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    The Flaw of Perfect Executives Who Make No Mistakes, Mistakes are not Tolerated at this Company

    Rarely will you find Executives Talking about the Mistakes they have made.  Ed Catmull has a talk at Stanford where he talks about mistakes made.

    So many executives take the strategy of I am at the top and will show you what perfection looks like.  We should all strive to be perfect like I am.

    In a fear-based, failure -averse culture , people will consciously or unconsciously avoid risk. They will seek instead to repeat something safe that’s been good enough in the past. Their work will be derivative, not innovative. But if you can foster a positive understanding of failure, the opposite will happen. How, then, do you make failure into something people can face without fear? Part of the answer is simple: If we as leaders can talk about our mistakes and our part in them, then we make it safe for others. You don’t run from it or pretend it doesn’t exist. That is why I make a point of being open about our meltdowns inside Pixar, because I believe they teach us something important: Being open about problems is the first step toward learning from them . My goal is not to drive fear out completely, because fear is inevitable in high-stakes situations. What I want to do is loosen its grip on us. While we don’t want too many failures, we must think of the cost of failure as an investment in the future.

    Catmull, Ed; Wallace, Amy (2014-04-08). Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration (Kindle Locations 1750-1758). Random House Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

    This sets up a culture where mistakes are not tolerated.  No one is perfect.  We all make mistakes.  So what do you do?  You learn to hide your mistakes and/or make sure others get the blame for mistakes.

    When you push for something innovative you are constantly making mistakes. 


    Modern History of Typography Told by the Best - Matthew Carter at TED 2014

    TED released Matthew Carter’s “My Life in Typefaces” from Mar 2014 Vancouver, and it is a pleasure to see an old friend get up at TED and talk about Typography.  I was curious what Matthew would present as it has been years since we have chatted.

    Matthew starts out explaining how important type is.

    Type is something we consume in enormous quantities. In much of the world, it's completely inescapable. But few consumers are concerned to know where a particular typeface came from or when or who designed it, if, indeed, there was any human agency involved in its creation, if it didn't just sort of materialize out of the software ether.

    But I do have to be concerned with those things. It's my job. I'm one of the tiny handful of people who gets badly bent out of shape by the bad spacing of the T and the E that you see there. I've got to take that slide off. I can't stand it. Nor can Chris. There. Good.

    This last sentence is where Matthew is looking at the horrible kerning between the T and E in this slide.


    This bad spacing is what drives type people nuts.  I used to be a type person.  And, as I went through this video which is quite popular with over 190,000 views from Ted, iTunes, and Youtube in two days, I was curious what Matthew was going to talk about in 16 minutes.

    NewImage         NewImage

    What is the point of Matthew’s Talk?  The connection between technology and design, and his point was 18 years ago was the change to screen fonts.  At the 10:33 mark is where Matthew talks about what he did with Microsoft.

    10:33You know, engineers are very smart, and despite occasional frustrations because I'm less smart, I've always enjoyed working with them and learning from them. Apropos, in the mid-'90s, I started talking to Microsoft about screen fonts. Up to that point, all the fonts on screen had been adapted from previously existing printing fonts, of course. But Microsoft foresaw correctly the movement, the stampede towards electronic communication, to reading and writing onscreen with the printed output as being sort of secondary in importance. 

    FYI - when Matthew says Microsoft, I was the renegade who pissed off the type group by focusing on fonts for the screen when 90% of the group was focused on  the historical typefaces from lead forms.  I worked with Matthew when I was at Apple and when I came up the idea for Verdana at Microsoft without question there was only one guy I would go to to get Verdana designed.  Matthew Carter is the best and his Ted Talk does a great job of telling the story of how typography has changed.

    14:49Well, it's been 18 years now since Verdana and Georgia were released. Microsoft were absolutely right, it took a good 10 years, but screen displays now do have improved spatial resolution, and very much improved photometric resolution thanks to anti-aliasing and so on. So now that their mission is accomplished, has that meant the demise of the screen fonts that I designed for courser displays back then? Will they outlive the now-obsolete screens and the flood of new web fonts coming on to the market? Or have they established their own sort of evolutionary niche that is independent of technology?In other words, have they been absorbed into the typographic mainstream? I'm not sure, but they've had a good run so far. Hey, 18 is a good age for anything with present-day rates of attrition, so I'm not complaining.

    My wife had never heard this story.  I’ve told it so many times I couldn’t believe I hadn’t told her.  She finished by saying “it is another project, where you don’t credit for.” My response was “that’s what happens when you work at a big company. You do the right thing.  Don’t play the politics right, and you don’t get the credit.  That’s OK. I have so many more better ideas that I’ll get the benefits of given we own the company we are developing the ideas for."

    The politics behind Verdana were complicated.  I wrote a post back in 2009 on it.


    7/26/1994 Later in the afternoon, Dave Ohara called, with Matthew Carter and Tom Stephens in the room, to talk about the Verdana face. Matthew said that he was sad to read my note the other day, but found out soon after that we would still get a chance to work together on the Verdana face.


    So, let’s start off when the first time I got in trouble for Verdana. One afternoon, my Microsoft general manager Steve Shaiman came looking for me, and he yelled “what the hell did you do?” What? BillG (Bill Gates email alias, back then we called people by their email alias, I was DaveO) thinks we should be doing fonts for screen and Pan-European typefaces.


    5 Big Ideas with 5 Big Speakers Discuss Next-Generation DC Infrastructure

    I think this will be the fifth GigaOm Structure I am attending.  People ask if I am going to any of the data center conferences and the only ones I consistently attend are 7x24 and DCD.  Why?  Because I find spending two days at GigaOm Structure are more forward thinking.  I might be a speaker/moderator at the conference, and will be there helping out the staff.

    So who is speaking at the next event?  GigaOm’s Stacey Higginbotham posts on 5 big ideas and 5 big speakers.

    The first one, even though it names one, Google’s Urs Hoelzle, also mentions Facebook and Microsoft.

    1. An application that lives in every time zone

    Over the years Google has driven the technology behind distributed computing with technologies such as Map Reduce and Spanner. It is clearly thinking about how to build applications that aren’t isolated in one data center or even one time zone. This type of distributed thinking is behind its latest networking investments and is why Urs Hölzle, SVP Technical Infrastructure and Google Fellow, is speaking at the Structure. But we’re also bringing in others who understand these problems including Facebook’s Jay Parikh and Microsoft’s Scott Guthrie.

    Urs Hölzle

    Urs Hölzle

    The list goes on and you read the rest of the five.  Here is a conference schedule if you want to see the rest of the speakers.

    Disclosure: I work freelance part time for GigaOm Research and many of the staff are my friends.


    Get your Kids a PRE TSA # for free, Nexus Card for under 18 is free

    ***Warning this is a suggestion for those of you who live near a Nexus Enrollment Center which are places with US Customs and Canadian Customs staff.  Luckily there is one in Seattle so it is close.***

    I’ve been able to bring my kids with me through pre TSA lines, but this applies for children 12 and under.  My daughter turns 13 in Sept so she will soon have to get in the regular passenger lines.  I’ve got my wife in the queue for her Nexus/Global Entry card so she’ll get pre TSA.

    There are three options to enroll in Pre TSA.  I’ll start with the most expensive.

    1)  Global Entry works for those of you travel International and want pre TSA.  It cost $100 and requires you to go to an interview center where Customs Official are.  Children pay the same $100 fee.

    It's easy. Just follow these steps:

    1. Apply Online: Fill out an online application and pay the $100 non-refundable application fee.
    2. Schedule an Interview: Once your application is reviewed, you will receive a message in you GOES account instructing you to schedule and interview at one of the Global Entry Enrollment Centers.

    2)  Pre TSA enrollment centers of course get you enrolled in Pre TSA, but don’t help you with entrance into the US Customs process and cost $85/person including children.  Is it worth $85 to get in shorter lines with not taking your shoes, coat, laptop, and liquids out of your bag.  Maybe not if TSA keeps messing with the Pre TSA lines by adding newbies to sell them on the benefits which slows the process down.

    • Interested applicants must visit an enrollment center to provide biographic information that includes name, date of birth and address. An applicant will be fingerprinted and will be required to provide valid required identity and citizenship/immigration documentation. An applicant also has the option to pre-enroll online to provide basic information and make an appointment before visiting an enrollment center. There is a nonrefundable application processing fee of $85.00.

    3)  Nexus enrollment centers gives you the benefits of Global Entry and Canada Border entry and pre TSA.  It cost $50/person, but kids under 18 are free.  Yes, kids under 18 can get Global Entry benefits, Pre TSA, and Canada Border expediting lines for free.  Yes!!!

    The application-processing fee of US $50 or CAN $50 is non-refundable per applicant. The membership will be valid for another five years. Children under the age of 18 must also apply but, if eligible, are admitted to the program free of charge. For more information regarding the program requirements, please visit the NEXUS Program page.

    I had been holding off on enrolling the kids in Nexus because I thought it cost another $50 person every 5 years which isn’t that bad.  Last night I started the enrollment process because we cross the Canada-US border at least once a year so it is worth it.  When I finished the registration I realized there was no charge for children.

    Hope this helps those of you who travel with your kids and are close to the US Canada border.


    My Ideas Suck, Yeh, Let's fix it, Give up your Space

    I am having a blast reading Creativity Inc. by Ed Catmull.  The point I read today is how Ideas for Movies suck at the beginning.

    early on, all of our movies suck. That’s a blunt assessment, I know, but I make a point of repeating it often, and I choose that phrasing because saying it in a softer way fails to convey how bad the first versions of our films really are. I’m not trying to be modest or self-effacing by saying this. Pixar films are not good at first, and our job is to make them so— to go, as I say, “from suck to not-suck.” This idea— that all the movies we now think of as brilliant were, at one time, terrible— is a hard concept for many to grasp.

    Catmull, Ed; Wallace, Amy (2014-04-08). Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration (Kindle Locations 1425-1429). Random House Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

    Today I finally pulled together a short description of a service today and sent it around.  Normally I would be looking for approval.  But, today I said this is my first draft.  It sucks.  I need to fix it.  One of my friends sent great comments.  Sent another response with other ideas.  Those suck too.  OK. Let’s keep moving.  Let’s see if I can come up with another idea that sucks.

    This technique reminds me of something I figured out training in Aikido.  Everything gets so much easier if you “Give up your Space.”  So many times you stand firmly in your spot and try to do your technique with your feet planted, trying to make others move around you.  If you “give up your space” let others have your space, then techniques happen with much less effort.  

    If you accept your ideas suck, then you can listen to feedback with less effort.  It is hard to listen to feedback if you are firmly planted with your ideas.