Why We Value Human User Guides

A look at the most important user guide you'll ever read or write - the human user guide!
Chris Young
Chris Young
October 03, 2022

Late in 2021 we were fortunate to have a call with Alex Witherspoon, who introduced the Harled team to the concept of Human User Guides. The idea is simple, write a user guide for yourself and share it with your colleagues so that they don't have to guess at how you work! We loved the idea and have implemented it within our company ever since.

What is a HUG?

A HUG is a small (or long) document that allows an individual to put their spin on how they like to work and work with others. It is literally the idea of a User Guide applied to a person! If an individual had a manual, with a unique table of contents or FAQ what would it be?

A HUG is not to be confused with a casual "about me" write-up (also valuable, but very different!). The HUG is intended to go deeper into professional aspects of an individual so that others need not guess at how they like to get work done and in what type of an environment they thrive in.

How do we HUG?

HUGs can live anywhere that is easily accessible. That can be a Google Doc, a Wiki or an About Me profile page. At Harled, we like to document our HUGs in GitHub as it is public, easy to maintain and even open to collaboration via Pull Requests! Who ever thought that a PR might be the way you gain a new insight about who you are as a person?

We also like to use GitHub as the idea of applying version control to a HUG makes it very explicit in what areas you have changed and where you have increased or decreased emphasis. It also makes it a document that can travel with you to any company or organization that you are a member of!

HUGs are then linked in Peachy so that we can easily access them for team members or meeting participants.

Chris Young's Human User Guide

For example, my HUG is available via my GitHub page here.

Ideas for your HUG

Sometimes it can be challenging to think about what to include in your HUG. Below are some ideas to stimulate a first draft and help you find the key topics that you want to ensure are covered for your colleagues in your work environment.

  • What energizes you?
  • What depletes your energy?
  • Introvert or extrovert?
  • What is your approach to problem solving? Research or dive in?
  • When are you most productive?
  • How do you like to receive feedback?
  • What are your pet peeves?
  • Are you open to mentoring others? On what topics?
  • Are you looking to be mentored? On what topics?
  • Technologies you like / dislike?

Having troubles with a section? That might be a good sign that you are due for some introspection. And what about those sections that you can power through? Well, done, you know yourself!

The Real Winner?

Sure, others will benefit from reading your HUG and using the information to be a better colleague, but the real winner is the individual drafting the HUG! Forcing oneself to perform introspection into likes / dislikes, working habits and sources and sinks of energy is a valuable activity that is all too often left in the dust of the hustle and bustle of a busy day (or week, or year ..).

Spending time getting to know oneself, and being explicit about it via a public document can be a little nerve racking but also incredibly insightful.

Do you believe in working with other humans? Do you appreciate the concept of being open and transparent about working styles and using this information to deliver absolutely amazing results on projects? If so, then please take a moment to check out our open positions!

If this post inspired you in any way to create a HUG, we'd love to see it. Feel free to DM us on Twitter via @harledhes.

About the author

Chris Young

Chris is dedicated to driving meaningful change in the world through software. He has taken dozens of projects from napkin to production in fast yet measured way. Chris has experience delivering solutions to clients spanning fortune 100, not-for-profit and Government.