Published in Online Spin, Janurary 16 2015
It’s generally accepted that childbirth is painful, right? I don’t have any personal experience with it, but the consensus seems to be bipartisan enough that I have no reason to doubt it. And when you ask mothers of two or more kids how they can go through it again, the answer is pretty consistent: Because you forget. You forget how painful it was, you forget how much you were hating life in the deepest, darkest moments, you forget how you begged for the epidural or the laughing gas or the morphine, because any level of druggedness was preferable to the agony in which you found yourself. The most excruciating experience you’ve ever had -- and you forget.
Despite being commonly perceived as a negative, the ability to forget has tremendous value.
Published in Online Spin, Janurary 9 2015
In 2004, Patagonia published an essay titled, “Don’t Buy This Shirt Unless You Need It.” The following year, the company launched the Common Threads initiative, to make every piece of clothing it manufactures recyclable. In 2011, Patagonia took out a full-page ad in the New York Times with the headline, “Don’t buy this jacket,” alongside an image of the company’s R2 coat.
Strange, no, for a manufacturer/retailer to encourage us away from buying its products? But Patagonia’s reasoning was simple and compelling: We have too much stuff already, and when we buy stuff we don’t need, we waste money, destroy the environment, and contribute to a culture of disposable consumerism that has yet to offer any benefits to society or the planet.
Published in Online Spin, December 19 2014
On whatever day of Christmas we’re currently on, my inbox gave to me 47 emails.
47 people reaching out. 47 collections of words waiting on my response. 47 miniature jobs to do.
Some of the 47 are new. Some are old. Some have been there so long that surely they’re no longer relevant.
I know a Zero Inbox is easy. The most common strategy is tripartite: respond immediately, throw away, or star-for-later-follow-up. But star-for-later-follow-up feels “easy,” the way cleaning the house is “easy” if you just shove all the junk in the closet. On the rare occasions I do clean, I like to clean, know what I’m sayin’?
Published in Online Spin, December 12 2014
Nearly every week for the past two years, my colleague Geoff Brash and I have coached people to deliver five-minute pitches. We’ve seen people pitching for money and for customers, for staff and for beta testers. We’ve seen pitches that are persuasive, funny, compelling, vague, wandering, insecure.
With each one, we learn. We learn more about what works and what doesn’t. We learn more about what resonates with us and what turns us off. We learn more about exceptions to rules. And we thought it was time to share some of it. Without further ado, here are the five essential elements of a good pitch
Published in Online Spin, December 5 2014
Holidays can be hard. On the one hand, they’re meant to celebrate, to acknowledge and honor, to offer perspective and prompt reflection. We have days for love and labor, for generosity and gratitude. These things are awesome.
But on the other hand, holidays can be exclusionary. They can be hypocritical. They often serve as distortions of the historical record and they are often gamed for commercial gain.
I consider myself a positive, upbeat kind of gal. I co-founded an organization called Ministry of Awesome, for Pete’s sake. And yet, I find myself easily repelled by holiday-affiliated marketing campaigns. They seem to be even more manipulative than usual, even more reinforcing of the message that if you haven’t bought enough, consumed enough, spent enough, you’re doing it wrong.
Published in Online Spin, November 21 2014
It’s Twitter founder Biz Stone’s latest venture: Super, an app designed to let people speak their minds.
“It’s loud, it’s bright, and we think you’ll dig it,” they say in the FAQ. It is, of course, well-designed. It’s got Bill Murray on the homepage, which is almost unfairly awesome. There’s a virtual certainty that Super will gain some measure of success, depending largely on how you define such things.
The bigger question, however, is potentially more profound: Do we really need more people speaking their minds? Do we need more opinions on Kim Kardashian’s rear end or Renee Zellweger’s new front end? Isn’t it true that what we really need is more people listening?
Published in Online Spin, November 7 2014
My friend Hieronymus (not his real name) is kind of a hot shot. At the moment, he’s working on pulling together an international conference for youth involvement in disaster risk reduction and response. He has a team of 40 helping him. They are in 16 different countries. He is pulling his hair out.
It doesn’t take a great leap of imagination to understand why; under any circumstances, a team of 40 would be difficult to manage. The standard calculation for number of communication channels in a team is n times n-1 divided by 2, meaning that there are potentially 780 ways the people on Hieronymus’ team can communicate with each other. 780 possibilities for confusion. 780 opportunities for things to be misinterpreted.
Published in Online Spin, October 31 2014
Have you checked in somewhere today? I’m guessing you haven’t. Five years ago, my Twitter feed was rife with people unlocking this badge and becoming Mayor of that coffee shop. Today, nothing. And so it wasn’t surprising to read VentureBeat’s coverage of Foursquare’s “controversial” relaunch – which, VB tells us, is "not looking good.”
Even more important than the decline of the check-in, though, is the fundamental question: Who cares? Aside from the founders. And the investors. And the staff. And the families of those three groups.
Published in Online Spin, October 24 2014
Long-time readers of this column may recall I run TEDxChristchurch, an annual event which is barreling down on me for next Saturday. I am neck-deep in speaker rehearsals, volunteer briefings, name tags and goody bags. I am also neck-deep in ideas. As one of our speaker coaches so eloquently put it, sometimes I feel like my brain is leaking out of my ears.
One of our speakers in particular has that effect: Jenni Adams, an astroparticlephysicist who is studying extra-galactic neutrinos as part of the Ice Cube project in Antarctica. These elementary particles have no charge, and as a result see the universe as mostly empty space, hurtling through stars, planets, and people as if they were nothing, exerting no gravitational pull and immune to the gravitational pull of the objects it passes.
Published in Online Spin, October 17 2014
I live in a city that has been almost entirely destroyed by earthquakes. I’m not being hyperbolic, either: over 70% of the footprint of central Christchurch either collapsed in the 2011 shakes, or has been or needs to be demolished as a result of quake damage.
As a result, pretty much the entire city (population roughly 400,000) has become active in conversations they might never otherwise have contemplated, questions like: What should our transportation system look like? How do we make our streets friendlier to pedestrians? What kind of tradeoffs are we prepared to make between the cost of building and the cost of poor quality?
Personally, I’ve become deeply interested in the work of urbanists like Jane Jacobs, Peter Calthorpe, and Brent Toderian. And one of the things these and others like them understand profoundly is that it is the volume and quality of the human interactions that distinguish successful cities from unsuccessful ones.