May Love List Update

So May, I feel like I barely got a chance to know you. Seriously. Where did you go?

Between family stuff (four birthdays, family visits, etc.), trying to move my web app idea forward, an unexpected windfall of freelance projects, and some possible changes at my day job, I feel like I didn’t get much done this month. Other than feeling overwhelmed, of course.

Things I did do off my Love List:

  • Blog (10 posts in May, with the highlights being The New Reality and The best and worst things about the Web
  • Saw The Avengers (loved it)
  • Took lots of photos (not many public facing, at this point.)
  • Read a book (#4 – Made to Stick), although I am still one book behind pace.
  • Purge stuff. We are starting to prepare for our June 9th block sale. Can’t wait for it to be here.

The rest? Not so much. But I think I am OK with that…

I read a great Seth Godin post this past month. The money quote:

For the marketer, the freelancer and the entrepreneur, the challenge is to level set, to be comfortable with the undone, with the cycle of never-ending. We were trained to finish our homework, our peas and our chores. Today, we’re never finished, and that’s okay.
It’s a dance, not an endless grind.

It’s important to be OK with what you don’t get done. There will always be something. What I need to do in June, after spending most of May overwhelmed, is to reset and focus on a small number of things. To do good work and be productive again.

I’m ready.

Restaurant meals are four times larger today than 1950s

According to the CDC, the average restaurant meal is four times larger than the 1950s. Soda size is 6x larger. Hamburger size more than 3x larger. French fries more than 2x larger.

The average American adult? 26 lbs larger, while only averaging 1 inch taller. (For adult men, the averages went 5 feet 8 inches and 166 lbs to 5 feet 9.5 inches and 195 lbs. For adult women, the averages went from 5 feet 3 inches and 140 lbs to 5 feet 4 inches and 164 lbs. Source.)

The best and worst thing about the Web

The World Wide Web is amazing. It’s arguably the greatest invention of the last 50 years, if not longer.

I was lucky enough to start college right around the time the Web became public and free. I remember “browsing” the web via Gopher on the text-only UNIX terminals in one of UB’s handful of computing labs. I remember using Mosaic and Netscape for the first time and seeing “sites” with images. I remember meeting other college kids from all over the country through IRC. It felt like an entire new world.

Since then the Web has grown into an incredibly large place (over a trillion pages, as of 2008) where people can collaborate, share even the smallest niche interests with others folks on the other side of the world, watch movies, listen to music, learn pretty much anything, keep in touch through video chats, etc.

Endless possibilities.

This All Sounds Amazing, So What’s Wrong?

Good question!

Over the last few years the barrier to entry has decreased to almost nothing. It’s incredibly easy to publish your thoughts and connect, whether it is through a blog on a server you rent; easy blogging sites like WordPress.com, Blogger, or Tumblr; Facebook; or in super short messages via Twitter. We are connecting and sharing more than ever.

That low barrier of entry has also produced a sense of entitlement, where you or I feel like it’s our right to share our opinion. That sense of entitlement is even greater when there’s a super easy-to-use text entry box on a page you visit often. There is no barrier between your opinion and the publishing action.

It’s the main reason I disabled comments on my site. Yes, you can still get a hold of me to comment and send feedback. I don’t hide my contact information. It just takes a little work to share your thoughts. I’ve found that eliminating the easy way is a “good enough” barrier to poor quality comments. You have to care a lot to make the effort, even though the act of sending an email was the “easy way” just a few years ago. Now it’s too much work for most people.

Paul Ford calls this Why Wasn’t I Consulted? or WWIC:

“Why wasn’t I consulted,” which I abbreviate as WWIC, is the fundamental question of the web. It is the rule from which other rules are derived. Humans have a fundamental need to be consulted, engaged, to exercise their knowledge (and thus power), and no other medium that came before has been able to tap into that as effectively.

WWIC can be status updates, comments, Like buttons, thumbs up, YouTube videos, and blog posts like these… (how meta.) It’s making your opinion, your knowledge, and your presence seen and felt. In general, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. When coupled with anonymity and a low barrier to entry? Not so much.

On your own blog? Go for it. People don’t have to read what you write and for the most part, blogging is more for the person doing the writing than the readers anyway. Especially when you start. (Hello 30 readers!) Your blog is the playground for your opinions and interests.

On social networks and sites that allow commentary and discussion? As long as you are making a positive impact (and I don’t mean only “save the world” type stuff), I’m good with anything you or I share online in this medium.

Buddhists call this Right Speech. Right Speech is refraining from lying, divisiveness, abusiveness, un-endearing and un-beneficial speech. It’s choosing to make a positive impact and furthering a topic or conversation.

Notice criticism isn’t on that list. It’s OK to criticize someone’s work as long as it’s beneficial and not abusive. To do that requires context, facts, and using the right words.

Unfortunately, since there is no or little barrier on most sites, it’s easier to flex your WWIC than make a positive impact. And because of that, a good part of commentary on the web falls into the not useful category. If you don’t believe me, check out comments on any popular political site or YouTube. (Calling comments useless is putting it nicely. Many are racist, misogynistic, and hate filled in general. Just don’t say I didn’t warn you.)

Maybe I feel this way because I started blogging (and using the Web) before social networks? Not sure. I know I am not alone though. What I do know is I’m interested in lowering the ratio of web-based WWIC in my life — at least from people I wouldn’t consult in real life.

Since we lead such high information lifestyles, I think it’s important to get rid of the stuff that doesn’t make a positive impact or move the conversation forward. When I look at the sites I use the most, Facebook stands out as having the highest ratio of low quality WWIC. Twitter blocks all conversation by default unless you follow at least two people involved (plus there is much less FOMO going on, given the impermanence of tweets), RSS feed readers don’t include post comments, and Instagram is mainly photos.

I spend the most time in RSS, but Facebook has the most FOMO so it’s just as addicting. The plan so far: fine tune my RSS subscriptions (again) and decrease or eliminate Facebook usage. I need to think through the last one a little more, since last time I quit Facebook I ended up coming back for more 6 months later.

Are you tiring of WWIC on the web, social networks, Facebook, etc? If so, how are you dealing with it? Feel free to hit me up and share your thoughts.

The New Reality

As part of last week’s job report, the NY Times gave us a little insight into why corporations and the elite don’t really mind our current economy and why things aren’t going to drastically change (for the rest of us) any time soon:

Today the United States economy is producing even more goods and services than it did when the recession officially began in December 2007, but with about five million fewer workers.

Anyone who works knows what it’s like during “uncertainty” or “bad times”: folks get laid off and the rest of us have to pick up the slack. Why would businesses go back to a “bloated” workforce, when they can get pre-recession productivity out of a recession-era workforce? There’s only one answer to that question: a massive increase in demand.

Where is that demand going to come from?

Europe? Nope.

Asia? Probably not.

Our government? Not now, with the massive state & local cuts or the federal “austerity now!” meme. In fact, the government sector shrank during the first 3 years of the Obama administration — for the first time in 40 years. Obama has to be the worst socialist ever, right?

(Just imagine where the economy and unemployment rate would be, if the government had maintained a historical level of growth during this time, much less the kind of growth normally seen during a recession. The Wall Street Journal makes an attempt: 7.1% unemployment. )

So that leaves us: your common, everyday American.

But how can we do that when only 1% of the growth in national income during the recovery went to wages and salaries. 88% ($464 billion, as of the end of 2010) went to corporate profits, which are at record levels. (Which they are hoarding at record levels too. To the tune of $850+ billion.)

And this isn’t even considering the stock market. Here are a few graphs to consider:

The Dow Jones is up 57.5% since Obama’s inauguration:

Dow Jones - January 2009 to present

The NASDAQ is up 93.7% during same time:

NASDAQ Jan 2009 to present

<

p id=”yui_3_17_2_1_1407674114902_386140″>Boom for the 1% and stagnation for the rest of us. This is the new reality.

Lessons from Sheryl Sandberg: Stop Working More Than 40 Hours a Week

Apparently, up until recently, Sheryl Sandberg (COO of Facebook) felt the need to hide the fact that she leaves work at a normal hour to spend time with her kids. Maybe it’s pressure from the startup culture of Facebook or just U.S. business culture in general.

Regardless, it’s dumb.

I’ve always thought working smarter beats working harder (or more often) any day of the week. And, as the article said:

In the early 1900s, Ford Motor ran dozens of tests to discover the optimum work hours for worker productivity. They discovered that the “sweet spot” is 40 hours a week–and that, while adding another 20 hours provides a minor increase in productivity, that increase only lasts for three to four weeks, and then turns negative.

Burnout is not a badge of honor.

Why I love Gimme Bar over Pinterest

Pinterest is all the rage, but I don’t use it. Sure I checked it out, but it didn’t stick. Why?

Well, to start, I got an invite before the site really blew up and the discovery part didn’t fit my needs. People weren’t pinning stuff of interest, so I didn’t have any incentive to return to the site. (And it continued to remain irrelevant the handful of times I did return for a brief moment.)

The main reason, though, was Gimme Bar.

Yes, the basic premise of Gimme Bar is similar to Pinterest, but Gimme Bar does more of what I want and less of what I don’t:

  1. You can save entire pages, not just images. (I save site designs for inspiration.)
  1. You can back up Instagram, Twitter, Delicious, Pinboard. (I use the Instagram backup.)
  1. You can back up your entire account to Dropbox. (Meaning you can take your data/collections with you!)
  1. The actually have a business model: Pro accounts for $24 per year (Oops, did I forget to mention Pinterest’s shady business model?!.)
  1. There are no follower counts, share counts, follower/following lists, etc — no reason to gamethesystem or strive for social media “fame.” (Just collect stuff you like vs. a popularity contest or trying to make money.)
  1. Discovering new stuff. It’s not perfect, as the user base isn’t huge, but they do share things that interest me most of the time.

So, if any of this sounds interesting to you, sign up today and look for me! My username is endonend. Feel free to send me your username as well and I’ll follow your collections.

Multitasking May Hurt Your Performance, But It Makes You Feel Better


But one of the key findings of the study is that this multitasking didn’t do a very good job of satisfying their cognitive needs which actually motivate the multitasking in the first place, Wang said. That’s probably because their other media use distracted them from the job of studying. However, the students reported that the multitasking was very good at meeting their emotional needs (fun/entertainment/relaxing) – interestingly, a need they weren’t even seeking to fulfill.

So multi-tasking doesn’t make you more productive or help you do things better, it just makes work more enjoyable emotionally.

Totally makes sense.

April Love List Update

May! Is this year flying by or what?

I’ve got a good feeling about May. I have my birthday (turn 36), Lucy’s birthday (she turns five), and my dad’s birthday this month. I’m ready to challenge myself through exercise via a work-sponsored 8 week challenge that begins in a couple weeks. The big purge starts this month too, as we prep for a June block sale. Not to mention Mother’s Day and Memorial Day. It is going to be a busy month!

Here’s a quick update on my Love List progress.

Things I’ve done well so far:

  • Kept on top of my priorities. (I’ve also not procrastinated on any important task in three months. I’ve been fairly productive at work and even made an improvement on the home front. And most importantly, I’ve kept the wife and kids as the top funded priority.)
  • Blog once per week. (Nine posts in April.)
  • Re-connect with friends. (Hung out with Chris a few times during April.)
  • See more movies. (Movies in the theater, I’ve seen recently: Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, twice, The Muppets, Alvin and the Chipmunks, Mission Impossible, John Carter, Hunger Games, and Mirror Mirror. The Avengers in May!)

Works in progress:

  • Spontaneous weekend trip. (We set one up, but kids got sick so we had to postpone. Not so spontaneous any longer, so will have to try again.)
  • Take more photos. (I’ve taken more, but not a significant number. Started using Instagram more to share them, so follow me there too. My username is endonend.)
  • Read one book per month. (Finished book #3 in April and have to read two books for work in May so I will be back on pace at that point.)
  • Go camping. (Reservations made!)
  • Create an app. (Modified this one to include web apps. I started working on a new idea in April. I have a name and some basic screens mocked up. A lot more progress will have to happen in May.)
  • Go bowling. (Nothing in April.)
  • Purge stuff. (Nothing in April. We have a block sale in June so we will start prepping for that in May.)

FAIL or Starting Later

  • Exercise. (Total fail in April. I did sign up for an eight week challenge through my work today and I got a new hybrid road bike to commute to work, so I should see a lot of improvement in May.)
  • Go to more shows. (Nothing yet.)
  • Move my career forward. (No progress yet, however I did get a raise in April.)
  • Meditate every week. (Not much at all in April, but more than March.)

Done

  • Blog design. (Designed my blog logo in March. Calling it a day on this one. I am happy with the current setup, so it’s not worth spending much more time on this item.)