Good Enough

This morning at the Clockwork kitchen table, Marty and I had an argument centering around the Flip camera. It went something like this:

Me: I want a Flip.
Marty: Why? They suck.
Me: You sound like my husband! You guys are A/V snobs.
Marty: No, we’re not. We just don’t like things that suck.
Me: Yeah, but it’s fast and easy!
Marty: But it SUCKS.
Marty: Shut up.
Me: No, YOU shut up.
Kjrsten: Here, I had a Flip in my desk drawer. You can have it if the two of you promise to shut up.

One of the points I was trying to make as Marty and I were talking was one that Wired perfectly summed up in their recent article, The Good Enough Revolution:

“We now favor flexibility over high fidelity, convenience over features, quick and dirty over slow and polished. Having it here and now is more important than having it perfect. These changes run so deep and wide, they’re actually altering what we mean when we describe a product as ‘high-quality.’

And it’s happening everywhere. As more sectors connect to the digital world, from medicine to the military, they too are seeing the rise of Good Enough tools like the Flip. Suddenly what seemed perfect is anything but, and products that appear mediocre at first glance are often the perfect fit.”

Marty objects to the Flip for the same reason my husband does: because the video output is not that great. It could be so much better.

What they fail to understand are the motivations of people like me (whom Flip is presumably targeting): for us, it isn’t a choice between taking crummy video (with a Flip) and good video (with some other device). The choice is between capturing a moment on a dead-simple device, or not capturing it at all. Between sharing videos often (because we can plug the USB device into our machine at a moment’s notice) or sharing them rarely — or not at all (because it’s a hassle getting out the right cord).

So, while the Flip is offensive to people who know how much better it could be, it’s perfect for people who — above all else — just want something simple. (And, frankly, I recently made a video that ended up being half-shot on my Panasonic DMC-TZ5 and half-shot on Nancy’s Flip. The Flip portion has better audio and the video, while a bit lower in quality, is not offensive to the eyes AT ALL. Most importantly, IT GOT THE JOB DONE.)

It’s not like I’m a Luddite. I love technology. But, I also love things that are easy. And, whether you love or hate the Flip (or its output) you can’t argue that it’s easy as hell to use.

The Wired article is a fascinating look at how and when we value “good enough” over “the best” or “most featureful.” For those of us who develop web sites, software and other applications, this is a crucial phenomenon to understand. At what point do we give our users so many options that they can’t deal with it and retreat to something simpler that feels better, easier and less overwhelming?

Another perfect example: Craiglist (also featured in the same issues of Wired). The thing is ugly and clunky, and yet it is the first place I go when I need to buy or sell something. Because IT GETS THE JOB DONE. Wired asked designers to re-imagine Craigslist with a “better” design and you know what? With one exception (the one by SimpleScott who noted, “Why fix what isn’t broken?”), I wouldn’t use any of the versions presented. Better? Perhaps. But, somehow, in getting “better” they lost what it was that made it work in the first place.

[cross-posted on the Clockwork blog]

What the Hashtag?

One of the hardest things to explain to people who are unfamiliar with Twitter is hashtags. Many things about Twitter are not immediately self-evident, and hashtags are one of them.

What Are Hashtags?

The simplest way to explain hashtags is that they are a way to categorize a particular tweet.

The name hashtag combines the notion of tagging (using a word or phrase to categorize something) with the hash symbol (#). (I don’t know about you, but I always call that symbol a pound sign. I’m thinkng of starting a campaign to rename hashtags to poundtags. Anybody with me?)

If you are reading a tweet with a hashtag, the hashtag will be a link. Clicking that link will take you to the search page for that hashtag.

Who creates them?

Anyone can create a hashtag. It’s anarchy! The company I work for uses the hashtag #clockwork whenever we tweet about work, but other people in the world also sometimes use that hashtag to tweet about a Jiu Jitsu studio in NYC, or the movie A Clockwork Orange. So, even if you start using a hashtag someone else may start using it, too. (Or, they may already be using it. The only way to find out is to search for the hashtag and see if it’s already in use.)

How do you find them?

Sometimes, events that you attend will print the hashtag in the brochure. Sometimes, someone will create a hashtag that gets so popular it becomes a “trending topic” on Twitter. Sometimes, you might just see a hashtag in a friend’s tweets.

What does each hashtag mean?

One of my co-workers just sent me this amazingly cool site,, which crowdsources what hashtags mean. This is fantastic because, since anyone can create a hashtag, a central directory of what each hashtag means has never existed. And because anyone can create one at any time, this approach of asking the public what they each mean is the only way it can be realistically managed.

If you see a hashtag and wonder what it’s for, this site can help you find out. If you start a new hashtag, you can add more information about it here for other people to discover.

How can you use them?

This is where it gets really interesting. Hashtags can be used in a bunch of interesting ways:

Industry Chats: People in the same industry, who are interested in a group conversation, sometimes start up a hashtag and have people meet at a certain date and time to talk about something. Kind of a like a big chatroom, but using Twitter instead of instant messenger. Some examples include #journchat (a PR discussion group on Monday nights), #blogchat (a blogging discussion group on Sunday nights) and #behindthefirewall (a group that discusses how social media is being used inside of corporations).

Events: I’ll use the recent MIMA Summit as an example: everyone who was tweeting about that event used the hashtag #mimasummit. If I want to see tweets that are only related to the MIMA Summit, I can use and follow all tweets that contain that hashtag.

What’s interesting about hashtags for events is that they can be used both for those at the event, and for those that couldn’t attend. For those at the event, hashtagged tweets can be a way to keep up with breaking news at the event (“Session 1 is canceled” or “We know wi-fi is slow, we’re working on it now.”). For those not attending, it can be a way to listen in on what’s happening and participate from afar. At some events, you can submit questions to the speaker via Twitter and a person acting as a “Twitterhost” will pass the questions along.

Sometimes, as is the case with #mimasummit, people use the hashtags for days and weeks after the event is over to share follow-up articles, blog posts, and videos.

Companies/Organizations: I also mentioned the #clockwork hashtag earlier. Using Twitter’s API (application-programming interface) we created a custom search that appears on our homepage (the custom search allows us to filter out those other, non-related tweets that also happen to use our hashtag).

Fans and practitioners of David Allen’s Getting Things Done methodology use #gtd for any of their tweets that relate to that topic.

To Make a Statement: The other day, I got irritated with a conversation that was happening where working and at-home moms were being pitted against each other. I decided to start an #endmommywars hashtag, for no reason other than to give people a spot to voice their support for each other. This happens all the time with causes big and small.

For Fun/Entertainment: On Friday, someone started a hashtag meme #oneletteroffmovies. People were tweeting funny movie titles that were just one letter off. Like my contribution, My Big Fat Geek Wedding. Totally pointless, but entertaining. My husband and I were reading the submissions together on Friday night, laughing and trying to think of our own.

There are also hashtags for #MusicMonday (to share music suggestions), #FollowFriday and #Women2Follow (where you can suggest that other people follow someone whom you find interesting).

To Be Clever: The final way that people use hashtags is to add a funny, sarcastic sidebar comment to their tweet. As in, “I just changed my 1,000th diaper. #mylifeisglamorous”.

Spammers: It just wouldn’t be the Internet if spammers didn’t figure out how to ruin everyone’s good time. Depending on the popularity of the topic you’re following, you’ll often see unrelated tweets that contain the hashtag (and often a few others). That’s just spammers trying to get attention from unsuspecting Twitterers by dropping trending topics and hashtags into their spam tweets. Sad, but true.

So now you know. As you are tweeting, hashtags allow you to categorize those tweets. As a person who is reading tweets, hashtags provide a way to filter the overwhelming universe of tweets into a more manageable set of only those you are interested in at that moment. Looking through tweets related to a given hashtag can also be a great way to find interesting new people to follow on Twitter.

Feel like getting your feet wet with hashtags? Add #geekgirlsguide to your tweet, and we’ll see it. (Or just try #myfirsthashtag — it won’t hurt anyone!)

Hashtags?! I Still Can’t Figure Out What Twitter Is For!

If you need more Twitter 101, check out these other articles we’ve written:

Podcast #3: Social Media for Job Searching

In our third podcast we talk about some ways to think about social media for job searching. It’s more exciting than it sounds! (Not really, but just go with it.)

Listen Online

Click the cute little button below to stream the audio in your browser window.


Think about three things:

1. Using social media (blogs, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc.) as ways to generate content about yourself that exposes your smart, savvy brain to potential employers (or people that could help you find potential employers).

2. Using social media to build and expand your network. Find and reach people in your industry that you previously would have had no access to. (Like, on Twitter: follow hashtags for events that are attended by the people you are trying to reach. I mentioned #mimasummit as an example.)

3. Do your homework! You now have NO EXCUSE for showing up to an interview not knowing about the company and the work they do. Set yourself apart from a field of applicants by knowing, and caring, about the organization you’re interviewing with.

MIMA Summit: Notes From the “Closing the Gap” Session

Last year, Nancy and I hosted a conversation about women in Interactive (I can’t remember what we called it. I just remember the original title, “WTF: Where the Females?” which they revised to something more innocuous).

Last Monday, Dave Schroeder (@flashbelt) and I hosted a discussion at this year’s MIMA Summit titled, Closing the Gap: A Discussion About Diversity. This year’s conversation was, quite rightly, expanded to cover issues beyond just gender. It was designed to be a group discussion, but in preparation Dave and I put together an outline. (You know, just in case everyone got all Minnesotan and didn’t ask any questions.)

It was a great session. I would have loved it if the crowd would have been standing room only, but we at least filled all the seats (especially considering that we were up against sessions like @scottmonty from Ford). And, frankly, I wasn’t entirely surprised — there are plenty of people who’d rather talk about something else, plenty of people who feel like there is no lack of diversity or that — if there is — it’s not really a problem (seriously, I had someone say that to me the other day). Those who did show up brought some great insights.

So, here’s our outline along with some notes and commentary. (Shout out to @whitneytaylor for being our volunteer note-taker and to @ivan_nunez for being our Twitterhost!) Also, was great to meet @jaredlukes, @carlos_abler, @melshirley and @kdfindley in person! (There were lots of other people there, too — if you’d like a mention, drop me a line. I didn’t get to talk to everyone one-on-one!)


  • How many people know about Geek Girls Guide? About Flashbelt? Have been to Flashbelt?
    • Most people in the group had heard about the Flashbelt thing (which you can read about here, here and here.) Carlos Abler made a fantastic point during the course of the discussion, that shocking events help you realize what other people are feeling. They help you learn empathy by looking at how and why a person — or a group of people — felt a certain way. He also said that events help you take a postion on an issue, opening up conversation, rather than just starting the conversation out of the blue, which can be harder. Amen, Carlos! This is a great point. For me, the absolute best thing that came out of the Flashbelt situation was the conversations it has opened up.
  • Who’s here today? Developers? Marketers? Designers? IAs? Facebookers? Twitterers?
    • There was a good mix of job titles in the crowd: developers, designers, project managers, IAs — we ran the gamut.
  • How long have you been in the industry? 0-5, 5-10, 10+
    • Again, a good mix of people with a broad range of experience.
  • How many people consider their workplaces:   1. very diverse    2. sort of diverse     3. not diverse
    • Most people considered their workplace “sort of” or “not” diverse. Not surprising, since we’re talking about an industry that lacks diversity and we’re in Minnesota (which, according to 2007 government stats is 89% white).
  • Let’s talk ballpark stats
    • We talked about how hard it is to get overall stats for the interactive industry as a whole. Most stats focus on the dearth of female developers. Other parts of our industry, like designers, writers, information architects, etc. may be more diverse but it’s hard to know.
    • Dave found a fan-freaking-tastic set of stats from A List Apart which shows the industry as overwhelmingly male and overwhelmingly white. While most of the respondents were developers, there are many other job titles represented in this survey.


  • What do we mean when we talk about diversity? Race, Gender, Age, Disabled?
    • One conversation that came up around diversity was age. One point being that this can be — like advertising — a “young man’s game.” Meaning, the hours and demands can be crazy. Someone brought up the salary issue (women right now make about 78 cents to every dollar earned by a men) and that, in this economy, both young people and women can be seen as desirable beacuse they are willing to work for less. Someone wondered what the industry will do with the “baby boom” of developers that hit an age and don’t want that lifestyle anymore?
  • Why is it important?
  • How does it affect your work, the quality of your work, the quality of your work life?
    • One person mentioned that a diverse team can lead to richer work.
    • We asked everyone why they came. One person pointed out that ours was the only session talking about the people working in Interactive rather than the products or technology. I think this is a great point, and one I’d like to bring up to the folks over at MIMA. Future Summits should include more conversation about the culture of our industry.
    • Somebody else brought up that we work in an irreverent industry. One point that I made is that, while I think issues of diversity and equality are incredibly important, I would hate to see our industry become overly politically correct-ified. If that makes any sense. I love working in an industry that is not formal or stuffy; so, how do we maintain that culture AND be inclusive? I think it’s a happy medium that is difficult, but possible, to find.


So what can we do as individuals  in our own lives to encourage and foster more diversity around us?

  • Mentor (be one, get one)
    • Encourage people in your organization to get involved with mentorship programs, especially in mentoring kids or young professionals outside of our usual networks. @melshirley talked about how her company (a mentoring company) matches executives with kids they would otherwise not encounter. 
    • So, how can we expand outside of our usual networks to reach out to kids (or other adults) that would benefit from our expertise? How could we open the door for a person who otherwise may not know much about the industry.
    • More outreach and introduction to the industry as a whole, for the younger generations (in schools). @KDFindley made a wonderful observation about how more of us should be getting into the schools; it’s unlikely that guidance counselors are even aware of the careers that we have.
    • Carlos stated this as “Create an empowerment model for kids rather than fixing broken adults.” Another person in the group wondered if shifting the talk to empowering kids brushing off the issue now and hope they will fix it tomorrow?
  • Raise boys and girls the same (don’t reinforce stigmas or misconceptions intentionally or accidentally)
  • Subtle environmental things – jokes, holidays, heroes, villains
    • This is a personal peeve of mine. I’ve been known to make my friends and family really uncomfortable if I hear them make a joke that I think is insulting I will say, “That’s not funny.” and walk away. (Wow, I’m making myself sound like a lot of fun at parties, aren’t I?) Most of what we encounter in our daily lives are not “shocking events” but small things that we may not even be conscious of. We should all start being more conscious.
  • Get involved with local programs, start programs, start a blog, become a resource
  • How can you push a diverse culture upwards towards your employers? (encourage corporate sponsorship of something – start something – interns)
    • “Everyone wants this issue to resolve on its own, or not at all. Know where you’re at and live it.” said Dave.
    • “Acknowledge that other cultures and groups have different ways of doing things. Our attitude should be, ‘Here are the tools, do it on your terms.'” Ivan talked about his experience as a person who speaks both English and Spanish and how he’s had people respond to his Spanish tweets with, “English, please.”
    • Dave made a great point, which is that we can’t force the 50/50 thing, but we can work to remove all barriers to entry so that a more fair representation (by gender, race, etc.) would be possible.
  • How do we make working more flexible, we have the technology?
    • This was my point, and one I believe in quite strongly. We are still a new industry, and the access and expertise we have with technology means that we shouldn’t feel constrained to fit into these old business models. As an example, most of the points at which women tend to drop out of the workforce could be mitigated by a more flexible workplace. As a personal example, when I had my second child (which is a point at which many women stop working because of the additional responsibilites of a second child, along with the daycare costs which can sometimes exceed their salary), I presented a plan to my company to institute a Babies at Work program. My son came to work with me several days a week up until he was 6 months old. When I went back to work with my daughter, I worked from home one day a week for the first 6 months. We have the technology! Let’s start using it to create the inclusive, flexible workplaces of the future. There is ROI there, I swear it.


Minnesota High Tech Association –
Minnesota Computers for Schools –
Minnesota MentorNet: A Statewide E-Mentoring Partnership –
The Community Technology Empowerment Project (CTEP) AmeriCorps –
SeniorNet  –
Center for Children and Technology –
Internal Drive Summer Computer Camps for Kids –
Digital Media Academy –
Finding Ada Lovelace –
Girls in Tech  –
Minnesota Women in Marketing and Communications –

If you have more thoughts on the session or resources to add, we’d love to hear them!

Thanks for coming. Thanks for reading. Thanks for being you.


GTD Home Office Tour

In a recent interview with Andy Santamaria at Connecting Me To You, Nancy described me as her favorite “organizational tool.” Frankly, it’s true. I’m a tool, and I’m organized enough for the both of us.

And, since I’ve officially outed myself to the world as a GTD devotee, people have starting asking me about what my office setup looks like. So, I’m starting here with a tour of my home office. (If you enjoy this, you can truly consider yourself a geek.)

Video Tour

Photo Tour