November, 2011

Think Better: The Best Stuff I Read This Week – November 18, 2011

You Don’t Have to Tweet to Twitter – Bill Gurley –

The metaphorical understanding of Twitter is that it is like Facebook. Facebook is of course the leading “social network.” But there are drastic distinctions that must be clear, especially for Twitter to have continued success. Twitter is not just a “variant of Facebook.”

Primarily, Facebook is a “symmetrical” few-to-a-few social network. Facebook connects “friends” who mutually acknowledge each other’s friendship. You can easily share with the people in your life. On the other hand, Twitter is distinctively “asymmetrical” and functions more as a broadcasting tool.

Importantly, one does not have to “tweet” to be actively engaged on Twitter. Twitter is changing how they on-board new users so that the new user doesn’t feel like their own tweeting is not so central to the experience.

Twitter’s value is more closely aligned to a discovery engine and information utility than it is to that of a “social network.”

Personal Finance is More PERSONAL than it is FINANCE – Tim Maurer –

Tim reveals some of the drive, manipulation, and perhaps greed that is a part of the financial services sales industry and the way he was trained. However, Tim had the humility and foresight to get out of that game, and now offers a different breed of personal financial planning.

In fact, because money is so tied to every aspect of each of our lives, Tim (a financial planner) has his own financial advisor – someone who is not as close to Tim’s money as Tim is.

The article goes on to explain why personal finance is more personal than it is finance. This affects the financial advice you should receive. But he also makes the interesting point, “the most challenging and important aspects of the discipline of personal finance are not the financial, but the personal.”

How a Financial Pro Lost His House – Carl Richards – New York Times

This story takes a look at the insanity that preceded the financial collapse. The author tells his own devastating story of the things he did to get in a bad place, how he lost his house, and what he learned along the way. Importantly, he notes that we really can’t judge the spending habits or risks taken by others because we don’t know what they’re doing to keep their families together or otherwise stay alive. An example he gives is someone borrowing against their house to be able to afford therapy. Who knows… maybe that’s the best decision that you can make given all the circumstances. Good read.

Basic lesson: don’t be greedy. Not with our money nor our judgments. Also, have the humility to be able to envision a future that may not be what you think the script would have it be. Learn to see unintended consequences.

A Brief Rant On The Future Of Interaction Design – Bret Victor

When we envision the future, it’s a lot of touch-screen interfaces all over the place. Everything we interact with is “picture under glass.”

It’s ironic that all of our proposed future touch-screen tools are controlled by our hands when our hands are designed for much more utility that touching surfaces. Therefore, our visions of the future and future technology ought to incorporate more of our inherent capability. Creating a future “vision” involving lots of touch devices isn’t that “visionary” at all… it’s all derived from what we currently have.

Notably, our hands are able to give us tremendous feedback on things: we feel the weight of piano keys, we can feel how full a glass of water is, etc. Those experiences – the things that give us real-time feedback about our experience – are completely impossible on touch devices. The best example is that playing the piano ultimately feels like anything else if it’s experienced on a touch device.

We must be careful with our visions of the future, and often this means relying on more basic metaphors… like what our hands are able to do… not just modern metaphors of multi-functional touch screen interfaces.

Clip from ‘Objectified’

A feature-length documentary about our complex relationship with manufactured objects and, by extension, the people who design them.

This clip of sets a standard for design theory. The best design is “inevitable;” it’s invisible. The best design gets out of the way. I write a column for Blue Ocean Ideas called “The Weekly Idea” and next week’s will be on this very topic. Click here to subscribe to “The Weekly Idea.”


Hands, Laughing, and Peace

My wife Lisa and I tried this out recently when we got in a fight, and it worked like a charm.

At the advice of Zig Ziglar, we held hands while we were fighting.

The fight didn’t last long. We started laughing pretty quickly.

Other benefits:

  • we were forced to look at each other
  • we were forced to not ignore each other
  • we were forced to listen before speaking
  • we were forced to be have to be seen

Oh, and our issue got resolved.

It’s foolish to say, “yeah, just hold hands and everything will always work out.” But, I can tell you that the discipline has helped us.

When were able to touch those who hurt us… when we’re able to touch those we are hurting, the “ok-ness” of hurting decreases. Of course, you first have to love the “other” and be committed to their well-being.

But here’s my question: is it possible to hold hands more often with those with whom we’re fighting? Can we align our interests more often? Can we let someone else’s pain also cause us pain?

When we do, behavior and decisions change. Relationships grow deeper. And, the feuding parties are like Lisa and me, you might start giggling. And then laughing.

You’re not just laughing it off. You’re laughing. Together.

P.S. I should also note that the very act of getting married involves facing each other, holding hands. Seems like a precursor to what should be a familiar posture in any relationship of mutual-commitment. It’s hard to do though, isn’t it?


Think Better: The Best Stuff I Read This Week – November 11, 2011

Excessive CEO Pay and Job Losses: Are They Linked? – Carl M. Cannon – Real Clear Politics

This article is an analysis of the trend that top executives as major corporations are rewarded for profitability, not growth, innovation, nor other valuable metric. As such, there is a strong correlation between high executive salaries and high numbers of layoffs. The “winners” are the guys who cut the most jobs. It’s a very interesting read.

Mike Metzger of the Clapham Institute has noted, “What you measure is your mission.” (If a blog measures comments, its mission will be to write in such a way to solicit comments. If it measures time-on-page, its mission will be to publish content that keeps readers around for as long as possible.) If follows that if corporations are simply using profit as their measure of success, they will do whatever is needed to produce profit. I think Simon Sinek is exactly right when he says that “profit has to always be a by-product” of following your mission. “Profit isn’t why you exist.”

From the article: Peter F. Drucker predicted it might come to this. In his 1973 book, “Management: Tasks, Responsibilities, Practices,” he wrote: “The fact is that in modern society there is no other leadership group but managers. If the managers of our major institutions, and especially of business, do not take responsibility for the common good, no one else can or will.”

What’s the common good? It can be summarized in the ancient Hebrew word shalom – a word that means human flourishing, interdependence (with others and the world itself), and the idea that “nothing’s missing, nothing’s broken.”

Tweet by Jeremy Talman (@Talmaniac):

This kind of thing makes it much easier for me to believe in a Creator:

Stunning video of a sea of birds flying in complex 3-D patterns

[Video] Presentation Scott Harrison, founder and CEO of charity:water – Inc. Magazine

An inspiring talk on the history, vision, work, and future of charity: water. If you want to know about the worldwide water crisis and what it takes to solve it, watch this. And the presentation slides are beautiful too.

The Extraordinary Revolution of Media Choice – Seth Godin

The past was defined by limits of spectrum. You could only consume one type of media at a time. You could only “broadcast” one type of media at a time as well: radio, tv, newspaper, or even trade show booth or retail shelf space. There was inherent scarcity. Scarcity creates value. Creating value then comes in dominating your scare “supply” opportunities.

Now, however, “everything is a click away… the only thing that’s scarce is attention.” You can no longer “program consumption” and whatever is on the front page of the newspaper is also now obsolete. Everything is now just a click away from any link a friend gives you.

“In a world of surfers, all you can do is work to make the best wave you can. The real revolution is that you get to make waves, not just ride them.”


Think Better: The Best Stuff I Read This Week – November 4, 2011

How To Get a Job With a Small Company – Seth Godin

Seth describes how getting hired at a Fortune 500 company is very different than getting hired at a small company. Yet, all of the popular wisdom about getting a job is oriented toward navigating the process in a large company. Ironically, large companies are getting smaller over the last 20 years, while small companies are growing. If you want to work at a small company, the hiring game is very different. In fact, it’s simply not a game. You have to demonstrate value. Seth mentions selling and content creation (writing skills and technical/creative) as components.

Spooky – Mike Metzger – Doggie Head Tilt

The number four show up in a number of patterns that characterize life, like infancy, childhood,adulthood, elder years. Another example is winter, spring, summer, fall. There’s a pattern to all of life. This is particularly helpful since people are “severely limited” in their ability for truly rational thought. We can only process a very little amount of information at a given time. Patterns, and a limiting of options, help us along. The four-chapter pattern makes sense since it is found in the biblical narrative of the core of our reality. This narrative also describes four chapters: creation, fall, redemption, restoration.

Our modern society is rather skeptical of anything transcendent. Our preoccupation with intellectualization has lead us to be come dis-enchanted. What we need, according to C.S. Lewis is more fairy tales – things that are enchanting. “Spells are used for for breaking enchantments as well as for inducing them.” Will we weave spells for good or for evil?