20 Year Reunion and Fear the Facebook Timeline

Today I learned:

1. 20 Year Reunion: The first thought to run through my head when reading an email invite for my 20 year high school reunion is “I am old.”  The second thought is “Wow. When I graduated we didn’t even have email.”  This realization in turn brings me back to the first thought.

Once that all passes I then also learned my motivation to exercise is heightened by reunion invites, even if the event is a year away. This strikes me as a potential cure to obesity. If we all woke up to a daily reminder of a high school reunion coming up I bet our health and fitness would improve. This would be an interesting experiment…

2. Facebook Timeline: After my recent hiatus from FB, I returned to the site today to check out the new timeline feature, intrigued after reading about it in a Globe and Mail article. The author – somewhat horrified with the simplicity and ease with which any of his friends could track his history on the social network – first took to culling posts. When that was deemed too time consuming he took the dramatic step of deleting his account and starting fresh.

Intrigued by the pain this caused him I activited the timeline feature on my account today to check it out.

He was right. It is a bit scary to see, all in one place every photo, comment, status update, check-in…everything on a shiny little timeline.  You can track my life since I joined the network in 2007. Or at least you can track a few important events like the birth and milestones of kids, along with a about 200 status updates that seemed funny at the time.

At least everything is relatively benign. Nothing to delete, or at least it is not worth my time to bother.

I doubt the lack of true privacy on Facebook (despite using the most restrictive settings) is going to burn me in any future job search or attempt at public office. That is, unless the reviewer attacks my judgement based on what is clearly a poor understanding of how interested people will be in how much I liked my dinner on Aug 12, 2008, or how I played golf on July 1, 2007.

I do fear for people that actually post things that could hurt them in the long run though. I certainly don’t hire anyone these days without scoping out their presence online before making an offer. If I come across a Facebook timeline in this research it will wrap everything up in a pretty little package for me.


Book Take-Aways and a Google Privacy Policy #FAIL

Today I learned:

1. Take-aways: I was reading the materials provided for an upcoming leadership training program I am participating in and one of the stats given was intriguing: Only 1% of people who read a business book will actually implement any of the ideas.

There was no source provided so I can’t back this up (and for this reason I am not citing where I read it), but it does seem like a reasonable guesstimate.  It got me thinking. Am I part of the 99%…or the 1%?

It seems in this area I am not doing too bad, but I could be doing better. When I read I already do it pen in hand and I am forever circling, underlining and bending page corners to keep note of things that hit home for me.  That said, I rarely look back to recalibrate on the lessons learned. Tonight I decided to change that with a new strategy.

Whenever I finish a book, if I think there are things I need to implement, I am going to schedule a 30 minute reflection in my calendar about a month away to revisit it.  If I find that time helpful I will schedule another one a bit further down the road.

To experiment, I tried it tonight with Peter Legge’s The Power of a Dream which I finished in the fall of 2011. It turns out there were several lessons and anecdotes I have actually used, but the refresher reminded me of a few gems I had forgotten.  A worthy exercise it seems. My assumption is that with a powerful book after 2-3 reviews I should be able to ingrain the key points permanently. Will it take more? Maybe, but this plan is a start, and it seems a useful experiment. Why not invest another couple hours or so in a book you feel strongly about? Otherwise it just gathers dust.

I am interested to know if anyone else does something similar – any comments?

2. Google Age Restrictions? Privacy Policy #Fail: Google products are integrated deeply into my life and the way things are going I assume they will be weaved into the lives of my kids too. That’s why I am quite concerned with a piece of their new privacy policy.  I was reading up on the changes tonight and I found this link outlining a new age requirement of 13 years for a Google Account in Canada.

Presumably this was done to match the existing Google+ age-restriction policy, but I see a problem with it.

Gmail is email. It is not Google+, and not Facebook. It is social, but not a social network. Integrating all our accounts across platforms makes some sense, but not when it limits access to the most basic communication tool they have – email. That’s akin to telling me when I was growing up in the 1980’s that I wasn’t allowed to buy stamps.

This could actually create a problem for me – I already have accounts for my kids. In fact, they had them in the womb. They are not even close to 13, and while the kids don’t even know about them yet, my wife and I actually use them. We send them things like pictures and funny one liners as sort of e-diary which we hope they will one day enjoy reading.

Will we let the kids use the accounts prior to age 13?  That was certainly the plan.  From what I understand lots of local kids need email as early as grade 1 to manage homework and communicate with their teacher.  I would hate to think this policy could sent my kids flocking to Hotmail, or god forbid, Yahoo.


The Marginal Cost of Email and Price discrimination at the Parking Meter

Today I learned:

1. The marginal cost of an email is not always zero: Witty banter back and forth via email is a lot less fun when it’s a lawyer on the other end of the exchange and you know she bills you $20 every time she reads one of your messages.

This made me wonder, if I knew I was going to be invoiced $20 every time a recipient read one of my messages, how many emails would I actually send?

I am guessing a lot fewer.

So, should I build that into my decision-making criteria when determining whether or not to use email for certain types of communication?

I am guessing I should.

2. Perfect Price Discrimination for…Parking? The headline in today’s Vancouver Sun reads “Vancouver Parking rates could vary by block, month with new project.” Apparently 1500 of the city’s 10,000 meters can now have rates remotely changed.

The issue?  Not enough people are using transit, resulting in drivers parking illegally or circling around looking for spots in busy locations.

The solution? Remotely altering parking prices will allow the city to control consumption patterns with the goal of ensuring there will always be one open spot on every block. According to Jerry Dobrovolny, Vancouver’s director of transportation, “the reason for getting the right price is that the wrong price does so much harm.”

To that, I call bullsh*t.

This has nothing to do with the environment and everything to do with revenue. In fact, the lesson I learned here is that the city is actually smart enough to notice the technology now exists to take aim at perfect price discrimination for parking spots. They understand that with a bit of effort and investment they quickly change the cost of a spot to find the right buyer and then reap the rewards. They will have a model where they can extract more of the consumer surplus available.

To be clear I have no real issue with the direction they are going with this. It is brilliant. The city deserves kudos for figuring this one out.  As a resident of Vancouver I know just how many people will be coming in from the suburbs everyday to fill the meters and in turn add to the cities coffers. I just wish they were more honest about it.


Email-free Day and Overtime Solves Nothing

Today I learned:

1. Email-free Day: Email has been getting out of hand for me lately. From wasted time on CYA activities (noted in an earlier blog) to the mass of incoming and outgoing messages I deal with everyday it is all a bit overwhelming.  I checked my sent items this morning and quickly determined that in the past two weeks I have sent 422 messages.

I decided today would be different.

My goal? Zero sent messages.

http://rivera-pr.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2008/11/no_email_friday.jpg

9 hours later…mission accomplished!

I will admit three times I caught myself pecking out a reply to someone but each time I quickly caught myself and either made a return call or just walked over to their desk instead.

As a result, I learned a simple lesson. You talk to a hell of a lot more people in a day when you commit to sending less email. Presumably this is a good thing. This trial showed me email-free days could be worthy of a bit more experimentation.  Finding a way to stop reading them for a day might be next.

2. Overtime solves nothing: When I chair a meeting it starts on time. People know this, so they quickly adjust and show up on time.  Very rarely do I allow my meetings to go over the scheduled time slot too, and certainly not without checking on the participants to see if it is both ok and agreed it will be worth it.

After participating in two meetings today that both started and ended late it occurred to me extra time at the end rarely solves anything. Whether you start on time or not, if you haven’t solved the problem by the scheduled end, rarely is another 15 minutes going to solve anything. Often it is better to move on and then, only if necessary, revisit later when everyone can come in fresh.


Email: Butt-covering and Productivity Measures

Today I learned:

1. Covering my butt:  I spend alot of my day preaching transparency, open communication, and the need to nurture trusting relationships. Simultaneously I save just about every incoming and outgoing email, and am I required to call on my stash all too often to cover my butt. I don’t like it, and never have. Today I learned I still need my stash and I have not figured out how to kill the endless loop. If only we could all delete them and start actually talking instead of documenting.

This gives me an idea: Would it be possible to go one single day at work without sending an internal email?  A worthy experiment for next week maybe…

2. First thing in the morning: On Seth’s Blog yesterday there is a post about the first thing when we sit at the computer in the morning. Essentially the question is this: Do you consume or do you create?

This got me thinking about a simple change I made a few months ago and how it is truly working. I setup my Outlook to open to a folder I labelled as Priority Inbox which holds those items that I decide are critical for the day ahead. Before I leave at night I make sure my Priority Inbox holds the key tasks for tomorrow and, most importantly, absolutely nothing else. That way when I sit down the first thing I see is what I need to see, and not what other people might want me to see.  Seth’s Blog help remind me that this little trick is working like a charm.

(Note: I don’t use task lists – I email myself things that need to be done, calls to return etc. If it is important enough, then those “tasks” are in my Priority Inbox, along with everything else.)