Random Musings From The Road – Leg 1

LEG 1: CHARLOTTE TO NASHVILLE

I’m road tripping by myself again and a new friend suggested that I blog about it. I, of course, said no as I’m not a writer. But as Day 1 of my trip went on, I had random thoughts about things I was seeing but no one to share them with. Since I’ve been doing fairly okay with these list posts as of late, I decided to note my random thoughts and scribe them for you all at the end of each leg of my trip.

So, on my journey from Charlotte to Nashville, here’s what popped up:

1. I drove through the Smoky Mountains and they were actually smoking. Since the name really comes from the fact that they have a lot of fog, it was funny to me when I came upon actual smoke in the mountains. Someone must have been burning something. Still funny.

2. New Mexico has a very bright yellow license plate.

3. There’s a river that I passed three times called French Broad River. The first time I saw it I read it as French Bread River. My version was tastier.

4. Harriman, Tennessee encountered it’s very first traffic accident today. I know this to be true because I made a pit stop there and came upon the one car fender bender. On the shoulder. On the other side of the road. Meaning out the flow of traffic. Since all of the cars in front of me were completely debilitated and refused to drive, I’ve concluded that they were clearly in awe of this accident and it must be the first they’ve ever seen.

5. I’m listening to an audiobook that is based in Australia and focuses heavily on elementary school. It brings up their school year and the fact that they break in December. So I looked it up and Australia’s summer break is mid-December through January. Thus, it includes Christmas and New Years. Obviously it completely makes sense since their seasons are opposite that of the U.S., it just hadn’t occurred to me.

6. If I had lots of money I would buy billboard advertising like the “God” ones that have more generic inspirational quotes. Like: “Be kind. Seriously. Just be kind.”

7. I really should do a better job at contributing to online reviews. I use them often and should really give back.

8. There are, in fact, official road signs that tell you you’re entering a new time zone. Always wondered about that.

What Facebook got wrong with the Messenger switch

I read an article recently where Mark Zuckerberg explained why Facebook made the switch to two separate apps. His reasoning was that the best apps are singularly focused and splitting the apps in two allows Facebook to build a better experience for users. By having both News Feed and Messenger together, there was friction for users; to quickly respond to a message they had to first wait for News Feed to load. Personally, I think these are reasonable reasons to make the switch. But even so, I have yet to download Messenger. The problem with the launch was not that Facebook split the apps, it was how they went about it. After thinking about it a bit, I feel like they really made three clear failures.

1. Facebook thought their competitors in this case were other messaging apps. Facebook believed that they were competing here with SMS, SnapChat, WhatsApp and others. But really, their biggest competition was themselves. Users were used to a product being one way and didn’t complain about it. Messenger has been out for several years and was barely a blip in the messaging app pool. Users didn’t have a need for it. Facebook provided the feature in their main app and did so in a way that met user needs. So to make the switch, users are now being asked to do more work than they did previously for something they didn’t ask for nor want. And the ask was done without providing any additional value.

2. Messages wasn’t removed from the main Facebook app. Facebook wants users to use Messenger. They have big monitization plans for it. Because of this, they left the tab in the app to remind everyone, “Messenger exists! Go download it!” But again, it’s a negative message because when a friend messages you, the badge sits there and taunts and reminds you that Facebook is making you do more work.

3. Messages is a required feature in Facebook the service. So friends can message you there whether you want them to or not. You can turn off chat on desktop, but it doesn’t actually stop friends from messaging you. Because of this, you can’t choose to not take part in this service. So again, we’re back to that taunting badge.

 

I think Facebook has the right idea and downloading a second focused app is not that big of a deal. Additionally, I think Facebook can fix this. Here’s what I would recommend.

1. Make Facebook messaging a separate opt-in feature that uses Facebook login and friends lists. That way, friends can be warned, “Hey, you can’t message this person. They haven’t opted-in.” This should not just apply to mobile, but across all of Facebook. If friends are using it, there will be enough peer pressure to opt-in. There is a real life example that shows this tactic works. It’s called Facebook.

2. Provide real value with messaging that can’t be found in all of the competition. It’s not just about chatting. What makes Facebook messaging different? What need is not being met that Facebook can provide? It might be as simple as connecting with your friend list, but it may also be more complicated like the ability to share files, group chat, or send money.

3. Remove the messages tab from the Facebook app. Seriously, it’s just taunting users. And for the ones who are mad about the change, it just makes us more mad and resolute.

5 Tips to Make Your Presentations Less Terrible

I’ve attended a lot of presentations in my time, some good, some bad. And though I wouldn’t call myself an expert, there are a couple of things I have learned that I wish I could teach all presenters. Whether its a presentation to a team you work with, senior leadership, a client, a conference audience or an online seminar group, understanding that even if they are forced to be there, your audience has a choice whether or not to pay attention. Thus, your goal should absolutely be to get them to focus on you rather than the plethora of distractions that are made available to them.

There are many resources out there on how to be a good presenter and I’ve been exposed to a lot of them. The list below does not detail those things. Rather, the list talks about the things I haven’t found in those resources, but are things that personally draw me in as an audience member or that I have found have worked for me.

1. Sound authentic. When I say this, I mean, sound like how you normally talk. Most of the time, presentation advice will say to vary your tone and pitch. But I think that is too simplistic. If you vary your tone and pitch outside of your norm, you sound like you are acting, and acting badly. And anyone who has seen a Keanu Reeves movie knows, bad acting is painful to sit through. So, once you get past the stage of being terrified to speak in public, and you can present without reading, do so in a way that feels like you.

2. Be authentic. Similar to number one, but different. Make sure what you’re talking about is something you believe in. We can all actually tell if you are lying to yourself and us. If you have to talk about a subject you don’t care about very much, than my suggestion is to do more research to find an angle that you can latch onto.

3. Be original. If we can get the information you are giving me from anyone in your position, than let us do that on our own. The reason we are coming to hear you speak is because we want YOUR knowledge, YOUR experience, YOUR vision on the topic. Even if you are delivering a canned presentation created by someone else, I empower you to make it your own. Throw in anecdotes or stories that make it feel like we wouldn’t get this presentation unless we came to hear you specifically.

4. Prepare your audience. This is something I have learned by making many mistakes and asking for a ton of feedback. The fact of the matter is, a lot of people will come to your presentation because they have to, not because they want to. Making it easy for them to be engaged is super important. So, if you can, send out the presentation or supporting materials beforehand so they have an opportunity to review it. Also, figure out how much your audience already knows about the topic so that you can focus it on areas they don’t know. And don’t do this at the beginning of the presentation! You’re probably not going to make adjustments there on the fly, so then it just seems like you didn’t listen.

5. Teach us something. There is nothing that frustrates me more than going to a presentation where someone just regurgitates information from somewhere else, or tells me how they accomplished something, but doesn’t relate that to me and my problems. I’m talking to you marketing conference speakers. Yes, your story is amazing. Yes, you are amazing. But unless you want to come work for us, that’s so not helpful right now. What we need from you is for you to give us solid takeaways that we’re able to implement. This also applies for internal meetings. Meetings are expensive. So if people can’t walk away having learned something, that they couldn’t have learned by just looking at your deck, the meeting is a waste of time. So ensure that you elicit enough participation and knowledge sharing that your presentation meeting has value.

This list is not comprehensive and you should read all the books, watch all the videos and attend all the conferences on how to be a better presenter. Because they are all awesome and the ideas work. This list is merely one featuring specific ideas that as a consumer of your presentation, I really need you to remember. Because if you don’t, I’m probably going to find somewhere on the internet to get lost in.

25 Things in 33 Years for My 20 Year Old Self to Pass to My 4 Year Old Niece

I always seem to see the lists that are 25 things I’ve learned in 25 years working at such and such or 40 things I’ve learned in 40 years of living. Or how about the 20 things I’d tell my 20 year old self? 30 lessons for my 2 year old daughter?

Pick a number, create the list. Well, I’ve decided that all of those options are so amazing, that my list shall incorporate them all! Here are 25 things I’ve learned in 33 years that I would totally love to tell my 20 year old self and will certainly pass on to my 4 year old niece:

1. Being curious has served me better than being naturally talented at anything.

2. Vacationing by yourself can be extremely relaxing…even with a fully packed itinerary.

3. Talk to strangers. You can hear some really interesting stories.

4. Move. Away from home, out of state, to a place you’ve never been. If you have baggage, its amazing how it lightens the further you get from it.

5. Always go for the job that you think you are just a little unqualified for. You’ll learn. And you’ll kick ass at it.

6. Read. Just in general, read stuff. Books, the internet, table signs, door signs, closed captioning…all of it. Find something you enjoy reading and read.

7. When you buy your first set of dishes, buy them in white without anything ornamental. You probably won’t have money to buy a new set anytime soon, and the plain white will stand the test of time until its time to buy new.

8. Smile. Even if you’re not happy. Smiling can make people like you, it can make you feel better when you feel lousy, and its also a great cheek workout.

9. You don’t have to like everyone and everyone doesn’t have to like you. But we’re all in this together, so at least try to be kind and respectful. Everyone’s got a thing they’re working through.

10. Find something you’re passionate about and do it. Even if you don’t get paid for it. Even if others look at you funny.

11. Make your bed everyday. No matter what, you need to face the day. Besides, your sheets will feel better when you go to sleep that night.

12. Learn one karaoke song that will surprise everyone in the bar. Even your friends you came with.

13. Don’t leave soda cans in your trunk in 100 degree weather or in the freezer. They will explode in both cases.

14. Sometimes, even when you do everything right, things will still turn out wrong. Fail fast and pivot.

15. When people are hurting, they will say things that oftentimes make no sense, that are mean and that are cruel. It’s not their fault. Forgive them. The pain takes over the rational parts of their brain. But that doesn’t mean you have to listen to it.

16. Do what you say you’re going to do. Follow through is an excellent method for building trust. It will get you far.

17. Quit if it’s not any fun.

18. It’s always personal. We’re human beings. So its never just business or just a joke.

19. Don’t eat fat free food. It may be fat free, but its not random chemical free. And yes, you will die of something anyway, but at least live enjoying what you eat.

20. Working out sucks. For so many reasons: Gasping for air, gyms are soul sucking enterprises, workout equipment can be bad for your body (my knees are talking to you, treadmill), and so on. But find something active you enjoy.

21. Learn to enjoy your own company.

22. Get an expensive haircut and embrace your hair as it is.

23. Don’t type or speak in text lingo. You’ll sound ridiculous, uneducated, and immature. “You” is only two more letters than “u”. You can do the extra work of typing those two letters.

24. Find someone you admire and learn from them. There are so many brilliant people with so many diverse backgrounds that your opportunities to gain knowledge and grow are endless.

25. Do the thing you’ve always wanted to do. It changes everything.

Review: Setting up Amazon’s Fire TV

As most people who know me are aware, I am an Apple girl. I love my Apple products, I love that they all connect, and I love that they are so unbelievably easy to use. I have an Apple TV, but Amazon Prime doesn’t have an Apple TV app. And as a cord cutter, I rely on internet television. So I shelled out the $99 to get higher video quality than airplaying from my iPad to Apple TV. It arrived today and I thought I’d go ahead and discuss my experience setting it up.

1. The package has a “hassle free promise” on it. I’d say, for the most part, that’s true. But I still needed a sharp object to slit the seam of the sticker holding it closed. And there was a plastic wrapping that was misleading on how it opened. Beyond that, hassle free.

2. Plugging in and connecting to my television was a breeze.

3. It found my network right away. They totally win with showing your password by default but giving you the option of hiding if you’d like. Good work there.

4. They FORCE YOU to watch a how-to video. This is by far my biggest pet peeve. If you have to tell me how to use it, you didn’t do your job right. Your product should be intuitive by default. Only help me if I need it or ask for it. When trying to skip passed the video by pressing buttons on the remote, I apparently hit the back button and ended up way back at the “set up your network” screen where I had to start all over. Total fail.

5. I didn’t have to set up my Amazon account on it. It already knew who I was. Clearly, because I purchased it through Amazon, they were able to match the serial number (or similar) to me and automatically log me in. BRILLIANT. The teeny bit of criticism I have on this is that they didn’t tell me they logged me in already, so I thought I had to go to settings and set up my account. It was there that I saw they already associated the unit with me. I think it would have been better if they made that obvious to me after setup was complete.

6. Getting a bit nit picky here, but I noticed that in settings, there is a “time” setting. I am in the eastern time zone, Amazon knows that, yet it defaulted to Pacific. It seems like if they set the Fire up just for me, they would have also set these other things according to where I am.

All in all it was very easy and I think Amazon did a good job. But details matter. And paying attention to those is what makes a product not just good, but great. Nonetheless, I’m excited to try it out!

 

 

Update 7.06.14: So even though I set up the Fire TV on the 5th, I didn’t actually attempt to use it until that weekend. That is when I found out that it wouldn’t actually play any video. After going back and forth with support for two weeks, they finally sent me another. The replacement did not set up as easily and I thought that I’d have to send the new device back as well, but after sitting plugged into my television for a week, it seemed to fix itself (don’t ask me how). Nonetheless, I am using it now and it works well. The interface is fairly good, but again, some details were forgotten. Overall, I think my $99 was spent well.

Get off the expressway

I’ve moved a couple of times in the past year and have had the luxury of learning new places and finding my way in new cities. For anyone moving to new cities, the one thing I seriously encourage you to do is to get off the expressway. I know that its much easier to get from place to place via the interstate, but the surface streets are what helps you find the treasures in a city. I’m even going to take this one step further and say, get out and walk. Walk anywhere you’re able. And take different routes if you can (and its safe).

Its hard to make new friends in a new place, unless you are one of those people with that “I make friends with anyone and everyone skill”. So finding places to explore on your own can be the key to enjoying your experience or severely hating it. So try driving 35 mph on a surface street and stopping at stoplights and see where that leads. Sure, it’ll be slower. But it might be a bit more enjoyable.

A blog for the non-writer

In case there’s any confusion, I am not a writer. Short of a landing page headline or update text/release notes for an app, I really struggle to get pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard, if you will). Its not so much that I don’t have the talent to write. I do think that when I really, really focus and dedicate time to it, I can conjure up a good story or two. But its that requirement of focus and time. I guess the truth is, its just not enjoyable to me.

I’ve always said that my brain thinks faster than my mouth can talk. I believe its also true that my brain thinks faster than I can type. And then I’m one of those people who edits while I write. I know the right thing to do is just to get all the words out and go back. Believe me, I do that too. But I also spend an exhaustive amount of time editing while I am getting the words out.

So how do you have a blog when you don’t enjoy blogging? I’ve pondered this for a while and I hope I’ve figured it out:
1. Short posts. 1 – 2 paragraphs max. If I set that expectation for myself, I won’t feel like I’ve failed if that’s all I have the attention span for.
2. Quotes. I have my own (from my several failed book attempts – remember, non-writer) plus others that I think are inspiring.
3. Projects that I start. Or photos from my adventures.

And look at that. I got two whole paragraphs and an ordered list created before I’m now ready to move on to something else. Success!