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A geeky book review on “10% Happier” by Dan Harris

By: Joe Truesdale, account manager / geek & creative @ wisnet

If you know me, you know that I’m not a great reader. I’m slow. I often get a few pages along when my mind starts wandering and then I realize, “Wait… what did I just read?” Only to have to go back and read it over again. And if those two things don’t happen, then I simply fall asleep mid-read and don’t get anywhere.

I’ve always loved learning new things, though. So what’s one to do when they can’t read efficiently but they want to keep expanding their knowledge base? Audiobooks! I love listening to podcasts (primarily about video games, work culture, and the Packers) so I thought this might be a good way to get back on track with continued learning.

So I laid out my plan:

1. Find some audiobooks on Audible to queue up on my phone
2. Purchase a waterproof bluetooth speaker to listen to books in the shower (sorry if that’s TMI)
3. Learn!

I started my new adventure with a book by Dan Harris, national reporter and news anchor, titled, “10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works–A True Story.” I’ve always heard about meditation being such a positive influence once people start doing it, but every time I considered it or thought I’d give it a shot, I just felt silly or self-conscious (even though I was alone). I figured that if I could knock out the reading limitations with a book that would get me another life skill right out of the gate, it’d be that much better.

After a few mornings of getting the book started, I found myself looking forward to listening more each morning. So not only was I absorbing the material from the book, it was motivating me to get out of bed so that I could listen to more of the book. Bonus! I also realized that I had similar attention span issues with this long-form content as well. So in the middle of a listening session, I’d catch myself thinking ahead to what’s on today’s agenda or thinking about what happened yesterday instead of being mindful and present in the audio. Thankfully, I was able to recalibrate pretty quickly for the most part and only had to scrub backward a few times here and there to catch what I had missed.

I quickly became a fan of Dan Harris over the course of the book. His storytelling ability is absolutely phenomenal. He delivers his book in such a conversational way that it’s like he’s right there with you telling stories (which might be a little weird given that I was in the bathroom everytime I listened). I won’t get into the next book I’ve started listening to, but I’m quickly noticing how good Harris is and how important it is to have a really good performer to hold your attention.

Harris begins by talking about his life as if it’s a memoir, but quickly diverted into his initial reactions to meditation and mindfulness. Seeing them as “hippy-dippy” and not really worth his time of day. Feeling silly when he gave it a shot for the first time. The struggles he had staying focused and carving out the time for it. Slowly but surely, Harris then comes around on it and begins to see and feel the impact on his life, outlook, and performance at work. Some truly enlightening stuff. While he won’t claim that it’s an amazing, revelatory thing, he consistently mentions that it makes him about 10% happier (hence the name of the book). Which is a great return on investment when you think about it. If we could guarantee a 10% return on a lot of things, that’d be rad, right?

My next goal is to try and start small and begin daily meditation sessions of five or ten minutes apiece. I’ve consistently toyed around with the notion of different apps to help facilitate meditation like Headspace (Harris even has his own 10% Happier app), but I think I’m going to try going cold turkey first and see how that goes. I’ll be sure to report back on my success or failure, but either way, I’m glad I “read” the book. I definitely recommend it to anyone looking to find just 10% more happiness!

Why isn’t my video auto-playing?

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By: Tracy Freund, account manager / geek & creative @ wisnet

For those of you with video backgrounds on your website, you may have just realized that the video is no longer playing automatically when in the web browser Google Chrome. What on earth!? So now you may be thinking, “Did I break something?”

Rest assured, you did not break anything, at least that we know of. Google Chrome recently released an update to their browser that turns video autoplay off unless your site meets specific requirements for media engagement.

I will admit, when we first read of this update, we freaked a little! What were we going to do to get sites these working correctly again?! Thankfully, we found it to be an easy fix thanks to our dedicated programmers and developers. They jumped right in and applied the fix which basically tells Chrome, “Hey, it’s cool. This video is muted so it’s not annoying.”

Why Being a Programmer is Never Boring

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By: Steve Maass, senior application programmer / geek & creative @ wisnet

If you’re the kind of person who enjoys a routine, where things kind of work the same way every day, and once you learn to do something, you can kind of do it on auto-pilot, programming is really not the job for you. But for those of us who enjoy the thing that makes programming interesting, even fun–creating something and seeing it work–change and constant learning are part of the deal.

When I started at wisnet, we mainly programmed in a language called IML (Internet Markup Language) that was created by our very own resident genius, Brian Kolstad. IML was geared to be a rapid-development language. It has commands that in many cases cause multiple operations to happen that in other languages would take several lines of code to accomplish the same thing.

I had never heard of IML (as was true of most of the rest of the world). Personally, my programming background was in ASP and JavaScript. But with the use of Brian’s IML documentation along with many questions over my shoulder to him, it quickly made sense, and I became an IML programmer, not touching ASP since.

JavaScript got its own rapid development boost when jQuery became popular. jQuery basically is JavaScript, but, like IML, it offers a way to do with simplified commands things that would be much more complicated to do in JavaScript itself. So, another learning curve leading to cleaner and faster programming. And more fun, when you try something new and see it work!

Fast-forwarding to 2018, wisnet’s main focus now is PHP, a language that’s been around for quite a while and has a rich and deep and constantly improving pool of code libraries and frameworks. Learning curve? You bet! But the result is standardized, structured programming that anyone with a knowledge of these common frameworks can jump in and follow.

It’s a truism that in technology, if you don’t stay in the game, you can get left behind. So is there still IML-based code in the world? Sure. We still support it, and when it’s appropriate, we still use it. But we want to make sure that our customers get the best websites and web apps that we can deliver, so we always stay tuned into what can improve our processes and our final product. That doesn’t mean jumping on board with every buzzing trend, because many trends don’t trend for long. But it does mean evaluating what might help us do what we do. And when we see a clear advantage in adding to or changing how we do things, we take that opportunity to learn, to challenge ourselves, and then to lean back and smile when that new chunk of programming… works!

No more work deadlines!

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By: Ashley Puetz, designer / geek & creative @ wisnet

We’ve decided to get rid of deadlines.

No, that doesn’t mean we will never complete another project – we’re simply going to be replacing the word “deadline” with “finish line.”

What does “finish line” mean and why are we adopting it?

It’s just another one of the small tweaks that we’re going to be implementing to make projects a more enjoyable and successful experience for our team and our clients. Finish line has a much more upbeat and positive tone than deadline. We want our team to be excited about the projects we are working on and to be excited to complete them.

We love to celebrate all things big and small at wisnet (did anyone else celebrate National Meatball Day??) and I could see us adding finish line celebrations to our project outlines. It’s a great way for us as a team to celebrate accomplishments and for our clients to be excited about their completed project.

If you’d like help reaching the finish line with a project let us know. We’d love to celebrate with you at the end.

Delivering quality & consistency with Automation Testing and living code

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By: Barton Hammond, quality assurance developer / geek & creative @ wisnet

Having a web application requires thorough testing.

Typically there are many features interrelated and woven together to deliver a seamless solution to a complex business problem.  But finding the time to test all these features when a new release is available is sometimes difficult. Taking the time to test all or most of the features is boring and not exciting at all.  

Wouldn’t it be great if this could be automated?!
Indeed!  That’s why wisnet chose to perform Automated Testing with their web applications– we’re able to test an application in minutes and obtain reports showing what was tested in plain english and also how much of the code was tested.

We use an approach called “Business Driven Development” (BDD).  With this approach, we define the features of our system being tested in plain English and in terms that make it obvious to the casual user what is being tested.  Let’s look at a sample Feature that has been defined:

The above Feature has one Scenario – that as a Visitor, I can access a campus.  The Scenario has multiple Steps and each Step performs one action such as clicking a link, filling a field with a value and clicking a button.  The Scenario is written with a few key words which include “Given”, “When” and “Then” plus “And” and “But”.

This little language is called Gherkin.  It’s a precise way to communicate between Business, Development and Quality Assurance teams so all agree upon the expected behavior.  The Features and Scenarios are defined in business terms, not with technical jargon.

And what is so beautiful about using this approach to testing is that we are testing the web application in the same manner as a human.  We interact with the app as it “comes to the glass” – a.k.a. we are testing what we can see. The automated test interacts with the browser in the same manner a person would.

The following shows a running test.

 

In the above screenshot, the system under test is on the left.  The Features are on the right. During the test, the Steps are actually executing code to perform the step.  For example, one of the steps is this:

And I fill the date “discount_Start_Date” with format “m/d/Y” for time “-5 day

Looking at the screen we can see a “Start Date” of “3/18/2018” which was placed there by the execution of this one Step.  So our BDD Features are living code: the code is not just some words in a text file – they are actually executable statements that interactively test a web application.

In the following picture we see the results of running all the tests in terms of “Code Coverage”.  We can see that one area has been tested 91% (green), numerous areas over 50% (yellow) and some areas need more testing (pink).

 

We run this test everyday and review the results to confirm everything is working as designed.

These tests provides the Development additional confidence that if they are changing code with the inclusion of new features or fixing some bug, they don’t break something else. 

We continually add additional tests to increase our code coverage. When we find a bug, we write a our test to replicate the bug and to confirm that it won’t happen again. The best part: this testing is done in plain English that everyone in our company can read and understand the intent.

The hours to test our applications manually would absolutely go through the roof. Using our Automated Testing scripts with this specific project, it takes close to 10 minutes to run 359 steps as shown below.  

The takeaway: We’re geeking out over automation testing options and dedicated to delivering the very best and consistent application products for our clients.

Maintenance & Security Update: WordPress 4.9.5

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WordPress has released a new maintenance/security update this week for WordPress core: version 4.9.5. Version 4.9.5 comes with minor security and maintenance fixes which the WordPress core team deemed impactful enough to warrant a release.

For details on this release you may reference the official blog post on WordPress.org: https://wordpress.org/news/2018/04/wordpress-4-9-5-security-and-maintenance-release/

As with all maintenance/security related updates, WordPress has released patches for older functional versions as well. As a wisnet customer, no action is required on your part. Our team is already working to push out automatic updates to your site(s) to ensure they are in the next version. Our team always strives provide the most secure WordPress experience for all our customers.

Workplace culture – authenticity and putting people first

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Some musings from Tracy Freund, Account Manager, regarding It’s Not About the Coffee – Lessons on Putting People First from a Life at Starbucks by Howard Behar

What is the first thing you think about when you hear Starbucks? Obviously, coffee! Many think that they live and breathe for coffee but as I started to read through this book, I began to realize there is more to Starbucks than just coffee. In the beginning, it is simply stated, “We’re in the people business serving coffee, not the coffee business serving people.” This brings to the forefront that the leadership and culture of Starbucks is about people and the importance of putting people first. This includes their customers, but even more important are their employees.

Here are a few tidbits I’ve picked up as I’m at the halfway point of the book. Keep these in mind if you are in a leadership position and/or working to evolve your company culture or even in your everyday life!

1. Know Who You Are: Wear One Hat – When you have a clear vision of your values, purpose, and goals, you have the energy and passion to achieve great things. It’s like clearing out all the riff raff and paving a path to success.

2. Think Independently: The Person Who Sweeps the Floor Should Choose the Broom – People are human beings, not “assets.” We have the capacity to achieve more than ever imaginable. Get rid of rules and help encourage independent thinking. Give the person that works with the tools the authority to make a decision on what is best to use. After all, the person using brooms is the one who is going to know the most about them and what works best to complete their job, not the person who sits in the corner office and goes off of what they think is best.

3. Listen for the Truth: The Walls Talk – Take the time to listen, even when words are not said. You will start to realize what you have been missing from your team or life whether good, bad or indifferent. Knowing and recognizing this will give you energy to make change. Try this on for size: Compassionate emptiness. What is that you ask? It is listening with compassion but without offering advice or opinions. Sometimes people are not asking for help, they are just asking to be heard.

To be continued! More tidbits to come as I work to wrap up the book. I’m excited to share more!

 

Bubblers: Truly Wisconsin and truly wisnet

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By: Joe Truesdale, account manager / geek & creative @ wisnet

Before I was a team member, I wanted to work for wisnet for years.

It’s the “cool” place in Fond du Lac to work. Nearly everyone is heavily involved in organizations around town like Young Professionals of Fond du Lac (YPF), FDL Area Women’s Fund, Children’s Museum of Fond du Lac, and countless others. I first engaged with wisnet team members through YPF and I knew soon after that it was my kind of team. Variety is around every corner and stagnation is a no-no. When I was fortunate enough to join the team in 2016, I knew it was one of Wisconsin’s best kept secrets for growth-mindset people. Little did I know, so did the selection committee for the Bubbler Awards.

We are thrilled to be named one of the top 10 best places to work for young professionals in Wisconsin in 2018. Kudos to our team and community for helping wisnet shine!

The Bubbler Awards are presented each year as part of YPWeek in Wisonsin (an initiative lead by NEWaukee) as a celebration of the ten best companies in the state for young professionals to work at. In 2016, shortly after I officially joined wisnet, we were honored in the class of great companies. At the time, we weren’t expecting it what-so-ever. Yeah, we really love working here and our small yet mighty team is always finding ways to engage each other. Whether that’s through twice-daily bike breaks, cooking meals and treats for each other, working out together in our fitness room, sharing books and podcasts, or any of the other various initiatives that helps everyone unleash their intrapreneurial spirit; we don’t often share about it (in fact, it feels weird just typing this all out). We do these things for growth and constant improvement, not to get pats on the back.

So when we were awarded, it took our modest approach a bit by surprise. Looking back, we now see the added benefit to being named a Bubbler Award winner. It’s not just validation that we must be doing something right or getting that proverbial celebration. It’s about bringing that spotlight of a kick-butt workplace to the bigger picture of Fond du Lac. You don’t have to go to a big city to find an employer who treats everyone like a human being. Who knows that if you have to jet for an appointment or you’re out of the office bettering our community, you’ll still get your stuff done or the team will be there to get your back. Fond du Lac, too, can support employers who want to explore more catered and personal employment experiences. Beyond wisnet, there’s Commonwealth Companies, Society Insurance, Grande Cheese Company, and so many more. By taking this perspective, we really saw a lot of value about this designation being bigger than wisnet. It’s about Fond du Lac.

Now that we’re a second-time Bubbler Award winner as of 2018, we’re super stoked to help bring that spotlight back to our neighbors and partners. Like Transformers, Fond du Lac is more than meets the eye. And we will forever carry the Stubbornly Optimistic flag that highlights our wonderful culture and community.

Boycott of “employee appreciation day”?

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We’ve never loved the “e” word here at wisnet, and we work hard to avoid it(We’re talking about the word “employee” if you’re not picking up what we’re putting down.) Despite that, conversations bounced around among team members over the last month about exactly what we could do to celebrate our awesome people today…

As we pondered the right or coolest thing to do for “employee appreciation day,” we ended up talking ourselves out of anything huge, fancy or elaborate. And here’s our reason why…

We feel fortunate to work with a team and in a culture that strives to acknowledge and appreciate each other every day. Not saying it’s easy or big actions every single day.  It’s not always spoken either. But, the essence is there. In the grand scheme of things, we attribute it to collective effort to go above and beyond in making sure each person feels engaged, has the opportunity to share his/her voice and be heard – better yet, that they belong, are sincerely cared about and even celebrated. It’s often the little things … an unexpected team member’s quick ride to pick up Gilles ice cream cookies. #yum. Another’s dedication to being an ear to bend, with a friendly voice of reassurance or pep talk. Partnering on our passion projects inside and outside of office walls. Emphasis and care for staying healthy, with a focus on work/life balance, getting moving, and staying active. Hell, even St. Nick and Santa come to our office. (Some may still waiting for the Easter bunny!) Trying to plan something big for employee appreciation day is like waiting to say “I love you” only on valentines day. It just doesn’t make sense.

“Team Appreciation Day” instead = Bacon for everyone!

Okay, so maybe it’s not an actual boycott… just a twist on the day. Plus, who can turn away some delicious grub and camaraderie over lunch with one’s work pals.

 

Which side to choose? #yum

 

Chow time

Bacon deliciousness brought to you by our new “neighbors” – Sweet N Salty Pig!

Put more money in your teams’ wallets without giving everyone raises.

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We love our people and see value in financially rewarding them for their talent, hard work and energy whenever we can. However, being a startup or a smaller company, like wisnet (investing in app product development) can make significant merit increases difficult. Sure, we invest in our teams’ future through their retirement saving plans with a 3% match – which 100% of our team meets or exceeds. And, while we strive to put as much of our profits back into our team members’ hands with regular bonuses, it’s SUPER important for us to support the financial wellbeing of our people even more when and where we can.<

What else could there be?!?

In 2015, we introduced the Dave Ramsey “Smart Dollar” programto our team. Smart Dollar provides a step-by-step approach to better handling one’s money with a build up series of videos and resources covering the range of how to get out of debt, on a budget, and on your way to a smarter financial future. 100% of our team members finished … and you bet a $$ incentive to finish helped, but the end results continue to put MORE money into the wallets, bank accounts and future of our team members.

Here’s what we’re seeing:

*Data shared is from 6 of our team members who have completed the SmartDollar program anywhere between 2015 and now.

 

 

Here’s some of what we heard:

Great program – easy steps!

Helped accelerate my student loan payments.

Increased retirement savings – I’m doing more monthly IRA contributing vs. end of the tax year.

Makes me think differently about all purchases!!

Paid for last car with cash – no monthly payments.