The wisdom of duplication

I love this passage from Arnie Lund’s tome on User Experience Management. I think it’s really important to consider. Especially if you lead in a distributed organization.

We perceive information via three channels:
– Visual (60%)
– Audio (30%)
– and Semantic (10%).

When we share information via e-mail or any other sharing tool, it is perceived only via semantic channel which is usually not sufficient.

That is why it is wise to duplicate orally at least some data that have been shared in written form, and to provide visual support for audio information. Distant communication is less vivid than live, so we have to be more careful with jokes, avoid using slang, and so forth.

It is also more difficult to jump from one topic to another, therefore it is recommended to discuss issues and summarize after each of them.

(Passage lightly edited by me to up the visual support.)

Working in a 100% distributed organization I’m pretty sure I’ve seen a lack of duplication hurt communication. I’m come that conclusion because I’m pretty sure because I’ve seen it happen with myself in the past! It’s something I try and work on improving in my role as a leader.

What could this look like if we really pushed it? I tried to take this out a bit further when thinking about it with an extreme example of what that duplication could look like. A religious organization. Consider a church.

How many sermons or homilies are delivered every week around the world? Backed by how many books? Letters? Essays? Paintings and iconography? That level of duplication and variation on a theme is something you want in your toolkit if you’re going to maintain an idea and a community for millennia. (It sounds a bit like a science-fiction story when I think of it that way.)

Bringing that back to my day to day it makes me wonder: what could alignment look like for a year-level project if we applied a millennia-level alignment tool to it? If you made a practice of ensuring a concept or a plan was understood, example by example, week by week, month by month, channel by channel?

I’m not suggesting we go out and start practicing iconography and toiling at an illuminated manuscript. But consider the value in visual aids, support for ideas via a quick video demonstration, a regular review of important “whys” via a voice or video call, and, most importantly, a willingness to duplicate a message.

Closing the gap


I like to think we all know of someone we admire. Someone who possesses a character or set of skills we’d like to see in ourselves. It’s certainly true of me and has been my whole life. What to do about it? We can’t go back in time and relive our lives and I’m sure we wouldn’t want to but there is something we can do.

We can close the gap.

We can start on something small pointed in the same direction as that person or persons. Starting small can really work. Starting with one push-up a day and growing from there led me into a 276-day streak of daily exercise. We can found new habits and move the biggest levers that we know of that will propel us on that journey of closing the gap between ourselves and the people we admire.

Here’s one lever: reach out to those people and talk to them. Send a friendly message along and ask for some advice. You might be surprised at who’s willing to help you. Think creatively of forcing functions like that. Look for things that will propel you along. Sometimes you have to trick yourself into doing what you know is right.

No matter how far away we are from where we want to be we can always work on closing the gap.


Worse is Better

I came across the software design philosophy of “Worse is Better” via a post from John Maeda titled Perfection vs Just Ship It. The idea is that software which follows the “worse-is-better” approach has “better survival characteristics than the-right-thing.” You can read all about it in the original essay —  The Rise of “Worse is Better” — but I made a table here for easier side-by-side comparison.


The Wave

The Wave, Ivan Aivazovsky

For a while now I’ve been using my iPhone wallpaper and lock screen to get some more art in my life. (I do the same thing on my Desktop with a rotating custom gallery in Momentum.) The current iPhone art is The Wave by 19th Century Russian artist, Ivan Aivazovsky. It’s apparently one of his most bleak works of sailors lost at sea but I just see people trying their hardest to work make the impossible work. Sometimes I think what I’m working on is impossible or at least extremely difficult. It’s nowhere near as difficult as that. It’s a good reminder.

How I Became A Morning Person, Read More Books, And Learned A Language In A Year

Sharing mostly as a reminder to myself that I can do this. From Belle Beth Cooper who did actually did all those things in that clickbait title.

I came across this idea of starting small. The point is to focus on repeating the habit every day, but not worrying about how effective that habit is. In other words, quantity first; quality later.

A great example is flossing. Say you want to floss every night, but you haven’t flossed for years. If you take up flossing out of the blue and expect to spend 10 minutes doing it every night, you probably won’t last more than a week. It’s a very big ask.

But starting small is so effective, it’s almost like a super power. Here’s how it would work for flossing: You take the tiniest part of the habit you can work with—in this case, it would be to floss just one tooth. It’s still considered flossing, but you won’t make huge leaps in dental hygiene this way.

But here’s where it gets powerful: At first, you focus on just flossing one tooth every night. And you stick with it for more than a week. Then, more than two. Then three, four weeks. You can stick with this habit because it’s so easy. There’s barely any effort involved with flossing one tooth, so it’s hard to make an excuse not to do it. And once it’s become easy and automatic to floss one tooth, you start flossing two.

For a while, you floss two teeth every night. Then, you increase to three. And slowly you work your way up, never taking such a big leap that it becomes a chore.

From Fast Company. Also, I just use a Waterpik.


Getting to Know the Older Brother I Never Knew I Had

I don’t really share many very “personal life” stories on my blog here but, sorry to spoil the ending, I think this is an exciting and surprising event worth celebrating publicly.

3 months ago, on May 14, my parents let me know I have an older brother. Like, a secret, long lost, older brother. Five years before I was born my parents had a son they weren’t prepared to care for. I didn’t know any of this. They weren’t a couple; they’d actually split up. They gave him up for adoption and kept it a secret from almost everyone in their two (very large) families. They didn’t know then that they would eventually wind up forming a real relationship, get married, and have two more children — me and my younger sister. This year, in April, my older brother, Shawn, tracked them down and here we are.

How’d I take it? I was pretty shocked. My understanding now is that these sorts of events can go pretty south if you’re not careful but I think the first thing I asked was, “do you have a picture?” That was when I found out he had a Facebook profile. I messaged him immediately.

Me: Um … Hi. 🙂
Shawn: Ha, yes hello…..bro! Is this premature? How are you dealing with all of this?
Me: Well, we’ve crossed the “bro” threshold now. 🙂
Shawn: we have haven’t we.
Me: I’m not quite sure yet how I’m dealing with it yet. Shocked? Emotional? Mostly excited.
Me: I can’t imagine how you’ve been feeling.
Shawn: i spoke with a lot of people close to me recently and asked what would you do if you found out…..1. shocked 2. wtf? 3. curious, who is this dude, when can i meet him…..that was the universal response
Me: 100%
Me: This is super weird and kind of amazing
Shawn: Weird and amazing is pretty close to how I have been feeling for 3 weeks.
Me: I was like, I have to meet this guy asap.
Shawn: This is surreal right now to be honest with you
Me: Pretty much. Wow.

And so now, I have a brother! Well, a biological brother, I guess. I find “brother” gets confusing and weird when you’re trying to be sensitive to all it’s implications. Biologically we’re brothers but we weren’t raised together so does that mean the same thing? I’m sticking with brother as a signal of intent. (More on that below.)

We’re not twins but we have some similarities. I feel like we have similar senses of humour, we made oddly similar choices growing up, we both grew up loving comics and geeky things, we like some of the same somewhat-obscure bands, and we have the same favourite meal. Maybe lots of coincidences but as he says, “it’s not like we both like The Beatles and BBQ.” (Mr. Bungle and Roast Beef with yorkshire pudding being the matchup here.)

Thanks to my WordPress work my brother was able to get to know me a bit before meeting me. He read my blog. He watched my WordCamp videos. In fact, it was while watching me give a presentation on one of those videos (before he’d been able to connect with my mom) that he first began to suspect that we shared the same father. As a friend of his noted, “This is like watching you give a presentation.” Apparently we have some similar mannerisms that I haven’t noticed yet. My parents say we have a similar way of talking. I think he looks a lot like my sister.

Getting to know the brother you never knew that way is a bit weird. Weirder still is that we never met previously. He grew up in Winnipeg a 25 minute drive from my house. He currently lives five minutes away from my sister. 10–15 minutes from me.

And we’ve been in the same room at least twice. Twice!

We were both there when famous comics writer Stan Lee was here signing comic books in the 80s at a local comic shop. My sister and our dad was there too. More incredible is that we had a common friend and were at the same housewarming party for this person about 15 years ago. He checked out early and was in a group of people I likely wouldn’t have met, so we didn’t. It’s really strange to think we had a chance to interact and — maybe, probably, likely, hard to tell? — not know we were brothers.

I started out by saying this is an exciting event and it is. When I found out, besides being shocked, the tiniest part of me was annoyed that someone knew something I didn’t know and knew I didn’t know it. That quickly passed. I’m still, 3 months out, 99% excited with the 1% being a mix of all possible other human emotions. When I’m asked casually about it, I’ll probably say, “it’s weird.” Saying anything longer requires something like this:

When I told my friend Lance about this he asked, “do you think you’ll meet up often and kind of be brothers, or more just once-in-a-while friends?” The answer is both. Like I said, I’m sticking with brother as a signal of intent. It’s not hard when your secret, older brother turns out to be an awesome, conscientious, thoughtful, super-cool guy you want to hang out with. He’s the kind of guy you want to find out was secretly related to you. We’ve been texting and emailing since first meeting and we’ve been getting together regularly. We even went to go see a terrible movie together! (Sorry, Shawn, Star Trek Beyond was weak. :P) Our families have all gotten together several times and that’s been really great. His wife and kids are awesome. I could go on.

We’ve got some time to make up, I guess. I’m looking forward to becoming good friends with my brother. And even a “brother” to him.

Today’s his birthday, so it seems like a good time to share this. Happy birthday, bro. Hope you have a great day.

Seneca on faith in self-improvement 

I do not know whether I shall make progress; but I should prefer to lack success rather than to lack faith.

From Seneca’s letter on Reformation in the context of trying to improve, with Stoic advice, a “hardened” forty-year old “past handling.”

Seneca on Treacherous Goods

Fix a limit which you will not even desire to pass, should you have the power. At last, then, away with all these treacherous goods! They look better to those who hope for them than to those who have attained them. If there were anything substantial in them, they would sooner or later satisfy you; as it is, they merely rouse the drinkers’ thirst.

— Seneca

Literary Theory: Transform and roll out!

The definition of “Authorial Intention” offered by Google (and the first result if you use “intent” as a keyword instead of “intention”) is from …


Screen Shot

The Internet is an amazing place.

The Peirce Quincuncial Projection


In the normal aspect, Peirce’s projection presents the Northern Hemisphere in a square; the Southern Hemisphere is split into four isosceles triangles symmetrically surrounding the first one, akin to star-like projections. In effect, the whole map is a square, inspiring Peirce to call his projection quincuncial, after the arrangement of five items in a quincunx.

Read more on Wikipedia.