Wise Words: Steve Jobs: saying no

People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully. I’m actually as proud of the things we [Apple] haven’t done as the things I have done. Innovation is saying no to 1,000 things.


— insider source for and about broadcast network and cable news — 

Nobody has to tell anybody that we live in a 24/7 news cycle.

But the nature of ‘news’ has changed dramatically in a very short time. Some would even say that what passes for news these days is just a lot of celebrity gossip with a snippet of war-zone coverage and a political scandal or mud-sling thrown in for good measure.

Regardless, we still want to find out what’s going on in the world or our little corner of it. So do the folks who actually work in the news biz. Who knew?

So. Where do the news “professionals” go for the latest on their industry?

To a blog-cum-website, TVNewser from mediabistro.com. Launched in 2004 by Brian Stelter, a reporter for The New York Times who was then a 20-year-old senior journalism student at Towson University near Baltimore, Maryland, the blogsite provides up-to-the minute daily info about what’s happening in the teevee news biz. You’ll find ratings stats, who’s watching what (demographic breakdowns by program), links to major cable and broadcast resources, and lists of topics, archives, and recent ‘newsworthy’ events.

Great quote from one day’s entries on the TVNewser website —
The Hollywood Reporter: “Tune in to Fox News for comedy done right.”

If you’re really into this stuff — as most of the well-known talking heads seem to be, you can also sign up for the “Daily Media Newsfeed” via email to get your fix.

Be warned: news, blogs, email — all this electronic buzz about the electronic buzz can be addictive….

Copyright ©2014 Jill J. Jensen | Clarity from Chaos

99.3 Random Acts of Marketing

Bite-sized business tips in a regular-sized package. What a deal!

Written by the owner of an ad agency in the central United States, Random Acts serves as both a reminder of what you may already know about marketing your products, services, or organization, and a gently humorous nudge to get busy about putting that knowledge to use.

Whether we like it or not, in our 24/7 constant-contact world, all business owners and employees are de facto marketers for the places they work, the clients they hold in relationship, and the products and services they provide.

Totally new ideas may be few and far between, but, as author/marketing guru McLellan points out, success often comes by doing the obvious and the mundane consistently and regularly. He quotes facts and figures — also an appropriate thing to do in marketing materials that cry for specificity instead of glittering generalities — and he mixes in anecdotes, bullet points, and references to other useful resources.

More than once, we are treated to the admonition to think of our audience(s) instead of ourselves when developing marketing materials and approaches. That’s a reminder that never grows old, especially in our ultra-consumer-driven world. Just because we’ve seen the ad or heard the story a hundred/thousand times doesn’t mean our potential customers have encountered it at all.

“According to a study by Thomas Publishing Company,” states McLellan, “most marketers give up too early. The study reveals 80% of sales to businesses are made on or after the fifth contact, but only 10% of all marketing efforts go beyond three times!

“When planning your marketing efforts, remember that frequency is critical to success. You have to get your customers’ attention, pique their interest and create the need for your product or service. Then, you have to stay under their nose until they are ready to buy. No single ad or direct mail piece can be expected to accomplish all that in a couple of attempts.”

The book is set up in an interesting format: all the information nuggets are on the right-hand pages. All the left-hand pages are blank, with the heading “Random notes:” — leaving plenty of space for you to doodle your own ideas and applications.

Random Acts is an easy read, but don’t let that fool you. You’ll learn everything from how using the two-letter U.S. state abbreviations can save you money on your direct mail projects to the value of thinking about marketing campaigns, not just brochures or one-off splashes. Like the adage about the irresistibility of potato chips or chocolate chip cookies, take just one taste of these Random Acts and you’ll stick around for the whole book.

Author: Drew McLellan
Published: Des Moines, Iowa: Innova Training & Consulting ©2003

Copyright ©2014 Jill J. Jensen | Clarity from Chaos


— news from the sustainable future —

Make a difference in and with your life in lots of ways while you also help others close to home and around the world.

The Worldchanging website highlights many opportunities in a variety of disciplines from nanotechnology to fashion. Some examples:

  • “Hot rocks” for home energy
  • Free bicycles in Paris
  • Indonesia’s efforts to keep its forests
  • Jeff Christian and the Buildings Technology Center at the Oak Ridge National Labs, conducting research on five prototype houses that cost between 60 cents and one dollar a day in energy costs
  • Venture capitalists investing in green technologies
  • Professor Ron Deibert, director of Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto, creating a remarkable institution to research the intersection of civic politics and digital technology
  • Toronto’s Transit Camp

Explore issues like shelter, cities, community, business, and politics to see what you can do to help make the future one we’ll enjoy living. Let’s start now!

Copyright ©2014 Jill J. Jensen | Clarity from Chaos


— public television at its best — 

Looking for kid-friendly and family-friendly television? Wondering where to find a variety of news and opinion? Ready to get busy with how-to programs on everything from construction, gardening, quilting, painting, and cooking to antiques? Excited to experience nature, history, and cultural programming you won’t see anywhere else? That’s what public television in the United States does so well.

From coast to coast, America’s Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) and its public television affiliates offer a variety of over-the-air, digital cable, Web-based, classroom, and educational services to anyone with access to a TV set or a computer. Most led their states and communities in helping residents making the transition from analog to digital television in 2009 and are now offering diverse program streams on multiple digital channels — able to be viewed through humble rabbit-ears/over-the-air antennas in addition to the pricier cable TV subscriptions — as well as on their websites.

Here, we highlight IPTV (Iowa Public Television, Iowa’s statewide network) and KQED (the San Francisco affiliate of PBS), following a conference on the development of digital television (the ninth!), held each fall in Des Moines, Iowa, and sponsored in part by IPTV and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB). As you’ll see when you visit these websites, each public television station has its own personality, most often reflecting its location and its audiences. They’re fun, flashy, studious, and entertaining — separately or all at the same time.

As Pat Mitchell, one-time head of the Public Broadcasting Service, reminds anyone who will listen, the PBS mothership itself is only an umbrella organization for this nation’s public television affiliates; it’s not an actual network like CBS, ABC, or Fox, which own their own stations across the country and can pretty much dictate the programs that go on the air (with advertising revenue as the main draw).

Rather, PBS is an umbrella structure that helps develop programming, which is then offered to its affiliates. But affiliates don’t have to put it on the air locally if they don’t want to. While that’s a challenge for the national organization, it’s also a darn good recommendation for the quality programming that usually shows up on your local PBS station. And it can serve as a reminder about what you can do (contact the local station!) if you want to see something else on the public television channels in your area.

PBS takes education and children’s television seriously — and has a lot of fun with it, too, as they’ve branched out beyond the TV screen. Maybe that’s why PBS.org ranks as the most-visited site on the Web. PBS now offers material for targeted audiences that’s accessible directly from its home page — including PBS Kids, PBS Parents, PBS TeacherSource (free lesson plans, activities and professional development tools for PreK-12 educators), and PBS Campus (distance learning courses available for college credit).

These days, more than ever, public television offers incredible value. Jump in!

Copyright ©2014 Jill J. Jensen | Clarity from Chaos

Managing Humans

— Biting and Humorous Tales of a Software Engineering Manager —

Despite what you might think from its title (and subtitle), Managing Humans has a lot to say to all types of businesses, all types of managers, and, really, anyone who wants to lead or is trying to be a leader anywhere.

Tell the truth now. Wasn’t it just yesterday (or maybe earlier this morning) when you were buried nose-deep in the latest stats from Google Analytics or the quarterly reports from accounting and you blew off the real, actual person hovering outside your door? Or your boss yelled at you about some missed or slipping deadline and you passed that kick-the-dog behavior down the line to your direct reports? Welcome to management. Welcome to business. Welcome to humanity. Welcome to life.

At one point or another, if you’re in a leadership position (whether inside a business or out), you’ll probably get wrapped up in the nuts-and-bolts of everyday events and forget that work gets done through people — the messy and inspiring, frustrating and amazing hot-bodies-with-brains-and-feelings who work for and with you. No matter how challenging these folks can be — and we recognize them when we look in the mirror and see that they mirror us, too — we all work better, and work better together, when we’re seen for the real people we are.

In addition to the messiness of our humanity, manager/leader wannabes must deal with another confounding factor — technology (namely, computers) — which leads to the time-sink of e-mail, social media, and the pervasive black hole of electronic gadgetry and software. Today’s companies and independent road warriors run on some flavor of Windows, Linux, OS X, iOS, Android, Google, assorted mobile apps for smartphones, text messaging, and a Web browser or two. Nerd heaven. The rest of us are just the complicating interlopers in this space, but we’re tethered to it because we must use the magical black box with the related QWERTY keyboard or beam-me-up-Scotty system — or die trying.

Enter Michael Lopp, a k a Rands (his alter ego appearing in the form of a Weblog — blog), a manager of 15 years from Silicon Valley, California’s software development partyland. He worked at the likes of Apple Computer, Netscape Communications, Borland International, and Symantec Corporation, and has been as involved as anyone in the thick of our workplace culture’s latest incarnation.

As a person deeply immersed in technology and the science of computers, you might be surprised to find Lopp saying things like, “Your traditional management book is based on the idea that there is a science behind management. It suggests means of reducing managers and management activities to a pleasant set of rules that, if followed, will result in organizational happiness. This is not that book.”

You’ve just been given fair warning, as you listen in on the (mostly) boys’ club, to expect more than a bit of attitude and a smattering of four-letter words in the fictionalized-but-essentially-true war stories of corralling the nerd herd. Don’t be put off by the occasional raunch or rant or by the technology focus. What soon becomes obvious in Managing Humans is that people are people and management is management, tech-focused or not. And people are the most important ingredient in any company’s success.

Here’s a taste from early on:

“My definition of a great manager is someone with whom you can make a connection no matter where you sit in the organization chart. What exactly I mean by connection varies wildly by who you are and what you want and, yes, that means great managers have to work terribly hard to see the subtle differences in each of the people working for them.

“See. See the people who work with you. They say repetition improves long-term memory, so let’s say it once more. You must see the people who work with you….

“Being a manager is a great job (I mean it), but it’s your ability to construct an insightful opinion about a person in seconds that will help make you a phenomenal manager….

“Every single person with whom you work has a vastly different set of needs. Fulfilling these needs is one way to make them content and productive. It is your full-time job to listen to these people and mentally document how they are built. This is your most important job. I know the senior VP of engineering is telling you that hitting the date for the project is job number one, but you are not going to write the code, test the product, or document the features. The team is going to do these things, and your job is the team….

“Organizations of people are constantly shifting around. They are incredibly messy. In this mess, judgments of you and your work will be constructed in moments — in the ten-second conversations you have in the hallway, and in the way you choose to describe who you are.

“Meanwhile, you need to constantly assess your colleagues, determine what they need, and figure out what motivates them. You need to remember that what worked one day as a motivational technique will backfire in two months because human beings are confusing, erratic, and emotional. In order to manage human beings in the moment, you’ve got to be one.”

If you don’t do anything else, check out this little Flash video. Then, for other clues about care and feeding, read Lopp’s blog, where you’ll find the eminently useful Nerd Handbook.

Oh, yeah. Welcome to life.

Author: Michael Lopp
Published: Berkeley, California: Apress ©2007

Copyright ©2014 Jill J. Jensen | Clarity from Chaos