Drinking from the Firehose

“How’s the new role? Are you just drinking from the firehose?” asked my colleague yesterday.

It seemed a new and peculiarly American phrase to me but I knew exactly what she meant and the answer was an exhausted “yes”.

What does that mean?

Wiktionary gives a very simple definition

  1. (idiomatic) To be overwhelmed (with work, information, etc.); to be inundated with an uncapped, unfiltered amount

And it seems the term has been around for more than a decade, as it was picked up in a nicely nuanced way in this 2006 blog post.

Why am I drinking from the firehose?

I took on a new role in February, it’s more global, more strategic, and more fun. I’m now part of a US-based team, none of whom have met me. However I still have some projects to complete from my former EU-based role as I haven’t been replaced. So in the mornings I focus on the EU projects, and the afternoon I switch to the US projects, my agenda is getting crowded and my day is a bit stretched.

It’s cutting into my writing time – but it is temporary. I will be writing more regularly from June onwards as one of my projects finishes sometime in May. In the meantime, back to that firehose.

 

Image by skeeze from Pixabay

Creativity at Play #3

One of my New Year’s Resolutions is to be more creative and one way I’m doing that is picking creativity exercises from the brilliant book Caffeine for the Creative Mind: 250 exercises to wake up your brain.

Here’s this month’s challenge

Can Anyone Direct Me to the Perfume Aisle?

If there is any one retail outlet more intimidating than the local giant home improvement warehouse hardware mecca, point it out, please. You can get lost just locating a shopping cart. One thing is certain: the target audience of these emporiums is heavily male. Now imagine you are asked to consult on a new brand of uber-spacious hardware paradise, this one targeting women. List at least twenty ideas to make the local oversized hardware warehouse appeal to a female demographic

Three Stories

I live in the Netherlands, and I can speak enough Dutch to manage most forms of shopping. Some years ago I went into the local hardware store, I knew exactly what I wanted, only I didn’t know what it was called because growing up I could just wander into my Dad’s workshop and pick up whatever tool or supply I needed. So I didn’t have the right vocabulary to even look stuff up in Dutch, I had to draw the thing I wanted, much to amusement of the sales guy. I wasn’t intimidated, but I have never felt so aware of “secret men’s business” as I did in that moment.

I was at a conference about branding and marketing, and the keynote speaker summed up marketing to women as “pink it and shrink it”.

Decades ago when I was deciding what to study an engineering recruiter pointed out that women who sew their own clothes, as I do, should be good at engineering since they’re already thinking about how to make flat surfaces (fabric) into three dimensional shapes (clothes).

I tell these stories to show that I recognise the male-bias in hardware stores, but I don’t want to solve it by the sexist cop-out of painting everything pink, and I think women have existing skills that make them capable of undertaking DIY projects.

My List

  1. Hire women. I was tempted to just repeat this 20 times. I don’t go to hardware stores all that often but I don’t think I’ve ever encountered a woman working in one.
  2. Provide a creche, and a supervised playground. For a large emporium this is just good business, women will stay longer and buy more.
  3. Develop a visual glossary, a bit like the old “Point it” books for travellers, to help women find the tools and supplies they’re looking for without having to know all the specific vocabulary.
  4. Use the visual glossary on signs alongside words to make specific tools more recognizable.
  5. An app based on the visual glossary from which I can create a shopping list before I come to the store so that I can research and check what I want.
  6. A range of tool sizes – it’s much easier to swing a hammer that’s the right size for your hands.
  7. Offer DIY kits with step by step instructions, think IKEA and make it simple and visual.
  8. Offer beginner’s classes for specific build projects eg; “build a bookshelf in a day” and let these classes have a social element. Women who are into craft often enjoy crafting together.
  9. Provide tools and supplies for advanced projects – don’t assume all women are beginners
  10. Promote women-based DIY businesses to customers.
  11. Offer trade discounts to women working in DIY comparable to other mega-hardware stores.
  12. Create a community online where your customers can talk about their projects and share their progress and results, refer to ravelry.com for examples.
  13. Train all your staff that women are becoming experts in DIY. If a man and a woman are shopping together, don’t assume that it’s the man doing the project and speak only to him.
  14. Trolleys that are ergonomically fit for women to use.
  15. Hire women experts to demonstrate how tools work, how to complete projects.
  16. Profile successful customer projects on your site/app.
  17. Carry a range of work clothes that fit women, from gloves to overalls, with lots of pockets. Have a range of colours – not all pink.
  18. Keep shelving at a reasonable height, adjust shelves so that 80% of women can reach them.
  19. Hire women. It’s worth repeating.
  20. Good coffee.

This was easier than I expected, perhaps because I’ve been reading reviews of Invisible Women by Caroline Criado Perez about how the world is often built from a male perspective and the impact on women ranges from inconvenient (public toilets) to dangerous (medical diagnostics). As psychologists would say, I was slightly primed for this task.

It was still a fun and creative, but something else occurred to me, many of these steps would just be good for business.

Cord Cutting

I’ve moved. There’s one glaring absence in my living room, I no longer have a TV. I haven’t had a landline phone for years. Apparently I am a “cord cutter“.

I had already cut my tv viewing significantly, and I know exactly the moment I made that decision. I was watching Cold Case, or NCIS, or SVU, on the detective and crime channel, where they were showing a string of episodes of the same programme. I hadn’t noticed that one episode had ended and another had begun, and I couldn’t remember how the crime had been solved. I realised 2 things – all the procedural genre TV shows are incredibly formulaic, and that TV was, in effect, wallpaper in that I no longer paid attention to it.

As streaming services rise more people are cutting their cable/broadcast tv and opting for streaming services, often this is a cost cutting move. Many providers bundle their TV + internet + landline services, which is often good for consumers, except that now I only need a reliable wifi service. Many providers bundle their content, which is often not good for consumers. Some years ago I contacted the cable tv provider her and asked if I could have just 4 channels, I was willing to pay half the regular fee even though I was forgoing about 30 channels. The answer was a firm no.

There are lots of guides out there on how to set up a combination of streaming services so that you won’t miss your favourite shows. Not all of the services are available in Europe (yet). There’s some evidence that those moving off cable and onto streaming happier than TV watchers.

My motivation was a little different, I’m happy to save the money, but I also wanted to change how I use my time. Of course I do have Wi-Fi, so I have the option of YouTube or Netflix. But I have deliberately made it inconvenient to watch on a big screen, so I am reading more and being more creative with either writing or crafting.

Meanwhile anyone want to buy a TV set with a slightly broken remote?

image via pixabay

 

Just Stop It: Asking for my Date of Birth

Just Stop itIt’s interesting, government departments in many countries cannot ask for any personal information unless it is needed for the services they provide. Why can internet sites get away with this? Your date of birth is a critical piece of identity information, but it’s absolutely not necessary to register for a website.

A number of websites ask you your birth date as part of their registration process, including – as shown in the above example – Yahoo!

Yahoo! in this case tries to soften the blow by promising to provide me with a “better experience”. Let me translate what that means; they will guess based on your age which ads should be served to you. So if you’re in your thirties, and perhaps visit a baby clothes site, you’ll get baby ads, if you’re over forty five it’ll be hair-loss and menopause remedies. Get older and it’s incontinence pads. As if you couldn’t search for such products without their help.

In my case I lie, I have a birth date that I use as my “internet birthday”. Which means I’ll get the incontinence pad ads a little late.

Reading Revolution

To me there is no better way to relax than to curl up with a good book. As a child I’d read anything – even a milk carton – I was that thrilled with my new found reading skills. I still think strong reading skills are important for a person to develop good analytical skills and personal empathy. But not everyone has the time and I suspect more people spend time reading their phones than reading a book.

I resisted having a kindle for a long time because I love the experience of reading a physical book, but the kindle has some advantages: I can carry a few hundred books in the space of one physical novel, there is a fair bit of free content out there (thank you Gutenberg), and I can read Dutch books with the help of a convenient online dictionary. The big downside for me is I can’t share or pass on books, yes Amazon makes it technically possible but most publishers don’t allow it. For a while it seemed that e-readers would spell the end of physical books but there seems to have been a turnaround, with the sales of ebooks dropping, as the sales of physical books rises.

I don’t think people are necessarily reading less, but they might be reading differently, here are some developments in reading formats.

Serial Box

An old idea repackaged for today’s technology. Episodes of a series are released each week and you can switch between reading text or listening to audio without losing your place in the story. Some content is existing books repackaged, but the Serial Box is heading into creating original content, the first episode is free to whet your appetite, and a few classic books are issued as a free series – I’ve started with The Woman in White as a trial. You can hear more on a recent Recode Decode podcast.

Sleep Stories

If you’ve ever thought “just one more chapter” and then woken up at 2am with arm cramp and the light on this might be for you. Each Sleep Story is constructed with enough drama to keep you focused on the story but not so much that you’ll stay awake. The readers are chosen for their soothing voices, it’s a joy, even the three minute explanation on the site had me drifting off.

As a free alternative, try listening to a podcast in a language you don’t speak. I find Welsh very pleasing and restful.

Audio books

One advantage of reading is you can’t do anything else except read. If that sounds like a disadvantage for you then audiobooks are the answer. There are a range of services out there, mostly subscription based. I admit I don’t go in for audio books as I tend to loose focus and have to replay whole chapters. I have the same problem with podcasts longer than 30 minutes. But a friend who does really long travel, like 8 hours of driving, for her job finds them brilliant. In a way this is also an old idea upgraded with technology, books were serialised on the radio, this is just radio on demand.

Whatever technology we’re using, we still are looking for good stories.

Image via pixabay 

Creativity at Play #2

One of my New Year’s Resolutions is to be more creative and one way I’m doing that is picking creativity exercises from the brilliant book Caffeine for the Creative Mind: 250 exercises to wake up your brain.

Here’s this month’s challenge

What day is it?

The week of seven days was adopted in Rome somewhere about 400 AD and spread into Europe, but it had been recognised long before that in the East. The names of the days are generally associated with Roman mythology.

It’s time they received a contemporary change. Your task is to rename the days of the week to be more modern. They can all be associated with a theme, or they can all have different meanings. They can be as long or as short as your like, but they must all end with the suffix “-day” like they do know.

First up, the names of the days of the week in English are generally associated with Norse mythology, not Roman. Latin based languages adapted the names via Roman Gods, so Friday is named after Frigg/Freya, the wife of Odin. She was often associated with love, and connected to Venus, the Roman goddess of love, and Friday in Italian and French became venerdì and vendredi respectively. That’s the factual detour out of the way, now I can get creative.

First, what if we just numbered the days? Oneday, Twoday, Threeday, Fourday, Fiveday, Sixday, Sevenday

It’s much easier to remember, and handy for foreigners learning English. In fact Mandarin Chinese does this, for six of the seven days, and it is very easy to learn. Slavic languages also use numbers in naming some days, but in a more complicated way, and Sunday is something like “no work day” in Czech which is genius.

A random co-incidence there are seven colours in the rainbow so how about:

Day  Day  Day  Day  Day  Day  Day

It may appeal to people with synesthesia, less useful for people who are colour-blind. Tricky for design and colour printing.

I have rather neutral associations with the actual words for days of the week, maybe if I renamed the days I could have positive association.

Monday becomes Beginday

The first day of the week and you get to start new things

Tuesday becomes Dashday

For some reason Tuesday is often a day for lots of meetings and actions, which sounds heavy unless I think of it as dashing my way through the meetings and then it sounds fun.

Wednesday becomes Focusday

We’re in the middle of things, time to focus on the centre of what needs to be done

Thursday becomes Doday

A day to get things done with the energy of Thor

Friday becomes Capday

Time to cap off the week and plan for the next week

Saturday becomes Playday

A day for socialising, for meeting friends, for watching movies and doing the fun things of the week.

Sunday becomes Createday

On Createday I will write and work on creative hobbies.

Did this exercise break out the creativity? Yes, it was fun to think about it from different angles and throw some different languages into a post for once. Will I really use my new days of the week? Sort of, it feels positive to give working days a theme, but I can’t completely control my calendar so the theme remains loose during the week. As for the weekend – that’s already a reality.

Creativity at Play #2

One of my New Year’s Resolutions is to be more creative and one way I’m doing that is picking creativity exercises from the brilliant book Caffeine for the Creative Mind: 250 exercises to wake up your brain.

Here’s this month’s challenge

What day is it?

The week of seven days was adopted in Rome somewhere about 400 AD and spread into Europe, but it had been recognised long before that in the East. The names of the days are generally associated with Roman mythology.

It’s time they received a contemporary change. Your task is to rename the days of the week to be more modern. They can all be associated with a theme, or they can all have different meanings. They can be as long or as short as your like, but they must all end with the suffix “-day” like they do know.

First up, the names of the days of the week in English are generally associated with Norse mythology, not Roman. Latin based languages adapted the names via Roman Gods, so Friday is named after Frigg/Freya, the wife of Odin. She was often associated with love, and connected to Venus, the Roman goddess of love, and Friday in Italian and French became venerdì and vendredi respectively. That’s the factual detour out of the way, now I can get creative.

First, what if we just numbered the days? Oneday, Twoday, Threeday, Fourday, Fiveday, Sixday, Sevenday

It’s much easier to remember, and handy for foreigners learning English. In fact Mandarin Chinese does this, for six of the seven days, and it is very easy to learn. Slavic languages also use numbers in naming some days, but in a more complicated way, and Sunday is something like “no work day” in Czech which is genius.

A random co-incidence there are seven colours in the rainbow so how about:

Day  Day  Day  Day  Day  Day  Day

It may appeal to people with synesthesia , less useful for people who are colour-blind.

colours or sounds

moods