No Memory

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The ship pulls me east
over the deep blue.

Wind and water whisper…
unintelligible but crystal clear.

As the shore disappears
the tugboat retreats.

Anchors, ropes, docks;
all restraint is gone.

There is just the wind
playing with the waves.

On a small paper
I write to them:

I surrender.

Gaptooth Willy: How a photo nut can save time on vacation

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Gaptooth Willy on a brisk Venice morning

I admit that it wasn’t my idea but I’ve decided to log my trip to Europe using a ridiculous action figure. Why?

  • It helps you keep things fun (and a little silly). It is pretty funny pulling out a doll from Rayman’s Raving Rabbids in front of world-renown monuments. We get a lot of “WTF?!” looks and it just makes us laugh.
  • You can let folks know where you went on limited internet access. Good internet isn’t always easy. Right now I’m stealing it from some poor guy with an open network (and being courteous of course — no streaming!). A good way to maximize your internet access and let people know where you went is to take a funny picture w/ said action figure at every major landmark.
  • You don’t have time to process all that crap anyway. I’d rather spend my time having fun and seeing stuff than post-processing all my photos and cataloging my journey. With my current project, I can skip all that and still have some of the meaty parts of my day logged. To date, I have about 900 photos. Of those, I’ll probably end up with 100 but the time it takes to get there could be better spent.
  • It’s fun to name your buddy. What’s in a name? Everything, if it’s a pirate. Are you kidding me? I agonized over this and finally arrived at Gaptooth Willy for this little guy. Pirate names are fricking hard.
  • Because it’s different. Yep.

This is going to be a radical trip. I’ve never been to Europe, this is a 1.5-year belated honeymoon, and I’m a photo nut in photo nut paradise. My photo project is fun, but it’s also very practical. In a lot of ways, necessity gave birth to this little project — not insanity (I swear!). Thanks, Gaptooth Willy!

If you’re morbidly curious, the slideshow (of what I have so far) is below or you can see the set on flickr.

He’s flippant, but is he right?

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Criticizing tone instead of having rich discussion is a waste of time. In most cases, the time it takes to criticize tone and delivery can be spent arguing the issue at hand.

In a case where someone has the courage to raise their voice and question things publicly:

  • Try not to discourage them from speaking up in the future
  • Focus on what they said, not how they said it
  • Address the issue in your response, always

In Paul Graham’s post about how to disagree, he states:

“So if the worst thing you can say about something is to criticize its tone, you’re not saying much. Is the author flippant, but correct? Better that than grave and wrong. And if the author is incorrect somewhere, say where.”

While it’s not constructive to react and submit knee-jerk comments, it’s just as counter-productive to criticize tone and delivery instead of offering solid reasoning as to why you disagree.

Of course, we can frame things initially in order to not invoke a predictable response to our snarky comments. But outside of insults or out-of-bounds comments (which are usually best ignored), I usually prefer to focus my energy on the problem, not examining words and etiquette.

Be wary of criticizing tone. It’s not as productive as it might feel and won’t do anything to change the end result.

Stalemate: Are you building a culture of silence?

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Courage. Trust. Great teams have these, weak teams don’t.

There is nothing quite so disappointing as a group of talented people who can’t achieve because they lack mutual trust. Likewise, it’s tough to see folks who can’t speak up because they either don’t have the courage or don’t trust their colleagues enough to listen to what they have to say and react constructively.

With dwindling trust or courage, you’re building yourself a culture of silence. This manifests itself in very destructive ways:

  • People do not speak up. Even when it is important for the progress of the team and company, people are reluctant to voice their opinions. It takes individuals with tremendous courage to speak up and when they do, they are labeled as dissenters and not supported even though they are saying what everyone wants to say — but won’t dare.
  • There is no room for failure. Most successes are preceded by wonderful failures. Not having the trust of leadership or colleagues eliminates failure as an option and stifles innovation. If you can’t fail for fear of retribution, you probably aren’t going to succeed at higher levels.
  • Nobody challenges each other. If I think you’ll try to sabotage me or get revenge because I disagree with you, I’m going to be less likely to challenge your points and assumptions. I won’t be vested in your success enough to challenge your core arguments. Healthy discourse goes out the window and those with the loudest voice — or those who speak first — start winning out.
  • Your true talent bleeds. People with better options don’t tolerate a culture of silence. They recognize lack of trust and leave fairly quickly for better opportunities. You often won’t hear about why they really left. It’s always the “opportunity I couldn’t pass up.” As you might suspect, there’s usually more to it than that.
  • Politics run rampant. In an environment where nobody truly knows where people stand, extroverts get a lot of credit and overshadow the silent majority. Politics, defined as, “people advancing their careers or agendas by means other than merit and contribution,” replaces any meritocracy with a bureaucracy. Ben Horowitz wrote a good post about politics.

Here’s how you can prevent building this culture of silence:

  • Listen to people. People who do not listen or practice in selective listening do not trust the speaker enough to consider they may be right. Maybe you’re formulating your response before they are done talking. Maybe they are just totally wrong. Either way, if you start talking immediately after someone makes a point and come back with 10 reasons why they are wrong you are telling them something very clear: I do not trust you and I don’t value your opinion. Don’t do this — just listen.
  • Forget about blame. Blame is a huge waste of time in most cases. Can you recall any time you pointed out it was someone’s else’s fault where working with that person again was easy? If so, congratulations; that might be the first time in human history. Assume the best in your colleagues. Allow them room to fail and help them. It will pay off tenfold in the long run.
  • Sort things out directly without bosses. I can’t recall a time where cc-ing someone’s boss resulted in a positive outcome. Adults tend to work things out directly and when they can’t, they escalate. If you conduct normal business thinking, “if I say something, it could go directly to my boss,” you’re going to say less — or agonize over what to say. Try to work things out with people directly and avoid involving their superiors unless you’ve already tried and didn’t get results. You just might be able to resolve things with less drama and avoid losing trust.
  • Don’t play the victim. Everybody hates you and you’re just trying to do your job, right? I remember hearing stuff like this; I think it came from 6 years olds dealing with their first exposure to groups of other people. It has no place at work. Excuses, blaming others, entertaining all forms of outward influences as plausible scapegoats before addressing what you did or what you could have done differently is a good way to lose people’s trust and confidence in you — it’s also mentally exhausting. If you play the victim and enter meetings like mama bear protecting her cubs, you’re going to be a self-fulfilling prophecy. Don’t be a victim. Be strong. People will respect you for it.
  • Avoid character attacks. Maybe you think Jim is a huge asshole. Maybe Mike is crazy and he gets on your nerves. Maybe Jenny said something that hurt your feelings. A good way to screw yourself is to be irresponsible in how you share this internal dialogue. Vent to your friends, your partner, whatever — but keep it clean — always. Word gets around and you don’t want people to hear your internal dialogue. Keep the nasty stuff to yourself. Don’t play that game — everyone loses when it becomes too personal or vindictive.

Organizations lacking trust and courage can generate both noise and silence at inopportune times. Those who get drowned out have a lot to offer; the analytical, the listeners, the silent majority contribute just as much to the long-term health of the organization.

So speak up, be heard, but always listen to others. Trust they are saying things for the right reasons — give them the time they deserve before you hammer their opinions into tiny itty-bitty pieces. After all, their next point may be brilliant. But you’d never know if they lacked the courage to speak in a room full of people ready to pounce.

Project 365 – day 24-31

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I grew tired of posting daily, so I’m going to try weekly summaries for Project 365.

Nightcrawler

This picture of Junior was fun because I placed an off-camera flash on the ground and just took a bunch of photos to see what it looked like. I was happy with the results.

Turkey club on sour roll

Roger’s Deli has some pretty awesome sandwiches. The turkey club is my favorite.

Hanging around

Along Steven’s Creek Trail, there are lots of photo ops. This one was of some plant-like thing that was kind of neat-o… or something.

Emergency switch

Without a car, I was taking the VTA to work. I took this perspective of an emergency switch and had some fun with it in Lightroom with a purple filter.

Headphone prowess

More off-camera flash work. I was showing Rainer what kind of effects we could get and he so kindly posed.

Monumental

A trip to the Exploratorium gave me the opportunity to take this dark picture. The day was cloudy and slightly rainy, but the rain held up long enough to snap this HDR photo with my 10.5mm fisheye lens at f/2.8.

Worst beer name ever?

This beer was brewed in Frederick, MD. While it’s got a crazy name, I thought it was cool that Flying Dog beers are brewed in the town I was born — yes, I was born in Frederick!

Michael Coates and Chris Lyon

I was asked to take some conference bio photos for infra sec. Our background is a piece of artwork we took off the wall, held by someone. Though, that someone sometimes made it into the picture!

day 23 – Red Rock Coffee

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Red Rock Coffee

Okay, so I took this earlier in the week, but I was busy watching football today!

Simple filter in lightroom to remove color. Accidental focus on the reflections instead of the logo, but I liked it anyway.

day 22 – Saturday work hours

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Mozilla Crash Reporting Team

Saturday downtime meant the Mozilla crash reporting team had to get up early on a Saturday, roll up their sleeves and spend the day migrating our entire system to a new data center. Nice job everyone!