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Rural vs City life – or how much culture do you care to contribute?

I recently came across this Simple Dollar blog post – “Why I Prefer Living Rural” and largely agreed with it.  I did have two quibbles.

  1. There was no mention of privacy and anonymity, the two greatest things about living in the city.  It is impossible to keep your life exclusively yours in the county.  Lots of people like being in a close community, but I enjoy living unknown.
  2. Culture – the problem with the country is not the lack of “culture”, but rather one must actively participate in cultural activities if you want to have any.  In the city culture is passive, in the country it’s something you make.


This post originally appeared on the Stronico blog – with the absorption of Stronico into Digital Tool Factory this post has been moved to the Digital Tool Factory blog

Apr 11

Written By Steve French


The five kinds of Facebook status updates

They are all some variation of the following:

  1. I have friends and we like to have fun!
  2. My possessions make me so happy!
  3. Join me in my outrage at a gross mis-characterization of a news story I found online
  4. While the number of things I have to say is at zero, my desire to talk is at 10.  Therefore please enjoy this YouTube link
  5. I’m about to do something I don’t know anything about, please offer a technical opinion so if anything goes wrong I can blame someone.


This post originally appeared on the Stronico blog – with the absorption of Stronico into Digital Tool Factory this post has been moved to the Digital Tool Factory blog

Apr 11

Written By Steve French


Quacks, Business Coaches, and useful advice

Kill all real estate agents, lawyers and life coachesphoto © 2008 Alec Vuijlsteke | more info (via: Wylio)I recently came across this post about the phenomenon of Life Coaching and I’m in the rare case of disagreeing with the specifics while agreeing with the general theory.  The book in question, Your Brain at Work: Strategies for Overcoming Distraction, Regaining Focus, and Working Smarter All Day Long by David Rock I have actually read and find to be well sourced, valid and useful.

That being said, I would recommend a sixth tell tale sign that the speaker just wants your money or attention, to wit the use of the Apple MacIntosh as an illustration of their theory.  I’ve heard this a couple of times, usually as it relates to the importance of focus, design, R&D, Marketing, knowing your customer etc.  Far too many companies are successful with the opposite of all of those attributes but they never get mentioned by the speaker.

Addendum: On the whole I favor coaching in general, self-awareness is essential to success and coaches usually provide that.   It is the systems that are suspect.


This post originally appeared on the Stronico blog – with the absorption of Stronico into Digital Tool Factory this post has been moved to the Digital Tool Factory blog

Nov 10

Written By Steve French


Rest In Peace Drex

Today at 3:00 PM I put my dog of six years to sleep.  I got Drex in 2004 when his previous owner was out of the house for too long during the day and Drex needed constant companionship.   Luckily I never left the house and we fit together well.  He was a great dog, preventing at least one break-in at my condo, and always being loving, protective and affectionate.

He had his neurotic moments, like the time he chewed through drywall and insulation during a thunderstorm, or the time he opened a locked door (he was quite bright) and climbed the back fence during the Tornado of 2008, but he was a great dog through and through.  Over the past year (his 14th) he entered a marked physical and mental decline and it got to the point of being cruel to let him continue.

Godspeed Mr Buddy.


This post originally appeared on the Stronico blog – with the absorption of Stronico into Digital Tool Factory this post has been moved to the Digital Tool Factory blog

Jun 10

Written By Steve French


Better to remain silent than to say any of these things

Lost TreePeople use some phrases to make themselves feel better, not to add anything to the conversation. Using these phrases annoys everyone in earshot and decreases motivation to fix the underlying problem.   My preliminary list:

  1. Any sentence starting with “I need” – you want, “need” is an attempt to manipulate someone from a position of weakness, and that is how they will think of you in the future-weak.
  2. “In the real world” – where else does anyone live?  By saying this you just make excuses for your own failures.
  3. “In reality”, or it’s evil cousin “In actuality” – All you say about yourself is that the previous thing you said was not true, which means that you have no interest in describing matters well.
  4. “I didn’t have time” – You chose to spend the time on something else, don’t apologize for putting something else first.
  5. “But we know more about X than we ever have before” – Possibly true, and probably not meaningful.    Citing unspecified knowledge is a manipulative appeal to authority.  If you had a good reason, you would be sharing it.  If you are not sharing the reason, it is probably not good.

That is my preliminary list.  Can anyone thing of any other counter productive phrases?

Creative Commons License photo credit: h.koppdelaney


This post originally appeared on the Stronico blog – with the absorption of Stronico into Digital Tool Factory this post has been moved to the Digital Tool Factory blog

May 10

Written By Steve French


Everyone should read Brain Rules by John Medina

Brain CoralSeveral months ago I finished reading Brain Rules by John Medina and I’ve been raving about it ever since.  Medina is a noted brain researcher and the book contains the 12 things he wishes the lay public knew.

The 12 things (with my notes in bold and italic)

  1. EXERCISE | Rule #1: Exercise boosts brain power. – The most important chapter.  Short version – if you exercise your brain will be smarter and it won’t get dementia.  I’ve put this to the test, and I am more focused with exercise than without.
  2. SURVIVAL | Rule #2: The human brain evolved, too. – Not that memorable, good background information.
  3. WIRING | Rule #3: Every brain is wired differently.- Not that memorable, good background information.
  4. ATTENTION | Rule #4: We don’t pay attention to boring things.- Intuitive,  and general background information
  5. SHORT-TERM MEMORY | Rule #5: Repeat to remember. – Important, counter intuitive info on memory.
  6. LONG-TERM MEMORY | Rule #6: Remember to repeat.- Important, counter intuitive info on memory.
  7. SLEEP | Rule #7: Sleep well, think well. – The second most informative chapter.  I had always thought of sleep as a time of rest, it turns out to be a very active process for the brain.   Sleep is when the brain cleans and restocks itself.
  8. STRESS | Rule #8: Stressed brains don’t learn the same way. – I had no idea that stress was the physical reaction that it is.  This is the third most important chapter.
  9. SENSORY INTEGRATION | Rule #9: Stimulate more of the senses. – Good advice for graphic designers.
  10. VISION | Rule #10: Vision trumps all other senses. –  mostly background information.
  11. GENDER | Rule #11: Male and female brains are different . – we knew this already, but Medina tells us how male and female brains differ.
  12. EXPLORATION | Rule #12: We are powerful and natural explorers. –  mostly background information.

From this book I have made the following changes in life Continue reading →

May 10

Written By Steve French


Why you should never complain about anything – with anecdotal proof!

Stop complainingMy new commandment: Never complain about anything.  Ever.  If you feel the need to complain to pressure someone else to make something happen, then be honest and call it manipulation.

I realized this while at a client meeting; we were talking about problems with a botched sales program and the staff had a litany of complaints about the program (ed. note: it was created by a separate vendor years ago, and the fault lies with the now-departed project manager who designed something inappropriate.  It does a masterful job of integrating legacy systems from different vendors, languages, platforms, a mainframe and Europeans are involved somehow,  but the user interface is wanting.  But I digress…).  Then I remembered hearing the same litany of complaints a year ago.   Unlike last year,  I offered suggestions on how to make small improvements to the program. Everyone proceeded to ignore me and continued complaining.  At the end of the meeting everyone felt a lot better once they had talked about their problems.  No one made any plans to actually fix the problems. Continue reading →

Apr 10

Written By Steve French


Ten great books for American business

After writing yesterday’s post on lessons learned from eight years in business, I thought I would come up with my listing of great books that have helped me starting out.Shakespeare and Company bookshop I follow Tyler Cowen’s notion that if you you finish every book you start you’re wasting time on crap.  On average I finish less than half of the books I start.   Since I’ve gotten a Kindle I’ve upped my selectivity considerably.  Before anyone asks, I have yet to finish Getting Things Done by David Allen.

With no further ado – here are the books I recommend to start out. Continue reading →

Mar 10

Written By Steve French


Thoughts on predictable software scheduling

Schedule 2/6
While pondering installing Visual Studio 2010, as well as thinking how all software is moving to a subscription basis, I had the thought – why not do two predictable releases a year?  The first release, say in January, would be whatever new features were in place by that date.  The second release, say in July, would be a pure performance and usability release, as the development team would spend half the year optimizing and tweaking the code, as well as fixing all bugs.  Any new “Features” would have at least six months to cook in the minds of the developers and would be implemented on a much stronger code base. Continue reading →

Feb 10

Written By Steve French


Thoughts on the Apple iPad and the Kindle

Creative Commons License photo credit: Rego –

First things first, I have not seen the Apple iPad.  I am an enthusiastic owner of an Amazon Kindle.  I honestly don’t see what the hype is about.  Granted, I never do with Apple products, but I can’t even see it from Apple’s point of view this time.  The Kindle is perfect at what it does, largely because it doesn’t do that much.  You read order, download, and read books on it.  Period.  The Kindle does that effortlessly and the e-ink is easier to read than paper.  The pages are consistently sized (an under-reported feature of the Kindle that helps quite a bit) and the battery lasts forever.  The Kindle also weighs almost nothing and you do not have to choose between it and a laptop in terms of weight or space.  In sum, the Kindle solves the problem of “I want to read something” quite well.

What problem does the iPad solve?  It will have the low battery life of anything with an actual monitor, so it can’t go that long without being charged, so add in the bulkiness of a charger 40% of the time to the transport of the unit.  It is harder to read (again, relative to the Kindle) so that’s another strike against it.

Perhaps I’m reading this wrong, maybe the competitor isn’t the Kindle, but rather some segment of the iPhone market.  Perhaps there is some segment of the world that is clamoring for multimedia computing power that is available while in motion.  But the obscurity of the Microsoft Tablet OS/PC indicates that there are not legions of people clamoring for walkable computing power.

Happily no one’s products depend on me, so good luck Apple.


This post originally appeared on the Stronico blog – with the absorption of Stronico into Digital Tool Factory this post has been moved to the Digital Tool Factory blog

Jan 10

Written By Steve French


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