Archive for August, 2011

More on data vs. information

August 30th, 2011

I’ll just blast out some thoughts I had during the last few days…

  • There is no correlation between the amount or quality of data and the amount or quality of information. Example: “I don’t use a DSLR camera for filming because it’s not good enough.” This opinion (information, subjective) does not require anybody to know all the facts. Everybody has a different threshold when they feel having sufficient “information” (it’s data) to make a decision, change or define their worldview and tell themselves a story. The data which is not included in the story becomes irrelevant. Trying to persuade them differently is unlikely to yield success then.
  • On Air Promotion trailers: The less data you need make the viewer feel informed, the better. The worst thing you can do is give the audience too much data. The factual data should no more than name and time of the show. Everything else better be a story people can connect to (and for this to happen, any emotional reaction is what you want, not only positive ones). Don’t give them data, because then they’ll start putting all the input into context themselves and stop listening. You don’t want that, of course. This applies to advertising in general as well.
  • The previous part also applies to presentations. The purpose of a presentation is to give information by present data in a narrowed context. This means you (the presenter) need to boil down the data to a level as simple (yet still correct) as possible. Do not show complicated charts or graphs (and worse, reading them to the audience). What’s on the screen or whiteboard is only supplemental to your verbal argumentation. It is not the information.
  • Do we really need compilations of references? At least their compiler should have the decency not to label it a “Guide” or similar. Because it’s not. It’s a directory, index, compilation, collection. Yeah I know. People love Guides and How-To’s. People love “not getting scammed” even more.
  • We need to train and force ourselves to decide on the spot more often, because it is often that we do have enough data and information to decide on the spot, but we’ve so gotten into the habit of “digesting” and “sleeping over it” we’re just too slow.

The Information Myth

August 25th, 2011

Sometimes, when a term has been coined, it’s hard to get rid of it albeit it’s plain wrong. As it is the case with “Too much information!”. I don’t know where it came from (and don’t intend to research it now, feel free to post it in the comments), yet it is unimportant for the matter of the fact. So how did I come to this conclusion?

Last week, German newspaper Die Zeit published an article citing a study among managers and their biggest issues on the job, resulting in ten rules a good manager, according to the paper, should follow. Let’s just say the author would have better read some books on the topic, yet he seemed to prefer the blather. But that’s not why I’m writing this.

The study revealed that one of the most pressing problems of managers is the amount of decisions, which requires a lot of information for each of them. Obvious. To decide, you need information. Now, what is information?

I like Fredmund Malik’s definition that information is knowledge that leads to action. Now, if you think about it for a few seconds, how much of the things that enter you brain in the course of a day do lead to action? Indeed, very little. What’s the overwhelming majority then? It’s data. When you look up the definition of data and information at Wikipedia it’s all there, though I don’t agree that a book with all data about Mt. Everest automatically becomes information. Data only becomes information when it is put in a context that leads to an action on your behalf.

Looking at all the bits and pieces we’re dealing with daily that way, it’s plain to see why making decisions is such a massive time-consuming process. It’s not information we’re dealing with on the input side, it’s data that we must put in perspective, be it an analytics report, a movie clip, the latest news. It’s not that we (as humans) were producing ever more information, we’re just producing ever more data which in turn we must filter out to obtain information.

Now, is what I’ve been writing about in these few lines data or information to you? Since we will keep producing ever more data, the ability to distill data to information will become key to future success for anyone, because all success depends on the ability to make decisions. This necessity requires not only organizations of every kind to teach their employees how to get better at this, it also requires schools to switch from teaching young people to learn everything from a limited resource (i.e., a school book) to learning the process of filtering out the irrelevant data from an unlimited resource (i.e., the Internet). For the careful reader, the previous sentence has turned data into information. Thank you for reading.

Replace Edit in Final Cut Pro 7

August 24th, 2011

Two issues you’ll be running into:

FCP gives a damn about the In and Out marks in your sequence, it’ll edit your Viewer’s In mark to the current cursor position, so you need to make sure you’re at the first frame of the clip you want to replace.

FCP doesn’t only replace the footage, it also replaces all your transformations and filters applied. If you just want to swap the material, you need to copy the clip before editing and paste the attrbutes (Option-V) after editing.

What do you stand for, and how fast?

August 21st, 2011

On a regular basis we encounter people not walking their talk, backing up from what they have promised to us because, ironically, we discover their promise can only become reality when we contribute our share. And as always, everyone feels they have they biggest pack to carry, their expense were the largest. That’s why Obama’s change he promised doesn’t come: It doesn’t come for free, which everyone seems to have expected.

And it’s what business owners and freelancers experience quite often. They were picked because they seemed innovative and audacious, to make you catch up with the competiton, even take the lead. And then, it’s all just lip service. Well, not each and every time, but in the vast majority of cases the result is far from what it could have been (and should have been, otherwise the client would have picked someone else).

So when you’re getting hired because you’re different, when do you stop being different for, ultimately, the money? What is the measure, a happy client (who’s happy because you responded to all his requests by giving in) or a fully accomplished objective (which might first look like it’s at the client’s expense)?

The point is, when you’re dealing with someone who’s constantly looking for deniability with regard to the project outcome towards their boss, you’re clearly working with the wrong person. And in most cases when it’s about doing something different, the boss is the only person you should be working with. (And if the boss is looking for deniability towards the board or the shareholders, you better be asking yourself what you’re about to get into is really worth the money.)

This is not to say that you should never compromise. Yet don’t compromise too early to avoid a head-on dispute, because in most cases these are the points where something needs to be done to achieve the desired result. As Seth Godin said, “thrash early, and thrash a lot”. You’re there for a reason. Don’t vaporize it lightly.

The pro, the amateur and the idle

August 19th, 2011

The amateur learns what she wants to learn because it’s part of what she loves to do.

The idle learns what he needs to learn because it is required.

The pro learns what she can learn, because there is no reason not to.

First things first

August 18th, 2011

Second things never. Easy to say, hard to do. What’s your first thing you keep on evading in favour of second ones?

Meaningful decisions

August 15th, 2011

Every meaningful decision is taken in the absence of better knowledge. That’s not an excuse in advance, it’s the best reason to stop hesitating and get it over with so you can move on.

(Side note: In my latest read Fredmund Malik recommends writing down all motivations that influenced the decision so when it is reviewed someday, one can better understand what the thinking at the time was. Sounds easier than it is, but certainly worth the effort.)

It’s never just a job

August 2nd, 2011

Over the last few years I came to realize how different what you do for for a living can feel in different scenarios even though what you’re doing on a micro level is the same. And at the moment, my conclusion is that it all depends on the level of mutuality. Not mainly in terms of friendship, though having a good buddy at work is a big advantage, but rather in terms of people doing the same stuff as you, each and every day, who have an innate understanding of your coping with whatever it is.

This doesn’t require to work at a big company, it can also be a small one like a … garage. While I’m at it, I want to share some insight concerning how small and non-small (how big is big?) companies differ, and it just my point of view. Let’s define big companies as businesses with more than 100 employees. That’s not a lot, but it’s enough to make sure you don’t have a close relationship with everyone who’s working there, though you may know all of their names.

In big companies you have a good chance of finding a buddy, someone working in the same position as you, having a similar background or worldview, someone you can genuinely like. And even if not, you’re rarely alone, because in most cases the only exclusive position is the CEO. She’s the only one who has no friends, because that’s the price of power (ha!). Also, whenever there’s a tense atmosphere, you can go somewhere else and lighten up.

When you’re in a small company where almost everyone is working towards the same goal with similar tasks, chances are you’re on a subcontractor. Which means this is no real enterprise because the jobs keep coming in from the same source, and that has a serious impact on the atmosphere, which is a good one. Because? The absence of the pressure of finding the next client or customer is an enormous benefit. The only downside of this scenario might be that all of you colleagues are so different from you that it’s not easy to get along, but there’s a good chance you’ll respect and value each other’s work.

And again, the situation is very different when you’re working at a small company where everyone is practically having a different job though you’re working towards the same goal. One is working conceptually, one does most of the administrative work, the third is the techie, because you need one to keep all the gear running somehow. This is a difficult scenario in which the atmosphere hugely depends how you get along as characters, because on the operational level it’s very often 2 vs. 1. Everyone has individual needs and wants appreciation and respect for their work, but the other two don’t know what’s going on at the micro-level. This again leads to a focus on results, which can be devastating at times, because of different (unspoken) expectations and so forth.

And no matter where you are now or where you want to be going, it’s always important to remember that you cannot expect people to fully appreciate the effort you’re putting into your work. And the more you put your heart into it, the more vulnerable and sensitive you are when someone comes to judge the result or work in progress. On the other hand, it’s important to constantly treat people the way you want to be treated, and still mutual appreciation and respect will go a long way. There’s an upward spiral, and a downward one. The choice is yours.