An obscure internet conspiracy — now a global cult — is hitting too close to home.

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Have you received cryptic messages from friends or family about an upcoming blackout, that you should stock up on food & water, that something big is happening? Are your relatives accusing politicians of running child trafficking rings?

If so, you’ve very likely come into contact with the wild and expansive world of QAnon. Yes, the same QAnon prominently featured in the raid on the U.S. Capitol: Most iconically represented by the man with the Viking hat, the self-proclaimed “Q Shaman”*.

Those spreading QAnon beliefs may not even know they are doing so. QAnon is such a strange blend of MAGA…


How to optimize your work for long-term happiness

Last year I wrote about how I launched six side projects in one year. I won’t lie, it was a rush to ship that many projects in a short space of time. I don’t regret doing it… but did it pay off in the long run? Stay tuned.

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Me and my side projects in 2017

After last year, I learned more viscerally that there’s a big difference between pleasure and happiness in regards to my work.

⚠️Warning: neurological oversimplification ahead

Pleasure is dopamine: it’s biological and temporary. You can obtain pleasure from many things: food, sex, drugs, and yes, launching side projects.

Dopamine is a helpful tool…


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Photo by Smit Patel on Unsplash

Do you ever feel like your work or life doesn’t fit with who you truly are? Most of us do at times, but often it’s a vague cognitive dissonance without anything particularly actionable.

Identifying your core values is an essential step towards addressing this vague feeling with actionable data.

We all have many different values driving our motivations but what is a core value?

I like this answer by Dave Logan:

“A core value is a principle without which life wouldn’t be worth living.”

That probably sounds a bit dramatic; most of us are relatively unaware that, one, a core…


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The web is in an awkward phase right now. We’re transitioning from an era where a website was simply a collection of linked pages to one where even using the term “page” to describe a particular screen is a giant oversimplification.

When I first started web development, the job was mostly . . .

  1. Type up some HTML
  2. Add a little styling
  3. FTP that baby up to your server and . . .

Boom; you’ve published to the internet. Let’s just say it’s rarely that simple anymore.

While it’s tempting to bemoan the loss of that simple early web, it’s…


“What?!”, you say. “GraphQL is a server-side query language. Redux is a client-side state management library. How could one replace the other?” Good question.

Hold onto your butts, because I’m about to answer it.

⚛️ Switching to React

First, a little back-story. Back in 2016, the front-end team at Pathwright began switching our client-side code from a Backbone & Marionette stack to React. The declarative model for UI made much more sense than the MVC patterns we’d been dealing with.

It was a breath of fresh air and still is to a large degree.

Everything was beautiful except for the state management side of…


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The primary users of Pathwright are the hundreds of thousands of students completing learning steps every day. None of these users pay us.

Instead, they pay our customers who are made up of a much smaller group of school administrators, IT directors, and content creators from educational organizations of all sizes. (In fact, we have several customers who make way more money than we do.)

From a more conventional business perspective, it would make sense for us to prioritize designing primarily for the users who pay us first and then for the learners who don’t pay us, right?

That’s exactly…


Last year I set a goal to learn something new each month and ended out launching six new projects which I’ll recap along with what I learned below.

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GIF flyover of my 2017 Projects — Find details of each project at the bottom of this post

Looking back, it seems a little crazy to me that I managed to launch as much as I did while running a (more than) full time business, spending quality time with my family (I have two kids and a very patient wife), teaching as an adjunct professor, and consulting on the side.

It’s easy to think that not having enough time is what’s holding you back from launching your side projects. “If…


How to use “creative endorphins” to foster a healthy habit of making

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Running often is not a comfortable choice. Yet almost every day, I find myself hitting the trail for a run even though it’s much easier to do practically anything else. One reason I keep doing this is that I’m chasing that “runners high” (a.k.a. endorphins). I’m literally addicted to running. So if I don’t run for a few days, I start to feel mild withdrawal symptoms.

I find that this dynamic overlaps a lot with fostering creative habits. Great creative work can also be painful and time consuming, but that feeling of making something and putting it out there gives…


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When I tell people about Pathwright, I often hear a version of “man, my university’s software sucks, we should use yours.”

Hating your LMS (Learning Management System) is not an uncommon sentiment. Google “[LMS name] sucks” for pretty much any mainstream LMS, and you’ll find outpourings of ire from students and teachers listing all the ways they’ve been screwed by these poorly designed platforms.

Mark Johnson

Web designer, developer, and teacher. Working at the cross-section of learning and technology. Co-Founder, CTO of Pathwright. Launcher of side projects.

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