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    Friday
    Dec312010

    Successful Experiment

    Today completes one full year of daily thoughts posted to this blog. As I've been predicting, it will also be the last regular post, and it's a good time to take stock of the past year.

    Content

    The Daily Thought, summarized:

    The Daily Thought Word Cloud

    Scorecard

    Just like when I reached 100 posts, let's do a scorecard.

    • Post a new thought every day, for one year. SUCCESS!, unmitigated, I'm really proud of this.
    • Don't regurgitate other news stories or blogs without adding value. success, I never slipped into the "me too" style of blogging.
    • Keep it short. success, Entries have been a good length, see more below in stats
    • Deliver original thoughts. success, while I can't claim that no one else has shared the thoughts expressed here, I can say with confidence that I didn't lift the idea of others, all the ideas here, the good ones, the bad ones, the smart ones, the silly ones, surfaced organically in my head.
    • Keep it general. success, I'd be confident citing all these blog posts at a dinner party of smart friends, no matter from what industries or backgrounds they hail.
    • Learn something new every day. success, this blog has been a huge learning experience for me, as outlined more below
    • Capture thoughts I expect to be valuable. success, in fact, I think if this blog has any legacy, it will be as a diary to myself, things to remind myself of in the future
    • Share with others. failure, with no commentary, and a stagnant readership, this blog doesn't "have legs", and remained for the most part a personal experience rather than a social one. I could certainly have done more (included sharing options, integrated better with the Facebook/Twitter ecosystem, cross-posted on other blogs more often), but ultimately I didn't find myself driven by a need for people to participate in order to feel satisfied with the experience of just writing.

    Stats

    • I wrote almost 50,000 words, 200 pages, a paperback novel's worth of writing!
    • The longest thought was Regarding Twitter at 2,079 words (I find that satisfyingly ironic)
    • The shortest thought was The Best Bar, weighing in at a measly 11 words
    • The average length was 133 words, or 812 characters, and the distribution was pretty regular over the course of the year.

    Summary Chart Length

    Thoughts on Thoughts

    So what have I noticed after a year of this?

    • I ended up writing a lot of advice to myself, which I didn't expect when I started, but I think will prove valuable (or at least humorous) when I look back at it years from now.
    • I like having a central web presence, it was the first time I could put a URL confidently down in my LinkedIn profile, email footers, and when commenting on other blogs. I like that my web presence is mine alone, and isn't a Facebook or Twitter URL, call me old-fashioned.
    • I fear that no focus on any particular topic meant no one actually could get invested in the blog. Niche blogging will always get more readers.
    • Publishing daily thoughts is more self-indulgent and less admirable than I thought it would be, which didn't feel so nice.
    • I'm probably unhealthily obsessed with self-improvement ("personal development" is the single most published category in the last year, save for the catch-all category "life"), and I could see myself writing self-help books if it paid half as well as being an internet executive.
    • This blogging format encourages sloppy writing, not well referenced or researched, and not well edited. I take enough pride in my writing that it was tough to watch it degenerate in those ways.
    • You'd think that after a year, I'd be better at capturing thoughts out of my head and not forgetting them before I write them down, but I have moments literally every day where I think, "Ooh, what was that thought I just had? I meant to capture that for the blog!"
    • It's humbling to consider just how few thoughts are really original. Most of the philosophical or personal development thoughts on this blog have no doubt been thought before. Heck, take nametag day, it wasn't just someone else's thought, it actually exists.
    • The longer an idea gets left on the shelf before I flesh it out in a post, the worse the post. The best ones are ones that I force myself to articulate fully on the spot, while the thought is fresh. There's probably some really important lesson to take away from that when working on things that are more important than a blog.
    • I'm a funnier guy than this blog would have you believe. I don't know why all the thoughts I feel like sharing are so serious. I'm at least 50th percentile on the silly/funny scale, but this blog is hovering around the 20th percentile. Shame on me.
    • While I've enjoyed getting my thoughts down in writing, my natural strengths lie in influencing through lively face-to-face discussion, not through words online.
    • Ultimately, it's not the thoughts that matter, it's what you do with them.

    What Now?

    This blog will stay alive for a while, although I may consolidate it to a new URL in 2011, and continue to blog as I see fit. I do enjoy having a formal online presence, but only time will tell if I feel compelled to continue building that presence through blogging.

    Farewell to my readers, please stay in touch, and thanks for participating in my successful experiment.

    Thursday
    Dec302010

    Recognizing the Future

    In nature, evolution may manifest as freaks of nature. The first centipede probably looked like a multi-bodied freak to all the existing single-bodied organisms.

    There's an important lesson here when we think something is out of place, broken, or just unnaturally strange. Whether it's in nature, design, business, or technology, never forget to consider whether the freakishness of a new idea represents a revolutionary improvement, a huge leap, an innovation. It'd be a real shame to miss the future because you dismissed it when it showed up right in front of you.

    Wednesday
    Dec292010

    Quality-Slicing Your Job

    Like all other modern knowledge-workers, you likely are asked to do far more than you could possibly accomplish. But depending on your particular role, this has different implications.

    In some jobs, you can go ahead and accept extra work, while doing a slightly less high-quality job than you might otherwise have.

    • Marketers will spend less time on the details of each campaign
    • Consultants will spend fewer hours on each job
    • Lawyers will prepare less rigorously for a given case
    • Athletes will get less sleep, spend less time in the gym, or watch fewer gameplay videos
    • Musicians will practice less, delivering a less technical or considered performance

    All these roles may deliver output considered "acceptable", even when they are pressured into a less-than-ideal final product.

    Other jobs on the other hand, will literally not be done if too much else is piled on.

    • Programmers (the web site doesn't load)
    • Engineers (the bridge doesn't stand up)
    • UPS Delivery Person (packages are left on the truck)
    • Surgeons (the patient dies)

    If you expect more from these jobs than they could possibly handle, the whole system falls over as opposed to merely resulting in high-volume, lower-quality output.

    Consider this dynamic carefully the next time someone from group one tells you "sure, I'll manage to get that extra task done", and when someone from group two says "Sorry, I can't do both of these things, you'll need to prioritize one". On the surface, it seems like the first employee is being accommodating, willing to work hard, someone who steps up, and the second is being difficult or lazy. But, in fact, you might need to demand that the first employee not compromise on the quality of their work just because they can, and applaud the second employee for knowing what it takes to deliver results.

    Tuesday
    Dec282010

    Cleverness

    Cleverness is not highly valued enough. Cleverness is the trait that brings us simple elegant solutions like the Power Squid, the streamlined keyhole, the overarching highway-transport system. All are simple ideas, in contrast to the incredibly complex ones we tend to teach students and employees how to create.

    We tend to dismiss cleverness as luck. "Geez, that's not so complicated, that guy just happened to think of it before me." I think we've got it completely backwards. We should dismiss complicated multi-faceted solutions, and instead be enamored and impressed by elegance and cleverness.

    Monday
    Dec272010

    Juggling Ideas

    It's a common metaphor to say "I'm juggling a lot of things right now." And everyone knows there's a limit before you start "dropping" items from your consciousness.

    The records for juggling multiple physical items only go up to about a dozen. And those records only last for seconds at a time. Maybe there's a correlation that nature is enforcing with juggling ideas in our minds. Maybe even the greatest mind is limited to 12 items, and even then only for seconds.

    Three physical balls can be juggled all day by any of thousands of moderately accomplished jugglers. I think we'd all agree that keeping 3 items in your head all day is just as doable. Seven balls, on the other hand, can only be juggled for 10 minutes by the very best jugglers. So the next time you have 7 items to work on for the whole day, consider the possibility that isn't how your mind was designed to work.

    Sunday
    Dec262010

    Life Capture

    For those of us without Hyperthymesia, technology is quickly approaching a potential reality of being able to capture our life experiences in their entirety.

    I adore Evernote (slogan "Remember Everything"), and take loads of notes in it, capture photos, thoughts, anything I anticipate I'll want to recall later. I don't trust my memory for any facts, I only trust it with concepts. But what about those things that I didn't anticipate I'd want to recall? Those are seemingly lost forever.

    I find the idea of having a databank of everything I've ever seen, heard, or done to be quite compelling. Evernote definitely has this aspiration, and slowly we're seeing more technology crop up to support the idea. The latest attempt to capture life as you experience it is being done by Looxcie. Once that sort of camera can be embedded and powered wireless, and become socially acceptable, and can stream to gargantuan data storage in the cloud...well, then we'll be closer to the dream.

    The challenge with information capture today is that it's still too damn manual. We can either spend time living, or spend time capturing our lives, it'd be nice to be able to do both.

    Saturday
    Dec252010

    Real-Time, Or Not

    It's odd that in a world where technology and connectedness enables us to be more "real-time" than ever in our data-consumption, I feel less and less compelled to care about real-time. We are using more time-shifting than ever with digital downloads, TiVo, syndicated and aggregated news sources.

    The deluge of information really needs to sit for a few days to be filtered. Otherwise, you can spend lots of time on things that aren't actually important.

    Real-Time may be overrated, or perhaps there's a subset of folks who will act in the future as the "front-line" of data consumption, and the rest of us will sit back and consume at our own pace, confident that the front-line is surfacing anything urgent when we need to know about it.

    Friday
    Dec242010

    Breakouts

    The phrase "war broke out" seems disingenuous to me, like us humans were the passive victims of naturally-occurring violence. It's not an "oops of war", it's an "act of war".

    Acne is something that "breaks out", war on the other hand is started, and no matter whether we believe in the necessity of a given war, we should respect that, at a fundamental level, war is collectively (as a human race) our fault.

    Thursday
    Dec232010

    Supporting Cast

    I've had quite a few opportunities to interact with people who are "famous" to various degrees. Unlike many folks, I find I'm more fascinated by the "supporting cast" for these folks, than by the celebrities themselves.

    The music director and arranger for a pop star. The producers, directors, cinematographers, editors and special effects artists on a Hollywood blockbuster movie. The physical trainers and nutritionists for star athletes.

    While it's a curiosity to me to consider natural talent, I'm not in a position to take advantage of that sort of knowledge. I think it's these members of the supporting cast that hold the secret insights to how the very best in world reach their full potential, and that's a lesson worth learning.

    Wednesday
    Dec222010

    Digital Addiction

    I'm not sure I have much to add to the chorus of modern pundits speaking out against digital distraction. But it's worth admitting publicly that like many of you, I have a digital addiction.

    It's hard for me to embrace new ways the Web is evolving to the extent that they divide personal attention further and further. It's possible to spend all day reacting to stimulus being shot at you, to never actually be present, and to never give your undivided attention to anyone or anything, whether they deserve it or not.

    What will we become of us living perpetually in such a mode? It's clearer to me every day that Constant Partial Attention is the enemy of productivity, creativity, and likely deep spiritual and intellectual happiness. (Of course, it's also pretty clear to chain smokers that smoking causes cancer.) There are oodles of tools cropping up to help keep you from being interrupted. We're eventually coming to head around this (not soon enough unfortunately), and it's fueled by media's need to continue making dollars advertising and promoting, and technology's desire to keep delivering more real-time information to more of your devices efficiently.

    A side question: Where are all the shrinks, self-help systems, and non-profits hunting for a "cure" for this digital addiction? Why is this not recognized as a scourge on society?

    I don't know if it's possible to give up this addiction while still pursuing a career in technology and the internet. I know very few effective technology leaders who aren't enslaved on the treadmill of over-connectedness and digital distraction. But maybe 2011 will bring a new path, a better balance. I hope so.