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Warning Facebook users: Socialcam is dangerous

On Facebook you may see something like "George Harrison is watching a video on Socialcam " followed by a video.

Beware because if you watch that video by clicking on it, ALL your friends will now see that you watched it too.

On two occasions in the last few weeks, some pretty embarassing videos were watched by otherwise highly respectable people. Funny.

[EDUCATION] Strategic Plans – are they worth the paper they are written on?

I came across a very provocative article about why and how universities seem to often get buried in a time consuming and torturous process of strategic planning.

My experience in the private sector is that it is very easy to get sucked into a process that takes on a life of its own and sucks a massive amount of time out of the organization for very questionable outcomes.

Caveat : I don't claim that I have a broad view on this, as my experience is quite limited but I'll just say that for my money "Strategic Plans" are the management equivalent of "Big Design Up Front", both of which I try to limit as much as possible.

Remember I am neither against planning nor design. I am against spending massive resources on the creation of massive documents which are out of date as soon they are written down, and are never ever looked at again.

Here's the conclusion from the article:

"This interchangeability of visions for the future underscores the fact that the precise content of most colleges' strategic plans is pretty much irrelevant. Plans are usually forgotten soon after they are promulgated.

My university has presented two systemwide strategic plans and one arts-and- sciences strategic plan in the past 15 years. No one can remember much about any of those plans, but another one is in the works.

The plan is not a blueprint for the future. It is, instead, a management tool for the present. The ubiquity of planning at America's colleges and universities is another reflection and reinforcement of the continuing growth of administrative power." (from The Strategic Plan: Neither Strategy Nor Plan…"

Funny: Are computers boys or are they girls?

A SPANISH Teacher was explaining to her class that in Spanish, unlike English, nouns are designated as either masculine or feminine.

'House' for instance, is feminine: 'la casa.'
'Pencil,' however, is masculine: 'el lapiz.'

A student asked, 'What gender is 'computer'?'

Instead of giving the answer, the teacher split the class into two groups, male and female, and asked them to decide for themselves whether computer' should be a masculine or a feminine noun. Each group was asked to give four reasons for its recommendation.

The men's group decided that 'computer' should definitely be of the feminine gender ('la computadora'), because:

1. No one but their creator understands their internal logic;

2 The native language they use to communicate with other computers is incomprehensible to everyone else;

3. Even the smallest mistakes are stored in long term memory for possible later retrieval; and

4. As soon as you make a commitment to one, you find yourself spending half your paycheck on accessories for it.

The women's group, however, concluded that computers should be Masculine ('el computador'), because:

1. In order to do anything with them, you have to turn them on;

2. They have a lot of data but still can't think for themselves;

3. They are supposed to help you solve problems, but half the time they ARE the problem; and

4. As soon as you commit to one, you realize that if you had waited a little longer, you could have gotten a better model.

The women won.

[education] Creative Monopoly

An interesting article by David Brooks in the New York Times commenting on the views of the always controversial Peter Thiel.

[Why is he controversial? Because he has a grant program for students who are so passionate about their startup idea that they are willing to drop out of college to get the grant. Which is ironic because in the article, Brooks is citing what Thiel is teaching in his Stanford COURSE!]

The article is about Thiel's views on what and how students get taught in college:

"First, students have to jump through ever-more demanding, preassigned academic hoops. Instead of developing a passion for one subject, they'€™re rewarded for becoming professional students, getting great grades across all subjects, regardless of their intrinsic interests.

Instead of wandering across strange domains, they have to prudentially apportion their time, making productive use of each hour." (from The Creative Monopoly)

Why would that be bad? Read on:

"… We live in a culture that nurtures competitive skills. And they are necessary: discipline, rigor and reliability. But it’s probably a good idea to try to supplement them with the skills of the creative monopolist: alertness, independence and the ability to reclaim forgotten traditions." (from The Creative Monopoly)

New Book: Founder’s Dilemmas

This book looks good: "Founder's Dilemmas: Anticipating and Avoiding the pitfalls that can sink a startup". I came across it in the "Startup Lessons Learned" Blog, which may be the best blog about leann startups.

This excerpt talks about a common scenario with startups, where the founders assume that they way they chose to split equity on day 0 will continue to work for them as time goes on:

"How should founders deal with such developments? In short, by assuming when they do the initial split that things will change, even if the specific changes cannot be foreseen, and therefore structuring a dynamic equity split rather than the static splits used at Zipcar, govWorks, and many other startups. As important as it is to get the initial equity split right—by matching it as closely as possible thefounders’ past contributions, opportunity costs, future contributions, and motivations—it is equally important to keep it right; that is, to be able to adjust the split as circumstances change." (fromFounder's Dilemmas: Equity Splits)

I think I will be getting the book.

p.s. not to be a scrooge, but shouldn 't the title be "Founders' Dilemmas"?

Must See: “Luck of the Irish” at the Huntington Theatre

If you are a theatre fan I strongly recommend a play I just saw last night. It's called "Luck of the Irish". From a review on

"… It'€™s one of numerous instances in Greenidge's superb, beautifully realized new play -- now receiving its premiere in a Huntington Theatre Company production directed by Melia Bensussen -- that illustrate the playwright's sure grasp of the nuances of race and class and her insights into the complexities of human nature." (from Boston.Com)

Run, don't walk to see this play at the Huntington Theatre in Boston!

New York Times Grammar and Style

Listen, I love the New York Times. I read it cover to cover (or pixel to pixel) every day and have it delivered in dead-tree format to my doorstep each morning.

But so often I come across an awkward sentence which I have to read and re- read several times to understand.

I've been noticing this for a long time now and it makes me wonder whether it's a stylistic thing or a that they have had to lay off their best editors.

At any rate, I don't have the same impression when I read he Wall Street Journal (which I admire but don 't love.)

Here's a recent example:

"LAGOS, Nigeria -- In a quarter-century, at the rate Nigeria is growing, 300 million people -- a population about as big as that of the present-day United States -- will live in a country roughly the size of Arizona, New Mexico and Nevada." (from NYT)

What do you say, am I crazy?

How far does idealism get you

David Brooks of the New York Times, in an article about (my interpretation) the limits of idealism:

"It’s hard not to feel inspired by all these idealists, but their service religion does have some shortcomings. In the first place, many of these social entrepreneurs think they can evade politics. They have little faith in the political process and believe that real change happens on the ground beneath it.

That’s a delusion. You can cram all the nongovernmental organizations you want into a country, but if there is no rule of law and if the ruling class is predatory then your achievements won’t add up to much." (from "Sam Spade at Starbucks")

My favorite line from "The Maltese Falcon" (from memory, so paraphrased): "Loose a son, you can always get yourself a new one, but… there's only one Maltese Falcon. "

Anyway, that's off topic.

This article makes the case that if you are not happy with the ways "things " (the world, your town, your company) are run, you can't make fundamental change other than engaging with "the system ".

Don’t work. Avoid telling the truth. Be hated. Love someone.

Ok, I don't agree with all of "Don’t work. Avoid telling the truth. Be hated. Love someone":

"Resist the temptation to get a job. Instead, play. Find something you enjoy doing. Do it. Over and over again. You will become good at it for two reasons: you like it, and you do it often. Soon, that will have value in itself."

but there are some good lessons and reminders in it:

"Find that pursuit that will energise you, consume you, become an obsession. Each day, you must rise with a restless enthusiasm. If you don’t, you are working."

I think it's worth reading.

Do you finish books?

I love this article. It's by an actual author talking about whether it matters if a reader reads a book through to the very end.

He starts with the basics, claiming that serious ('mature ') readers don't feel self-imposed pressure to read a book to its very last syllable:

"It seems obvious that any serious reader will have learned long ago how much time to give a book before choosing to shut it. It’s only the young, still attached to that sense of achievement inculcated by anxious parents, who hang on doggedly when there is no enjoyment. “ (from Why Finish Books)


He then gets into much subtler ground: what the experience is of the author or writer in deciding whether it's time to wrap things up and bring the story (and the book, not always the same thing) to it's conclusion:

"Kafka remarked that beyond a certain point a writer might decide to finish his or her novel at any moment, with any sentence; it really was an arbitrary question, like where to cut a piece of string, and in fact both The Castle and America are left unfinished, while The Trial is tidied away with the indecent haste of someone who has decided enough is enough.“ (from Why Finish Books)

The article has several other neat scenarios and examples and ends with this, from the point of view of the author himself:

"And finally I wonder if it isn’t perhaps time that I learned, in my own novels, to drop readers a hint or two that, from this or that moment on, they have my permission to let the book go just as and when they choose." (from Why Finish Books)

If you like reading, you will like reading this article!