We started the tradition of “A Letter from the Editor” in 2019. It has become one of my favorite articles to write every quarter. The reviews and content you see on STH are only 15-20% of the work involved with the site. This quarterly series is my opportunity to share a bit about why and how STH is evolving. We are currently in a period which is the “calm before the storm” where we are about to launch a few big projects that we have been working on for 2-3 months. Some of our readers may have noticed this, others may not have. I wanted to give an update on the behind-the-scenes at STH.
If you want to check out how this series has evolved, here are the links to the first nine:
- STH Q1 2019 Update A Letter from the Editor
- STH Q2 2019 Update A Letter from the Editor
- STH Q3 2019 Update A Letter from the Editor
- STH Q4 2019 Update A Letter from the Editor
- STH Q1 2020 Update A Letter from the Editor
- STH Q2 2020 Update A Letter from the Editor
- STH Q3 2020 Update A Letter from the Editor
- STH Q4 2020 Update A Letter from the Editor
- STH Q1 2021 Update A Letter from the Editor
This update marks the tenth installment of the series.
STH Q2 2021: A Personal Note
A few weeks ago we celebrated STH’s 12th anniversary. As part of the STH Turns 12 and Some Thank Yous piece, I think we covered quite a bit about STH. Instead, I wanted to just give a personal update. Although STH is much larger than just me these days, at some point it is the case where I am responsible and have been a central figure. At this point, I am not a total robot, so my personal life indeed impacts STH.
Starting with the pandemic in 2021, I was at my mother-in-law’s place in Park City, Utah for a weekend of snowboarding. The plan was to come back to California for a few days before heading off again to Barcelona for MWC. Ultimately, MWC 2020 was abruptly canceled due to the pandemic and each of the next trips I had planned were as well. For some frame of reference, I flew around 144,000 miles just on United Airlines in 2019 and had travel plans for doing around 100,000 by mid-June 2020.
As the pandemic locked down California early in the US cycle, I quickly found myself trapped under a stay-at-home order. The world in Silicon Valley changed almost overnight with the first case being reported in a hospital only a 5-minute drive from home. Simple things became hard.
Was going to do a @Costco run today in Sunnyvale, CA. Normally, Saturday mornings at open are not too crowded. 9:10AM this morning and the expressway is backed up to get to the clogged access road to get into the full parking lot. This is #COVID19 impact. pic.twitter.com/HQflF1ezzT
— Patrick J Kennedy (@Patrick1Kennedy) February 29, 2020
As I noted in the STH Q2 2020 letter, we lost access to the STH’s photo/ video studio that had just undergone a major upgrade. I spent an afternoon frantically taking down the old studio and getting a makeshift version in my home.
Over the pandemic, that studio morphed. We still had content I wanted to get done, but movement in the area was restricted for months. During some of the periods where California opened up between waves, the air was fouled for weeks due to large-scale wildfires.
— Patrick J Kennedy (@Patrick1Kennedy) August 25, 2020
Just to give some sense of how bad it was during some days and the duration, here is a shot from weeks later.
Big news! I fixed California's haze issue! Steps:
– 1. Get camera set for 5500K mid-day white balance
– 2. Close eyes open door and take a photo
– 3. Go into Adobe Camera RAW editor/ Photoshop and change white balance to 3000K.
– 4. Look at image and confirm everything looks OK pic.twitter.com/mOrqKj7TA8
— Patrick J Kennedy (@Patrick1Kennedy) September 9, 2020
As a result, 2020 was primarily a lockdown year. STH still needed to press on, so what started as a bunch of cameras and lights on tripods.
— Patrick J Kennedy (@Patrick1Kennedy) August 8, 2020
Ended up becoming a full studio.
We have a piece detailing the studio coming very soon as it is about to be decommissioned and rebuilt in a new location, but the reality is that this was done under effective lockdown. As the process has started decommissioning that studio for a longer-term solution, I just wanted to reflect on how much it helped us over the past six quarters. That lockdown also had another impact that went well beyond the STH studio.
The first was that I lost both of my living grandparents during the pandemic. My grandmother passed away early in the various lockdowns. It was strange to know she was in the hospital and not be able to go. My grandfather was at a family celebration on Thanksgiving morning and fell off of the single step in the home everyone was in. He broke his hip and although he made it through hip surgery OK, he caught COVID in the rehab facility and passed. Both lived great lives into their 90’s, but it was part of the reason I personally tried to stay safe. I was more worried about potentially spreading than I was for my own health.
In Q3/ Q4 2020 my wife and I realized we had very divergent views on what we wanted our next 5, 10, and 50 years to involve. COVID probably was a point that made us sit down and have the discussion that our aspirations of many years prior were not where we are headed. As I am penning this Letter from the Editor it is the last day we are officially married since the divorce will be effective tomorrow, just shy of our 7th anniversary.
Aside from these bits, we also had some major health scares in the family that were the kind where folks were hospitalized for perhaps a week with a substantial chance they would not pull through.
On a personal level, 2020 and Q1/Q2 2021 have been rough. These combined to leave me with a fairly big choice to make. Either I could wallow in the situation, or I could take the blows and make progress where I could. I decided to take the second path which is really what our little STH YouTube channel and our studio have been for me. STH grew in 2020 at a healthy clip, but the YouTube channel was something different, albeit a lot more work.
What I can tell you is that behind the scenes since April/ May of this year I have been planning on the next generation of STH. I took stock of what I think the site needs to be in 1-5 years and then started executing on a plan to make that happen. We have been changing out some of our data center facilities as one example, but the bigger changes will happen in Q3. In this process, I wanted to give a special thank you to Joe, who made a cameo in our recent Touring the PhoenixNAP Data Center video. He has been a great sounding board.
Likely in mid-August 2021, we are going to start showing some of the results of these huge changes as some of the new space and facilities start to come online. We also hope to start hiring 2-3 folks in August/ September to help with the growth trajectory. On a personal level, it has been a huge investment and I am excited to share what is happening behind the scenes in a few weeks.
What I can tell you, however, is that I am not looking forward to the next 40 days. As we emerge post-pandemic social events are picking up as is travel. I think in July alone I will be in 9-10 states across the US. During this period, we will start to transition the current STH studio into a longer-term location as well as prepping space for it.
If things felt like they slowed down in May on STH, the hope is that July will be the month that gets us to a recharged state and in a great place to close out 2021.
STH Q2 2021 Call for Action
We are making so many changes behind the scenes that we are not going to be asking for new writers just yet. The hope is that in August/ September we will be hiring a few more folks.
That does not mean I am not going to still make an ask. As with last quarter, I have a simple one: Just do something nice for someone else. I know the last few months have been rough personally, but there are degrees here. I remind myself that my worst days would be luxurious and the best days of others’ lives.
While not a specific ask, you never know who you run into that has a lot of not great stuff they are working through.
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