there are 10 posts from November 2005

November 23, 2005


So as anyone within earshot of me knows, we’ve been on the grand tour of grade schools for the last couple of months, looking at the public and “independent” schools in our (extended) neighborhood. I could (and do!) go on for hours about what we’ve been seeing and learning, but that would bore you to tears. Instead, I’ll share with you the results of a little between-classroom brainstorming about how office life could learn a little bit from grade school life

So, in no particular order, here are some ideas for how to run your next Web 2.0 startup:

  • Forget calendars, try periods!  Every period is 50 minutes, with a 10 minute break in between.  “What are you doing 4th period?  Wanna get together to talk about our alpha invite strategy?”  “I have a yellow fade discussion then.”  “How about 5th period?” “Sounds good.”  Make a rule that no meeting can span two periods without a good reason, and why not actually ring a bell at the start and end of each period.
  • Cubbies!  Everyone needs somewhere to hang their coat and stash their lunch box.
  • Lots of wall art!  The best thing about grade school classrooms are the walls – they’re covered with great stuff!  Charts of the alphabet or the periodic table, ground rules about about classroom behavior, plus lots and lots of stuff produced by the kids.  Artifacts everywhere, and in color!
  • Specialists and counselors!  Find the equivalent of the “wacky art teacher” or the “geeky person who runs the computer lab” for your business, and make sure to have outsiders on retainer who can help manage your equivalent of the ADHD kids.
  • Morning meeting!  In high school we called it home room – use it to take attendance, lay out the daily schedule and talk about what’s happening at home.
  • Nap area!  Of course.
  • Snack time!  Juice, graham crackers or even the occasional quesadilla on a hot plate, which turns an everyday snack into a project!
  • PE!  Whether it’s frisbee, yoga, spinning, volleyball, kickball or dodgeball, everyone needs to get their ya-ya’s out.  You may even consider requiring a note from a doctor to skip it.  Up to you.
  • Child of the week!  Everyone needs to feel special; put their name on the board, let them present their latest and pick their favorite snack.
  • Field trips!  Everyone needs to get out and see the big bad world…whether it’s market research, a trip to the local geek museum or even the bar down the street.  After all, what would you rather go on – a strategic planning offsite, or a field trip!

The list could go on and on; you get the gist.  The benefits could be huge – employee satisfaction goes up, it’s a hook for recruiting young talent, and even the grizzled veterans get to feel like kids again.

November 21, 2005

snake, meet tail

As inspired by my colleagues Messrs. Dash and Anker, I hereby present the Web 2.0 Checklist.  (Subscribe to changes via RSS!)

November 21, 2005

problem one: it's way too slow

So folks are all a-twitter with the announcement that Tivo to Go will allow you to push your shows to your video iPod.  Whee.  But my GOD, has anyone actually used Tivo to Go?  Or, more to the point, is anyone actually using it on a regular basis?  May Wong of the Associated Press nails the TTG problem on the head…

Don’t expect instant gratification: The transfer process from a TiVo Series2 set-top-box to a PC — a necessary step before syncing to a portable — occurs roughly in real-time. An hour-long show will take an hour to transfer to the PC, then roughly another 10 minutes or so to sync to a portable device.

So, it takes more time to transfer a show to your portable device than it does to actually watch the show.  You can thank a crippled USB (1.0?) port on the Tivo device for this.  I’m sure wily Tivo hackers have figured a way around this problem, but for your average person who just Wants Things to Work, this doesn’t cut it.

November 15, 2005

another one in under the wire

OK, I’ll get this one in under the wire too, before tonight’s episode of the The Office.  I know there are plenty of purists out there who will claim that the NBC version will never be as funny as the original  from the BBC, but I beg to disagree.  Steve Carrell is pitch perfect as Michael, the ongoing storyline of the office romance is sweet without coming anywhere near treacle, and they’re doing a great job of adapting for the US audience.

Case in point – the show’s obsession with Chili’s.  Not only is it plot appropriate (“Inc. Magazine wrote that Chili’s is the businessman’s new golf course.” “Really?”  “Well, not yet.  I’m writing a letter to the editor.” Excuse the extreme paraphrasing –ed.), but last week’s episode had Carrell and Tim Meadows doing a brief duet of the “Baby Back Ribs” song.  Product placement doesn’t get any better than that, folks.

November 14, 2005

when in doubt, delete.

Great quote in the comments of a post by Raymond Chen @ Microsoft about his attempts to simplify his office layout:

“The older I get, the more I realize my best tool is my trash can.”

I still have about 40 boxes of books in my garage that I’ve yet to move into our house, three years on.  On sum, I bet I’ve actively thought about three boxes worth.  I’m seriously tempted to sell or donate the rest of them.  Who needs all those books?

November 12, 2005

god awful television

Have to get this in under the wire, before the “one week to talk about the latest episode” elapses.  That “live debate” on The West Wing?  Possibly the worst 20 minutes of television I’ve ever seen.  The other 40 minutes were viewed in Tivo triple fast forward, just to see if anyone in the “audience” would shoot one of the candidates to put themselves out of their own misery.

What’s the equivalent of “spinning in your grave” if you’re alive?  Whatever it is, Aaron Sorkin’s doing it.

November 09, 2005

bye bye, charlotte.

Because I know you’ve been waiting patiently to find out if I threw the book across the room…I did. Wolfe’s silly attempts to capture the “fuck patois” of the college campus (“Look at me, I’m down with the lingo!”) were exhausting, the ending was a cop out (everything too neat and tidy, the characters’ fate decided by a third-rate, two-dimensional bit player), the last few pages a spastic attempt to project some sort of ill-fitting psychological profile on to Charlotte.

No more Wolfe for this reader.  Any suggestions for palate-cleansing novels?

November 07, 2005

i am getting annoyed

More proof that this blog is more for me than it is for you, an update on my quest to finish  I Am Charlotte Simmons without throwing it across the room.  Warning:  spoilers.

First, am I completely insane, or is the major conflict in the novel turning out to not involve the protagonist at all?  700+ pages of drama, all leading up to a show down over academic integrity between a basketball player and a self-important, bookish freak?  Wolfe better bring Charlotte into the middle of this conflict in the last 100 pages, or I’m gonna be pissed.

Second, if that drama doesn’t involve Charlotte in some significant way, that means that the entire story arc of the novel hinges on a drunken first time?  If so, that’s insane.  Wolfe didn’t spend enough time in the front two-thirds of the book setting up Charlotte’s character to have that scene have as much of an impact as it is…turning her into a mute on Christmas break, and a blubbering idiot when she returns to school.  She is Charlotte Simmons!  Isn’t she?

Finally, I have a feeling that he’s going to try to pull all of this together in the last part of the book with the “governor of California” plotline that’s been lying around since Chapter 1.  Unfortunately, it’s just been lying around, not going anywhere.  There’s just no room in that part of the story for any flexibility:  if that becomes the lynch pin of the book (bringing Hoyt, Vance, Adam, Jojo and Charlotte together into some paroxysm of plot), it just won’t hold.

I’m still gonna finish the damn thing.  Just so when I get to the end of the book, I can throw it across the room.

November 02, 2005

on the list

Unordered lists are lame.  So let’s try an ordered list this time!

  1. Anil’s post on getting married.  I’m not really a Dr. Phil kinda guy, but this was one of the best things I’ve ever read on the nature of marriage.  And the guy’s only been married about four days.  Damned overachiever.
  2. Ben’s blog.  The guy can write, too?  Damned overachiever.
  3. Frou Frou.  Guilty pleasure right now – bleeps and bloops and melodies from a pretty voice.
  4. The fact that I still haven’t thrown Charlotte Simmons across the room. Even though in the space of about 20 pages Charlotte went from being a hillbilly prude to getting felt up by the senior boy from the frat house.  Huh?
  5. The Pan Pacific Wontons at Kirin Restaurant on Solano Avenue in Berkeley.  Thank God they’re right around the corner from my house.
  6. Sea Salt, a new-ish restaurant on San Pablo in Berkeley.  The first restaurant in a while where we walked out and immediate said “we need to go back to try more stuff on the menu.”  The fact that we sat at the kitchen counter and watched dishes being plated probably contributed to that.

Next time, its back to bullets.  This ordered list thing implies more meaning than intended.

November 02, 2005

book reviving

Scott Berkun tosses off something interesting in a quick post pointing to recent reviews of his (most excellent, highly recommended) book The Art of Project Management:

Most folks don’t know it but the window for books is small: if it’s not picked up in reviews soon after publication, odds are slim anyone will ever even hear about it.  My own interests aside, any time you write a blog post or amazon review for a book, it makes a huge difference to us authors.

This is “Long Tail 101,” of course[1], but it’s always great to hear it straight from the authors out on the tail, so support the ones you love!

[1]  What’s the over/under on how long it will take until a top 20 MBA program offers a course in The Economics of the Long Tail?