Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Short timeline reachable goals

Found myself answering a question about time management, but my answer was goal focused, where having a bunch of small, easily reachable goals to me is the best way to build a day where you've managed your time well. Nothing like having piles of success to celebrate each day before you go to bed. And I prefer "timeline" to "term", as I think that word better emphasizes it's about time. And the less time it takes for the goal the better. So you should have PILES of such goals done every day.

Use short timeline reachable goals. Getting to where you want to go requires setting a destination, but also constantly checking on your progress to it! We take that for granted, say on a car trip but it's true for so many things in life. Know where you're going, but also have short timeline goals to give you constant positive feedback, which is necessary for both motivation and necessary course corrections. Then at the end of the day you will find you have a pile of accomplishments to consider, and can sleep peacefully knowing the next day will deliver the same.

Quietly cheer your own accomplishments as you accomplish through your day with short timeline reachable goals--STRG's--which feels GREAT. The better you feel the more you've done and the more you will do. With short timelines you can build on accomplishment, adjust goals quickly as reality shifts. And learn that delivering results is a natural state of being. It's why you have those skills. Then your day just flows. Time management is important, but I prefer thinking of it as building on success. First you have a STRG, accomplish it. Cheer your success. Move on to the next one. Repeat till day is done. Celebrate accomplishment. Relax. Repeat next day. And every once in a while do a power dance by yourself in your bedroom, because life IS great.

Yerba Buena Gardens, San Francisco. Photo credit: James Harris

My own view is that starting out 10 to 15 STRG's per day can give you a feel for how it's done. Eventually you'll find your STRG's will naturally separate out into supporting bigger goals including longterm ones, which I say are built on piles of STRG's like building a pyramid on so many stones.

The ultimate goal may be huge, but getting there? Yup, begins with a single step, and is accomplished by many, little steps, if you prefer to pile your days with accomplishments as I do, and STRG's can do that for you.

And another STRG nearly done as I work on concluding and begin finishing typing up this post. 

There will be STRG's for editing it as well. Now I will quietly, ok, not so quietly as I'm mentioning it, so will now cheer myself. One more thing done. Wow, that wasn't hard. Was definitely reachable, and as I copied from my LinkedIn post introducing concept, had a short timeline. I think this post took me about 10 minutes, though a lot of the writing was built up over days. 

The building blocks for success are all around us. You just have to use them.

Editing Dec. 14th 2017: Have written an eBook around these concepts.

James Harris

Monday, March 30, 2015

Money, value and babysitting

There is a weird thing with money where people routinely refuse to pay for things extremely important to them, where I came up with a demonstrative example I think is even more confusing, as first imagine a group of single parents who help each other out babysitting.

That's a HUGE big deal for these parents who I'll say are close, and they do NOT charge each other for helping each other out. Each simply tries to do as much babysitting as the others or to balance out help from those who maybe have more free time, with doing something else for them.

Which is an example where a very important duty of caring for children is done without money, and the idea of charging for the services would seem wrong to any one of these caring parents.

Now one of their children becomes a teenager, and begins babysitting duties, should the teenager charge for the service?

I'm NOT going to give an answer! For those who wish to read more opinions from me about the apparent paradox of money and value, you can read my prior post:

Apparent paradox of money and value

Comments are welcome here! Should the teenager charge? If your answer is yes, why is that ok? The teenager remember probably received LOTS of value while growing up, being cared for, by other parents. And who would pay? Those parents!

If your answer is no, why not? Isn't the teenager providing a valuable service, and be realistic, is the teenager likely to do it without pay anyway?

This example is very mainstream American-centric as I grew up in the USA, so elements of it may not resonate with people from different countries or cultures, even though I tried to pick something that I believe would resonate widely.

James Harris

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Apparent paradox of money and value

One of the more profound things that most people hear but maybe don't fully appreciate is the uselessness of money for things we value most! And I spent some time thinking about money where I concluded that it is an abstraction which allows us to enumerate value for a favor, and now I'd like to talk about its limits, in my opinion. So yes, I emphasize I'm expressing an opinion, where I'll claim that people do NOT pay for what they most value, and explain why, and I'll also talk about how I think you can become very wealthy, when I'm not! So lots of disclaimers up front. I may or may not justify various positions in this post.

One of the simplest things I say about money is, people will NOT pay you for things they value most.

The more something is seen as extremely important, and the more people who value it, the less likely any will under any circumstances pay for it, and in many cases they will refuse to pay anything at all.

To me that is one of the most fascinating things, ever. And it can trip you up! So if you produce something that's extremely valuable to most people they will refuse to pay for it.

I'll start with roads in the US. We do have toll roads, but most people don't think about paying for the roads on which they drive every day. They actually DO pay for them, but that's done through taxes, which many Americans hate. And I'm sure few if any Americans can tell you how much money is spent on keeping up roads of various kinds, where I include highways, even though they could not live their lives without them.

Next I'll bring up schools here in the US. Thankfully parents aren't forced to pay directly for their kids to go to school! Or many American kids might not go. There are parents who pay for their kids to go to private schools, which here means you pay, unlike in the UK I recently found out. But most people take it for granted that their kids can go to school without them paying someone directly. They DO pay through taxes though where most have no clue how much it costs.

You may say, but people DO pay for these things, even if not directly. So next like talk about friendship. Some people DO pay for friendship, but are usually wealthy people, and in general I think society expects you to feel sorry for them.



Notice that Facebook makes a point to inform you that you will never have to pay.

Just went there now to copy this quote: "It’s free and always will be."

I added the quote marks. Isn't that fascinating? And believe me, I find it odd that I am now admitting that I think people greatly value Facebook! What's wrong with them?

I call this refusal to pay for things MOST important to people an apparent paradox of money and value for good reason. That's because it makes sense! And I'm sure people reading through my various examples where I was very picky and could have put up many more feel very confident that they understand why people refuse to pay directly for these things.

And with some things some people DO have to pay directly, like education for children in certain countries, which I think is so sad. And I think that the fastest way for any poor country to greatly help its economy is to make education "free" for all its kids, and that is in quotes as you pay for it by taxation.

Oh yeah, taxes are those things where you're made to pay up by your government. And some people seriously fight those things! Wow.

Why do people get it wrong though about value and money?

I think many people believe wrongly that the way to make money is to find something many people greatly value, and sell it to them. But reality is that if you try they will hate you. So no one does it that way.

Try selling water to people dying of thirst, if you're evil enough that is. That's, do NOT do that.

Why does anyone get this wrong?

I think you can get it wrong if you don't understand that money is simply an abstract way to enumerate a favor, and people use it for things of less import to them.

Finding love? Not about money. Finding snacks? Of course!

There is a qualification here for pizza. Pizza is one of the great things that many people value for which they WILL pay. Thank God, life without pizza? Unimaginable. 

So money works great! And it can be very important for lots of things that are important, like food, but people are more willing to pay for food in countries where it's of least concern, and when it becomes an issue paying for it, then it's just given to people who desperately need it anyway.

To put it another way, I live in a country where lots of people are obese, and while people here in the US may worry quite a bit about putting food on the table, reality is they have lots of options if that becomes very difficult, so the number of people who starve to death here is probably about choice. That's a hard one, but I need to handle it as an obvious objection.

But if food were a major concern here in the US, then yes, more people would starve to death from lack of it.

So yes, in countries where people do starve to death, and food is of paramount importance, I'm saying you will have a different relation to it and money than here. For instance someone might be insulted if you tried to pay for a meal they offered you. And them offering you a meal can be a measure of great honor and great sacrifice which should be deeply appreciated.

But what about wealthy people? Don't they make their money by figuring out what's important to people and selling it to them?

Nope. Wealthy people who actually make their money in business do so by figuring out what's NOT important that enough people want that they will pay for it.

So for instance, Facebook cannot make money by connecting people as that's too important for them and they refuse to pay for it, so they have to find something LESS important to people for which they will pay, in some way or other.

It's the same problem for anyone trying to make money.

Figure out something NOT important to enough people who want it, and you will make money. If millions of people do NOT value something too highly then you can become a millionaire or higher by selling it to them. It's that simple.

Make something VERY important to MANY people and they will refuse to pay for it.

It may look like a paradox, but would you really buy love? If you could?

There's only one answer. No. 

(If you even have to think about that question, what's wrong with you?)

James Harris

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

How do we know?

To me the web has greatly shifted things, offering up the opportunity to have VAST amounts of information, but not all of it is correct! Which raises the question of, how do we know when we're getting correct and valuable information?

For me it is a very personal issue having not just to do with what I think I know, but also about how convincing things I claim are to others. And the issue of false information is a giant one, as well, people DO lie. Or they make mistakes. Or rely themselves on flawed sources, who give them false information that they then spread to others, perhaps without knowing.

Like consider the finding of prehistoric paintings at the Cave of Altamira. What if they HAD been created by a fraudster? People engage in willful fraud all the time, sometimes as a joke. And with the web have come a lot of cases, where thankfully in some the fraudsters have revealed their pranks. Where web video has been a favorite area. And computers get ever better at manipulating photographs, so it's harder and harder to just trust what you see in a picture.

But the findings of cave paintings in many other places helped validate the story.

That isn't definitive though, as consider the issue of the crop circle.

Lots of expertise from lots of other sources went into validating the reality that our ancient ancestors actually painted those pictures in caves long ago. Which is important information for our understanding of our own species. So it's not a minor issue.

Or consider the story of Dr. Ignaz Semmelweis, here is a quote from the Wikipedia article about him:
Described as the "savior of mothers", Semmelweis discovered that the incidence of puerperal fever could be drastically cut by the use of hand disinfection in obstetrical clinics.

From our more modern point of view it's hard to understand how people could fight over such an issue, but consider this telling quote from just a little further down in the article:

Semmelweis's observations conflicted with the established scientific and medical opinions of the time and his ideas were rejected by the medical community. Some doctors were offended at the suggestion that they should wash their hands...

But how do we know today? Well lots of things have been learned since then, as that was back in the 1800's, so unlike then thankfully today people understand that killing dangerous bacteria and viruses is very important in patient care. Coming to that knowledge took time, science, and maybe more luck than we like to admit.

Notice that I'm using the web quite a bit in this post! Primarily I'm relying on the Wikipedia which is crowd sourced in that it is generated by the activities of a lot of people, who write the articles, and importantly, edit them as well.

Today the web allows you to get information from one source, like the Wikipedia and then go check it against multiple other sources. Over time I've found the Wikipedia to be highly accurate in my opinion so I've learned to trust it. So I am not going to go over the articles referenced here looking for errors, and feel confident that is the best way to go.

But how do I really know?

Well I think I know from motivations. And again talking about the Wikipedia there are articles where I would check against different sources as I know that a LOT of people have interest in people thinking one way against another on that subject! But with these articles there's little reason for most to care, as they are settled areas.

Not a lot of heated debate out there about whether or not...wait a minute, should shift that to, no heated debate that interests me on these subjects! With the web I kind of figure that somewhere out there people are arguing on just about every subject imaginable. But for me these are areas where I have learned confidence, and the positions given resonate with what I think I already know!

And consensus reality is that information is likely to be accepted as true when it fits better with what one thinks you already know.

We build on what we've learned, and as human beings most of us learn a HUGE amount of information, which is pumped into us during childhood in this thing that a lot of people call school. And in that thing called school they test you on the information they pump into you too!

Society needs us to know things.

Every human civilization or community needs its members to have a certain amount of information in order for it to function. And social ranking within those societies varies based on what people think they know about each other.

Which can be a motivation for fraud. It can also be a motivation for discovery.

The web is a connection engine: it allows information to flow more freely between individual human beings and to be disseminated more easily to a large number of people.

So while many focus on the frauds that we see on the web, I find it fascinating how much we know is fraud because of the web. 

Prior societies often believed much more was truth--which I'll state without proof--and had fewer examples of how often people lie, maybe even because so many high status individuals were doing much of the lying to maintain their status.

You know, like that king who might have images painted portraying him as grand, and powerful when in person he looked weak and pathetic. Today, he would need to work hard to hire some serious people to manage his image, and try to get him portrayed in the best light, as we say.

So one way we know to be skeptical is when we know someone needs us to know something in a particular way, when they know, it's not true! Or we think they know, we might know, so they want to know how to stop us from knowing, if you know what I mean!

I love writing those kinds of sentences.

Or, in other words, motivations matter.

So to find a way to end this post which is getting kind of long, I'm going to try to stop myself on that point of knowing why someone wants us to know something is important!

What's in it for them?

But even with that information, as we may not be able to get it, when many people think something is true, we may be dragged along with them, like pregnant mothers who had to rely on doctors who refused to wash their hands up until our modern age, unless you know enough, and have enough status to force things regardless.

But the consensus opinion tends to find the truth over time, as consider the modern issue of vaccinations! Where I feel confident they are important and should be had, while some wish to disagree where I will not dignify that discussion with any links.

And doesn't that example say so much? I feel VERY confident that vaccinations are very important, and know others have reportedly disagreed, which I see a public health crisis. My position then is to dismiss those who I see as wrong, and I'm very wary of validating them in any way, where I'm stuck pointing out my own behavior given the subject of this post: but how do I really know?

So now I can find an exit: having correct knowledge is a critical issue, where people will probably battle it out indefinitely as it can have such a HUGE impact on our lives at all levels, including helping to keep us or our loved ones alive, and even better than just living, living the best life possible.

Maybe the best thing then is to take the subject very seriously, and just keeping asking yourself the question: why do I think I know this thing to be true?

James Harris

Monday, March 09, 2015

Valuing good referral

Emails received by me earlier today were typical, mostly promotional things from various companies, including some suggestions. Seems social media companies today, like Twitter or Pinterest--both BMSA winners I should note--feel it important to constantly suggest you things. But something was a bit different this morning, as I raced to click on the suggestion, and gleefully added something that interested me! I had received a good referral.

But here's the thing, I find myself reflecting on all the not so good ones, and while it's great to get a good referral once in a while, it's not good enough. It's not human. As human beings I think we tend to value great referral for lots of reasons, like it helps us know when our friends are listening.

Ever have that "friend" who for the umpteenth time is suggesting something you've repeatedly told you don't like, can't stand, refuse to do, or really, really...why are you still having this conversation? Especially when said person just grins and races off to do whatever they want anyway, as yup, not really listening to you! They don't care what you think or want.

Todays social media companies are often like that supposed "friend" in my opinion, except for Netflix--which I'll note is a BMSA BEST nominee.

What follows will seem like a non sequitur but I'm a huge fan of Edward Snowden, think he's an American hero who should come back here as a hero, as defense of the nation is more important than following rules that hide violations of the US Constitution, but I think he gets it wrong when he thinks hearing the NSA can predict what we want is scary.

Anyone else who heard such news kind of secretly feel good that at least maybe SOMEBODY understands them? Hey, if the NSA can refer me to some good content...

And you know, I'm serious in the above! And I think it may be why that particular argument by Snowden doesn't resonate. We DO need to be understood and in the real world being understood takes work, which very few people or organizations will do.

Most of us have to just take what we can get.

So I went political in this post when that was not necessary but it is related. If you stopped reading in disgust that I would dare drag politics into this discussion out of the blue then you're not reading this part anyway, so for the rest of you....

Valuing good referral I think will drive the next phase of the social web.

Social media companies are still novel, so we're giving them a LOT of leeway as they're just so gosh-darned exciting! But soon as the novelty wears off, if a social media company sends a hum-drum referral, like through email, like I often get, then they will be dropped.

Oh yeah, so have a business idea to give away! What about a video referral company that suggests videos for you on the web, like ones on YouTube, which charges you after 30 days. Like say $5.95 US per month. So if you liked the videos, you pay. If you didn't, you don't. And they just bill you every 30 days for services provided. Or maybe for the year, but if you drop them at any time they refund you the money for months where you were dissatisfied.

Can you imagine?

Of course such a company would live or die on the value of its referrals.

As someone who never thought he'd suggest anything that looked like a subscription, I'll note I've learned from Netflix, and also, what I'm suggesting is still consistent with what I call Pay Back Value, as it's pay after you've received a service, not before.

So it just so happens that PBV idea has room for what you could call a subscription model, for what people have received which they value.

And yeah notice, what a burden on the company! If a business were to actually implement they would be getting paid for what value they've given, not what value they're expected to give, which is a flaw in my opinion in the subscription model used traditionally.

They must consistently give good referral or fail as a business.

Where I have speculations on how you might pick content to refer to people, which I can't justify with research sources--that focusing first on what people do NOT want to see, is the first step.

If I were more enterprising I'd put my social theories to the test, and start up such a company. But instead I'll just throw out ideas on my blog.

Which I just did. Done.

James Harris

Friday, March 06, 2015

More on sharing and why push is going away

Feel kind of old these days at 45, which makes me part of what is often called Generation X, and I focus a lot on unlearning, which is about trying to figure out new things that arrived with the web, as first you have to unlearn old stuff from the 20th century.

Like I still get fascinated by having visits from all over the world, but am finally unlearning the old view that says that was mostly impossible except for the rich and famous, and learning the new view that sharing useful content quite naturally pulls attention from people who can use it--wherever they may be.

That's a great thing, and it's removing push, at least definitely for me, and push is what I grew up with, where you have someone forcing content at you, including advertising, knowing you have limited places to go. And when I was a kid in the 1980's we didn't even have cable, and could really just get NBC, and PBS ok through the antenna, and CBS fuzzy, and that was television for us. If you didn't like what was on, all you could do was cut the television off and maybe read a book, which I did, often, but a lot of the time I just watched what was on.

Talking about these things is important as I got stuck for years feeling silly sharing things without knowing what benefit it was except being nice, until started getting those web analytics, and then started trying to process possibly being known--if anyone was curious enough to see who produced the content they were downloading--from over 150 countries.

Which is something I talk about a lot but less lately as I'm trying to process it. And process that information throwing out my old point of view, while bringing in the new 21st century view.

The numbers haven't been there though, which is where I'm still trying to learn. It's just kind of fascinating to have 1 visit from so many countries as you ponder, why this one visit registering from a country with millions of people online?

But things are improving as I improve my perspective, and as I unlearn bad notions from the past, like trying to make people do things. On the web, people sense that immediately and in my experience tend to do the opposite. And I'm the same way! When some person or organization starts trying to herd me, it's SO much easier just to wander off instead.

So I'm learning things. And I think, it IS different for people in my generation who have to unlearn and then learn again. Human beings aren't exactly built to do it that way. Supposedly you get taught things when you're a kid to last a lifetime. But it can also be lots of fun. And can open up a world of sharing options.

James Harris

Monday, March 02, 2015

Lines of code and money impact?

Yesterday was in my opinion a great success! And for the record will note that my post of winners of my awards showing appreciation for excellence in the past year in helping our world communicate through computing devices, is #1 for the last 30 days.

Our opinions do matter, and I think it's a great thing for people with the option to recognize the efforts of others that have mattered greatly to them. And if I can continue will try to open things out to include the opinions of others besides my own.

And as someone who greatly values the computer code which so few people see, or would even want to see, I think now is a great time to mention again an idea I brainstormed, where you actually pay people based on which lines of code in an application are most used when most people are actually using it.

Oh, I know, could call it--code merit pay?

First posted about this notion August of last year, where I mused about another development model, and seems to me that would be another way to recognize great coders, by recognizing great code. Where use is a dramatic indicator.

It's one of those simple ideas that the more I think about it the more I wonder if it's out there somewhere? Or have people tried it before? Is there some problem with it I don't realize?

Those who code know that who wrote the code is usually recorded in code management tools, and having some auditing function, which wouldn't have to run all the time either as that could impact performance, which showed which lines of code were most used by actual people shouldn't be that hard.

But I don't know. I like to toss out ideas. If I were building a software company would definitely see if that one could be put into it. Can imagine a development meeting where instead of endlessly lecturing about building useful, simple interfaces without lots of weird extra that no one uses, would be cheering some coders, maybe with awards, for code that is standout, while quietly talking to other developers later about their dead end code that few if any in the real world actually wish to use.

But that's just fantasy.

Plan on doing more posting in these directions though, because, well, it's my blog and I like talking these things out!

Thanks to all who showed any interest in the first annual Beyond Mundane Social Awards, as that's a big vote for them continuing. With the idea of getting bigger.

James Harris