What Do You Believe?

I believe there is value in the identification of ones beliefs. Knowing what you believe helps you find others that share your beliefs and it helps you crystalize what’s important to you in life. So here is portion of beliefs that have been cruising around my head lately.

Trends swing like a pendulum that slowly moves the center.

We are currently in the middle of a megatrend towards the simplification of software and in the infancy of defining a set of more natural user interfaces that will slowly replace existing software over the next 20 years. Gabe is only 9 months old and can’t fathom that a screen exists he can’t touch directly to play with.

Right now the pendulum is still swinging towards larger social networks and more connections between users, but it will swing back towards a set of more personalized “niche networks” that cut through the noise to help you focus on what is important to you at the moment. However the larger network will always be there for you to pull from.

Users will demand a more personalized experience with the software that runs on their most personal devices.

I can tell your there is absolutely a skill mismatch between employers and job candidates today. Interviewing these people makes me always think about the famous Seinfeld declaration that “90% of the world is un-datable”. And when Elaine asks how all these people get together… “they settle”.

Our work and personal lives will see a huge upshift in the number of geo-disperse connections and experiences. You will share goals and challenges with team members around the world and you’ll watch movies on your couch with your family across the country.

Waterfall development of any product is dead. Every aspect of product design, development, and packaging will be iterative and be directly connected to your customers.

We are going to expect and demand more transparency from our friends, co-workers, bosses, corporations, and government than at any time in the past. Facebook is already known as “the truth machine” amongst our friend group. This transparency will lead to more efficiency and collaboration than we’ve ever seen before. The best big business are asking themselves how they can create less private data.

Moore’s law for individual excellence has reached an end. The new “moore’s law” measures the number of connections and improved collaboration between software, devices, and people. This number is going to double each year and lead us to a more connected, efficient lifestyle. The win is in enabling seamless loose ties and tighter connections with smaller teams.

Product testing is ripe for reinvention.

We’ll have access to more data and statistics about our health, lives, and competitions than we’ll know what to do with. Solutions that cut through the noise to show us the important numbers will quickly become a dependency. Before Gabe was born we had access to more data about his development than had ever been collected about my own health throughout my entire life.

Being first is a good feature… just not the most important one… ask Microsoft.

The transparency and data available will serve to motivate individuals and teams to compete and evolve over time.

Amazon is setting the standard that is to be expected for a personalized application (kindle) to work seamlessly across devices and follow you everywhere with the combined knowledge of other readers. (popular highlights)

People can change and evolve themselves over time… But it takes determination to constantly challenge your comfort levels and reinvent oneself. Not doing this will lead to your eventual inability to do the things you love for a living.

11 Tips for Working Remotely

It’s been well over a year since I joined Telligent as a Remote employee.  I wasn’t sure I’d last six months working outside of the main office.  I’m sure these aren’t the only tips, but they are the ones that work for me. Maybe some of the other remote peeps at Telligent can offer their 2 cents after reading this.

1. Get face to face

image There is nothing like actually meeting the people you work for and with in person on a regular basis.  Before I started at Telligent I made sure I had met several of my co-workers in person during the interview process.  Shortly after was a well timed trip that took us all to Dallas for some face to face meetings.  This time isn’t always the most efficiently spent for us remoters, but it’s highly valuable social capitol. Simply energizing.

2. Get Visual

NOTE: Actual co-workers appearance may vary.If you can’t meet in person you can use a number of applications for 1-1 & many to many video chats.  Joe would tell you that it’s landlines FTW, but our teams have spoken. Despite the choppy audio, the glitching, CPU usage, and comcastic outages nothing beats video for knowing when your co-workers are rolling their eyes at what you are saying.  So far tokbox & Oovoo have been the most used by our teams.

3. Find your water cooler

No really, these are NOT your co-workers! It doesn’t matter if it’s twitter, facebook, or IRC… it’s important to have a virtual water cooler with your team.  You need a place to talk about things that aren’t precisely what you are working on with your team.


4. Get out of the house and be "that guy"

imageYou need to get out of the house when you start to feel the walls close in around you and productivity drop.  Some of my most productive afternoons have been at the local coffee shop with Wifi, music, and good headphones.  It’s extremely energizing just to be around people.


5. Shower and get dressed slacker!

imageBased on our daily video calls I’m not sure if all of my co-workers agree with this one, but the couple of days I’ve broken this rule it’s cost me in productivity. I just don’t feel ready to work unless I’m showered and dressed well enough to appear in public.   You are already saving yourself the 15-30 minute commute you can afford a 10 minute shower.


6. Work a regular schedule


This is another one that may just be me, but just because you work remote doesn’t mean you should take advantage of the fact no one will notice you golfing, shopping, or visiting your out of state girlfriend in the middle of the day.  I never realized how important my online status was until last year.


7. Take breaks


Just because you don’t take off golfing doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take breaks throughout the day.  I’ve found myself, too often, speeding through lunch at my desk while doing e-mail only to realize I hadn’t moved much in hours.  That’s not an effective break.  Use this time at the virtual water cooler, take 5 minutes to clear the dishes around your desk up, or go outside and get some fresh air.


Update: This was published as a draft before I wrote the last few so enjoy. No sense putting the cat back in the bag… that’s painful.

Update 2: Scott posted a list that included some that I hadn’t written up yet here: http://simpable.com/life/working-remotely/ 

To 2nd two of his and add more…

8. Work in a remote culture

image If the rest of your team sits in a cube with one another and doesn’t leverage shared communication protocols you’ll probably find yourself on the outside.  Like Scott said… drill them about their culture before you sign up.


image Since you don’t see each other every minute you need to realize that every time you do talk to each other the messages you send are amplified to a degree. E-mails may be read more carefully and hints of sarcasm that go over well with people you see in person don’t travel through the series of tubes well. 

10. E-mail etiquette… know when to drop out of mail

image Related to 9 standard e-mail etiquette rules apply, but my addition is that I’ve seen too many threads carry on when it would just be faster to grab everyone and hop on a sharedview, call, or chat.  Maybe something to apply is if there are more than 2 replies from 2 unique people… it’s time to drop out of e-mail before more people get sucked into the vortex.


11. Evolve your thinking and your Intranet

image I know I’ve personally felt a lot more connected to remote and non-remote employees since we, as a company, started using our own Evolution product.  That’s my biased sales pitch, but the idea is the same no matter what software you use… get people using the social media tools on the intranet that they use outside of work to stay connected.  Get people blogging, creating groups, sharing ideas, posting status messages, etc inside the firewall.

Bonus: Forward thinking

image I believe that the tools that enable truly collaborative online working experiences are in their infancy.  Things have evolved so quickly in the last 5 years that the innovations of the next 5 years are going to reshape how people view the need to be sitting next to each other.  They are going to continue to enable you to hire the best people for the job regardless of geography.  It’s going to make us all more efficient.  I think we’re only 10% of the way there today and there is significant room to grow & improve.

Friendfeed is a Bug

I don’t usually go out and create a 1 per post “mindless link”, but I tend to agree completely with what Dare said in this post and it wouldn’t have been long before I wrote up something similar… so I’ll just let Dare say it for me. 

Dare Obasanjo aka Carnage4Life – The “Popularity” of FriendFeed is a Bug in the Social Software Ecosystem

It took a little longer than two months but it looks like I was right. For some reason Facebook isn’t putting the comment bubbles in the news feed but I assume that is only temporary and they are trying it out in the mini-feed first.

FriendFeed has always seemed to me to be a weird concept for a stand alone application. Why would I want to go to whole new site and create yet another friend list just to share what I’m doing on the Web with my friends? Isn’t that what social networking sites are for? It just sounds so inconvenient, like carrying around a pager instead of a mobile phone.

Although I’m going to add that Twitter falls under the same category.  Maybe it’s because they’ve been too busy trying to keep the whale floating to add new features, but it feels so incomplete it’s hard to see the value over all the other, site specific, status messages that define a users current activity.

Being Josh Ledgard’s Wife

If you tune into This Week in C9 you may have caught some stumbling over my name. It starts around the 7:30 mark.  But the best part is hearing Gretchen referred to as "Josh Ledgard’s wife."  I know this won’t make much sense to many of you, but I’ve been "Mr. Gretchen" for a long time and this proves there is just a little bit of justice in the world.

Evolving the daily meeting

I don’t know what we’ll do when we have over 6 people per virtual team, but I have to agree with Dave. I’ve really enjoyed seeing the faces of the people I work with virtually.  If you work with remote teams I highly recommend checking out ooVoo!  We use it every day for our stand-up.

Now I have proof people are wearing shirts to work… pants I still don’t know for sure about, but shirts are now required to work for Telligent.

Via Dave: Killer App: ooVoo

And nowhere is that more apparent than in our daily stand-ups. And how does a team hold daily stand-ups when everyone is remote? Like this:


Sure, it looks like a geeked out version of the Brady Bunch, but it works really, really well. ooVoo supports up to 6 people connecting into the same video conference, and the quality is quite good for both video and audio. Every now and then you’ll notice a slight delay or hiccup in the audio and/or video, but it’s nothing major and never lasts for more than a moment.

Ledgard Twitter Race: Subscribe to my tweets

image Sure, it’s a petty thing, but I’ve been Mr Gretchen for a long time in some circles.  I’d like to prevent that from happening in the Twitter-Verse.  You can help prevent this by heading my shameless call to follow me on twitter via http://twitter.com/evolvingwe.

With blogging I started first, Gretchen called me a nerd, and very soon afterwards she was more addicted than I was and eventually way more popular. 

The same cycle is starting again in Twitter.  I started and she called the “tweet noise” cute with a hint of nerd.  Now she’s addicted to Twitter and goading me about her cult of followers starting to overtake mine. 

Well, here are the current stats:

gledgard: 63 Followers  evolvingwe:73

If you have any tips for generating followers quickly I’d love to hear them!

What determines the quality of user generated content?

On the Freakonomics blog they link to a comparison between recent YouTube and MetaFilter user commentary.  The question is asked if $5 can improve the quality of the comments.  You can guess what this looks like, but its worth checking out the difference in comments for yourself.

On the Web site thatsaspicymeatball, you can view the latest comments from MetaFilter (which requires a one-time, $5 membership fee to post a comment) and YouTube (free) side by side…

Here’s how a poster from each site expresses disagreement:


And here’s where we diverge, as we have from the get-go …


yeah you’re dumb you expect me to shut up because you tell me to? ha yeah sure

Via Freakonimics

My personal opinion is that there isn’t just one thing that determines the quality of user comments. My theory is that the quality of commentary (and user contributions to a site in general) is dependant on a mix of the following in order: 

  1. Original Content: The content you put on your site is what draws users to it in the first place.  It also sets an example of the type of writing and quality you expect from your visitors.  Present a well written set of wiki articles or blog posts and expect well written replies for the most part.  Host videos of flatulent pandas and the people that are drawn to that sort of thing are the people that are going to be leaving their mark (for better or worse) on your site.
  2. Monkey See Monkey Do: If your user comments are already full of LOLSpeak tnage txtspeak (man I’m old) then that’s what people think is expected of them.  Then, wanting to fit in, people will devolve to match to the expectations. It’s going to be hard to prove otherwise once you start letting content you don’t want to see flow into your site. 
  3. Reputation:  How do you reward/credit the people who generate content you like?  Do you look them up, thank them, and highlight their content?  How tied are users to their accounts?  Do you give them a reason to post good content?  This is the carrot side of things and the stick, of course, is…
  4. Moderation Policies:  It’s your site so you have control over what’s posted and behavior you want to see.  If you moderate posts and aggressively and penalize bad content by removing or hiding it from other users then you start to impact factors #1 & #2.  

Did I miss a category?  What else factors into the quality/type of user content on community sites?  If anyone knows about a study with real data that would help prove or disprove the importance of these factors I’d love to see it. I’ll leave you with the following, semi-related, picture.

Humorous Pictures

Time to leave networks on Facebook

I probably just noticed something that’s been going on for a while. I thought I’d check out the Seattle group on FB. It’s a 200k audience being fed daily spam like this:


Facebook needs to find a way to deal with this problem because it’s only going to keep getting worse. 

Design the little things that stand out

image Good products tend to pay attention to the little details. Not all the details, but enough to make you notice. Lately I’ve noticed that the list of supporters or fans or whatever you want to call them on Facebook pages seems to always show a few people that are in your social circle, or friends of people in your circle if needed. 


This way, when you are browsing the page it says to you “It’s ok, look, your friends are here too!”.  They could have chosen a random set of people here, but I think it’s a nice touch.