November 4, 2015 Chris Hall

What does your workplace attire say about you?

Steve Sammartino on workplace attire:

We all wear uniforms to work, even when we are not in the Army. Sometimes it’s subtle, sometimes it’s overt, but it always says much about hierarchy and whether we follow rules. The stricter the uniform, the stronger the hierarchy. Organisations with an informal, yet ‘expected uniform’ have less freeform thinking, and a culture of rule followers. Just take a look around this week at what people wear – from McDonalds, to bank tellers, to politicians, to creative types and you’ll see their culture on display.

We can use our uniform to immediate advantage. Often the decision is as simple as do we want to fit in this time, or stand out on purpose?

Again, pajamas. I don’t know what that says about me.

November 3, 2015 Chris Hall

Like money? Choose censorship (apparently)

L. Gordon Crovitz on censorship in the XYZ registry:

In October, Los Angeles-based, which operates several new Internet domains, made a deal with the Chinese government under which it will enforce Beijing’s censorship globally. The registry will let China ban domain names everywhere based on Beijing’s blacklist that includes “freedom,” “liberty” and “democracy,” as well as any reference to the Tiananmen massacre.

The registry says China has given it 12,000 words to ban from its Web addresses, which include the suffixes .xyz, .college, .rent, .protection and .security.


Here’s some background from Kevin Murphy at Domain Incite (the article WSJ referenced but failed to link to):

Chinese citizens are allowed to register domains in non-Chinese registries, but they may not activate them unless the registry complies with the law.

That law requires the registry to be located on the Chinese mainland. XYZ plans to comply by hiring local player ZDNS to proxy its EPP systems and mirror its Whois.

Later in the article…

Up to a third of the .xyz zone — about three hundred thousand names — is believed to be owned by Chinese registrants who are currently unable to actually use their names.

The company clearly has compelling business reasons to comply with Chinese law.

From the business side, it’s easy to see why XYZ feels compelled to carry out the censorship plan. But censorship on the web is about as anti-internet as it gets. We should be promoting the freedom of ideas and dialogue, not kowtowing to China’s (or any country’s) censorship requests.

November 2, 2015 Chris Hall

Progress report or it didn't happen

Jim Sliwa on achieving goals:

If you are trying to achieve a goal, the more often that you monitor your progress, the greater the likelihood that you will succeed, according to research published by the American Psychological Association. Your chances of success are even more likely if you report your progress publicly or physically record it.

“Monitoring goal progress is a crucial process that comes into play between setting and attaining a goal, ensuring that the goals are translated into action,” said lead author Benjamin Harkin, PhD, of the University of Sheffield. The study appears in the journal Psychological Bulletin®. “This review suggests that prompting progress monitoring improves behavioral performance and the likelihood of attaining one’s goals.”

November 2, 2015 Chris Hall

Your office might be making you stupid

Beth Mole on how stale air can kill the brain cells:

Compared with inhaling fresh air, gulping down the stale air found in conventional office buildings can stifle cognitive function by half, researchers report in Environmental Health Perspectives. The finding suggests that improving the performance, productivity, and health of many office workers could be done with just a fresh breeze.

“The results are striking,” lead researcher Joseph Allen, director of the Healthy Buildings program at Harvard, told Ars. Researchers knew that air quality would likely affect cognitive function and work performance, but earlier studies included few people and reported subjective data. We didn’t expect to see that high quality air could double cognitive scores, Allen said.

I’m happy to report that iwantmyname allows me to do all my writing outside. In my pajamas.

November 2, 2015 Chris Hall

Your password is probably pretty bad

Tom Simonite on why current password advice is misleading:

“Password must include upper and lowercase letters, and at least one numeric character.” A common scold dished out by websites or software when you open an account or change a password—and one that new research suggests is misleading.

A study that tested state-of-the-art password-guessing techniques found that requiring numbers and uppercase characters in passwords doesn’t do much to make them stronger. Making a password longer or including symbols was much more effective.

In 2015, “password” is just slightly worse than “Password1”. Maybe try something like “I hate typing in passwords!” (or start using a tool like 1Password).

October 30, 2015 Chris Hall

If your user interface promotes bad passwords, you're not doing it right

Two tweets by Merlin Mann on how technology promotes bad passwords:

Tweet 1: If you can entirely set up an Apple TV without screaming at the sky, your passwords probably suck.

Tweet 2: I’m not saying all this merely to bitch. I’m concerned that stuff like Apple TV genuinely contributes to people’s shitty password choices.

We (the tech industry) spend a lot of time: 1. promoting good user interfaces. 2. promoting good passwords. If your good user interface doesn’t promote good passwords, you’re not doing it right.

October 30, 2015 Chris Hall

We do domain names

Mike Loukides on wanting tools that do one thing well, as opposed to a number of things not so well:

I’ve been lamenting the demise of the Unix philosophy: tools should do one thing, and do it well. The ability to connect many small tools is better than having a single tool that does everything poorly.

That philosophy was great, but hasn’t survived into the Web age. Unfortunately, nothing better has come along to replace it. Instead, we have “convergence”: a lot of tools converging on doing all the same things poorly.

We do domain names. That’s it.

October 29, 2015 Chris Hall

Ad blockers and an-ugh-lytics

François Lanthier Nadeau on how ad blockers are messing with Snipcart’s metrics:

We quickly spotted a few listed third parties names that reminded us how effective those blockers can be. Especially when we read: Google Analytics.

Why the facepalm? Well, most of our website visitors and potential users are tech-savvy developers who are highly susceptible of running general purpose blocking software such as uBlock & uBlock Origin. In other words, we had just realized that a potentially substantial chunk of our website traffic were basically… ghosts.

We learned something we should’ve learned a while ago: we can’t rely 100% on our tracking analytics. As a SaaS startup that focuses most of its growth on content marketing and website optimization, that’s not exactly good news. So for SaaS businesses, ads are just the tip of the ad-blocking/general purpose blocking iceberg. And what’s under the water here has a much more important potential impact on the businesses themselves.

Not that we care (I myself run ad blockers on desktop and mobile), but I’m pretty sure our analytics are barely worth tracking these days.

On a related note, I think if we all turned off analytics and did marketing/site content solely based on what we think is most worthwhile for our customers, the internet would be a much more eclectic place. Maybe not measurably better, but certainly more interesting.

October 29, 2015 Chris Hall

Quality of work-life should be a top priority

Ana Swanson on how job stress is literally killing people in the US:

People often like to groan about how their job is “killing” them. Tragically, for some groups of people in the U.S., that statement appears to be true.

A new study by researchers at Harvard and Stanford has quantified just how much a stressful workplace may be shaving off of Americans’ life spans. It suggests that the amount of life lost to stress varies significantly for people of different races, educational levels and genders, and ranges up to nearly three years of life lost for some groups.

Tech startups tend to spend a good deal of time talking about workplace culture and work/life balance, but it’s clearly something all business owners and managers need to be working on. These workplace decisions have long term effects.

(On a related note, the US clearly needs to figure out its healthcare system. The amount of years shaved from lack of health care is insane.)

October 29, 2015 Chris Hall

Standing desks are for overachievers

Adele Peters on the new Altwork Station:

Maybe you slouch in your Aeron chair. Maybe you tried—and failed—to make using a standing desk a habit. Maybe, like me, your preferred working position is curled up on a sofa.

Is it time for an ergonomic desk and chair that lazy people will actually want to use?

The new Altwork Station, designed by aerospace engineers, has a standing and sitting position. But it also reclines fully into a “zero g” position—basically as comfortable as being in bed—with a monitor, laptop, and mouse floating the proper distance away above you.

Out with your standing desk. Out with your upright chair. Out with your yoga ball. If you want to maximize my workplace happiness, I’d like to roll out of my real bed and into a work bed. (To be fair, I already do 75% of my work in a giant beanbag.)

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