I talk too much
I’ve had several meeting with new people at work recently. This happens when your company is acquired by another: everyone wants to get together to see what your deal is and if there’s a way to work together. You setup new teams to pursue the bright new feature and they have to figure out what their deal is and who they’ll do it.
There’s lots of “intro” meetings. “You two should talk with each other!” I’m encountering a problem I’d forgotten about: nothing ever happens as a result of those meetings. A whole new set of actions and next steps and even fundamental understandings of what the problem and goals are pops up later.
In these settings, I’m the one who talks a lot: on any given topic, I drop in all the context and walk through all of the scenarios I can think of. My thinking, writing, and analysis style is that one where you don’t really know what you’re thinking until you’re done.
I used to be an actual pack-rat - collecting together a lot of junk. I love being surrounded by ephemera. But, my wife cured me of that. But now, I’m a mental pack-rat: I feel most comfortable when I’m surrounded by a lot of ideas, talk, and content.
This means I talk lot. In business, I’m pretty sure this is the opposite of good.
Business culture (at least UK/American business culture) values one form of business communication, best represented by Mento Memo style, or, the reverse pyramid, as summarized by Ameet Ranadive:
- Start with the answer first.
- Group and summarize your supporting arguments.
- Logically order your supporting ideas.
Dutch people are even better: they just do #1. I’m making an exaggerated characterization, but I mean it as a high compliment.
I think the magic is that the Dutch know how easily they second and third can be manipulated, but more importantly they also know that they don’t have time to “logically order your supporting ideas.” In discussing the Dutch, there’s a fanciful over reliance on the sea as the enemy. The sea will drown the Dutch if they don’t fight it. The whole country has to act quickly to fight the sear. There’s not time for thinking thoroughly (Germans) or thinking artfully (the French). The sea doesn’t care about grouping and summarizing your supporting arguments, it wants to drown you.
(Supporting side-note: children are required to learn to swim. The last test before getting the required certified is falling into water fully clothed, with shoes, and showing that you can get back out. The swimming lessons aren’t for fun, they’re for surviving the battle against water.)
People think that American are “straight talkers,” but we’re nothing compared to Dutch people. For example:
“We’re going to Italy next week,” I told one of my Dutch neighbors in August, smiling and just talking about “nothing” as you do in social situations.
“No. August is the wrong time to go to Italy,” they said, “don’t go.”
What they were saying, without all those supporting arguments, logically laid out was “it’s going to be hot down there and full of tourists. So this isn’t the ideal time to go.” And the nuance that further wasn’t added was “I mean, if this is the only time you can go, you should go.”
But, no, that’s not their style of talking. It’s just one of two things: yes or no.
Instead of being concise and all “best business memo of your life,” in most conversations with people talk-write a Victorian-fluffy serialized book-memo in realtime that explores every angle and fleshes out every footnote. Plus, there’s some B-stories and lengthy chapters on every type of whale. I’m mindful enough to constantly being suggesting next steps and specific projects to work on, but I think those get lost in the rest of the talk.
Despite smiling, and often going over time because they genuinely want to keep talking, people rarely ever talk to me again or do any of the next steps I suggest, or even ones we come up with together. Talking a lot doesn’t seem to lead to anything.
Maybe what I need to do is be slightly more Dutch. Just talk less and state conclusions more. I think you’re supposed to ask people what their goals are. But, I find that most people have open ended goals. What I’d really like to ask people in these kinds of “intro” meetings is “what do you want me to do?”
But, that seems rude. Maybe even annoying: I loath it when someone asks me what my goals are, or definitions of projects I’m working on.
One time I had an intro call with someone about some “digital transformation” work I was doing and their first question was “what is your goal with this project? What do you think ‘digital transformation’ means?” Instead, what I wanted was to tell them what I was working on and hear from them how they could help.
I mean, as you can guess, we didn’t talk again or actually do anything. I don’t like being on the other end of that “be concise and ask people what they want” mode. But I’m pretty sure talking less is more productive and other people like it.
All of this, you see, is a good example of talking too much. I don’t know if I actually believe all the things typed above, I’m just seeing what it feels like to think them.
This all be summarized much better: “I talk to much.”
(But, hey, also, this a sloppy and quick newsletter, so I’m not going to edit too much, you know>)
I ate too much bread before this week’s Software Defined Talk episode:
We discuss weird speculation that Google Cloud would buy Salesforce. It seems like bullshit, mostly, but it gives us a good jumping off point to talk cloud strategy. Also, Coté talks about being part of the VMware Tanzu team, how kubernetes could become the white box of the PC market (this is a good thing), that being #3 in a market is probably just fine, and we discuss poisoning-by-bread.
More on strategy
My old friend and delightfully frequent newsletter replier Jason wrote this on what strategy is:
Regardless, and important point is: Goals are the outcomes you want, whereas Strategy is How you are going to achieve them. (And the reasoning for why you believe that is the correct “how”). So for example, “grow revenues 40%” is a goal, but a strategy would say something like “the thing most holding us back from growth is lack of competitive differentiation, therefore we will not only build things customers want, but that competitors do not have. This year, that will be X and Y. Other teams will build P and Q which also are important for customers and are undifferentiated, because we still need to run our current business, but delivery of X and Y is the key to achieving our goal of growth.”
Take a listen!
If you like an endless stream of art and other stuff in museums you should keep up with régine debatty’s photo stream. There’s more detailed write-ups over on her blog.
Bruce Sterling is also good at throwing up a bunch of photos as a sort of visual smoke-trail of his life and thinking, and, as always, there’s Robert Brook. I used to do that in flickr, but I got all angsty and hid the past decade plus of stuff. There’s a few new things, though.
tumblr is sort of built on this medium/method, but it gets clogged up with a bunch of other stuff.
I often think of just dumping images into Instagram and even Twitter. This was the accepted style for Web 2.0 people way back when: what flickr was for! The way you consume this stuff is like a steady drip of just seeing what the person is thinking about and experiencing: just another method of constantly hanging out with people. I mean, that’s, like, what Snapchat and whatever video thing The Kids are using this week is for, right?
But, I don’t know, man: I feel like me dumping that stuff wouldn’t work well. It’d be like your great uncle forcing you to look at slides in his dark den. I think Robert would like it. See info pack-ratting and talking too much above!
Relative to your interests
- Bruce Sterling’s state of the world: “Uber-using AirBnB lurkers” versus “cheap canvas bags meant for onions”
- “Shamelessness, in this context, is best understood as a supply-side resource, a means of production” - at some point in all this “social media is exploiting The Kids” talk we need to ask “yeah, but like, isn’t doing all this stuff what people want? Do we want to cross the line of telling people that they need to stop doing what they like because it’s ‘unhealthy,’ bad for society, and/or morally wrong?”
- Forgotten FOAF - “It is hard to believe today, but the problem in 2004, at least for savvy webizens and technology columnists aware of all the latest sites, was not the lack of alternative social networks but instead the proliferation of them.” Some 2006 typing from me that mentions FOAF.
- “2019 stands as the fourth-highest annual [M&A total] total since the internet bubble collapsed.”.
- Bogus enterprise AI - “25% of companies say half their AI projects fail to deliver on their promise, according to an IDC report.”
- The Most ‘Abandoned’ Books on GoodReads.
- Digital driver’s license, also, already done in another region.
- Copyrighting APIs - boy, and you thought Amazon running it’s own Elastic instance was an intellectual-business mess. I don’t follow the issue closely, but, maybe they’re just need to be some checkbox that says: “people can copy my APIs and put in their own implementation, vs. just call my APIs.” I mean: it seems pretty obvious that if you copy some APIs and write your own version of a copyrighted program, that something wrong is going on. Let’s say that you could make an exact look and feel replica of macOS or even bash. Is that, like, legal? Moral? I suppose you could say that an API is inherently something in the public sphere - it’s there to be used by other entities. But then, you could just separate public vs. private APIs: you can always call out the proprietary WebSphere Java stuff instead of the standard APIs - but that’s not good? There should be some analogy to recording songs and theater productions: you use the same “API”/specification of the lyrics and even notes to play, but you do your version of it. Moral of the story: don’t let programmers hack IP law.
- Serverless is problematic - “each developer creating serverless functions and projects have to think in terms of devops and especially become a deployment engineer” - I should have made my 2020 prediction: “this is the year that everyone will say that developers should not being doing ops, and just stick to moving pixels on the screen,” for example:
- Code-wise, cloud-foolish: avoiding bad technology choices - “When your open-source software is so complex that it effectively requires a cloud provider to run it on your behalf, you’ve stumbled into back door lock-in. And you don’t even get the advantage of traditional cloud lock-in, which is deep integration between native services.”
- Later never happens : “Anything over a couple of paras and it gets sorted into the “later” bucket. The receiver isn’t rude, they just don’t have time for it when checking their email on the way to work. And “later” may never happen.”
- Defining what “done” means - ‘At some point, someone will realize that “When will XYZ be done?” meant “What is the set of features that constitute ‘done’?” but what’s being answered is “On what date is it supposed to ship?”’
- A good overview of Google Anthos, from Jeffery Hammond.