The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brain (with hyperlinks)

The Shallows was an excellent read.  It was also a heavy read.  There were a few chapters that dove into how the brain works.  I wouldn’t classify The Shallows as a pop culture book.

The author walks the reader through many forms of communication and provides an interesting perspective along the way.

CD cover of book

I learned that books, as we know them today (sentences, paragraphs, chapters combined into a book) didn’t come into existence until ~1500s (the written word existed for a preceding 1000-2000 years).  Until then, the written word was a long long continuous run of words, no punctuation, no sentence structure, no paragraph structure.  The innovation of those structures hadn’t yet been envisioned. Books were originally believed to “dumb down” (my words) society; until then we were largely a verbal society.  Magazines were originally believed to replace books.  The disruptive Edison phonograph was also thought to eliminate books as people could conveniently listen to books.  There have been a lot of potential book-displacement technologies over the centuries, but the written book prevails.  Interestingly, I “read” this book via a streaming book service, audiobooks.com, using my smart phone + bluetooth headset in the car.

Will the internet displace the book?  One great quote: the internet isn’t a learning enrichment tool, but an interruption system.  One component of the title’s premise of the book, “Is the internet making us dumb?” speaks towards hyperlinks.  How instead of providing value, hyperlinks cause such a distraction to reading on-line, that we’re unable to extract deep meaning from the text.  Instead of focusing the brain on deep understanding of the material, it’s continually asked to perform mini-evaluations along the way. Example, “should I click that link?”  When we do click, we’ve potentially shifted our brain again into first gear to read some related content. Then again and again, never submerging ourselves into the deep reading mode where we (apparently) comprehend and retain the most. Don’t believe the author, read the same book review here without any hyperlinks – which was easier to read?

The Shallows deserves a second read.

Who should read this book: Internet content creators

The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brain

The Shallows was an excellent read.  It was also a heavy read.  There were a few chapters that dove into how the brain works.  I wouldn’t classify The Shallows as a pop culture book.

The author walks the reader through many forms of communication and provides an interesting perspective along the way.

I learned that books, as we know them today (sentences, paragraphs, chapters combined into a book) didn’t come into existence until ~1500s (the written word existed for a preceding 1000-2000 years).  Until then, the written word was a long long continuous run of words, no punctuation, no sentence structure, no paragraph structure.  The innovation of those structures hadn’t yet been envisioned. Books were originally believed to “dumb down” (my words) society; until then we were largely a verbal society.  Magazines were originally believed to replace books.  The disruptive phonograph was also thought to eliminate books as people could conveniently listen to books.  There have been a lot of potential book-displacement technologies over the centuries, but the written book prevails.  Interestingly, I “read” this book via a streaming book service, audiobooks.com, using my smart phone + bluetooth headset in the car.

Will the internet displace the book?  One great quote: the internet isn’t a learning enrichment tool, but an interruption system.  One component of the title’s premise of the book, “Is the internet making us dumb” speaks towards hyperlinks.  How instead of providing value, hyperlinks cause such a distraction to reading on-line, that we’re unable to extract deep meaning from the text.  Instead of focusing the brain on deep understanding of the material, it’s continually asked to perform mini-evaluations along the way. Example, “should I click that link?”  When we do click, we’ve potentially shifted our brain again into first gear to read some related content. Then again and again, never submerging ourselves into the deep reading mode where we (apparently) comprehend and retain the most. Don’t believe the author, read the same book (URL listed below) embedded with hyperlinks and pictures – which was easier to read?

https://stomphorst.ca/2012/07/26/the-shallows-what-the-internet-is-doing-to-our-brain-with-hyperlinks/

The Shallows deserves a second read.

Who should read this book: Internet content creators

Will Facebook’s job board turn LinkedIn into the next Myspace?

I don’t care what anyone says, Facebook is squarely seated in the B2C and friends & family corner. LinkedIn is in the opposing corner, B2B and business. Will they fight?

Facebook has the pocket book and therefore the potential to replace #LI in the long term.

#LI has a good standard product. It could be much better.

A plethora of companies have created apps and are making a living on the Facebook platform. Other than some nifty bolt-ons (Amazon, box.net, events), there are virtually no independent software vendor created LinkedIn apps. I would make it easier for other apps to access #LI data. Why doesn’t #LI allow me to use its users database as the directory for my applications? Why doesn’t LinkedIn Events allow me to a) broadcast a message to All Attendees or b) allow individual attendees message other attendees? #LI is a business communications tool, but as I noted in a previous blog, they’ve buried the functionality to message fellow group members. A step backwards.

In 2009, there were 29 Job apps on Facebook. A quick search today shows up to a few hundred such apps.

A Facebook job board could be the disruptive app that turns #LI into the next Myspace. I love LinkedIn. Time for them to step up their game.

Is your business card a mystery novel?

This is an actual stack of biz cards that I collected.

It represents unrealized opportunities.

I recently unburied myself from all the business cards I’ve collected over the past few years. While filtering through the cards, two ~equally sized piles emerged. The first evolved into two categories of connections:

  1. People whom I’ve stayed connected with, and,
  2. People I see a potential future relationship

The latter is what I call “loose connections”. These are people I intend to stay connected with.

The second consisted of connections that did not evolve, I could not identify joint opportunities for us, nor did they. Any potential relationship has seemingly ended. Didn’t get to 2nd base.

But what does this mean? It’s not necessarily a bad thing, just reality of the networking world shaking hands around us.

While taking a second pass over the “did not evolve” stack, it became clear that many simply did not state the value of its owner, just name and coordinates, a mystery novel left for me to unravel.

How do you succinctly communicate your value prop on a biz card? How do you ensure that after the customary exchange of personal identifying rectangular coloured paper has long since past, that someone will actually remember you, what you do and what value you can provide?

Isn’t that what’s it all about?

What are my business card preferences? Beyond the mandatory name, company name & website, and email address, my preferences are:

  • Your twitter handle
  • Clean and easy to read.
  • A logo or style that resembles or embodies what value you provide.
  • LinkedIn URLs on the card if your profile is not easily identifiable (most people find me on LinkedIn by searching “stomphorst”), otherwise it’s clutter.
  • White space on your card so I can scribble notes on it. I need to write the date, location, and why & where we met. Dark cards or glossy cards that prohibit that.
  • Unique card stock size format.
  • I don’t need your street address or fax number.

One friend has a QR code on the back of their biz card, which takes you to a landing page that they can a) change the message as/when needed and b) track how many people arrived. The jury is still out on its effectiveness.

Through Silicon Halton I expect to gather about twice the amount of business cards over the next 2-3 years. How will you help me remember you? My job is connecting talent to employers, people to people, and business to business. I can help you if I clearly know who you are. Don’t write me a mystery novel.

Professional Coach or Just Wing It?

I can’t foresee the value of a Professional/Business Coach

Many senior resources are likely mentoring and/or coaching more junior staff.  It’s personally rewarding and fun.  But do they have a coach?  If you had asked me 2006 if I needed a professional coach, I would have certainly answered that I don’t foresee the value.  Over time I’ve come to learn that having a coach is invaluable.   Professional development is a life long road and I didn’t foresee the value a professional coach adds, but I’m glad I’ve accelerated my professional development.

I will teach you my padawan

Once, a long long time ago, during a time when you were virtually guaranteed a job for life, your coach or mentor was likely someone within the company, at a more senior level, who occasionally shared his or her wisdom with you.  We didn’t know it then, but that was coaching.  You would “work” with this coach over many years. You continually gained professionally by his or her mentorship.

Fast-forward to today’s business climate, with the tenure of the average job lasting seemingly not much longer than the shelf life of bread, your long term mentor from work is gone. You are now on your own.

While working for a software division of one of Canada’s largest general contractors, the management team I was part of was given the privilege of utilizing the parent company’s corporate coach.  This is the coach for a $2B company mentoring the management team of a 50 person ERP software development company.

Within a short time, I discovered that the perspectives the coach provided allowed us to address problems in a significantly more effective and efficient form.  He challenged our boundaries with questions that we hadn’t thought of, he would propose approaches to action that we wouldn’t have considered, and importantly, provided deep insight in the area of people-management.

Importantly, the coach was not bound by any typical employment constraints.  He was not our boss.  He wouldn’t and didn’t report anything we said in confidence outside of our four walls.  In that safe atmosphere, one opens up a little more, and as such, gains more in return.

As my loaf-of-bread’s expiry date passed, I found myself without a coach.  A couple years afterwards I had the good fortune to not only to engage with another coach, but a coach whom I’d worked with in a previous life, affording me continuity of a pre-existing excellent relationship.

Do you need a coach? 

Consider these points:

Professionally Growth Every professional or solopreneur should have a coach, as should company leader.  If you’ve ever participated in a peer-to-peer group, you are discovering some of the value of a coach, in that setting, a P2P Coach.  Now imagine if the P2P group was solely focused on you, on your needs?  You will grow faster professionally with a coach or mentor, than without one.

Unbiased / Trust What value would you place on open and frank professional and/or personal development conversations which won’t impact your yearly Performance Review?  Your discussions with a coach remain private and away from the ears of your employer.  This will allow for a deeper level of engagement.

Value Start by asking those close to you whom you trust and admire if they have coach and what value they derive from it.  Ask them where they connected with their coach. Some people I know use a coach from their industry, a senior person in their industry.  This helps them additionally learn more about their industry.

Time Commitment The time needed is determined between you and your professional coach.  One hour per week, one hour every two-weeks or two-hours per month, are some of the schedules I’ve heard.

Accountable My coaching is something I look forward to.  Sometimes my professional homework is behind and it forces me to catch up, to be held accountable to one’s commitments.   I maintain an electronic journal (document) which I share on-line with my coach (you don’t have to do this), listing my action items for the next couple weeks.  This also allows me to track my journey over time.

I recommend trying a coach for six months.  You have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

Messaging fellow LinkedIn Group members

LinkedIn is a great tool.  One of the changes LinkedIn recently rollled out made messaging to group members harder.   Namely, the ability to send messages to a fellow LinkedIn Group members is no longer at-your-fingertips. This function is now an obscure “button” , whereas it used to be available directly from the LinkedIn users profile.

The “Send Message” button is now replaced with the “Send InMail” option (see red box below).   The “send message” option was there as recent as April 7, 2011.

Click to enlarge

Hiding the “Send Message” button made made maneuvering within its groups similar to running a marathon in sand.  LindedIn Groups is a great tool to build communities, as we’re doing with Silicon Halton, and being able to easily connect with fellow group members is a primary piece of efficient functionality. Efficient, and safe, because it allows one to communicate with fellow LinkedIn members without having to expose your trusted connections to that member.  I value the connections I’ve made.

The workaround

The send message function still exists but is functionally buried. I’ve found two methods to send messages to group members.

1. Open the Send Message screen via the URL:  http://www.linkedin.com/msgToConns?displayCreate=&connId=XXX

Replace the XXX in the command line above with the view?id= value from the url when viewing the persons profile (shown in the URL in the image above). Doing so opens the Send Message window below.

2. Search for the user within the group, mouse-over the result, and the “Send Message” appears (red arrow below).

Both workarounds above require a bunch of extra clicks and cut&paste’s.  It was so much easier when the Send Message option was right there on the user profile (provided you shared a group with the user).  This “enhancement” certainly doesn’t enhance the LinkedIn group experience.