Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Understanding Trump

Since the election, I've been trying to better understand President-Elect Donald Trump. What I heard as his promises on the campaign trail didn't make sense. It has taken me a little while to realize that much of his forward looking rhetoric seemed to actually be his opening bid in a negotiation rather than campaign promises. You're selling your home for $800,000; I show up and offer $750,000; that's not the end of the deal, only the beginning.

When Trump said, "Build a wall," he was actually pitching an idea. From his point of view, why not throw out ideas and see what sticks? At the end of the day, he got the results he wanted. He accomplished what no other candidate could; he was elected POTUS. People may be protesting the election, but no one is contesting it like the 2000 election. To bring up the point that Trump didn't win the popular vote is like rationalizing today's loss of your favorite baseball team in a close game, say 2 – 1, by arguing that your team won yesterday's game 10 – 1. You can't carry over yesterday's extra eight runs to today.

It's been said that the first person with a crazy idea isn't as crazy as the first follower of that idea.

Build a Wall

Something I couldn't understand, when Trump said he was going to build a wall, was why other people from Mexico and Central America would support him. How could they support that? Yesterday, I got an answer to my question from someone who employs an undocumented worker. It turns out that undocumented workers aren't seeking solidarity with other undocumented workers by supporting Trump. Rather, they're seeking to stop the influx of undocumented workers into the U.S. to limit their competition. Something I didn't understand before today now makes complete sense. This is a small epiphany, but I will continue to try to understand how people think while seeking objective truth.

Failing to understand your friends and enemies is failing to understand people.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Weak Stadium Security at NFL & College Venues

Only clear bags allowed.
Last night, I went to a basketball game at UCLA. Women were prevented from entering the arena with any opaque bag larger than a clutch. Women who showed up at security with a purse were sent outside the arena to leave their purse at check-in. Ladies had the option of transferring the contents of their bags into a clear plastic bag if they wanted to. It turns out this policy mimics the NFL's; the NFL says it has "unanimously" implemented the same poor security practices at their stadiums.

Here's the problem... the security metal detectors can't detect leather. The clear plastic bag policy is trying to mimic TSA security policies in form over substance. Why can't a woman bring an opaque bag into an arena? I don't know.

How can you defeat this security measure? Simply empty the contents of your purse into a clear plastic bag and then hide your empty leather purse anywhere on your body such as in the small of your back. After entering the venue, simply transfer the contents from the clear plastic bag back into your leather purse. This suggestion is a much safer option for women than leaving their purses with some college kid to guard. (Would it be far-fetched for a creepy college kid to go through your purse during a game?)

Security Theatre

What the NFL is accomplishing with this policy is known as security theater. Most people recognize that security is usually a trade off with convenience (although it doesn't necessarily have to be) so, if a policy is implemented at an institutional level that is highly inconvenient then it must be safer, goes the thinking. In other words, it's inconvenient security theater without making the venue safer – if anything, it puts added risk on their fans due to the hassle of standing in line in the rain (which is what happened last night) plus transferring stuff between bags, in the dark, while having a college kid watch your bag, etc.

Let's keep America scared. I think you see my point.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Protesting vs. Complaining

If every single one of your thoughts, posts, and comments are anti, anti-Clinton or anti-Trump, then you are not helping. You’re not even protesting. You’re complaining. You don’t like your lot in life, so you want to bring others down to your level by “informing” them through your biased view points.

You protest a cause to prevent or change it. You protest the war to end the war. You protest higher taxes to lower them. You protest evolution to promulgate the idea that Adam was made from dust and Eve was made from a rib; you do this to get your Creationist beliefs institutionalized.

For protesting to have an effect, it has to be organized as a group; it has to send a clear message that’s actionable. Venting really doesn’t help because it’s not as if you’ve discharged those negative feelings, you’ve simply amplified them.

I swore my life to protest your First Amendment. Never a regret there. But now it's my turn to exercise my freedom of speech; except I'm doing it in a positive way. Find a way to make it work or be miserable – that's your choice.

I'm not saying don't protest or demonstrate. By all means do that if you can make a difference.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

An Entrepreneur's First Step

What should be an entrepreneur's first step when creating a business, product, or service?
Write a press release and FAQ.

Think: Begin with the end in mind.

The press release (PR) and FAQ are notional. Later, when you're ready to ship, you'll publish the final PR and FAQ. In the mean time, the notional PR and FAQ are used to socialize your vision with the team. Sure, you'll tweak the document while you're working on your baby, but using this as a starting point... as your vision document... gets everyone on the same page.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Presidential Elections and the Press

In the 2000 Presidential Elections, the press reported results in real-time which, some say, may have effected the outcome since people in the western US, AL, and HI may have skipped voting, thinking it was a forgone conclusion.

During the next major Presidential Election, in 2008, it wasn’t a close race (365 [Obama] to 173 [McCain] electoral votes), but none of the major networks called the race until 11 PM ET (8 PM PT), at the exact minute when the polls closed everywhere but Alaska.

I wonder how they'll play it, tonight?

Freedom of the Press Means Capitalism 

Keep in mind that, while freedom of the press is critical, these news companies are for-profit businesses that need to make money. They make money by making news. By making more news, more people tune in. To make more people tune in there needs to be suspense and excitement. A close Presidential Election does exactly that.

Now take a look at the news cycle leading up to today's election. Have you ever noticed that the Presidential debates are hosted by journalists? On the surface, that makes sense since they should be able to interview people without bias. Of course, they do their best – in lines with their employer's desires – to be unbiased. But there are two points where this isn't the case. The first, and most obvious, is the fact we all have slants. I've done video and written journalism and I've seen how simple it is to have a story focus on what I'm most interested in. At best, it's unintentional bias, at worst, it's misleading (which we see, every single day, in politics). One can speak the truth with the intention to deceive.

Second, and this isn't obvious, is there are subtle cues in the news to make it more dramatic. A slow motion scene of a recently deceased Challenger crew; or a studio audience at a Presidential debate.  Between keeping your eye on the news crawler at the bottom of the screen, along with the transition sound effects and breaking news graphics, you are forced to pay attention.

Debate this Debate Idea

Would not the debates be more effective at informing citizens if there was no clapping, cheering, or booing? Of course, the audience is told by the moderators to refrain from making any noise, but that doesn't work. What also doesn't work is telling the candidates not to interrupt each other. The latter issue could be solved by either switching off the mic of the candidate who doesn't have the floor, or giving that candidate the option of overriding the switched off mic while incurring a time penalty.

Television media has a very good idea about how their reporting will affect their viewers. Repetitively showing dramatic events will keep people on edge which keeps them tuning in.

One way I've serendipitously discovered to avoid the news drama is simply by not watching live TV news. But, I am not disciplined enough to do this on my own; instead, years ago, I cut my cable service to nothing but Internet.





Thursday, October 27, 2016

Macintosh Touch Bar

The MacBook Pro's new Touch Bar is intriguing. It's a contextual software menu integrated into the keyboard's hardware. The best of smartphone UI elements brought to a laptop. That's the key to a good UX: UI elements that move out of the way when they're not needed.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

iPhone 7, Unjacked

CNN Breaking News.
Did you hear that the new iPhone 7 won't have an analog headphone jack?

Yeah, I know, everyone heard. It was literally breaking news, yesterday, on CNN.

But concerns only began with CNN. Within hours, I was pinged by friends and colleagues, "Joe, what are your thoughts on this whole earphone jack thing with Apple?"

I'm surprised that Apple brought so much attention to the fact that the analog jack was going away. I don't recall Steve Jobs making any mention about the fact that Apple got rid of the floppy drive on the original iMac in 1998. Back then, Apple was earning less than $50M/quarter with less than $5B in market capitalization. So a radical departure, like the elimination of a floppy drive, was a boom or bust move.

The reason people are asking about the lack of a jack on the new iPhone 7 is because they're not sure what it means, in the future. They don't know, so they ask, which is an ideal way to form an opinion. Apple has always been great about transitioning from an old, outdated technology to a new one. That was the case with the transition from OS 9 to Mac OS X by cabonizing apps (all life is based on carbon) and with the transition from PPC to Intel processor (Marklar) seamlessly using Rosetta.

But, the key part of Apple's transition away from the old analog jack to a Lightning connector is similar to the move from a 30 pin iPod connector to Lightning in that its more efficient as it saves space.

So, what's an iPhone owner need to do with their traditional earphones when they get an iPhone 7? Nothing. They don't need to purchase anything else since the iPhone 7 ships with an earphone to Lightning adaptor. There's not much to see here, other than progress, innovation, and, as Phil Schiller – who gave a spectacular presentation, yesterday  – put it, "Courage."

Apple Teaser

What does this image represent?
Last month, Apple sent out an invite for yesterday's iPhone 7 announcement. I spent a bit of time looking at the blurred image of lights in the distance, speculating on what it meant. Were those traffic lights, street lights, and break lights? Perhaps. But why?

I saw some speculation on the Internet, but it wasn't until the very end of yesterday's Keynote when I figured out what the image represented. Apple concluded the Keynote with the image below; a slightly cropped image of the original and it became apparent. This image was nothing more than blurred lights making up the top part of the Apple logo.

I don't know if there was any intentional meaning behind these images, but I can speculate that, before the Keynote, things were "blurry" and after, everything became clearer (hat tip to a better iPhone camera). Like the hidden arrow inside the FedEx logo, once you see the Apple logo, you can't "unsee" it.

Of course, the question going through your head at this point is why did I spend so much time over-analyzing this image? Great question. The short answer is because I have too much time on my hands. The long answer is, since I get paid to speak about Apple, I want to understand as much as I can. But, alas, I was too slow in figuring all of this out as others had figured it out, last month.

It's all very clear, now: The blurred top of the Apple logo.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Gray Hair in Tech

"When I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years."
–Mark Twain

I recently read Winer's comments about the lack of older people in tech. Just a day earlier my 79 year-old mother headed back to New York after visiting me for a week. She had some concerns about traveling alone which had me thinking...

An old person is someone at least 20 years older than you. When we encounter people, we make judgements by fitting them into a persona or applying a label we've experienced which can help or hinder our view of the true reality. A 20 year old's view of a person in their 40s or 50s is that of their parents, their view of a person in their 60s or 70s is that of their grandparents.

Today, as I waited at a bus stop, a slow moving woman, close to 80 years old, headed in my direction. As she approached me I wondered if she was homeless, looking for a handout. Stopping in front of me, she held out her hand with some change in it and said, "Could you help me? Are these two quarters or two nickels?"

After I answered her she said, "I have trouble seeing, could you tell me when the 215 bus comes?" I immediately realized that she could be my own mother asking similar questions while traveling through the airport, such as where a particular gate or baggage claim carousel is located.

I told her that I'd let her know when her bus was arriving and, at that point, I decided I'd wait until this nearly blind lady got on her bus which arrived about two minutes later. She's was extremely grateful.

So, now that I'm "old," let me go back to when I was in my 30s, as a software engineer at Apple. I worked with an older, gray-haired, software engineer and my perception (misperception) of him was, "Why is this guy still coding in his mid 40s? Why isn't he in management?" At 40, software engineers are taken out back and shot, or promoted into management.

So, therein lies the issue – I, too was part of the problem, back then and now I'm on the receiving end.

It's a fact of life that people will judge you based on how you look, smell, dress, age, poise, presence, etc.

So it's key to have to have a lot of experiences and an open mind.

Note: I originally drafted this last October, but didn't publish it until today.



Monday, July 25, 2016

Bombing American Suspects

A US military hand grenade has a
15' kill radius and 50' injury radius.
The Dallas Police Department set a new law enforcement precedence, earlier this month, when they bombed the alleged sniper who shot 12 police officers, killing five. (The media uses terms such as alleged and suspected because a person is presumed innocent until proven guilty. They are suspected until convicted. This is an important concept that literally makes America great.) The pound of C4 (Composition C) explosive used in the Dallas bombing counter-attack is more than twice as much explosive found in a typical hand grenade (Composition B, with steel fragments).

I have no doubt, had I been a member of the Dallas Police Department, that I would have supported the bombing. It's very "Dirty Harry-ish." It's very "Charles Bronson-ish." Quick and decisive justice. But the anger at the sniper, Micah Xavier Johnson, doesn't necessarily make this tactic right in a moral sense. Keep in mind that what works on TV, even reality TV, doesn't necessarily work in the real world. (Even though reality TV shows aren't scripted, they're still produced and directed.)

Police have the authority to use lethal force for defensive purposes, but this isn't a license to kill or summarily execute. So, the question hanging in the air is, "Is it wrong for the police to bomb suspects?"  The short answer is, "It depends." It depends on police departments codifying their procedures, openly, in a manner that doesn't conflict with any American's civil rights. Discussing and debating these laws openly is key, otherwise it will end up in a shady area like law enforcement's controversial use of the StingRay phone tracker.

Is it wrong to use atomic or nuclear weapons in war? For my entire lifetime, and then some, the answer has been a resounding, "Yes, it is very wrong." Yet, America is the only country to use atomic weapons. By doing so, America set a contrarian precedence that no one, including us, should detonate these weapons of war. So far, it's worked. It's worked primarily because of national treaties, MAD, and, more importantly, due to the fact that the effort required to create an atomic weapon is on the scale of putting a person into orbit. No organization has done either other than a national government. But that will change.

Where do I stand on the Dallas bombing tactic? While I wish the police didn't need to use military tactics on American's, here's the pragmatic reality of a tactical commander in the field... no one should second guess them. Police have rules of engagement (ROE) to follow. There were no ROE forbidding the use of atomic weapons in WW II because there was no precedence. But, once a precedence has been set, it becomes time to address it.

In the short term, the concern at hand is, if cops overreact and shoot blacks, and then blacks overreact and shoot cops, and then cops overreact and shoot blacks... well then, how does that end?

Saturday, July 23, 2016

The World is More Dangerous?

The world is more dangerous, today, than in the past? Really? When was the last World War? A lot of people died in those wars.

Scores of millions.

Perhaps, we’re more aware of violence, nowadays, due to social and mass media?

Of course we can always do better, but let's keep things in perspective.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Open-mindedness

H/T to Dave Reece for sharing this image.
Open-mindedness doesn't mean gullible, indecisive, or impressionable, rather it's the receptiveness to new ideas. Closed-mindedness, on the other hand, is the unwillingness to consider new ideas.

Considering a new idea doesn't mean you have to buy into it hook, line, and sinker. It simply means that you're willing to listen to the idea and evaluate it on its logical merits. A big part of that is getting your facts right, before stating your opinions. That's the art of persuasion. A healthy way to look at open-mindedness is to learn all you can about a subject while removing or minimizing the emotional aspect.

Keep an open mind and a level head.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Politics is About Access, Usually

I once served on the board of a non-profit with nearly 30 voting directors. When I joined the board, one of the directors told me, "The board always votes with the chair."

By no means was my fellow trustee telling me that I needed to vote with the chair; rather, he was telling me that enough of the board backed the chair that his will was the de facto outcome. Turns out he was right. It wasn't a conspiracy, it's simply the way of the world.

If I know you and you run for a highly visible political office then I'll probably vote for you. Because I know you, that gives me access to you. This is why G.W. Bush won the Republican nomination over McCain in 2000. G.W. Bush shows up with access to his father's political connections thereby making it easier to push forward the Republican's agenda.

But, access isn't always enough. If it were, then Hillary Clinton would have won the 2008 Democratic nomination over a freshman senator. Even a woman, with more experience in federal politics, was no match for a man in the eyes of the the American public. (Don't forget that black men won the right to vote decades before white women, in America.)

Similar to Schwarzenegger, the key thing that makes Trump stand out is his celebrity. As a New Yorker, I've heard about Trump since the mid-1980s; and the rest of America has known him for at least a decade. He's been a common sight in our living room since the turn of the century; far more often than Clinton – and as much as people blame the rich, we all want to be rich.

So, using this logic, it would seem that Trump will be the next president of the United States.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

White Thoughts on Black Issues


After writing my most recent post on race relations in America, I discovered that I have a lot to say on this topic. More than I imagined. So, I've started a new blog, blackandwhite.joemoreno.com, with the following intent:

The purpose of 'White Thoughts on Black Issues' is for me, a white man, to express my thoughts on black issues. I'm doing my best to see these issues through the lens of African Americans. I've seen the injustices facing blacks in the past and I didn't say anything; now, I am changing that. At the very least, I'll learn more about the issues.

It starts the with the fundamental human rights granted to us in the Constitution, reinforced by my former oath of office:
To support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.

Any person or organization usurping those rights from an American citizen is a threat to the U.S. Constitution.

I have a lot on my mind.
I have a lot to say.
It might not all be perfect, but I'm listening.
I'm learning.
If you disagree then make me understand. 


Friday, July 8, 2016

Don't Fan the Flames

A fire was started and now gasoline has been thrown on it. Why did I not say anything about the original fire? That is a question I'm afraid to answer because I might not like what I find out about myself.

How do we make this better? For starters, by not making matters worse. Be cautious about inadvertently fanning the flames. Fear, hate, and blame spread like wildfire. It's one thing to be disgusted, it's another thing to take positive, constructive action to better the situation for all involved. Hashtags help very little compared to critical thinking and peaceful action. We should be saddened and angry about the past, but we can't change it. (Easier said than done, but I’d rather live in a state of peace than unending war.)

I recall a lesson from General Colin Powell, when he was Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, as he addressed us at the Naval Academy, "Get pissed, then get over it." Now make a better future. You have more power, control, and influence than you realize; use it wisely.

Don't stop at anger. Don't stop at hate. Do stop at peace.

Update: After an healthy discussion with a black Academy classmate, he pointed out that "Get pissed, then get over it," is a bit too flippant when dealing with death. His suggestion makes more sense, "Get angry and do something about it," explicitly pointing out that the something should be non-violent.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Libraries of Anxiety

Books and beauty
When I was in high school, I worked as a page at my local library in Huntington, NY. I was in charge of 770 – 799, which covered sports, music, photography, and videography. I remember trying to get through a book in my section, Hemingway's Death in the Afternoon, without any luck. Last year, I tried reading it again and failed – I simply didn't have enough interest in bullfighting to get through it. Although the library has moved to a beautiful new location, it still holds my childhood memories.

This morning, I paid a visit to the new library that opened a number of years ago. I saw a children's librarian listening to a book report for a youngster which reminded me of my summers at the library during elementary school. As a kid, I would have to read ten books before the end of the summer. After reading each book, I'd get a sticker to place on my report card. After the fifth and tenth book I'd summarize one, of my choice, to the children's librarian, who'd always smile in a welcoming way while I retold the tale. As I recalled this memory, I saw a kid summing up his latest book to a children's librarian. While looking on, I took photos of the quiet architecture and landscaping. Although I'm extremely discrete about my iphoneography, I wasn't clandestine enough.

Upside, Downside

Traveling between San Diego and Huntington gives me an opportunity to observe some stark differences in attitudes. While San Diego's known for its laid back attitude, New York is known for its uptightness. Throughout this past week, in Huntington, I continually noticed a contagious anxiety coupled with a low level of situational awareness. Yesterday, I discussed this with my former sixth grade teacher who's keenly aware of the issue. We agreed that it's due to a lack of worldly experience. (In her mid-seventies, she's a highly independent traveler who makes her way up and down the East Coast and the South to attend events and visit friends.) I have noticed the impatient agitation over the past week when driving while waiting second in line at a red light. On most occasions, I've watched the car in front of me continually creep forward, anticipating the green light, to the point that the car's rear axel was forward of the limit line while the traffic light was still red. This morning, I came face to face with this attitude when snapping a few photos at the library. A librarian confronted me, wanting to know why I was taking photos. The attitude's similar to that of being confronted by a police officer probing for a possible crime or violation. I gave the librarian a warm smile, to defuse her anxiety, and told her that I used to work at the library in high school. No, there are no policies about taking photos in the public library (especially in a discrete way); it was simply a lack of understanding of why someone would take photos of unseen beauty. Throughout this area there is a large fear of "different," followed by questions that are not so much intended for understanding, rather the questions are asked with a tone of a lack of acceptance.

I think a lot of fear comes from an imagined lack of control, understanding, experience and initiative people have in their environment which leads to a personal isolationism, both mentally and physically. I've observed the exact opposite when I've giving group tours of Apple's Infinite Loop campus. The Apple campus is not open to the public, but the public does have physical access to Apple's parking lots and sidewalks on the private Infinite Loop street. I suspect that many other, less outwardly focused companies, would confront other individuals and groups, on their grounds, and ask them to leave.

Focus outward and seek to understand, tolerate, and accept before rejecting and ridiculing. Different doesn't necessarily mean wrong. 

Anxious Excitement Kills The Sale

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Startup Fundraising Idea

I heard an interesting startup fundraising idea from a well know VC. He made the point that he always takes at least 20% of a company. This has led to long discussions with entrepreneurs who, at times, had fought hard for the difference between 19% and 21%. He highlighted that most CEOs, looking to raise funds frequently show up at his door with two other cofounders, each with 33% of the company. His point: You've already given away two-thirds of your company and now you're fighting me over a 2% difference. Instead, consider keeping 100% and then give 10% to the first few people you hire for key positions. They might not technically be cofounders, but they're getting an excellent deal.


Friday, May 27, 2016

Puppy Leadership: Advice to USNA Class of '16

Those hats fly high at graduation.
Today, the US Naval Academy Class of 2016 graduated. A year ago, I gave my tidbit of advice to the Class of 2015. In keeping with that tradition, I am offering a piece of advice to the Class of 2016 on leadership that comes from experience. This advice touches on a pet peeve of mine I call Puppy Leadership.

Puppy Leadership is where we all start when we first have direct reports in our charge. When we were new people managers we were overly excited like a young puppy. The key is to learn quickly from your leadership mistakes. Since leaving the military, I've taken for granted the experiences I had. Unfortunately, in Corporate America, I'm too frequently reminded that not everyone has had the same opportunities I had in my 20s to lead many dozens of direct reports. Specifically, I'm referring to being a calm, thoughtful, and, most importantly, an outwardly focused leader.

Several times, I have been a manager's first direct report. This has been especially painful for me when my new manager has spent more than a decade as a career individual contributor. Individual contributors are the people in the trenches. They're the ones doing the real work such as software engineers, copywriters, graphic artists, sales account managers, etc. Individual contributors are knowledge workers who need quiet working conditions to create and get things done. Individual contributors need to focus inward, on their work, which is great for what they do. However, in my experience, it becomes a problem when a long time individual contributor moves up into people management without proper training. Proper training starts with the dos and don'ts of good leadership practices. Leaders set the example, more so by their actions than their words. My list of dos and don'ts focuses more on the don'ts, as in don't do this or don't do that. Over the years, I've complied this list of bad leadership practices I've experienced and I've made some of these mistakes, myself. There are many more traits of a bad leader that you can add to this list, in the comments section. In the mean time, read and learn quickly, young grasshopper. Do not make the same mistake twice.

A poor leader will frequently...

0. Not supervise, which is the most important leadership step.

1. Tell a direct report to do something urgent, and then interrupt with either other tasks or asking for unnecessary status updates that impede progress.

2. Micromange, meaning they will tell a direct report how to do their job. Save the how for training sessions and don't confuse supervision with micromanagement.

3. Not inspect subordinate's work before passing it along and then blame the subordinate when their work is rejected. A leader must inspect what they expect.

4. Send an e-mail on a non-pressing issue and then immediately followup with an interruptive text or phone call asking, "Did you receive my e-mail?" Equally annoying is sending multiple messages as a stream of consciousness instead of taking a minute or two to think things through.

5. Fail to keep track of both their own tasks and of the tasks they've delegated. Since they're not tracking delegated tasks, they can't effectively supervise to ensure that tasks are completed.

6. Dump tasks on subordinates, instead of delegating. The poor leader will task subordinates when items pop into their head, regardless if it's in the hallway, lunch room, or at the bar over a beer. Set your subordinates up for success by delegating to them when they're best poised to receive and write down your tasks.

7. Fail to clearly define and prioritize tasks they've delegated with deadlines. It's best to get confirmation from a subordinate that a deadline is reasonable.

8. Make busy work when stressed and mistaken activity for progress.

9. Go first when leading a staff meeting. When a leader runs a staff meeting, they should hear from all of their subordinates before delegating tasks since the work of a staff member may already address an issue.

10. Show up first to eat free food at a corporate event and do very little to contribute to the event.

11. Think a subordinate's on-call, day and night, to be tasked at any moment, regardless of a task's urgency. A poor leader does this because they're afraid of forgetting the task and they want to get it off their plate.

12. Explain the same thing repeatedly, over and over again, frequently, time and time again; both in e-mail and when speaking. It's redundant and wastes people's time, needlessly. (Yes, there is an intentional redundant pun in this item.)

13. Make a plan. Tell it to you. Then change the plan for a non-obvious, trivia reason and not relay the changes.

14. Interrupts productivity by calling for meetings at the last minute, with little notice and no agenda.

15. Delegate tasks while borrowing a senior manager’s authority (Damn XO), then they fail to see why their own tasks aren’t carried out by direct reports.

16. Speak negatively about others, behind their back, rather than addressing the problem with a real solution.

17. Increase assignments without adjusting timelines. Something's "gotta give," either the deadline or the work quality. You can have it good, fast, or cheap. Pick only two.

18. Be overly concerned with using their subordinates to make themselves look good, especially by taking credit for their subordinate's accomplishments while dodging responsibility for their shortcomings.

The bottom line for all leaders is: Do you inspire people to go out of their way for you? If you don't then adjust your leadership style before assuming it's due to poor subordinate performance. You're the leader, so lead. At the end of the day, you're responsible for everything your team does and fails to do. Don't be that overly excited puppy, bouncing off the walls and yelping at everyone.





Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Apple Car

Apple CEO, Tim Cook and Didi President, Jean Liu in China
When Apple invested $1B in Didi Chuxing, the "Uber" of ride sharing in China, it got me thinking...

What do wrist watches and cars have in common? They've both been around for a hundred years and, in my life time, there hasn't been significant innovation prior to the last decade. Until recently, cars have used internal combustion engines to transport people and wrist watches simply told time.

Over the last dozen years, we've seen automobiles transition from internal combustion engines to hybrid and pure electric cars. While it's still a nascent technology, with single digit market share, it's growing. The same is true for wrist watches which have been simple digital or analog devices with limited functionality beyond telling time. Once a technology has matured, it frequently becomes a fashion item such as clothes, cars, condos, and color choices, to name a few. A $10,000 watch doesn't necessarily tell better time than a $10 watch; and a $110,000 car doesn't get you to your destination faster than a $10,000 car. The inside of a $299 Apple Watch is the same as a $17,000 Apple Watch.

Before the Apple Watch, Apple could choose the form factor for their products. Simply look at the Apple II, Mac, iMac, iPod, etc to see how Apple dictated the industrial design. That changed with the Apple Watch where Apple had to fit the technology into a predefined form factor while making it fashionable. Wearable high tech is hard to make fashionable, as we saw with Google Glass. The key to rapid adoption is packing innovative technology into a familiar form factor.

For years, there's been a long standing rumor that Apple is developing a car. The details are secret and many Apple R&D products never see the light of day. But it seems clear that Apple's working on something automotive related, whether it's an entire electric car or merely software for a car.

Perhaps, Apple can bring to market a self-driving electric car, which is the holy grail of personal transportation. Now, imagine if you produced a self-driving car and you owned a transportation network company?

Friday, May 6, 2016

Beautiful Danger

Yesterday's enthusiastic delegation from China
Yesterday, I gave a speaking engagement called The Apple Way. I usually give it in Cupertino to business people from China. But yesterday's group was close to 50 people, so I used another venue about 12 minutes from the Infinite Loop campus in San Jose. The core of the two hour presentation is about what makes Apple unique when it comes to design and marketing. 

My plan was to fly up on Wednesday, give the talk on Thursday morning, have lunch at Apple with a buddy, and then fly home Thursday afternoon. Everything worked out, except my flight back. The weather turned bad by the time I reached the southern part of California's Central Valley and I had to divert to Meadows Airport in Bakersfield. It was cloudy and raining and I was flying a few thousand feet above the freezing level. My small plane doesn't have ice protection like the big boys. I could see ice building up on my wing after flying through the clouds, which can quickly become dangerous. As ice builds up, it changes the shape of the airfoil and compromises the wing's aerodynamic lift.

At 11,000', the temperate was well below freezing
Air traffic control was very helpful in suggesting that I land at Meadows Field Airport in Bakersfield since that airport had a precision approach. A precision approach guides a pilot into an airport when the runway can't be seen until only a couple hundred feet above the ground. This is accomplished by sending out a radio beacon that keeps the plane lined up with the runway and on the proper glide slope. This was the first time I've ever diverted, overnight, and it worked out nicely.

Once I landed, I needed to find a place to stay for the night. Airbnb to the rescue with a $36 room. But the weather's still too bad, today, so it looks like I'll be spending another night in Bakersfield.

To add to the inconvenience, I left my iPhone charging cable in the presentation classroom. Also, there are no restaurants within walking distance of my Airbnb. So, it was off to Walmart for food and a cable. The walk to Walmart was nice, but it started raining while I shopped. So, I "Lyfted" back to my Airbnb.

Hopefully, I'll fly out tomorrow. It's always something. But, better safe than sorry. In the mean time, I keep watching this beautiful danger: http://adjix.com/flying.mov

Monday, April 25, 2016

Suicide Prevention: The One Question to Ask

As a military officer, I received frequent training to make me a more effective leader. We started off as second lieutenants (or ensigns, in the Navy) and we were young and green. As twenty-something year-olds, we're assigned dozens of direct reports and we quickly learn how to motivate those in our charge. The training is important, but it's not until we face the actual experience that we learn how to deal with different situations.

I learned how to recognize the signs of problems outside of the workplace. How do you deal with domestic violence, depression, suicide, and death? Death was obviously the most serious, so we did everything possible to avoid it with safety briefs before long weekends and getting help to those who needed it.

One area that's always tricky is depression, which can lead to suicide. This has become more common over the last dozen years due to PTSD. Distinguishing between a suicidal gesture and a suicidal act is semantic hair splitting since both require immediate attention.

One Simple Question

But, when people are depressed, it's hard to know how bad they truly feel. How do you find out if someone's suicidal? Simple... ask them, "Are you thinking of hurting yourself?" Phrase your question exactly like this and then wait for their answer. Don't fill in the awkward silence with anything but quietness until they answer your question. You'll want the answer to be, "No," but don't lead them there if that's not where they're headed. They won't lie if they have suicidal thoughts – they want to feel better. If the answer is, "Yes," you'll need to consult with a mental health professional. Don't leave them alone, thinking that you somehow talked them out of it. Suicide watch is the immediate next step.

This is a simple, yet direct question, to ask if suicide or self-harm is suspected. In all the times I've asked it, I've never offended anyone. The Semicolon Project, which has been around since 2013, is a great resource to turn to if you, a coworker, or loved one needs help. Why a semicolon? Because a semicolon is used when an author could’ve ended a sentence but chose not to. You are the author and the sentence is your life.

Your story; it isn't over yet.


Thursday, April 21, 2016

Celebrity Server Overload

On June 25, 2009, I listen to Guy Kawasaki speak in San Diego. About half way through his presentation of demos on social media he gave a shout out to the audience of 500 about me and my company, Adjix. Everyone seated at my table turned and looked at me, "Who's this guy?" I was feeling great after leaving that breakfast presentation until I got home and learned that Michael Jackson had died. I wasn't a big fan of MJ, but his music is... powerful art. What quickly got my attention was that a customer had used Adjix to link to the news of MJ's death creating a huge load on the Adjix app servers. The web and database servers were humming along, without a problem; but the apps were bottlenecked by REST calls across the Internet. With the CPU cores pegged at 100%, I began manually spinning up more app instances to balance the celebrity server overload – which lived up to my expectations.

This morning, Prince died. Prince and the Revolution were my first rock concert when I was a kid. Prince wasn't suppose to be my first... Styx was... but Tommy Shaw hurt his hand, as it was reported in the news, and the Styx concert was cancelled (not postponed).

To confirm the news of Prince's death, I went to TMZ.com but their servers were down, "503 Service Unavailable." That HTML error code simply means, "No more! Uncle! I'm temporarily overloaded."

After giving TMZ.com a little time, their servers were handling requests, again. "Damn it. Prince is dead. And he's young, too young to die this soon."

1984 and Purple Rain had a powerful impact on me. Prince was a key soundtrack to my youth. ❖

Dearly beloved
We are gathered here today
2 get through this thing called life

Electric word life
It means forever and that's a mighty long time
But I'm here 2 tell u
There's something else
The afterworld

A world of never ending happiness
U can always see the sun, day or night

So when u call up that shrink in Beverly Hills
U know the one - Dr Everything'll Be Alright
Instead of asking him how much of your time is left
Ask him how much of your mind, baby

'Cuz in this life
Things are much harder than in the afterworld
In this life
You're on your own

And if de-elevator tries 2 bring u down
Go crazy - punch a higher floor

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Accepting the Challenge

"That's the challenge," said Sugar Jones as she raised her drink.
When I was in high school, I considered joining the Air Force. "Aim High." It seemed to be a natural fit for my high tech interests. At school, one of my classmates began sporting a military style crewcut – he'd signed up to join the Army after graduation. Shortly after that, I saw a Marine Corps recruiting ad in a magazine. The only thing I knew about the Marines was that they had, inarguably, the toughest and longest boot camp training in any of the Armed Forces. I asked my father, who had served in the Army, "Why would someone join the Marines?"

"Some men want a challenge," he said.

Some men want a challenge... that resonated with me, which I've written about in Six Four One. As a kid, it resonated like, "You did a good thing for a bad man," from a Bronx Tale. Since then, I've loved the challenge of boot camp, plebe year, OCS, jump school, and overseas deployments. Now, in my more seasoned years, I find myself seeking more conveniences and complaints than challenges and commendations. Every so often I need a refresher.

A couple weeks ago, Sugar Jones and I were discussing Instagram. Instagram has been around since 2010. In 2012, with only 13 employees, it was purchased by Facebook for about $1B. It's only grown in popularity since then. Instagram's key differentiator was two fold. It was simple to post and photographers could apply filters. Since cameras on smartphones, back then, weren't as good as today, applying a filter helped distract from the graininess by adding an artistic spin.

I told Sugar that I didn't like Instagram. Sugar responded with a small look of silent disbelief. "I prefer Flickr," I said, explaining that I was begrudgingly moving to Instagram.

"Why don't you like Instagram?" asked Sugar.

"Every photo has to be square," I said with disdain. I pompously believed that the artist should choose the aspect ratio.

"That's the challenge," said Sugar.

That's the challenge... Ah-ha! Those three words, which she so profoundly said, instantly sunk in.

One hundred and forty characters is the challenge of Twitter; that's what makes Twitter unique and the haiku of a new millennium. How could I have missed a similar challenge with Instagram?

To hijack and repurpose from Breaking Bad...
When I heard the learn'd Sugar.




Monday, March 21, 2016

Protecting Notes in iOS 9.3 with Touch ID

For years, I've been storing sensitive information in the Notes app on my iPhone. At today's Apple Keynote, it was announced that individual notes can now be protected (locked) with either a password or Touch ID. It's fairly simple to use, but not intuitively obvious to set up since it requires a few steps which I've outlined, below.

0. Update your iPhone to iOS 9.3.

1. Settings → Notes → Password → Enable Touch ID and enter a password to protect your notes.




2. To password (or Touch ID) protect a note, you'll need to click on the Share icon when the note is open 


You must manually lock or unlock a note. It seems, though, that unlocking a single note will unlock all of the notes (or at least it appears that unlocking a single note unlocks all the notes that were locked with the same password). I'll post updates, here, if I discover anything new.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

43 Years Ago, Today

Me
On Saturday, March 17, 1973 my family moved from 179 8th Street, in Brooklyn, to Huntington, Long Island. My dad had friends from work help us load the moving truck. One of my dad's friends, who was on the street, loading the truck, was very special. He used to fly up to the North Pole, every December, to help Santa Claus make his toys. He told me I could go with him if my dad said it was OK.

I ran upstairs, to the fourth floor, where my dad was packing and asked, "Dad, can I go with him to the North Pole?"

"Joe, he's kidding. He doesn't really go to the North Pole," said my dad with a laugh.

I ran back downstairs to the moving truck. "My dad says you're joking."

"No, I really help Santa. Sometimes I help him feed his reindeer, too," said the guy.

This was too much. Help Santa make toys and feed the reindeer!?!

Dad
As I ran back and forth between the guy and my dad the story kept growing. Help Santa figure out who's naughty or nice. Review the "Dear Santa" letters, go for rides on Santa's sleigh, and so on. Eventually, I finally gave up. But I was so excited on that day, 43 years ago. I have yet to make the trip to the North Pole to help Santa. One day. In the mean time, I try to not take myself too seriously.


Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Kopi luwak: World's Most Exotic Coffee

The world's most exotic coffee, Kopi Luwak aka civet.
Two years ago, today, I took a trip to Jones Coffee Roasters in Pasadena to try the world's most exotic coffee, called kopi luwak, after seeing it on TV. It turned out that Jones' doesn't actually sell it. Since then, I've been keeping my eye out for an opportunity to try it. A few days ago, I bought some kopi luwak coffee beans, also known as civet coffee. I called on a friend, Isaac, who is a coffee aficionado, to prepare it for me. He had never tried it and he didn't have high expectations for it; he felt is was overpriced, much like Kona coffee. Kona coffee is expensive because it's the only coffee grown in the US. Kona workers are paid much higher wages than workers in developing countries, where most coffee comes from. Civet coffee isn't expensive because it's so tastily, rather it's expensive because of the bean preparation process.

I brought the beans over to Isaac's home. He was pleasantly surprised when he opened the bag and saw that the beans were a slightly roasted to a light brown color instead of black. A lighter roasted coffee bean tends to retain more flavor and more caffeine (by volume). Isaac weighed out 35 grams of beans, ground them up, placed them in a paper filter in a ceramic V60 coffee dripper, and poured hot water through the ground beans, while agitating them, as the coffee drained into his Chemex coffee maker.

Tools of the trade, including a "Breaking Bad" vacuum siphon.
We sampled the civet coffee without adding any cream or sweater. The only thing we did, to enhance the flavor, was lick a little butter before sipping the coffee. Isaac said that the fat in butter helps brings out a coffee's flavor in the same way that strawberries bring out the flavor in champagne. That's the reason why coffee goes so well with donuts.

I thought the coffee was tasty. Isaac's final verdict was, "The quality of coffee we tasted is good, professional grade. But you can get the same quality for 1/10th of the price."

If you've reached this point without understanding what makes kopi luwak so exotic, then you probably shouldn't ask. But, if you really must know.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Ingenious Money Laundering

      Skyler: Are you telling me you make $7,125,000 a year?
      Walter: Seven and a half even, before expenses.
Last night, I rewatched the Problem Dog episode of Breaking Bad where Skyler and Walter White discover the challenges of laundering $274,000, every two weeks, through their newly purchased carwash.

About ten years ago, I put together an anti-money laundering (AML) compliance guide for a text message payments startup that I was raising funding for. As I read through AML case studies, published by the Treasury Department's Office of Comptroller of the Currency, one stuck out in my mind. A cartel would smuggle cocaine from Columbia into the United States. The trick was getting the money back to Columbia. The cartel's solution was brilliant. They bought gold, with the proceeds from the cocaine, and cast the gold into simple hardware tools like hammers and wrenches. Then, the money launderers finished the gold with silver colored paint to look like normal tools and shipped the wares back to Columbia. After all, who's going to question the export of everyday hardware tools?

Update: After reviewing my previous blog post, from earlier today, it dawned on me that Amazon Fulfillment Services might be a great way to launder money. Seriously... who's paying almost $20,000 for bar soap?

Amazon Prime Lessons

$20K for soap?
Last month, I signed up for Amazon Prime. Yes, I am very late to the show. I had the expectation that I could order most anything and it should ship, for free, and I'd receive it within two days. It turns out it's not that simple.

For starters, I did a quick search for Dial soap and added it to my cart. That's when I discovered, if I'm not careful, that I could end up paying almost $20,000 for simple bar soap. I also had to look, carefully, to distinguish between Amazon Prime, Amazon Prime Pantry, and Add-on Items.

Fulfillment by Amazon

Two weeks ago, a friend attended a seminar explaining how savvy entrepreneurs buy close out deals from places other than Amazon and then have their items shipped to Amazon for storage and fulfillment. At a glance, these items may look like they're being sold by Amazon, but they're actually only stored and shipped by Amazon. A third party is the actual seller. This can be a great service for an entrepreneur who has products manufactured in China and shipped to the US. Rather than the entrepreneur storing their inventory in their own garage, or leasing a warehouse, they can have the products shipped from China to Amazon for storage and fulfillment. The gotcha, for the customer, is when an entrepreneur sells an item on Amazon that Amazon already sells at a cheaper price. As the Syms Corporation used to advertise, which applies doubly so to Amazon, "An educated consumer is our best customer."

Prime Pantry and Add-on

Add-on items are another customer gotcha. Today, I placed an order for a few staple items that will be fulfilled tomorrow. A couple hours later I remembered that I needed to order one more thing (paper towels). I found some paper towels to order, but it was an Amazon Prime Pantry item which required an additional $5.99 in shipping, even if it's an Amazon Prime exclusive. So I passed on that. Next, I found some more paper towels, that were part of Amazon Prime, and not Prime Pantry. But, when I went to order it, I discovered it was an Add-on item meaning that it couldn't be shipped as a single item. I was hoping to find a way to add it to my pending order that was shipping tomorrow. But alas, I didn't find a way. In the past, I've cancelled a pending order, re-added the items I had just ordered and then included the Add-on item. Today, I decided to pass. Perhaps I'll remember to order it next time. I love that Amazon has enlisted the USPS to make delivers on Sundays but I wish there was a simpler way to modify my orders. Perhaps there is, but I don't know about it, yet???

Friday, March 4, 2016

The Nascent World of 3D Printing

San Diego Central Library Maker Space
Over the past few months I have spent a fair amount of time prototyping with a 3D printers. At the consumer level, this is still an emerging technology. One maker I consulted with aptly described it as nascent.

One of my earliest maker memories is working with clay, in elementary school, to make an ashtray. No one in my house smoked, but it was a simple enough project with utility. Fittingly, my first 3D print was related to smoking in the 21st century: vaping (think: e-cigarette vaporizer pens). These pens hold a liquid or oil which works best when stored upright, otherwise the liquid moves away from wick at the bottom of the cartridge.

Using Tinkercad, I designed a simple stand to store a vaporizer pen upright. I brought my design to the newly expanded maker space at the San Diego Central Library for printing, for free. I had no idea how lucky I got when my project successfully printed on the second attempt. Since then, I've tried about ten times to reprint it, without any luck. I then tried Fablab who referred me 3D Hubs which allows makers to upload projects to be locally printed, for a fee. The maker who printed my project said it failed and told me that I'd need a more advanced printer, so he refunded my money. I then met a guy at a Kickstarter Meetup who owned several 3D printers who offered to print my projects. His attempt to print my project also failed.

So, what does it mean when one print works, out of more than a dozen attempts? Simply that this is new technology and we're pushing its limits.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Apple's Stance on Privacy

Three days ago, Apple's CEO, Tim Cook, sent an open letter to customers stating the company's opposition to the Department of Justice's request that Apple develop software to implement a backdoor in the iPhone. The next day, The Daily Beast published an article, Apple Unlocked iPhones for the Feds 70 Times Before, which, on the surface, would lead the reader to believe this predicament is no different from the scores of previous situations when Apple unlocked iPhones for the authorities. But there's a key difference between then and now in that iOS security was weaker, in the past. Currently, Apple has not developed the technology to circumvent their own security in order to extract the encrypted data. The Department of Justice claims their request falls under the All Writs Act and the has government ordered that Apple Inc. create a special version of its iOS operating system, with certain security features removed.

Keep in mind that strong security is similar to a wall safe. The only two ways to penetrate strong security is either with the key (combination) or through brute force. Even if the hacker has the blueprints to the safe or the software source code for the encryption it doesn't help with the attack.

Hard Come, Easy Go

Trust is hard to earn and easy to lose. Apple's stance against the federal government stems from the NSA's PRISM program. The Daily Beast article points out, "It wasn’t until after the revelations of former NSA contractor Edward Snowden that Apple began to position itself so forcefully as a guardian of privacy protection in the face of a vast government surveillance apparatus."

While federal officials speculate that access to the San Bernardino shooter's iPhone data might be a national security issue, that's not enough to warrant the creation of a backdoor. Keeping America safe is not the oath that elected officials or military officers take. Rather, their oath is to support and defend the Constitution. It is not a stretch to see how America could be much safer by curtailing our Bill of Rights. Saudi Arabia is a safe country to live in, with low crime.


Update 21 Feb 2016: Another point to consider is that Apple Inc. is a multi-national corporation located in different countries and jurisdictions. If one argues that Apple has to develop a special iOS version for the US government, in this single case, in the name of terrorism, then should Apple also develop special iOS versions for, say, France or China if requested? As the New Yorker’s Amy Davidson writes, “If it [the government] can tell Apple, which has been accused of no wrongdoing, to sit down and write a custom operating system for it, what else could it do?”

Thursday, February 11, 2016

How to Sell: Kickstarter Video Marketing 101

The key to selling is to point out the problem you're solving and then cover the benefits before moving on to the features. Here's a perfect example in a two minute video.


Background 

For the past two years I've been co-coordinating a Kickstarter meetup. What started off as a monthly affair has expanded to fill the three weeks in-between the main events with working sessions for our group of entrepreneurs. Our focus is on all crowdsourcing platforms and my personal goal is to be the entrepreneur mentor I needed 10 or 15 years ago. The key transformation I've seen over the years is taking the "maker" (engineer, artist, designer, etc), who typically has an inwardly focused career as an individual contributor, and teaching them to focus outward on marketing, manufacturing, and customers. And, ultimately, turning them into sales people. At the end of the day, you have to sell, especially if you're a solopreneur or, in a team environment, you'll need to hire the proverbial rainmaker who believes in your product.

Real World Formula



I've mentioned the importance of the Kickstarter video before. Today, I came across a perfect example of how to pitch your product, through video, in an "As Seen On TV" format. (Although this video might seem a little cheesy, it's effective and, more importantly, it's not misleading.)

1. Start with the problem you're solving. (30 seconds in this example Dash Cam Pro video commercial)

2. Show your product's benefits in a way that customers can relate to so they can imagine themselves using your product to make their own life easier or more enjoyable. (30 seconds)

3. Cover the key technical features. Don't make the mistake of the "Microsoft iPod." (45 seconds)

4. Imprint a higher price on your customer before revealing your true, lower price. (15 seconds)
Here's why: Show the Highest Price First


This can all be accomplished within 120 seconds. The key to telling a good story is by editing away all the cruft.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Two Apps I'd Love to See

In the 1990s, I witnessed the dot com boom. The Web was clearly the way of the future. Thousands of dot com companies popped up, trying to replace market inefficiencies with Internet based technologies. Some companies did well, other's, I joked, lost money on every transaction but tried to make it up with volume.

After the dot com bubble burst, Web 2.0 came along with user generated content and dynamic web pages. This was followed by the dominance of social media which killed print media as it connected more people on both personal and professional levels.

Today, the cutting edge trends are seen in mobile apps. ForeFlight has revolutionized the cockpit as much as Uber's changed the car service industry. Twitter and Facebook have seen increased growth after moving from desktop to mobile. Mobile, "always with you" Internet connectivity, along with GPS, creates a lot of opportunities.

Here are two mobile apps that I'd like to see, and I wonder when they will come.

Bluetooth Beacon Heat Maps

Why is it I can see rush hour traffic on my map apps but I can't see how many people are at a restaurant, bar, or nightclub? Map apps have been displaying real-time traffic for more than a decade. These apps don't require crowdsourcing the data. Sure, Waze can help, but the DOT has cameras set up on roads and highways; they have all the data they need. So, what's stopping the same kind of heat map for a Yelp venue where our Bluetooth enabled phones provide the source of the data?

Ideally, I'd love to see a wireless provider anonymously license its subscriber GPS data so I could see how empty or packed a bar was. Even better would be if they could include simple demographics such as age and gender. But, I realize this might be a bridge too far, not to mention that people would consider it creepy.

Having patrons check in at a venue won't work. An alternative solution would be to have Bluetooth beacons ping patrons' smartphones. Let's call it a beacon cookie. The beacon cookie doesn't even need to connect to a person's phone. All the beacon needs to do is ping a person's phone for their Bluetooth address (BD_ADDR). Discovery mode is ideal for this, but not practical. Perhaps a passive discovery mode? Over time, people's Bluetooth addresses could be matched to profiles much like DoubleClick with anonymous cookies. Now we'd have interesting demographic data to use, even if it's only for a venue heat map. Google knows a lot about me in the virtual world (that's why, when I search for something on Amazon, I see related ads in my Facebook feed), why not apply that same data to brick and mortar stores via Bluetooth beacons?

One Meal, One Transaction

In this day and age, I'm surprised that restaurants still need to process a customer's transaction twice. First, for the full price of the meal, and second for the tip. This is a different situation than a gas station which needs to run an authorization, to see if you have enough credit, before pumping the gas. At a restaurant, the customer has already eaten the meal by the time they're presented with their check.

How should the restaurant payment process work? Instead of the food server bringing over a paper receipt, s/he could simply present a QR code with a UUID for the receipt. The customer would scan the code and see their detailed meal receipt with tip and payment options. At this point, the receipt is linked to the customer (much like Uber). Even better, why wait until the end of the meal to scan the meal receipt's QR code. The QR code could be presented by the food server at the beginning of the meal. As the customer orders more food, it shows up in real-time on their phone. At any point, the customer could walk out and, like Lyft, they could complete the payment anytime within 24 hours, otherwise it would automatically be processed with a default tip (say 18%). What's more is that everyone at the table could scan the same QR code and then, at the end of the meal, they could choose what they ate and split the check so that everyone pays for only their food.

I'm sure there are apps that do something similar to what I'm describing, but I'm not aware of any that are mainstream. These apps wouldn't have to be created by a single company if a public API is developed for secure data interchange. We only need one holistic system to make it work.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

When is it OK to Lie?

version of this article was originally published in the Marine Corps Gazette in 2006.

Summary: It's OK to lie and be deceptive.... under certain circumstances.

Purpose: The intent of this post is to suggest a common ethical standard for managers to set for their direct reports.


What exactly is a lie, and when is it OK to tell one? All leaders should know that we are watched by our subordinates in everything we say and do. One dishonest statement from our lips and all who hear it will either question our fidelity in the future or, even worse, follow our example.

Definitions

Good definitions make for clear ideas. We often speak of honesty and integrity, but what do those words mean? Here are some clear definitions with concise examples.

Honesty

Honesty deals with the past. It means making your words fit reality, or specifically, to speak the truth about the past. For example, George Washington’s father asks him, “George, did you cut down that cherry tree?”

George replies, “Father, I cannot tell a lie. Yes, I cut down that cherry tree.”

In this example, borrowed from fable, George Washington’s words fit reality; therefore, his response was an honest one.

Integrity

Integrity deals with the future. It means making reality fit your words. Simply put, it means to do what you say you are going to do. For example, George Washington’s father tells George, “George, as part of your chores, today, I want you to cut down that cherry tree.”

George replies, “Yes, father, I shall cut down that cherry tree.”

At the end of the day, if George has cut down the tree then he had the integrity to make it happen. In other words, he got results, or as we used to say in the military, mission accomplished. Another way to think of integrity is the ability to do what you are supposed to do.

What is a Lie?

Poor planning can put people in a situation where they may end up doing something unethical to fix a problem. A lie is the intention to deceive or not let the whole truth be known. But, there’s more to it than that.

Explicitly stating the following definition of unethical behavior to your direct reports will go a long way to setting a standard for office business ethics.

Unethical behavior is:
– Committing or soliciting an illegal act.
– An intention to deceive or not let the whole truth be known.

The following are four exceptions where deception would be OK.

– Warfare. Sun Tzu wrote, “All warfare is based on deception.” We’re talking about bona fide warfare between a country and its enemy, not between you and your next door neighbor. This deception is aimed directly at the enemy, not at a friendly intermediary.

– Entertainment. A deception for entertainment purposes means all involved are aware of the deception. For example, a quarterback fakes a handoff and drops back to pass; a magician performing a trick; you tell a joke, “Your shoelaces are untied.”

– Personal or professional business.
• Personal: A social expectation of privacy that does not violate an organization’s policies or law. For example, you should not feel compelled to answer questions such as, what is your net worth, or whom did you vote for in the last election?
• Professional: The law sometimes allows deception, such as a police detective lying to a criminal in order to collect information, or a spy with a cover story, or as is the case with classified information, not revealing any knowledge of the information to unqualified parties.

– Social lie. A social lie is an untruthful statement to protect the feelings of others and from which the lying party gains no benefit. For example, the CEO of your company invites you and your spouse over for dinner. During dessert you whisper to your spouse that the coffee tastes like turpentine. A minute later, the CEO’s spouse asks you, “How do you like my coffee?” It’s perfectly acceptable to answer, “Fine.” However, in a different situation, it is not OK to lie to your spouse, citing the personal or social exceptions above, for reasons such as “she wouldn’t understand” or “it would hurt her feelings if she knew the truth” about something you did.

When you lie on paper, such as backdating a document to deceive inspectors, it is called fraud. But, backdating, say a promotion, which is done openly, is not unethical.

Sometimes, when people get into trouble, they will speak the truth with the intention to deceive. This technique usually involves some sort of distraction to lead the audience down the wrong path. Once again, there is an intention to deceive that does not meet one of the four exceptions above, especially since the liar’s sole purpose is to save his or her hide.

These examples will not solve every ethical dilemma. There are ethical questions – such as is abortion OK under certain circumstances, or should the government enforce capital punishment – that are beyond the scope of this blog post. But, these are not issues we face on a daily basis. Rather, the rules above should be good enough for most issues we face at work.