Category Archives: work

Patty McCord at Netflix — The Queen of the good good-byes and the future of work

This is an amazing story about the culture of Netflix and it’s clearly the future of (creative) work for better or worse. No set hours, unlimited time-off, etc. But “ruthless” (or simply more “real”/”honest”) in hiring/firing. Depends on your perspective! “A for effort” doesn’t count. (19 minute podcast from NPR’s Planet Money)

NETFLIX: “We’re a _team_, not a family” (Slide 23 of 124)

This reminds me of Byron Katie in “Loving What Is: Four Questions That Can Change Your Life” (BTW, I really recommend the audio cds.. really great!) where in Chapter 6 (pages 84-85) she talks about a boss firing an assistant because she wasn’t doing a good job even though they had been working together for many many years.

“People usually fire themselves when they realize what’s going on.”

IOW, it’s best to be clear and truthful about what is happening with the company — a person’s performance or the lack of a need for them (because of a change in technology or because the company has pivoted in some way)

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Filed under contrarian, evidence-based, future, talent vs skill, technology, uberification, work, work-life balance

The Uberification of Society

The Uberification of Society: Empowerment or Race to the Bottom?

There was a great program on ON POINT RADIO recently (6/1/2015) on the topic

First, my overall take on this topic in Summer 2015: the uberification overall will be an equalizer or “race to the bottom” depending on who you are and industry you work in, and your place in it. Yes, it will mean some interesting choices for consumers, and some workers will feel free/empowered, but this will be outweighed by the overwhelming effect that quality of life, standard of living will drop.

Why? The big ticket items in life are:
– housing
– food
– healthcare
– college
– retirement

All of these are getting more expensive. So having a new gadget (in the form of a smartphone or GPS or an Uber-like-service) is not going to come close to outweighing the negative impacts on a huge reduction in stable long-term and full-time employment with benefits coming from your company. In countries where there are already strong gov’t programs in place for health care. And strong laws in place giving people time-off, they might be better positioned. But even time-off seems very employee-centric and won’t apply when you are self-employed. So we’ll see what develops.

This topic is also connected to other current memes that weren’t mentioned during the show:
– work being tied to getting the work done as specified, not hours worked
– telecommuting and software that allows people to work from N different offices (or their homes)
– flextime / flexitime
– Virgin calls it “flexible working”. In the news is how they offer “unlimited time off”
– employee-owned companies (coops got a quick mention but a company is a little different) e.g.
– unions
– sabbaticals
– working smarter not longer
– overtime
– 4-day work week – “Slim is the owner of Telmex, an American phone company, and has actively and enthusiastically embraced flexibility in his organisation. He has instituted programs for workers eligible for retirement to opt to work four day weeks on full pay. He has also controversially suggested we should all be working a three day work week”
– forced-retirement — some organizations (like the UN) force people to retire pretty early, like age-60, before many are ready/willing/interested to retire
– job sharing. 2 people splitting one job


OK, some tidbits from the radio show:

HUGE list of “uber-like” apps beginning at 6:40. Crazy!

point repeated being made that we need safety nets to not be attached to specific jobs.
– healthcare
– time off (vacations, sickness, maternity and paternity leave)
– pensions
– 401ks
– what else?

Example: google empowering website owners to make money via. But dad for full-time jobs with insurance (34:40)
Already 20% and 10-15% moonlighting. In a decade: more than 50% freelancing.
(At roughly 36 minutes in… talking to Arun Sundararajan)

“The basic building blocks of capitalism are being revolutionized…” (26:00)
No employees and no assets. Owns as little as it possibly can. (26:30)

Why now? Kozmo (1998) failed, but technology and economy are different now. Ready for it.
– coincided with technology (everyone has smartphones/GPS. not special equipment)
– people are desperate for work
– good for students
– good for consumers options in certain segments. “Live like kings and queens?”
– If you’re a middle-aged man or woman with bills to pay, you’re in trouble

What needs to change? (39:00)
– many european countries are much more ready for this new economy because of luck. bad luck for US (39:40)
– STATE needs to be responsible OR – obamacare is a step
– (40:30) OR platforms (uber/lyft/etc) will step up to give benefits to prevent employees from switching to a different one (or be required to)
– OR drivers will form coops — collective “uber” (41:40)
– — platform for safety net (41:10) — health insurance/workers comp — REF:

– quoting Tom Goodwin in Techcrunch
“Uber, the world’s largest taxi company, owns no vehicles. Facebook, the world’s most popular media owner, creates no content. Alibaba, the most valuable retailer, has no inventory. And Airbnb, the world’s largest accommodation provider, owns no real estate.”

– “Companies want to get down to 0 if possible. It’s the capitalism of nothing… zero commitments to people longterm.” – Adrian Wooldridge (at 42:50)
– marketmakers. Only an algorithm. Employ spare “capacity” (unemployed people, free homes, cars, etc.)

– “Sounds like a present, and certainly future in which we’re all going to have to be very Zen to flow thru all this marvelous fluidity… if indeed it’s marvelous.” — Tom Ashbrook

A commenter: “A floating slave workforce in the land of the greedy just waiting around to fan the pharoahs.” (37:00)

“A hard time for workers in general. A lot less income stability over time.”

“If you are a middle-aged man or woman with a family and bills to pay, mortgage to pay, you’re suddenly projected into a much more uncertain world” (38:30)

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Filed under uberification, work

encouraging casual collaboration… also at google

I’ve read about this at Apple, Yahoo, MIT Building 20, and Fogcreek

Now google:  
“food sources are strategically placed between two separate work teams, and the goal of that placement is to draw these different folks together and nudge them to interact and collaborate.”


Yahoo, MIT:

“At Fog Creek, we deliberately have rows of long tables in our cafeteria. … with long ones you just go and sit at the end of the row. You end up speaking to different people every day…”

“When Steve Jobs designed a new headquarters for Pixar, he obsessed over ways to structure the atrium, and even where to locate the bathrooms, so that serendipitous personal encounters would occur.”

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Filed under collaboration, Sudbury Schools and Sudbury Valley School, work

Lessons for Slack from an elder… Trello

Ultimately pretty minor nitpicks, but… for the record…

Stange things not explained in Slack (
1. Why is “private group” not just called a “private channel”. It is confusing to have 2 different names for the same thing (besides the privacy).
I know…. channel sounds public. Group sounds *almost* private, but needs “Private” to be clear. So I get that. This is annoying to me. I’ll get over it.

2. Why can you convert a channel to private (a private group), but not the other way around? I suspect it is because it would be awkward to change the privacy to public AFTER people have already been discussing in private, but why not explain that in the UI? The UI makes it seem like it is a technical issue, but I am sure it is just a workflow restraint they are enforcing. Which is fine, but they could be clearer about that.

3. Why when you change a channel to private do the things shared stay public? That makes no sense.

4. Why when you archive a channel (or private group), does the membership need to vanish? That is also extremely annoying. It is important information to know who is/was in a group.

UI says:
“Archive this group… If you don’t think it will be used any more and you want to clean up, archive it. The group can be unarchived later (but everyone will have been removed).”

5. Why is the UI so slow on the website? That is kinda a game-breaker.

Lessons for Slack from Trello
1. Trello is fast
2. Trello list/board Membership maintained even when archiving
3. Can just go to, don’t have to go to [teamname] like in slack (which doesn’t know how to redirect to the subdomain where you are logged in. Annoying!)

Lessons FOR Trello from Slack
1. In Slack you can see stuff in archived channels/groups pretty easily (without un-archiving them).
In Trello, the only way to see archived “lists” is to un-archive them (“Send to Board”). This is highly annoying!

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Filed under computers, work

What Doesn’t Seem Like Work?

“If something that seems like work to other people doesn’t seem like work to you, that’s something you’re well suited for.” –Paul Graham

Sorta similar:
“When you do the work that others can’t possibly imagine doing, you set yourself apart.” –Seth Godin

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Filed under person: Paul Graham, person: seth godin, work


“We all know that robots are making it impossible for people without a college degree to get jobs. That’s a basic fact about the economy known to all right-thinking people. And, just like most of the other “facts” about the economy known by right-thinking people, it happens not to be true.”

Data Refuses to Cooperate with Mainstream Education Story
Dean Baker
Sunday, 08 March 2015 07:52

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Filed under college, contrarian, future, person: Dean Baker, work

Knowledge-based work not safe from computers and globalization

Yet another article about this topic:

Automation hits the professions. Most remain delusionally confident, so far.

Already happening: pilots, doctors (anesthesiologists, radiologists, ophthalmologists), lawyers, editors, musicians,

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Filed under future, globalization, work