The Search for Better Meetings

Working in a medium sized agency is all fun and games until you find yourself sitting in meetings all day. The person who called the meeting can check something off of their list, but for that one item being checked off, there's an entire room of todo lists that are sitting idle and probably growing.

Meet all day! Work all night!

  • Fantasy AC/DC song celebrating corporate life

Despite knowing that the internet is the playground of the idealized self, my ears still perk up when I see anything about how other businesses are working to create better meetings.

Percolate posted their 6 meeting rules:

  1. Do you really need a meeting? If not, don’t schedule one and just go talk to the person. It’s generally easier, faster and more efficient.
  2. Meetings should be 15 minutes by default. If you need longer, take longer, but most meetings don’t need much longer than that. People will find ways to fill whatever amount of time the meeting was scheduled for, so don’t schedule more time than you need. If you get scheduled in a longer meeting, why don’t you ask why it needs to be so long?
  3. No spectators. If you don’t have any reason to be in the meeting, don’t go. We don’t need spectators at meetings. The corollary of this is that if there are spectators in your meeting, ask them why they’re there and to leave if they don’t have any reason to be there.
  4. Have a purpose, state it upfront. If your meeting doesn’t have a goal than you should probably revisit tip #1. You should have a goal (except for weekly check-in meetings) and everyone should understand that goal. If you are attending a meeting and you don’t know the goal, ask. If the person who set the meeting doesn’t have an answer, suggest the meeting be moved until there is one. This will help A LOT.
  5. Make tasks, assign them to people. Meetings start to suck when everyone walks away and it isn’t clear who is doing what. If you set a goal at the beginning there should be some tasks at the end. Make sure everyone knows who is assigned to those tasks (put them in Asana if applicable). A task isn’t a task if it doesn’t have a person assigned to it.
  6. Don’t bring computers or phones. This is important enough to mention again. If we want to have as few meetings as possible and make them as short as possible it’s important that everyone is focused on the task at hand. That means not doing other stuff during the meeting. If you catch someone doing something else (including James or Noah) call them out and ask them not to. If their computer is open and they’re not presenting or creating tasks/taking notes, ask them to close it. If they need to be checking mail or working on something else, they probably shouldn’t be at the meeting.

Percolate linked to an article at 99u: Run Your Meeting Like a Boss: Lessons from Mayer, Musk, and Jobs.

Some highlights:

Marissa Meyer streamlines decision-making with data:

By making decisions with metrics, she can avoid lengthy debates stemming from opinions and organizational politics.

And she uses micro-meetings:

she allows people to book meetings as short as 10 minutes ... There’s an adage in project management: work expands to the time you schedule for it. By pushing people to say what they need to say in 10 minutes, Mayer was able to meet more people in less time.

Elon Musk prefers arguing with facts vs. prior experiences:

To Musk, decisions should not be based on prior experiences. He encourages thinking based on “first principles” — boiling a situation down to its basic, fundamental truths and then reasoning up from there.

Learning to Program

Casey Liss on learning how to program:

One of the most popular questions that I get asked is “How do I learn to program? Where do I start?“. This actually takes one of many forms:

What resource should I use to learn how to program? How did you learn X? Which language should I learn first? Is it worth learning Y? The best answer I have is not an answer to any of those questions at all:

Find a problem to solve, then solve it using the most appropriate tool(s).

That’s it.

That's what worked for me.

Not that I'm any kind of expert, or even halfway competent. But I did learn more trying to get this website running on Statamic than with any books or learn to code sites. Poking around, seeing what worked and what didn't, made all the difference.

Apple without an Enemy

The illustrious Edward Boches:

After the Wall Street Journal headlined an article with “Apple losing it’s cool to Samsung,” Apple Marketing Chief Phil Schiller ripped the agency in an email. TBWA Media Arts President James Vincent replied that perhaps “Apple needed to make radical changes to the way it did business,” and compared the current stasis to 1997 when Apple had an abysmal product offering and nothing in the pipeline. That sent Schiller over the edge.

Oh well, another day in the life of a client agency relationship.

But let’s cut to the chase. Apple has lost its edge. At least its advertising edge. And it’s for one reason. There’s no enemy anymore. Apple advertising has been great since 1981 because there’s always been someone or something to challenge and confront.

Someone once told me that the secret to Nike's success was their ability to reframe the conversation so that they weren't the category leader anymore.

Challenger brands. Eating big fish. That sort of thing.

How it Works

Last year's WWDC, with its announcement of the redesigned iOS 7, seemed to make a bigger splash with actual humans than this year's announcements of iOS 8 and the new look of OSX. But it's the changes announced this year that really matter.

Dr. Drang says it best:

Oh sure, iOS 7’s appearance was very different from that of iOS 6 or any of its predecessors. And there’s no question that some of those appearance changes affected how we used our iPhones and iPads. But once we figured out what was a button and which way sliders were supposed to be dragged, our devices behaved pretty much as they had before. The biggest change in behavior, I’d say, was the ability of apps to do background downloading.

The infrastructure changes in iOS 8 and Yosemite, though, will make a significant difference in how we use our devices. It’ll take a while for us to get used to them—old dogs, new tricks—and it’ll take a while for the apps we use to adjust themselves to the new possibilities, But Continuity, Extensions, iCloud Drive, the new Spotlight, and the API updates will make how we use our Apple devices next year distinctly different from how we use them this year. This, more than flattening or translucency, is real design.

Design is how it works. Not what it looks like. And for Apple, this couldn't be coming soon enough.

There's been a shift over the past year or two in mobile. Where Apple's iOS was the only serious option for mobile computing for a few years, Android matured and made significant gains in functionality and device appeal. I see it more and more in real life. People getting bored or frustrated with iOS and loudly announcing their move to Android.

Whether there's a legitimate Apple backlash or not, you get the feeling that competitive pressure is inspiring mobile innovation in Cupertino for the first time in a long time. As an iOS user, it feels good to see them not just responding, but pushing to stay on top.

Omnifocus 2 Release Day and Revisiting Some Other GTD Apps

If the internet is to be believed, Omnifocus 2 is being released today. In the course of beta-testing OF2 over the past month or two, I thought a lot about how I use the app and how I approach my work in general.

I've found that the more I use GTD, the more my perspective on it changes, and with that comes new perspectives on how to use the different tools available. After using Omnifocus across OSX and iOS for well over a year, and since switching to OF2 would essentially be switching apps, I decided to take the opportunity to make sure I was be switching to the right app.

Which is all a great way to post-rationalize the wreckless and wasteful fiddling I allowed myself to descend into.

My first stop was Things. Things was the first task management app that stuck for me. And while it still feels great from a simplicity standpoint, it's feeling dated. The product hasn't noticably changed in over a year. The iOS apps haven't been updated for iOS 7, and they look so old that they almost feel ironic. But it was after a visit to their forums that I knew for sure I couldn't go back. There still simmers a great discontent over the glacial pace of Cultured Code's development cycle. That was part of the reason I abandoned ship in the first place, and I didn't want to rejoin that particular torch and pitchfork mob. I do miss their sync solution, though. It's so fast.

I also fired up my old Nozbe account to see how it feels nowadays. Michael Hyatt still uses and evangelizes Nozbe, so it must be pretty good. The biggest problem with it is that the desktop client is still lacking in keyboard shortcuts. A forgivable shortcoming for a free or inexpensive app, but it's a problem that is difficult to overlook with Nozbe's fairly pricy subscription model. A productivity tool that is slow to use because it requires using a mouse seems like an oxymoronic characature of Soviet technology. "In Soviet Russia, management tasks YOU!"

And to be honest, there's only so much brown that I can look at in a day.

I checked out Todoist after seeing that Mike Vardy has started using it. It seems fine, I guess. They advertise a lot of basic functionality, like adding notes to tasks, as "premium upgrades." The handicapped free version makes it hard to get a sense of what it's actually like to use on a daily basis. And while they offer a money back guarantee on upgrading, I didn't feel like shelling out the dough only to have to jump through the hoops a day later to get a refund if I didn't like it. Ultimately, it seems like it's the most Omnifocus-like system for people who need Android or PC compatibility. I'll take another look if I end up on Android at some point.

And then there was TaskPaper.

TaskPaper I love.

Plain text, easy to input projects and tasks, no fields to tab around in or scrolling date pickers to mess with, super simple to move things around and reorganize, multiple tags and contexts on projects and tasks, accessability from any number of apps that handle txt files.

It almost got me.

I've been switching back and forth from the Omnifocus 2 Beta and TaskPaper over the past month or two. I nearly went with TaskPaper full time, pulling Omnifocus off of my dock. But what I realized is that my system requires a longer view. I need to be able to punt things into the future without further complicating my calendar or having to look at them constantly. I need some tasks to be repeating without necessitating an Applescript hack. I need a solid sync solution that won't create file conflicts like I experienced a time or two with TP. And the biggest thing, the feature that drew me to Omnifocus in the first place, is the ability to forward emails with attachments into my system. I work in an email intensive environment, and having to check for tasks in more than one app was making me anxious.

So I've committed to Omnifocus 2. I miss the flexibility in TaskPaper to apply multiple tags to tasks and the ease of slicing and dicing lists with the search query system, but getting it to work well requires an awful lot of hacks across Applescript, Text-Expander, Keyboard-Maestro and Editorial. Omnifocus might be slower by its very nature, but it just works.

I won't write a full review of Omnifocus 2 here. Sites like Macsparky and Shawn Blanc will do a much better job of that. But I really do enjoy using it.

I'm still trying to figure out how to work the new forecast view into my day-to-day, but the app itself seems like it's easier to navigate and manipulate. There's been a lot of talk about the wasted verticle space caused by having two lines per task. Ken Case has mentioned in the forums that they're looking into rolling out the option of a single line view after the initial launch, but I'm not bothered by it. Oh, and having the inspector tied into the main window makes things much easier to navigate from a keyboard perspective.

I only wish they'd lose the purple. The purple is terrible. Though it's not nearly the dealbreaker that Nozbe's brown is.

The TV Guys Won - Agencies are Still Making Videos

Does it seem twisted, or sadist, or disappointing to anyone else that Burger King has taken what is arguably some of the best interactive creative that's been ever been done for a brand — Subserviant Chicken — and turned it into a video?

Rick Webb, co-founder of The Barbarian Group, sure does:

The downside isn’t the creative, it’s the context. Seeing the same creative on the Web ten years later? If you had asked me back then what a digital campaign would look like now, I would have expected holograms and VR or something. Ten years ago the chicken was a software app. Now it’s a youtube video and some share buttons. This really drives home to me how boring and bloated digital production has gotten. A million kids are making video games, robots, lasers, drones and billion dollar startups. Agencies are still making videos. Except now they’re longer. Also, the rental fee on the cast trailer in the background alone is more than our entire budget. The TV guys won.

Via Digiday

Why Do People Persist in Believing Things That Just Aren't True?

As a married person with kids, I often find myself in a position of trying to change someone's mind about something that they couldn't be any more wrong about. Taste in music, television shows, whether or not bowties should exist outside of the 19th century in any context other than the necks of Ph.D.s ... you get the idea. It's my cross to bear, as they say.

Maria Konnikova has written a piece at The New Yorker about the research of several academics who have set out to understand what it takes to change people's minds when they are empirically wrong about something.

What they're finding is that, surprise, surprise, facts and evidence are of little use in changing people's minds. Evidence to the contrary can even help to strengthen incorrect opinions:

They had followed a group of almost two thousand parents, all of whom had at least one child under the age of seventeen, to test a simple relationship: Could various pro-vaccination campaigns change parental attitudes toward vaccines? Each household received one of four messages: a leaflet from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stating that there had been no evidence linking the measles, mumps, and rubella (M.M.R.) vaccine and autism; a leaflet from the Vaccine Information Statement on the dangers of the diseases that the M.M.R. vaccine prevents; photographs of children who had suffered from the diseases; and a dramatic story from a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention about an infant who almost died of measles. A control group did not receive any information at all. The goal was to test whether facts, science, emotions, or stories could make people change their minds.

The result was dramatic: a whole lot of nothing. None of the interventions worked. The first leaflet—focussed on a lack of evidence connecting vaccines and autism—seemed to reduce misperceptions about the link, but it did nothing to affect intentions to vaccinate. It even decreased intent among parents who held the most negative attitudes toward vaccines, a phenomenon known as the backfire effect. The other two interventions fared even worse: the images of sick children increased the belief that vaccines cause autism, while the dramatic narrative somehow managed to increase beliefs about the dangers of vaccines. “It’s depressing,” Nyhan said. “We were definitely depressed,” he repeated, after a pause.

They now believe that beliefs take root within our self-perception. They help us to define ourselves. And just as we have a natural tendency to rationalize away people's criticisms of who we are as people, we are good at deflecting criticisms of our beliefs. So the more ideological a belief becomes, the more difficult it'll be to change it:

The campaign against smoking is one of the most successful public-interest fact-checking operations in history. But, if smoking were just for Republicans or Democrats, change would have been far more unlikely. It’s only after ideology is put to the side that a message itself can change, so that it becomes decoupled from notions of self-perception.

Myth and Rarity

From Elvis Costello's December 2013 interview in Esquire:

People can’t really understand that now, when everything is available and everything is annotated, but you used to watch a television show and it was just gone. You really had to pay attention. Its mythic power came down to the fact that you saw it once."

Via Phenomenal Work

Seeing the Creative Woods for the Data Trees

Barry Meade writing at Polygon:

I am arguing that this is what we have forgotten in our chase for mobile profit, that we can’t see the creative woods for the data trees. For all our mountains of information we’ve collected about user habits and sales, the gut-level ability to give joy and inspire our audience remains the job of our industry’s creative people first and every other industry role second. Our ability to communicate to, reach and inspire the people that we make things for is the foundation for everything any artist or craftsperson ever produced.

For all of the bleating about big data and analytics, the most successful creative work, digital or otherwise, still seems to be coming from talented people doing cool stuff.

To bastardize one of my favorite Mark Fenske quotes:

It doesn't matter how much data you have if your idea sucks.

The challenge for the quants is going to be the same one that research and strategy groups in creative settings have always faced: It's not enough that you have the information. It has to be made compelling to the creative process. Helping the work get better is the only way to get a seat at the table.

On the flipside, the creatives that learn how to really have fun with data will continue driving the future of their respective industries.

Via MacStories

VCU Brandcenter Seeks Lead for Creative Technology Track

The VCU Brandcenter Creative Technology track has been churning out some amazing people over the past few years. We're lucky to have one of them, Jeff MacDonald, here at Martin. In fact, he's so good and such a nice guy that he was featured on Forbes' 30 under 30 this year.

Anyways, his (and my) alma mater, the VCU Brandcenter, is looking for someone to lead their Creative Technology track. It's the chance to work with some of the scariest, capable and most socially awkward talent that you're going to find within 100-miles of the word "brand." I'm jealous of each and every one of them for what they are able to do.

Mission or Goal of Unit

The Brandcenter, through its groundbreaking Master of Science degree program and executive education programming, seeks to provide the advertising and marketing industry with strategic and creative leaders – men and women of integrity, enthusiasm, imagination, and uncommon vision who will lead the industry to new heights.

Preferred Qualifications

Information architecture, web design, programming, behavioral analytics, contextual inquiry, usability studies, research methodologies, rapid prototyping, and user journeys.

Fluency in Experience Design production tools include, but are not limited to, Omnigraffle, Axure, Visio, Photoshop, Illustrator, Dreamweaver, HTML5, CSS3, JavaScript, Cinema 4-D, After Effects, 3D Max.

Sound like you? Click through for the details.

My Own Personal Waterloo

Things have been a little slow around here lately.

I decided to move the blog portion of my website to some sort of flat-file CMS. Idealistic dreams of dropbox powered writing workflows, the freedom to write with any text editor, being forced to learn to code in a practical was all so beautiful.

It hasn't been going well.

I started working with Statamic back in December. The idea being that I'd get everything moved over in time for the new year and that I could relaunch the site along with a new podcast.

But that was a different time. A time of optimism, open evenings, and reckless underestimation.

It was also before our baby became crazy colicky at night.

It was without understanding how deep the rabbit hole of learning to code my own site would actually be.

It was before weekly snow storms and resulting daycare closings. Days full of kids, nights full of catch-up work, and weekends in recovery.

But I've finally made progress.

I've got my Statamic theme working.

I've exported all of my posts from Squarespace, and formatted most as markdown files.

My server is now symlinked to a folder in Dropbox, so posting will be as simple as creating a new plain text note on OSX or iOS.

The only thing left is to try and make some sense of my mess of RSS feeds. They've piled up over the years like the Pacific Garbage Patch. It's time to clean them up. Feedburner is long overdue for the ol' heave ho.

This has been my own personal waterloo.

But it hasn't been without positives. I've spent tons of time working with the command line in Terminal. I've navigated through a few different hosting companies and products before figuring out what I really needed. And I've finally had a good reason to dig in, really get immersed, in coding. It took a real project to do it. Sites like Code Academy are great in theory, but without a good motivation to spend late nights problem solving and pulling your hair out, I've found those learn-to-code sites to be a little more idealistic than useful for my needs.

The new site should be ready to go soon. You'll know when it happens because 10 repeat posts will go out over RSS. Apologies in advance...

Some Other Platforms:

I spent some time with a few different platforms while working this out. Some brief thoughts on each: is a great idea, but it doesn't have the depth that I want (and probably don't need). seems like a ghost ship. It's there, it looks like a good solution, but I can't tell if anyone is still at the helm.

Skrivr uses wonky file names, and honestly I'd like to self host.

Dropplets doesn't work on mobile.

Markbox is still really immature.

Ghost is SUPER buggy when posting from iOS.

Kirby required a bit too much PHP for my taste, and I just couldn't get it to work without fiddling around with htaccess.

Second Crack was made to do exactly what I'd like to do, but installation takes serious server-side acrobatics. I never thought I'd have to use VIM, and I've now seen horrors I can never unsee.

Pelican seems really great, but to say that it's command line intensive is like saying calculus is math oriented.

Newegg Loses to Patent Troll

TQP's single patent is tied to a failed modem business run by Michael Jones, formerly president of Telequip. The company has acquired more than $45 million in patent licensing fees by getting settlements from a total of 139 companies. TQP argues that the patent covers SSL or TLS combined with the RC4 cipher, a common Internet security system used by retailers like Newegg.

I think it was Andy Warhol who predicted: "In the future, everyone will have 15-minutes in court with a patent troll."

Source: http://

Squarespace redesigned on iOS

Whoops...spoke too soon.

After writing another post about the problems of posting to Squarespace from iOS the night before last, they went ahead and released some updates.

We’re excited to announce two brand new iOS apps for Squarespace customers – Squarespace Blog and Squarespace Metrics – as well as iOS 7 updates for Note and Portfolio.

As Squarespace's functionality continues to expand, we’ve focused on creating an entire suite of applications around Squarespace’s core product. This lets us focus each app on specific functionality, providing a clear, targeted interface that helps you accomplish exactly what you need to do on the go.

I'm using the new iPhone app to write this. So far it's working well. And wow is it great to look at. It seems to have the full functionality of the desktop website. Which probably wasn't easy to do.

I was hoping for a URL scheme to work with or some kind of Dropbox integration. There's a lot to be said for being able to write in a proper text editor. Though that probably makes me a bit of an edge case for their target users.

I'm afraid that after looking into so many blogging services that use Dropbox to publish markdown formatted text files as posts, any other method of posting seems a little bit inefficient considering that I'm already doing all of my writing in Dropbox synced text files.

Sven just wrote about moving Simplicitybliss to [Kirby] and I am incredibly jealous. Also, I'm happy to see that one of my favorite bloggers shares my inability to Stay. Put.

More complaining about posting with Squarespace...

Chris Gonzolez put together a Squarespace wishlist that reminded me of some of the frustrations I've written about. He makes a number of great points, but this continues to be my main frustration:

If Squarespace isn't going to update its own app – it's been 25 weeks (!) since the last iPad update – they should open up some kind of public API for 3rd-party apps to use. If I could just publish directly from Byword or Editorial, it would change my entire game.

Their head of operations (I think?) replied to a frustrated tweet of mine with a cryptic "stay tuned," but at this rate it could be years.

I've been thinking of continuing to use Squarespace for a home base, but moving my blog to a platform better suited to day-to-day posting. Tumblr or any of the Dropbox blogging services offer much better blogging functionality.

But maybe if I wait long enough...

Via Unretrofied

If you're paying attention, you're not paying attention...

Those registering lower on a test that measured mindfulness were able to identify more quickly a series of repeating geometric patterns on a computer screen that they were unaware they were learning. This type of unconscious, or implicit, learning is the same automatic mental process used in teaching yourself to ride a bike or that a child marshals in intuiting underlying grammatical rules by listening to the ways a parent strings together sentences.”

Via Scientific American

The Martin Agency Kitchen

The agency is starting up a great new program for creative "types" looking to spend a few months inside an agency making awesome stuff:

Combine 15 overachieving prodigies from the worlds of art, copy, design, film, digital and business, give 'em actual real-world assignments and you get The Martin Agency Kitchen. No, we won't bore you with culinary-puns and hackneyed cooking metaphors. Although that would be kinda fun.

We're here to throw down the gauntlet and ask you if you're up for the challenge to blow people's minds with the kickassest of kickass work EVER CREATED.

So are you ready to bring the pain for three months and come home with three completed projects like: a killer music video, new business, branded apps, art installations and alien-grade inventions? Then read on, amigos.

Check it out here:

Disclaimer: I'm still waiting for my tailored pants.

Unpleasant Design

Unpleasant Design is a phenomenon in which social control is inherent in the design of objects and spaces. Park benches with a central armrest where one cannot sleep, blue light in public toilets which makes intravenous injection impossible, (((it’s amazing what one can learn from design fandom))) are just a few common features we regularly encounter in public spaces. In recent years, unpleasant design has become a global fashion with many examples to be found across cities worldwide.


Designing “unpleasant design” is an intricate process. During the Unpleasant Design workshop, participants use persuasive and coercive design techniques to invent a design which targets a specific group, behavior or product. Particular attention will be paid to technologies, which enable discrimination and the role of pervasive technology in urban spaces. Participants will actively explore this change through the application of unpleasant design.

Some might mistake this for passive aggressive design. Or use it as a way to condescend to MBA's who work in marketing. I'm just happy to have a two word term that so neatly describes product strategy in the cable industry.

VIA: Beyond the Beyond