Abundance, Rate of Production?

This post is more of a note to myself to do some reasearch on this.

I just saw that Home Depot has posted a loss. I have to think some stores bring this upon themselves. I think they can be profitable, but their location strategy might be working against them. I live in Levittown, NY, and I have 4 Home Depots in easy driving distance (East Meadow, Farmingdale, Freeport, and Westbury). There HAS to be something wrong with that. Throw in 3 Lowe’s in just as easy of a drive (which there are), and there is definately something wrong with that.

“Gee Matt, which one of the 7 home improvment warehouses should I go to today? If I had a coin with 7 sides, I’d flip.”

I’m just guessing, but their margins are probably pretty thin when times are good. And when times are bad, well then they are stuck with a whole lot of inventory in too many stores.

View Twitter Statuses in Google Reader

I figured this out! Yes! Well no not really, someone else did. But I pat myself on the back for finding it and then doing it for myself.

One reason I haven’t been on the Twitter bandwagon is that I find it hard to keep up with. I have almost all my favorite sites aggregated and published together in my Google Reader–rather than visiting every page. Now low and behold, there is a way to get Twitter updates in there too using Yahoo Pipes.

I’m not going to write how, rather I’ll give props to who has:
http://dblume.livejournal.com/112262.html

Thanks David!

Now I have to find other uses for Yahoo Pipes! There is a little mouse running on a wheel in my head.

In Defense of GTD and Productivity

I posted this response to a few blogs bashing productivity. While I totally agree that “productivity” can be taken way to far (see my Productivity vs. Resistance post) and cross over into being counter-productive, a lot of good can come out of adopting a solid system. I’ve benefited from GTD. I figured it’s a good enough response that I’ll host it on my own blog too!

There comes a point when you have a system down and it’s as good as it’ll ever be.

I guess some feel that when you reach this point, it’s wasteful to try to squeeze out more productivity since the effort will cross over and be more than the reward.

I think there is an insane bias in the backlash though. Because not everyone has mastered being productive. Or even started. I’m so glad I’ve found GTD and have adapted it to my life and work–even though I don’t follow it to the letter or worship it like a cult. I’m at the point where I don’t need to think about it. It’s a discipline/habit.

Perhaps the backlash is from those who have been there, done that, and talked about it ad nauseum. And are frustrated that they can’t achieve absolute perfection (because it doesn’t exist). Fine, then step away. But please don’t dismiss GTD or productivity for those who may need it.

Productivity vs. Resistance

Today I want to talk about productivity, productivity tools, and how resistance destroys adoption of productivity principals. For me anyway.

Like I wrote about before in my Getting Things Done post, I’ve adopted many of David Allen’s productivity principles. To the letter, no. Do I stick with it at all times, no. But for the most part, it’s instilled a discipline that has build some positive unbreakable momentum.

The only way any productivity tool or principle can work for me is if there is no resistance to it whatsoever. No frustration. No bugs. No workarounds. So the task of being productive doesn’t become unproductive in of itself. The best analogy I can think of is when my father used to say “I’m so organized that now I can’t find anything.” Funny yes, but something to think about seriously to try to avoid.

So for me, anything to help me be more productive has to be quick and easy and it has to serve a real valuable purpose (e.g. save time, reduce efforts, reduce wasted mental energy).

A lot of the productivity tools out there are what other productivity geeks and gurus often refer to as productivity pr0n. Managing down to a microscopic level is counterproductive 99.9% of the time. For me, there is always something that produces resistance. I’ve tried and tested out most of the online to do list apps. All fail for me in that it takes too much work to add, maintain, view, access, etc. They are not ubiquitous. I need things at my fingertips at all time. I need them to work cross-platform. A click or two away. Fast. That’s why for to do lists, at work I use a simple pen and paper (how novel!) and for personal things Google Calendar. I’ll get into how to use Google Calendaras a todo list in another post.

For lists, docs, bookmarks, etc I require access to the files and lists from 1) home computer, 2) G1 Phone, and 3) Work Computer. Therefore any tool, besides my paper work to do list, needs to be web based and be accessible seamlessly cross-platform.

Regarding reference folders. They need to be painfully easy to manage. They fail me whenever I have to think for a split second “where do I file this again?” Paid phone bills go in a phone bill folder, car insurance goes in a car insurance folder, etc. I have one misc folder for anything that I think I might need to keep, but is too random to have it’s own folder. Then it’s safe, secure, and out of sight and out of mind. Duplicate folders need to be avoided too.

I use Google’s offerings for just about everything. Docs, Google Calendar, Bookmarks, GMail, Reader, even Picasa. It helps here that there is one login, so I don’t have to remember x number of usernames and logins (aka resistance).

Until Google launches their GDrive (hopefully it’s not a rumor), I’ll continue to use Box.net to store electronic reference documents. Google docs and speadsheets are ok, but I don’t want to convert every file to their format and then have to reconvert it back to .doc or .xls if I need to use it again. Sorry Google, MS Office will always dominate. As much as I’m not a fan of Vista and a huge fan of Google, I think MS Office can’t be topped anytime soon.

Some other time saving, mind freeing things:

  • Receipts go in a receipt box. Purged regularity.
  • Almost all services are on auto pay, with a reminder in Google Calendar to check that transactions go through on time and for the right amounts.
  • And for bills not on autopay, Google Calendar is set up with every bill due date to make sure bills are always on time.

My productivity tools:

  • Google Reader – I’m subscribed to all my favorite blogs, news sites, and industry sites.
  • Google Bookmarks – can capture what I may want to read later in addition to saving all my fav places.
  • Google Calendar – I’ll never miss a birthday, event, appointment, bill, etc
  • GMail – No brainer.
  • Box.net – store reference docs.
  • File folder – simple structure for easy filing.
  • Receipt box – get those annoying paper distractions out of site and out of mind.
  • Pen and notepad – ha. Can’t get easier than this.
  • Jotter and small pen carried everywhere. Hey if the phone battery dies, I can write stuff down.
  • Google Docs – capture and save ideas and someday maybe type lists and personal project plans.
  • G1 Phone – Access to these things at all times.

I just thought of a Yogi Berra type mantra for all of this “it has to be easy to make things easier.”

Homeownership and Mortgages

I thought I’d spin this off from my recent post Housing Crisis, House of Cards on CNBC.

Let me start by saying that I DO sympathize with people who are in financial trouble now, and who had been financially responsible all along. There are plenty of hardships that can cause financial turmoil, and I only hope that I never experience it myself.

This post is directed at those who were financially reckless and got themselves in over their own heads. I have zero sympathy really. Whether they were “victims” of predatory lenders or not.

I think the whole bailout notion needs to take past into consideration. Those who were financially responsible get help. Those who weren’t too bad—go rent somewhere. How the heck anyone would judge could only be a dream of mine.

This brings me to the title of this post. When are you considered a homeowner anyway? Seems to me that a lot of the reckless “victims” of predatory lenders have no equity in their home even before housing prices fell, so essentially they just rented space they thought they owned–but never remotely did.

Personally I take pride in my home, which is a work in progress (but that’s another story). The work going in is an investment to the value for the future. It won’t be until it’s 100% paid off that I’ll feel like a tried and true home “owner”.

Economic Stimilus

I think the key to the economic stimulus is to invest in things that will return more than the investment. I don’t want to “create jobs” if the jobs are doing meaningless things. I don’t want to build roads if the roads won’t noticeably help modernization and productivity.

Good speech, right? The how and what are the million dollar questions. Alternative energy is a must, but that might be too long term. What to do?

Raspberry Beer?

Or raspberry wheat brew? I have to say, I was skeptical. I got a beer gift pack/sampler for Christmas and this poor lonely bottle went untouched. Out of curiosity, I cracked the bad boy open tonight. Expecting to take just one sip, I was pleasantly surprised. It was great, actually. The raspberry taste was faint. And the beer was light and smooth. Now I have to find this Purple Haze stuff around here:
http://abita.com/brews/purple-haze.php

Tech Fanboys, Workarounds, and Lay Users

Is it too much to expect things to work correctly? I’m often aggravated to no end over technology that’s almost there, but not quite. I blow my lid when I visit support forums, where people are cool with the bugs and where people offer workarounds as solutions.

Case in point… For over a year I had Google alerts set up to search for terms, then e-mail my Gmail, which I had set up a filter to send to my work e-mail. I had the rule for said alerts set so it forwarded the e-mail, then deleted it. Nice and clean. Then suddenly in November or so, it stopped working. I didn’t find this out for a while until I noticed I stopped getting the alerts. So I visit Goolge’s help forums. Many others had the same problem and were as frustrated with this as I was. This is where the tech Google fanboys dismissed this as not a bug (working correctly). And the “solution” is to take out the delete part of the rule. Um, NO, this is not a solution. It WAS working. Now it’s NOT working.

I see this more and more. Which brings me to the lay user, which is me. I’m not going to hack into registry files and what not to fix stuff that shouldn’t be broken. The SOLUTION is never a workaround. Especially complicated ones. If the thing isn’t working right, fix the damn thing.

That concludes my rant of the day.

Thoughts on Producing and Marketing Complex Products

Lately I’ve been perusing message boards and blogs on the G1 phone. There is a tremendous debate among users as to their satisfaction levels. This, along with my own dissatisfaction with Microsoft Vista, led me to do some thinking. I think it might be impossible for companies with complicated products to produce products that will satisfy every one of their customers.

Take for example Vista. I hate it. Why? Because XP was easy to navigate and find files, folders, programs, etc. So why mess with it? I think, and I might be wrong, that Microsoft modeled Vista and produced it with a heavy slant towards users who want a {buzzword alert} rich multimedia experience. I think the casual user, like me, was left out. And my frustrations are some very basic things, like folder structure. Suddenly I had to click 3 times where it used to take me one click.

Now take the G1. I’m a Google addict. I use almost every one of their products and services. So going with the G1 was a no brainer. In my opinion, Is the G1 perfect? No. But it met my basic expectations.

This brings me to the message boards and blogs. It seems G1 users are divided into pretty distinct camps that range from the extremely technical to the very casual. You have Android fans that don’t mind using the phone with a beta mindset to more casual users who demand a finished product.

Who’s right and who’s wrong? Can Google/HTC/Tmobile produce something to satisfy everyone? Consider the phone is being judged by the following:

1) Phone service
2) Text messaging
3) E-mail client
4) Web Browser
5) MP3 Player
6) Camera
7) Everything else from GPS maps to games, the list is endless.

I do take exception to a few notions. The phone is/was marketed to the general public, so the notion that customers should put up with bugs/annoyances to me is an unreasonable response to complaints. Also, a LOT of advice on both the G1 and Vista require technical modifications. This does not suit a less technically savvy user or those who don’t have the time or desire to tinker.

How does a company take all of these considerations and produce a product that’ll be widely accepted? Do they just aim for the middle?

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