Leaving Facebook

A month ago I deactivated my Facebook account and I haven't used it since.

In the larger scheme of things this is a relatively inconsequential decision, and one that I may even eventually reverse. But for the benefit of my future self, and for anyone else who's interested, I thought I'd inventory my thinking behind this change:

1. My time spent on Facebook was minimal, especially since I deleted the app from my phone a few years ago. But it was almost entirely time I was not spending on things that actually matter to me. Any effort I put in to keeping up with my feed felt like it was actively distorting my understanding of how the real world works, how people are actually doing and what they're actually thinking and feeling. Even as distractions from the real world go, it was often more unsatisfactory and harmful than helpful.

2. I continue to be uncomfortable with Facebook's "walled garden" model of connecting people, content and conversations. I've nothing against the company or the people who work there, and actually admire their technical innovation, scale and impact on the world. But as someone who genuinely wants to see people truly own and control their online presence, I can't in good faith spend time contributing to something that undermines the open web. When I tried being just a casual observer without engaging, it didn't work. Which brings me to:

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Slides: Growing a Distributed Team

Last night I gave a talk at a local meetup of tech folks about tools, processes and culture involved in growing a distributed/remote team, and how those might help organizations regardless of their structure.

Regular readers of this site would have recognized my remarks as derived from various posts here. It was neat that at least half of the folks in the room were also working remotely for their employers, so we had some good discussion and exchanging of best practices.

The slides from my talk are below. Thanks to everyone who joined in!

Continue reading Slides: Growing a Distributed Team

OMG, Best. Post. Evaaar.

HyperboleThese days it feels like hyperbole has completely taken over the world.

Err, that is...well, let me explain.

There's a lot of information being thrown at us all the time (news, entertainment, advertising, status updates), and a near-constant drive to try to make that information compelling, interesting or just weird enough to stand out from all the rest (think cable news, YouTube videos, all of the people making a living on various forms of marketing, political rhetoric).

It's a bit understandable, then, that in our daily communications we are tempted to exaggerate and embellish things. How else will our commentary about how life-changing this bowl of soup is stand out against all of the other commentary about how earth-shattering that coffee drink is or how vitally important that cute baby animal video is??

Continue reading OMG, Best. Post. Evaaar.

Distorted reality

Zilla van den Born's friends and family were enjoying following her trip to South East Asia via her posts on Facebook. Exotic restaurants, temple visits, snorkeling - they all looked like so much fun!

Except they weren't real, and neither was the trip.

“I did this to show people that we filter and manipulate what we show on social media, and that we create an online world which reality can no longer meet."

Most people don't work this hard to present a patently false version of reality to their online connections, but social media culture often encourages us to present the best, shiniest version of our reality. (Even reading my post from yesterday about how I spent the last week, I'm realizing that I presented a pretty idyllic narrative when of course there were things that were less than ideal along the way.)

In the midst of sharing silly, fun, whimsical things, it feels important to find ways to make sure our online connections trend toward authenticity and sincerity. And in the cases when online tools don't facilitate genuine connection (whatever that looks like for a given person), maybe we shouldn't invest as much of our time in them at all.

I'll think about that while I ride my unicorn around the rainbow today. Photos coming soon.

Facebook messages autoresponder

I went looking today for tools to create an autoresponder for Facebook's private messaging functions. I try to avoid using Facebook's messaging whenever possible, but that doesn't stop someone who I'm connected to there from sending me a private message, which then most often sits unreplied for weeks or months. Having an autoreply that encouraged message senders to email me instead would save me some time and help make sure the contact attempt got through in a timely manner.

The bottom line is that the options are very limited and I may need to build my own if it feels important enough to pursue. In the meantime I thought I'd post my findings here in case there are others looking for the same, or who have new ideas to share.

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Creating effective proposals

Over the years I've gathered some notes and reminders for myself about what makes a proposal effective, and I thought it might be useful to dump those out here.  This info is mostly geared toward business proposals (pitching to a client, convincing a co-worker, justifying an expenditure, etc.) and other professional uses, but it might be useful for other scenarios too.


Before you start writing, make sure you have a plan for what you're creating:

  • Approach: is a formal proposal the right approach for this task, or would the people involved benefit more from a more iterative/collaborative/informal approach?
  • Audience: who are you writing the proposal for? What do they already know about the topic? Are they already "on your side" and just need some details worked out, or are you persuading them to change their minds? What other audiences might also see the proposal?
  • Goals: the primary purpose of a proposal is to get your audience's approval. Are you clear on what you're trying to get approval for?
  • Scope: what does your audience need to hear to give their approval? What kinds of information do they NOT need to hear? What will their reaction be?

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Are you working around someone?

Krohn Cactus 1Not every person can do every job or thrive in every role they end up in.

Sometimes people lose interest in their work, get promoted beyond their capabilities, or didn't have the skills/experience to be a good fit in the first place. That this happens at all may speak to some area for improvement in the way people are hired, trained, reviewed or promoted in a given business or organization, but it's also an inevitable part of how companies and not-for-profits made up of humans change and grow.

When someone isn't a good fit for a role, the important thing is how the organization handles it.

Unfortunately, I've seen all too often that some organizations don't handle it at all. Instead, they leave everyone else to work around the mismatched role or problematic behavior. At best this wastes an opportunity for helping someone improve and rearranging "human resources" to better fit the needs of the business or organization. At worst it saps morale, leads to otherwise high-performing people leaving, costs a lot of money and significantly decreases the effectiveness of the organization overall. Working around someone who isn't right for the job does a disservice to them and can be toxic to the life of a business or organization.

So how can you tell if that's what is happening? Here's a list of signs I've seen in my experiences that might mean you're working around someone:

Continue reading Are you working around someone?