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43Folders.com is Merlin Mann’s website about finding the time and attention to do your best creative work.


DavidCo's Robert Peake on "Getting Software Done" (part 2)

This is the second of a two-part article by Robert Peake, CTO of the David Allen Company. Be sure to start with yesterday's first part, "Why GTD Matters To Programmers."

Part II: GTD and Extreme Programming

by Robert Peake, David Allen Company

I have to admit that I'm not a perfect adopter of Extreme Programming. We don't program in pairs, for example -- quite the opposite, our coders are flung far and wide, tethered together only by a broadband connection. However, as much as GTD is "advanced common sense", so to my mind is Extreme Programming a form of "best practices on steroids" -- and for this reason, there are not only many parallels, but great crossover when it comes to managing programming projects.

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Guest Post: DavidCo's Robert Peake on "Getting Software Done" (part 1)

Robert Peake is the brainiac CTO for the David Allen Company (a/k/a, "DavidCo"). I first met Robert when I was down in Ojai a few weeks ago to record some stuff with The David, including our Productive Talk podcasts and that TechGTD panel we did with Robert and Eric Mack.

Robert really impressed me with his humor, his insight, and his mad Macintosh skillz. Also -- off the record -- I happen to think Robert's probably the most articulate evangelist for geek GTD I've ever met. He really gets both pieces so well that, of course, I demanded he write an article for 43F, right on the spot. He was kind enough to play along, and flipped around this terrific piece in record time.

As he covers in this series, a lot of Robert's time over the past few months has been spent putting together the GTD Connect membership program, as well as making sure all the company's lights stay on from a technology standpoint. Since I know a lot 43F readers share Robert and my interest in GTD and programming, I'm sure you'll dig hearing from him. He successfully pulls together some pieces I've had floating around in my own head, and I thank him much for sharing this.

[Note: Part 2 of Robert's article, entitled "GTD and Extreme Programming," appears Wednesday on 43 Folders.]

Getting Software Done

by Robert Peake, David Allen Company

Since launching GTD Connect, we have gotten a lot of great feedback not only on the content, but on the technical underpinnings of the system we built to deliver the audio, video, forums, podcasts, and other goodies on the site. What a lot of people may not realize is that, to my mind, a lot of the elegance expressed in the technology that drives Connect stems from the fact that we implement and use the GTD methodology in our software development process. We really do "eat our own dog food" at DavidCo, and I'm convinced that necessarily translates to a more positive user experience overall in every product we produce, and especially software. A lot of people also don't realize how highly relevant GTD is to the software development industry specifically, and how many interesting parallels there are between software best practices and workflow best practices (i.e. GTD).

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Merlin on MacBreak Weekly: Apple's "Showtime" event

MacBreak Logo

MacBreak Weekly 6: It's Showtime

Hosts: Leo Laporte, Merlin Mann, Chris Breen, Alex Lindsay, and Brett Larson

Complete coverage and analysis of Apple's "It's Showtime" announcements...

As usual, the perspicaciousness of my insight reveals itself in quips like "This is pretty" and "People should buy this" and "Apple seems smart." Is it any wonder the Windows People hate us? No, friends. No, it isn't any wonder at all.

Running time: 58:49

[Download MP3 file]

Samsung A-920 as a Bluetooth Mac modem

noDRM.com » Blog Archive » How To: Use Sprint/Samsung A920 as an EVDO Bluetooth Modem with Mac

Earlier this year, like many of my siblings in the minor web dorkerati, your author was made a “Sprint Ambassador.” This is actually not nearly as fancy as it sounds — you still have to pay parking tickets and can’t necessarily have rude waiters whacked with impunity. Plus you get this really weird (Kansas? Missouri?) area code that makes all your friends think you’re a telemarketer or a Republican pollster.

Anyhow, the deal is that Sprint sends you their multimedia Samsung A-920 to use for free for a few months in exchange for offline comments (and, one speculates, the chance that their little blue unit might make an appearance in, say, a blog post along the lines of the one you're reading).

The phone’s okay, I guess — although why it takes 8 mother-scratching clicks to send a photo to Flickr from this purportedly high-end “multimedia phone” is just really hard for me to understand. Plus, until the other night, I’d never been able to use the EVDO modem functionality that’s one of the phone’s marquee features. The idea of internet access from any place that gets a phone signal made me salivate in the early days of my Ambassador tenure, but, as with so many of these things, I quickly made my peace with the usual excuse; unsupported on Macs. WANH-wahn. Still gotta drive to Starbucks to check my email on vacation. Oh, well.

Turns out I was wrong, and, boy, do I love being wrong about this.

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NYT: Mixed blessings of workplace tech

Attention- Juggling in the High-Tech Office - New York Times

NYT talks with Ed Reilly of the American Management Association on technology's "double-edged impact in the workplace."

Q. Do all the distractions mean that people don't have time to think deeply about what they're doing?

A. There is certainly some indication that in middle to upper management, that can be a problem. If you don't properly organize your thinking and your time, you can end up concentrating on the urgent rather than the important. You can get tied up being a traffic cop in terms of answering e-mails, when in fact those things can be answered later. Management, particularly the more senior management, needs time to think.

Q. If people have a sale happening on eBay, are using several e-mail platforms and their cellphones and their office lines, does that fracture their attention span?

A. Absolutely. When people switch gears and move from one process to another, our brains require some amount of time to begin thinking about something else. Forget the amount of time you actually spend browsing on the Internet and reading things you don't really need to read for your job. Just the fact that you're switching back and forth means you're not organizing your time correctly.

Q. What impact do the distractions have on working-level people?

A. There's a curious anomaly. These tools produce more productivity. But it doesn't imply that everyone is working at maximal effectiveness. There's a general consensus that managing the quality and quantity of work from knowledge workers has proven to be more difficult than managing the work-study processes that added so much productivity to the industrial age. For example, you can assign people to customer relations jobs. They will, if you make them, respond to, say, 120 inquiries a day. The real question is whether they take a few more minutes to think about what the customer really wants and try to be responsive.

For my money, though, this one is the quote of the week:

Companies go to great lengths to set up lists of authorized approvals, meaning who can approve what size of purchase. But you will find that people who are not authorized to spend $100 on their own are authorized to send e-mails to people and waste hundreds of thousands of dollars' worth of company time.

Study: Brits blow 2hrs/day on inefficient tech communication

[Misuse of office technology adds more than two hours to the average British working day]

Couldn't track down the source material from the UK productivity study referenced in this press release, but, if they're accurate, some of the data are interesting to say the least.

The misuse of telephones and email at work is hindering workers from doing their jobs, increasing bad habits at work and lengthening the working day...

Two hours, 10 minutes was the amount that people wasted each day at work on average, of which one hour 38 minutes was due to communication technologies not being used to good effect.

Seems conservative to me, but -- you know -- I'm a terrific karmasuck about these things.

Also intriguing are these bullets on "average times wasted each day:"

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Evergreen advice on email and voicemail

Managing the Trend Toward Increasing Use of Electronic Messaging Tools

I've been Googling around for good advice on how people deal with "email overload," and I think this 1999 report from the CommCore Consulting Group may contain some of the more sound and evergreen advice out there for not contributing to the noise (cf: "Writing sensible email messages").

It covers etiquette and best practices for both voicemail and email. Some of the best tips on email:

  • Keep e-mail short and focused on one issue, and reflect this issue in the subject heading. Many people are inundated with e-mail. Focusing each e-mail on one issue allows time-crunched recipients to prioritize your e-mail and respond as necessary. Including a sharp, strong subject header can differentiate your e-mail and attract your reader to your message...
  • Don’t use the Reply to All function unless everyone needs to know the information. Copying people on messages unnecessarily can overload systems, annoy readers and waste everyone’s time...
  • Manage your e-mail. Try to keep the number of messages in your in-box at a minimum by cleaning out e-mail in-boxes and message logs frequently. Use the filing system in your e-mail program to save needed messages to the appropriate folder. This clears space in your in-box, but saves the e-mail for future reference...

And on voicemail:

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Levy: The frazzled attention of the "always on"

Levy: Digital Distractions Bad for the Workplace - Newsweek Technology - MSNBC.com

Steven Levy on continuous partial attention and "The Attention Economy" at ORA's Emerging Technology Conference.

But there's a problem in the workplace when the interruptions intrude on tasks that require real concentration or quiet reflection. And there's an even bigger problem when our bubble of connectedness stretches to ensnare us no matter where we are. A live BlackBerry or even a switched-on mobile phone is an admission that your commitment to your current activity is as fickle as Renée Zellweger's wedding vows. Your world turns into a never-ending cocktail party where you're always looking over your virtual shoulder for a better conversation partner. The anxiety is contagious: anyone who winds up talking to a person infected with [continuous partial attention] feels like he or she is accepting an Oscar, and at any moment the music might stop the speech.

In her talk, Stone was careful to acknowledge the benefits of perpetual contact. But her message is that the balance has tilted way too far toward distraction, creating a sense of constant crisis. "We're not ever in a place where we can make a commitment to anything," she explained to me when I called her a few days later. "Constantly being accessible makes you inaccessible." All so true.

I have to concur on the ironic hilarity of an ETech ostensibly being devoted to the topic of "The Attention Economy." As someone who's been both on the dais and down in the pit, I don't think I've ever seen so many overstimulated people struggling to find even more stimulation. It's harrowing.

[ via the 43F Board ]

TOPICS: Links, Technology

Open Thread: Whither Blackberry? What's your fallback plan?

BlackBerry shutdown closer after ruling - U.S. Business - MSNBC.com

RICHMOND, Va. - A federal judge has rejected an effort by BlackBerry maker Research In Motion Ltd. to settle a patent case and moved a step closer to reissuing an injunction that threatens the device’s e-mail service in the United States.

RIM said in a statement that it has been preparing technology that would keep its service running in the U.S., where most of its 3.65 million BlackBerry customers are based.

[ via Slashdot ]

Damn, this could be pretty big stuff, eh?

I'm guessing at least a few of you out there are rabid Blackberry users -- I've never even used one myself, but I have friends who live on theirs. So, I'm curious: How do you feel about the possibility of losing Blackberry service? If it went away today, what would you use instead? Do you have a fallback plan?

Make #4 now available

MAKE: Technology on Your Time, Volume 04

O'Reilly's quarterly Make Magazine Volume #4 is now available for order from Amazon.com.

As ever it will be filled with new ways to turn your doorbell into a death laser or make a functional hovercraft from a Mr. Coffee or even remove the DRM from a six-pack of Mr. Pibb. It's all in there, along with the usual "Life Hacks" column from Danny and me.

This month's column features our long-anticipated showdown/throwdown on digital vs. paper. Two step into the octagon and only one, One, ONE will step out. (Well, actually: after realizing it's all been a simple misunderstanding, they shake hands and agree to work quietly on separate projects.)

An excerpt:

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An Oblique Strategy:
Honor thy error as a hidden intention


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Merlin used to crank. He’s not cranking any more.

This is an essay about family, priorities, and Shakey’s Pizza, and it’s probably the best thing he’s written. »

Scared Shitless

Merlin’s scared. You’re scared. Everybody is scared.

This is the video of Merlin’s keynote at Webstock 2011. The one where he cried. You should watch it. »