Jump Starting My Electric Car

Just like your conventional internal combustion engine (ICE), my electric car has a standard 12V car battery that powers electronics when the main power supply is deactivated. Also like your car, this battery is susceptible to failure, as it proved to me on a cold Sunday morning.

As I was getting ready to run an errand on Superbowl Sunday, I was stunned when I went to unlock the door on my Nissan LEAF and nothing happened. I tried pressing the buttons on the key fob as well as the proximity sensor on the on the door handle. Nothing.

I pulled the conventional key out of the key fob and assumed that the key fob had a low battery. After sitting down in the driver’s seat, I pressed the power button. Nothing. No startup sound, no flutter of lights, no “No Key” warning light flashing on the dash. Complete silence.

I wondered if the car may have somehow discharged in the one day that I didn’t drive it, so I tried to release the charge port lid and realized that there was no way to release the lid without power to the vehicle. Sounds crazy, right?

After researching multiple web forums, I came to an alarming solution: I needed to jump start my electric car.

How a car with 24kWh of power packed under its chasis could not power its own on-board computer was beyond me. That 12V “accessory” battery under the hood was the only thing preventing me from getting on my way. After a short call to the roadside assistance, a technician was able to come and give me a “jump” to provide enough power to the 12V battery to initiate the on-board computer and bring the car “online.”

After the jump, I drove the car around to recharge the 12V battery for twenty minutes or so, hoping that the drive would put enough energy back onto the 12V to allow for an easy departure to work the next morning. Luckily, this morning when I left the house the car started with absolutely no problem.

I brought the car to the dealership after work and learned that the only certified LEAF technician that they have had called off for the day, so right now I am waiting for one of their ICE technicians to check the 12V battery, which I explained to to the service adviser, is no different from any other conventional car battery.

Even with the most sophisticated technology, there is always an Achilles’s heel. For your 4G smartphone, it might be the strength of your cell signal, or for your tablet it might be the absence of a WiFi connection. In my case, a completely battery powered car, fully charged with 24kWh of electricity couldn’t start, simply because of a failed 12V battery…

Vic Gundotra Visits Dallas to Talk Google+

Yesterday afternoon, I noticed a couple of direct messages through the Hangouts app on my Samsung Galaxy S III. I’ve been running Cyanogen Mod 11 for a while and absolutely love the pure Android experience, despite the few programming bugs. It’s amazing that software enables you to get so much out of hardware that already seems antiquated.

The messages were from two good friends of mine, Matthew Rappaport and Robert Anderson. They were both asking me if I was going to see Vic that night. I had no idea what they were talking about. Curious, I went to my computer and noticed that I had been mentioned at least a dozen times in various posts about Vic Gundotra‘s upcoming visit to Dallas. Immediately, I informed my fiance that we would have to adjust our plans for the evening.

My agenda for that day was nothing short of Herculean. In 8 hours time I would receive all of my goods that had been moved from Nashville, register my car, have my apartment re-keyed, have the car taken to the dealership to have the front plate mounted (I was missing the appropriate bracket), obtain a driver’s license and make it downtown by 5 o’clock for a meeting with someone who I very much admire.

How I was able to make it to this discussion about Google+ was almost as exciting as the discussion itself. In fact, most of the things that got me there are things that we take for granted.

First of all, without Google Hangouts, I probably wouldn’t have been made aware in sufficient time that I had the opportunity to meet with Vic and a wonderful group Google+ evangelists in the area. Then again, if it weren’t for the two separate public video Hangout calls that led me to meet Matthew Rappaport and Robert Anderson, I wouldn’t have received those messages to begin with.

Getting back to my agenda for the day, I’m new to the area, so where I would need to go to accomplish the day’s tasks was all new to me. Luckily, through the help of Google, I was able to find the appropriate websites for the Tarrant County Tax Assessor, the Nissan of Texas Grapevine dealership and a list of Department of Motor Vehicle locations in my area. Using Google Maps, I was able to get a rough idea of where I would be going and what timing would be necessary to successfully orchestrate everything. Brittani and I are both professional meeting planners, so we’re pretty savvy at scheduling a “full day.”

Once I left the house, I relied on navigation from Google Maps. Apart from the mess of construction on the connector, Google was able to get me everywhere I needed to go in time to make it back to the house for the apartment to be re-keyed. I knew it was the apartment complex calling me because I had them stored in my GMail contacts.

Like clockwork, the truck with all of my belongings appeared in the driveway. After unloading everything, I used the Google Drive app on my phone to quickly scan the paperwork from the driver. As I was unpacking boxes, I used the camera on my Android phone to upload pictures of damaged boxes to Google+ Photos so I could later send them to the moving company for compensation in the case that any of the contents were damaged. (Luckily, no problems so far.)

The DMV

Brittani arrived while I was unpacking and we quickly changed and got ready to leave. As we were getting ready, I used Google Maps on my phone to estimate the travel time to the DMV and then to the Magnolia hotel downtown where I would meet Vic. Brittani was very concerned that we didn’t have all the paperwork needed to obtain our licenses (and rightly so). It turns out that you need am armful of documents to get a driver’s license in the state of Texas.

Once we made it to the DMV, I assured Brittani that we had plenty of time to get through the process and that we would make it downtown with time to spare. (Was I fooling myself? Did we really have time to get both of our driver’s licenses and make it downtown in under two hours?)

Almost immediately after we were done filling out our paperwork, our numbers were called, 395 and 396. We each enthusiastically proceeded to our assigned desks to begin the process. As I handed the stack of paperwork to the clerk, she started sorting through everything and nodded with approval as she moved each document to the side. “Wait, this one is expired,” she said.

I panicked. What could it be? It turns out, of the registration papers that I keep in my car, I had handed her the old Proof of Insurance and not the new one. With a sigh of relief, I handed her the updated form that I had in the envelope of other papers. “Okay, it looks like we have everything but your social security card,” she said.

“I need my social security card and my birth certificate?” Surely my birth certificate along with my old driver’s license from Tennessee would be ample proof that I was who I claimed to be. Clearly not the case in the state of Texas.

“You’ll need to either provide your social security card or your most recent W2 in order to get your license,” she clarified.

My stomach sank. I didn’t have my social security card with me and my fiance would be devastated if I didn’t get my license taken care of that day. Immediately, a light bulb turned on in my head. My W2, it’s on Google Drive, I could e-mail it to her!

“No, it couldn’t be that simple,” I told myself. “Would I be able to e-mail it to you?” I asked.

“You may, but I’m not going to wait a half an hour.” Faster than a speeding bullet, I whipped my Android out of my pocket, tapped on the Google folder, the Drive logo and then the search window. Right as I keyed in W and the number 2, my most recent W2 appeared. I quickly opened it to ensure it was what I was looking for. I tapped my phone twice to share the document through GMail as the clerk slipped a piece of paper across the counter with her e-mail address. Confirming each letter aloud as I typed it into my phone, I tapped the send arrow and held my phone in the air as I clung on to the one bar of 3G service I had with every hope. For two seconds there was silence. I panicked. Did I not have enough signal? Was the attachment too large? Would I have to come back another day?”

“Got it!” She proclaimed as the laser printer started to roar.

Triumph! Google Drive had saved the day.

The Meeting

After we both received our temporary licenses, we got into the car and proceeded to the Magnolia hotel in downtown Dallas. Neither of us had been there before, so we relied once again on the navigation of Google Maps. Within 30 minutes, just as Google had predicted, Brittani and I arrived at the hotel and valeted my car.

As I was getting out of the car I donned my sport coat and Google Glass and proceeded to the second floor where we quickly spotted the bar. Brittani suggested I try one of the local brews, Fireman’s #4 from the Real Ale Brewing Company. As the bartender exchanged my credit card for the beer, I noticed a couple of lanky fellows sitting in a dark corner on the other side of the railing wearing Google Glass. I handed Brittani her glass of Pinot Noir (Meiomi if you must know) and we proceeded to the table in the dimly lit corner.

Around the table were eight or so chairs. Sitting in the back corner was a female wearing Google Glass Cotton (the white model) and a man in his 40’s wearing a business suit. Around the table were a few more casually dressed people. We all shook hands and made introductions. With our mutual excitement for meeting Vic, I doubt many of us remember each others’ names. The introductions almost seemed as though they were an obligation or formality.

During the time leading up to Vic’s entrance, my phone had been vibrating constantly. People that knew I was in Dallas wanted me to ask questions on their behalf and “dial them in” to the conversation. One of the updates I noticed was from Vic, on his previous night’s post, indicating that he was heading up the stairs.

As Vic walked towards the corner, everyone immediately stood up from the table, very eager to greet him. Vic made his way around the group (probably about 12-15 at this point) and shook hands with everyone there. I introduced myself simply as Peter to see if he would recognize me. He responded by saying “Nice Glasses!” I then introduced him to my fiance before we both sat down.

In meeting Vic in person, I noticed several things. He is extremely polished, well-mannered, sincere and doesn’t look like he carries an ounce of stress with him. How is it possible for someone to carry such an important position to seem so cool, calm and relaxed, I wondered.

After a few more handshakes, Vic found an empty seat at the table, four seats down and almost directly across from me. He started off by thanking everyone in the group for coming to spend time with him and thanked us all for our adoption and continued use of the Google+ platform. He seemed genuine in every word he said. Without delay, he explained that his reason to meet with us was to learn as much as he could and offer answers to any question we might have.

The Questions

Vic opened the discussion to questions. The first to ask were the well dressed man and woman sitting to his right. They introduced themselves as a newscaster and meteorologist for the local CBS radio and television affiliates. They were asking how Google was going to help newscasters and the press with the use of the platform now that they have begun to adopt it.

A few local technology professionals asked questions about API-integration, multiple-page management and the absence of true analytics for the social platform.

There was a high school student that stated that he felt like he was the only one of his peers that felt like he used the network and wondered when Google would make the push to encourage his friends to adopt the use of Google+.

I asked Vic how Google was going to use user signals to improve the home stream algorithm to make browsing Google+ a more personalized experience.

Questions and conversation arose about the future improvement of the network in terms of nearby communication, circle management and overall improvement of Hangouts.

There was a question of “recommended users” and how Google is working to provide better suggestions for people you already know.

After almost every question, Vic tactfully summarized the inquiry and responded with (in most cases) “we hear you” and we’re doing X to make Y better.

The Conversation

As the first questions started to roll, I removed Google Glass from my face and set it on the table. I removed my phone from my pocket, silenced it and put it face down on the table. I didn’t want to document everything that was said. I didn’t want to try to get a video of the entire conversation and I certainly didn’t want to “live tweet” the event. I wanted to immerse myself. I wanted to be there.

(Unfortunately, I can’t give you any sound bites. I can’t directly quote Vic on anything he said because I wasn’t writing it down with pen and paper. I was living the moment and didn’t want to miss out on the experience.)

During the talk, Vic eluded to something very important, Google+ is more than what it appears on the surface. Google+ is helping to make Google better.

Now think about that for a minute. Normally you would think that Google and its other products would make Google+ better, but when you really think about it, the social interaction that you carry out through Hangouts and Google+ is incredibly useful in improving your traditional and predicative search experience.

Google is doing some incredible things in making our lives easier and connecting us with one another. My example of how I got to the Magnolia hotel would not have been possible without the magic of Google and its incredibly diverse teams.

Our Relationships

According to Vic, Google has been doing a research in what we want to see from whom and when we want to see it. He pooled the group and asked us if we wanted to see our friends checking in at Chipotle with a selfie (he must have been following my stream that day as I stopped there for lunch and checked in on Google+). The group shook their head and said things like, “of course not!”

“That’s what we thought,” he said. “It turns out you do like seeing stuff like that.” (Keep in mind, I’m roughly paraphrasing.)

Through their research, Vic unveiled that Google was trying to discover what people really like to see in their streams and when they like to see it. He addressed the concerns of “stale” posts appearing at the top of people’s streams by explaining that they’re there because people don’t want to miss them. Consciously, we might find them out of place, but subconsciously, we really want to know what is going on with those people that Google ranks closest to us.

So how does Google determine who is closest to us? Vic explained a lot of “signals” that Google uses to determine who we really care about and who we are most inclined to interact with. That’s why you might see certain people at the top of your stream more often, or at the top of your circles when you go to manage them.

Google is using a lot more signals and gaining a lot more data as more and more people use the network and use it more often to help improve those rankings and offer a much more personalized and intimate experience.

Moving Forward

Expect a lot of change coming soon. From improved circle management, to less confusing ways to share and even more rich features that users have been asking for over the last few years.

I asked about threaded comments and Vic assured that they were on the way, but as part of a completely improved discussion system. It’s hard to imagine what that would look like, but I could hypothesize something like YouTube’s new comment system coming to Google+. Imagine a new subthread in the original post for each share much in the way that comments work on Blogger and YouTube. My guess is that–or something similar–is coming to Google+ soon.

There will be improvements in “local sharing.” Vic hinted that we might soon be able to use features in our phone that have been laying dormant to start sharing information with those around us.

Ever leave a party and wonder how you could thank everyone for coming, whether they RSVPed or not? Currently, there’s no easy way to do that, but Google+ will soon have a solution that will make it effortless.

The best thing to come? Analytics. Soon pages and profiles will be able to see who and what is driving interaction to their accounts. I imagine this data is going to be extremely rich and much more useful than anything we have seen from third party developers.

Another thing Vic promised was better spam filtration. I don’t want to go into too much detail on this one, but Vic explained some of the signals that Google uses to determine who is likely to be a “low quality account” and does its best to filter those from bothering you with notifications and unwanted communication.

On the whole, Google+ is about to offer users a much more intuitive, seamless product that is going to work hand-in-hand with other Google products than it ever did before.

Tacking & Tachometers

Throughout the conversation, there were a few questions along the lines of “Why hasn’t Google _____ or ______.” Vic responded to those in sum by explaining a sailing technique called tacking. In tacking, the sailor “tacks” the boat by steering its bow through the wind so the direction that the wind blows changes from one side of the boat to the other. The maneuver helps the sailor to take advantage of the wind and get the boat to its destination with great speed in a zig-zag fashion.

Vic explained that in order for Google+ to succeed, it needs to continuously change its course and focus to ensure that it is covering ground in the fastest way possible. Because the Google+ has limited resources, instead of spreading them thinly, they work in a concentrated effort to overcome large obstacles together. This technique of tacking enables Google to stay ahead of the curve. The only downside to the strategy, is that not everything can be developed simultaneously. It takes a great deal of time and effort to make the smallest change to the platform because of the considerations that must be taken every time. Suggestions that seem simple to us may be quite complicated in execution.

Right as the conversation was wrapping up, someone asked Vic about the watch on his wrist. Personally, I was curious to see if he had a Pebble, Sony Smartwatch or Galaxy Gear, instead, he tugged back on the sleeve of his jacket and unveiled a beautiful and unique timepiece. This watch was not smart in terms of its Wifi connection, LCD display or processor. It was smart in terms of its design, its rarity, and the incredible story behind it.

“This is a very personal story, but I want to share it with you,” he began.

It was a wonderful story, and it showed how vulnerable Vic felt during the launch of the product that we have come to love. I would share it with you, but some stories are just best left to be told in person.

What to Expect

I would imagine that this year’s Google I/O will be more about the human element than it ever has been before. Hangouts was recently the number one app in the iOS App Store, Google now offers the most immersive and intuitive platform to store unlimited photos and the way that those photos and videos can tell stories will be taken to an entirely new level.

We’re all story tellers, and I’m betting that this platform will soon help us become better at discovering, sharing and telling our unique and personal tales.

Change

Sometimes we need to change our perspective.

Sometimes we need to do things differently.

Sometimes we just need a little bit of change.

Change gives us new opportunities.

Change brings us challenges.

Change teaches us to be nimble.

Change makes us stronger.

Change makes us better.

Change makes us grow.

Change can paint a new horizon.

It’s about time for a change…

Who Gave You Permission to Do That?

Daria Musk at The Listening Room by Peter McDermottWe live in a world that is bound by rules. We all stop at red lights, we all throw away the milk by its expiration date and we all pay our taxes before the middle of April each year.

When we break these rules, we are likely to suffer consequences. Run the red light? You could get a ticket, or injure someone in an accident. Soak your cereal in the expired milk? You could have a sour breakfast, or wind up very ill. Didn’t pay your taxes on time? You could face harsh fines, or prison.

Outside of the “real world” exists the Internet world. Like the real world, it is ever-growing and ever-changing. However, unlike the real world, the Internet comes with few rules or instructions.

In the past, when companies wanted to initiate a marketing campaign, they would have to set aside large sums of money. They would focus their efforts, ensure that their message was consistent and carefully consider what vehicles to run their advertisement. They might have chosen billboards, television commercials and radio spots. Those types of advertisements used to (and still do) cost large sums of cash.

For the last ten years or so, companies have been expanding their reach into this space we call “social media.” The thing that makes social media unique to real world advertising is that it doesn’t come with quite as many rules. In the real world, an employee couldn’t buy a billboard ad to show how much he loved (or hated) working at his job. In the real world, advertisements are carefully thought out and planned, not just thrown together on a whim. In the real world, small businesses don’t always carry the funds necessary to go head to head against the big boys.

The Internet? Different story. Anyone can create a message and evangelize it. Anyone can profess to be an expert at something. Anyone can make a claim, and not have to worry about backing it up. There is no regulatory committee focused on checking social media marketing companies to see if their advertised claims are 100% accurate.

On the Internet, you don’t need permission.

Without permission, you can do some pretty crazy things. You can build a commercial empire or crumble an existing one in a short mindless burst of communication that may cost nothing to broadcast, but could cost the company its future if it sends the wrong message.

With an Internet connection, you have your own printing press, television studio and radio station. You have the opportunity to create anything you want and you don’t need permission.

When you go to create your blog, or your podcast or your YouTube channel, use your imagination. Take every post or broadcast as an opportunity to hone your craft. Get better at it every week. Share what you learn with your followers and colleagues.

Creating a digital brand isn’t going to replace your income overnight. It isn’t going to be an instant replacement for your job. It might bring you fulfillment in that you are doing something that you are passionate about, but it won’t pay your mortgage within the first few weeks.

When you create something online, be mindful of the consequences.

Because your idea isn’t likely to cover your living costs in the immediate future, you need to consider the impact that it might have on whatever does pay your bills. Writing a blog about food and wine when you work for a winery? Make sure that you’re not violating any policies regarding social media or product endorsements.

Going to do a podcast about workplace happiness? Make sure your boss doesn’t think you’re insinuating dissatisfaction with your current gig.

We all have the right to express ourselves, but we also have to be careful how it could impact our lives. Remember, the Internet is permanent, so be mindful of what you share.

You don’t need permission, but you do need discretion.

No one needs to give you permission to play the guitar, or to paint a picture on the weekend. However, if what you decide to create online interferes with your vocation, you could find yourself wishing you had been more careful.

Keep the 80/20 creative passion rule, spend 80% of your energy doing what pays the bills and 20% doing what you love. You don’t need permission to be passionate or to become an expert, but you do need to be careful.

When can you call yourself an expert?

Like anything, if you are seeking mastery, you will never consider yourself the best. Hopefully you are always trying to get better and comparing yourself to people better than you. Although you won’t achieve mastery overnight, you should be honest about who you compare yourself to. If you only know a few chords, then you’re probably just a beginner, but if you can play classical guitar from sheet music without too much trouble, you might be advanced.

You can call yourself an expert when your peers consider you an expert. Until then, you’re just learning, but we all are, so that’s okay.

It all comes down to permission. You don’t need permission from anyone to call you an expert, but if you call yourself one and you’re not, your reputation is at stake.

The beauty of all of this is that we are free to express ourselves however we want, to attempt mastery on whatever drives us and to reap the benefits once we have become really good. The best part is that through all of this, we never need permission.

Photograph: Daria Musk performing at The Living Room in New York City, NY, 2012 by Peter McDermott

How to Effectively Communicate with a Digital Team

Right now I am working on a couple of projects outside of my daily work duties. Both of these are with organizations that don’t have enough revenue to compensate their teams yet. That’s totally fine with me, because I think the investment of time and expertise is paid off with experience and networking. I’m truly grateful for these opportunities.

As the world economy moves away from a traditional 9-5 office environment and into a more digital workspace without offices or break rooms, we run into a huge problem with communication. You’re unlikely to “bump into” the project manager if you live 1,300 miles away, and there is no way that you’re all going to start and stop your work day (or week) at the same time as the rest of the team.

Between e-mail, instant messaging, video teleconferencing, social media groups, forums and listservs, we are absolutely overwhelmed by the methods of communication available.

In order to create an effective team, you need to orchestrate effective communication. I think one of the best things that people on digital teams can do is to have meetings.

In the traditional workplace, we see so many blog posts and articles telling us how meetings are unproductive time killers. However, we’re not talking about the traditional workplace, and we’re not talking about packing our calendars with them.

The great advantage of working digitally is that we have the opportunity to do things at our own pace and be rewarded for our results, not just our “time spent.” However, in order to ensure that the team is on the same page, it is important to wrangle everyone together.

How to Schedule a Meeting

Quite possibly the most important step in having a meeting is scheduling it. There are plenty of tools available online, but one of the easiest to use is a shared calendar like Google Calendar. When teammates share their calendars with each other, they can see when their counterparts are available.

It’s likely that there won’t be a time suitable for every member of the team, however steps should be taken to include as many people as possible. Another strategy to successful attendance is to rotate the meeting times to suit team members on different continents or working from different time zones.

Once you have identified a great time for the meeting, make sure to inform the participants. No, I’m not talking a tweet or a text message or a hidden paragraph in an e-mail. Create an appointment.

Those of us that work in a corporate culture live by our Outlook calendars. In fact, I’ve heard plenty of colleagues in my years say things like, “if it’s not on my calendar, how am I supposed to know about it?”

Digital calendars like those from Microsoft Exchange and Gmail are great because they allow us to collaborate and keep updated on all of our digitally connected devices.

During the Meeting

A meeting without purpose is just a waste of time.

Be sure to clearly define the goals of the meeting and ensure that you have someone taking notes. You and your team will benefit most if they walk away from the meeting with action items, goals and clear and concise expectations. Don’t use meetings to just discuss ideas or concepts, but use them as a tool to get things done.

If someone comes to a meeting with an idea, this is the opportunity to create a plan of action so when you meet the next time, you will have results to review.

Keep it concise. If the meeting is only carving 30 minutes out of its attendees calendars, don’t expect anyone to be happy if you carry one for 45 minutes to an hour. Time is precious, especially for those volunteering it to you.

After the Meeting

Follow-up is critical. If you don’t engage the attendees and your team members, you aren’t going to get the results you were pushing for. I’ve attended so many digital meetings where afterwards, attendees instant message each other asking whether or not there were any “to do” items, or any value taken from the conversation. Be sure that whomever was taking notes does an efficient job of capturing the topics covered, the takeaways and the action items and expectations for the next meeting.

Communicating Apart from Meetings

Meetings are just one small part of the way we communicate within teams. It is critical to adopt a standardized approach to how you will communicate with your team if you expect them to respond and be engaged.

If you are sharing a message on a private social media group for the team, then sending them an e-mail, but instant messaging them in between, people won’t know what medium they should be most focused on.

From the early stages of your startup, project or community, be sure to let your team know what your expectations are, how communication will be delivered, how often and what the expectation is for responses.

There are literally hundreds of tools available for communicating with teams, but it doesn’t mean that you should try to use all of them at once. Find what works best for your team. It will probably involve a combination of static communication (Google Docs), group conversation (Google Groups or Private Community) and instant/personal communication (E-mail or Instant Messaging).

Be careful, if you inundate your team with too much communication, or communication from too many methods, you might be overwhelming them. Also, if your communication covers too many topics, you might end up with a shotgun spray of results instead of a focused torpedo.

If you want to have a successful project, you need to have successful communication. Let your team help you shape the way you communicate and you will all come out winners.

Quit Knocking Down Barns and Try Building One

At the end of 2013, I wrote a blog post looking back on my year and what social media taught me over those twelve months. One of my mutual followers (I follow this person as well) responded to the post by writing his own reflection of the year. It was in this post by+Eli Fennell that I was reminded of an important lesson:

“Any idiot can knock down a barn, but it took a carpenter to build one…”

Eli’s words serve as an important reminder to those of us that chose to participate in social media. Unlike casual conversation with friends, the remarks you make can leave a lasting impression and can also shape the way people perceive you. If you act like a troll, people will regard you as a troll. If you respond to everything to create the illusion that you’re paying attention, people will notice if your response isn’t genuine or intentional.

We spend so much of our time criticizing things. Just looking at my stream, there were probably over a half of a dozen posts calling out President Barack Obama for one thing or another. However, none of those posts included any sort of solution or suggestion for the problem at hand.

The Internet has allowed us all to become critics and cynics.

Cynicism is a dangerous thing. Back in 2010, Lockerz founder and CEO Kathy Savitt was interviewed by +The New York Times. In the interview Savitt talks about her switch from working for big companies like Amazon and American Eagle to join a startup. Savitt talks a lot about the culture in a large workplace which led her into a few questions about cynicism.

”Q. Give me an example of things that make people cynical.”

”A. A good example is when a team member has a great idea or has a big issue with a customer experience and no one responds, no one even acknowledges it, no one gets back to them. The idea festers, problems continue to mount, no one listens. How does that person not become cynical? That’s a recipe for cynicism. So you can’t just say, don’t be cynical.”

Savitt concludes the interview by citing that by taking steps to avoid cynicism in the workplace, the company was able to maintain its startup culture. Perhaps it was a single cell of cynicism that started to bring the company down, or just poor market conditions. Either way, the competition in the social sector of the Internet is huge.

The lesson here isn’t that Lockerz ultimately failed, but instead that their focus of avoiding the very thing that infects so many big organizations led to their initial success.

If you work a 9-5 for a large company, you probably know what I’m talking about. Maybe you have that spreadsheet that has hyperlinks to all of the other spreadsheets and the document that you have to fill out after you are complete with the spreadsheet. Maybe in order to get your password reset you have to phone a call center halfway around the world when your IT department is in the office just below.

In a traditional workplace, it’s easy to become cynical.

In fact, so many internal systems are designed in such a way that drives cynicism. However, when we leave our offices or workplaces and connect online, we have an opportunity to change our attitudes.

Free services like Google+, LinkedIn and the rest of the social Internet are incredibly powerful tools that can help you network, learn and move your life forward. However, if you get trapped in cynicism and focus on making snarky comments and jokes, you are unlikely to unlock the full value available.

The next time you go to knock someone down, or negatively criticize their work, their views, their opinions or otherwise, even if you don’t think they’re looking, think again, ask yourself what value are you adding? Are you just trying to gain social acceptance by making the most snarky remark? Are you trying to prove that you can be the wittiest person in a thread of comments?

So much criticism and cynicism comes about things that others are doing. Someone might make a new policy reform, open a new business or create a new process. It is the announcement and discussion of those things that can draw so much negativity. Are we wired to be that way?

Instead of pointing out a problem, come up with a solution. Create value.

The people that are successful in their ventures aren’t the people complaining about what’s wrong, but the people finding a way to make it better.

Your worth to others is quantified in their perception of you. How are you being perceived? Are you a carpenter or just another demolisher?

Why Weirdos Rule the World

If you spend your life trying to conform, trying to fit in, trying to be just like everyone else, please keep doing what you’re doing. Every time you buy the same purse your girlfriends have or get the car you saw on the television ad or order the “trendy” beverage at the bar, you’re helping us stand out.

Who are we? We’re the weirdos. We’re the ones that marched in the band. We’re the ones that played with LEGO bricks on a whole new level. We were on the math team. Our science fair entries ran circles around yours. Some of us went on to college and studied weird things like philosophy, microbiology and computer engineering.

The weirdos in the world are the movers and shakers. They’re the people stepping outside of their comfort zone–in fact, sometimes their comfort knows no boundaries.

Anyone that risks stepping outside of the accepted norm is going to be considered “weird” by most. Either for coloring outside of the line, or using colors that no one had considered using before. From an early age we are given these parameters to work within, and sometimes I almost wonder if it was a test to see which of us were willing to break the mold.

I’m considered weird because what I do for a living isn’t analogous with what I do for fun and mastery. I’m almost a mundane Batman of sorts. I have the Bruce Wayne facade that goes to work every day, wears a suit, has impressive meetings and accomplishes nothing but helping support the bottom line. At work, I am a number, a barcode, just another cog in the machine. However, at night and on the weekends, when I am busy pursuing my passion and mastery of all the things I do online, I’m someone else. I’m helping businesses, speaking at conferences, discussing how things are changing in the way that technology affects our daily lives.

I’m careful not to let this alter-ego crossover in to my career and I am very cautious of which of my peers I tell. My passion for excellence and mastery aren’t only in my hobbies, but also in my vocation. However, some people at work (chiefly my leaders) might think that’s just a little weird.

The truth is, it’s the weirdos that make things happen. It’s the weirdos that are wiling to bring their experiments out of their basements and garages and into the real world. It’s the weirdos that are unlikely to let a weekend go by without doing something to better themselves or help them pursue their goals.

As +Seth Godin already said, and +Chris Brogan reminds us that it’s okay to repeat, it’s the weirdos that make the world such a more interesting place.

Photo Credit: Leonard Nimoy on Star Trek and +Larry Page speaking with Charlie Rose at +TED.

Klout, Go Home, You're Drunk

Almost six years after its launch and Klout still can’t seem to get its math right. As a tool designed to rate users’ social influence, it can’t even seem to decipher which networks makeup a user’s social media activity.

Although some people will argue that Klout is passé and serves no purpose, there are still a few believers out there that think it should influence hiring decisions. Either way you look at it, there’s definitely room in the social media space to have a platform that ranks users based on their reach and engagement.

The fundamental problem with Klout is that its numbers are flawed. No, I’m not saying they’re not perfect, I’m saying they are totally wrong.

With all of the information and metrics available, there’s no excuse as to why Klout hasn’t cleaned up its act and leveled the playing field for various social networks.

My proof is in the numbers:

I have a following of over 500,000 people on my Google+ profile and am constantly being engaged by hundreds of people. However, Klout only weighs my Google+ presence at 9%. Really?

Let’s take a look at my Instagram page. I only have 421 followers, but Klout values it double of Google+ as it relates to my social network makeup. What’s really crazy, is that I have only posted once on Instagram this month, and even then, only seven people engaged with my photo.

Twitter? With a measly 1,300 followers and hardly any interaction, I have no idea how they could justify it making up so much of my network makeup. But, after getting mentioned in several dozen tweets, it continues to climb.

klout score breakdown peter mcdermott

Crude experiments have demonstrated that Instagram is the most heavily weighted network on the system. A simple photo with a comment from a friend increased my ‘Klout’ within a day. Why does Klout consider Instagram so important to social influence? And further  more, why does it dismiss the importance of LinkedIn and Google+?

Platform Dis-Integration:

Another failure of Klout is the lack of recognition that not all users are involved in Facebook and Twitter. I know many professionals that only use LinkedIn and plenty of Google+ adopters that have let it become their sole network. Without a Facebook or Twitter account though, you’ll never be able to log in and manage your account.

If Klout wants to measure multiple platforms, it should allow users to log in with other platforms.

How to Fix It:

I think there is definitely room in the market for Klout, or a similar clone to effectively measure the influence or engagement of social media figures. I think this type of information could be insanely valuable to marketers as they try to learn who are the most important (and vocal) customers. Recruiters could also use it as a tool to find people that are the most visually knowledgeable about a specific topic or niche.

In order to make that happen though, the algorithms need to be changed. Klout needs to be more receptive to feedback from its users and more even-keeled in its evaluation of all social networks. First and foremost, it needs to compare the usage of various social networks for each user so it can give a true breakdown of where that person invests the most effort.

Tainted Reputation:

Even if Klout manages to fix its poor arithmetic, it will still face an uphill battle with social media super users that have long cast it aside. Last night I bumped into a few causal social media users in a Hangout and here’s what they had to say about the network:

Klout is probably one of the most useless things I have heard of possibly conceived. It is some sort of popularity contest that has no relevance out of itself.” DeAno Jackson

It’s just useless. It doesn’t base your scores on any platform except Facebook and they want you to connect all of your accounts with it, but it doesn’t measure them all. So, it’s useless.” Sheila DuBois

I’ve never used Klout and see no purpose in it.” Stormy Henderson

If Klout ever wants to be relevant again, it’s going to need to prove its accuracy and importance. Based on their current trajectory, I don’t think there’s much chance.

Klout, if you think my network with half a million followers counts for less than 10% of my social media presence, you need to go home. You’re drunk.

How a Simple, Responsive Web Design Can Get You Noticed


As a technology enthusiast and blogger, I invest a lot of my time in learning about new products, services and methodologies. Because I’m not a professional web designer or blogger, I have to find the most well crafted solutions and tools to help me accomplish my goals.

Recently, I was struggling with my brand identity and my blogging. I didn’t know how I wanted my posts to be perceived. I thought I needed an identity apart from myself, so I created yet another domain and started posting there. This time, instead of using WordPress, I gave Blogger a try.

I loved it, I really did. As a hardcore Google+ user, the benefits of having your ecosystem embedded into your Content Management System (CMS) are numerous. I had instant access to all of my AutoBackup photos, I could easily tag someone’s Google+ profile in a post and I could instantly share it to my page or profile once I was done with the post.

For server reliability, I had nothing to worry about. Google’s uptime is second to none and it was all 100% free.

However, free always comes with some strings attached. Because I am using Google’s platform, they have the right to change it at any time and without notice. You could have a plugin that works one day, and is a total trainwreck the next. The graphical user interface (GUI) could change at the drop of a hat, making it either easier or more difficult to complete routine tasks.

The bottom line though is that the site is over-simplifiedIt’s great for people that are just trying to get started in the blogging, or businesses that just want to “set it and forget it,” however it’s not the best choice for serious bloggers.

When I migrated back to WordPress I decided that I didn’t want to use a clunky “free” theme, but instead decided to invest it something with a proven track record. That’s when I decided on using the Genesis Framework and the Ambiance child theme.

The theme is a content-first design which means the focus isn’t on the website, but on the content presented within. As a blogger, nothing is more important that the easy consumption of text. I think this theme does a great job of it.

Now, I studied journalism for a few years and I know a thing or two about writing. However, I think I owe a hat tip to the careful design of the site. With a few tweaks and a small upfront investment, I was able to create something that I am proud to call mine.

Why am I telling you all of this? 

I just had an experience that many bloggers only dream of. My latest post was just picked up by Mashable.

Why Moto 360 Will Kill Google Glass

In November of 2013, I became a Google Glass Explorer. Part of this endeavor involved forking over $1,500 and tax for a technology device that was still in beta. The hardware was beyond prototype, but not in the mass production scale that would be necessary for worldwide distribution.

Just a few years ago, smart watches such as those made by Sony and Pebble were very limited in their functionality, battery life and technical specifications. When Project Glass was announced in 2012, it was seen as a revolutionary technology. It was wearable computing to the next level. Google Glass enabled people to have the information they “needed” in the corner of their eye and gave them instant access to the world wide web with just a simple voice command.

In theory, the technology is great. However, in practice, it’s a different story.

I have been a Glass Explorer for just shy of six months and I have to admit that I (like many other Glass Explorers) use the technology much less than I ever thought I would and here’s why:

Battery Life: Most of the applications for Google Glass can be a battery hog. However, with “regular” use throughout the day, I can usually squeeze a good 6-8 hours of casual use before the battery is depleted. Many of the augmented reality applications such as World Lens, require a lot of battery use because they involve the use of the camera, display, wireless data and heavy processor use. Doing something as simple as taking a video can deplete the device’s battery in just 20-30 minutes. Granted, Glass isn’t designed or intended to record long form content, but more or less “moments” which is why the device records 10 second video clips by default.

Security “Issues”: Many workplaces will not allow the use of Google Glass because of exposure to sensitive information and PII (Personally Identifiable Information). I would not be surprised to see if the PCI standards change to ban the use of wearable cameras in areas where employees are able to see credit card numbers. Sadly, most of the concerns about Glass are around it’s camera, which brings me to my next point.

Social Acceptance: Wearing a computer on your face is about as acceptable as riding a Segway around your office. The simple truth is that we aren’t there yet. The fact that we recently learned about the largest government surveillance scandal in recorded history doesn’t help either. People feel that their privacy has been invaded enough by companies reading their e-mail, governments listening to their phone calls and more surveillance cameras than we realize. Until these fears are settled, wearing around a camera on your face will remain a faux pas in many settings.

Reliability: Google Glass is not reliable. Plain and simple. Switching between Bluetooth and Wifi data is never seamless. The device is incapable of connecting to Wifi networks that require TOS agreements or have any sort of splash page login method. If you leave the device turned off and unplugged for a period of time, the battery mysteriously depletes itself. The most frustrating reliability issue is related to connectivity. You can have Google Glass successfully paired to an LTE device with great signal strength and still see the dreaded “can’t reach Google right now” message.

 Google Glass can't reach Google now error message

Moto 360 Won’t Have These Problems

The most exciting thing about the Moto 360 is that it won’t have most of the problems that I encounter on a daily basis with Google Glass. First of all, it’s on my wrist, so it’s much less conspicuous than a face-mounted computer. This definitely helps us in the social acceptance arena, and makes it a wearable that I’m comfortable wearing everywhere (except maybe not the shower). Battery life may be a problem, but not in a way that it is for Glass. I expect overnight charging for my smart watch and would love to see wireless Qi charging integration to make that process just a little bit easier.

Better App Development

I don’t think I’m alone in assuming that there will be more and better apps designed for wrist-mounted wearables. Although the Android Wear platform may look completely analogous to Glassware, it’s a much more practical form factor which means more users and more potential for success of any certain app. Also, apps can be designed to work on a number of devices, not just Motorola’s upcoming offering. Developing for a multi-device platform is a no-brainer when compared to developing for a single device on a different framework.

Sex Appeal

Men love watches. It’s really the only jewelry that most guys wear, and a lot can be inferred by the watch someone wears. For example, during the work week, I wear a Seiko stainless steel watch with a black face and very minimalist design. It shows that I am polished, responsible and punctual. On the weekends I like to wear a leather-banded “easy read” by Timex that is reminiscent of a standard GI watch from decades before.

With the ability to instantly change the face of your watch and select a stylish band, this wearable becomes less of a computer and more of an accessory.

Safety

With Moto 360, you don’t have to brag to the world that you’re wearing a computer. A fringe benefit of this design is safety, as we recently learned from the woman wearing Google Glass that was allegedly mugged inside of a San Francisco bar.

Affordability & Luxury

$1,500 was a lot of money to thrown down on a prototype. Especially something that won’t get daily wear. I don’t expect that Google Glass will dip below $800 any time soon, either. Moto 360, on the other hand, is likely to come to the market with a sub-$500 price tag. The competition in the market will surely help keep prices down as other manufacturers continue to innovate.

However, as in the world of watches, history tells us that consumers will spend thousands of dollars for a rare timepiece. If any of the major watch makers join the game, we might see an emergency of luxury smart watches which will only drive more consumers in the middle class to pick up a lower priced model.

I wanted Glass when it was announced. It was new, it was fresh and it was unexplored territory in the real world. Now that I’ve seen Moto 360, I see elements some elements of Glass that I love that will fit much better into my daily life.

*Image ©2014 Motorola Mobility LLC