Goodbye Facebook, it’s been 3 months and I don’t miss you

Reasons I’m disconnecting from Facebook

  1. I don’t visit it often anymore, maybe 2-3 times a week
  2. It’s hard even for a technologist like me to keep track of new privacy settings that I have to actively manage
  3. It’s not something I’m proud to tell my child
  4. I’ve been on the fence about leaving anyways
  5. The final straw is reading the NY Times articles about other people also leaving and reminding me to do it
  6. It encourages short messages much like twitter, so why not just use twitter?
  7. Since I do blog on WordPress, why not just blog?

Facebook made it difficult to remove myself

  1. First try deactivate, but it emailed me that I can reactivate anytime in the future. Which meant my info is still there
  2. Then I search for ‘delete Facebook’ and found a permanent delete option.

It’s been 3 months and I don’t miss you.

T

What Makes Us Happy And Motivated At Work?

It’s that time of year for me to reflect on why we are here working everyday.  Please chime in with your thoughts.

What motivates us to be happy and motivated at work?

  • Money
  • Recognition
  • Being valued
  • Making a difference in the world and self motivation

Money is a great motivator, it’s an enabler for future security, giving our family what they need and want and a validation of our worth in society. There have been a lot of studies online which show that incremental increase beyond your basic needs do not increase happiness.

From personal experience, throughout my work life, I have received large bonuses, increase in pay, stock option pay outs. The increase in happiness has lasted at most a few days. Surprising even myself. I told myself to enjoy the increase in monetary longer, but it fades quicker than you expect.

Recognition by your peers and your upper management can have a much long lasting affect on your happiness. As more people recognize your good work and actually regularly make comments about it, this can contribute to your long term happiness because it contributes to your sense of purpose in society.

Being valued by others as a source for advice goes beyond the output of your work. You are being seeked out to help others to grow their own career. This will have lasting impact to the people you affect. Sometimes this will even create life long bonds after both of you leave for different companies.

Making a difference in the world and self motivation would be the highest level of sustained happiness. When you feel like your work is your life calling, then your happiness is fueled by the opportunity to work. Your work increases your happiness. Your happiness makes you want to do better work. And the cycle fuels your growth of happiness.

Keep in mind this doesn’t mean you have to work more hours. A balance between work and personal life will lead to happiness long term.

T

As A Leader, Do You Communicate Enough?

Heads up…

Do you communication enough with your direct reports?

What about your peers in the same group?

What about other peers across the company?

And your management chain, 1 level, 2 level and ultimately up to your CEO?

How often should you communicate? What is the most effective way to communicate (email, face to face, blog post, tech talk?)

 

wow: Happy 17th Birthday Yahoo!

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Yahoo! as a company is 17 years old today. I am very proud to be part of this ship for the last 13 years.

Thank you for allowing me to join as employee ~900. I’ve learn so much from being thrown into the fire.

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to build Yahoo! News. I’m grateful to be part of internet history.

T

BJ Fogg’s Behavior Grid: How To Form Habits

This is an interesting read from a Stanford professor, on how to form healthy habits as well as how Facebook became a habit for many people.

I personally have been using this model for myself to remind myself to do push ups and drink water.

Using motivation (getting stronger), ability (right before bedtime) and trigger (a yoga matt)

BJ Fogg’s Behavior Grid.

11 Days Until…

I’ll be married to the woman of my dreams.

Katherine and I have been a part of each other’s lives for 3 years.  She is the most intelligent, kind, warm and thoughtful woman I have ever met.

During the first few months of dating, she introduced me to most of her close friends.  Her friends are kind, friendly, inclusive and all have a little bit of Katherine in them.  After meeting her friends, I noticed something different about my feelings towards her.

After 6 months of our dating, I was invited to spend a week with her family in Tahoe.  I fell deeply in love with her during that week.   After the family trip, I realize that Katherine gives a lot of herself to her family, friends and she is a sum of all the great people she surrounds herself with.

I look forward to building a meaningful life with Katherine by working hard together, sharing life’s good moments and shouldering life’s challenges as a couple.

I look forward to making our hopes and dreams come true by supporting each other and communicating constantly.

I look forward to building a family by including everyone in our lives with open arms.

T

Whether to use parental control for a 10 year old

 

My daughter has her own laptop and for a while, I’ve told her that she can use up to 30 minutes of screen time on her laptop, my iPad or any electronic devices.

Recently while chatting with a family friend, he mentioned that he believes we should embrace technology in schools and if used properly for education it could be very powerful.  One example he gave was using a tablet or laptop during class and have students answer questions in real time and then the teacher gets immediate feedback about how many students understood, or whether students mis-understood what was taught right then.

Also I’ve noticed that when Cate is limited to 30 minutes of screen time, the time becomes coveted forbidden activity.  It becomes a precious time that she has to choose between watching her favorite show (pokemon), Steve Spangler science, checking her school email, checking wiki for school, writing a story/poem or learning programming with me.  And those are not all equal.  My goal is to have her use the computer wisely and use it as a tool for learning as well as entertainment.

The computer also becomes a negative point of contention.

So I looked into various parental control software and saw that the one which came with the Apple laptop has some simple controls for white listing and black listing web sites and simple time control.   So I turned it on for her account.  I talked with her that the control for website is for her to accidentally stumbling on content that was inappropriate or searching for ‘pokemon’ but finding something else that was not appropriate for kids.  The goal is not to prevent her, but to understand as a family what sites she is using.

As for the time control, the purpose is not to limit her time on the computer, but for my wife (future) to understand what is she spending time doing.  If she used an entire hour on Pokemon, then that should be enough screen time.  If she spent 1/2 on Pokemon, and 1/2 hour typing up a creative story, then absolutely, more time is fine.  It’s a also a reminder if I don’t know what she did on the computer to pay attention.

I’ve also started to let her use the computer during the morning if she has finished brushing her teeth, hair, feed the rabbit, and it’s a positive reenforcement for good habits.  Between school, homework, showering, she doesn’t really have that much free time anyways to be on the computer.  So 1 hour during the weekdays seem be to perfectly fine.

The end goal is for Cate to browse age appropriate web sites, use her time on the computer for both entertainment, learning and creative endeavors.  A secondary goal is for the adults in her life know what is reading and participate actively in talking about the content she is reading.

Link: “My Focus? The Overlap Between Things I Can Control and Things That Matter.”

http://www.happiness-project.com/happiness_project/2012/01/happiness-interview-carl-richards-gretchen-whats-a-simple-activity-that-consistently-makes-you-happier-carl-ge.html
via Byline

Carlrichards

Is there anything you find yourself doing repeatedly that gets in the way of your happiness?
Because I spend a huge amount of my time thinking about it (it’s my job!), I often find myself feeling regret for past mistakes or worrying about the future. Neither of those two activities makes me happy. It’s pretty clear why. Worrying about the future or feeling regret about the past takes me out of the present and then I miss the joy that comes from living now.

Is there a happiness mantra or motto that you’ve found very helpful?(e.g., I remind myself to “There is only love.”)

Two things come to mind:

[1] I breathe! It’s amazing to me how much peace you can find in focusing on your breath. I guess there is a reason so many of the ancient spiritual traditions focus on it. When I find myself getting anxious or upset, I just take a minute and breathe. If my mind wanders back to the problem, I gently pull it back to my breath.

[2] I work through a little Q&A with myself:
Is this an issue or “problem” I’m having with something that really matters?
Is it something I can control?

I have found it helps (particularly with financial decisions) to focus on those things that matter and that you have at least some control over.

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Tony’s Metabolic Rate

I spent $40 today at Yahoo! to measure how many calories my body burns if I were just sitting down.  I spent 15 minutes breathing in a tube and out comes a chart of how many calories I burn.  It turns out that my body burns 1,872 calories, plus 561 calories with just normal movement everyday, and if I burn 234 calories with exercise, that adds up to 2,667 calories / day.  I did this test to understand why I’m snacking everyday and also to understand how much food and exercise I should be doing if I wanted to grow muscles or to loose weight.  I highly recommend spending the money to understand your body.

Link: NYTimes: How I Became a Teacher

From The New York Times:

SCHOOLBOOK: How I Became a Teacher

A first-year teacher writes: “As a high school student, I never once considered the training my teachers had received or what their personal teaching philosophies may have been. I did not know what a lesson plan was.” Now she knows.

http://nyti.ms/w4rH4A

Sent from my iPad

Stupid App Idea: Goal With A Friend

I was trying to convince Cate to work on this App with me, she didn’t really like the idea and thought it can be done with pen and paper instead.

App: Goal With A Friend
You:

  • Set a goal
  • Pick a charity, schedule a payment
  • Invite a friend to help
  • How much is it worth?
  • Pay 10 percent first
  • Pay 90 percent when done

Friend:

  • Accept to help a friend
  • Email, call friend to help
  • Get instant 10 percent fee
  • Get reminders to help ‘you’ to achive goal
  • Get final payment in cash or paypal when done

At the End
If goal is not done, final payment is donated to a charity

Why this is useful

  • We ignore reminders
  • Things get done when a friend knows and remind you
  • There are incentive for the friend and incentive for you

How I’m Learning To Getting Things Done Using Evernote and Remember The Milk

There are many articles and personal experiences of how people are using the GTD method to get things done stress free.  I think the human bring is not built to not remember things and when you should do them.  Hence the use of tools, paper to capture information is helpful.

Here is what works for me using these 2 tools.  Evernote and Remember The Milk.  You can search for Evernote GTD and Remember The Milk GTD

The important thing is for you to use the method that works for you every day, regardless of how it’s done.  I’m using the following as an ideal, but there are flaws in my executing them (as Katherine could tell you about following up on scheduling a doctor’s appointment)

Evernote

  • I setup a private email address in Evernote so that I can email notes to myself from anywhere
  • I do not use bookmark services when I come across something to read, I email it into Evernote with the #read tag.  Then I setup a smart folder for the tag ‘read’ in order to read it later
  • When I’m on my laptop and want to capture something, I print it to PDF into Evernote.
  • I follow this method of GTD with Evernote with 9 notebooks.   The most important folder is my 3_ASAP folder of my important projects
  • All notes I capture using any other tools eventually goes into Evernote, that is my single source of truth for anything that is not time sensitive.
  • I also have a 91_Passwords folder where I put in all my passwords but for a password, I either encrypt it in Evernote or if it’s one of my 10 or so passwords I use, I put the first and last digit but everything in between, like L…….1 just a s a reminder.

Remember The Milk

  • I love the web interface for Remember The Milk to capture tasks and group tasks together.  So I create my personal projects and work projects and create tasks that is needed complete the projects.  I first create a search #project, #NNN then save the search.  Then every task I create falls into that project
  • I also setup a private email address in Remember The Milk so I could email myself tasks with tags #project, #NNN, where NNN is the name of the project
  • When I have something to read and if I think it’s time sensitive I would also email it into Remember The Milk with #read tag or with #project, #NNN tag

Daily Ritual

  • On my Firefox bookmark, I have a Daily folder where I put in all the links I should visit at least once a day.  Yahoo!’s corporate portal, my bug list that I’m assigned to, the list of un-triaged tickets, 3 of my personal blogs that I should write something for, NYTimes.com, Mint.com to check my finances, Remember The Milk for my task for that day.
  • Everyday I’m trying to get my Inbox to zero, anything I need to get to a later time, is forwarded to RTM or Evernote
  • I schedule slots on my calendar to work on my tasks so no one can schedule meetings into those slots

Weekly Ritual

  • Friday’s I tend to organize my Evernote, Remember The Milk list.  Review what I’ve done over the last week and make adjustments.

Monthly Ritual

  • I review my job description and adjust if I’m not doing what I’m suppose to, or I may need to add/subtract something from my job responsibilities and write down an agenda to talk to my manager about

How Do You Manage Your Incoming Queue To Get Things Done?

Hallway conversation with 2 co-workers today went like this.

Tony: “Hey L., how come you were able to get your ticket resolved?”

L: “Oh I commute with G. and he did it for me”

G: “Happened to walk by, yeah, it was easy”

Tony: “But if someone else asked you G., what would happen?”

G: “It goes into my queue, because I trust L”

——
So, if your queue of things to do is too much work to do. How do you prioritize the queue?

I assume your queue is

1) Your Inbox
2) Your bug list
3) If you are using scrum, then your current sprint
4) You have some stuff in your brain
5) Favors you do for people you trust
6) Your goals that you set for yourself
7) Other todo list

I’m curious how do you figure out what to do next?

How much of your actual time are you spending on the following 4 bucket

1) Important non-urgent
2) Important urgent
3) Not important, but urgent
4) Not important, non-urgent

Do you have a way to determine which bucket your queue item falls into?

How To Lead By Influence And Trust

I have learned a lot from John Thrall. while working at Yahoo! in the last 3 years.

John became the leader for Yahoo! Media during a transition of the leadership position a few years ago.

From the point of view of the rank and file, he looked to be young, high energy but an unknown from our perspective.

I worked with him closely for 2 years to build the new Yahoo! Publishing Platform. He mentored me quietly through the life cycle of conception, buy in from executives, prototype, design validation and finally execution.

All along I appreciated that he never micro managed. Instead, he paved the way for me by evangelizing my role as the architect and encouraging different approaches for me to double check my assumptions.

One of the most important intangibles qualities John demonstrated is his commitment. Famous quote (I paraphrase) : “I’m not going anywhere, I’m here at Yahoo! for the long haul. Let’s do this right!”

He probably has no idea how reassuring and rare it is to hear the commitment spoken out loud and be believed.

T

Why I’m re-energized to work at Yahoo! after Livestand iPad app launched

The Livestand from Yahoo! iPad app launched on Nov 2nd and became the #1 News iPad app and #2 overall app on the iTunes AppStore in 1 day.  Today on Friday Nov 4th,  it became the #1 app in 3 days on iTunes.  You should try it yourself and compare it with Flipboard and Zite and see for yourself which one you like.  Perhaps it’ll be another app on your iPad to satisfy your reading needs alongside those other great apps.  There is always room for 3.

It’s  testimonial to the great work done by the Livestand team, Alison, Jin, Mike, Ric and the engineering members whom I don’t know personally.  I know internally it was great feat for the following reasons.

  1. It’s a BHAG within Yahoo! not just to build YAA (yet another App).   It’s forward looking to build a platform for our users, our advertisers and our publishers.
  2. Along with this launch, Yahoo! also launched a platform to deploy HTML5 applications called Cocktails.
  3. The entire iPad experience runs on HTML5 (CSS, Javascript), inside of another Yahoo! platform which provides the native iOS services to Livestand.  This Yahoo! platform will also be ported to Android as well a open sourced in 2012
  4. Pause:  The Livestand app launched alongside 2 brand new platforms!  3 launches at once!

Why am I re-energized to work for Yahoo!?

  1. I haved worked on a project for the last 2 years on rebuilding Yahoo! publishing system call Yahoo! Publishing Platform and I have seen our ability to excuted on BHAG.  We have launched almost 100+ Yahoo! media sites (OMG, News, Movies, TV, Sports, Finance) in more markets that I’ve seen in my 12 years at Yahoo!
  2. Livestand is another example of launching a product and platform at the same time and our ability to execute in less than a year shows that we can execute as an engineering community
  3. I found the internal docs to setup a Livestand development environment, I ran the scripts, got Livestand built on a iOS simulator and open up Safari and was able to run Livestand on my browser, in .. less than 1 hour!  What?  that is just awesome!
  4. The Cocktails platform is just a start for Yahoo! to build more native-like apps in less time and at scale
  5. Even with all the crap going on in the press, internally our leaders are focused, supportive and willing to tackle more BHAG
  6. We have been working hard at 2012 planning and I’m even more excited to see what we can excute on in the next few years

Thanks Livestand team for injecting more energy in this 12 year Yahoo! veteran !

You might also like: Why I Came To Yahoo! And Why I Am Still Here?

GTD and investing

In June 2011 this year, when I was looking at my investment accounts, I noticed that it had fully recovered from the nearly 40% drop since March 2009.

I was in the middle of selling my house, moving into a new rental, planning for a wedding for next year and starting an investment in a restaurant. I asked myself how I would feel if the market dropped another 40 percent. Was I mentally ready?

The answer was that I was going to very stressed *and* I might be tight on cash flow.

I immediately liquidated all stock mutual funds out of my 401K, 529 plan,education plan for Cate, Cate’s custodial account and my investment account. I moved everything into the Vanguard Total Market Bond fund.

The reason I am writing is that I had put a note for myself in remeberthemilk.com to evaluate the decision 2 months later. And today is that date. This is how using a GTD system with tools like RTM is helpful.

In hind sight, I was very lucky to be out of the market when I am in need of feeling less stressed.

T

“24” math game with kids and adults

Cate, Katherine and I started playing this game in Paris using a deck of cards and trying o use addition, subtraction, multiplication and division to make 4 cards come to 24.  Jack, Queen, King are treated as 10.

Here are the official rules

http://www.pagat.com/adders/24.html

These are some of the samples:

(6-4+1) * 8 = 24

(10 * 3) – (10 – 4) = 24

This is similar to 24 Game but public domain and using a standard deck of playing cards. The cards are shuffled and divided equally between four players. The cards become each player’s draw deck. Every player simultaneously flip open their top card. Then they try to reach “24” using (+,-,*,/) with the four open cards. J,Q,K count as ten. If any player thinks they have got it, they slam their hand on the table. One can also slam the table to bluff other players into thinking they have the solution. After three players have slammed their hands, the remaining player must choose one of the three players to give the solution. If the chosen player answers correctly, the remaining player takes the four cards and put them at the bottom of his draw deck. If the chosen player has no solution or answers wrongly, he/she must take the four cards and put them at the bottom of his/her draw deck. Game ends when one player exhausts his/her draw deck. If no player can think up a solution (some card combinations cannot form 24), they can all agree to put back their respective cards, reshuffle, and draw a new card from their draw deck. Game ends when one player exhausts his/her draw deck.

Simple Crepe Recipe

Crepe at Home

Cate’s school uses this recipe for their annual fund raising event. This year I used it to make 100 crepes. The only caveat is that you have to adjust the amount of milk so that the crepe’s consistency is to your liking.

BASIC CREPES

1 CUP FLOUR
1 EGG
1 EGG YOLK

1 TABLESPOON OIL
1 CUP MILK

PINCH OF SALT

Mix flour and salt, add eggs and milk, beat well, add oil and mix again. Let mixture stand at least 30 minutes then begin to make your crepes!

Actively Maintain Your LinkedIn Profile : Ask For Recommendation Early

Something I started doing last year is to ask for recommendations on my LinkedIn profile while I’m still working at the company.  Instead of only doing so when I have already left the company.

LinkedIn’s value is the business contacts and also an online resume with real recommendations from people who are also on LinkedIn.  To maximize the value

  • I try to keep the job history quarterly up to date
  • I ask for recommendations from people I work with and people who have left the company ( right now I think it about 10% conversation rate)
  • I also write recommendations for people who leave the company without them asking

Of course this is not a common practice.   In order to not scare my current co-workers that I might be leaving,  I preface my email honestly.  “I’m not looking to leave any time soon, but I want to keep my LinkedIn profile up to date.  Please write a recommendation for me….etc”

Making Annual Reviews Easier

This week, it’s our mid-year annual review. It’s one of the most important thing people in a large organization need to do. But often we don’t spend enough effort and thought into it.

I’ve been doing my self review for over 12 years now at Yahoo! For the first few years, it was a chore and I didn’t spend quality time working on getting peer reviews and writing self reviews. For the last few years, I’m using the following system and it seems to be working well.

0) At the beginning of year, I’ve already try to imagine my end of the year review and what I want it to say. Given this, I already have some idea of the responsibilities I want to take on, the things I do not want to take on. This is in my note called ‘Annual Review Forecast 2011’

1) Throughout the year, if I get emails/praise from people I write it down using Evernote into a note named ‘Annual Review 2011 : praise’, these are the people I’ll use during my peer review feedback.

2) I have a saved search in my email that looks for all emails I ‘Sent’ in the last year or 6 months, depending on if it’s mid-year check in or full year. Then I look at who I sent the most emails to and make a decision whether that person is a good peer reviewer and include that person in my peer review list.

3) Before and during the year, I have a regular reminder in rememberthemilk.com for me to review my own job description and responsibilities and ask myself whether I’m doing what my job description says, whether I need to change my job description.

4) Jot down in Evernote all the projects I’ve been working on, people I’ve talked with so at the end of the year, I just do a search for tag:project and tag:{name} to find and remind myself of all the projects I worked on so I can write a complete self evaluation

T

“What Did You Learn?” : asked Carol Bartz

Today my manager at Yahoo! held an all hands for her engineering group in Yahoo! Media and invited our CEO to take some Q/A.

It was wonderful to have Carol there to talk about why what we are doing in Yahoo! Media is important to the company.  It was inspiring to hear her long term perspective.

I had a 10 minute slot to demo how we can use LEGO ( an internal product name ) to launch a fully function site in a day. It was easy with the tools our team have built, it was actually too easy :)

Afterwards, Carol asked me what I learned. Thank god I prepared for that one.

1) Consistency, rhythmic delivery is very important when we work across 4 geographical locations and 3 timezones. We deploy every week, on the clock on Tuesdays.

2) Being a hero is not needed, and most times is not good. People get burned out and there is no process.  I’ve played the hero for 7 years while working in Yahoo! News, that just didn’t scale.

3) Developers should use the tools that editors use to know first hand the pain points.

4) Fast excution only happens when you plan ahead.

T