Archive for the ‘Miscellaneous’ Category

Your Cell Phone

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When you get up in the morning, don’t look at your phone.

And, don’t look at it when you go to bed.

Or, on the bus.

Or, waiting in line.

Or, anytime.

Just don’t look.

It’s a drug. Literally. Drugs alter our state of consciousness so that we don’t have to deal with reality as it is. The phone, like a drug, enables us to escape, temporarily, from reality.

You’re addicted and I’m addicted and we’re all device junkies.

Can I manage it? Do I need to quit cold turkey? I don’t know, but they don’t make rehab for this sort of thing, so I just have to try.

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August 27th, 2014 at 9:04 am

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Israel-Palestine Notes: Give to Receive and Nazi Fools

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A few thoughts on the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians.

Give to Receive
From Hamas, PA officials in Cairo solidify agreement on conditions for ceasefire I read:

…a senior leader from the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine…said the different Palestinian factions had agreed on a unified list of conditions.

“Ceasefire, the pullout of Israeli forces, ending the blockade, releasing the prisoners … and starting the reconstruction process,” he told Reuters by phone.

“There are details attached to each of these points and there will be a meeting soon with the Egyptian side to discuss the (Palestinian) paper,” he said.

I noticed that the Palestinians only talk about what they want out of a peace, but not what they’re willing to give in order to get it.  The Israelis do the same.  Maybe if each side started by stating what they would give up for peace we could get to a resolution more quickly.

Nazi Fools
From a pro-Palestinian rally in Seattle: placards that say “Stop the Holocaust in Gaza” and “Zionist Israel = Nazi Germany” simply reveal uneducated fools who don’t actually understand what the Holocaust was or means.

The Holocaust was a systematic execution of millions of people.  Execute.  Kill.  Murder.  The Nazi’s literally invented technology in order to execute more efficiently.  Israel is not perfect, but by no means can you equate their imperfect actions to the intentional genocide of the Nazis.  To do so illustrates an indescribable level of ignorance.



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August 3rd, 2014 at 10:06 pm

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Snowfall for the Masses? I think not.

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Two years ago, the New York Times produced Snowfall, and broke the four minute mile in online publishing.  Given that I’ve been working in online publishing since 1995—first with Smallworld, then with ESPN, Cheezburger, and most recently with Do206—I’ve spent quite a bit of time thinking about innovation in online publishing.

Last week, Geekwire reported on Pixotale which is attempting to push publishing toward Snowfall for the masses.  Similarly, a few of the guys from Cheez went off to Steller which is mentioned in the article.

After Cheezburger, I considered a few startup ideas in the “innovative online publishing” space, but ultimately stayed away.  I had passion for the topic, but couldn’t find a business model that I liked.  I think what I learned from my research was two fold:

First, I think an innovative online publishing solution really has to be a B2B enterprise solution.  I could be wrong—and that’s the bet that Pixotale and Steller are making—but I don’t believe regular people want take the time to make innovative content.  Or, more precisely, there are regular people who do want to tell stories, but there aren’t enough of them to have a successful business.

And, second, even within the enterprise, most organizations won’t spend the money and don’t have the ability to tell good stories.  I think that’s why there has been only one Snowfall.

Speaking of which, NYT produced this innovative piece about Iraq earlier this week.  To me, the format is interesting on the desktop, but I think the presentation is even more compelling on mobile.  In some ways, it reminded me of what Ben Huh is doing with Circa.  As a consumer, the Circa concept/format is something I’d like to see more news publishers adopt.

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July 4th, 2014 at 3:11 pm

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A totally simple way Google could have avoided f***ing up Google+

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I’ve been meaning to write this blog post for a year, and I might as well get it out there now that I’ve just read that Google is backing away from Google+.

It’s not surprising that Google is getting away from Google+.  It was actually a really good product, but the thing has had zero traction with real people.

But, I have to be honest, the way Google has handled Google+ has totally pissed me off.  No, I’m not among the legions who have been unhappy about Google integrating Google+ into all of their other products.

I’m pissed because Google blew an amazing opportunity.  Google possessed a totally simple and easy way to make Google+ practical and relevant, but somehow, I don’t know how, they f***ed it up.

What am I talking about?  Let’s rewind to March 13, 2013:

We have just announced on the Official Google Blog that we will soon retire Google Reader (the actual date is July 1, 2013). We know Reader has a devoted following who will be very sad to see it go.

Naturally, there was a lot of reaction and angry Reader users.

But, Google could have avoided angry Reader users and given Google+ a massive boost by simply integrating Reader into Google+.

Yes, just that simple…make it so that you could follow an RSS feed as though it were another user in G+.  Make it so that you could put RSS feeds into circles, and share them, just like you do with other G+ users.

If Google would have done that G+ would have taken off like wildfire and nobody would have ever looked back.  I have no idea why they didn’t, but for some reason the lost potential has irritated me for a year.  And, here we are now, with the whole effort going down the tubes.

What a waste.


P.S.  I would love to hear from someone on the Plus or Reader teams about why Reader or RSS wasn’t integrated into G+.  I mean, Google is filled with very smart people…there must have been some rationale or logic behind their thinking, and I’d like to know what it was.  If you are someone who knows, shoot me an email or leave a comment.

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April 24th, 2014 at 10:28 pm

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Mailbag: how to build an active, engaged audience?

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Don recently wrote about his social content site which currently is, “fully functional, with a few dozen active users and over 28,000″ posts.

You’ve got a wealth of experience and knowledge related to user-generated content & the nature of social interactions on the web, and I’m hoping that you could provide suggestions on our “next steps,” most particularly with respect to building a community of active, engaged users.

Regarding your site, how to build an active, engaged audience is, almost literally, the $64,000 question. It’s what everybody wants…the question is, how?

There’s no silver bullet that I know of. Since it sounds like you have some users, the place I would start is by making personal connection to them. Literally, call them on the phone. Ask them about why they use the service and what it means to them. Find out how it makes their life better. If they live nearby, go visit them. If you have to travel, try to meet people in other cities.

In short, the answer to finding out how to create an engaged audience is by understanding the motivations of the people who are currently engaged. Find out what is the thing about your site that is indispensable to your users.

Additionally, find ways for users to connect to each other. When personal connections between users happen…especially offline…that’s when real magic starts to happen.  Then your site isn’t just an online toy…it’s something real and meaningful.

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March 14th, 2014 at 10:09 am

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Notes on How to be a Great Leader

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From TED:

There are many leadership programs available today, from 1-day workshops to corporate training programs. But chances are, these won’t really help. In this clear, candid talk, Roselinde Torres describes 25 years observing truly great leaders at work, and shares the three simple but crucial questions would-be company chiefs need to ask to thrive in the future.

I watched the talk, so you don’t have to…here’s my notes.

Three questions to ask to determine if you’re doing the things that great leaders do:

1.  How are you anticipating change?

Look at your calendar: Who are you spending time with?  What are you reading?  Where are you traveling?

Great leaders are not head down, but looking out.

2.  What is the diversity of your network?

Great leaders have the capacity to develop relationshiops with people who are different from themselves.

3.   Are you courageous enough to abandon a practice that has made you successful in the past?

Great leaders don’t talk about taking risks…they do it!

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March 13th, 2014 at 10:07 am

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Sayta Nadella on Leadership

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From today’s New York Times, Microsoft’s new CEO on leadership. [Emphasis mine.]

Q. Your company has acknowledged that it needs to create much more of a unified “one Microsoft” culture. How are you going to do that?

A. One thing we’ve talked a lot about, even in the first leadership meeting, was, what’s the purpose of our leadership team? The framework we came up with is the notion that our purpose is to bring clarity, alignment and intensity. What is it that we want to get done? Are we aligned in order to be able to get it done? And are we pursuing that with intensity? That’s really the job.

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February 20th, 2014 at 1:19 pm

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Wanna Get Ahead, Part II? Learn SQL

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One of the best skills you can teach yourself to get ahead in your career is SQL.   In a world so driven by data, being able to pull your own data is very empowering. It’s also a way to get ahead. People who can pull their own data are less reliant on others.

SQLAt, we’re teaching all of our people, from customer service to marketing to the CEO, how to run their own SQL queries.  We have a read-only version of our database, so that anybody in the company can pull their own data and run their own reports.

How can you learn SQL?

It turns out that SQL is more mysterious and scary than difficult.  The basics are really very simple, and you’ll pick up 80% of it in a few hours.  It’s like music: there’s only 14 notes in a scale…the magic comes in how you put them together.

A quick search for “SQL tutorial” or “learn SQL online” will yield plenty of results.  Here’s a few that I found:

As background,  SQL stands for “structured query language”…it’s the language used to get data out of database server or RDBMS, i.e. “relational database management system”.

There are many database servers, but the most common are:

  • Microsoft SQL Server — runs on Windows
  • Oracle — mucho $$$$
  • MySQL — open source
  • SQLite — open source and super light weight

You may need to install a DB in order to learn from the tutorials.

SQLite is insanely simple and easy to use. It’s just a text file that gets treated like a database. I don’t even think there is a server to install, just a client. The client I personally use is RazorSQL.

If for some reason SQLite isn’t robust enough for the tutorial you’re working on, then you’ll want to get MySQL. It’s free. For that, you’ll need to install the database server (MySQL) and a client tool (called MySQL Workbench).  A lot of companies use MySQL (including Rover).

SQLite is used a lot too, but mostly by developers who embed it within an application. That being said, from a “learning SQL” perspective, you’ll learn the same with each of them.

If you’re learning, don’t bother with MS SQL Server or Oracle.  They’re overly complicated for your initial needs.  If you know how to query SQLite or MySQL then jumping over and learning how to query those databases is easy. Conceptually, they are the same, though there are semantic differences, but nothing that you wouldn’t figure out quickly. For example, in MySQL you get the current time by typing “Now()” and in SQL Server it’s “GetDate()”.

Most importantly, have fun!  Remember, you’re only a beginner, so it’s going to be difficult at first.  But, with lots of searches, you can usually get all your questions answered!


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November 13th, 2013 at 10:00 am

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Wanna get ahead in your career? Here’s how…

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Wanna get ahead in your career? Here’s how…

Be a person who takes things off your boss’ plate.

Your boss might be internal…like you work at a company.

Or, they might be external…like a client.

Like you, they have too much work to do. So, be a person who makes it so they have one less thing to do.

It goes for more than bosses. Works for co-workers too.

Be a person who takes things off peoples plate and you’ll be a person that people want to work with.the-band-the-weight-capitol

Of course, you can’t always be the person to make work go away, but you can help someone make it go away on their own.  In other words, you don’t always need to take things off their plate. If you’re a person who empowers people to get stuff of their own plate faster, then the same axiom applies.

Now, consider the opposite: someone who, by asking them to help you, actually puts more work on your plate. Who wants to work with a person like that?

I’ve worked with many over my career.  When I ask for help, the work this person does creates more work for me.

For example, all the code they write, I have to double-check it because they don’t show attention detail.

Or, the reports they run create more questions than they answer, so I have to ask them to dig further to get to the bottom of the issue.

This person doesn’t take work off my plate. Rather, they just fill up my inbox with emails that I dread reading…

…because I know it means more work for me.

In business-speak, you hear  employers want “problem solvers”. I think when people say that what they mean is, “people who can take work off my plate…because my problem is too much to do.”

If I’m doing something for someone else, I want to reduce the burdens on them, not add to them.

This doesn’t mean that I never ask someone to do something for me…because we all have to do that in life. Nobody can get through life without a helping hand.

Rather, it means the opposite: when someone else asks me to do something for them that I take the burden completely off of them…and not just put more burden on them.

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November 8th, 2013 at 1:22 pm

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What is the measure of failure?

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A common best practice in the workplace when people are trying to be smart about a project is to ask, “what is the measure of success?”  I would propose that a more pertinent question is, “what is the measure of failure?”

The truth is that most projects neither succeed wildly, nor fail spectacularly.  Rather, most linger in a middle ground of neither.  These are the worst types of projects because we continue to spend valuable resources—time, money and mental capacity—to support them when, really, they’re not all that beneficial to whatever we’re trying to accomplish.  Given opportunity cost, they’re probably a net minus.

Naturally, the hardest part about these middle ground projects is that we’ve put a lot of blood, sweat and tears into them, so it’s hard to let them go.  We know, just know, that with a little more time or effort the thing might be a success.  Or, we suffer the Sunk Cost Fallacy: that we’ve invested so much and come so far, that it makes sense to go all the way.  Probably, though, we’re better off cutting our losses.

Truth is, it’s not in our nature to cut our losses.  Not cutting our losses is deeply imbedded in our DNA.  Unlike other species, such as say a spider or a fish, humans don’t birth hundreds or thousands offspring hoping some will survive.  We birth just a few offspring and protect each one like it’s…our baby.

Never discount Human Nature.  In our modern, professional world, it’s more powerful than we give it credit for.  In fact, it’s all-powerful, only second to Mother Nature.  Remember the Scorpion and the Frog

A scorpion and a frog meet on the bank of a stream and the scorpion asks the frog to carry him across on its back. The frog asks, “How do I know you won’t sting me?” The scorpion says, “Because if I do, we will both sink and drown in the stream, and I will die too.”

The frog is satisfied, and they set out, but in midstream, the scorpion stings the frog. The frog feels the onset of paralysis and starts to sink, knowing they both will drown, but has just enough time to gasp “Why?”

Replies the scorpion: “It’s my nature…”

So, next time you’re getting a project off the ground keep in mind that for certain aspects of professional life it might be better of to act not like a human, but to act like a robot…ruthlessly logical…and ask yourself, “under what circumstances will we kill this project?”

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November 2nd, 2013 at 8:04 am

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