Great Expectations

Meet Joseph Zimmerman.
Meet Joe
You may not know who he is by name but, what he invented changed the very fundamentals we hold at the center of our modern communications. He likely did not understand the gravity of his invention at the time. He likely saw it as the first successful implementation in a long series of attempts by many others before him to create a device that would be a boon to businesses everywhere, help their customers, and perhaps save them some money. Little did he know that at the heart of what he invented was a ground breaking paradigm shift. Something that would shift responsibilities and expectations we hold for others in basic ways. So, what was this device?
The answering machine.
That right. Humble on it’s simple mission, yet so very subversive. You see, before Mr. Zimmerman’s device, when someone called you on a telephone, and you were not available, the responsibility was on the caller to try again, not you, the receiver. There was no way to know if you missed a call. To businesses, lost calls meant lost customers. Therefore, operators and secretaries were often hired to take these calls, take down a message, and deliver it to the right person. To an individual, a missed call was simply that and no one but the caller held any responsibility for action.
The answering machine was welcomed by businesses and, by the time I was in my early teens, existed in many homes. If we called and left a message, we expected a return call. It alleviated much of our own responsibility for further action and replaced it with expectations we then placed on the recipient. For instance, expectations of a timely followup that are not agreed upon, are largely based upon what the person leaving the message feels is such, yet can only be the responsibility of those on the receiving end.
Of course, such responsibility shifts have multiplied further with the advent of email, voicemail, mobile phones, etc. Now, not only do we expect a response but we, more often than not, expect it in a time frame we have wrongly set for others. Without negotiation. Without agreement. A time that is generally and largely based upon our own response time and the expectations we place on ourselves. We, in general, mistakenly assume that everyone else is just like us. Therefore, if one is the sort of person who is always connected and reads and responds to email in minutes, we wrongly expect that everyone else is, or should be, doing the same.
But how do we counter this expectation? One way is to negotiate and set reasonable expectations for others. For example, in my last job, I let all of my coworkers know that I only looked at and responded to email twice a day for 1 hour. Once in the morning at 9am and then again at 4pm. Also, I set the email to manual checking so that, what I retrieved at those times was all I was going to see for an hour. If someone sent me an email at 4:15pm, I would not see it until 9am the next morning. It was the sort of job that took me away from my desk and the ability to check email easily so this agreement met with little resistance. It took a short time but, eventually, my coworkers learned that if it was something that required my immediate attention, the last thing they should do is send me an email. They called me on my mobile phone for urgent matters and questions instead and I, in turn, had less email to deal with and therefore could handle it in the allotted time frame.
While this may sound reasonable enough to do in a work environment, where one can address many people at once, in order for this to really work for everyone we communicate with is to have dozens of these little negotiations and agreements about how we handle all of our communications. Frankly, that is somewhat unreasonable. Must we help others with adjusting expectations on a near case by case basis? I mean, seriously, how does that scale?
Perhaps, instead, we should simply and collectively adjust our expectations of others. Perhaps we should all accept the responsibility that we are so easily and readily inclined to shirk upon others. And, maybe, just maybe, we should realize how valuable time itself is. How little of it we all have. Conversely, take the time to communicate to those important to you what they should reasonably expect. Maybe put it in your voicemail greeting or email signature. Replacing expectation and responsibility with compassion and understanding on all sides will reduce the stress of not knowing.
I don’t claim to have the answers to these questions. I simply have observations and the same struggles keeping up with the great expectations increasingly placed upon us all.

Introvert (NFJ)

My first time taking a Meyers-Briggs Personality Assessment, I questioned my MBTI score enough that I decided to take many more, at different times, to see if they would come out the same. They all did.
For those that don’t know what the heck I am talking about (which I assume is most of you), the score derived from this test is called the Meyers-Briggs |asihs|referrer|skenf
Type Indicator
(MBTI) To catch you up to speed, here is what Wikipedia has to say about the MBTI:

The MBTI preferences indicate the differences in people based on the following:

▪ How they focus their attention or get their energy (Extraversion or Introversion)

▪ How they perceive or take in information (Sensing or iNtuition)

▪ How they prefer to make decisions (Thinking or Feeling)

▪ How they orient themselves to the external world (Judgment or Perception)

By using their preference in each of these areas, people develop what Jung and Myers called psychological type. This underlying personality pattern results from the dynamic interaction of their four preferences, in conjunction with environmental influences and their own individual tendencies. People are likely to develop behaviors, skills, and attitudes based on their particular type. Each personality type has its own potential strengths as well as areas that offer opportunities for growth.

My MBTI is INFJ – which stands for Introversion, iNtuition, Feeling, Judging. That said, I want to mainly focus on that first part because that is the surprise – I’m an Introvert. Why is this a surprise? Because most people who know me in real life, and those that know me online, would likely never guess it.
The reason is that I do a good job of hiding this fact. I mask how completely draining most social interactions greater than a one on one conversation are to me. How much I value and protect my alone time. How my ability to interact socially, and talk, and appear outgoing, and speak my mind is a complete smokescreen to mask what I really feel – which is “I hate this. I’m frightened. Get me out of here so I can be alone”. That going to a small gathering exhausts me for a day. That going to a large event, means that it will take me weeks to fully recover. The way I hide this is by finding someone, or a group of people, that I know and talking their ear off. I cling to them for dear life in the hopes that I won’t have to be confronted with my sheer terror of the situation. Because these people see me as talkative, open, and liable to say anything, they likely assume that I am as outgoing, jovial, and energetic as any Extrovert. And don’t even get me started if I am somewhere I have never been and don’t know anyone. Putting me in a room with a group of people I do not know is like putting me in a tank full of sharks – I remain very still and quiet as possible and pray no one sees me while looking for the easiest exit.
Introversion in the MBTI does not always mean someone who can’t be social or behave in ways that the world would perceive as outgoing. In fact, many famous people and leaders would also fall in the Introversion spectrum. For instance, Martin Luther King, Mahatma Gandhi, and Nelson Mandela are all INFJs. It does mean that Extroversion is not where we derive our energy. It, in fact, drains it and that we can only recharge that energy through solitude.
What I have always found interesting, and this is purely my own anecdotal observation, is that most Extroverts have no capacity to understand Introverts. They just don’t get it. No matter how many times we might explain to them who we are, how we react in social situations, and how we feel. If you are an Introvert in a relationship with an Extrovert, it is not uncommon when having had a few days full of many gatherings, and then complaining about how tired you are, for them to cajole you into attending another. The reason being is that they derive their energy from such social interactions and have no capacity to understand that such a thing will not be the perfect anecdote to your ills. I should mention that I have spent my life surrounded by Extroverts, including my wife, I think many Introverts are drawn to them. Therefore, my anecdotes are based upon a lifetime of experience.
I guess all of this is just to share a bit about me. Why, though invited, you may not see me at your event, party, dinner or other gathering of two or more. Why, if I do come, and I know someone there, I will seem like a lost puppy, happy to find it’s master. Why you may not see me at another for a while. And why, before reading this, you had no idea why.

Another Crazy Idea

So, my friend Chris had a headset problem. You see, he had bought this headset to use with Skype, but could not get it working on his Mac. Being that I am a Macintosh Consultant by trade, he reached out to me on Twitter to ask for my advice. I gave it to him, albeit a bit too late and after he already discovered the answer on his own.
Still this got him thinking about the idea that I should find some way to offer remote support. I have been consulting for a long time, my head is filled with years worth of tools, tips and troubleshooting tricks. The technology for me to be able to remotely support a Mac is not only out there but I do this anyway for a few clients already. The only question was how to “sell” that. How does one leverage the goodwill and following I have on Twitter, Minimal Mac, and elsewhere to help get the word out about my business, my remote support service offering, as well as help people who need it? We scheduled a conference call and brainstormed the idea a bit but nothing solid came out right away.
Then, a couple of days ago now, I was having lunch with another friend of mine. He is a really good friend and I value his advice and ideas. Therefore, I mentioned my other conversation about providing remote support. He then mentioned what became another crazy idea – Why not offer Mac support, on Twitter, for free? The thought being that, if I could answer the query on Twitter for free I would do that. If not, I would offer the person the option of getting their issue solved remotely for a reasonable fee.
I fell in love with the idea immediately. I went back to my home office right after lunch, got my business account – @machinemethods – set up, configured and ready for action. After consulting with Princess Bethany and others about the idea, I launched it the next day. The verdict: Lots of win!
First of all, I really love what I do. I love to help people. I love to come up with solutions to otherwise frustrating problems. I love to be challenged by complicated issues. Furthermore, doing this kind of rapid support, keeps me on my toes and exercises skills and knowledge that I don’t use as often in my regular travels. Finally, doing so with the added constraint of a 140 character limit is a whole lot of fun when it is accomplished. Not only that but, even though it has not resulted in paid business yet, Machine Methods is getting a wealth of exposure and will continue to if I prove that I know what I am doing when it comes to Macs. It has kept me busy but it is not overwhelming (yet). But the few people I have really helped make it all the more worth it.
If you you have a Mac, are on Twitter, and need some support, have I got a deal for you

The Mother of Invention

It has been said that necessity is the mother of invention. I would say that, more often, problems are. This was recently brought to mind when I read about and subsequently purchased this pencil:


You see, I have always hated writing with pencils. I hated the way they felt on the page (scratchy), I hated that the line would become uneven quickly as your sharp point quickly ground to dull. I hated constantly having to turn it slightly every couple of words in an attempt to keep the point sharp.
Uni-ball has solved this problem with the Kuru Toga Mechanical Pencil line and it has done so in a very simple way. It has a spring-loaded clutch system that slowly rotates the lead every time it hits the page. This in turn keeps the lead constantly sharp at the point. It is one of those eureka moments that makes one say “Why didn’t I think of that?”.
I suspect the answer to that question is that, most of us, work with a problem instead of looking for a full fledged solution. In my example, I either did not use a pencil or, when forced to, came up with a solution that, in truth, was a way to work with the problem. The difference is a subtle one, but it is often times what separates folks like you and I from the folks that come up with brilliant “million dollar” ideas.

My Daily Log

I have long been intrigued by the usefulness and power of keeping a daily log of ones activities. I felt it was time to fully detail my method and workflow. Recently, I have been coming across many articles surrounding the methods and values of “life tracking”. I have some links to those articles and other related resources at the end of the post.
There are many useful reasons for keeping a daily log. For instance, in a former job, I had a micro managing boss who often popped their head into my office to ask what I had gotten done that day. Because I kept a good time stamped log of what I did, I was always able to tell her exactly what I had done, when I did it, and even how many times I was interrupted by other things that prevented me from doing even more (including her popping her head in my office).
The options and possibilities for how to keep a log are nearly endless. For instance, a simple piece of paper or notebook would suffice. The key, for me at least, is to make your Daily Log as simple as possible to add an entry to.
My daily log is a text file I call @log.txt. The preceding @ sign allows it to sort to the top of my finder window alphabetically. As plain text it is highly “portable” (i.e. I can open it up on any device). The trick is in the workflow and couple of tools I use to add a log entry. Without further adieu, here is how I tie it all together:
To add an entry, I invoke Quicksilver:


The |niiei|referrer|yznir
advantage of using Quicksilver is that it is available to me from any application I happen to be in at the time. I don’t have to “switch modes” to add an entry. I simply type “@log” and it finds my log file. I then hit the tab key and select the “Prepend Text” command. I personally like having the latest entry first in the file.
I then invoke a TextExpander command, triggered by typing “dlog” that formats the entry the way I wish:


I then type the entry, hit return and it is added to the file. The result is an entry that looks like this:


I store this file in my Dropbox folder so it syncs to all of my machines and “the cloud”. Thus, it is available to me anywhere I can access the internet.
This setup has been working very well for me for years now. I think a big key is to come up with something that is easy and as ubiquitous as possible.
For further reference and ideas, here are some other resources about keeping a daily log:
* For This Guru, No Question Is Too Big – Jim Collins tracks his activities to ensure he is spending time on the things he feels are important.
* Politican as self-tracker – Bob Graham’s notebooks – How a US Senator proved the CIA wrong with his obsessive self tracking.
* Ping’s Thesis – From Diary to Graph – How one man not only tracks his daily activities but also can graph it with fascinating results.
* My Big-Arse Text File – a Poor Man’s Wiki+Blog+PIM – Much of my own inspiration came from this post by my friend and short term personal saviour Matthew Cornell.
* Living in text files – Why do a use a text file for my daily log? The answers are here.
In a serious error of omission, I forgot to include probably the best two posts on this very subject written by my friend Chris Bowler:
* Track Yourself With a Custom Log File
* Custom Log File Revisited

The forgotten cost of features

A perfectly blank sheet of white paper is a tool of infinite possibility. For input you could use a pencil, a pen, a crayon, a marker, a stamp, a brush or more. You could use all of those at once. You can write or draw or paint in any direction. Even multiple directions on the same sheet. You can use any color you want. How you enter data onto it and how that information is structured seems almost limitless. That flexibility and power is available to you because of it’s lack of features. In fact, it is featureless – devoid of them.
Let’s add a feature. Let’s put some ruled lines on the paper. Make no mistake, this feature adds value. It allows me to be able to write neatly by using the lines as a guide. This makes the data more legible by providing a structure for me to follow. It also has a cost. It takes away some of the flexibility. Could I still write sideways in opposite direction of the lines? Sure. Am I likely to? No. Why? Well, it would go against the provided structure and thus make the data less legible. Ruled lines would intersect and, to a small extent, obscure my words and drawings.
OK, next feature – A box at the top left corner of the short end of the page. Perfect. That empty box has some value. Perhaps I could write a date in there. Perhaps I could use a colored marker to fill it in – color code the page. Perhaps I could put the name of the project that this piece of paper belongs to. Does the box take away from the available free space on the page? Sure it does. It is a trade off though. What I give up in space I gain in value right? Well, that depends on the perspective of the individual, but I think I like it.
Enough on that. Let’s add a feature to that box we added. Lets pre-print what we think people should use that box for. You know, to make it clearer for the end user. Let’s print a label in that box called “Title”. Perfect. Now I have added value by reducing the amount of thought a user of this paper has to put into figuring out why that box is there, right? I think you can now see where I am going with this…
I think it is far too easy to look at the addition of features to anything – hardware, software, analog, digital, even a simple piece of blank paper – as a benefit without also recognizing the associated and often forgotten cost.
In the world of hardware and software, the companies, developers, and tools that get it right weigh the cost of adding features heavily and take every feature addition under great consideration. In fact, they reject most feature requests right out of the starting gate. They appreciate feature requests but more often than not read them and ignore them. They simply let the signal rise above the noise to determine what features to add. When they do add a feature, they do it in the most unobtrusive and seamless way possible. They are careful to make sure the value far outweighs the cost.
The costs do not stop there. In fact, if you add a feature you now have to support that feature if it breaks or does not work as the user expects it to. Also, adding a feature could actually loose you a sale. Those of us (I am not alone) who are feature wary may opt for something else just for the simplicity.
This does not mean that you cannot have a ton of features yet still maintain flexibility. One example is TextMate. TextMate is a very powerful text editing program for the Mac. It is chock full of features and has a robust plug in architecture that allows you to add even more. Yet all that power is hidden in the UI. When you launch TextMate all you see is a blank white page ready for input. The features are not in your way. If you just want to get some writing done in plain text you have the only feature you need right there. The power is not there unless you need it and then mostly as a menu item optionally accessible via a keyboard shortcut.
On the other hand, Notes.app on the iPhone is very basic in features. You can take notes, you can email a note, and that is about it. But that is what makes it great. You can use Notes.app any way you want. Type up a blog post draft. Enter in a book recommendation. Make a shopping list. Note the dimensions of that room you need to buy furniture for. In fact, it’s lack of features and structure are what provide it’s true power.
As you can see from these to disparate examples, It is not about not adding features. Features in an of themselves are not a problem. It is about adding the right features and only the right ones. I like ruled paper with a predefined area for a title and date just like the next guy. It is about understanding that for every added feature there is a cost and not forgetting to consider that.

Elements of Style for Twitter: The Art of The Follow

This is the second of my series of posts attempting to provide some proper style guidelines for Twitter. It is my hope that, with enough uptake, these will help raise the level of conversation and quality on Twitter.


There are many criteria and considerations one may choose to examine when deciding whether or not to follow someone on Twitter. In fact, many criteria are needed to consider such a weighty decision because every person you follow changes not only the number of tweets in your stream but also the overall personal value of Twitter itself.

Here are some important criteria:

  • Tweets – Quickly scan through several pages of the persons tweet history. Are any of interest and/or value to you? If so, how many? Place value on quality over quantity.

  • Profile – How one describes themselves in such a small amount of space is often a very accurate picture of their interests and what is important to them. Does it interest you?

  • Website – Click on the link they provide to their personal website. Read what is offered there. Does that help to paint a better picture of them and their interests? Do they align with yours?

  • Product – Do they produce a product that you use? Do you care to hear about new releases or other product news?

Here are some important considerations:

  • Relationships – As a social network, Twitter is designed to cultivate and maintain relationships. Even those who use Twitter solely as a microblogging platform at the least is seeking to build a relationship with the audience. Be respectful of this and follow no more people than you are capable of cultivating a relationship with, no matter how small or one sided.
  • Your “noise” threshold – How many people can you follow and keep up without losing important and useful information in between the less useful tweets? Everyone is different here. Some people can follow thousands and be OK with that. I would suggest that 250–300 is the maximum for most people.

  • Your time threshold – Anyone you add to your Twitter stream will increase the amount of time you will need to read and process those tweets. Time has value. Consider adding people costly.

Being followed

If you would like to be the sort of Twittizen that people would like to follow, here are some style elements you should follow:

  • Give people a good reason to follow. – Use Twitter to provide a mixture of useful information, humorous asides (if your have good humor) and occasionally answer the single question Twitter asks (“What are you doing?”). The information and humor is why people may follow but the ambient intimacy the question asked creates helps people get to know and, thus form a relationship, with you.

  • Who are you? – Make sure your bio and the web link you post therein are accurate representations of you and what you hope to offer those who follow. Doing so allows them to be able to make an informed choice.

  • Be helpful. – If someone posts a question in an area that you have some knowledge, share it. If there is a product that you love and use, evangelize it. Reach out to those who have a need as it raises the overall karmic nature of Twitter.

  • Be respectful. – As stated above, people who choose to follow you are investing their time and attention which come at a high cost. Honor that.

Elements of Style for Twitter: ReTweets and Follow Friday

This is the first in what may end up being a series of posts. This is my attempt to provide some proper style guidelines for Twitter. It is my hope that, with enough uptake, these will help to raise the level of conversation and quality on Twitter. If you do not know what Twitter is (and hopefully you enjoy that rock you are living under) please see: http://twitter.com/

The Useful ReTweet
A ReTweet (RT) is the re posting of a tweet that someone you follow has posted so that your followers might be exposed to the information if they, themselves, do not follow the original author of the tweet.
Here is an example of how it is often done…
Original Tweet:

Here is a great link on personal productivity. Get your butt in gear: http://examplehere.com


RT @patrickrhone: Here is a great link on personal productivity. Get your butt in gear: http://examplehere.com

The problem with this is that there is no context provided by the retweeter as to why he or she may find this important enough to retweet. It is for this reason that I generally suggest avoiding them. Instead, choose to do what I like to call a “via” instead.
Here is the Original Tweet again:

Here is a great link on personal productivity. Get your butt in gear: http://examplehere.com


This is a fantastic post about productivity. Really helped me out: http://examplehere.com (via @patrickrhone)

The advantage to this is that now those who follow you to hear your voice and opinions actually receive them. Not those that belong to someone who they may or may not choose to follow.
The Proper “Follow Friday”
Follow Friday is a kind of Twitter tradition. Basically, every Friday you post a Tweet to recommend people you think are worth following and include the #followfriday hashtag.
Here is an example of the usual and, in my opinion, unstylish norm for this:

Follow @person1, @person2, @person3, @person4, @person5, #followfriday

I hate it when people do it like this example (just spew a list of usernames). I think what would be far more stylish and useful to do something like this:

Follow @person1 for great quotes, funny asides and interesting links #followfriday

By doing so, you are telling your followers not only who you think they should follow but also why. Therefore they can make an informed choice on the matter without needing to do further research.


At the end of the year, it is only natural to look back on the year that was in reflection of the hopes and goals one has for the year to come. For me, these reflections often begin to coalesce around a central word or theme. For me, this year, that theme is the idea of value.
Therefore, I would like to start this off by proposing a revolutionary idea. One that I am sure will take some explaining and, hopefully, spur some honest thought…
Money has no value.
I think if this year had any lesson to teach it is this one. I am not just talking about the current economic crisis, although that will help to support my proposition. Increasingly when I think about the things I value and the things that have true value in this world, money is not one of them. As an example, lets take a look at the problem our nation (and by extension our planet) finds itself in.
A big reason our economy is in the current shambles it is in is due to the seize up and collapse of a little something called the Commercial Paper Market. Here is how Wikipedia explains what this is:

“In the global money market, commercial paper is an unsecured promissory note with a fixed maturity of one to 270 days. Commercial Paper is a money-market security issued (sold) by large banks and corporations to get money to meet short term debt obligations (for example, payroll), and is only backed by an issuing bank or corporation’s promise to pay the face amount on the maturity date specified on the note. Since it is not backed by collateral, only firms with excellent credit ratings from a recognized rating agency will be able to sell their commercial paper at a reasonable price.”
Let me break this down for you. Our entire intra-business economy in this country is not based on money, it is based on promises and trust. It is based on the trading of that trust. Lose that trust and the market collapses. This is, albeit a simplistic explanation for the purposes of my example, largely why the whole system collapsed – the companies and banks playing this little game of Monopoly lost trust in each other. Trust has value. Money does not.
Here is another example. I know someone who lost a parent fairly recently. This parent left behind a large home that was well maintained and paid for and a large trust fund that would reasonably keep them financially comfortable for the rest of their lives. We are talking about a fair amount of money here. Lets just say that, even in this economy, that person could call themselves a millionaire and be more than correct.
I know this person well and know that they would give it all back for a single moment longer with their loved one. They would do this without hesitation or thought. Time has value. Money does not.
It is one of the reasons you will never see advertisements here or any of the online ventures I choose to be involved in. I have no real interest in money for it’s own sake. It does not motivate or drive me. It is effectively worthless to me other than as a means to an (often unfortunate) end.
Where I am going with all of this is to try to remember, as we reflect back on the year that was, what truly has value in our lives. I would posit that if your principle motivation for anything – your career, your blog, etc. – is money, you will often find the value of those activities lacking. Be not concerned with the money that you gained or lost. Instead, be concerned with the time you had, the experiences and people that filled it, and the lessons and trust you built by using it effectively. And then, resolve to increase the value of that time and trust in the year to come.

My Manifesto: Speak the truth.

The courage to speak your own truth will free others and allow them to do the same
The truth is hard. It can sometimes be hurtful to those we wish not to hurt. More often than not it exposes and highlights things we rather be left in dark corners. There are many who would rather not hear it and would seek to knock you down rather than have you speak it. Speaking truth, in the face of any consequence, takes courage beyond belief.
Sometimes even simple truths about ourselves are hard to face. Even more so when we admit them to others.
Yet we must. We must because it is the only way to be free. When we speak the truths who’s very revelation bind us in fear, not only do we free ourselves of the burden, we engage and encourage others to have the courage to come out of the shadows and say…
“Me too”.