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Archive for the ‘Opinion’ Category

Malcolm Gladwell on Criticism

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Here’s author Malcolm Gladwell on the concept of criticism, and how entering a critical dialog with someone doesn’t have to equate to taking a shot at them or their work literally. Good stuff, and while it’s a solid theory most people understand, it’s much harder to put into practice. It requires a good deal of mindfulness and an understanding of our own intent.

This is excerpted from this excellent Brain Pickings post, in which Gladwell talks not only about criticism, but also tolerance and the idea of changing your mind. You really shouldn’t miss it.

Relationships: Don’t Get Too Comfortable with Virtual Over Personal Ones

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We all live in a digital age, and there is no turning back the clock. However, it’s certainly not an excuse to rely solely on virtual relationships instead of real ones in your job and private life.

Of course it’s much easier today to email, text or use a social media outlet to communicate with others, but it shouldn’t become a crutch for personal, meaningful relationships. After all, the basic foundation for nearly all good business communication is solid personal relationships.

Because of the time we live in, people still need the “human factor” more than ever. They are inundated with technology at every turn and need to feel they are appreciated and valued by more than a congratulatory email or text. I admit, picking up the phone and calling someone does seem antiquated in this day and age. However, there is something fulfilling about actually getting a person live on the other end and having a conversation. There are benefits to an actual call that just can’t be realized via email or text. Moreover, in person, face to face meetings do more to build relationships over any other form of communication. Meeting someone allows you to bond and connect with someone beyond the reason you wanted to meet in the first place. It allows you to connect on a personal level which in turn provides better and more fruitful business dealings in the future.

This might sound duh to a lot of you, but when dinner parties turn into eight people sitting at a table staring at their iPhones, maybe it needs to be reiterated.

Trust me: I certainly appreciate the availability of mass communication and the accessibility of multiple forms of communicating in today’s digital world. We truly live in a miraculous time. However, we cannot and must not lose sight of the tremendous benefits that actual, live, relationships bring to us. Like so many other things in life, it’s about balance.

The need to develop skill in fostering personal relationships is never more evident than with younger people just graduating college. They grew up in an age where technology was the first and accepted norm for communication. However, with new college graduates, it’s even more important for them to learn the subtle art of networking, connecting and building relationships with people who can help them on a personal and professional level.

So, the next time  you are sitting at your desk after you’ve read this article and you are about to type an email or text someone, pick up the phone or better yet, invite them to lunch. Yeah, you’ll get old person jokes, but they beat a Facebook status any day.

Game Changers: What Apple Announced This Week at WWDC

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You can’t go anywhere on the web without reading one of a zillion articles about what Apple announced at Monday’s Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC), so instead of going long on this and reiterating what everyone is saying, I’m going to summarize the big things as succinctly as possible.

Why even bother? Because some of the things Apple announced are HUGE.

Open-API Touch ID Functionality

Touch ID – the software behind Apple’s fingerprint sensor in the iPhone 5S – is excellent, and once you start using it, you get used to it – fast. Passwords feel archaic, and you get annoyed when you have to type one.

This week, Apple opened Touch ID up to third-party developers, which means anyone can create an app that foregoes passwords and instead uses a fingerprint biometric. Think about that: Apple is swinging an axe straight down on the neck of the confusing, easily-compromised password scheme we all love to hate.

This will change the way login security will be handled on a massive scale. Just wait and see how quickly developers snap this up.

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50 Cent, Life Coach

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I’ve always been intrigued by the idea of a life coach. I use a fitness and nutrition coach these days, and they’ve been priceless in terms of their impact on my health. Life coaches are interesting in that they are like mentors, but different because a life coach relationship is spelled out, whereas a mentor relationship is mostly implicit.

The best thing I’ve read in months is ZachBaron’s feature for GQ, 50 Cent Is My Life Coach. It’s equal parts smart, strong, heartbreaking and human. It’s also the sort of article that gets better and better the more of it you read. I’m going to share some of my favorite bits here just to entice you, but really, you should read the whole thing. Make it a weekend free-time thing. Seriously.

50 Cent on having couples make vision boards:

50 Cent thinks for a minute. Actually, he says, my girlfriend—the one I just mentioned, the one I’d just moved in with? 50 Cent would like her to make a vision board, too. Then we’re going to compare. “Take things out of your folder and things out of her folder to create a folder that has everything,” he says. “Now the vision board is no longer your personal vision board for yourself: It’s a joint board.” That joint board will represent what we have in common. It will be a monument to our love.

But there will be some leftover unmatched photos, too, in each of our folders. And that’s what the joint board is really for—what it’s designed to reveal. “The things that end up on your vision board that aren’t in hers are the things that she has to accept,” 50 Cent says. “And the things that she has that you don’t are the things that you have to make a compromise with.” In a healthy relationship, he explains, your differences are really what need talking about. This is how you go about making that conversation happen.

“See?” 50 says, smiling. “Now, they ain’t gonna tell you to do that in no book.”

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Your iPhone Is a Better Camera Than You Think

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The web has a famous cliché floating about in regards to photography. Hailing from photographer Chase Jarvis, the quote goes, “The best camera is the one that’s with you.” It’s also the title of his book on iPhone photography.

There’s a good deal of truth to this. As I write this, I have a Canon 5D MkIII sitting next to me, with the venerable Canon 70–200L f/2.8 USM IS II mated to it. All in all, about a $5K piece of kit, more than capable of making professional-quality video production output.

Problem is, it weighs as much as a sniper rifle, and looks just as imposing.

I don’t carry it with me unless I know I’m going out shooting. That means for most of my life, especially when I want to capture impromptu moments, my big-rig Canon is at home in its bag.

What do I always have with me? My smartphone (an iPhone in my case), and it’s far more capable to shooting quality photos than your Facebook feed filled with blurred cat pictures would have you believe. In fact, on our mantle sits a canvas-printed photo I took in Italy, blown up to about 20“ x 20”. The camera responsible for that pic? My iPhone. Smartphones break when people don’t take good care of them, if you need to repair your smartphone contact I Fix Phones of Denver.

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Oracle Wins Copyright Argument Against Google

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Talk about an unprecedented comeback in the appellate court. The official opinion paper is here (PDF), but here is some commentary from around the web. Another big lawsuit going around the courts is the lawsuit against xarelto. See more info at http://sideeffectsofxarelto.org/xarelto-lawsuits/

Florian Mueller over at FOSS Patents:

Within the context of the “smartphone IP wars”, yesterday’s appellate opinion in Oracle v. Google was spectacular. An unprecedented comeback. Oracle now has more legal leverage over Google than anyone else, such as Apple, has ever had, even at this stage, where things may still take a couple of years before an injunction issues (and, of course, there is some uncertainty remaining with “fair use”, though the Federal Circuit made certain limits of that defense clear as well).

[…]

Both Sega and the subsequent Sony v. Connectix case — fair use and not copyrightability cases — did not establish an interoperability exception to copyrightablity, as the Federal Circuit clarified but Google’s supporters still don’t want to recognize. I already addressed that one two years ago. The problem with reading Sega (which Sony is based on) as holding anything related to compatibility to be non-copyrightable is that this is not even anobiter dictum. It’s simply not stated at all unless one takes a few words out of context.

[…]

In Sega, interoperability was considered a laudable goal. Yes, it is. That fact weighs in favor of fair use. In that case, it did. Rightly so. So if you only do a few intermediate copies for yourself and you copy 20-25 bytes (a mere identifier), and that’s what it takes to bring more games to consumers for a platform they’ve purchased, that may be fine. In that case, it was. Rightly so. But the Ninth Circuit (the West Coast circuit) didn’t say that anything relating to compatibility — which would require some very complex line-drawing if it was the law (which it is not) — is by definition non-copyrightable.

And here’s Mueller again:

The Federal Circuit disagrees with the district court and Google (the district court had basically just adopted Google’s fundamentally flawed non-copyrightability argument, which is why it just got overruled) on the point in time at which the theory of a “merger” (of idea and expression) has to be determined. Google argued that it had only one way to write those API declarations — but that’s because it chose to be similar to Java in certain (and not all) respects. But this way Google limited its own choice. It could have create completely new APIs for Android. The question in a copyright case is, however, not whether the copyist had choices. It’s whether the creator of the copied material had options. And Sun’s engineers (Java was developed by Sun, which was acquired by Oracle in 2010) had plenty of choices. The Java APIs were and are creative and original. And that’s why they are protected. Otherwise something could be protected by copyright when it’s written and then lose copyright protection later because someone choose to copy — that would be absurd.

And if you want to step up a level in detail, here’s the Reuters take:

The case examined whether computer language that connects programs – known as application programming interfaces, or APIs – can be copyrighted. At trial in San Francisco, Oracle said Google’s Android trampled on its rights to the structure of 37 Java APIs.

U.S. District Judge William Alsup ruled that the Java APIs replicated by Google were not subject to copyright protection and were free for all to use. The Federal Circuit disagreed on Friday, ruled for Oracle and instructed the lower court to reinstate a jury’s finding of infringement as to 37 Java API packages.

[…]

The unanimous Federal Circuit panel ordered further proceedings before Alsup to decide whether Google’s actions were protected under fair use.

(via Michael Tsai)

Book Review: The Art of Learning

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Tim Ferriss, as part of his book club featuring books that dramatically impacted his life, said Josh Waitzkin’s The Art of Learning is one of the books hedge fund managers have on their bedside tables.

After reading it, I can see why.

Like Ferris, this book will go down as one of the best self-improvement books I have ever read. It’s completely free of woo (woo, noun, Ideas considered irrational or based on extremely flimsy evidence or that appeal to mysterious occult forces or powers), and while Waitzkin has a technician’s mind, he details the learning process with concepts that are easy to understand and backed up with his own life experience.

If you just skimmed this book, you’d think this is a biography of Waitzkin himself, who at a very young age was a national chess champion. In fact, Waitzkin’s father wrote Searching for Bobby Fischer, a popular book that was made into an even more popular movie.

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The Death of Expertise

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One of the most fascinating articles I have come across in months is The Death of Expertise by Tom Nichols. It’s a great piece, and you should definitely take time to read it.

Its basic gist is this: we live in an age where everyone has a publishing/broadcasting platform for their opinion (Twitter, Facebook, commenting systems, etc.). But just because everyone can talk and opine, however, doesn’t mean we should listen to them. Because there are still strata in quality of opinions, ranging from blatantly ignorant up to credentialed expert.

The premise Nichols posits is correct: we live in an age where experts have to share the same text boxes with laymen, and moreover, the laymen often think their opinions hold equal value to those of experts. And increasingly, I find the back and forth between the two increasingly fervent and belligerent. PhD and lab researchers arguing with random everymen who read a few articles in magazines and hit up a few links on Twitter. That’s not an exaggeration.

Here’s a personal example.

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The Danger of the Half Step

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Earlier this week, I shared a post on our Facebook page about an article called The 30 second habit with a lifelong impact. It’s a great piece, and you should read it.

This made me think about some of the best advice I’ve ever been given. The kind of advice that makes you go, “Huh, okay” when you first hear it, but years later, after it has marinated in some experience and successes and failures, dawns on you that for the first time, you actually get it. Isn’t this the nature of all real advice?

It was given to me by a mentor, and he’s probably reading this blog right now. The advice is simple. Ready?

Never take a half step.

That’s it. Don’t take a half step. Either take a full step, or don’t take the step.

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Turns Out That Someone Actually Did Shadow Outsourcing

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I first heard about personal outsourcing in Tim Ferriss’ book The Four-Hour Workweek. The idea is simple: take certain parts of your life and outsource them to a digital assistant overseas at an almost negligible cost. This frees you up to learn something, start a side business, or travel.

This idea taken another notch further is called ‘personal shadow outsourcing.” This is essentially where someone takes their entire job, outsources it overseas, and collects a paycheck for doing essentially nothing except for the bare minimums to keep up appearances that they are in fact doing their job. Neat idea, but nobody actually did it. It’s all been the stuff of lunchtime rumors.

Until Bob. Kevin Kelly tells the story of a guy who shadow outsourced his job and got away with it — for a while:

“As it turns out, Bob had simply outsourced his own job to a Chinese consulting firm. Bob spent less that one fifth of his six-figure salary for a Chinese firm to do his job for him. Authentication was no problem, he physically FedExed his RSA token to China so that the third-party contractor could log-in under his credentials during the workday. It would appear that he was working an average 9 to 5 work day. Investigators checked his web browsing history, and that told the whole story.

A typical ‘work day’ for Bob looked like this:

9:00 a.m. – Arrive and surf Reddit for a couple of hours. Watch cat videos

11:30 a.m. – Take lunch

1:00 p.m. – Ebay time.

2:00 – ish p.m Facebook updates – LinkedIn

4:30 p.m. – End of day update e-mail to management.

5:00 p.m. – Go home

Evidence even suggested he had the same scam going across multiple companies in the area.

What busted Bob? Browser history.

Kevin Kelly, in his blog post, attaches a Dilbert strip from August 3, 2003, and it couldn’t be more apropos.

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