Following along


This past week, Rose was trekking through Yosemite with a philanthropic group from Australia. It was a wonderful chance for her to get out into the wilderness and do something she loves. A chance to reconnect with herself and with a California we’re still getting to know better. It also meant I was solo parenting the kids for the week. Whilst that was exhausting, it was also amazingly refreshing for me. It’s hard to think about anything else when you’re spending each waking moment with a couple of kids under 4.

One of the highlights of our days together at home, was when we would update our map of Yosemite National Park with where Rose was hiking that day. Edie and Willow and I would crowd around the map, consulting the itinerary of Rose’s trip, to place her location on the map. Even through we were out of phone connection, it helped us all feel connected during our time apart. When she got back, I felt like I’d experienced some of the trek with her as we knew the routes and various day’s activities.

All of which is to say, it’s easy to forget that following along on someone’s journey is a wonderful thing.

Blogging in 2015: Mindfulness, Technology and Org Culture

It’s amazing to look back at the things I’d written at the start of the year and to reflect on what I have and haven’t done. I remember that, at that time, I had a flurry of passion and desire to get back into blogging and renew the act of noting and sharing my thinking. It helps me enormously to do this and to gain clarity and insight into my own thoughts and those of others.

As it happens, 2015 has not been the year that I continued blogging! I dropped off the wagon in mid-January, not having posted since. I think a mixture of work kicking up a notch and me realizing that I would prefer to prioritize spending quality time with my family were the reasons that it suffered. I remember it being quite a conscious decision back then.

I can often be bold in suggesting the things I’ll do but often not as diligent in following through. I guess that’s just me. I’m pleased to say that two of my other goals/resolutions for the year are things I’ve managed to incorporate into my life. I wake early every day now, shaken from sleep by Edith waking up and wanting to get on with her day. I also journal often. Whilst not every day, it’s been a really great practice for me in a lot of ways and one I’m proud to have made progress on.

There’s also something else here about the difference between a practice and a goal. Earlier this year, I also set a goal to run a 10km trail run each quarter of the year. At the time, I had managed to consistently go for a couple of runs a week. Importantly, I was enjoying running. I found it freeing and liberating. So, I set myself the goal of running a 10km trail run, expecting it to continue liberating me.

No sooner had I signed up, than my joy for running disappeared. For some reason, the idea of running the 10km organized run shifted my focus. Whereas previously I would run without any digital devices, I now started using Strava to track the details of my runs, to ensure I was training well. I put pressure on myself to run more; at least 3 times a week, and longer.

All told, my seemingly exciting and harmless goal crippled my nascent practice of running for freedom and enjoyment. That was a big lesson for me and something I wouldn’t have picked up on without the astute feedback and compassion shared by Melina Chan after discussing it with her. Now, when I think about the things I’m doing, I try to think about the joy of the practice and how I can enhance that rather than a goal I can try and foist my desires into.

So, onwards into the second half of 2015.

The Squiggly Line

It’s 2015! This year, I’m going to look to post again regularly here on the blog. If you’re keen to do the same, or perhaps have made a resolution to ‘blog more’ in 2015, then this great Blogging 101 class being run by The Daily Post may be right up your alley. I’m going to do it and am already looking forward to it. It starts on Monday the 5th.

However, this time I’m going to do something a little different. I’d like to share today that I’m going to focus more of my writing on particular areas. I’ve even Skitch’ed up a little Venn Diagram to outline my thoughts so far.

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Last year, I thought a lot about the idea of the craftsman – a person so deeply engaged in what they’re passionate about that their work product just flows. It caused me to reflect on my ‘craft.’ Needless…

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No more comments on this blog

Last night I turned off comments on this blog. This post you’re reading now shouldn’t have the option to comment on it at the footer of the post. Years ago I read a book called Naked Conversations, by Shel Israel and Robert Scoble that was really the first thing that inspired me to consider blogging in the first place. It was reading that book that inspired me to ping Ross and ask for his help to set this blog up originally and it was out of those conversations that I came to begin using Twitter. Indeed, I owe a lot to those years! I love small-s social, to coin a new (?) term. In it’s most pure form, it’s what happens when people contribute their thoughts on a great variety of topics into the public discourse. It makes us all smarter. Whether it’s messaging, Social Media (big S, lol), or something else this desire to speak into the commons is something that will not go away. Arguably, it’s been with us for all time. The more responsive we are to it, the better things tend to get.

And so, I turned off comments.

As things progressively move to being more mobile and more product and/or platform based, the old comment system familiar to blogs has become less relevant to me. Open conversation now happens on Twitter, mostly. My posts have never really generated a large swath of comments, anyway. My writing has never seemed to spark it like other bloggers have done. Most of my conversation today now happens in Yammer, Facebook Messenger (which is how I communicate with close friends) and Twitter. The conversation seems to have mostly moved on. It remains on some blogs; AVC is still one of my favourite blogs and it has a huge community following it.

Even so, there’s still something romantic and unique to me about writing in long-form and I that’s what I’m enjoying about reading and writing more at the moment. I’m really enjoying being a subscriber (do sign up!) to Ben Thompson’s Stratechery, mostly because he writes terrifically well about a topic I’m passionate about. But he also generates a lot of discussion on Twitter to colour in the grey areas of the posts he writes, which is excellent to follow along with.

So, what will happens to the conversations that take place around blogs? Could we see a return to conversations on blogs in a different and even more traditional sense? Here’s what I think is shaping up. For many reasons, we’re seeing more and more places pop up where the product and/or platform you’re using not only offers you features that help you write the blog, but also help you distribute it. Medium and Tumblr are the archetype here. Medium has a beautiful feature that seems newer than most that allows you to respond to a post with your own post. I did this a couple of weeks ago when I wrote this response to Andy Swann and found it a great experience.

Medium Response

I’m really enjoying using WordPress.com at the moment because I can feel that it’s maintaining the a place for me to build up a life’s work, similar to how Fred Wilson describes it here. But I can also feel that it is getting better and better to use for following and responding to others with long-form writing. So much so, I think it will stay ahead of places like Medium in the long run.

So. No more comments but not necessarily no more conversation. If you’d like to chat about anything I’ve ever written here, I’d love to keep the conversation going either in your own blog post (by simply linking back to a post), reblogging my posts on WordPress.com or mentioning me on Twitter. I look forward to chatting with you sometime soon!

A look at The Alliance and Adam Nash’s latest blog post

A little while ago, Adam Nash – the CEO of Wealthfront – posted a great tweetstorm on why hiring new people was so important for companies. I remember seeing it and retweeting a number of the posts. Today, he posted a simple blog post outlining much of what he said on Twitter, but with more context. It’s a great read.

Every new employee bets on the company, and the company bets on them.  It’s one of the most human and yet often overlooked aspects of technology careers at startup companies.

It reminded me to post quickly about a book I recently finished. The book is called The Alliance and is written by Reid Hoffman. Given Nash came from LinkedIn prior to Wealthfront, it’s no surprise that there’s a strong feeling that the post and book are cut from the same cloth. There’s two quotes I want to share that have stayed with me since reading it.

Remember the underpinnings of the alliance: the company helps the employee transform his career; the employee helps the company transform itself and become more adaptable.

Essentially, in the book Hoffman outlines three different buckets that both companies and employees can use to categorize how they’re growing their career at any given time by completing one of three types of Tour Of Duty: Rotational, Transformational, Foundational. This makes a lot of sense to me. This Slideshare is a great primer for the book so check it out in more detail.

As Nash points out, every employee is taking a bet on the company when they join and vice versa. Being honest about that and being cognisant of how much each party is actually risking by working together allows the approach espoused by The Alliance to work.

As the average time that someone spends working at one company continues to diminish, we can no longer risk being unclear about what we’re looking to get from our employees as employers. We must provide more clarity about the important work that needs to be done in our organisation and how our people can help carry that out. In the same vein, as an employee, it’s on us to bring this mindset into our careers and current jobs to express what growth we’re looking to achieve, and have a conversation about how we can do that together. Which brings me to the final quote I wanted to share from The Alliance.

Never before in human history have so many people been connected by so many networks.

Being a member of the ‘Yam-Fam’ I can relate to this one. Networks exist everywhere now. We’re becoming more and more connected, everyday – be it to the people we work next to, to our less immediate colleagues, to our vendors/partners/suppliers, to our customers and finally to the citizens of the world. Connecting with various communities in a relevant way that adds value to all parties is now, I believe, a core skill of any knowledge worker.

There’s subtlety to this point. To me, this does not mean that it’s healthy to jump from job to job because opportunities continue to abound. For me, this means that the time you spend in one place should be determined by how well you feel you’re able to add value to that community. If you’ve only been around a short while, then the value you’ve provided to that community is probably low. However, if you do find a group of people that resonates with you in the present moment that allows you to grow your own skills and consciousness, along with the continued growth of the company, then you’ll have those connections for life. People like to work with great people. And people move on to new opportunities all of the time. If you’ve been a part of a high-performance team then it’s likely that you’ll get to join those folks again at some point in your career, when the stars align again.

Anyways, the book is great as is Adam’s post. I hope you enjoy reading them. In the meantime, we’re hiring here at Yammer in a number of roles in our Engineering and Product organisation. If you want to work in a high-performance team that’s truly looking to help organizations become more responsive to their staff, partners and customers then please do get in touch on Twitter or email me.

Writing and Responding: Reflections on taking some time out

My parents, Janet and Doug, came and visited Rose, Edith and I in San Francisco earlier this month. They were with us for two weeks, which was terrific. To celebrate their visit, and to make the most of it, I took two weeks of annual leave. In that time, I disconnected from ‘work’ things and just focused on being in the moment as much as I could with my family. But a strange thing happened along the way. I got the urge to write here on this blog again. It felt good to be back.

And so, I connected again but in a different way. In coming back to work at Yammer early this week, I caught up with Matt Partovi to sync about a few projects we’re working on. In the early minutes of our catchup, I explained what I think is the difference. Whilst on vacation, I wasn’t focusing on ‘processing’ all of the various things that come at me each day. Don’t get me wrong – I love what I do – but the processing bit can consume me during the days. Whether it’s responding to yammer messages, emails, instant messages or calls there’s a lot to consume. Without that, I was more able to focus on doing some writing. I wouldn’t say the posts of the last week were particularly terrific, but there are a couple I am proud of and that have continued to give me pause for thought here and there. The difference is that you’re not writing, or spending keystrokes, on responding to stimuli but pausing and considering the world and producing something to try and explain that. To try and take what’s in your head and describe it for people. To create.

None of this is particularly earth shattering or new. Indeed, it’s mostly the same kind of thoughts that echo through the famous GTD series. Jason Shah also nailed today with this tweet.

We’re fast approaching the end of the year, which brings with it that special time when often our minds turn to thoughts of creation. What do you want to create in 2015?