Write a Screen Play, A Story, A Pterodactyl

Phteven
Phteven

Have you ever wanted to write a screenplay?  Me neither.  But if you didn’t want to write a screenplay, have you ever wanted to write a story?  How about a short story?  Essay? A Tweet? A Haiku? Nothing?  OK, this book is not for you.

I figure only a subset of humans want to tell stories that are fictional outside of the dog eating homework genre.  But if you put your mind to becoming the next Stephen King, Steven King, or Phteven King, consider checking out the book Story (amazon link).  I was listening to the Michael Hyatt podcast and he listed 10 books that were most influential to him and one of them was this book Story.  Since I subscribe to Audible I thought I’d check it out eventually (I have an ever growing wishlist over there) and what I found most fascinating is that of all the books on Michael’s list, this one was less business oriented.  Unless you’re in the business of telling stories, I guess.

The power of the book lies in how the author grabs onto the demands of a professional story teller and pushes them into the reality of the job.  And then pushes some more to get them to hone their craft.  And then pushes them some more to keep honing their craft.  He made a statement that really got my attention [paraphrased because it’s an audiobook]:

The reason Hollywood is putting out the movies with the plots that it is putting out is because this is the best writing that they can find.  They would love more and better writers.

Now, please don’t quote me on that, but that was the gist of the sentence that almost caused me to stop mid-run and post the quote to facebook.  I believe this was a jarring first point in the book to begin digging into the craft of story telling in movies (and in part other forms of story telling).

After laying down his perspective so tersely the author leans in and pushes in towards how to fix this problem.  Along the journey he points out other issues like audiences not being able to follow, authors wanting to add in irrational or unexplainable twists, and the need to write characters just the right way so that the writer doesn’t over build something that will become a distraction or leave the audience wondering why so much energy was put into someone so unimportant.

This book is a great introduction to thinking through fiction, thinking through your audience, and thinking through story quirks.  If you find the analysis of stories, the analysis of the writing, and analysis of movies interesting, you definitely need to check this out.  It’ll ruin every movie you’ll ever watch 😉

Essentialism

What’s the most important thing you could be doing right now?  It could be reading this blog (I’m skeptical of that myself).  The book Essentialism (Amazon Link) is a focused book about the idea of doing just the most important thing. For now.  The point is not that you can do more things, but that you can do the most important thing and, as the author Greg McKeown says, “less, but better.”

What I found the book challenged me to think about, that I’ve wrestled with for some time, is really putting some grey matter into thinking about what I really want to do with my life and then actually cutting out the things that are not that.  Not to the harm of others, not to be ascetic or to be removed from the world around me, but to push forward in some way that will put a dent in history and leave behind something that is life changing for future generations.  I suppose everyone searches for those sorts of things (or maybe not?), but the book has pushed me into considering the opportunities or commitments I have said no to, I have assumed as defaults, or that have me unnecessarily trapped.  In short it has asked me to dig deeper into my thought life and sense of purpose.

So far I’ve basically come to the conclusion that I need to

  1. Work on discipline

I know it’s a short list, but the purpose of the book is to work on the most important thing.  Which is singular, not plural, and is required to be the most meaningful thing you could work on.  Discipline requires me to focus on less, but do better on the smaller list.  So I will try to be disciplined and then we’ll see how we go from there.

About the book: I really enjoyed this book and recommend you consider getting it.  There’s a lot of valuable perspective in the book and I think it will really challenge today’s modern workforce to say no more, but to get better work done.  It will challenge todays relationships to be picky about their commitments so that the ones that they do have are extra rewarding.  The audiobook is read by the author, and he’s quite listenable.

Opera WebKit

Creative Commons: http://www.flickr.com/photos/cyron/105110722/sizes/s/in/photostream/
Creative Commons: http://www.flickr.com/photos/cyron/105110722/sizes/s/in/photostream/

In the movie Casino Royale James Bond chases a villain up into the scaffolding of a tall crane.  It makes for amazing cinematography, a great fight, and heightens (no pun intended) a scene that would have been a relatively standard bar room brawl. But the chase and fight didn’t start there.  They started somewhere below and they worked their way there.  As it turns out logical arguments, which hopefully have less blood and risk than physical fights, need to be restrained to the lowest possible point of agreement.  Otherwise it’s like having a fight on a crane that is floating in mid-air.  Since that doesn’t exist outside of the Matrix, let’s assume that’s either not possible or a bad idea.

Opera is a business.  Business offer users/customers/beings/entities solutions.  But they do that based on a business model.  In the excellent book “Running Lean” the auther,  Ash Maurya, points out that the business model is what the company is actually selling.  Whatever the solution may be, it is based on the business model.  If the business model is stable, and a workable business, then the solution can be discarded as time requires it and paradigms shift and a new solution can be put in place on top of the business model.  Opera just changed their solution, but not their business model.  The jump to webkit is based on offering a solution that they think is viable based on their business model.  That’s good business sense.

Web developers are assuming that this change is based on some weird desire to kill the Internet, or destroy diversity.  This is a bit presumptuous.  If anything my 13 years in the industry has taught me it is that diversity fails to go away.  For the sake of argument when I went to BD Conf and saw a wide range of qualified speakers deliver presentations on web development they complained consistently that just because someone had Android and Android had a webkit based browser you couldn’t assume anything.  Why is that?

The answer is because every version of Android has its own twist from the handset vendor or the service provider.  And then there are the old devices.  Those don’t seem to go away.  Partially because of two year contracts and hand-me-downs, and partially because some phones work ‘well enough’ for users and they don’t care;  But they DO want your website to work on their mobile devices.  Many, many devices work with Opera Mobile or Opera Mini and those users take for granted that sites will be workable.  Except that over and over again I see developers only testing on iOS or Android and calling it good enough. You can’t gripe about the philosophy of this business change from Opera if you are only paying them lip service.  Use Opera on the desktop, the mobile, and even the Wii and test on it if you’re actually passionate about their solution offerings.

One last detail is this: RIM/BlackBerry [disclosure: they are my former employer] is using Chromium for their browsers and has been for a while.  They are using the same code base, but they are not shipping the same code.  How can their BB10 browser score higher on HTML5 tests if they are?  Opera will not be shipping the identical code.  They will ship variances.  They will update on different cycles.  They will do what their business model defines as a good procedure.

Don’t get angry at Opera and state that they’re ruining diversity – they’re not.  They’re changing their solution based on the details of the business model, which you may not know specifically.  They may have a really great reason to do so that has nothing to do with following Android, iOS or BlackBerry/RIM.  Opera has long known it needs to differentiate itself in the market to stay alive and competitive – that’s a major part of their business model.  We need to argue about more relevant things like which James Bond movie is best because unless we’re part of the leadership of a browser vendor who knows our business model, we really can’t call those shots anyway.

You’ll excuse me, though, I have to get back to writing backwards compatible, future friendly, cross-platform, web standards compliant code.  Code that works in all the variations of WebKit.

Not So Thankful for the Oil Change Experience

Say, how fast is a “jiffy” lube change supposed to take?  Is there a checkbox, note field or option somewhere for me to tell my local franchise/store/location/entity that I want to not be delayed radically by car repairman theatrics?  I just want to drive up, have them swap out old petroleum bi-products with new petroleum bi-products and send me off in what I think a jiffy is.  I’m not trying to complain, but it feels like it takes twice as long as needed because we have to go through the whole, “Your air filter looks like it could be replaced, do you want us to extort some more money?,” process.

Every oil change place seems to take longer than it should because of this.  It doesn’t matter if I’m getting Penn-soil, Quacker Stat, or STD oil – even at Walmart – something is weird.  I’m pretty sure that a place that allowed customers to feel like they weren’t being messed with would do exceedingly well.

Dear Friends and Family: Stay Away from Windows 8

I don’t normally post a lot of tech advice here.  People ask me for it sometimes, and I give it because they ask.  I’m stepping outside of that pattern to say that you should avoid Windows 8.  It is to user interfaces what being kicked in the face is to life experiences.  In case you didn’t major in analogy in school I’ll put it like this: using windows 8 will be painful, unfamiliar, and they have moved all of your cheeses.

Windows 7 was awesome. I upgraded to it the day it was released on all 4 of my family’s computers.  It was that good.  Windows 8 is a major let down with lots of potential confusion.  Windows 8.5 may be better. They may release Windows 8.1 (remembers Windows 3.1?) that fixes some of the major issues Windows 8 has.  But for now, stay away from it.

Reasons for this, you ask? 1) The move to a semi-tablet focused interface means that a lot of things you know about Windows are gone by default.  There is no small, easy to navigate start menu.  2) The start button is gone if you switch to desktop mode.  If you press the Windows key on your keyboard you’ll be faced with the tablet application picker (AKA: Windows Metro).  3) They’re copying Apple and creating a Windows store just like iTunes and the App Store.  This will mean that over time Microsoft will limit what developers can publish and will censor material based on their corporate needs and drive.  This is unacceptable.

If you make change for change’s sake, you’re just annoying users who have become accustomed to a pattern.  If you benefit the user with these changes, then there’s a trade off that hopefully most people will see the value in.  This is not that positive change, this is just making change to pretend you’re innovating to ‘lead the market’.  Bad move, Microsoft, bad move.

<done ranting, sorry>

A Vote For Third Party

Creative Commons: source

I’ve heard from some folks lately that voting third party is a lost vote or a vote for ‘the other guy’.  Let’s think about how that plays out.  If I talk to a democrat and I say I’m voting third party they say, “That’s a vote for Romney.”  If I talk to a republican and I say I’m voting third party they say, “That’s a vote for Obama.”  So really I’m voting for both candidates when I cast a third party vote based on this logic.  I’m kind of OK with that since a ‘split my vote between these two people’ option doesn’t exist on the ballot.

Or, there’s the other position: a vote for a person that represents (most closely) your views is a vote for that position, even if it carries little to no electoral weight.  In other words the larger two major parties will see over time that their platform does not represent the third party position and may come around, over time, to represent other ideals.

Vote third party this next election – or at least split your vote between the lesser of two weevils.

Talk About Rights and Responsibilities Before You Talk About Guns

That title is pretty straight forward and is sure to draw fire (no pun intended) from various folks, but let’s be frank: you can’t jump into an argument about gun control (or the second amendment) unless you recognize that rights come with responsibilities.  If you’re not going to carefully, thoughtfully, deliberately execute your rights with responsibility, then you don’t get to keep the right.  Let me explain:

You have the right to drive a car in the United States starting at about 16 years of age all the way until (depending on the state) they take that license, and right, away from you.  You could lose the right for getting DUI’s too many times (I’m all for 1, but let’s say 3 is a safe number to let drunk driving happen on accident the first two times).  You can lose the right because you’re too old and you’re dangerous to other drivers.  You can lose the right if you speed excessively.  In other words, you have the right, but you can lose it if you don’t take responsibility.

I want US citizens to be able to have various weapons for various sorts of safety, target shooting, hunting and of course looking like Chuck Norris:

But after we get over looking like Chuck Norris if you’re not a safe, responsible, rights-aware citizen, then you probably shouldn’t be having a gun.  You probably lost that right.  As a civilization I’m actually for more citizens having guns.  But with training.  I really do think every healthy US citizen should be required to go through 2 years in the military and serve the country.  I didn’t do this.  i was chicken.  But I also think that even if you’re cleaning latrines you should know how to handle a weapon, deal with intense situations, and generally be aware.  Not that I’m obsessed with war, but that I’m concerned that rights like gun ownership need training, and making it mandatory (like drivers ed) except for those who are really, really fringe, makes more sense than removing the rights.

Now: let the flaming begin!

Drive Me Crazy: Email That is Only a Subject

If you want to drive me bonkers send me an email that is only a subject.  It will make me crazy because most of these emails come in like an awkward text message, but instead of using the body of the message to tell me more information I get nothing.  Blankness is not boldness in this case.  Send me an email with a subject that means something (hopefully within the vein of content that your message body contains) and then a message body that contains full, complete, clear thoughts.  I even prefer paragraphs rather than a stream of consciousness email that is about 6 topics, but has no way for them to be found due to a lack of break in contents.

Yeah, if you send me emails with just subjects I’ll be bothered.  I won’t tell you, but I will tell the Internet.

I’ve Been Reading a Lot Lately

I’ve been reading a lot lately.  Below is the list of books I’ve read since October, almost all of them have been 4 or 5 out of 5 stars.

The Power of Who [5/5] – a great book on the importance of relationships and their use in our growth and achievements as people.  There are people in your life that are willing to help you, are you asking them?  Are you settling for “what else” or are you striving for “what’s more”?

EntreLeadership [5/5] – Dave Ramsey has been known for his personal finance book, “The Total Money Makeover”, but this book on leadership in small-to-medium business is a must read.  Lots of insights into people, planning, and developing a winning culture.

How the Mighty Fall [5/5] – What if you could avoid leading a company into disaster?  What if you were able to turn a company headed for disaster around?  This book has a lot of good material in it and it may be just the awakening that some company leaders need.  Once they read that one, they should read “Great By Choice.”

Great By Choice [5/5] – This great book on what makes companies stand out in a crowd should be read by anyone in the business world looking to evaluate their own company’s success or failure.  The illustrations help make the points in this book and engaging research ties into incredible value for anyone who is looking for direction on how to improve their company and their company’s leadership direction.

Kanban [4/5] – This book is about starting up a “Kanban” or LEAN implementation in a software development environment.  There’s a lot of good material in here, but some of it went on a bit long for me [thus the 4 out of 5 stars].  However, despite needing to be a bit shorter in a few places this book is a must read for anyone looking to bring transparency to their software development projects in a team environment.

I’m also working on Lean Startup and Passionate Performance.  Reports on those are to come!

Serve

Remember: if you don’t let people serve you, you’re short changing them.

If you’re not serving people, you’re short changing them.