How Being Connected Disconnects – Social Media, Depression, and your Brain

Feeling happy that you connected with an old friend on Facebook?  That’s oxytocin.

Feeling excited that your Instagram posts are better than those of your circle? That’s serotonin.

Did those ten new followers on twitter make your day?  That’s dopamine.

 Is being connected making us more disconnected?
Is being connected making us more disconnected?

Your brain is full of neurotransmitters that continuously change and regulate how you feel. Engaging in social media may seem innocuous and straightforward, but these activities affect certain neurotransmitters – making you feel happy, sad, or a combination of both.

Once being engaged in social media becomes a regular activity – these seemingly normal activities could cause a downward spiral into sadness or depression.

Neurotransmitters and Social Media


Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that plays a major role in the brain’s reward reinforcement and pleasure centers.  The pleasant feeling that you get when dopamine levels are elevated motivates you to continue performing the action that brought about the surge of dopamine.

Eating, sex, and most other things necessary to our survival increase dopamine levels. Actions that benefit you, or your community, also increase dopamine levels. Dopamine conditions us to perform operations or activities necessary for survival, or for a better life.

Posting on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter, and getting likes elevates the dopamine in your system. It makes you want to keep posting, in the hopes of getting acknowledged or rewarded (likes). You had your first taste – now you’re hooked!

A Gentle Introduction to Agile and Lean Software Development.

Late last year I released two books as Kindle and Paperback editions; they were A Gentle Introduction to Agile Software Development and A Gentle Introduction to Lean Software Development. Since releasing those two books, I have had a few people ask if I am going to release those two books as a single volume as they would prefer it as a single book, so I have done exactly that. A Gentle Introduction to Agile and Lean Software Development is now available globally as a Kindle eBook and as a paperback.

A Gentle Introduction to Agile and Lean Software Development
A Gentle Introduction to Agile and Lean Software Development

If you have purchased either of the original books, then there is not much point in you getting this edition unless you want them as a single volume, but if you are interested in getting a fast and thorough introduction to Agile and Lean software development techniques, then this book is ideal for you.

Here is the description from the back of the book.

Discover what is involved with Agile and Lean Software Development, Scrum, Extreme Programming, Lean and Kanban

Learning new software development processes can be difficult, but switching to Agile and Lean doesn’t need to be complicated. Explore the theories behind Agile and Lean Software Development, and learn how to make it work for you.

In a Gentle Introduction to Agile and Lean Software Development, author Stephen Haunts will guide you to a fuller understanding of Agile, Scrum, Extreme Programming, Lean, and Kanban. You will learn about the advantages and disadvantages, and how to get the most out of it.

This book combines the books A Gentle Introduction to Agile Software Development and A Gentle Introduction to Lean Software Development into one bumper volume.

In this book, you will learn…

  • Waterfall Development and its Problems
  • What is Agile?
  • Common Agile Misconceptions and Mistakes
  • Advantages and Disadvantages
  • Extreme Programming (XP)
  • Scrum
  • Lean Manufacturing
  • Lean Software Development
  • Applying Lean Software Development?
  • Agile Software Development vs. Lean Software Development
  • Software Practices to Support Lean
  • Kanban

New Pluralsight Course : Blockchain – Principles and Practices

My latest Pluralsight course, Blockchain – Principles and Practices is available now.

The introduction of blockchain based technologies has been one of the most significant developments in computing in recent years. We now have access to public blockchains and cryptocurrencies with systems like Blockchain and Ethereum, and also private blockchains that can be used by more regulated consortiums of companies. As with any technology, it is important for developers and architects to have a good grasp of the underlying principles of these technologies, even if they are going to use a 3rd party toolset.

Blockchain - Principles and Practices by Stephen Haunts at Pluralsight
Blockchain – Principles and Practices by Stephen Haunts at Pluralsight

In my latest Pluralsight source, Blockchain – Principles and Practices, I take you under the covers of this fascinating technology and show you how it works at a data structure and algorithm level. As well as explaining the principles I also build up a working blockchain sample written in C# and .NET Core to help illustrate the principles in something that you can play with and debug. If you want to understand how this technology works, then this is the course for you.

Here is the course description:

Blockchains are probably one of the most highly talked about technologies at the moment as they provide a way to attain digital trust on the Internet. There is so much emphasis on the technology that companies are very keen to learn about Blockchains and adopt them. Venture capitalists are currently diverting a lot of investments into funding Blockchain-based companies.

In this course, Blockchain – Principles and Practices, you will explore the fundamental data structures and algorithms used to build a typical Blockchain and build up a working example over the course. First, you will learn how to store single transactions in a block. Second, you will discover how to store multiple transactions in a block using Merkle trees. Next, you will be taught how to make the Blockchain tamper-proof using mining and proof-of-work. Finally, you will learn how nodes on a Blockchain maintain consensus.

By the end of this course, you will have the knowledge and tools necessary to build your own Blockchain.


Apple HomePod – First Impressions

I have been using Apple Macs for my work for nearly two years, and out of all the machines I have ever used, and I have used a lot, using Macs has been by far the best experience, and this helps with productivity if you enjoy using your tools. Over this time, I have also started using more of the Apple eco-system as it all works together so well. This means the iPhone, iPad, Apple TV, and AirPods. They all work together very well indeed.

Unboxed Apple HomePod
Unboxed Apple HomePod

When Apple announced the new HomePod speaker system, I was intrigued. They wanted to enter the voice assistance cylinder market alongside Amazon and Google, but Apple said all along they were putting the most emphasis on sound quality as well as Siri integration. I don’t usually do the early adopter thing, but in this case, I thought I would give it a go and see if the speaker sounds as good as all the reports have been stating. In a worst-case scenario, I could just send it back if I didn’t like it as Apple as a 14 days returns policy.

The HomePod has a system internally that can scan your room (spatial awareness) and adjust itself to give optimal sound for your environment, so it is much more than just a speaker. It also has extensive integration with Apple Music, which is good as that is the music streaming service I use.

Taking My Backup More Strategy Seriously

My job involves dealing with a lot of videos when developing Pluralsight courses and recording YouTube videos and it was getting to the point where I had a lot of footage and course material stored on a laptop and external HD. I have been thinking a lot about backups and have put in place some pretty nifty processes to make sure I am covered. Let’s go through them.

File Synching with Dropbox and iCloud

First of all, I use Dropbox and iCloud to synchronize all my files between all my machines. Technically this doesn’t count as a backup system, but it is good to know that all my work is synced between machines, and a feature I particularly like with Dropbox is the version history which has helped me a few times when I accidentally deleted some files. I could just log back into Dropbox and restore the file.

Offsite Backups

The first proper backup process I run, after file synching, is using an offsite backup system. My chosen system of choice is BackBlaze. This has an agent that runs on your laptop and backups up your selected files to their servers. I run this across to Mac laptops that are constantly uploading any changes to Backblaze. The initial backup from both laptops took a couple of days due to the amount of data, but you have access to throttling controls in Blackblaze so that it doesn’t hog all of your internet bandwidth.

BackBlaze : Cloud Based Backup System
Backblaze : Cloud-Based Backup System

Happy Delayed New Year

Happy New Year. Yes, yes, I know, it’s February, but December and January have been absolutely insane with work and a few projects coming to a close at the same time so blogging and YouTube videos and blog posts took a temporary back seat. But I am back. I thought I would update on what I have been up too.

A Gentle Introduction Book Series by Stephen Haunts
A Gentle Introduction Book Series by Stephen Haunts

First of all, in December I released 2 more eBooks’. The first is about public speaking and the second is a follow up to my Agile software development book about Lean software development. I am really proud of these books and I have much more on the way, but I had to halt working on them in January to get some other projects completed.

Advanced Secure Coding for the Enterprise Workshop by Stephen Haunts
Advanced Secure Coding for the Enterprise Workshop by Stephen Haunts

That other project was putting together a 2-day security workshop that I was going to be teaching at the NDC Security event in Oslo, Norway. The workshop was called “Advanced Secure Programming for the Enterprise in   .NET”, and it was about the incorporation of cryptography in your software solutions to protect your companies data. This was all material that I have taught and spoken about before, but I had to collate it all together into a structured workshop, that is both informative and practical.

I delivered the workshop in Oslo, and it was a great success. I had a very eager group who paid to take the class, and we had a blast together. Overall I achieved some excellent satisfaction ratings afterward which made it all worth it. It was also fun being at the same event as my good friends Troy Hunt, Scott Helme and Dominick Baier. One of the fun things about going to these events is catching up with friends.

As well as completing the preparation for my secure coding workshop, I also had to finish my latest Pluralsight course that I have had in production. The course is called Blockchain – Principles and Practices. It is about the theory of how blockchain data structures and algorithms work. It has been a fun course to write, but also a challenging course, but I got it all recorded and edited in January. At the time of writing this post, I am waiting for my final peer review to complete and the course to go live.

Sound Libraries by Stephen Haunts Available on
Sound Libraries by Stephen Haunts Available on

Another project I have just completed too is a bit of a curve ball as it involves some work I used to do years ago before me and my wife had kids. I used to design and create professional sound and sample libraries that are aimed at musicians and TV sound editors. The libraries were quite successful for a part-time business, but it became hard to do after we had kids due to the amount of noise I needed to make. Anyway, to cut a long story short, a company called Native Instruments, got in touch in December to say they were setting up a subscription-based sound sample marketplace and they asked if I wanted to stock my back catalog on there. I said yes, and after signing all the contracts, I had to prepare my libraries and metadata for upload. These libraries are quite large (60gb+) so it took a while to sort out, but all my libraries are now available from, which is fantastic. I am also going to be making some custom content for them too in the not too distant future.

So, overall it has been a busy few months. I am not complaining though, it has been fun. I am next delivering the workshop in March at an NDC Conferences event in Copenhagen, so I have a few tweaks to make to the material based on feedback, so I will be doing that this month, along with getting 2 further books ready for release. I am also aiming to write another chapter for my APress book month too. It was a bit daunting leaving my job last year to work for my self, but I am glad I did it, and this will be the first full year of going it along.

I am excited about the future, but I always have that sense of slight fear of the unknown, but it is that fear that helps keep you driven. I have lots of conference appearances planned this year so I will be traveling loads, which is loads of fun as I can work on my projects anywhere in the world.

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