Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Facebook’s Amusingly Cruel CAPTCHA

This would be a tough way to start the day... You log into Facebook to see what's what and you get presented with this CAPTCHA.

Big Rock Brewery is running a make your own commercial contest. I hope this entry wins.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Performance Management

Firstly, we need to come up with a new name for Performance Management. It has such negative connotations. All you have to say is "performance management" and people start grumbling and complaining about process and not having enough time. I think if you even said "we're abolishing performance management practices at our company" people would still grumble at first simply because of the 'P' and 'M' words. That said, the last thing we need around performance management is more talking about semantics - just get down to it I say!

We're in the midst of goal setting at work right now. As always there's plenty of resistance. I get why no one likes reviews, but why hate goal setting? Essentially, Goal Setting is about (a) What are you going to do? (what is the outcome?) and (b) When will you do it? It shouldn’t be scary.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

God and Yoda appear to be in conflict

God doesn't require us to succeed; he only requires that you try. 
- Mother Teresa

Do, or do not. There is no 'try.'
- Yoda 

Friday, March 26, 2010

Friday Music

At the end of the week it is always nice to relax with some good tunes and a tasty beverage. The music you listen to at the end of a work week can take different forms:
It can be to chill out after a tough week or it can be something with energy to get you going before a night out. Mellow music as you head home from work... something with a beat as you walk from the subway station... something for the streetcar ride as the sun sets across the valley... something on the way to the pub.

With that in mind, I thought I'd add a new, regular (bi-weekly?) Friday feature of drinks and music. This musical number is being accompanied by a Mill Street Stock Ale (sadly, the last one in the fridge). Here's Shout Out Out Out Out with Remind Me In Dark Times.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

British Teenager Fired From Job Via Facebook, After Cookie-Related Ineptitude

I posted this link the other day on Twitter but thought it was worth sharing in more detail here as well. From Fast Company:

fired on facebook

Things you need to know before we get started: in England, cookies are called biscuits. Also in England, the word "cookies" does not also mean cookies, because this story revolves around a cafe called Cookies that does not sell cookies. This may all sound like a fun bit of wordplay leading up to a punchline, but it's not--that's just how they roll in England. It's a mysterious island nation, I know.

As the Daily Mail reports, Chelsea Taylor, a 16-year-old clerk at the Cookies Cafe in Leigh, was sent, improbably enough, on an errand to retrieve cookies for the staff of Cookies. She was given a "tenner" (in proper American English, God's own language, that's a "Hamilton") for the purchase of said sweets, only to lose it sometime during the journey. She returned to the Cookies Cafe both cookie-less and penniless.

Young Chelsea Taylor's boss at the Cookies Cafe was not pleased with this turn of events. How, she wondered, did she manage to open and run a cafe named after a snack she could not manage to procure? Heads would roll for this one! And it was our poor heroine who got the axe--and not in a very pleasant way.

Yes, Chelsea was fired via Facebook. The message is conciliatory, apologetic, and polite, yet its mere medium suggests a lack of personal involvement and a distancing that borders on the insulting. The shortened words, the text-message abbreviations ("u" for "you"), and the aversion to tell Chelsea in person all combine to form an epic brush-off--and Chelsea is not pleased.

"Even if she had sent me a text message or something it would have been better than on Facebook. She didn't have the guts to tell me face-to-face," said Taylor. Her mother called the action "appalling," "heartless," and "dreadful," and (rightfully) identified the typos and abbreviations as "disrespectful."

Is it okay to fire someone via Facebook? Would it actually have been more appropriate to use proper grammatical conventions? Those norms are still being formed. All we know is, don't go to the Cookies Cafe expecting cookies. They don't have any.

Today's something or other #57

Perhaps the researchers conducting this study had a little too much to drink the night before they performed their experiments? If not... whoa! It turns out we were on to something back in university. Who knew?!

From The Daily Free Press - Study: Late-night drinking no problem for test-takers
Thirsty Thursdays have never looked better, according to a new Boston University School of Public Health study released Tuesday that says binge drinking the night before a test does not affect a student’s performance.
Conducted in partnership with Brown University and set to be featured in the April 2010 edition of the journal Addiction, the study found that participants who consumed beer the night before being given an academic test scored the same as subjects who consumed non-alcoholic beer.
Over a four-day period, the 193 student participants were given either an alcoholic or non-alcoholic beverage. The students who received alcoholic beverages drank until they had a blood-alcohol level of 0.12. The next day, participants took practice versions of the Graduate Record Exam and a mock quiz on a lecture they received the previous afternoon.
Whether they were sober or inebriated the previous night, all of the students received similarly high scores on both exams.
However, BU professor and coordinator of the study Jonathan Howland said the study only examined alcohol’s effect on test-taking ability, not academic ability as a whole.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Jedward - So awful it is good

Jedward - rockin' the mic like a vandal. Or vandals, I guess, since there are two of them.

To cleanse the pallet a little bit I'll leave you with this....

It's the terror of knowing
What this world is about
Watching some good friends
Screaming 'Let me out'
Pray tomorrow - gets me higher
Pressure on people - people on streets
Day day de mm hm
Da da da ba ba

Monday, March 22, 2010

Inspiration from the Red Rooster coffee shop

In this life we cannot do great things. We can only do small things with great love.
- Mother Teresa

A story about motivation

When we consider whether to do something, we subconsciously ask ourselves a simple question: "Am I the kind of person who...?" And money changes the question. When the lawyers were offered $30 an hour their question was "Am I the kind of person who works for $30 an hour?" The answer was clearly no. But when they were asked to do it as a favor? Their new question was "Am I the kind of person who helps people in need?" And then their answer was yes.

People tend to think of themselves as stories. When you interact with someone, you're playing a role in her story. And whatever you do, or whatever she does, or whatever you want her to do, needs to fit into that story in some satisfying way. 

When you want something from someone, ask yourself what story that person is trying to tell about himself, and then make sure that your role and actions are enhancing that story in the right way.
Read the full article here, it is well worth your time. 

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Yoga & Wine: Together at last. Wait, what?!

“Which asana goes best with Pinot Grigio? And when drinking a cab franc, should one invert or just go with the hatha flow?” asks Vital Juice Daily. “These are the quandaries that plague the nationwide trend of blurring yoga and wine—with workshops popping up like corks in yoga studios, wineries and on retreats worldwide. [ed's note: This is actually a nation-wide trend? Really?]

Experimenting with different wine pairings is fun, but who knew it could be really beneficial for your health too? No, I’m not talking about antioxidants; I’m referring to Vino-yasa! This innovative approach to pairing supplements your favourite reds and white with yoga stretches. It could just be the next big thing in health, taking exercise to a whole new level of bliss.
Read the full article here.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

She & Him - In The Sun

I'm really digging this new song by She & Him, and the video is pretty cool too. Zooey Deschanel is a legit double threat (and, let's face it, a total cutie. Trillian forever!)

Some love for Toronto's coffee culture

This week the NY Times hailed London, England, as the next city for the coffee craze. Although the major corporations, like Starbucks, are pervasive in this international city, there seems to be a movement towards the smaller, independent shops that see coffee as an art.

The NYT listed 4 or 5 places where you can buy haute-espresso in London, but I would like to give some Toronto recommendations. I am going to stay away from where to buy beans as most of these espresso bars have the option of purchasing high-grade, ethically-sound, freshly-roasted buds of deliciousness. 
Click here for The Expeditioner's list of Toronto's best, indie coffee houses ("shop" doesn't feel right).

Friday, March 19, 2010

Today's something or other #56

If people were randomly assigned batting averages would that help me remember their names?

I think the Nestle Social Media Manager was having a bad day

And it undoubtedly got much, much worse after a lapse in judgment about how to deal with customers.

Here's a suggestion:  Going to war with your customers is never sound business practice and insulting them in this manner just seems petty and vindictive. What was there to gain? When you start in with social media - like Nestle did with their Facebook page - you lose some control over the conversation and you need to be prepared how to deal with that. 

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Innovation that Matters

I found this article on the evolving nature of innovation by Nicholas M. Donofrio quite interesting. Here are some key highlights.... 

The very nature of innovation is changing. Today, the innovation that matters is not the latest result of Moore's Law, or doubling RAM, or tripling pixels. Those things still matter, but they matter much, much less.

The innovation that matters now—the innovation that we're all waiting for, even if we don't know it—is the one that unlocks the hidden value that exists at the intersection of deep knowledge of a problem and intimate knowledge of a market, combined with your knowledge, your technology, and your capability … whoever you are, whatever you can do, whatever you bring to the table.

Yet too many people still think of innovation solely in terms of a wholly new product or technological breakthrough. But this is limiting, and it is false. Innovations can arise from fresh thinking in any number of areas: from product to service to process to business model. Michael Dell built a Fortune 500 company by changing the way computers are built and sold—but not changing anything about the device itself.

The good news for innovators and potential innovators is that, given the incredible complexity and diversity of the world today, opportunities for innovation abound. As confused as you think the world is, it's great for innovators. There are so many problems—some known and some yet to come to light—that opportunities for innovation will never run out. But we have to take a new approach: start from the problem, not the solution. That is, we can no longer say to ourselves "The end product is 5 GHz" (or whatever). Rather, we must ask ourselves "What needs to change?" and then—and only then—start thinking about how to change it. The question of what specific invention or product or innovation to pursue comes after that.
To read the full article click here.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Running on fumes. Coffee fumes.

This is wrong on so many levels.... Le Whif, makers of inhalable chocolate, have now launched a coffee inhaler. David Edwards, a Harvard professor of biomedical engineering, and Parisian chef Thierry Marx developed the breathable coffee and chocolate. From the NY Post:
The coffee hits consist of powder inside lipstick-like containers that are pulled open, inserted in the mouth and inhaled.
The sticks are sold individually for $3 or in boxes of three for $8 -- and each stick delivers 100 milligrams of caffeine, the equivalent of a cup of espresso.

Monday, March 15, 2010

How to change when change is hard

There's a bit of "be the ball, Danny" to this piece, but it does contain some useful nuggets about how to effect change instead of just talking / theorizing about it.

From Fast Company - an exclusive book excerpt by the best-selling authors of Made to Stick.
Switch:  How to change things when change is hard

Find a bright spot and clone it.

That's the first step to fixing everything from addiction to corporate malaise to malnutrition. A problem may look hopelessly complex. But there's a game plan that can yield movement on even the toughest issues. And it starts with locating a bright spot -- a ray of hope.
 Click here to read the article.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Books you don't need in a place you can't find

Today's lesson: Play to your strengths. 
David points us to the Montague Bookmill. This is the bookstore of the future, because it's not a business trying to maximize growth and ROI. No, it's a place, an attitude, an approach to an afternoon. They don't sell every book, they don't even pretend to.
Just as vinyl records persist, an object of joy for some listeners and a profitable cottage business for some sellers, bookstores are going to become like gift stores. The goal isn't a commodity transaction with maximum selection at minimum price, the goal is an experience worth seeking out and paying for.
We're going to see more and more of these newly archaic industries turn into lifestyle businesses, which is what they used to be before Wall Street showed up.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Indie Baristas on the coffee war between Tim Horton's and McDonald's

BNN speaks to Matthew Taylor, co-owner, Mercury Expresso Bar and Sam James, owner, Sam James Coffee Bar. They talk coffee and perform a blind taste test to determine which of the battling fast food giants has better coffee. Will you be surprised by the results? View the video here.

Not exactly Tupac vs. Biggie

East vs. West in the Big Smoke for ultimate downtown bragging rights? NOW Magazine says let's get ready to rumble.... Anyway, a decent read, and Toronto Life gets a chance to make fun of NOW for the feature. And, apparently, EYE is weighing in at the same time with a North vs. South cage match? [note:  East vs. West I get, but North vs. South in Toronto... not so much?].

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Things Found

A new feature here at SWATE inspired by a notepad I (re)discovered in one of my bags. It has notes in it relating to work, the blog, songs to download, groceries, story ideas, things to remember and other sundry items. On one of the first pages I discovered the following notes:
  • 2nd office
  • green table
  • "enclose"
  • office-wide wi-fi?
I'm not sure what I was getting at. Perhaps it is some sort of clever code?

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Give the gift of green energy

Looking for that hard to find gift for that special person… or client, friend, whatever? Here’s something you might want to take a look at:
Platypus, a Canadian non-profit organization, is a new and easy way to help the planet. Buy 100% renewable energy as a gift for the homes of friends, family, clients or yourself, and notify them with a personalized, animated e-card. In addition to greening their power, the money goes to local green energy projects like wind farms and hydro plants, and also helps bring new renewable energy projects online. You can give the gift of green energy for as little as $10 for one month.
If you’re interested, go to to learn more about how it all works.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Today's something or other #55

Spidey on his way to the gym?

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Today's something or other #54

It is important to remember to take time out to have some fun. Smell the roses, chew some bubblegum or run through the sprinkler.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

I don't want to close my eyes, I don't want to fall asleep....

More indie rock gold available from these guys on their YouTube channel.