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What I learned last week

What I learned last week (#71)

A quote that I was thinking about:

The best test of a person’s intelligence is their capacity for making a summary.

Lytton Strachey

Why we should bring blogs back:

Twitter is dominating the deployment of information currently, and I agree that it would be good if there was something more behind it.

I’m not sure if this particular idea will take hold or not. I do believe, however, that we need innovative thinking not just about medical treatments, but also about how we handle the deployment of information relevant to our response.

A lot in here is about the infatuation with Twitter, which is great at some things (i.e. a lot of obscure smart people are getting the attention they deserve) and not great at many others (most ideas can’t be compressed into 240 characters and tweet threads aren’t any fun to read):

In this proposal, these experts wouldn’t abandon social media. On the contrary, they would continue to actively engage with these platforms to summarize their ideas and comment on events, while the platforms would continue to work their algorithmic magic to amplify the more impactful content. The big change, however, is that this short-form content can now be pointing back to their longer, more stable elaborations.


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What I learned last week

What I learned last week (#51)

Favorite quote:

Good stories always beat good spreadsheets.

Chris Sacca

A project that seems to be working pretty well: The (home) office door.


Reasons to be cheerful: reasonstobecheerful.world was a new find (for me) of interesting reads with an optimistic bent. Check out the The Necessity of Nuclear as one example.


Some rules to live by: The 12 ‘Other’ Rules for Life was put together over a couple of weeks of posts by Marcus Purvis. Here are a few favorites:

Rule 6. Read like your life depends on it because it does
Read fiction and nonfiction, one compliments the other. Fiction helps your creative mind and nonfiction gives you information which can become knowledge.
Rule 7. Know that love is a verb
There are many couples who fall out of love. There are countless people who no longer love the work they do. Don’t be like them. Play an active role in loving what you do and whom you spend time with.
Rule 10. Everyone gets 24 hours
You’ll never find time for anything, you have to create it. If you don’t create time for you, someone else will take it from you. You can’t spend time, then go earn more of it. You can’t buy it, rent it, or borrow it.


Avocados are more valuable that illegal drugs for Mexican cartels: Avocado Cartels: The Violent Reality Behind “Green Gold” is a great read for a recent history of both cartels as well as the avocado trade.

Mexico produces nine out of every 10 avocados eaten in the U.S. The lion’s share dangle from long lines of leafy green trees in Michoacán, home to nearly 5 million people. In 2017, the strife-torn southwestern coastal state sent an astounding 1.7 billion pounds of Haas avocados to the U.S.

And in the notoriously troubled state of Michoacán, which is plagued with corrupt police, failed governance, and plenty of guns, all those avocados have been a magnet for organized crime like flies on a giant vat of, well, guacamole.


New music I’ve been enjoying:

Two recommendations this week:

DJ Shadow – Our Pathetic Age is an ambitious double album released in our (pathetic?) age of 28 minute “albums”. Good write up here.

Motherless Brooklyn (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) is great jazz album that I’ve been listening to in the mornings, and a movie I’d like to see.


New tool I’ve been using: Grammarly. Much more than a spell checker, it has great suggestions for rephrasing and even predicts how your tone will be percieved. The browser plugins are ace.


Favorite book excerpt:

“I felt the same gut empathy … that I used to feel, unwelcome and against my better judgement, for George Bush in those moments when even he seemed to dimly apprehend that he was in way over his head. One reason we rush so quickly to the vulgar satisfactions of judgement, and love to revel in our righteous outrage, is the it spares us from the impotent pain of empathy, and the harder, messier work of understanding.” (Tim Kreider, We Learn Nothing)


Check out what we’re up to now.

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What I learned last week

What I learned last week (#47)

Tool I discovered: Droplr. Since starting work at Automattic I have been getting to know and love this tool for taking and sharing screenshots and screencasts. It uploads your files automatically for easy sharing, has a bunch of surprisingly great options, and it’s fast.


Documentary I enjoyed: The Game Changers. Since going vegetarian over a year ago, Kav and I have been getting into it more and more and have no desire to go back. This made me want to go farther.


Tumblr site that made me laugh: Catalog Living. There have been a few of these floating around the office. Too funny.

Gary threw down his napkin in disgust when he realized tonight would be yet another Giant Pear dinner.


Favorite life advice of the week: Read like your life depends on it, because it does. From the always good Marcus Purvis. I also enjoyed his recent post in his Notes from a Small Country series.


Article about “work” that made me think: Asynchronous Communication: The Real Reason Remote Workers Are More Productive. This lines up neatly to my new role working for an entirely distributed, async company, so it’s right in my echo chamber but good I think nonetheless.

This highly synchronous way of working would be understandable if it produced results, but there is more and more evidence that all the real-time communication overhead makes it hard to focus, drains employees’ mental resources, and generally makes it more difficult to make meaningful progress on work.


To see what we’re up to, check out our now page. The featured image is another one I colored in with some Tombows from my small notebook:

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What I learned last week

What I learned last week (#30)

The importance of doing it now: My last day with Microsoft was last week and I thought I’d have a lot more time in the final weeks/days to say thank you to all of those people that I learned from and who helped me out. I got to a few but, for most, the time ran out. A good reminder to tell people your thankful the moment you think about it (technology is your friend here), don’t wait until it’s too late. The end of my leaving note that I posted last week read as follows:

If you find yourself in Scotland in the near future, please drop me a line. It’s been an honor and a pleasure to work with you all and I will forever be grateful for all you have taught me. As Elbert Hubbard once said, so here is a handclasp over the miles, and I am, yours sincerely, 

-Nick

“There will come a time when you believe everything is finished. That will be the beginning.” – Louis L’Amour


A potential replacement for Trello and OneNote: I learned about a tool called Notion last week and am in the process of trying it out to track all our UK move stuff (instead of OneNote/Trello). Pretty interesting so far.


Thinking about niche over broad: LinkedIn recently posted a bit about how it’s algorithm is changing, which I thought was pretty interesting. I like to say I’m not interested in getting the most ‘likes’, but I am hoping to contribute something of value, and there aren’t too many other ways to gauge whether I’m doing that or not. I thought the best practice of sharing content that is “niche over broad” is insightful way beyond social posts, and applies to all types of creating. Are you going for the masses or are you trying to make something that you know will be valued by at least one person out there? What are you giving up with each approach?

Niche over broad

– We know from our data that members are more interested in going deep on topics they’re interested in. Consistently we see better conversation around niche ideas (eg #performancemanagement) than the broad (#management).
– Use hashtags (we recommend no more than three) to help other members find the conversations that match their own interests.


New music to move (and work) to: I saw The True Loves play at big Microsoft event recently (they were formerly fronted by Grace Love) and their album Famous Last Words has been on regularly while we’ve been packing up getting ready for the move.


Very few decisions actually matter: Loved this post from Charlie Kindel, One-Way and Two-Way Doors, which is centered around a Jeff Bezos quote from one of his shareholder letters. At the end he links to an article by Richard Branson on the same topic. Leaving Microsoft last week after 13 years was definitely a two-way door decision. But leaving and moving to Scotland, probably less so. Similar to the 80/20 rule, spend time only on the decisions, priorities, tasks, etc. that really matter! 🙂

“Some decisions are consequential and irreversible or nearly irreversible – one-way doors – and these decisions must be made methodically, carefully, slowly, with great deliberation and consultation.” 

“But most decisions aren’t like that – they are changeable, reversible – they’re two-way doors. If you’ve made a suboptimal two-way door decision, you don’t have to live with the consequences for that long. You can reopen the door and go back through. These decisions can and should be made quickly by high judgment individuals or small groups.”


Favorite book excerpt:

All the good stories are out there waiting to be told in a fresh, wild way. Mark Twain said that Adam was the only man who, when he said a good thing, knew that nobody had said it before. Life is like a recycling center, where all the concerns and dramas of humankind get recycled back and forth across the universe.

From Bird by Bird by Anne Lamont

(Oh, and that drawing is from one of my old sketchbooks from 1995 that I’ve been combing through as we get ready to move. I decided to keep that one. Woo ha!)