having a conversation online

Much has changed in terms of how we move around in the world at the moment. What does this mean for the way we communicate? We’re doing a lot more communication online.

Here are a few resources that might help you improve your skill at communicating online, especially in a video conference setting.

7 Hints for Speaking to Camera from Olive Tree Media on Vimeo.


Also, tips on video conference meetings from Seth Godin.

flickr was down for thirty minutes

Flickr was down for about 30 minutes. I think I might be the only person on social media who noticed.

I spoke too soon. It’s down again, or was mostly down the whole time.

flickr was a social media site for sharing photos before Instagram and before facebook; they never really embraced mobile photography, and so were left behind. Actually, this is flickr’s instagram account, which is more stable but only has a few hundred posts. 

Flickr takes me back to a simpler time of the web, when there was more content sharing and less endless tracking of users.

high school reloaded

One of the familiar science fiction (and even Harry Potter) tropes is for a scene to play out, and then the same scene plays through again from another character’s point of view.

This week, it was starting high school, but this time I was the parent. What did I remember about my interactions with my parents that I remembered fondly? How can I create those kind of memories in my son, and one day my daughter.

Hopefully I did a good job: I’ll find out in 30 years or so.

fundraising lessons learned

It’s been a long time since I have participated in any formal event, or fundraiser, but we had the opportunity to go along to the Sydney “walk to d’feet MND”; my sister and I decided to frame our fundraising as a competition, rather than a collaborative effort, and that seemed to resonate with some of my friends and family, even if their response wasn’t to support the person I was hoping.

Having said that, we raised quite a bit of money, and so I was surprised to hear the CEO of the MND association say that the event was raising $70k for the cause. Perhaps that was funds raised after the cost of the event was factored in, but it still seemed low for the number of people in attendance.

They were using gofundraise.com as their platform. which would have had a level of percentage overhead, but would keep staffing costs down. The event was well organised on the day, even as a few opportunities to raise more money from the people in attendance were missed – there were quite a few people over at the kiosk, when the event started before 9am, and while there were food trucks, it wasn’t clear that people could further support the charity while they were there.

Perhaps it was available somewhere, but I still didn’t have a clear sense of what the charity did, nor did I see an opportunity to sign up as a one-off or regular donor for people who were walking past and looking at the event, nor to learn more about MND.

Finally, it would have been good to have had some mechanism to be able to connect with people who were in a similar situation, and wanted to stay in contact, but it’s not clear if that’s something the charity facilitates.

I regret the missed opportunity that the CEO was there at the start of the race, but I didn’t take the opportunity to chat to him as I was there for a family day out, and so it didn’t seem appropriate to miss the walk to have that conversation.

Oh, and it’s quite difficult to ask people for money, even when it’s not for you, but people are incredibly generous.

lessons in balance from law and ethics

I’m studying a subject on law and ethics at the moment, and we’re trying to work out answers to complicated questions. What does it take to keep people doing the right thing? What consequences can be built in to a system so that people are motivated to do the right thing?

We build giant, unaccountable companies that scale up at a tremendous rate, based on the concept that there are infinite resources, or infinite customers, or infinite computer power, but of course, on a finite planet, there are finite resources, finite customers, finite computing power. 

Finding a short-cut to making money, or to growing, companies will take that short-cut, and pay the fine, or take the penalty on the chin, whatever that may be. The challenge with regulation seems to be balancing the cost to the public purse of operating a regulatory body, with the benefit of regulation – keeping groups honest, making a level playing field, and seeing justice carried out.

More disturbing is watching the human consequences when these power structures fail the vulnerable people they’re meant to be caring for. How do you keep people safe, while still running activities that pose a non-zero risk? 

Do you cut down all the trees, so that no-one is hurt climbing them? But what if the trees are full of drop-bears? And is there even a way to present this argument in a way that people will be able to hear it, rather than staying with their particular tribe and automatically take their side?

near end

Near end

There is much to be grateful for in the palliative care ward, which makes those moments that deviate from this path the more noteworthy. Take, for example, this interface decision that was taken on the display of this morphine pump: essentially, a device that pushes down very carefully and consistently on a syringe until the syringe is empty.

This pump is only used – as I understand it – on patients who are very near the end of their lives. And so, I was surprised to note that the wording they have chosen for the error message that indicates the syringe needs to be topped up is “near end”.

As it turns out, these words were not entirely accurate, and yet, as a wise friend said to me, any acute illness will seem – looking back at the end – to have progressed very rapidly indeed. In the throes of caring for someone, it seems to be going for a very long time, but looking back, everything happened very quickly indeed.

missing the obvious

I’ve been burning the candle at both ends a little at the moment even after listening through to the excellent audio book of Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker. The lessons of “the sleep book” were that sleep is been more important than I thought it was, and is linked to better and worse health outcomes than you might expect, its still hard to make the time to rest.

Even when I think through my different commitments at the moment, I miss the obvious: what can I move around that will disappoint the smallest number of people, to make space for the more important things? It takes an external person to even point out what I can “drop” to be able to make that possible.

No matter how well developed your skills at looking at what you’re doing, it’s more important to tap into that network of people around you, who can help provide perspective on what’s essential, and what is merely nice to have.

Create an account

In what was fast becoming a meta-conversation, I found myself explaining to the (by the voice) older gentleman on the phone what he needed to tell another person they’d need to do to use a particular website.

I told him he would need to “create an account”, a term I was sure everyone would know. He asked me – genuinely – what that meant.

Have you ever been mid-conversation, and someone used a term you were not familiar with, and you just nodded along?

It’s a simple trap to fall into, sacrificing clarity of communication on the altar of appearing wise. But it does the person we talk to a disservice.

If you’re able to keep listening when you’ve decided that a key term in the conversation is unimportant, you’re a more capable listener than I.

When our modern definition of ignoramus is “someone who doesn’t know the thing I learned five minutes ago”, it’s hard to engage other people around us with humility about our own ignorance.

But it repays the investment. Not only to find the meaning of unfamiliar words, but to show the other person that we are serious about listening to them, and even learning from them.

Is there someone you want to listen to better? Why not tell them?