Showing your work

As an aside to the previous link, I wish Matter did a more effective job of showing the work that goes in to their long posts on Medium. Each feature length story is well crafted from a narrative standpoint. Each comes up short, though, in pushing the boundaries of journalism.

In that feature the author writes of how:

Each night I’ve gone through my notes and fact-checked the farmers, doubting what they told me. Even after seeing the land and meeting the people I second-guessed their claims and statistics, only to find, time and again, they were telling the truth.

I wish that work was made transparent. Having grown up outside the Central Valley the narrative had me questioning many aspects of it.

Great journalism doesn’t mean pushing all the fact checking on to the reader. Nor does it mean blindly trusting that the author is presenting things fairly. I ought to be able to read the constructed narrative while simultaneously having the source material at my fingertips to dive in to and draw my own conclusions from.

Laptops in class

In Why I Just Asked My Students to Put Their Laptops Away, Clay Shirky writes about banning laptops from his fall seminar class. Toward the end of the piece he writes that:

Computers are not inherent sources of distraction — they can in fact be powerful engines of focus — but latter-day versions have been designed to be, because attention is the substance which makes the whole consumer internet go.

That’s the problem in banning them, though. Productive, non-distracted, work from a computer is a cornerstone of modern work. Removing laptops from the college classroom addresses the symptom while doing nothing for the root cause.

Clay acknowledges in his post that computers can allow for a focus so deep you lose track of time. I agree that’s not inherent, though. Rather, it’s a learned skill. If we’re going to ban laptops from college classrooms because students lack that skill we have to also ask when and where that should be taught. Teaching that level of device literacy needs to happen somewhere in the education system.

Negative vs. Critical

Providing effective feedback is one of the most difficult and important things you can do as a team lead. Feedback takes two forms. First, there’s feedback that stems from great work. For example, someone on your team nailed a recent project. Second, there’s feedback that originates in a mistake or poor performance. Here a team member dropped the ball on something.

People refer to that second type of feedback as “negative.” I think that makes the task of communicating it more awkward and less effective. There’s more than a semantic difference between framing feedback as negative versus critical. Approaching it as critical feedback requires greater upfront work on your part. Ultimately, though, it will set you and your teammate up for success.

Critical feedback seeks to build someone’s skills. You’re not negating what they did. You’re critiquing it so they can improve. A true critique involves a thorough analysis of merits and faults.

That analysis is more time consuming than giving negative feedback. You have to take the extra step beyond identifying what was lacking in your teammate’s work. That identification is the first step: afterward begins the real work.

The most important piece of critical feedback is consciously and deliberately analyzing what could be done differently to improve an outcome. By doing that, you help your team member. You’re doing more than flagging poor work and walking away.

Once you’ve done that you need to take the next step. You have to look at different approaches in addition to what was already good about the existing work. Though an end result may be poor, it rarely means each and every step in the process was. When you take the extra step to clarify positive aspects you reinforce the right habits in your team.

When you clearly communicate what needs to change while succinctly stating what went well, you shift the conversation from negative to critical. You take an action that adversely impacted your team, identify it, and then clearly illustrate to your team member what must be done in the future to make the shift from poor to great. Do that enough times and you build a strong foundation for your team to grow.

Short Park City Hike

A couple days back some co-workers and I took the gondola up the mountain for a short hike. The gondola itself is a pretty great ride. Takes about 10 minutes and you get some fantastic views on the way down.

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From there we did a short trail up to what the resort calls Alpine Lake. Lake might be a bit of an overstatement but it was still beautiful up there.

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Most of the hike was through aspen trees. The white bark with greenery all around it is a neat effect.

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Jupiter Peak at Sunrise

Jupiter Peak Sunrise

The sunrise from Jupiter Peak yesterday morning. Woke up at 3:30am and started hiking at 4:00. We set off from the parking lot and ended up hiking straight up one of the black diamond runs at Park City Mountain Resort. Brutal incline on the way up. Overall a really great hike with Nick, Joe, and Mo.

Apple Watch

Apple Watch. Gruber’s entire Apple Watch post is worth reading. Toward the bottom there’s a bullet point that really stood out to me:

Rather, I think Apple Watch is the first product from an Apple that has outgrown the computer industry. Rather than settle for making computing devices, they are now using computing technology to make anything and everything where computing technology — particularly miniature technology — can revolutionize existing industries.