The Blogroll: Week 8

If you’re asking “what the heck am I looking at?”, here’s a primer. Also, if you know of an article or blog I should be reading, let me know.

The Blogroll

Ben Thompson - Open, Closed, and Privacy

And, while GDPR advocates have pointed to the lobbying Google and Facebook have done against the law as evidence that it will be effective, that is to completely miss the point: of course neither company wants to incur the costs entailed in such significant regulation, which will absolutely restrict the amount of information they can collect. What is missed is that the increase in digital advertising is a secular trend driven first-and-foremost by eyeballs: more-and-more time is spent on phones, and the ad dollars will inevitably follow. The calculation that matters, then, is not how much Google or Facebook are hurt in isolation, but how much they are hurt relatively to their competitors, and the obvious answer is “a lot less”, which, in the context of that secular increase, means growth.

A freedom vs. privacy balance clearly needs to be struck, but it’s fascinating to see how brands exploit the public to push their market-share needle. In truth, the public doesn’t understand any of this, and brands only care because they have a public perception to manage.

This is probably pessimistic of me, but Apple doesn’t care about your privacy because it’s the right thing to care about. They care about privacy because they’re an early computer giant that’s built around shipping hardware. Selling your data just doesn’t make sense in their model, and the PR nightmare that would come from it simply isn’t worth it. Google on the other hand sells your data because the public didn’t (doesn’t?) understand the consequences, and by the time anyone cared, they were like, “Welp, that’s our business model. You want search results and Waymo cars, right?”

What I’d love for people to realize is that brands — especially publicly traded brands — solely exist to provide value to shareholders. Society deemed their value to be X, investors gave them money, and they expect X to turn into Y by Q4. Your privacy is just part of their risk management calculation. If maintaining your privacy was good for business, your privacy would be a priority. If privacy means proves to mean nothing to people — as we’ve seen with Facebook — it won’t be a priority. And if actively exploiting customer privacy while breaking the rules helps more than it hurts, then ¯_(ツ)_/¯.


Brook Perry - How to create momentum on day zero

If the onboarding process doesn’t look to be going well for new hires, she reevaluates. Are the job objectives clear? Is this the project right for them? Because even with the best intentions, you can end up horribly mistaken when you give people starter projects that seem fitting.

“You can scoff at them, or be disappointed by their poor performance. You can leave them on that project, struggling and without help, for a long time. Or, maybe you eventually fire them,” Huston says. “But chances are, their bad performance is your fault — not giving them the right project or even placing them in the right role, or not giving them the right kind of guidance. Admit your mistake, put them on a different project, set them up to succeed, and hope to keep them for a long time.”

Hiring is hard, and setting people up for success is even harder. But if you don’t get it right, “bad performance” and frustration will become your culture. Not even a part of your culture — the entire culture.


Chris O’Neill - How Evernote’s CEO Stays Productive All Week Long

My teams used to hold biweekly status updates with dozens of people, but I realized this was a waste of everyone’s time. Now, I limit meetings to eight people and maintain a “no agenda, no attendance” policy: If the meeting host doesn’t share an agenda beforehand that makes it clear what the meeting is for and what they need, I don’t attend. For the meetings that I do attend, I make sure there’s a designated notetaker who can later share their notes and action items afterward.

I love this “no agenda, no attendance policy.” Especially in a remote workplace, status updates should all be written, tagged, and stored in a visible location. Every meeting should have a purpose, and theoretically, every two weeks should present an opportunity to reflect on some sort of sprint and plan next steps.


Michael Lopp - The Culture Chart

To deduce the culture of a company, all you have to do is listen. Culture is an undercurrent of ideas that ties a group of people together. In order for it to exist, it must move from one individual to the next. This is done via the retelling of stories.

“Max was this nobody performance nerd and three weeks before we were supposed to ship, he walked into the CEO’s office with a single piece of paper with a single graph. He dropped the graph on the table, sat down, and said, ‘No way we ship in three weeks. Six months. Maybe.’ The CEO ignored the paper, ‘We lose three million dollars if we don’t.’ Max stood up, pointed at the chart, and said, ‘We lose ten if we do. We must not ship crap.”

Whether this story is true or not is irrelevant. The story about how Max saved the company ten million dollars by telling the CEO “No” is retold daily. In hallways. At the bar over beers. The story continually reinforces an important part of this company’s culture.

We must not ship crap.

There isn’t a corporate values statement on the planet that so brutally and beautifully defines the culture of a company.

What’s that story in your company? Is there a story at all?


Nathan Toups - dumber phone

Though going completely “phoneless” is interesting to me, I wanted to explore another option: dumbing down the smart phone. Can we leverage the aspects of smart phones that are amazing, while minizing the addictive aspects? What if we could make our phones so boring we just look at them we we have to? What if we could strip out most, if not all of the dopamine inducing features and leave the phone in a state that is useful but boring. This is what I’ve been experimenting with for the last month and this is what I’d like to outline here.

Is it bad that what I want is a phone with no email or web-browser access? I literally write content for a living, but I don’t want to have a device in my pocket that can access it. I just want to take pictures, control my Roku, turn off my Hue bulbs, change the song I’m listening to, and pay for things at the grocery store.

I want a big, fat walled garden in my pocket. I’m sorry. My little brain just can’t handle having a mobile device that can access all the content you beautiful people are writing.


Rand Fishkin - New Data: How Google’s Organic & Paid CTRs Have Changed 2015-2018

Ultimately, I think this data shows us that the future of SEO will have to account for influencing searchers without earning a click, or even knowing that a search happened. That’s going to be very frustrating for a lot of organizations. But for a smart few who recognize this power, invest in “On-the-SERP-SEO,” and can deal with the lack of metrics accountability, there will be vast dividends to reap.

It’s interesting that we’ve raised a generation of entrepreneurs who expect marketing to be a pure PPC play. Data is great, but a persistent, excellent message is what really moves mountains.

It’s a shame people don’t read more magazines. Magazine ads are the best.


Alexander Chee - On Becoming an American Writer

Only in America do we ask our writers to believe they don’t matter as a condition of writing. It is time to end this. Much of my time as a student was spent doubting the importance of my work, doubting the power it had to reach anyone or to do anything of significance. I was already tired of hearing about how the pen was mightier than the sword by the time I was studying writing. Swords, it seemed to me, won all the time. By the time I found that Auden quote—“poetry makes nothing happen”—I was more than ready to believe what I thought he was saying. But books were still to me as they had been when I found them: the only magic.

To write is to sell a ticket to escape, not from the truth but into it. My job is to make something happen in a space barely larger than the span of your hand, behind your eyes, distilled out of all that I have carried, from friends, teachers, people met on planes, people I have seen only in my mind, all my mother and father ever did, every favorite book, until it meets and distills from you, the reader, something out of the everything it finds in you. All of this meets along the edge of a sentence like this one, as if the sentence is a fence, with you on one side and me on the other.

I don’t know if this only pertains to America, but I like the post nonetheless. It speaks to me.


The actual blogroll

(Blogs are ranked in order of appearances in these Blogroll posts. Also, I’m only listing blogs that don’t act as newspapers, because those are the ones I feel need the most support.)