next to the lights. When someone walked by, the icicles would even dance a little.

I’m going to throw all modesty aside for a moment to tell you that, if we haven’t met, you probably don’t realize how stunning my hair is. My dark brown locks are thick, shiny, and sleek.1 When the light hits it just right, you can even see glints of gold and red shine through.

It’s my point of vanity, and I’ve wondered how I’d handle going gray since I was in high school.

That time, it would seem, is nigh.2 I feel like I spot a new silver hair every time I look in the mirror, but my reaction has surprised me.

Perhaps I’ll feel differently in a few years, but I’m grateful for the opportunity to face a future with gray hair. Our culture reveres youth but age is a badge of honor, of experience, of wisdom. May I live long enough to have no natural trace of brown on my head.

There’s also a bonus to these silver streaks. You see, when I turn my head to and fro, these scattered highlights glitter and gleam just like Granny and Papa’s tree decorations.

  1. My hair also has a deep hunger for the accessories I place in it and a fondness for not doing what I ask, but that’s not the point right now.

  2. I am, after all, in my mid-30s now (lolsob).

Sometimes You Have to Begin Again

Apple’s developer conference was two weeks ago. The conference’s keynote is Christmas for the Apple developer community every year; those of us who geek out over new operating system features usually get some great presents. This year, I was especially excited to try Swift Playgrounds on iOS, but it’s only available on the iOS 10 beta. Running early betas like this one can be a quick way to experience a lot of computing-related pain.

I managed to make it a week before I decided to sacrifice my iPad in the name of learning Swift via Playgrounds and, while I was caught up in the NewShiny! excitement, I upgraded my computer to the beta Mac operating system.

Turns out, that wasn’t the best choice. After a few days, it became clear that it would be a good idea for me to downgrade to OS X 10.11. The problem was that I didn’t clone my SSD before installing Sierra and my Time Machine backups were toast. Oops.1

This is the second time I’ve needed to wipe my computer and start over again in a the last few months.2 The first time I embarked upon this journey in recent memory, my friend Casey Liss was kind enough to share his starting-over list with me and it really helped me get up and running pretty quickly. I should have made my own version at that time, but I figured it’d be a while before I’d need one again. Oops.

I don’t always learn from my mistakes, but this time I decided to make a list of my own as I got everything set up again. I use 1Password Families to keep track all of my important information. It seemed pretty logical to put these details there, since 1Password is one of the first things I set up on a new device and it syncs almost instantly.3

Starting Over Secure Note in 1Password

I started a Secure Note and started documenting everything I installed or set up as I muddled my way through getting my Mac back up to spec. I’m still making edits to the note. For example, it was a few days before I worked out of the house and realized I hadn’t yet set up the VPN.

I made sure to use Related Items to help speed up setup in the future since I just need to click on the Item’s name to go to it directly.4 I also took the liberty of writing the text in Markdown in the hope that support will be added soon!5

Now the challenge will be remembering to update the note when I make big changes to my processes and preferred apps…and finding a text editor I really like.

Here’s the full text of my Secure Note, in Markdown, if you’d like to copy and paste and/or can’t read the image:

1. Change computer’s name in Sys Preferences > Sharing. Also enable Screen Sharing, File Sharing, Remote Login
2. Download 1Password and set up Families
3. Enable FileVault
4. Set up Dropbox and let sync (give at least 8 hours)
5. Set up backups
6. Set up (use password authentication for outgoing mail)
7. Make sure messages originate from phone number
8. Set up VPN (VPN Type: L2TP over IPSec, Send All Traffic Over VPN, Show VPN status in menu bar)
9. Download: Alfred (set up powerpack!), aText, Audio Hijack, Bartender, BetterSnapTool, Chrome, Dropshare, Fantastical, Skitch, Skype, Slack, Ulysses, and the text editor du jour

## Set up

### Homebrew, Ruby, Jekyll, etc.:

### Set up SSH keypair:

* mkdir ~/.ssh
* chmod -R 700 ~/.ssh
* _copy public key to pasteboard_
* pbpaste > ~/.ssh/
* _copy private key to pasteboard_
* pbpaste > ~/.ssh/id_rsa
* chmod 644 ~/.ssh/
* chmod 600 ~/.ssh/id_rsa

### Test keypair:

* ssh (redacted)
* exit (if 👍)
  1. It’s fine, really. I wouldn’t have risked it if I wasn’t willing to start over again.

  2. Way back in the late 90s, I’d reformat my computer’s hard drive for fun. Starting over was a lot easier then. All I needed to do was reinstall a bit of software and configure our dial-up Internet before I was ready to take on the virtual world again. Things are more complicated for me now so I start from scratch far less often. I’ve really only wiped everything out a handful of times since I got my first iMac in 2008.

  3. Reminder that I worked for AgileBits for nearly two years, left on excellent terms, and have a ton of friends who still work there. I’m not entirely unbiased, here :)

  4. I wish that there was an easy way to go to a previous item. As it is, I have to make sure to add my Starting Over note to each Related Item I add.

  5. I have no inside information on this, but it was an oft-requested feature when I worked there!

Twitter Remains Broken

Today Twitter, the microblogging service dedicated to making sure that people can easily be harassed without repercussion, announced some changes they’re planning on rolling out over the next few months. True to their mission, these new features are sure to promote not only harassment, but spamming from both malicious accounts and #brands trying to #engage their audience.

Snark and admitted hostility aside, I love Twitter. I’ve used it every day for almost exactly eight years. I got my last job after hearing about the opening on Twitter. Most of my current, closest friendships exist because of Twitter. I quite literally cannot imagine what my life would be like today if it weren’t for this service.

But it’s broken, especially (but certainly not exclusively) for women who dare to publicly express their opinions. I’m pretty lucky: I’ve never been threatened or otherwise harassed there. In the back of my mind, however, I always wonder when it will happen—when will they threaten to rape me or harm my family members? When will they post my address or call my local police department to lie and dispatch a SWAT team to my home? I never wonder if it will happen. It’s always when.

Twitter is constantly saying that they take abuse seriously, but there seems to be very little movement on actually making things better for users. Right now, it’s up to us to see an abusive tweet, then block and report the offending account.1 After that, it’s up to Twitter to actually do something about it. This takes time, and often reports are simply dismissed. In the event that an account is banned, there’s nothing to prevent a harasser from creating a new account and starting over again. Furthermore, many users report that they see tweets from offensive accounts even after they’ve been blocked, which means that abusive comments can sneak through.

When today’s announced changes go into effect, the characters included in mentions will no longer count toward a tweet’s 140-characters. This is good for up to 50 names. I can think of no reason a Twitter conversation needs 50 people tagged in it. It’s great for the kinds of engagement companies seem to want, less great for the rest of us. It will be easier than ever to gang up on an individual, now that a critic can mention 49 of their closest friends and their target in a single tweet. There’s no mention of any way to untag oneself from these exchanges; this will be disastrous for many people.

Time and time again, we’ve been told that the company is working on making things better for targets of harassment. What we see, however, are half-baked enhancements designed to make the service more appealing to advertisers and attempts at enticing new users. Many people have suggested changes they could implement to curb abuse. For example, Randi Lee Harper’s list of suggestions from earlier this year is still on-point.

I know that Twitter is a huge company and that the people who are spending their time and energy on these new features aren’t necessarily the ones who would work on anti-abuse tools, but it’s clear that the company’s leadership is unwilling to actually act. Until they do, they’ll continue to lose influential users and many of us will refuse to recommend that anyone create a Twitter account.

If you’re curious, other features Twitter announced today include:

  • Photos, quoted tweets, videos, and other attached media will no longer count against your 140-character limit.
  • New tweets that begin with someone’s username will show up to all of your followers instead of just the people who follow you both. This is how things used to work and I was pretty angry when they moved away from this behavior. At the time, I followed around 50 people; now my timeline is going to get cluttered pretty quickly.
  • Replies to existing tweets that begin with someone’s username will only show up in the timelines of people who follow you both.
  • You’ll be able to retweet and quote yourself, which is something I’ve been doing using Tweetbot since forever.
  1. There are no Twitter-provided tools to curb harassment unless you’re a verified user. It seems to be reserved for some members of the media and celebrities. Beyond that, nobody really knows what’s required to become verified, though it seems to require use of the black arts.

Coming Soon: App Camp for Girls, Phoenix Chapter

Today was my last day at AgileBits, just 15 days shy of my second anniversary there.

Leaving my position as wordsmith for the 1Password for iOS team and media outreach person is one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever made. However, I’ve found myself juggling and dropping too many balls lately, and I had to pull back and evaluate my goals. When I stopped to think about what I really wanted to accomplish this year, the answer was immediately clear: App Camp for Girls, Phoenix edition has to be as great as I can make it.

I’m lucky to have an absolutely phenomenal, enthusiastic team of women co-organizing this venture with me, and I’m so excited for July! In the meantime, there are volunteers to obtain, workshops to organize, and potential sponsors to approach. I also need to dive into Swift so I can write my scholarship app for this year’s WWDC and be available to answer questions during the week of camp.

So I’m taking some time to focus on that.1 And when that’s done? Well, you never know what’ll happen down the road. :)

P.S. If you know a girl (or non-binary/transgender kiddo of any gender) entering the 8th or 9th grade next year, let them know that App Camp registration is now open! This year’s camps will take place in:

  • Phoenix, Arizona, USA
  • Orange County, California, USA
  • Portland, Oregon, USA
  • Seattle, Washington, USA
  • Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
  1. My thanks to past Justin and Aleen, our tax attorney, and the IRS for allowing this to happen.


People make jokes when we’re introduced for the first time. I’ll often hear, “So you’re name’s like ‘a lean, mean fighting machine’?” or the humming of Come on Eileen’s chorus.1

At some point I decided to make a joke of one of the jokes and create a website called Aleen Mean. It was going to be my digital home on the Internet, with subdomains for each of my interests and a custom header for each subdomain. I decided that I wanted to have a bit of fun and incorporate a cute monster into each header. Maybe the photography section would have a cyclops squinting through a digital camera, the writing section a furry creature carrying a fountain pen and notebook, and so on.

The trouble with that idea was twofold: first, I am not The Pioneer Woman. I don’t make money off of my website and I have a J-O-B job (as Casey Liss says) that demands a lot of my time and energy. There’s no payoff for me to spend a lot of time juggling subdomains and headers and trying to organize this place like it’s an empire. Second, I don’t have a lot of artistic ability, so drawing things myself is off the table.

Around this time last year, Justin and I made our way to Columbus, Georgia for Creative South. Among the veritable drove of people we met was Kyle Adams, an icon designer who was handing out my favorite sticker of all time. We chatted for a bit and I knew that I’d found the guy to make some iteration of my monsters come to life.

To be honest, I probably wasn’t Kyle’s ideal client. The only direction I had for him was that I wanted to associate an icon with each tag I’d been using on my blog, and that I wanted the appropriate icon to appear by my posts. Oh, and “Cute monsters, please.” I didn’t have a color palette in mind and I’d been using an out-of-the-box Jekyll theme, so there was no existing branding for him to use as a guide.

Working with Kyle was every bit as wonderful as I anticipated it would be. If, at any point, he was frustrated by my lack of direction or “it’s totally up to you” attitude, he never let on. He was communicative, positive, and I think the final results speak for themselves.

Six New Icons for Six Aleen Mean Tags

He even wrote a case study about the icon creation process with some neat sketches that didn’t make the cut. Needless to say, I’m in love with what he came up with. I’m kind of hoping that I start writing about new things in the future so I can ask him to add to the collection.

It’s been a while since Kyle completed the project, but we2 finally incorporated the icons into a custom theme for the site. You might notice that Rachael’s site was a strong influence, but there are definitely some unique tricks thrown into the mix.3

It’s been about a week since the changes went live, and I’m still absolutely delighted. I hope you visit the site from time to time and smile as much as I have been!

  1. It’s been nearly 15 years since I graduated from high school, when I was taunted with this song, and those four notes still irritate me.

  2. Originally, this was going to be a project through which I would start to relearn more complex HTML and CSS in addition to Ruby. In the end, Justin was kind enough to take on the project for me, and it’s much better for him doing so.

  3. I’d encourage you to visit the site on a computer and resize your web browser, for one!