Unknown Unknowns #8 - What If It Were Easy?
3 min read

Unknown Unknowns #8 - What If It Were Easy?

Just came back from a week in Cape Cod.  This is only the third time I've traveled in the past fifteen months, each time by car.  For some reason, it made me think about taking the easy path.  Many times I try to do things the "right way" out of pride.  But what's important is that the job gets done.  That's not to say you shouldn't put in effort and have a standard for quality.  But if there's an easy way to do something, there's no shame in doing it that way.  

This Week:

Idea of the Week: APIs as Outsourcing Your User Experience

An API (application programming interface) is an interface that defines interactions between multiple software applications.  In other words, it allows a software application to talk to another software application.  A software application consists of a back end and a front end.  The backend is where all the magic happens and the front end is how the user experiences it.  A lot of apps and programs have amazing back ends and terrible front ends.  It's understandable, it's hard to have expertise in two different skill sets.  But why struggle with an area that you're weak in?  If you open up your API, other people can build interfaces to access your backend.  

Two examples: Twitter and Amazon.  

Amazon has terrible search.  Even if you know the exact model that you want, it's hard to find.  Even if you put in the color you want, other colors still show up. It's impossible to compare items and it's hard to find out exactly what you're buying.  Wouldn't it be nice to have better search functionality, link the items to a database with characteristics so that you could compare them?  Link them to review websites?

Twitter is a firehose of information and the only way to use it is by sticking your face into it.  It's hard to search, hard to categorize, hard to do anything except doomscroll.  They've had over a decade to work on this.  Open up your API and let other people build tools to access your content.

To be fair, Twitter is working on an API now.  I don't know how open this API will be, but hopefully it will allow users to interact with other users in ways that they want.

My expertise level on this subject is somewhere between 3 and 6 out of 10, so take this with a grain of salt.

Experiment of the Week: Weekly Review

I tried a weekly review last year.  Weekly reviews are supposed to help you organize your work for the week.  I'd never done one before, so I took a generic checklist and process and tried to follow it.  My weekly review didn't last very long, and I think it's because the process didn't focus on my priorities since it was someone else's template.

I have found myself getting bogged down lately so I want to give a weekly review another shot.  This time I have a clear idea of what I want to get out of it, so hopefully it will be more helpful.  

What I want is to close out the previous week and set up the upcoming week.  

Closing out the previous week is seeing what goals and tasks I did not complete from last week and understanding why.  Also, clearing out various inboxes - email, RSS feeds, open tabs, twitter bookmarks, etc.  Clear out each inbox by either deleting, summarizing, or archiving.  

Setting up the upcoming week is explicitly laying out projects and ongoing activities (Areas) and coming up with tasks (Intermediate Packets) for each.  And scheduling specific time blocks for each one.  To do this, I'm going to estimate how long each one will take, set a priority level, and block off my calendar.

Hopefully this time the process will take.

Something Interesting: Changing the Power Dynamics of Meetings

How do you make work better?  Seth Godin suggests two new policies:

Meeting abstention: Anyone invited to a meeting can opt out and receive a summary.  In turn, they abstain from the decision making process

Meeting nullification: During a meeting, anyone can end the meeting due to it being a waste of time.  The organizer must send a memo summarizing what should have been covered.

These new policies change the dynamic from the presenter to the participants.  Instead of the presenter doing whatever he or she wants, the participant can signal that the presenter is wasting time.  This puts the onus on the presenter to make the meeting valuable, rather than on the participants to pay attention.

I'm on his side because I believe most meetings are a waste of time.  However, it's really hard to change company culture.  Company culture is a chicken and egg situation, does it come from the people or the rules?  


Questions, suggestions, complaints?  Email me me at [email protected].  Feedback welcome.

If you enjoyed this newsletter, please share it with a friend or two.  And feel free to send anything you find interesting to me!

Have a great week,

Chris

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