Issue 11 – Improve Your Emotional IQ, Pretty Prime Numbers and the Curse of Being Busy

Posted on July 26th, by kate in issues. Comments Off

Hello Hot Stuff! (come on, you know you are!)

Welcome to this week’s edition of the TLN.  There is all sorts of good stuff in here, including what seems like a ton of random tidbits and links.  My favorite post of them all is Scaling Dropbox – but the Busy Trap is also worth reading.

Bonus links can be found here.

And if you have ideas, articles, suggestions, or comments let me know!  I would love a chance to make this newsletter even better.

News to know


Leadership – Self-awareness, Connecting and Asking Good Questions


Build your self-awareness

If you are familiar with Emotional IQ, one of the 5 parameters is self awareness (the others are self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skill).  Growing up geeky this was something I know I had to work a lot on later in life (and still have trouble with at times)  Here are the tips from the article:

  1. Test and know yourself better. Having a framework for self-awareness helps to bucket your strengths and weaknesses.[…] We found successes and failures across all types, but understanding which core trait drives your decisions and your attitude is what is most important for increasing the probability for success.
  2. Watch Yourself and Learn. This is all about feedback.  Track your decisions and then revisit them in the future – what were the outcomes and why?
  3. Be aware of others, too. Self-awareness is crucial when building a team. Knowing your natural strengths and weaknesses makes you a better recruiter and allocator of talent.

This is the trinity of self-awareness: know thyself, improve thyself, and complement thyself. […] Intellectual honesty, rigorous commitment, and active truth-seeking are sine qua non to any self-awareness process.


Leading by example – managing your energy levels

If you have a problem of un-enthusiastic or lifeless employees the best way to inspire them is to lead by example (energy is contagious!) by managing your energy levels.  Here are the 3 tips mentioned in the article:

  1. The importance of recovery time: Take time out to recharge otherwise you will burn out mentally, emotionally and/or physically.
  2. Managing your energy during the day: Remember our bodies go through ultradian rhythms or energy cycles every 90 to 120 minutes.
  3. Building your energy reserves: Everything we do either builds or depletes your energy reserves.  Therefore we need to effectively manage our 3 energy sources being – physical, emotional and mental.  The diagram gives you some tips in how to do this.


The Busy Trap

All too often when people ask me what I have been up to, I say “busy with work.”  This is largely because it is easier than explaining that for me work is what I love and things like this newsletter and my blog are what I consider to be “fun”.  However, sometimes I think I fall into this trap:

Some people measure themselves based on inputs – i.e. how much time you spend working, how full your calendar is, how many emails you respond to?
Other, smarter, people measure themselves based on outputs – i.e. how much progress did you make, what did you create or learn in the process? In other words, what was the return on time invested?
And there is a third level – where you stop measuring yourself altogether and rather than being deformed by your busy-ness optimise for enjoyment.

How are you measuring your time?


Bullying Is a Confidence Game

 “A bully will always try to pull you down in order to push himself up.”
Ever feel like your work place can remind you a bit of the 3rd grade?
Yeah, me too.  There are the mean ones, the cliques, and it may be my own insecurity but I feel left out.  The cure?  Confidence. After all, the “best working relationships are forged over time, with confidence earned in the midst of the mundane.”


Your High-Potential Program Could Ruin Your Business

Throughout my management career I have been involved in organizations where you zone in and focus on the “high potential” people – your top 10-25%.  This is a great strategy (and definitely was when people stayed in jobs for 5+ years) when your high potentials are also your top performers.  However there can be downsides:

  1. Training other companies’ leaders.  If a high-potential program is not part of a well-conceived strategy for leadership development, your main result is going to be a terrific program for training the future leaders of your competition.
  2. Dividing your workforce. If you are not transparent about the process, the assumption will be made that it’s a system for rewarding “favorites.” Any scent of favoritism fractures the climate of the organization.
  3. Creating entitled prima donnas.  If a program for high potentials is framed as a reward for extra-special people, it should come as no surprise when participants grow arrogant.
  4. Undermining your core business. Are your high-potential program components linked to real and current business challenges? [If not, they can] reduce short-term business performance without demonstrating how they will improve longer-term output.


How to ask better questions

This is an old article I came across recently but really thought it was useful.  A key part of being a leader and influencing others is to improve understanding and communication – you can do this by explaining everything to everyone (but that doesn’t make people feel heard or important), so the best solution is to learn how to ask great questions.  Here are the guidelines from the article:

  1. They create clarity: “Can you explain more about this situation?”
  2. They construct better working relations: Instead of “Did you make your sales goal?” ask, “How have sales been going?”
  3. They help people think analytically and critically: “What are the consequences of going this route?”
  4. They inspire people to reflect and see things in fresh, unpredictable ways: “Why did this work?”
  5. They encourage breakthrough thinking: “Can that be done in any other way?”
  6. They challenge assumptions: “What do you think you will lose if you start sharing responsibility for the implementation process?”
  7. They create ownership of solutions: “Based on your experience, what do you suggest we do here?”


Tech – Scaling Stories, “Down with OO!”, and Open Source at NFLX


Scaling Dropbox – part 1

This is a great article with a nice list of tips & best practices for any quick growing business that needs the technology to scale easy to support it.

Here is a summary of the lessons:

  • Run with extra load.  By generating false extra load and queries you will discover your bottlenecks sooner and have an easy way to reduce load while you come up with a solution.  
  • App-specific metrics.  Look at the application performance across servers – otherwise it can be hard to see the signals through the noise.
  • Log spam is really helpful. We have all seen debug statements from dev accidentally end up in production.  Leave it in – it may save you time when troubleshooting or diagnosing an issue.
  • If something can fail, make sure it does.  Test your failovers and make sure they work.
  • Try to keep things homogeneous - both software and hardware.  
  • Keeping a downtime log
  • All time in UTC
  • Use standard technologies. “Pick things that are known to work outside your company, or be prepared to become the project’s primary contributor.”
  • Simulate/analyze things before trying them
  • The security-convenience trade-off.  Make sure you are only solving security problems if you really need to do so – spending time on problems you don’t have is very seldom a good use of resources.


Why OO Sucks

The author gives 4 key objections:

  1. Data structure and functions should not be bound together - Of course this can be argued that functions that only operate on one type of data structure should be coupled to them in some way – but he is right data structures and functions are very different animals.
  2. Everything has to be an object - and sometimes this does not make sense or is overkill (and it can impact data size since objects typically take up more space than primitives).
  3. In an OOPL data type definitions are spread out all over the place – which can be summarized as OOP data types cause accidental complexity.
  4. Objects have private state - in an ideal world private state makes sense, but since it is often not the cases and global state matters this sort of private state makes things more obfuscated and can causes unforeseen side effects.

Interesting arguments for sure – but I still like aspects of OO, so I wonder if there isn’t some new paradigm that addresses a little bit of both?  Maybe it is time for a revolution in code architecture and structure…


Netflix and Open Source

If you are leveraging open source on your team, you should be contributing back when possible – it is good for you and good for the ecosystem, and Netflix says there are many other benefits.  And here is a great quote from the article:
“What we’ve learned is that a component may be ‘Good enough for running in production, but not good enough for Github’.”


Product & Process – Building Better Products


Meetings: Positivity and focus – getting meetings started in the right foot

I like this idea.   I might morph this into something that is focused on the meeting topic.  One of my favorite techniques for all hands meeting is to do a similar thing with post its that capture everyone’s ideas around the key areas of focus.


Ownership: Who owns the website in your organization?

Will front-end coders and designer blend into a single role with responsibility for business outcomes outcomes?  It is certainly possible.
“Engineers have developed a vocabulary that enables them to be part of the design conversation in a way that is welcome, and many engineers are actually crossing over into design as designers cross over to coding.”
There is certainly more collaboration across teams and disciplines than in the past.
And at the end of the day: “It’s easy to forget that success isn’t about control, it’s about results.”


UX Design: Google’s Take on “Change Aversion” Misses the Point

The basic truth: users aren’t opposed to change, they’re opposed to bad design sold as beneficial change.
“In most cases, people hate change because they don’t like to suddenly become stupid.”


UI: Are you testing on IE?  Don’t forget it!

How not using Internet Explorer put me out of touch and cost me dearly talks about the outcomes of losing a lot of users because of errors that popped up only on IE.  And if you need another reminder, here is an interesting tweet from this week:
Microsoft’s Q2 revenue: $18.06B, about 1.5X Google’s $12.21B and half Apple’s $39.2B (via @randfish)


Recruiting: Hire today or gone tomorrow: How your startup is getting lapped by companies who know how to hire

Make sure you are moving quickly with candidates and everyone knows about the needs of the company and the org chart. Know who you want to hire and get a deal done and don’t be complacent.


Quick Bytes

[ Random and Interesting ]

What a startup does to you. Or: A celebration of new life

A good read for entrepreneurs and dads – a story of startups and children.  “I’ve never met a person who tried a startup, failed, and said they wouldn’t have done it all over again.”


What if social networks just aren’t profitable?

An article arguing against the intrinsic for-profit Internet. There is definitely something to be said for keeping social networks small.

I actually like the idea of having a small admission fee, restricting membership and keeping it really high quality – although I have actually been thinking about starting/joining a mastermind group so perhaps I am a bit off the norm here (and it wouldn’t be the first time!).


Friends of a Certain Age – Why Is It Hard to Make Friends Over 30?

“In your 30s and 40s, plenty of new people enter your life, through work, children’s play dates and, of course, Facebook. But actual close friends — the kind you make in college, the kind you call in a crisis — those are in shorter supply. No matter how many friends you make, a sense of fatalism can creep in: the period for making B.F.F.’s, the way you did in your teens or early 20s, is pretty much over.”

I’ve heard lots of people express this same sentiment over the years, and this article takes a peek at some of the key factors that influence this feeling – kids, money, an increased urge to focus on what you have instead of branching out.


5 Principles of Attaining Success

Success is sometimes about luck, or being in the right place at the right time, but it’s also about making the decision to go after your goals. If you actively pursue your passion, your chances of being in the right place at the right time – and knowing it – go way up, when you keep these principles in mind:

  1. Positivity – Take action to achieve your dreams.
  2. Patience – Understand that roadblocks appear, but don’t have to stop you.
  3. Persistence – Motivation yields positive results, which builds more motivation.
  4. Discipline – Stick to the plan you set you.
  5. Visualization – Can you succeed? Yes you can!


Mark Twain’s 9 Tips For Living An Awesome Life

No one said being Mark Twain was easy, but it could be worth a try. :)
Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did so. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”


Jane McGonigal on the game that can give you 10 extra years of life

Brilliant TED talk about what matters most in life (the first 4 minutes is looking back on the regrets of the dying and worth watching in and of itself) and then applying those values to games to enlist friends to help you improve your and resilience and your life.


A Nerd Is Not A Geek: Two Spins On Spider-Man

A comparison of the two different portrayals of spiderman – is he better as a nerd or a geek?  Personally, I like the nerd version….

“Tobey Maguire’s Peter was a classic nerd archetype: big glasses, tripping over his feet, victimized by bullies — the kind of guy you can easily imagine saying “golly” a lot. […]
Andrew Garfield is not playing a nerd; he is playing the modern notion of the geek, which is very different.  Garfield’s Peter is more oddball than outcast. He’s not actively rejected as much as he’s just not part of very much of what goes on at school.”


The Future of the Map Isn’t a Map at All—It’s Information

A more expansive view of maps and how they could convey information in the future.
“To Parsons, maps can be so much more than maps. They can be all the information that exists in physical space, and then a layer of intelligence that can put that information to use.”


Crackpots, geniuses, and how to tell the difference

Don’t let the “hand-waving and mumbling” explanations fool you – a good story doesn’t make a genius theory. This article is a great reminder of why peer review and asking questions are so important.


[ Geeking Out ]

Using data mining to design an app icon for a mobile app

Looking at the top 300 apps in the app store this developer analyzed the color and visual complexity to design his icon.  Not sure if it will help with downloads, but it is a pretty cool application of data mining!


When Art, Apple and the Secret Service Collide: ‘People Staring at Computers’

A covert art project capturing photos people took of themselves on Photo Booth at Apple stores around the country – and how the Secret Service got involved.


(Accurately) judging people by their shoes

This experiment found that based on photos of a subject’s shoes, participants could assess everything from age to income to attachment anxiety. What are your shoes saying about you?


UF researchers develop “nanorobot” that can be programmed to target different diseases

The holy grail of nanomedicine are nanorobots that have the ability to travel directly to problem cells cure the problem without pain, trauma or scarring.  And while that dream is still a ways away the researchers at the University of Florida have moved a step closer with a programmable nanorobot capable of targeting and shutting down the genetic production of disease-related proteins.


The missing switch: High-performance monolithic graphene transistors created

If you haven’t heard of graphene, it’s the one-atom-thick, honeycomb-lattice allotrope of carbon that is the best conductor of electricity at room temperature that we know of, and it’s the strongest material ever tested and won the Nobel Peace Prize in physics in 2010. Scientists have hoped that graphene would be the answer to the current demise of Moore’s Law – but graphene doesn’t have the ability to switch on and off the way silicon can.  However, the researchers at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg in Germany have reportedly created high-performance monolithic graphene transistors using a simple lithographic etching process, giving us hope that it could replace silicon ones in the future.


In a gang and need to protect your iPad?  Check out this bulletproof case.


[ Wordly Reading ]


A Brief History of Money – Or, how we learned to stop worrying and embrace the abstraction

Money is an abstraction. Whatever it looks like or whatever it’s backed by, what matters is that people believe in it.

  • It’s a store of value, meaning that money allows you to defer consumption until a later date.
  • It’s a unit of account, meaning that it allows you to assign a value to different goods without having to compare them. So instead of saying that a Rolex watch is worth six cows, you can just say it (or the cows) cost $10 000.
  • And it’s a medium of exchange—an easy and efficient way for you and me and others to trade goods and services with one another.

All of these roles have to do with buying and selling, and that’s how the modern world thinks of money—so much so that it seems peculiar to conceive of money in any other way. […] Money is a social creation, just like language. It’s a tool that can be used well or poorly, and it’s preferable that we have more freedom to use that tool than less.


Has ‘Organic’ Been Oversized?

Alarming article about how “Big Food” (Kelloggs, Campbell Soup, etc.) have swallowed smaller organic producers.
“In some ways, organic is a victim of its own success.”


Why There Are Too Many Patents in America

Citing a recent patent case between Apple and Motorola, a judge explains why certain industries need patents, but more importantly why some industries don’t. Without adequate regulation, he asserts, businesses have been able to obtain patents as a way to crush competition and prevent innovation – slowing down progress for everyone.


New counterterrorism strategy?  Trolling!

The program, called Viral Peace, seeks to occupy the virtual space that extremists fill, one thread or Twitter exchange at a time. Shahed Amanullah, a senior technology adviser to the State Department and Viral Peace’s creator, tells Danger Room he wants to use “logic, humor, satire, [and] religious arguments, not just to confront [extremists], but to undermine and demoralize them.” Think of it as strategic trolling, in pursuit of geopolitical pwnage.”


NSA Mimics Google, Pisses Off Senate

Engineers employed by the NSA reverse engineered Google’s BigTable and open sourced their solution to Apache – Senate is objecting saying they built their own instead of buying a viable commercial alternative. Bad precedence?
“Last September, the agency open sourced its Google mimic, releasing the code as the Accumulo project. It’s a common open source story — except that the Senate Armed Services Committee wants to put the brakes on the project.
In a bill recently introduced on Capitol Hill, the committee questions whether Accumulo runs afoul of a government policy that prevents federal agencies from building their own software when they have access to commercial alternatives.”


[ Useful & Productive ]

The To-Don’t List: Things you will NOT Do

Although this article focuses on twenty-somethings, I think the feeling of having a million things you want to do is pretty common among tech leaders today. Why not focus your energies by making a list of “definitely will-nots”? Ask – will this project make me happy, is it efficient, is it essential?

Do you suffer from indecision? Use this technique to decide between 2 choices.

  1. Find a coin.
  2. Designate one side “Choice A” and the other “Choice B.”
  3. Flip the coin.
  4. Place your hand over the result.
  5. Stop right there.

You don’t have to look at the result, just think about which one you secretly hoped would be revealed – or worst case just look at the result!


Does Thinking Really Hard Burn More Calories?

Unfortunately, not really – if you want to burn calories you will have to go the gym.  However, this article is an interesting read explaining the phenomenon of mental exhaustion:
“The brain continuously slurps up huge amounts of energy for an organ of its size, regardless of whether we are tackling integral calculus or clicking through the week’s top 10 LOLcats.”


[ Just for Fun ]

Math is awesome, and beautiful: Prime number patterns.

The iPad Game That Took 9 Years (And an Epic Disney Fail) to Finish

It’s like Casablanca with a steering wheel.
“The Act’s individual scenes and frames were hand-drawn on paper and then scanned in using a traditional ink scanner, Kraus says. When the game was finished, he said, it comprised over 230,000 individual drawings.”

So cool!  Lightning captured at 7,207 frames per second

Vibrations that are normally invisible to the human eye captured at 1,000 frames per second

Expensive beers of the world

Wow! Pregnancy No Barrier to Malaysian’s Olympic Journey

Nevermind that Marissa Mayer is a pregnant CEO, that is nothing compared Nur Suryani Mohamed Taibi who is set to compete at the London Olympics in air rifle shooting while eight months pregnant.

CD sea – an art installation of CDs

The source of the little factoid that 10,000 hours will make you an expert.

”Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere.” – Albert Einstein

Have a wonderful week with lots of great adventures.


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