November 2016 Articles

Michael Lopp hits on the key structure for staff meetings.

  1. Have an agenda
    1. The Minimal Metrics Story — What are the minimum metrics that should be report in your meeting that contribute to the team understanding progress and creating visibility for potential issues.
    2. Rolling Team-sourced Topics — A staff meeting isn’t for the boss, it’s for their direct reports. See what your teams wants to talk about.
    3. Gossip, Rumors, and Lies — Address them, talk about them, see what the latest is.
  2. Key roles in a meeting
    1. Meeting Runner — Keep things on track
    2. Meeting Historian — Take big picture narrative notes. Email them out or post them for EVERYONE. That’s right, transparency is important. We should all know what’s happening around us.

Read his full essay. Worth it.

Terrific article by Francesca Gino about organizational conformity, engagement and how to keep organizations from allowing conformity to stifle individuals.

Throughout our careers, we are taught to conform – to the status quo, to the opinions and behaviors of others, and to information that supports our views. The pressure only grows as we climb the organizational ladder. By the time we reach high-level positions, conformity has been so hammered into us that we perpetuate it in our enterprises. In a recent survey I conducted of more than 2,000 employees across a wide range of industries, nearly half the respondents reported working in organizations where they regularly feel the need to conform, and more than half said that people in their organizations do not question the status quo. The results were similar when I surveyed high-level executives and midlevel managers. As this data suggests, organizations consciously or unconsciously urge employees to check a good chunk of their real selves at the door. Workers and their organizations both pay a price: decreased engagement, productivity, and innovation (see the exhibit “The Perils of Conformity”).

Drawing on my research and fieldwork and on the work of other scholars of psychology and management, I will describe three reasons for our conformity on the job, discuss why this behavior is costly for organizations, and suggest ways to combat it.

Of course, not all conformity is bad. But to be successful and evolve, organizations need to strike a balance between adherence to the formal and informal rules that provide necessary structure and the freedom that helps employees do their best work. The pendulum has swung too far in the direction of conformity. In another recent survey I conducted, involving more than 1,000 employees in a variety of industries, less than 10% said they worked in companies that regularly encourage nonconformity. That’s not surprising: For decades the principles of scientific management have prevailed. Leaders have been overly focused on designing efficient processes and getting employees to follow them. Now they need to think about when conformity hurts their business and allow – even promote – what I call constructive nonconformity: behavior that deviates from organizational norms, others’ actions, or common expectations, to the benefit of the organization.

On 1:1s

Cate Huston · Accidentally in Code ·

I’ve been reading a lot of leadership and management related articles recently and really enjoyed this one on 1:1s by Cate Huston.

It’s a truth universally acknowledged that 1:1s are one of the most important activities of being a manager. And yet we all know of managers who don’t do them, or do them so badly that they can hardly be called 1:1s at all. I’ve heard about managers who show up to the 1:1 and talk at their report until the time is over. I’m not sure if this is better or worse than no 1:1 at all. The worst manager I ever had, I dreaded our 1:1s so much that I used to get up an hour later on days when I would have to speak to him. My recollection of them was that there would be a terrible, awkward silence, which I would feel compelled to fill, but anything I said would be judged and used against me.

Contrived social situations can be awkward. In a new report-manager relationship, both sides have to show up to a meeting with someone they barely (or don’t at all) know, and talk. Some people might face that situation with equimanity. As a new manager, I did not. It was terrifying, but worthwhile — and before too long had passed it was clear that everything I’d read about 1:1s being the most important use of my time as a manager was true.

At the core of a good 1:1 is this: show up and listen.

Let’s break this down.

I’m With Her

Randall Munroe · xkcd ·

We can do this.

The Story of Us

Hillary Clinton · YouTube ·

…Mr. Trump owes nothing to the traditional powers in his party – not the Koch brothers, not the leadership in Congress – and he may chart an independent course. We can hope against hope that he will shed his campaign persona for one befitting a nation’s leader. We do so without illusions – ready to support him, without denying the many disgraceful things he did and said to get elected, the promises he may or may not keep, the falsehoods he peddled that were either delusions or lies.

It’s a strange, distressing situation for citizens to be in – to acknowledge the danger of having a reckless, unqualified leader, while maintaining respect for the office he holds. But we cannot give in to fear or despondency. There is too much to be done.

There is a planet to save. The earth is in peril from a changing climate no matter how many deniers say otherwise. There may be millions of immigrants to shield from a Trump homeland-enforcement regime. State and local governments may need to step in if the federal government retreats from protecting consumers or helping educate children. And there may be sick people to care for, should Mr. Trump dismantle the Affordable Care Act.

All Americans can help in this work, whether as activists or volunteers, or simply as neighbors who show, through reaching out to someone who looks or worships differently than they do, that they reject bigotry, misogyny and fear. Let’s give Mrs. Clinton the last word, an exhortation to young people who supported her candidacy and the values it embodied. “This loss hurts, but please never stop believing that fighting for what’s right is worth it,” she said. “We need you to keep up these fights now and for the rest of your lives.”

Each year starting in 2011, Freedom House has surveyed countries around the world and measured “Internet Freedom”, sorting countries into three categories: Free, Partly Free, and Not Free. This year the survey looked at 65 countries, representing approximately 88% of the world’s internet user population.

The most surprising finding to me was this chart. While the United States has approximately 240 million internet users, countries like India and China have 341million and 690 million internet users respectively. Sadly both of those countries rank below the US in terms of Internet freedom. In all, 64% of Internet users globally live in countries where internet usage is not free. Only 24% of the world lives in a country where internet usage is largely unrestricted.

Freedom of the Internet

See also: Iceland ranks the highest in terms of Internet internet freedom and internet penetration.

Freedom of the Internet

Horace Dediu on the new MacBook Pro:

Overall, the new MacBook Pro feels to me like an evolution of the MacBook of 2015. I remember at the time thinking that this baby MacBook is probably the wave of the future: the new keyboard, new trackpad, new thinness, new USB-C, deprecation of other ports. These required enormous engineering efforts and it would be silly to leave them on only one model. In any case, from where I was standing all these were “better”. Not along the previous definition of goodness but along a new definition: making the computer more conformable and easier to put into use in more places. The very ideas that drove the development of the Air of 2008. Indeed the very idea that drove the development of laptops since the 1990s.

The new MacBook Pro is the wave of the future and I’m excited.

We Are Engaged.

Corinne Rogero · Duly Noted. ·

I first met Corinne in Death Valley National Park back in April. I’ve linked to her writing once before. Surprisingly, while only having met her twice, I’ve followed her writing online and enjoyed reading her musings. She made a strong positive impression on me.

While not normally something I would link to, Corinne just posted about her engagement in a well written piece. Congratulations Corinne! I wish you and Brian all the best!

I’m getting married March 11, 2017 to a man I’ve known for just over two months.

It doesn’t make sense to some people, but to the people who have watched it unfold from the front row, it came as little to no surprise.

A lot of you have wondered the back story, and so for those of you up in the nosebleeds, here’s Brian’s and my take on how it all happened:

Benedict Evans on computer vision:

However, I think it’s also worth thinking much more broadly about what computer vision in particular might now mean - thinking about what it might mean that images and video will become almost as transparent to computers as text has always been. You could always search text for ‘dog’ but could never search pictures for a dog - now you’ll be able to do both, and, further, start to get some understanding of what might actually be happening.

We should expect that every image ever taken can be searched or analyzed, and some kind of insight extracted, at massive scale. Every glossy magazine archive is now a structured data set, and so is every video feed. With that incentive (and that smarthone supply chain) far more images and video will be captured.

So, some questions for the future:

  • Every autonomous car will, necessarily, capture HD 360 degree video whenever it’s moving. Who owns that data, what else can you do with it beyond driving and how do our ideas of privacy adjust?
  • A retailer can deploy cheap commodity wireless HD cameras thoughout the store, or a mall operator the mall, and finally know exactly what track every single person entering took through the building, and what they looked at, and then connect that to the tills for purchase data. How much does that change (surviving) retail?
  • What happens to the fashion industry when half a dozen static $100 cameras can tell you everything that anyone in Shoreditch wore this year - when you can trace a trend through social and street photography from start to the mass-market, and then look for the next emerging patterns?
  • What happens to ecommerce recommendations when a system might be able to infer things about your taste from your Instagram or Facebook photos, without needing tags or purchase history - when it can see your purchase history in your selfies?

Mr. Berlusconi was able to govern Italy for as long as he did mostly thanks to the incompetence of his opposition. It was so rabidly obsessed with his personality that any substantive political debate disappeared; it focused only on personal attacks, the effect of which was to increase Mr. Berlusconi’s popularity. His secret was an ability to set off a Pavlovian reaction among his leftist opponents, which engendered instantaneous sympathy in most moderate voters. Mr. Trump is no different.

…The Italian experience provides a blueprint for how to defeat Mr. Trump. Only two men in Italy have won an electoral competition against Mr. Berlusconi: Romano Prodi and the current prime minister, Matteo Renzi (albeit only in a 2014 European election). Both of them treated Mr. Berlusconi as an ordinary opponent. They focused on the issues, not on his character. In different ways, both of them are seen as outsiders, not as members of what in Italy is defined as the political caste.


Formidable ·

Saw this linked to on Daring Fireball. I’m not ready to use it today but might in the future.

Simple question: are you building custom charts? Victory is used by companies like Airbnb, FiveThirtyEight, and Victory makes it easy to get started without sacrificing flexibility. Use the same API to create charts for web and mobile devices. And the results are gorgeous. Seriously, even if you’re not a web developer, you should go check out their website and see how beautiful these charts are. And not in a show-y off-y bullshit way like using “3D” for two-dimensional data. No – Victory lets you easily create charts that are gorgeous in the sense of traditional graphic design and serious data visualization practices. The documentation is alive – you can play with the charts just by clicking and dragging.

Victory is created and supported by the open source team at Formidable, free use under the MIT license. There is no catch here. It’s an open source library that you can just use.

A terrific piece by David Remnick at The New Yorker. He captures and conveys Obama’s thoughts and feelings on the President-elect in an authentic way adding a little color along the way.

The morning after Donald Trump was elected President of the United States, Barack Obama summoned staff members to the Oval Office. Some were fairly junior and had never been in the room before. They were sombre, hollowed out, some fighting tears, humiliated by the defeat, fearful of autocracy’s moving vans pulling up to the door. Although Obama and his people admit that the election results caught them completely by surprise”—We had no plan for this,” one told me–the President sought to be reassuring.

“This is not the apocalypse,” Obama said. History does not move in straight lines; sometimes it goes sideways, sometimes it goes backward. A couple of days later, when I asked the President about that consolation, he offered this: “I don’t believe in apocalyptic–until the apocalypse comes. I think nothing is the end of the world until the end of the world.”

Michael Lopp on social media an the “likeability feedback loop”:

This likeability feedback loop tastes great. Who doesn’t want a steady flow of relevant, interesting, and targeted information? Who doesn’t want the world synthesized and simplified into a palatable set of information that one can easily consume in just a few moments? And who doesn’t like the simple satisfaction of sharing or retweeting that likable and relatable piece of information that just speaks to me.

The likeability feedback loop feeds on itself. It uses its signal to prioritize and resend what resonates and what does not. It is good business to do this well because the more we find what we search for, the more likely we will return. The business often does not care if we’re more or less informed, it monetizes that we come back as many times as possible.

Rainy weather over the last two months has been raising hopes of a turnaround to California’s drought.

The National Weather Service said the Northern Sierra had the wettest October and November in 30 years.

For measurement purposes, climatologists define the start of the “water year” as Oct. 1.

Since then, nearly 18 inches of precipitation have fallen in the Northern Sierra, where snowpack acts as a vital reservoir for the state’s water supply. That’s more than double the historical average.

Forecasters say another storm is expected to roll into the Sierra on Wednesday night.

In the Central Valley, rainfall totals were also above average in cities including Stockton, Modesto and Fresno.

Southern California, however, has so far been less encouraging.

Downtown Los Angeles has gotten about 1.4 inches since Oct. 1, better than last year but still two-tenths of an inch below normal. At San Diego International Airport, just 0.58 inch of rain has fallen, 0.92 inch below average.

While meteorologists are encouraged by the early signs of wet weather, they caution that the season is young. It’s too soon to predict what the coming months will bring. California is heading into a predicted sixth year of drought. Meteorologists say it would take five years of normal to heavy rains to revive reservoirs and groundwater supplies.

Taking an even longer view, a new analysis from U.C.L.A. warned about what greenhouse gas emissions will mean for the Sierra snowpack, according to KPCC. If the pollutants aren’t curbed, it said, the snowpack could be cut in half by the end of the century.