Figure out how much you make per hour and this is what an hour of your time is worth.
Then, the decision of outsourcing an activity in your life is a trivial comparison of this value to the cost.
Monthly archives for August, 2012
Today is the second annual Evernote Trunk Conference, held in SFDC Exhibition Hall in San Francisco, where Evernote takes a look back at the accomplishments of the last 4 years as a start-up, and the 96 years to come! Here are my notes from the event:
There will now be a product dedicated to the enterprise audience.
- Easy on-boarding – The new tool should be as easy to use as possible without sacrificing functionality. We don’t want to make software for a stodgy, gigantic corporation. We are making software and tools that we would want to use as well, because we will.
- Data ownership - What’s mine is mine, what’s yours is yours. Just like with Group Accounts today, there will be a partition between what is your personal data and what the larger group can access. As always, we are very aware about privacy concerns and build with that in mind.
- Business Sharing – With Evernote integration, your company can now have a central repository of information that sticks along, even if employees come and go. It will be a great resource for training and onboarding, as well as developing new products. It’s amazing to finally bring the power of Evernote into the office.
- Growth Model - the last section was actually about also including a dedicated customer support line, but I think what is more significant is just the mindset of how Evernote plans to enter the business space, which is to build something that people want to use. Historically speaking, going into the enterprise market was about who had the best salesforce, whereas the advent of app stores and social media are slowly changing that paradigm. So, while pure politics is still partially present, it is exciting to see companies actively working to break that mold.
In continuing their tradition of great business deals (Skitch, Penultimate), Evernote has announced a “cease-fire” against the war on paper by partnering with the legendary notebook company, Moleskine. Arrigo Berni, CEO of Moleskine, came on stage today to discuss how a new, special line of smart notebooks have been created that will uniquely integrate with the Evernote platform through a method of special paper and stickers. This breakthrough deal is just another great connection in a long line of deals that bridges the digital and physical world!
One of my main gripes with Evernote in the past was that it still wasn’t as easy to use as quickly jotting a thought down on a notepad. However, with LiveScribe, IdeaPaint and now Moleskine onboard, it’s clear that Evernote is doing all that it can do remedy the problem a company can do today. In the future, when tablets are cheap and writing with a stylus is liquid responsive, writing in a paper-like manner will be moot, but for now it is amazing what Evernote has been able to accomplish in this space. The new Moleskine notebooks will be available in the coming weeks at $24.95 for a Pocket version or $29.95 for a Large version. Or if you were lucky enough to be at the conference, you were able to get one today!
The conference went on to include talks about more detailed aspects of API and building on top of Evernote Trunk (or how to better use Evernote if you went to the Live section). Additionally, I was able to geek out with a number of people about productivity, which is always a treat. And who can forget about the great food! All in all, it was a wonderful time, and I am extremely excited for next year’s reunion.
Even if one is striving to maximize efficiency, it does not mean constantly asking, “How can I be working all the time?” Productive people still take breaks and still enjoy extracurricular activities. Not only does it make life more interesting, but adequate rest also prevents exhaustion and burnout. In addition, many studies have shown that leading a balanced life leads to happier and healthier living. As such, I don’t believe having activities outside of work automatically equals lost productivity.
Rather, the more appropriate question to ask becomes, “What is the right balance of working overtime versus taking a break?” Every time you’re not working, even if it’s for something else productive, like exercising or shopping for groceries, you are paying the opportunity cost of not working. For a white-collar professional, who gets paid $60/hr or more, this opportunity cost can add up quite quickly. Waiting an hour to play the next game in pick-up basketball – that’s $60, roughly equivalent to a month’s membership at the gym. Waiting in line at the super market for 15 min – that’s fifteen dollars, and no amount of coupon clipping is going to bring that time back.
Which brings us to another great question: should people with decent jobs be engaging in money-saving behaviors if it costs them time to do so? Is it actually possible to lose money by trying to save money? For example, if it takes you thirty minutes to find and clip coupons that will save you $4.35 total on seven items that you purchased, you actually lost $25.65 based on the time spent ($60/2-$4.35). Another example: you might take public transportation over driving yourself because it’s supposedly cheaper due to the cost of gas and the cost of parking. However, if you wait twenty minutes by arriving ten minutes early (to insure you don’t miss the train) and the train actually ends up late ten minutes, you lose out again. Final example: if you drive to the store and then find out that the shirt you want will be 25% off if you return tomorrow, saving you $14, is it worth it to wait? Given that returning means the time spent on your first trip is essentially wasted, it might actually be more worthwhile to buy the shirt now rather than wait and come back tomorrow.
Ultimately, activities such as cleaning the house, exercise, hanging out with friends are important. God didn’t make us to so that we could work in an office all day. But what is the right balance? What is the right mixture between work and play, given the opportunity cost of anything that is not-work?
The outstanding new features of Microsoft Office 2013 can be broken down into three general areas: (1) Touch Interactions (2) Cloud Support and (3) Social Integration. Overall, this version of Office is one of the most superb yet, and it has to be as it serves as the main driver for introducing people to Windows 8.
As technology moves into the post PC era, more and more people will be expecting their digital interactions to occur in natural user interfaces (NUIs) rather than graphical user interfaces (GUIs). Therefore, Microsoft decisive action towards getting touch right should only be viewed as an amazing decision. They are aware that touch will be one of the main interaction methods of the near future and embracing it has allowed Microsoft to add an innovative new dimension to their products.
Anyone looking around today recognizes the extreme proliferation of tablets, smartphones and hybrid mobile devices, and Microsoft is no exception. They recognized that new user scenarios are emerging where people are getting work done leaning back in a chair, leaning forward on a train, bus, or plane, sitting on a couch, lying in bed, standing in line, or walking down the hall. Since most of these use cases don’t involve the connection to a physical keyboard, having the software adapt to a touch-only environment is critical in allowing people to continue working without missing a beat.
With the newest version of Office 2013, there is a complete revamp of OneNote and Lync, along with improved touch-enabled experiences in everything else within the product lineup. To start, one major upgrade is general touch responsiveness. Items and images respond to your touch as if they were actual objects. If you move an image to a new location, the text around the image shifts to accomodate the new object. There is momentum and inertia when pushing objects around. This type of responsiveness required a move from GDI to modern hardware accelerated graphics.
Touch targeting, which refers to successfully touching the thing you’re trying to touch, was also another area of improvement. Targeting is almost entirely about raw physical size, but knowing when to increase sizes and when it is acceptable to skip over an item still requires careful decisions. Fingers are much bigger than mouse pointers or pen tips, so things need to be physically larger on the screen in order to be comfortable to touch. The Windows team did extensive research to develop guidelines for hit target sizes, which they used throughout the new designs. Additionally, selecting text and objects are changed by adding new text selection handles to various products, which function similar to selection handles found in iOS.
Typing and text input in general has been major pain point for many users migrating to a mobile platform. While Office 2013 is still a far cry from the ideal user interface, it takes us a giant step closer to seamless human-computer interaction. Whereas before the keyboard didn’t appear easily, it is now very easy to invoke keyboard button and in some situations the program is smart enough to recognize when it should come up automatically. Furthermore, in the past, the keyboard would sometimes cover what you were typing, and now the cursor and page scroll will adjust to stay on screen. Next, given the much more limited screen size, Office 2013 has the ribbon is automatically minimized, with smart understanding of when to stick around a bit longer (ie. Bold, Underline, Italic), and when to close itself after one-use (ie. Insert Table). Perhaps most exciting of all is when the app eliminates the need to type at all. For example, Excel’s new Flash Fill feature essentially automates text-to-columns or Concatenate, depending on the direction you are going.
Finally, there are many more commanding options optimized for touch. The mini-bar concept has been expanded, which is a smaller selection menu that pops up when you select certain objects. Additionally, in-canvas commands are now shifted to the right or left on tablet devices so they are more easily accessible with a user’s thumbs since this better aligns with real-world usage. Perhaps the most risky change is the new radial menu for OneNote that gives functions in a circle rather than a dropdown menu, and includes touch-shortcuts that allow you to simply swipe in certain directions to quickly create a change. Design patterns for shortcuts and simple functions don’t exist in mobile yet as they do for desktop interactions (such as Ctrl+C for copy), but if any company has the ability to influence future behavior in this area, Microsoft would be the prime candidate.
In conclusion, for expert users, the entire touch experience has been redesigned from the ground up to be fast, fluid, and efficient – all the qualities needed to great productivity software.
Office 2013 brings integration to the cloud in a large variety of manners. Just as improving the touch experience is critical to the mobile user experience, so is connecting to the cloud. To begin, Office 2013 has upgraded syncing capabilities through a new-and-improved Skydrive. Although Skydrive has been around for since 2007, it is only now ready to really compete with the big players in the space. This includes independent players like Dropbox and SugarSync, as well as integrated platforms such as Apple’s iCloud and Google Drive. The major benefit of SkyDrive include the ability to sync documents, presentations, and other files. Within a document, Skydrive is also able to save personal settings, such as themes and custom dictionaries, as well as document states, such as the the last page edited. Finally, Skydrive is great for just general purpose storage as an external drive.
In addition to syncing, Office 2013 has vastly improved streaming abilities where the software is able to downloaded directly from their servers through a feature called Click-2-Run. Through this service, a customer can get a Office 2013 perpetual license directly online. In fact, most installs will probably occur through Click-2-Run because even those who go to the brick & mortar store will likely only receive a coupon with the passcode, rather than a shiny plastic disk.
The most dramatic change to Office though has to be the switch to a subscription model. Although customers will still be able to buy permanent license to Office, and even though is technically already available through Office 365, annual subscriptions have the potential to monumentally shift how users interact with and think about software. No longer are applications something that come pre-bundled with the computer and part of the system, but rather a purchase that users have to actively choose to stay opt into. With the option to subscribe comes the option to cancel that subscription, something that people probably did not associate with applications in the past. Especially as Microsoft and other Fortune 500 companies push into the mobile landscape, we will see more and more norms and values change in relation to software applications.
Finally, it’s probably worth mentioning that all three cloud services play well with each other. When a customer subscribes to the new Office, they can download their software by streaming it from the Internet, and their subscription information will be synced across a number of devices. In particular, users can download up to five temporary versions of an application with what is likely monthly or yearly subscriptions. This software will be full functioning, and allow you to work and edit documents as normal. The main difference is that is it periodically checks to see whether your subscription is still valid. If not, the service essentially shuts down, and only allows you to read and print documents. Ideally, the entire application would live in the cloud and you wouldn’t have to download anything to the desktop. These are called Office Web Apps, but while improved over previous versions, are still lacking full functionality. In the end, it is clear that Microsoft is moving into the cloud, making them only a couple years too late (half-joking).
Unlike touch and cloud support, social integration is not related to the new mobile paradigm, but instead is driven by the current popularity of social networks. Unfortunately, rather than taking this opportunity to push the boundaries of mobile technology (possibly through voice-integration), Microsoft instead responded by taking the mindless route of simply jumping on the bandwagon. Whether this becomes the right decision remains to be seen, but if it’s not clear by now, I am not a believer.
However, social integration plays a prominent role in the newest release of Office 2103 and deserves is own commentary. First, there are many more ways to share files including, inviting other users, creating a link, posting to a social network, emailing, presenting online, and publishing as a blog post. While these options were available in the past, Office 2013 has baked them into the system in a seamless manner. Second, there is now much better live collaboration, otherwise known as co-editing or multiuser co-authoring. This allows people to make changes to the same document at the same time, and is a common benefit found in Google Drive products. Next, after Microsoft’s acquisition of Yammer in late June 2012, a smattering of new social features have been popping up here and there in various products, and many more to come. Within Sharepoint, there is now a Newsfeed to keep up with what other co-workers are doing. Outlook has redesigned People Cards where one can directly send an email, shoot an IM, or make a phone call. Microsoft Word got threaded comments, and Microsoft Excel got survey creation abilities.
Overall, if Microsoft uses the calling of “social” as a way to improve collaboration and sharing of ideas, then they are headed in the right direction. However, if their foray into social is just as a gut reaction to the success of Facebook, then anything they come up with will just play second fiddle to the leader, and frankly be counter-productive to Office’s main use case, which is to get stuff done!
For the most part, Office 2013 is just next iteration in a long line of Office releases. However, bold new moves such as the totally redesigned OneNote and the expanded subscription model forecast a radically different future for Office and Microsoft as a whole. If Redmond continues to take the big risks necessary to push ahead of the competition, then they just might become the top hotshot company once again.
“Perception is 9/10ths reality.”
Assuming the axiom above is true, then what are the real world implications:
- Working to look like you’re being productive is 9x more important than productively working. So if you have a choice between the two, choose the former.
- You can get pretty far in your career never adding real value to the organization.
- However, simply appearing productive, by itself, will not bring you major success (since you are still missing that final step).
This is just like in grade school where anyone can get a “B” by putting in an hour of work, but that final push to get an “A” takes exponentially more work than going from a “C” to a “B”.
You miss 100 percent of the shots you never take.
– Wayne Gretzky
“Think about the opportunity cost here. You could be off making six figures but you decided to swing for the fences with your startup. That takes guts. So why would you slack off and waste time? This is not a 9-5 job. You’re only hurting yourself if you don’t suck it up and work your ass off.”
“Do not confuse activity for progress.”