Tuesday 26 April 2016

Technology Is Eating Itself, But We Won't Follow It

'Out with the old & In with the new' is the thought that crossed my mind earlier today, as I struggled to get my now ageing 'laptop 1', multitasking as efficiently as it would have even a year or so ago. I've known for a while that it needs to be cleaned, stripped and taken to the recycling centre nearby, but that slight luddite mentality of 'nah..it's got a few more months left in it yet' has kept me using it as a tandem workhorse.

But the reality is that it's knackered. It overheats quite quickly, as I can hear from the internal fan kicking into action within five to fifteen minutes of it being turned on. If it was actually worked on whilst being sat on a physical lap, it'd probably burn the user's legs somewhat in the process. All in all , I'll give it until the end of this month and then it's time to do the 'last rites' on it and that's the end of another era in my working environment.

We've quite recently also seen the end of another CES , and looking back it was the usual tantalising mixture of brilliant, good, bad ( the grillbot...an automated grill cleaner) and even ugly.

In essence the above smattering is only a drop in the ocean of silicon, sweat, brainpower and brilliance.  But what struck me about some of the better ones, were that they wern't anything groundbreaking in the conventional sense.

In other words, they were brilliant redesigns being improved upon, or simply revived. The 'new' super-8 camera by kodak and the flexi-thin screen by LG, for example, are great reiteratons of existing and now defunct ( in the case of the super-8) devices.

And the same can be said of our current generation of smart-tech devices, such as the tablets, laptops and all of our smartphones. Each successive release is a combination of :-

* faster, lighter, brighter (both the screen AND in the choice of aesthetic casing)

* more or less complex


*either more or less expensive than the previous generation device range/set.

The same ruling can be applied to ancillary devices such as smartwatches and V.R. ( virtual reality) headsets, too. Although as these are still very new to the marketplace, the development and innovation cycles will have their own curve and skew. However, it must be noted that the watches haven't yet taken off saleswise with the same gusto as the smartphones that they were ( and are) designed to be a counterpart to, even though they've been around for almost two years.

All the aforementioned is something I've been bearing in mind somewhat, whilst working through the clean, strip and backup processes involved before disposing of a laptop. And there was a cluster of conclusions I reached, which became further enchanced when I realised that a lot of the software I used regularly, was effectively next generational addendums and 'vitamin enriched', welcome reiterations of previous versions. In effect :-

* We're reaching near superflous levels of development in technology . e.g. - how smart can a smartphone now be? how is (or will) V.R. be improving your life on a day to day basis?

* the rate of change is now slowing down..the growth is exponential. 

* People's jobs are now starting to be superceeded by technology

More importantly in such uncertain times, (in terms of resources, public and political unrest) , whilst technology is helping us to make connections around the globe quickly, and potentially help each other  more efficiently and succinctly in times of crisis, what about the rest of the time? Are people still as inclined to spend time with and even help each other?

Can technology be blamed for our slightly odd 'so near, yet so far' way of relating to each other?  Or is there another endemic issue with regards ambition, survival, and the last burning embers of the industrial age, which we've remarkably kept blazing hot in their near charcoaled state , even though we're aware they have reached that near-carbon level because we didn't know when to stop?

Is that a cynical viewpoint? At the least, it's food for thought. At the most, there is some truth in there.

More importantly, maybe we've almost forgotten when to slow down and  tend to ourselves internally like we used to. In essence, we're accelerating our lives at a previously unheard of rate, yet we're not self regulating like we used to.

The irony is, in wanting more control of our lives at a day to day level, we've relinquished a lot of it to devices and gadgets both hard and soft, which we're now more dependant upon than ever before.

Is that the right thing to do? Only time will tell. But somewhere the balance seems to be tipping over to excess. And if that is the case, then nature will act to correct this.

In other words, our biological make up will prevent a loss of control beyond a certain level, so we can continue to grow, learn and expand both inwards and outwards.

I was originally going to call this article 'technology is eating itself out of existence'. But my optimistic side doesn't believe that's true. At least not yet.

Maybe it's time we slowed down, so that we can see the roses. Then we can think about stopping for a bit to smell them.

And then we can decide how to cultivate and nurture our gardens for the future, so others can learn by example.

Like most romantics, I always have faith in mankind, in that things will eventually work themselves out for the better. That's because as complex as we are, we created the technology, not the other way around.We created our own shovels, trowels and wheelbarrows, too.

It looks like now's the time to get the gloves & tools out of the shed. It's always good to cultivate the ground when it's soft.

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Thursday 14 April 2016

The Gordian Knot; Cut Through The Mess In Your Social Media Life.

The Gordian Knot is the stuff of legend. And to write about it in depth would take up a paragraph (and beyond), so in brief..

A quick definition of the gordian knot

That looks complicated, doesn't it?

Alexander the great was the one to break it. There just seemed to be no other way to get around (or over) it. That sounds like a pretty drastic piece of action to take, but he had the confidence, the willpower and more importantly the sense of purpose that the action he would take would solve the problem. He didn't think about the damage (potential or otherwise), or any associated cost of doing things this way. He just 'knew' this would work. And in life, sometimes that's the only way to do things.

Most intelligent people with a rational mind and balanced point of view, wouldn't want to take any sort of action where they haven't had the time to weigh up the pros and cons sufficiently enough to ascertain the risks versus the gains or losses.

However, there are times when hitting the metaphorical (and proverbial) 'delete button' is not only a relief, but easier to do because it forces you to take stock and start again, should you so desire.

I did that recently on a social media platform. It was my linked-in profile that became 'cyber-vapour'*, which is why I no longer put it up at the end of each post as a clickable link.


Because it had a lot of information on it which was generating some odd responses.  For starters, I was getting confusing requests, which wern't correlated to what I wanted workwise. 

Over time I'd built up a contact list of over 500 people, but the reality was I'd only interacted with  100 or so of them over many years of use. In essence, I'd kept it up there as a super-C.V , which itself is a showcase for your skillset.

However, it was a mess. There was lots of qualifications listed ( im grateful and blessed for being able to do those), with different skillsets and work bio info et al all mixed into various types and sections, and the whole thing had multiple focus points to look through. 

Ultimately, it wasn't getting me a productive return anymore.  For me, this was and still is the point of linked-in , which I see as a professional networking and communications portal.

So although I've saved the profile in document form on a backup drive, It may be some time before I make another one. The reasons are simply geared around time and energy, with the cost-to-benefit ratio of both being prioritised in other areas right now. But I'll have a fresher look at things in that regard, at some point in the future.

So why have I gone into length about this?

Simple. If there's a gordian knot in your social media and internet presence, then I hope you have the courage to cut through it. It's not that difficult, and you can always start again on a clean profile ( or page) if you have to.

Why not get the sword out and hack through the weeds in your 'net presence right now? Putting it off for too long, will mean less energy and less motivation to do it. If it can be fixed without a 'complete-delete'*, then do that. In fact, the latter option is usually the first option and rightly so.

Of course, some of you will have that perfect set of social media presences, so you don't need to do a thing (at least not right now). I bow graciously to all of you for keeping on top of it so proficiently.

Speaking of change,  it looks like we're getting some consistently sunnier and warmer weather in my area. It's time to check on the state of the garden.

From the looks of things, that could do with a major overhaul, too.

* (c) S R DHAIN, 2016.

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Saturday 9 January 2016

Change / Switch & Focus ; Saying No to 99% Of things

I've always found the start of a new year a bit odd. Why?

Because as hard as I try, there's always unfinished business from the previous year. Literally, as it happens. Either there'll be a project or assignment that has been delayed or there's some domestic or other renovation project that couldn't be completed on time. In any event, it usually takes until the end of the first month of the new year for me to wrap it all up , and so the year begins on a 'fresh' practical level somewhere between the end of january or (sometimes) even the middle of march.

Sounds odd, doesn't it? But it's not unusual for many of us to be in that position. It could be argued that we could have organised things better, but no..it's one of those things where one of the oft-quoted laws ( murphy's is the common one) is the reason behind the situation(s) or scenario(s) that we end up finding ourselves in.

At least that's what we convince ourselves of, regardless of the actual nature of the scenario(s).

To overcome this, requires a skill that many of us tend to find a bit trying in our modern, hyperspeed-like world. In short,  if you learn to SAY NO to situations that may be siphoning off your energy and time without recourse to any real productive value and result, you'll be better able to keep on with the business at hand more effectively and get it completed in a timely fashion . Tenacity and grit are also part of that equation in my opinion, but that's a discussion for another time.

So a part of that skillset facilitates that you FOCUS in the moment and the task at hand, with clarity and DEDICATION. .  For example, Jony Ive has said that steve jobs could focus in a laser like way, and say no to 99% of things.

Most people don't like saying no, and even less of us  like hearing the word. It seems to carry more weight than it should sometimes, but as already mentioned above, it's in the refusal of committing to more things than necessary, that you can be more productive

In effect, overcommitting is the death knell of productivity, and this knocks on into our social and personal situations as well. 

And yet we all do it. I've done it many a time in the  past, but as time moves onward, I value my energy and ability to get things done more efficiently and want to ENJOY the process(es) more.  Work should be enjoyable as much as possible, otherwise you'll be less effective than if you  didn't enjoy the process. No one wins in that situation, neither the client nor the vendor.

Assuming the work is mostly enjoyable ( we all have our cul-de-sacs from time to time, and they're HEALTHY as they push us to go beyond our normal methodologies and skillsets), what can be done to maintain the laser-like focus required to get something done to the best of your abilities?

The obvious ones are :-

* Switch the phone off or at the very least, switch it to silent AND put it outside of your line of reach or sight for at least an hour on your desk or workstation.

* Don't check emails more than once an hour. Do it even less if you and your work style can manage it.

* Close off any windows/tabs that have social media applications running and use or check them less often. As much as I love twitter, I know that if I keep the application tab open, I'll go to it every fifteen or so minutes in the pretext of  refreshing my synapses.

The reality is that I'm cowarding out of keeping going to finish the task at hand, and hence using it to NOT deal with any potential stumbling block (e.g. writers block, creative block, cul-de-sac and so on), that would force me to think outside of my usual paradigms and methods.

And finally..

* Schedule comfort breaks every few hours of no more than ten or fifteen minutes. You can always catch up with social media and  phonecalls then, if necessary.

Bar an emergency situation (which can happen but are rarer than we think), it's not necessary to keep looking at the phone every 5 minutes. Bar a batch manufacturing fault, I think it's fair to say that it won't vapourise or self-destruct if you ignore it for a while ( see first tip)

In essence, unless your environment is becoming too risky or dangerous to work in, or some other life based crisis (god forbid) is occuring, keep on going until you can get the job or task at hand done.

Because once you've finished what you're doing, you may find that :-

a) you've got it done much quicker 


b) The result is better than you thought possible 

which leads to

c) A greater feeling of satisfaction when you DO take your break(s).

In effect, what is the point of being so readily available that you're not actually getting the work YOU need doing, done? How does that help the client or your boss ( or both) ? And ultimately, how does that help you?

Exactly, so let's get on with it.

Ah..I'm almost done.

I had a coffee break planned about now, but it can wait a little while longer, whilst I edit and refine a little more. That's fine, as I know i'll savour every drop when I do have it.