Planning Vs. Resilience

trampolineIf life is change, then how does planning work?

I firmly believe that there are two core ways in which to run your life. You can either:

  • Plan everything out to the Nth degree, and hope nothing upsets your plan
  • Expect that something will happen to ruin what you are doing, and be able to bounce back

A lot of people believe in the “plan it all out” strategy. Problem is that life does not work that way. Life is change, and no matter how you plan, invariably something will happen that you cannot plan for. And in that case, all of your planning will be for nothing.

I read this great article in a now defunct magazine which was part of the Forbes empire – it was called Forbes ASAP, and it was all about leading tech thought and investment etc. The article was called “How the West Kicked Butt

In this article, the author postulated that the reason the west coast was getting tons more investment than the east coast was the “style” of the place as opposed to the ideas coming out of that place. The author suggested that the difference was planning vs resilience – and used the weather and earthquakes as the metaphor. On the east coast, you know that during the upcoming winter, you are probably in for terrible weather. So you prepare for the weather: you buy warm clothes, you get snow tires for your car etc. You have some idea what is going to happen so you plan your life. So planning is a big deal. The better your plan, the better you can deal with this known quantity: bad weather. On the west coast, on the other hand, you have no idea when a devastating earthquake may occur.

So you can’t plan for it: sure you can get supplies in etc in case one occurs, but you can’t really plan for when it happens. So what is a big deal? Bouncing back from disaster: or resilience. The ability to claw back from bad things that happen. That’s more important than planning on the west coast.

So why is resilience better than planning? Simple. This article was focused on business and investment: it supposed that venture investors would prefer to invest in companies which could survive sudden adverse conditions.

Life is like that too. Being able to survive sudden adverse conditions is much more critical to life than planning out your every step.

So to all of those people who plan out their lives to the Nth degree, I say:
RELAX. Sure, make a plan, but don’t go overboard. Life will get in the way. That’s its job. Instead, focus on being able to bounce back from adversity. Move on quickly.

Like in craps. When you throw a bad roll, you just move on to the next shooter. You don’t sit there and focus on that guy who just lost you $1200.

Just move on to the next win.

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Kill The Loading GIF

Seen this lately?

loading_spinner

 

I’ll bet you have – and the hundreds of other variations of the ubiquitous, LOADING, PLEASE WAIT gif or whatever – you know that thing designers throw in when they realize that their page is taking too long to load?

The thing that I don’t get is that if you ask me, we are seeing way more of these that we should. Not only that, we are seeing MORE now than we ever have before! If our network speeds keep going up, why do our pages keep slowing down?

When I first started out on the internet, using a trusty dial up to get on, we could live with a few seconds delay when we logged on. For one company I worked for, we got a fully graphical home page which, gasp, clocked in at 50K, and it took what we thought was forever to load.

Fast forward to today: we have fiber to the home, upwards of 25Mb to most homes, and if you actually clock the real time from click to page or app load, its worse than a few seconds, placated by a loading gif. Why is that?

As processing speeds and network throughput speeds have increased, we’ve kept pace by making our web sites and apps slower and slower, burdening the user with having to wait and wait. Even the normally snappy Google home page has now added junk, in the guise of Google+ notifications, an apps grid, and other stuff which most probably don’t need. Reminds me a bit of the days where Microsoft would release versions of Windows which would slow existing computers which were upgraded because they were targeting the next generation of hardware – I think they learned that lesson with Vista.

If you ask me, the web and apps should be loading faster, not slower. We should be seeing LESS of the loading gif, and not more.

I get that as technologies move forward we need to use the latest and great tools to provide the absolute best experiences. But we should also look to the overall speed experience, from click to run, and I’m not talking just adding in loading gifs when the pages slow down. I mean, figure out what is slowing you down and unless its key to the whole experience, junk it.

This is also an unfortunate side effect of the API economy, where a lot of what you are doing depends on some API or another to work. For example, I just switched thinkfuture.com over to Livefyre, and even though I feel its a better experience, my comment load time has slowed down.

We are going in the wrong direction. We are slowing down our sites and apps at a faster rate than the speeds that the networks and devices are accelerating. We’ve got to make it a focus to turn this around, to retire the loading gif for good. So let’s do it.

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A Super Secret Of Life: Revealed!

changeI’m going to reveal a super-secret secret of life. I know, I know, once you read it you’ll go, of course duh. But let me tell you first and then explain why people don’t believe it after.

Here is the fact:

LIFE IS CHANGE

There, I said it. You are saying, duh. Everyone knows that. But do you? Do you really? And if you know that, then why are you surprised by anything? Once you truly get it, and understand that life is change, then trust me, things will get better.

Why you ask?

I’ll tell you. If you truly believe that life is change, then nothing will surprise you. Everything that crosses your path which throws you off, won’t. And if something still does throw you off, then you know that you really still don’t believe in the above.

But even if you go so far as to say, sure I believe in the above, and are not surprised, still you worry. You worry about losing your job, your home, your spouse, your life, gaining a new job, buying a new house, having a baby, and any and all of the myriad things that will happen in your life. Some will be good and some will be bad. The fact is that whether its good or bad, it’s still change.

So how do you deal with all of the change in life, good or bad? Simple. Don’t just deal with change as it comes:

EMBRACE IT

If you embrace change when it comes, and you know it will, you can truly have a fulfilling, calm and wonderful life. And how do you embrace change? Also simple:

Do. Fail. Learn. Do again until you succeed.

Pretty simple, huh? I see people make up all these elaborate plans, and then something in life comes along and changes everything, and then they have to write up whole new plans and everything. So why do it? If life is change, how much planning can you really do? Plan your work and work your plan, may be great for some things, but it doesn’t work for life.

Don’t be afraid to fail.

Every failure is an opportunity to learn.

Where Do You Want To Go Today?

QuestionMark

Where Do You Want To Go Today?

Remember this as one of one of Microsoft’s many slogans? – I think this was when Bill was launching Windows 95, with a whole host of new, cool stuff. Radical, dude.

Yes, it was a whole new interface – with the menu bar at the bottom. Yes, it would require retraining. Yes, it was “plug and play” when you plugged something in, it would magically appear on the desktop (Macs had done this for years so Bill was just catching up at the time)

I distinctly remember the Windows 95 launch event in Las Vegas at Comdex that year, when Bill did the presentation and seemed to be sweating bullets while he waited for that little drive icon to show up on the desktop after he had plugged one in. The room was filled with thousands of mostly bald, mostly men, waiting with baited breath the words of the most holy of holies, Bill Gates.

There was only a little cult of Mac back then, real geeks used Windows. Well, real geeks used UNIX, but if you were a real geek with a business sense, you followed Bill around.

But the thing which interested me more at the time was the slogan, “Where do you want to go today?” It was a question. It rose above the fray of – I want to create a document or I want to do a search or I want do a presentation. It was different. It asked a different question, which unfortunately the software wasn’t able to answer at the time. In fact, even today, any software is rarely able to answer that question.

What’s so special about that phrase? Think about it for a second. What is it asking you?

Where do you want to go today?

It’s asking for your intent. Its saying “tell me what you want” – the inferred promise being if you just tell me what you want, I can get it for you. Software of that day couldn’t do it, and neither software nor web services of today can do it either, although they try.

Intention (or wonder)

What is my intent? What am I wondering about? An example: I realize that my old car is a pile of you know what and decide “I’m going to buy a new car” Sure, this might come out as “I want to buy a new car” or “scooter” or “motorcycle” or whatever. My initial thought is that since I currently own a car, and it’s not meeting my needs, I need to replace it. Of course, my mind is set on a car, because that is what Ithink I need. From a higher level, however, my intent is to obtain and use some kind of thing which can transport me, and whatever else I need to transport, be it stuff, people or whatever, from point A to point B, and to do it in a fashion of my choosing. Sounds reasonable, right?

So let’s say that you have made the decision to begin researching those options. My assertion is that despite the advances that we have made since the internet was born as the semi-friendly location which it is today, we still have to do about as much legwork (and in some cases much more) as some dude back in the mid-80s buying that nice Reliant automobile.

Hope you enjoyed this sample chapter from my latest book, Wonder Man Machine

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Retail Innovation Trends Compilation [Video]

“The future is already here — it’s just not very evenly distributed.”
- William Gibson

I put this compilation video together about 2 years ago for a presentation on the future of retail – It’a amazing how far along some of these are now in the last 2 years, and some of these are completely wrong.

Not here yet:

  • Surface style screens with table/mobile phone connectivity
  • Screens which can fold and morph into laptops
  • Folding displays that work really well. I bet they are close though…
  • Customer customized pricing per product: you walk into a store and there are no prices. You download the store app and use it to scan the item, which gives you your price. Other shoppers get their price. That would be interesting.
  • Flying cars! When the hell are those getting here!

Already here:

Probably Never:

  • Credit card size devices. As I’ll talk about in my upcoming book Our Devices, Ourselves I feel that devices hit a size wall in 2010 and displays are getting smaller, as opposed to bigger. There will be other ways of communing with our devices
  • Walking through a virtual store in a first person 3d way. Looks very cheesy in this video but what if we really kicked up the realism level through really good graphics and OculusVR style displays?
  • On cart displays. You’ll use your mobile device for all that. Maybe a bluetooth connected scanner in the handle for you to scan things and auto charge/check shopping lists. Same for navigating within a store

Completely Wrong:

What do you all think? Anything you found completely right and unbelievably wrong? Let me know, below….

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Thanks, Google For Bungeeing Us Into The Future

bungy-jumpBack in Canada, there is this yearly fair called the Canadian National Exhibition or CNE (we just used to call it “the Ex”). I think its the longest running yearly fair, its been going since 1879. They have rides and exhibits and stuff: everything from food to international products, to hobbies, flowers, you name it.

One year, they decided to add a bunch of new rides called “The Human Experience” – things like bungee jumping, a couch on bungees (couch on a slingshot), that Superman thing where they pull you up and you swoop on by. Needless to say, this attracted a lot of onlookers, most of them at the bungee jump, which was suspended pretty high up, over a air cushion. I was one of those onlookers. As I stood there, watching jump after jump (one guy was so big that he needed two cables, another girl, obviously not thinking it through, jumped in a skirt, and spent most of the time trying to hold it down) I realized that even though I started off not thinking I was going to try it, the more I say people doing it, the more I thought, yeah, I could do that. I think it was the $95 price tag that stopped me in the end.

Moral: See something crazy or weird being done by enough people, it becomes a lot less crazy and weird.

Google Glass is great. Actually, some people think its not so great, but with all of its faults, its has been great at one thing: making people start to think about wearables in a whole new way. Even though its really early days, if you ask me, Google Glass, in its current incarnation, and probably what its form factor will be when it finally launches to the public, will never be a true mass market device. It’s just a little too geeky and far out.

However, what Glass did really well was to push out the perception and the concept of wearables to the point that people are actually thinking about it. Even if Glass never gets truly popular (and personally, no matter how cool they make the headsets, and how many celebrities they get to wear them) I think that Glass will forever remain a too geeky product. But that’s perfectly fine. What’s more important is that Glass made people think that maybe someday they’d try wearables.

Glass is like a bungee jump by Google. IMHO, I think they purposely pushed the boundaries in order to stretch the imagination on what wearables could do, and help to further fire up up wearable market. IHMO, as I’ve said before, I think 2014 is the year for wearables, so if you are looking to start something, that space is ripe.

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Advice To Small Business : Take It Like A Man

csI was in a small shop the other day buying lunch and as I was waiting in line to place my order I check online via Yelp to see if they had any check-in offers and lo and behold there was one – not a huge discount, but a pretty good offer for a slightly smaller version of a specific dish for a decent discount.

So when it same time for me to order I walked up to the counter and the server behind there looked pretty happy and pleased to serve me. However, the moment I showed him the offer his demeanor changed completely…he became sullen and rude and customer service went from 60 to 0 in a few moments. He gave me the food and rung me up – I gave him a more generous tip to compensate for the cheaper meal, but still the guy was unhappy.

My guess is that he’s probably regretting placing that offer on Yelp. Now I probably would have gone there and paid full price for a meal, but a little discount here and there helps to solidify relationships with existing customers, as well as create new ones with new customers. I’m sure that that offer brought in plenty of new customers, and I’m also sure that a respectable number of those customers returned, since the food WAS good.

I wonder if the guy’s attitude would have nosedived just as much if I had brought in a paper coupon? Probably.

But here’s my point: you placed that offer. No one forced you to do it. And you can’t be unhappy about it if someone comes into your shop and asks for that offer. Honoring the offer, and doing it with a smile, will turn that customer into a return and maybe even a regular.

Regretting an offer that you placed is fine too. You can just change the offer or stop offering it if it doesn’t work out for you. But while the offer is out there, be prepared to honor it happily. Otherwise, you’re pretty much ensuring a one time visit.

BTW, this may be one of the reasons something like Groupon has hit the skids with small business – it works to get people in the door, but if the business doesn’t work hard to capture that business and delight the customer during their initial visit, then it fails. And I’ll bet you that there are plenty of businesses who had a bad experience in gaining regular customers because they didn’t go all out that first time.

Reminds me of when I started wooing my wife. I asked her to the senior prom as our first sort-of date, and I knew that I had to pull out all the stops to impress her at the dance. After that, she was sold. ;)

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Amazon’s Mayday Sets A New Customer Service Standard

One of the coolest things to come out of Amazon in a long time is not a new set of Kindle Fire tablets, although those are cool, its just upping the hardware specs and lowering the price, which if you ask me is not very innovative. Kind of how I feel about the iPhone 5S & C.

What’s really cool about the new Kindle Fire HDX is the new Mayday service, which calls for immediate video help for your tablet. Not only does the service operate 24/7, tapping the Mayday button give you the option to talk to someone who can help you with your device in a small video window. The rep can hear you, see the screen of the device, control the device and draw on the interface, allowing them to virtually assist you with any questions on usage that you might have. It is actually less of a virtual Genius bar than it is remote video help.

One of the privacy features is that while you can see them, they can’t see you. They can however see the screen of your device, so make sure not to have or bring up any, ahem, inappropriate images (or video, I’d guess) while you are talking to them. (I can see issues if you happen to have something like that on the screen and accidentally hit the Mayday button – oops!).

I think this is a very cool and innovative approach – a great way to finally pull together a bunch of preexisting technologies and present/use them in a simple way. Kind of like what Steve Jobs did with the iPod.

I can see beyond the Kindle Fire tablets though – wouldn’t it be cool if Amazon licensed this technology to other tablets vendors as well, or even to other app developers? Imagine getting stuck on any device or app and being able to call up immediate tech support like this for any app on any device. Now that’s interesting, and not out of the question: imagine AWS for customer service….

Mayday is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. It is accessed by a dedicated button found right in the tablet’s Quick Settings menu. A tap on that button connects the user with a live support representative in 15 seconds or less, no matter what time or day of the year it is. Once connected, the user can see the support representative in a small window on their screen, and the representative can see whatever app or screen is on the user’s tablet (Amazon was sure to point out to us that while you can see the rep, they can’t see you). Support techs can guide users with visual cues and auditory prompts, and if those fail, they can even control the tablet remotely to resolve the issue.

via Amazon launches Mayday, a virtual Genius Bar for the Kindle Fire HDX | The Verge.

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Reader Comments Rock?!

I don’t know about you but a lot of times I find that I get more insight from the comments people leave on a blog post than I do from the original article itself.

Case in point: I was looking at a blog post a coder did on setting up an S3 instance as a drive on an Ubuntu box – while the original post was pretty informative, the subsequent posters had a lot of good information to impart as well. In fact, they corrected some of the original posters data.

But I find that it works great for editorial as well. In many cases, the most entertaining and informative part of the page is not the post itself, but the discussion which the post generated.

Reminds me of that old comedy routine where someone throws out a topic and says “talk amongst yourselves” – maybe there’s something interesting here. You throw out a topic, with maybe a few words, maybe up to the length of a tweet (160 characters) and then let everyone who is commenting have as much room as as they like.

Sort of a discussion forum where the original post is a tweet. Twitter is a bit like this, but there’s still that 160 character restriction on the replies as well. What if only the original post was limited to 160 characters, but the commentators could comment at will, with as much space as they needed to prove their point?

Might be an interesting weekend project. What do you think?

If reader comments aren’t one of the worst things on the internet, they are probably pretty close, which is why many mainstream media outlets seem to have given up on trying to save them — or have turned them over to Facebook, which amounts to the same thing. Gawker Media founder Nick Denton, however, continues to see them as having a lot more value than most publishers are willing to admit, and is rolling out new comment-filtering features that he says will take the collaborative aspects of Gawker’s Kinja platform to a new level.

via Gawker founder Nick Denton is still trying to reinvent reader comments — and it’s working — Tech News and Analysis.

Facebook: The Good, Bad & Ugly

facebook-like-butonAs one of the 5 sites most people use to experience the internet, Facebook has really strayed from its original purpose. Now, I’m all for a company making money, as a miniscule shareholder I applaud that, but on the flip side, it’s made using Facebook, at least for me, pretty excruciating.

The Bad : The News Feed

I have 402 friends as of this writing. A modest amount I’m thinking, I’ll bet there are plenty more our there with a lot more than me. I find that as a way of letting me know what my friends are doing, its pretty damn useless now. Here are my main issues with the news feed:

  1. It feels like its more full of sponsored posts than actual items from my friends. My wife says it feels like about 20-30% of her feed is sponsored posts, to me it feels like 50%
  2. I can’t tell you how many times I open up the app on my iPad and see something interesting immediately from one of my friends, for about a split second. It then immediately updates and I lose that post, having to dig and dig through a tons of other updates and attempt to find it again
  3. Some of my friends are really prolific – others not so much. I seem to get so much more from the prolific friends than anyone else. Please, Facebook, implement some algo which allows me to tone down some people and amplify others. I know I can mute people but with all of the smarts back there, you’d think they’d be able to at least do one thing: put anything from your significant other (as indicated by you being in a relationship with) front and center. I can’t remember the number of times my wife asked me “did you see that thing I sent you on Facebook?” and I missed it because of all the other junk
  4. IMHO, the news feed is the core of FB. It needs to be awesome. And at the moment, it isn’t

The Good : Chat

I’ve used the messaging on FB very effectively. My wife uses it to keep in touch with her friends from all over. That’s one thing that works very well.

The Ugly : Ads

OK, so like I said, I can’t fault them on trying to make money but the ads are terribly targeted: I get ads for single things even though I plainly state that I’m married, plus I get all sorts of ads for games (which I never play) so I can’t imagine why they think I might start. I understand that some of this is the advertiser picking an audience, but still, FB needs to have some overrides in place in order to continue to provide me with RELEVANT ads. I’m sure that they could improve both their click through rate, their revenues and make their customers and users much, much happier if they targeted better. Its not like its impossible, Google has been doing much better than this for a while, and they know way less about me than FB does. Please, FB, leverage all of that great data to give me ads that I can’t help but click on, not reams and reams of irrelevant crap.

Got your own story of Facebook love, hate or indifference? Let me know below…

by hellofuture llc