WhatsAppterview

I love WhatsApp voice messages. Through the wonder of the voice message (and especially after the introduction of the wonderful voice-record lock) I have better conversations with more of my friends – many of whom I only rarely catch face-to-face – than I have done for a while.

Asynchronous or semi-synchronous (those flurries of messages back and forth in almost-real-time) messages are far easier to fit into your day, especially across timezones.

So here’s the question: what about a semi-synchronous WhatsAppterview (you heard it hear first)?

In the spirit of do it now, I’m going to try. Watch this space.

Questions:

  • Will a normal phone mic straight into whatsapp produce ‘good enough’ quality?
  • Will the conversation flow?
  • Will I die stitching it together?

They’re (not quite) taking our jobs: Tim Harford on robots, spreadsheets and automation in the workplace

These are two great episodes from the BBC’s excellent 50 Things that Made the Modern Economy.

Episode: Robot

The robots are coming! Sort of. Featuring Baxter and the Jennifer headset.
More on Baxter here at WIRED.

Episode: Spreadsheet

Fantastic discussion of how the humble spreadsheet destroyed over 400,000 American jobs… and helped to create 600,000 more.

Use, repair, copy, make: Tim Harford on bicycles and technological development in Japan

In a recent episode of 50 Things That Made the Modern Economy Tim Harford uses the bicycle to illustrate – among other things – how new technologies and industries grow out of old ones, and how technology and industries develop:

The first safety bicycle was made in 1885 at the Rover factory in Coventry, England. It’s no coincidence that Rover went on to become a major player in the car industry. The progression from making bikes to making cars was obvious.

The bicycle provided stepping stones for modernising Japanese industry too. The first step was the importing to Tokyo of Western bikes around 1890. Then, it became useful to establish bicycle repair shops. The next step was to begin making spares locally, not too much trouble for a skilled mechanic. Before long, all the ingredients existed to make the bicycles in Tokyo itself, in around 1900. By the outbreak of the second world war, Japan was making more than a million bikes a year, masterminded by a new class of businessmen.

Tim HarfordBicycle Fifty Things That Made the Modern Economy

Rover wasn’t the only car company to start out making bicycles: Peugeot, Opel and Skoda – and a few more listed here.

Funnily enough, I can’t find any clear examples of bicycle companies making this leap in Japan. Soichiro  Honda’s dad was a blacksmith-turned-bicycle repair man, and early Honda made motors for bicycles, and Toyota and Suzuki started out in the textile industry.

Resources: Software is eating the world

WTF?! In San Francisco, Uber has 3x the revenue of the entire prior taxi and limousine industry.

WTF?! Without owning a single room, Airbnb has more rooms on offer than some of the largest hotel groups in the world. Airbnb has 800 employees, while Hilton has 152,000.

WTF?! Top Kickstarters raise tens of millions of dollars from tens of thousands of individual backers, amounts of capital that once required top-tier investment firms.

WTF?! What happens to all those Uber drivers when the cars start driving themselves? AIs are flying planes, driving cars, advising doctors on the best treatments, writing sports and financial news, and telling us all, in real time, the fastest way to get to work. They are also telling human workers when to show up and when to go home, based on real-time measurement of demand. The algorithm is the new shift boss.

Tim O’Reilly –The WTF Economy

This phrase comes from a 2011 Marc Andreessen article in the New York Times, which you can read here. In it he describes how software was – and is, and will continue to – take over the economy. Here are a few more WTF illustrations:

  • The world’s largest bookstore is a software company
  • Two of the world’s three biggest retailers are software companies
  • Five of the U.S.’s eight biggest companies are software companies (Alphabet/Google, Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, Facebook)… some of them even make and sell software.
  • The world’s biggest Encyclopedia is mainly software… and not even a company

Conclusion / Questions:

  • How are you using software in your non-software organisation?
  • What would it enable if you thought of your organisation as a software company?

See Also: WTF? Technology and you

That little bit extra

… is often what makes the difference, for good or ill.

  • Still going for a run even though you’re taking the kids to the park, so will get exercise later
  • That extra ten percent of time to improve the finish on a piece of DIY – so that it gives you pleasure every time you look at it, instead of bugging you
  • The extra ten percent of money it costs to buy a product because it’s good, not because it’s the cheapest one
  • The not-strictly-necessary time that you spend catching up or doing fun stuff with your colleagues that makes you more than just people who work together
  • The extra job that you tick off so that you not only don’t have to spend time on it tomorrow, and – as importantly – don’t have to spend time and energy remembering tomorrow.

And in the opposite direction…

  • The extra helping / desert / few squares of chocolate that you eat each day, putting your calorie intake 2% above your use, instead of 2% under…

Resources: Seth Godin on money stuff – cashflow, price, overheads, and finding the right size

And more.

This blog post is brilliant, and asks a lot of key questions about what to do when your project isn’t making money.

If you haven’t already listened to Money Flows – an Akimbo episode about cashflow – it’s great. Seth talks about cashflow and payment terms, and the importance of setting up your project so that the flow of money through it will nourish it and help it to grow, instead of slowly draining it. The resources in the shownotes are worth a look too.

His Startup School covers some useful stuff too – especially episodes 6 (Raising Money) and 11 (Cash Flow).

See also: Show me the Money

On turning off lights with your nose

I take pleasure in turning off lights with my nose.
And in opening doors with my toes.

I do these sorts of things when I’m carrying more than I reasonably should, and they give me a smug sort of feeling: Look! I’ve made an extra hand! I’ve saved a trip up and down the stairs! I’ve got a sort of pragmatic, balance-y prowess.

These are spots of pleasure in the day, before I walk ever-so-tentatively across the darkened room and – slowly – down the stairs, awkwardly trying to stop something sliding off a pile, or a mug from falling off my finger, or from under my armpit.

Or before I step on a piece of Lego, hop on reflex, scatter paper everywhere, drop a mug, and spend the next half hour tidying up the chaos (and possibly putting a plaster on a new cut on my foot).

I will not stop making my toes earn their keep from time to time… it makes me feel alive.

But I am slowly learning that often (more often than not?) it’s better and quicker to make two trips than try to do one trip at 120 percent of my carrying capacity.

The time and the energy

As in, “I don’t know where you get them.”

I can’t make more time*, and you almost certainly know more than I do about managing your energy. But here are a couple of thoughts about doing stuff – and having fun – that relate to both.

Diminishing costs

You can (and should) ‘create’ time and energy by saving them through eliminating things from your life.

But you can also save time and energy by doing more, or at least by doing the things you already do more often, because doing them often makes them easier. For lots of things this is simply because you get better at them, so they cost you less time, and often less energy. For other things, the habit of doing them reduces the emotional energy needed to get going, or even to decide to get going.

Some examples:

  • If you exercise regularly, it gets easier
  • If you travel all the time, packing bags and getting to the airport becomes automatic
  • If you blog every day, a blog post can take ten minutes to write instead of two hours.
  • If you make films regularly – if, say, it’s your job – you’re probably an order of magnitude faster than an amateur
  • Giving feedback – and having difficult conversations with people about their work – becomes much easier if you do it relatively frequently
  • Cooking is easier if you do it a lot – you think and look for stuff less and spend more time actually cooking

This is partly about having things set up (you know where your tools are and they’re ready to use when you want them), partly about skill and experience (you’re better at the things you do often, so you’re faster), and partly about decisions (you’ve decided more things in advance and can get straight into the work, rather than sitting around and wondering about what font to use or shoes to wear).

Increasing Returns

For many things things, doing them more also increases their value:

  • Sport and exercise is way more fun when you’re fit. All types of exercise – not just the one you do – become more fun. And as you get fitter you discover more energy and fun in the rest of the day.
  • The more you write about something, the more you have to say about it – the quality of your thinking and ability to express it increases too
  • Cooking is more pleasurable when you’re good at it… people compliment you on your cooking, so you enjoy it more, so you do it more…
  • Reading is more interesting, richer, funnier, more useful the more you’ve read
  • The more you contribute to an area of work (or play), the more rewarding your conversations and relationships become, and the more new people, ideas and opportunities come your way

Some of these are just side-effects of things getting easier, but many things benefit from positive feedback loops and network effects: doing things and making stuff leads you to new ideas, techniques and people, and new things become possible… leading to more new possibilities.

Outcome

If doing something becomes easier, relatively cheaper, faster and more convenient to do at the same time that it becomes more enjoyable and more productive, you’re a lot more likely to feel like doing it… so you’ll find ways to do it, and you’ll do it even when tiredness might have stopped you in the past. And then you’ve got momentum, so you’re less likely to stop… so you’re more likely to enjoy the rewards and do it more.

Voila: time and energy.

*Send me a private message if you do

Asal dapur ngebul*

My whiteboard, in our dapur (kitchen) – a few to dos and a lot of posts in gestation

Indonesian saying.

“As long as the kitchen is smoking.”

Um…

“As long as there’s smoke from the kitchen (fireplace).” ?

“As long as the hearth is burning.”

… which is a way of saying, among other things, the important thing is that the important things keep happening… or that you’ve got to do what it takes to keep things going.

Do what it takes, and do a little every day. Just a step – enough progress that you don’t stop progressing. Keep the fire lit.

Never quit smoking.**

*more correctly – but less idiomatically – spelt ‘ngepul’

**But don’t burn the place down

Resource: Zoom video conferencing

I’m late to the party on this, but I recently attended a webinar using Zoom for the first time. My (Jakarta) internet connection is often patchy, and Skype and WhatsApp calls quite often go to pieces, but Zoom held up perfectly and with minimal lag. Impressed, will use again.