Jan 01

News Round-Up

Todd and I had two holidays goals that couldn’t be more different. After a month of late nights at the chocolate factory, Todd wanted to zone out on a beach. However, beach chairs make me twitchy. We ended up relaxing on Vieques Island during the day and then kayaking around the BioBay at night – perfect. I charged my mobile batteries to 100% before donning flip flops and then headed to the beach where Todd plugged in his headphones and got to his sunny meditation. Occasionally, the beach surf sounds were interrupted by Todd’s iPhone buzz. He’d pull his iPhone out of his pocket only to say, “Wait a second… this email is from you!” as I’d just sent him all of the news articles that I thought he was missing. Needless to say I had a lot of reading time this week. Here are some of the interesting articles I want to share for anyone interested. Happy reading!

1. The Touchy-Feely Future of Technology (NPR)

If you haven’t heard of Bill Buxton, read the above. And then, head over to see all of Buxton’s papers and research here: Bill Buxton Papers. Buxton is one of the most prolific HCI researchers out there and has been a pivotal figure since the 80′s. Looking through his research is like looking into the future and waiting for technology to catch up.

2. What Does Your Brand Say About You (Washington Post)

A brand is more than Marketing veneer. It’s felt throughout the entire culture and operation.

  • Long lines = “They don’t care about my time”
  • Rush off the phone = “They rush product dev too”
  • Strict policies = “Inflexible”
  • Outdated website = “Outdated ideas”
  • Unexciting messaging = “Boring product”

3. Volkswagen Silences Work Email After Hours (Washington Post)

To help employees maintain a better work/life balance, Volkswagen and others have agreed to stop sending company emails outside work hours.

I love this. There are definitely people who handle their email best at midnight or 5am which means that it’s inevitable that some unlucky recipient is going to feel stressed before falling to sleep or while getting ready to head out the door. Most of the time an email isn’t even that stressful in the longrun but receiving the email in a setting where you can’t do anything immediately makes it worse. There are always exceptions but I love the idea of preventing email after normal work hours so team members can officially decompress out of the office.

4. Online Shopping: Better for the Environment? (LA Times)

Whew – I feel a tinge better about ordering my recent fix of gummy bears via Amazon prime now. Just make sure you recycle the box.

5. Outsourcing Resolutions (WSJ)

“Having someone you love tell you how to become a better person could be terrifying… Who better to tell us how to improve than someone who knows us well?”

Years ago, Todd floored me when November 1st rolled around and he said, “It’s November? I only have 60 more days to complete my resolutions!” I’ve kept New Years resolutions ever since. This year, inspired by this article, we wrote each other’s New Years resolutions to share on December 31st. Then, I decided I wanted to jot down what I would have said for my own New Years resolutions to compare with Todd. It resulted in good dialogue and further goal refinement.

In the end, I realized that this is how performance reviews and personal annual goals should feel. A boss/mentor/trusted peer thinks about their three goals for you based upon their perspective, you come up with your three, and then there’s a conversation to reconcile and brainstorm together. Which leads me to the next article…

6. Everything That’s Wrong with Performance Reviews (Washington Post)

Performance reviews fail because they are heavy-handed, bureaucratic, and a “dysfunctional pretense” that is an obstacle to having a real conversation. (Also see WSJ’s Get Rid of the Performance Review from 2008). By pairing performance reviews with pay, the employee thinks their review determines their pay when it is likely governed more by the market and internal budgets. In addition, performance reviews reinforce the manager and subordinate relationship and focus on past mistakes instead of planning for performance in the future.

7. How To Have a Tough Conversation (Chicago Tribune)

Just a few good tips on having hard conversations: reverse your thinking, help the conversation feel safe, define goals for conversation. It’s intended for the professional setting but I probably need it most for coping with phone chains. AT&T and airlines customer service bring out the very worst in me. If they can’t locate my lost luggage or understand my issue within five minutes, oh! my blood boils!

8. Haters Are Going To Hate This Story (NPR)

Quick rundown of haters online and in music including, “if you have haters, you’re doing something right” and advocating for a “don’t like” button.

9. Creating Magic Moments for Customers (Washington Post)

Craft the story you want users to tell that differentiates you from your competitors. Unexpected + delight = magic.