Why politics is important…

Politics can make a difference. And it all starts with ideas. Some ideas are more universal and meaningful than others.

My children are the center of my world—and when I think about the issues facing our nation right now, I think about what that means for our girls, and the world that we’re leaving for them and all of our children. There is so much at stake—this is about more than just politics—it’s about whether or not we as a people can move forward through times of challenge, and cynicism, and frustration. And use the opportunity we’ve been given to build better communities and to build a better country.

Excerpt from: Organizing for America | Erica Sagrans’s Blog: Michelle Obama: “This isn’t about politics”

We’ve accomplished a lot, but the job is clearly not done. ?So when voting tomorrow, think about the opportunity we have to make a lasting difference, not just for ourselves, but for our children and grandchildren.

Yes on 19… (California)

I’m backing California Proposition 19, even though I’m personally disinterested in marijuana. Paul Buchheit makes the argument beautifully, so I thought I would share.

Not only is prohibition an attack on our basic right to control our own bodies and minds (a philosophical point which most people probably don’t care about), but prohibition also provides a multi-billion dollar subsidy to violent criminal organizations that threaten our physical safety and security, something everyone cares about.


Go read the whole thing. Even if you don’t live in California.

That one teacher

I was lucky – I had several. Not all of them were perfect, but each was perfect for me. They made a difference for lots of kids, and for me, they made all the difference.

I was never an easy kid to teach. I was called precocious, which I think was a nice way of saying “pain in the ass.” School was boring and sitting still was impossible. I never got impressive grades, but would test well. If a subject captivated me, I would devour everything I could find about it, but this happened far too infrequently for most teachers.

Except for the few. Each of them found a way to keep me engaged, to expose the fascinating detail of a subject, or bring meaning and relevance to it. Science became a study of the way things work, rather than just facts and formulae. History showed stories of struggle and redemption, rather than just dates and names. Math became shape and motion, rather than anonymous patterns to manipulate with set procedures.

Teachers are not interchangeable parts of a machine. But then again, neither are kids.

The philosophy of the purge

Leaving the startup gives me a little time to get to a couple projects that have been nagging at my mind. One of them is a purge of unnecessary “stuff” around the house.

One of my favorite blogs puts it very nicely…

How to Simplify When You Love Your Stuff | zen habits:

Apply mindful purging to your current lifestyle and belongings, as well as thoughtful consideration to your future purchases. Carefully examine your motivations for keeping possessions or buying new things. Once you allow things serve your soul, rather than you being a slave to your things, your life will evolve into an artful harmony between what you have and who you are.”


I find this particularly helpful when I’m in transition. It’s an opportunity to refocus, and to affirm what’s most important.

Jobs calls for organ donors…

The Wall Street Journal has video of Steve Jobs’ opening remarks at the Apple event last week. It was his first official public appearance since going on medical leave several months ago, during which he had a liver transplant.

It’s good to see such an open and human appeal from a prominent figure. I applaud Steve for this and wish him the best for his continuing recovery.

The Public Flow

These conversations happen in the pub, in the bleachers of our kids soccer games, and just about everwhere. We’re all having public conversations all the time, where the only privacy is that of proximity – you really don’t know who that is sitting at the next table, and usually you really don’t care. Now many of those conversations have moved to Twitter, or Facebook, or your blog. Some of those are open conversations that are easily found, searched, and aggregated and some aren’t.

I’ve been wandering recently, in my thoughts, around and through something I’m calling “The Public Flow.”

It started as a vague concept, triggered by conversations about “The Flow” – the moving stream of information that’s always there, described by Stowe Boyd, Kevin Marks and others. Doc Searls calls it “The Live Web.” But some of that flow is obscured, private, shared among friends and our web contacts or inside walled garden systems. I think what’s most interesting is the portion of The Flow that’s happening out in public – The Public Flow.

People have always spoken in public about their lives and what’s happening around them. Most of it has always happened outside formal community forums such as the Town Council.  These conversations happen in the pub, in the bleachers of our kids soccer games, and just about everwhere. We’re all having public conversations all the time, where the only privacy is that of proximity – you really don’t know who that is sitting at the next table, and usually you really don’t care. Now many of those conversations have moved to Twitter, or Facebook, or someday on Google Wave. Some of those are open conversations that are easily found, searched, and aggregated and some aren’t.

My friend Laura Fitton, aka Pistachio spoke about Twitter at Google back in April. In discussing the organic flow of information on Twitter, she made this point:

When you go out and do focus group research and explicit market research, people freeze up a little bit and don’t quite get the right natural answer about how they really feel about a product, how they really experience a problem that a product might solve, how they really interact with information. But when someone bothers to tweet about it, that’s a very natural, authentic thing, so the quality of data and the volume of data flowing through it are potentially extremely valuable, and I think we’re just beginning to see good search tools…

What will happen as we develop better tools for understanding and participating in this Public Flow? How will life change? How will business change? How will our communities change?

How will it change us?

The Search for Meaning… from the Square Peg Blog

Arianna Huffington was the morning Keynote Speaker at the Craigslist Foundation Boot Camp for Non-Profit, Saturday in Berkeley, CA. I was looking forward to her speech. I enjoy Arianna on KCRW’s Left, Right, and Center and usually agree with her editorials in The Huffington Post. I knew it would be a good speech – an inspiring and thought-provoking speech. it was a lot more.


[More at Square Peg Blog]


Stereotyping is easy for all of us. Our brains are categorizing machines, shoving every thing we see and do into tidy little boxes within boxes. A stereotype that conjures fear is even more powerful, because nothing gets our attention faster than danger – this also is built-in our wiring.

So it’s great to see more diverse presentation of Muslims in the media.

For an excellent point-of-view on this, check out Time’s Mona Eltahawy on video,

[From Latest Videos from TIME.com]

Difficult people… or worse.

A few days ago, someone walked up to Michael Arrington and spat on him. For those who missed this news, here is an excerpt and link from Michael’s own blog:

Yesterday as I was leaving the DLD Conference in Munich, Germany someone walked up to me and quite deliberately spat in my face. Before I even understood what was happening, he veered off into the crowd, just another dark head in a dark suit. People around me stared, then looked away and continued their conversation.

[From Some Things Need To Change]

This isn’t about Michael Arrington. Or Techcrunch.

There are many people who have inexplicably aggressive or even violent responses to what most of us would consider everyday frustrations. So what can you do? In the heat of the moment, it may be hard to choose your response because you be too shocked, confused or furious to think straight.

I’ve found myself distressed and frustrated after these encounters, even ruminating over the response I should have made, or the visceral reaction my ego would have enjoyed. But sometimes I manage to handle something really well. This doesn’t happen because I’m brilliant or cool, but because I’ve spent years working in support and service professionally.

In the support and service business, the customer who flies off the handle shouldn’t shock you, and certainly shouldn’t make you react angrily. You’re dealing with people, so it’s just part of the job – but too many companies don’t give their teams the training and support they need to handle tough customer situations.

The typical class on handling difficult customers is a couple of hours of role playing where people give rote responses to faked aggressive behavior. This can be great for giving your team basic ideas about what’s acceptable, but it’s not going to be enough to build the poise and professional manner that I see in the best teams. To do that you need ongoing refinement and support. You need some way of making it interesting. Most importantly, you need to reinforce in your team these key ideas:

  1. Stay calm. It’s not about you. This person’s behavior is completely out of proportion to the situation. There is something else going on, which you have no control over. Stay calm.
  2. If they are abusive, ask them to stop, so that you can both focus on fixing the problem.
  3. Whatever it is that you did do to contribute to the problem, fix it. Make sure they understand that you are working to make it right.
  4. Get someone else involved. This may mean getting your supervisor on the call, or even handing the customer off to the boss, or it may be just a debrief with a senior teammate after you get off the line with the customer.
  5. Follow up with the customer. This is something every company needs to do better. make sure the customer knows that it matters that they were angry and that you want to be sure you have done everything you can to make them ok with the outcome. We’re all human, and this is a human process.

This is the same stuff you would teach in one of those role playing classes. But the key is to continue to build a more sophisticated response to difficult behavior into everyone in your team. You need to keep the momentum; keep your team talking about difficult situations and how they have handled it. This process has these aims:

  1. Keep the learning positive
  2. Reinforce the basics (the ideas listed above)
  3. Ensure the team fixes anything that’s broken and is contributing to these conflicts

Whether you do this sharing as part of regular team meetings, or posting a “Story of the Week” on an in-house blog (comments enabled!) the secret is to make this an ongoing learning experience that is fun and positive. You want this to be part of your team culture.

Arrington is taking a break, which is for him probably a good idea, so he can relax and get his head straight after such a personal attack. I wish him well.