July 21, 2018
Everyone loves cutting down the guy on top. I heard that originally in a country song, but it came to mind in recent news due to an article I read about Google and DuckDuckGo. Of course I’m not advocating for Google, in fact, there are many things they could do (and should do) differently, and I absolutely believe the future looks very different for Google and every other current tech monopoly (but that’s another post for another day). Instead I want to just quickly point out that when someone’s doing well, everyone else tends to seek out fault a little bit more intently. And another adage which also seems to come into play is the old saying regarding “kicking someone when they’re down.”
In case you’ve missed the news, Google was recently hit with a massive $5BN fine by the EC for anti-trust practices. I’m not weighing in on that discussion. Regardless of how big the company is that is a heavy fine.
But just because they’re getting hit with something heavy doesn’t mean everyone should pile on with every complaint they can dredge up. DuckDuckGo should demonstrate a bit more discretion in this case.
Reading the article caused me to go visit the website in question and I have to admit I was a bit surprised by what I saw.
That’s right, Google not only gives a full explanation for the domain name provenance (not required), but also provides extra links (extra mile), offers alternative advice (helpful), points to the competition directly (generous), and even sprinkles in a bonus link (humor).
Come on, let’s all have a little respect here. Even if we don’t agree with everything Google does; there’s a point where we should appreciate what they do…when they are under no obligation to do so.
July 19, 2018
We hear a lot of talk these days about dark patterns, on the web, in apps, in UI and design. If you’re not familiar with the concept, here’s a quick example:
Dark patterns take a variety of forms and the example above is considered “Confirmshaming” – notice the “No thanks” option? There are several different types of dark patterns and thankfully they are becoming more and more recognized by users and the companies who employ them are being called out for their bad behavior. You can see a full list of types here:
But I think it’s one thing to recognize and correct bad behavior. It’s a completely different thing to offer examples and suggestions for good behavior. I think we should take a more positive approach towards recognizing and offering good examples. In addition, maybe we should also start praising those who embrace light patterns. And maybe we should start to reward the companies who choose a user-centric, helpful and informative approach to their users. Wouldn’t the result be a better environment for everyone?
July 18, 2018
The other day (actually several days ago now) I was using a popular ride-sharing service and noticed the driver had just left my location at the airport when I requested a ride. I watched as his car turned around on my screen and made its way back to me. When I got in after exchanging the necessary small talk I asked him why he was leaving the airport without a fare. I told him in my mind it seemed to be a great spot to wait for the next rider as there would always be people coming off a plane.
He laughed before sharing with me his thought on the subject. It struck me instantly as interesting and I made a mental note to throw a quick TL;DR about it. Here was what he told me.
He said, “Every day I wake up, I find a rider looking for a trip to the airport or some other equivalent distance away from my home. Then, instead of sitting and waiting for another fare in a single spot (like the airport). Then I start making my way home again. I don’t move fast, and I certainly don’t ignore riders. Instead, I’ve found my mood improves, my attitude is better and I’m generally happier because I’m always ‘heading home’.”
This driver had realized the excitement over “heading home” at the end of the day, could be a way to make his entire day feel better. He wasn’t sitting stagnant in one location, he wasn’t waiting for another rider. He was going home. And inevitably he’d pick up a fair, which would take hime someplace else. He’d complete their route and once again “head for home”.
I thought there was something strangely positive in this thinking and approach and appreciated this rather unique way of focusing his mind on a positive result. It’s all about direction, it’s all about how you choose to see your future and how you get there. This positivity can be applied in other ways and areas of life too. What’s your direction? Are you headed where you want to go?
July 16, 2018
Every day is a fresh start, I get that. But I think Monday holds a slightly elevated level of this ingrained human inclination towards optimism. Monday is (for most) the start of a new week. A chance to start fresh. A new opportunity to become more of the aspirational self they desire to be. Whatever happened last week is done, it’s behind you, it’s gone. Today, right now, this is the first day of an exciting new chapter.
How will you spend it?
July 15, 2018
I posted recently a blog post encouraging community involvement and I used a classic fairy tale as the motivational allegory to illustrate a practical and easy to understand equivalency. But as I was writing the post I was struck with something that I believe I should highlight and focus on. It was too derivative of a point to draw out in the original post so I’m posting it separately as a TL;DR here. And I apologize it may be slightly longer than my typical short posts.
The story I shared was The Little Red Hen. And if you want the full story then you can read the post shared earlier. Instead, there is one line in particular I emphasized in the story as I shared it. Perhaps you caught it, probably you didn’t.
And she had an idea for something to be made.
It’s a simple short sentence and it’s right near the beginning of the story. But this line really made me think. In the story the little red hen does all the work herself and only when the product (bread) is completed does everyone else want to take part. But maybe the little red hen actually didn’t do things right. I’m not trying to point fingers, but she might not be the best community manager in the world. In fact, I might go so far as to say she’s actually quite terrible as a community manager! Let me explain.
The little red hen missed what I believe to be the single most important factor when building a community or gathering helpers to join in with her in doing the work. She neglected to share her vision.
The community manager has to do much more than tell people of work to get done. The community manager has to share the vision and encourage, inspire others to share that vision and join in a combined dream.
Imagine if the story had been written differently…
One day the Little Red Hen found a grain of wheat. And she had an idea for something to be made. She quickly called her friends: the cat, the goose, and the rat and told them she had an idea she wanted to share. When they all got together the little red hen laid out a plan. She had found a grain of wheat, but this little grain of wheat could become something incredible, something nourishing, something mouth-watering and tasty!
She told them she knew it would take hard work and a number of different steps to turn that little grain into something they could all enjoy; but if they all worked together and used their strengths they could make it.
The little red hen then did something spectacular, she asked her friends what they thought. She wanted to know if they liked her idea? Did they agree a slice of soft, hot, bread sounded delicious? What could they do to make it better? The cat said she thought she could find some butter and this made the goose realize she’d seen a jar of strawberry jam which they could spread over the bread. Even the rat began to think about what he could do and how he could help.
Now, with a shared vision and a common goal (a delicious slice of hot bread with melted butter topped with cool strawberry jam) they all knew what needed to be done and grew more excited with each step of the process. They took turns watering the seed, they shared the load carrying the wheat to the mill, they all pitched in milling the flour, and throughout the entire time they laughed and told stories and encouraged one another through the hard times….
And just like that the little red hen learned how sharing her ideas, encouraging questions, and sharing a dream helped grow a community of close-knit friends focused on working together for the greater good.
I’m not saying this is the perfect analogy and I would never suggest that a classic fairy tale was written incorrectly. But I couldn’t help but realize how easily this story could unfold differently if the little red hen had focused a bit more on communication and community.
Community management and involving others throughout a process and reaching a shared vision isn’t easy but the rewards are so much greater than sitting alone eating a piece of dry toast.
July 14, 2018
Some of you may be very familiar with the term. I have used it a lot in the past but I think for those that might not have heard the term let me share why I like the idea of rubber-ducking so much.
First, gotta start by understanding the term. It’s a verb and involves the general idea of talking to an inanimate object (e.g. a rubber duck). This is not because you’re crazy (though others might think so); instead this is a chance for you to verbalize thoughts, hear them out loud, and process through information in a different way. This is often done for the purpose of bettering your thinking on a topic or improving your points and how you share them.
Second, I can’t tell you the number of times i use this technique in a single day. There’s immense value in getting your ideas out of your own head (even if it’s only to that empty chair sitting next to you).
Lastly, there’s an even better version of rubber-ducking. This involves bouncing your ideas off another person. But there are some strings attached to this version. Your person has to be “your person” meaning they know they aren’t there to criticize or chastise your thinking. In fact, sometimes the recognize their purpose is merely to listen. As the idea sharer you have to feel safe to say whatever you are thinking no matter how ineloquent or scattered those thoughts might be. Your person has to be the right person to be able to do this. If you have someone like this you are blessed.
When you get to the end of your verbal stream of consciousness there’s the opportunity for your person to ask questions. Not challenge you (remember you need to feel safe). Instead, they may ask for more explanation or a repeat of certain thoughts. This is why having “a person” is better than a “rubber duck”.
Regardless of the method, the outcome from engaging in this activity is highly beneficial and I recommend you add it to your thought process daily!
July 13, 2018
Here’s your interesting thought for the day. Shamir’s Secret Sharing. This topic of secret sharing I believe holds immense value for the future of passwords and encrypted data on the decentralized web. Consider this approach in an applied environment akin to the P2P file-sharing of yesterday. In this new ideal system you could have a decentralized fully encrypted setup where private data could be stored securely in a public blockchain or other distributed, decentralized format.
Shamir’s Secret Sharing is an algorithm in cryptography created by Adi Shamir. It is a form of secret sharing, where a secret is divided into parts, giving each participant its own unique part, where some of the parts or all of them are needed in order to reconstruct the secret.
If you’re interested in learning more you can see the mathematical algorithm on the associated Wikipedia page.
July 12, 2018
The concept of data privacy and security grows daily in importance and urgency. I’m personally heavily focused on these topics and I find particular interest in relating them to things such as open source code. There’s a lot to be learned and there are many different paths which could be taken. This recent paper took a novel approach and I loved the concept of elastic sensitivity.
Elastic sensitivity introduces the idea of approximating local sensitivity of queries with general equijoins. This elastic sensitivity is an upper bound on local sensitivity and thus can be used to enforce differential privacy using any local sensitivity-based mechanism. Ultimately, this yields generalized results with negligible performance loss and increased privacy without significant loss of accuracy in query results.
If you only read one research paper this week. Make it this one. Here’s a snippet to make you more curious:
This paper proposes elastic sensitivity, a novel approach for differential privacy of SQL queries. In contrast to existing work, our approach is compatible with real database systems, supports queries expressed in standard SQL, and integrates easily into existing data environments. The work therefore represents a first step towards practical differential privacy.
The best part? The researchers have released their work as an open source tool for computing elastic sensitivity for SQL queries.
Want me to elaborate further? Drop me a note and I’ll expand this one into an actual post. I think the idea is incredibly interesting.
July 11, 2018
The combined results of several people working together is often much more effective than could be that of an individual scientist working alone. – John Bardeen
July 11, 2018
I just discovered something which has apparently been around a little while. The concept is specific geolocation based on 3×3 meter squares and 3 word assignments. As I have learned, this is the thesis behind what3words.com which has mapped the entire planet in a 3×3 meter grid and then assigned each a 3 word “name”. This level of specificity on a global scale is mind-blowing and has use-cases in a surfeit of applications.
If you’re thinking what I thought at first…what about other languages besides English, then you’ll be interested to hear this team has created this nomenclature in 14 languages and growing all the time.
I can tell you personally this has tremendous opportunity to provide real value in so many instances. Even down to the simplicity of where to meet someone to watch the Boston fireworks. Or, where to gather the next time you’re lost in Fenway park.
You can take a look at the map and find your address here: https://map.what3words.com – or the next time you’re in my little town outside Boston and want to grab a coffee you can say, I’ll see you at glass.venue.smiles
July 10, 2018
There’s a common misconception in the world that anything which doesn’t require a fiat currency as payment for goods is somehow considered to be “free”. However, there are many other ways in which a business can “charge” for something. The beauty of this correlation exists when a business is able to capitalize on this feeling or sentiment that they are getting something for free when in reality they are simply paying a price in a different “currency”.
I’m reminded of this in particular today due to the unique and highly successful free marketing campaign held by the restaurant, Chick-Fil-A. If you live in an area where this chain operates then you probably are very aware what today is. For the rest of us, today is colloquially known as Cow Appreciation Day. 🐄 In other words, should you choose to assemble a few bovine accoutrement (dress like a cow) and plod into one of their establishments you will be
herded towards rewarded with a free meal.
The allure of free at the low, low cost of your personal dignity and a few cow spots dotting your personage. 😉 Bravo to Chick-Fil-A for a brilliant and highly successful marketing campaign. They have identified a marketing campaign which maximizes their brand visibility while also meeting the free mentality of their customers.
July 9, 2018
I think I made up the title, but that’s okay. I think I like what it means and apparently I’m getting better at making up words. Here’s what I mean by unbinged. We all agree some things in life are worth waiting for, or said in a different way, some things are too good to consume all at once. You want to savor it, soak in it, enjoy it. Some times you need to give your mind a chance to develop a thought or an idea.
For this reason I think Netflix should release a new feature called Binge Lock. Here’s what it would do. As a viewer I would have the choice on a particular series to select Binge Lock. If I choose to activate the feature Netflix would not allow me to watch more than one episode per week of that series. And there would be no way to turn it off…for that series.
I was thinking yesterday about AI and how we are in danger of a world with an unmoderated AI because it will appeal to our revealed self instead of our aspirational self. This is a perfect example of that. I know I would love the “ideal” of making myself wait for something, but when the system gives me an auto-playing “Next Episode” in 30 seconds this appeals to my revealed self (sadly, one which loves the idea of instant gratification).
A feature like Binge Lock would give me the power to develop my aspirational self a bit more.
As a nice side benefit Netflix would have a way to encourage more chatter about their shows, the idea of “spoilers” becomes real again, and who knows maybe subscriptions would increase as well.
July 8, 2018
The danger of unmoderated artificial intelligence is that as it learns human behavior it will adapt and modify its output to serve the revealed self of the individual rather than the aspirational self; understanding greater satisfaction is derived from pleasing the revealed self, although often in juxtaposition to the greater good.
July 8, 2018
“People’s behavior makes sense if you think about it in terms of their goals, needs, and motives.”
— Thomas Mann
July 7, 2018
“Every time you shift your attention from one thing to another, the brain has to engage a neurochemical switch that uses up nutrients in the brain to accomplish that. So if you’re attempting to multitask, you know, doing four or five things at once, you’re not actually doing four or five things at once, because the brain doesn’t work that way. Instead, you’re rapidly shifting from one thing to the next, depleting neural resources as you go.”
– Dr. Daniel Levitin
July 6, 2018
I’m constantly reading the tech headlines and always looking to see what’s new in the world of interesting tech. I am particularly interested in seeing what new or innovative things have been discovered or worked on. I like to think about how they might be used in the future and how new tech can be applied to old problems. I absolutely loved reading about itty.bitty sites. I have no idea at the moment of the many use cases for this idea but it’s a fascinating concept!
July 5, 2018
June 20, 2018
It’s easy to think that sometimes we just have to let out our thoughts and everything will be okay. It’s also easy to think that there’s no harm in ranting. Don’t be fooled. The words you say are important, they can affect people. Even if you simply need to vent some frustration, find a safe place (or a safe person) with whom you can do this. If you just start unloading on whomever is close by you risk damaging a relationship, or at the very least, their opinion of you. Don’t foolishly share your spur-of-the-moment, off-the-cuff heated feelings. Even when ranting, think before you speak.
June 19, 2018
“In times of crisis, the wise build bridges, while the foolish build barriers. We must find a way to look after one another as if we were one single tribe.”
June 18, 2018
Q: How do you eat an elephant?
A: One bite at a time.
June 15, 2018
The paradox of the connected world is that we have more ways to reach people but it’s becoming harder to connect with them.
June 13, 2018
June 13, 2018
June 10, 2018
Important lesson. Stay creative. Don’t go easy into that dark night of adult-life-blindness.
June 9, 2018
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