A lot of press coverage this week on Facebook’s corporate name change to Meta. An interview with Mark Zuckerberg at The Verge shows some of the thinking behind the announcement. What do you do when you have billions of customers who are using your service on a platform you don’t control, and where your ability to unlock advertising revenue is controlled by third-party handset providers? You set things in motion so that the next platform is something you have a lot more control over.

I’ve heard a certain amount of reflection from friends – “there’s no way people will spend all their time in a virtual reality”, but that doesn’t even need to be the case. Would your last-century self, reflecting back on Nokia phones in movies, have any concept of how many hours you would now be spending staring back at the black mirror? As long as Facebook is able to increase engagement, and monetise it effectively, that will be enough to keep other competitors at bay.

two more months of MS Teams

For four years I’ve been studying, and using Microsoft Teams on and off. This has been a good way for various uni small groups of students to collaborate and share files, but one thing had confused me. Often when working on a folder of files, to find the most recent one, I would want to sort by “last modified” date. There are two options available: oldest to newest, or newest to oldest.

The sort results always seemed entirely random, but this week I finally realised what it was doing. The dates are described either as Month name and date, day of week, or relative day (eg Today or Yesterday), and then sorted ALPHABETICALLY.

A list of dates from Microsoft Teams

medium and message

This picture of a quilt, where someone had sewn together a representation of graphs of temperature data and UK COVID deaths reminded me of the way that the chosen medium influences the nature of a conversation.

data quilt

In a lot of recent online debate, I’ve seen people talk past each other, spurred on by the nature of the platform they’re using. When you’re using a free platform to have your conversation, and that platform is trying to maximise time-on-site by stirring up conflict so it can sell ever-more-targeted advertising, you might be choosing a particular path for a conversation to take.

If you were seeking to resolve a conflict between two close friends, you would not have them stand in the middle of a town square, using megaphones. The choice of medium matters.

working from near home

Sydney is again in lock-down (or as we’re calling it, a stay-at-home order), so this article on working from near home by Cal Newport is a little further in the future. After over a year of working mostly outside the office, if anything, it has brought me greater appreciation of the workspaces that I’ve had access to in the past few years. And yet, there’s a lot of benefit to the time saved from not commuting.

explaining finances

I presented the treasurer’s report at our church congregational meeting. When I do one of these, I try to explain the standard documents so that people can read the reports and make sense of them.

I’ve tried a couple of times now, and what I find works is to help people zoom out and see the whole table of numbers, then understand what they’re looking at by using coloured rectangles to show the difference between income and expenses, budget and actuals, variance, and then between assets and liabilities.

You can then quickly show the relationship between a profit and loss, budget vs actuals, and the balance sheet, and how they all fit together.

It’s a simple technique, but I think it’s a powerful one.