Feed That Wolf

The One You Feed is a show I often listen to on my hikes or while doing chores around the house.  It starts with the parable of the two wolves. You know the one. They have great guests and it’s always an interesting conversation.

The guest this week is our friend Kristin Neff, who my wife and I met because of our work at Square Peg Foundation — especially with Autism.

Joell knows Kristin better than I because of her many trips out to Kristin’s place near Austin, Texas to work with Kristin’s husband at Horseboy Foundation, but I follow Kristin’s work with interest.

Kristin Neff, Ph.D. is Associate Professor of Psychology at the University of Texas at Austin, and her pioneering post-doctoral research on Self-Compassion is the basis for her book, Self Compassion: The proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself, and The Center for Mindful Self-Compassion, which she started with  Dr. Christopher Germer of Harvard Medical School. These ideas are also well aligned with our Square Peg Foundation work and my consulting in technology and business.

This interview with Kristin is a great introduction to her research and the core ideas behind mindfulness and self-compassion. Enjoy!

The One You Feed #106: Kristin Neff

New to Podcasts?

I recommend Overcast for iOS. I’ve heard great things about Pocket Casts for Android (and also for iOS)

Webmention testing, part 2

Replying to indieweb post - test Wgebmention by Darius DunlapDarius Dunlap(Darius, Again)
Here's the post I'm replying to:   https://darius.dunlaps.net/2015/12/03/testing-posting-from-quill-micropub/   That should trigger the webmention stuff, assuming it's allinstalled and setup right.     

Let’s see if this mention goes back to my withkown site:


(Sorry about the misspelling.)



You are not your depression

Conversations on depression have been flowing around the tech community for the last few months. It’s important, and many people have written about their experiences. There is some wonderful, helpful, and deeply personal insights out there. 

This morning I found one that really hit me. Mike Monteiro is a Designer and runs Mule Design Studio in San Francisco. He’s one of those insightful voices that I always enjoy reading or hearing, whether on his blog or in conference talks. His books Design is a Job and You’re My Favorite Client are must-reads for anyone involved in creating a product. We’ve never met, but by all accounts he’s a great guy. 

He has also struggled with depression. 

His essay is by his own admission not a comprehensive view of depression. But he says one of the most important things that people need to know: 

I am still me. Better yet, I think I am finally me. I’m not living with some shit demon in my head all the time.

You don’t have to be your depression. Go be you.
From <https://medium.com/@monteiro/this-is-about-the-time-i-chose-not-to-die-3c2cc97cf769>


You can’t read much about depression and mental health without hearing the message that people have a hard time, for lots of reasons, taking the step to get help. Mike’s personal story steps beyond the cliché to touch that deep fear of loss — that fear that your depression somehow makes you who you are. 

Fight to Make Your Product Great

In the mid-80’s I took my second tech job, at a company called Silicon Graphics, Inc.

SGI, before it officially contracted its name to “SGI”, was a fantastic place to grow and learn. It was intense and focused, and my modest technical know-how in Unix, TCP/IP Networking, and Computer Hardware matched well as the company grew its Unix workstation business and more customers connected computers to Internet Protocol networks. I was soon a main contact point for the most intractable problems from customers, and the Customer Support representative to new product introductions.

The focus and intensity made for arguments, some that probably would seem to outsiders as knock-down, drag-out fights.  But a friend from those days put it well when he said, “We fight with each other, but we fight to make a great product.”

If I came to engineering with a problem and hadn’t done my homework, didn’t have a good handle on what was happening and why, and hadn’t collected useful information from the customer, the criticism was withering. One networking engineer, who I consider an important early mentor, was especially tough. But once I learned to do my research and bring him useful information on real problems, he was very responsive and engaged, helping me pull in other engineers on really complex cases.

My team worked with real customers every day. We had an understanding of how real customers used these computers, and the real environments they were in — the networks, the labs, and the variety of configurations, and why a problem that some might consider a minor annoyance was actually a major disruption for another customer. But often it was difficult to produce clear data supporting our insights. By the time the data was clear, the problem was too big, or at least much more expensive to fix.

This was especially the case in new product introductions. Even down to the question, “Is this ready to ship?”, we were there, contributing to the decision and wielding a rarely used veto. These arguments were often heated, but the Product Managers and Marketing and Sales Execs came to know that our concerns should be considered, even on apparently light evidence. And we knew that a big part of our job in new product intro’s was to ensure that we never needed to use that veto.

It was an environment where you were expected to know your stuff, whether on technical topics or in business. And even if you had a reputation for knowing your stuff, you would get challenged, and you had to fight it out.

As Silicon Graphics grew, it became known as the place the best people all wanted to work. Not because of that original espresso machine that Jim Clark bought for the engineering team, but because of our reputation for excellence in every part of the company.

But as the growth started to accelerate in the early 90’s, things changed. Instead of arguments about making our products and services better, about serving customers, fixing problems and getting things done, the fights became political. Which VP was supporting that position? Who are you? Whose budget is this going to come out of? In-fighting between divisions and groups and backstabbing and office politics grew. SGI had become a “big company.”

Many great people left, but many stuck around. Even if you were unhappy, the growth made it easy to find something new and interesting to do.

But the necrosis had set in.

We were no longer focused on building great products and changing the world. We were fighting the wrong fights.

Building a great product (or service) is never easy. Tough decisions must be made, and among smart, motivated people, coming from differing experience and perspectives, that’s going to cause arguments. And even in the best teams, sometimes the argument will go too far, or stray into personal attacks, or involve some back-channel politicking. And learning to develop an idea and gather support for it is critical to getting anything done in a large organization.

You have to keep bringing everyone back to the point: To make a great product.

IIW, an Open Space Conference


(IIW)[http://www.internetidentityworkshop.com] uses the (Open Space Technology)[https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Open_Space_Technology] process for self-organizing the conference. The importance of all of this is often unclear to the newcomer, but people come around, as they come to understand that there rules generate a conference that works much like the hallways and bars in traditional conferences. The whole thing becomes a  great swirling stew of fascinating interlocking conversations, and real work comes out of it. 

This starts with four principles:

1. Whoever comes are the right people. These people came to this session because they  wanted to be here. The mix of opinions, ideas, and questions that result are exactly what we are hoping for. 

2. Whatever happens is the only thing that could have. These sessions are generative. What happens is not always what you thought might happen, but that’s ok! Let go of your expectations and enjoy the flow of ideas. 

3. Whenever it starts is the right time. Start on time, even if you are expecting more people. Someone may join mid-way through, and that’s ok. 

4. Whenever it’s over it’s over. We give over the space to the next sessions on time. If you are still in the middle of a great conversation, move somewhere, or schedule a follow-up. If the conversation is over, or the part that interests you is done, then you may leave. 

Plus, the important Law of Two Feet:

You have both Mobility and Responsibility! Move around if you like. if a conversation isn’t interesting, just move. It’s common that there is several interesting sessions at the same time slot — move around, sample and enjoy. 

Book of Proceedings:

Every IIW generates a Book of Proceedings, containing the notes from every session. it’s important that someone at each session takes notes. There is a simple, standard format for the notes, to include the sessions number, location, convener, title and note-taker. 

See also: (IIW Wiki)[http://iiw.idcommons.net/Main_Page] and (IIW Session Notes Format)[http://iiw.idcommons.net/Note_Form]


IIW XXI Begins

Internet Identity Workshop is my favorite conference. The topics covered, which span across Identity, Privacy, Community, and Security and more, continue to be relevant even after more than a decade. The “Open Spaces” format generates lively discussions across a range of topics, all created on the spot by the participants. 

It’s also a conference full of friends who I’ve come to know over the years. I’ve already had a couple quick “catch-up” conversations and looking forward to more. 


To Make a Great Product, Be Present and Self-Aware

A key principle when thinking about a product is to understand, deeply, the needs of the user of the product. What job are they hiring it to do? Why – What are they trying to accomplish?

But this is difficult – and not just because it takes long hours and many cycles of iterative improvement. It’s not just that the things people tell us about what they want are wrong, or at best incomplete. It’s not just that it’s difficult to simultaneously have deep belief in your insight and also question every assumption.

It’s difficult because we get in our own way. 

We have difficulty sorting out our own motivations, dealing with our own emotional responses, and knowing our own mind. So how can we really understand someone else? At the same time, we also tend to attribute motivations and meaning to the actions of other people —as if we know what they are thinking. 

Look at your personal life. Have you ever been accused of some transgression that all turned out to be a misunderstanding? Now, be honest, have you ever made that sort of assumption about someone else, later to find out that you were wrong? 

These emotional examples just highlight a more pervasive problem. Our minds tend to make a leap of meaning, a shortcut of sorts, to help us understand the world around us.  We tell ourselves stories about things that happen around us that build our concept of how things work. This skill is useful. But we also tend to stick to stories that reinforce our ideas about the world. We resist, and explain away, anything new or different —especially if it challenges our core ideas. 

“If you can identify a delusional popular belief, you can find what lies behind it: the contrarian truth.”

– Peter Thiel, Zero to One

We can never perfectly understand the motivations, aspirations, emotions and thoughts of other people. We can probably never perfectly understand our own. But by working at it, we can grow and become better at it. We can see our own thoughts as just thoughts. We can turn them over, examine them, think about alternatives, and decide what to think. 

This is the beginning. It’s not about having a formula for success, but rather a skill of being present and self-aware so that we can make better use of any idea, method, formula, or framework. It’s not about being perfect. Just notice that you are making assumptions or assigning motivation, and come back to self-awareness. 

Be Present. Be Self-Aware. Innovate. 

Square Peg Ranch On TV

For the next few months, our work at Square Peg Ranch is featured on America’s Best Racing and Fox Sports. The first short video in the series was shown today during the horse racing coverage of the United Nations Stakes at Monmouth Park, NJ. Joell and I watched at a local pizza place with some of our families. 

You can watch an extended version of this first video on the America’s Best Racing Website. 

In the video you’ll see several of our kids featured, plus Davis Finch, our Grantwriter who also keeps our horse and lesson records — tracking everything that goes on with the horses, including all training, exercise, injuries, medications and preventive care. (For more information about Square Peg Foundation and our work at Square Peg Ranch, check out our website, SquarePegFoundation.org or reach out directly to me.)

The team at Fox Sports and America’s Best Racing have done a really beautiful job on this video. They were a joy to work with and we’re eagerly looking forward to seeing the rest of the series!