Caught up on some articles on my last flight home…
Rolling Stone | The NRA vs. America
How the country’s biggest gun-rights group thwarts regulation and helps put military-grade weapons in the hands of killers
Horribly biased, but a frightening and depressing chronology of the control the NRA has built over guns in America.
Fortune | eBay is back!
Supercharged by PayPal, the e-commerce company and its stock are red-hot. Watch out, Amazon!
As one of the comments said, this article seems almost entirely written by eBay’s PR team. Still, it’s interesting reminder of what it takes to keep a company relevant in a fast-changing environment. Two bits I enjoyed were how eBay’s CEO actively sought outside advice, (lessons in user experience design from AirBnB’s co-founder), and the string of almost entirely negative comments at the end.
360i | CES 2013
The Year of the Connected Brand
David Berkowitz’s helpful rundown of everything of note from this year’s CES. Watch for an exciting array of new “connected devices”, bringing the internet more easily in synch with televisions, cars, apparel, and even cutlery.
Fortune (Archives) | How George Tenet Brought The CIA Back From The Dead
Amid controversy and two wars, he’s led a classic turnaround by running the Agency like a business.
A well-researched piece on how George Tenet seems to have turned the CIA around (with a little help from 9/11) by making some sensible business administration changes that were completely foreign to a slow-moving burueacracy.
(This is a comment I posted on Venture Capital’s Massive, Terrible Idea For The Future Of College)
The question I asked myself while reading this is, “What is the ultimate goal for venture backed startups providing MOOC-like solutions?”.
If it is to completely replace the offline classroom experience that Bady describes, then the ecosystem Bustillos refers to is indeed under threat.
If, however, MOOCs are meant to add an alternative to high-priced college education, and increase access for millions, then the threat is being largely overblown. There will always be strong research institutions, small classrooms, and centers of thought and excellence to keep the ecosystem vibrant and healthy.
I agree that the examples of shoddy quality on Udacity and Khan Academy are deeply concerning. Expecting MOOC students to be satisfied with poorly constructed educational experiences is risking a grim future as these students enter the workforce. However, as an employee of an education startup myself, I can speak to the investments being made toward producing educational experiences that have a sustainable level of quality.
Here in the US, and I think in corporate environments worldwide, email volume is a significant issue. Shortmail is one of many companies attempting to reduce time spent per email, there’re all kinds of CC- and BCC-based quantity reduction strategies, and Atos wants to remove email altogether.
I’d add sharp email design as a suggested strategy toward efficient and effective communication. The exact same text, well-laid-out, is sure to be far more productive than a big chunk of text.
Here’re a few suggestions to make your next email work for you:
- Start off with an appropriate greeting. A “Hey ___”, “Hi ___”, or “Dear ___” has the visual effect of starting a new conversation and bringing an element of pause into what your recipient is doing.
- Give each new point of your email its own line. The white space helps the content “breathe”, and visually organizes the text for the reader.
- Try to limit these to no more than three. In the middle of a busy day, it’s unlikely most people will be able to quickly reply to an email that asks more than three things of them. (Unless you’re in the middle of a long editing session, and there’s a mutual agreement between you and the reader that each point needs to be read, it’s best to stick to three, and send another email later if needed).
- Put a few words in bold. This is a little risky, as it can come off as rude, but done correctly, your recipient will likely appreciate your attempt to highlight the important information.
- If you need to send a link, use the hyperlink feature, instead of just pasting a long web link into the email.
- End with a short, punchy reprisal of the primary purpose of the email. “I hope to hear from you soon”, “Please send me that document by Friday”, “Please RSVP here”.
I hope these are helpful - if you have any email design tips of your own, please share!
Yesterday marked the end of my first week at General Assembly.
Over just the last seven days, GA has been written about in The New York Times (twice), Fast Company, and at least three different blog posts. And just a week earlier, Financial Times featured General Assembly’s move to London with a quote from none other than Prime Minister David Cameron.
The press is right to be excited. What General Assembly is building is simple in many ways, but incredibly powerful. This is a new model for learning - one that takes the term “return on investment” very seriously. Instead of putting students through a four-year experience that results in an ever-more-dubious chance of employment, General Assembly’s goal is to train students in skills that are directly applicable to the Internet economy. Classes cover everything from technology, to entrepreneurship, to design, with instruction that is as dynamic and fluid as the industry its students hope to join.
But what really excites me about joining this company is something different - it’s the way the team thinks. There’s a thoughtful and deliberate method about it, one that continually attempts to enlarge the scope of a problem, analyze and assess its every facet, and create the most efficient solution, both for the present and the future.
As GA is approached by more and more companies, partners, teachers, media outlets, startups, investors, and students, the company’s founders and team members will be faced with tough questions about strategy, brand, product, pricing, and more. These are challenging, but also thrilling - how we answer and respond will largely determine the success of this venture, and the extent to which we can have an impact on the future of education.
Lydia really knows how to treat a birthday boy.
In 28 years, I’ve never had a better birthday. Here’re a few reasons why:
- Food: We dined at the trendy Fig & Olive, and then as if that wasn’t enough, she managed to score reservations at Del Posto, the ridiculously ostentatious 15-servers-per-table restaurant by Mario Batali.
- Presents: The Thomas Pink shirt in the picture above. Brilliant!
- Friends: Lydia invited my closest New York City friends to an “Anand party”, complete with Malbec, skittles, and hip hop.
- Thought: This one’s most important. I’ve never had someone else organize a birthday party for me. (Well, aside from my mom). Around every birthday experience, Lydia had thought about every detail, from food, to wine, to shirt size, candy, and more.
I love you Lydia. Thanks for everything.
I’ve recently become quite addicted to a new web service called Smarterer.
Smarterer lets you create and take tests on any subject. Tests are adaptive, and questions are weighted based on your overall scores and that of the person who created them in the first place. It’s a wonderfully dynamic system, and is perfect for the fast growing number of areas, products, and services that we all need to be proficient in.
HERE are my scores. Clearly I have some work to do, but the need to score over 700 (like the GMAT) keeps me coming back to improve. Also, I’ve heard that my scores will drop over time - a manifestation of the assumption that memories fade, and content continues to add and evolve.
As we struggle to keep pace with an ever expanding suite of products and services, Smarterer may just be the resource that helps us prove (and verify) proficiency when we need to.
(The image is just my top scores).
I’ve been having a lot of fun watching Lydia cook.
Don’t get me wrong. I “help”. I chop the onions. I boil the pasta. And I usually do the dishes. But once basic tasks like that are complete, my contribution ends, and I step back to let her make the magic.
It really is fascinating to watch her do it. Cooking is a process that I have approached with much trepidation - following recipes, carefully, specifically measuring out each little ingredient, for fear of getting things wrong. Lydia’s style, on the other hand, is to cook with a confidence and creativity that makes it seem like that big fat book my mom had in the kitchen actually knew what it was talking about.
Lydia will open the spice cabinet, the fridge, and the cupboard and, seemingly randomly, will start adding in ingredients with a “let’s see what this does” kind of experimental mentality. “Maybe some beer will help this bolognese.” “What about some habanero sauce here?”. And always lots of cumin.
And somehow, every time, the result is a rich, and often surprising, palette of flavors that makes dinner come alive.
I love being a small part of the process, and aspire to have her ability myself one of these days.
A note I just sent out:
I’m writing to announce that today will be my last day at SCVNGR.
The last year has been fast and exciting, and I’m grateful to have had the chance to work with some of the smartest people in an emerging new area of media and marketing.
Over the next few weeks, I will be focusing on a new initiative - more on that to come soon. In the meantime, I’m reachable at firstname.lastname@example.org, as well as the links below.
Thank you all for your continued support and help. I can’t wait for what’s next.
Another op-ed demonstrating a fundamental misunderstanding of the way the Internet works.
Reading this, one would think that “Once upon a time” most people actually sat quietly and pondered.
My hypothesis is that the distribution of intellectualism has been relatively constant, if not a little higher overall today. Media have always been just a means; most people consume quite useless information for pleasure, while some use it to create brilliant ideas.
For all the cures that have been found, products that have been launched, people who have been connected (and re-connected), history that has been uncovered, and movements that have been spurred in just the last few decades, it’s shocking that Mr. Gabler believes there are no big ideas today.