check tags

The iPhone Effect

I am finding my brain wants to “think different” while working on my MacBook because I use an iPhone, particularly while surfing the Web. Sometimes I catch myself using iPhone shortcuts and then I’m confused for a second when it doesn’t work right.

Should I even be admitting this?

Sometimes, when I want to focus on a portion of a Web site I’ll double click on the area I want to see and fully expect it to zoom in like it does on my iPhone.

Other times, when I’m typing, I’ll find that I want to just hit the space bar twice to add a period rather than actually hitting the “period” key.

Gosh, this is embarrassing.

I’m going to stop there. You will find no more incriminating evidence here

Wait. Why wasn’t there a period at the end of that paragraph?

Doh! I did it again!

check tags

Seth Godin on the tribes we lead

Marketer and author Seth Godin talked about leading tribes at the annual TED conference in February 2009. I found the video of that talk on the incredible and inspiring TED Web site. What follows in the blog post are my notes after studying his presentation. I take no credit for the ideas below. They came straight from Mr. Godin. I do hope this summary of his presentation inspires you to get up and go change the world!

As leaders, we try to change everything every day. We challenge the status quo. We try to make big, permanent, important change. We must connect with the community, not professionals, to create big change.

Three ways to spread ideas

  • Factory model
    • Based on Henry Ford’s efficient factories that enabled him to increase employee wages from 50 cents an hour to $5 an hour.
    • Builds on the idea that you could change the world with an efficient “factory” churning out change.
    • The problem is you need ever cheaper labor and ever faster machines and we’re running out of both.
  • Television model
    • If you have a big enough mouthpiece and can buy enough ads, you can create change.
    • Spend a lot of money to show your idea to a lot of people.
    • Mass marketing – using lots of advertising to push average ideas
  • Tribes model
    • Leading and connecting people and ideas
    • People form “tribes” around religion, around work, and around community.
    • The Internet provides a way for people with very specific interests, the people on the fringes, to connect with each other

“It turns out that it’s tribes—not money, not factories— that can change our world, that can change politics, that can align large numbers of people. Not because you force them to do something against their will, but because they wanted to connect. That what we do for a living now, all of us I think, is find something worth changing and then assemble tribes that assemble tribes that spread the idea and spread the idea and it becomes something far bigger than ourselves. It becomes a movement.”

The Internet enables people of a tribe who are scattered all over the globe to connect with each other. It is tribes, not money and power, that can change the world.

Find something worth changing and assemble tribes to spread the ideas until it becomes a movement. Find 1,000 people who care enough to find more people who care. Start small. Find your true believers.

Most movements, most leadership that we’re doing, is about finding a group that is disconnected but already has a yearning; not about persuading people to want something they don’t have yet.

Some who led movements:

  • The Beatles did not invent teenagers. They merely decided to lead them.
  • The creators of “The Meatrix” didn’t invent the idea of being a vegan, but helped organize people.
  • Hugo Chavez did not invent the disaffected middle and lower class of Venezuela, he merely elected to lead them.
  • Bob Marley did not invent rastafarians. He just stepped up and said “Follow me.”

What these leaders have in common is that they are heretics. They look at the status quo and say, “This will not stand.”

You don’t need everyone. You just need a few people who will look at the rules, realize they make no sense and realize how much they want to be connected. We must work to connect others so they can share their passions with each other. We have to share stories people who want to hear. We need to connect a tribe of people who are desperate to be connected to each other. We can lead a movement to make change happen.

Three questions for leaders

  • Who are you upsetting? If you’re not upsetting anyone you’re not changing the status quo.
  • Who are you connecting? For a lot of people, that’s what they’re in it for.
  • Who are you leading? Focus on the who. That’s where change comes from.

You don’t need permission from people to lead them. They’re waiting for someone to show them where to go next.

What do leaders have in common:

  • They challenge the status quo
  • They build a culture, a common language, a way to know whether you’re in or out.
  • They are curious. They ask questions. They want to know about the people in the tribe and outsiders.
  • They connect people to one another.
  • They commit to the cause. They commit to the tribe. They connect to the people who are there.

Here is a closing thought for those who don’t think they have what it takes to be a leader:

“All tribe leaders have charisma, but you don’t need charisma to become a leader. Being a leader gives you charisma.”

check tags

Pay for Performance does not work

I watched Daniel Pink’s TED talk on the surprising science of motivation this morning.

Pink discussed pay for performance, also known as merit-based pay, and provided strong evidence that it does not work. In fact, he showed that pay for performance actually erodes performance. He did relent and agree that pay for performance can be successful in highly defined scenarios where the worker sees a clear path to a finished product—the traditional widget maker—but I have heard evidence that paying employees for performance in those situations may lead to skulduggery, mistrust, and sabotage in a fiduciary survival of the fittest. Take this for instance:

“As long as the task involved only mechanical skill, bonuses worked as they would be expected: the higher the pay, the better the performance. But once the task called for ‘even rudimentary cognitive skill,’ a larger reward ‘led to poorer performance.’

“In eight of the nine tasks we examined across the three experiments, higher incentives led to worse performance.”

Citation given for the study: D. Ariely, U. Gneezy, G. Lowenstein, & N. Mazar, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston Working Paper No. 05-11; NY Times, 20 Nov. 08

Also, consider this blunt truth from Dr. Bernd Irlenbusch of the London School of Economics:

“We find that financial incentives…can result in a negative impact on overall performance.”

President Barack Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan have cast us headlong on a path that could send schoolhouses across the country backwards in time or even dismantle public education altogether. How are they doing this? By tying a bunch of money to it—$4 billion—in a little thing called Race to the Top.

It’s strange and frustrating that with so much data proving pay for performance doesn’t work and so little data to the contrary, that politicians are emphatically pushing to make merit-based pay for teachers mandatory in public schools.

Unfortunately, my beloved state of Georgia is leading the pack in Duncan’s Race to the Top. Here is a look into what I think Race to the Top could really mean to public schools in Georgia. To begin with, and this is a huge point, nobody in the state can be sure what the money is tied to. Here is an excerpt from page 6 of the “Race to the Top Program Executive Summary” released in November 2009 (with my emphasis on what I think are key points of mystery:)

(ii) The participating LEAs (as defined in this notice) are strongly committed to the State’s plans and to effective implementation of reform in the four education areas, as evidenced by Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs) (as set forth in Appendix D) or other binding agreements between the State and its participating LEAs (as defined in this notice) that include—

(a) Terms and conditions that reflect strong commitment by the participating LEAs (as defined in this notice) to the State’s plans;

(b) Scope-of-work descriptions that require participating LEAs (Local Education Agencies) to implement all or significant portions of the State’s Race to the Top plans…

If Georgia’s Race to the Top application is successful it will bring $400 million to Georgia. Wow! That’s a lot of money, right?

Not so fast moneybags!

The money will be split down the middle from the beginning with $200 million going to the state Department of Education and the remainder to be shared with school districts. If the remaining $200 million was evenly distributed among Georgia’s 180 public school districts, each would receive approximately $1.1 million.

Realistically, the distribution would affected by enrollment, poverty, and other variables, so some districts would get more than $1.1 million and others would get less. While every bit of money helps, especially these days, is it worth a million bucks or so to implement some mysterious “plan” passed down from federal and state bureaucrats to local school boards?

One part of the plan we do know is that it will be tied to merit-based pay for teachers and that much of that “merit” will hinge on student performance on standardized tests. These are the same tests the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement has accused Georgia teachers of cheating on to inflate student achievement in its Statewide Analysis: Spring 2009 CRCT Grades 1-8.

The report does not prove teachers cheated. It measured erasure marks, particularly those where an incorrect answer was changed to a correct answer. It is worthy to note that students are encouraged to review their work and change their answers if necessary. Also, teachers are encouraged to clean up stray marks to ensure the tests are graded correctly when scored by the electronic scanner.

Something I find more disheartening than the possibility that teachers are cheating is that the Governor’s office, not the Board of Education, is driving the direction of education in Georgia. This is huge. In this very Republican state, this could be a part of the national push to methodically destroy public education.

Look at a few things:

  • Governor’s Office of Student Achievement releases CRCT erasure report.
  • Bill proposed in the state House would make it a crime for teachers to cheat on standardized tests punishable by fines, jail time, and loss of retirement.
  • Tons of support for vouchers in the legislature, as is usual.

The irony is that legislators say from one side of their mouth that we need an educated workforce to draw business and industry to Georgia. Meanwhile, from the other side of their mouth, they accuse teachers of cheating and publicly discredit public education while attempting to impose bureaucratic systems that encourage teachers to work in isolation to protect their paycheck.

So what am I trying to say here? Basically, that politics and education should not be mixed. Very little of what happens in the Governor’s Office and General Assembly takes into account what is best for students in Georgia. If our legislators are serious about reducing crime, attracting good businesses and industries to the state, building the economy and improving the quality of life for all of Georgia’s residents, then one of the key questions that should be on their mind is something like this: “Is what I am about to do going to help Georgia’s students?”

If the politician’s answer is yes then they are on the right path to recovery; however, if they answer no we can expect to see industries continue to leave Georgia, we can expect to see unemployment continue to rise, we can expect crime to continue increasing, and we can expect families to move to parts of the country where education is celebrated rather than denigrated.

check tags


Michael, I missed you when you left the states to “go home” and miss you tons more knowing you’ve gone on to meet your maker.

Screen shot 2010-02-08 at 5.34.29 PM.PNG
Michael Scanlan, a classy devil.

I shared more than a few Irish cocktails with Mr. Michael Scanlan; moments and memories that recently and tragically gained infinite value.

Michael, I’m sorry I will never be able to sit with you at your country house in Athea, Ireland, in the County Limerick, to enjoy conversation over a few pints of Guinness or (and?) a bottle of Bushmill’s like we have done so many times together.

What a loss. What a tragic and terrible loss.

check tags

Typographic upgrade

Many of you probably don’t even notice things like this, but I do. I am now using Typekit to serve the fonts on this site. Click the little logo in the bottom right corner of the page to learn more about the fonts I’m using here now.

Yeah, it’s a little thing, but it makes this place a little more mine; like buying new throw pillows for the couch to spruce things up a bit.

check tags

♪ Mr. Clean Mr. Clean ♫

Mrclean_circle.jpgOne of the items that ended up in our shopping cart yesterday at the grocery store was a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser. Julie had a coupon for one so we decided to give it a whirl. I thought it was just another sponge, but I was wrong.

I am so thankful Julie was there to nudge me toward that buy. It’s pretty amazing. Add a little water to the sponge and a little elbow grease to whatever you’re cleaning and voila, gone.

In hindsight, I wish I had taken some before and after pictures. We’ve got one of those older countertops that stains easily. Tea stains? Gone. Juice? Gone! Even rust stains from a wok that sat in a puddle of water? Vanished!

Finds like this make me appreciate Julie’s coupon clipping skills that much more.

check tags

New rules

I have finally figured out how I want this to work. Here are the rules:

  1. This blog, Southern Athenaeum, is for writing.
  2. That blog, Stuff I read, is for the stuff that catches my eye on the Internet.
  3. No #3. That’s it.

You will probably see more traffic over at Stuff I Read, but if you want to see my (occasional, sporadic) writing you’ll find it here.


P.S. I’m not even going to attempt to split this blog in twain. These are the rules from here on out…

check tags

Seth’s Blog: Random rules for ideas worth spreading

Seth Godin continues to ship out great stuff. Here is a list, and lists on blogs can sometimes suck, but this item jumped out at me in regard to my post yesterday evening:

Seth’s Blog: Random rules for ideas worth spreading:

Waiting for inspiration is another way of saying that you’re stalling. You don’t wait for inspiration, you command it to appear.

Hit the link to read the rest of Seth’s great advice.

check tags

Commitment to Creativity

Sometimes it seems that work consumes all of your creativity, and sometimes you have to admit that you’re just lying to yourself.

Loving the Apple Magic MouseThere are days when I say to myself “I just don’t have any good ideas” or “Nobody wants to read this drivel.” Those are the days my internal editor is really letting me have it. “You’re just not really good enough,” he says. “You’ll never amount to anything as a writer.”

That internal editor’s voice, he’s real nasty. And he doesn’t let up. Not ever.

I’ve got to learn to stifle the editor stomping around in my lizard brain, that chunk of my fight or flight chunk of my brain (with the emphasis on flight).

The fact is that I am good enough. I’m going to be 38 in February–pushing 40–and it’s time to bring some focus back to my personal creative work. I say personal creative work because I have a lot of leeway to be creative in my career, but I don’t want that daily grind to be my excuse for stopping when I get home. I did that for too long when I worked in journalism.

“But I’ve been writing all day. I don’t have anything left in me.”

Yep, there he was all along, the editor screaming from my lizard brain. Just shut up in there!

TimeI have a lot of priorities to get in order. The things I’m trying to juggle are family, career, getting to the gym, reading more, and finding time to be creative. Along with all of that are the typical workaday responsibilities. Housecleaning. Cooking. Ferrying kids here and there.

So many people are able to do all of that and have the time to change the world. Look at the president’s schedule. Look at everything Steve Jobs and Bill Gates have been able to accomplish. Look back to Einstein and Ghandi all of the other people now known by only one name (I guess you’ve made it when you’re known by one name). All of them, everyone, has 24 hours in a day the same as me.

I have time to change the world, too. I just have to make that commitment and I am ready.

check tags

See-through Vision Toaster by Magimix

I want this! What a cool and interesting design. Is “watching toast brown” the “watching paint dry” of 2010?

See-through Vision Toaster by Magimix:

See-through Vision Toaster by Magimix

(Via Curved White.)

check tags

The New York Times May Soon Begin Charging for Online Content [News]

I know that newspapers are getting desperate for revenue streams, but I think this decision for the New York Times to begin charging for content will be a nail in the paper’s coffin. They’ll make a few bucks, but lose a lot of online readership.

“The news” is too accessible online. Charging for content at this point is like trying to stop Niagara Falls with a stack of nickels.

The New York Times May Soon Begin Charging for Online Content [News]:

According to New York Magazine, the New York Times may soon announce they’ll begin charging for web site access, putting one of the most popular and venerable online news destinations behind a paywall. NY Mag speculates that they’ll be metering access so that readers can sample a set number of articles for free each day, after which they’ll be prompted to subscribe. [New York Magazine]

(Via Lifehacker.)

check tags

20 Beautiful Mac Apps | Design Reviver

Apple is known for good design and so are many of those who develop applications for the Mac. Designers for Macs know that it’s OK, even better, for an application to be powerful and beautiful at the same time.

20 Beautiful Mac Apps | Design Reviver:

20 Beautiful Mac Apps
Mac OS X is known for housing an amazing graphical user interface. Not only is the operating system beautiful in every way, but a large portion of the applications developed for Macs have great usability along with a stunning “face”. Below you will find 20 Mac Apps With Beautiful User Interface Designs for your inspiration. This is also a great reference for those that are looking to develop their own applications.

(Via Rands, on Twitter.)

check tags

Desktop ↔ 01.15.2010

Just because. Here’s my desktop these days…

Screen shot 2010-01-15 at 8.44.53 PM

Still a little heavy up in the menubar, but it’s all tools I use. The desktop is completely clear now unless it’s something I’m working on RIGHT NOW. That tab at the bottom right is courtesy of DEVONthink Pro 2.x beta.

check tags

No more MobileMe

nomobileme.pngWe have paid for Apple’s MobileMe iPhone plan for two years now, but have decided to let our subscription expire in February.

MobileMe is a wonderful service. It’s dead simple to use and offers some exclusive features, but Julie and I find we mainly use e-mail and calendars. We already had free e-mail accounts I manage through Google Apps. Google Sync has come a long way, too, and we can now sync our calendars through Google Calendar (also part of Google Apps).

An iPhone app that I depend on is OmniFocus for iPhone and it’s usefulness depends on syncing with its desktop counterpart. Until today I used Apple’s iDisk for this service. Since that will expire in February as well I did some research and found Swissdisk, which is offering 50mb of free encrypted WebDAV space that is just perfect for empowering OmniFocus to work it’s syncing magic.

The one piece of functionality we are losing is the ability to track down your iPhone, which is extremely cool, but at $150 a year the 5-user MobileMe family plan wasn’t carrying its weight around here when you consider those existing free solutions.

check tags

One blog to rule them all

I recognized that my blog posts fell into several big categories—funny, productivity, family, writing & creativity, and design—and experimented with spinning them off into their own spaces. During that time I moved from posting infrequently on one blog I was posting infrequently on five blogs.

The end result of the experiment is that I am consolidating everything into this site; yep, the one you’re reading now, as your one-stop shop for infrequent blog posts by yours truly. Just forget about those other blogs. Thanks.

However, you may want to keep a bookmark for Stuff I read over on Tumblr. It’s a quick drop box for me to share some of the small things I find online.

check tags

The future of the library

I agree with Seth about librarians’ need to change the focus of libraries. They need to expand their vision.

The future of the library:

No need to pool tax money to buy reference books. What we need to spend the money on are leaders, sherpas and teachers who will push everyone from kids to seniors to get very aggressive in finding and using information and in connecting with and leading others.

(Via Seth’s Blog.)

check tags

Living on faith

The only thing certain in life is death and even that comes at uncertain times. Good people die who shouldn’t and bad people seem to dodge the slings and arrows life constantly lobs at them.

Our families have suffered great losses during the past year. It began with Julie’s grandfather on Dec. 26, 2008. All of the holidays since rang hollow as members of our family glance uneasily at his empty chair at Mawmaw’s house.

Death rang again in September when our friend Donna lost her husband, her daughter, and her brother in a collision. And then, on Christmas Day 2009, my sister-in-law died in Birmingham, Ala., while on a solo road trip to Mississippi to see her best friend. We never know when our loved ones will be gone, or when we’ll be gone for that matter, so we must live for each other and we must have faith.

Faith. Five letters. Two vowels and three consonants. It’s a short syllable, but a difficult word to comprehend. The definition of faith that comes to my mind is to believe in something without evidence. Here is what the American Heritage Dictionary has to say:

  1. Confident belief in the truth, value, or trustworthiness of a person, idea, or thing.
  2. Belief that does not rest on logical proof or material evidence.
  3. Loyalty to a person or thing; allegiance
  4. In Christianity The theological virtue defined as secure belief in God and a trusting acceptance of God’s will
  5. The body of dogma of a religion
  6. A set of principles or beliefs.

Survey says I’m a winner with the #2 definition, but it’s really #4 I’m here to talk about today, First, Roget’s Thesaurus provides some alternatives:

  1. Absolute certainty in the trustworthiness of another: belief, confidence, dependence, reliance, trust. See belief
  2. Mental acceptance of the truth or actuality of something: belief, credence, credit. See opinion
  3. A system of religious belief: confession, creed, denomination, persuasion, religion, sect. See religion
  4. Those who accept and practice a particular religious belief: church, communion, denomination, persuasion, sect. See religion

Faith is something I have wrestled with since I started breaking away from the church in my teens. I only returned to the church in recent years and still struggle with faith today. I probably always will. It’s extremely difficult for my rational mind to make that irrational leap of faith, but that’s exactly what I need. It’s so difficult to let go of control, but that’s exactly what I should do.

Maybe it’s not so irrational.

We need to live for each other. We fight and whine and bicker about meaningless things. I listen to the kids snapping at each other and hear me and Julie lash at each other on bad days. Lately, in the wake of all of this death, I’ve thought how the survivors will feel when one of us is gone. What if the last words we share are shared in anger. What if a door slammed because someone refuses to stop singing or because we had pasta with red sauce instead of white is the last memory you hold of someone you love.

Instead of holding onto those foul memories, we should hold onto each other instead. Instead of criticizing others, we should ask “How can I help you?” We all know that we love each other, but we need to show that love instead of assuming it.

Our family suffered much loss in 2009—it just wasn’t a good year for us—and I am eager for 2010 to be better for our family. We’re not just tired of pain and loss, we’re weary. Waves of sadness have continually washed over our families and we hope death will take a vacation so we can regroup.

Last night, Julie and I shared our first evening of the Christmas holiday without any kids in the house. It gave both of us some much-needed time to reflect on the past year. I believe that time to stop and think laid a strong foundation for me and Julie to build on in 2010. I advise you to do the same.



Julie and I are charting a course, making a plan, and pressing on, so here’s to overcoming loss, to finding new beginnings, and to a good 2010 for everyone.

check tags

ThingsYouSawInAMovie Helps You Find Products Used in Movies [Movies]

What a nifty idea! File this under “Wish I thought of that.”

ThingsYouSawInAMovie Helps You Find Products Used in Movies [Movies]:

If you’ve ever seen something in a movie that you wanted for yourself, ThingsYouSawInAMovie can help. Want the shoes a character was wearing? The car they were driving? ThingsYouSawInAMovie catalogs products used in films.

(Via Lifehacker.)

check tags

Daily logs

Pen with Mont Blanc Ink BottleI kept a daily log for quite some time and then, for some reason, I stopped. I think it was a case of tool overload—too much hand-wringing about what tool was perfect for keeping up with the bric-a-brac of daily life—and rather than settling on one tool, I just stopped keeping the log.

To set the record straight, a daily log is not a daily journal. I never intend for it to be a narrative journey through my day, but a bulleted list of daily accomplishments. I used EverNote for a while, but something about it just bugs me and I’m not sure why. I may give EverNote another go.

I also really want to like Circus Ponies Notebook. I think I’ll stick to EverNote at work and Notebook at home instead of one list. If that doesn’t work for me, then I’ll use one or the other.

And yes, I know a text editor would work just as well (and maybe better). Anyway, I suppose I’ll chalk that up as one of my resolutions for 2010.

check tags

PBS | Ombudsman | Lehrer’s Rules

This from PBS ombudsman Michael Getler on Jim Lehrer’s sign-off last week:

PBS | Ombudsman | Lehrer’s Rules:

One of the things that has not changed, however, is Lehrer’s unwavering approach to journalism. So, in closing that final broadcast on Dec. 4 and providing a glimpse of the forthcoming new look, Lehrer said:

“I promise you, one thing is never going to change. And that’s our mission. People often ask me if there are guidelines in our practice of what I like to call MacNeil/Lehrer journalism. Well, yes, there are. And here they are:

  • Do nothing I cannot defend.
  • Cover, write and present every story with the care I would want if the story were about me.
  • Assume there is at least one other side or version to every story.
  • Assume the viewer is as smart and as caring and as good a person as I am.
  • Assume the same about all people on whom I report.
  • Assume personal lives are a private matter, until a legitimate turn in the story absolutely mandates otherwise.
  • Carefully separate opinion and analysis from straight news stories, and clearly label everything.
  • Do not use anonymous sources or blind quotes, except on rare and monumental occasions.
  • No one should ever be allowed to attack another anonymously.
  • And, finally, I am not in the entertainment business.”
  • (Via PBS with a tip o’the hat to John Gruber over at Daring Fireball for drawing my attention to it.)