Jennifer B. Davis
There was a thought-provoking interview conducted by Crain's Chicago Business with Jason Fried, one of the founders of 37Signals. You may recall that this is the guy that blew off a product idea I once sent them, but apparently I don't hold that against them. I love what they do (as do their million other users) and they continue to innovate with a geographically-distributed team of 8 people. Which is pretty incredible!

One of things Jason mentions in the video is that they tried all working together, in the same office, and it killed their efficiency. He said "interuption is the enemy of productivity." Now they just try to "stay out of each others way." Certainly they talk, when they need to. They clearly collaborate, as the tools they make work well. They just do it judiciously. There is no water cooler.

In contrast, is most corporate environments, and even start-ups today, that prefer open, collaborative environments believing that people work better in teams if they are in each others' face all day long. What about the famed "Management by Walking Around"? Isn't that the epitome of interuption, having an executive walk around the office and talk to employees over their cube walls? We want cafeterias, or at least coffee service, to bring people together. They want social functions to build teamwork. I don't want to speak for Jason, but I suspect he would contend that this is like feeding the enemy army before they attack you. So, what do you think, are open environments (read: cubes), cafeterias, and water coolers actually breeding inefficiencies in organizations? Or is Jason's view more of a personality test for the corporate culture, its leadership, the size of the organization, and the type of work that is getting done.

Perhaps some work could not be done in the 37Signals way, distributed and unstructured? Perhaps this is unique to software development? Could trial lawyers work this way? Architects? Strategy consultants? Research scientists? How much collaboration and communication is enough? How much is too much?

Could all personality types work in this more isolated way and find it satisfying? Could you go days or weeks without the social chit-chat in the office? I know some that couldn't. I know some that would love it and would feel so much more productive.

What about you?

Jennifer B. Davis
I am not telling you anything new when I say that online communities are becoming more important than actual communities in some cases. Can you rattle off the names of 5 people whose blog your read? Can you rattle of the names of 5 of your neighbors? This is not to judge (we are horrible at meeting neighbors and I haved bake a "welcome to the neighborhood" batch of cookies in...well, I don't know if I have ever done that, although I have thought of it).

So, online communities are important. You know about LinkedIn, MySpace, Facebook, etc. I hear about new ones like Damsels in Success (clever name) targeting professional women. What if none of these exactly fits the community that you'd like to be a part of? Why not start your own?

The leader in social network tools is Ning, who boasts 80,000 networks. Whether you are a Phish fan, in the advertising business, addicted to One Tree Hill, or a proud graduate of the Blue Springs High School class of 1987, you can find or create your own community. Like all good things on the web, there is a free option (ad-supported). They have private label options for corporate communities, premium options that include your own domain name, and for $19.95 you can set-up to run your own ads on your social network and create your own media empire.

To broaden your options, you should also check out KickApps, which is a similar thing, but emphasizes "rich media community experience" and all the content gets displayed in a Flash viewer. They have some cool viral elements like widgets that others can embed to help spread the word about your community. Again, it is an ad-support, no-cost-to-you business model.

As an aside, a visit to Ning and KickApps illustrates the yin and yang of website design and voice. One is power-punching and athletic (as in rugby) the other is more ethereal and poised (as in yoga). Just goes to show how different visions and brands can manifest themselves online.

According to TechCrunch there are others that do this as well including CrowdVine, GoingOn, CollectiveX,, PeopleAggregator, Haystack, Onesite. They did a handy comparison chart that you might find interesting.

Now, I bring this up because I wonder if tools like this are being used for more than connecting with classmates and industry professionals? I could see these tools being a very powerful foundation for a church or ministry website, as it could include published content (sermons, songs, articles, announcements about upcoming ministries), as well as forums and places where parishoners could post their own photos of events or discussions about related topics.

I wonder also if any of these sites allow the network administrators to charge for membership to their networks? This could be interesting as an extension of a college course or the like and if there was a way to charge, this would be a very interesting "lab fee" item.
Jennifer B. Davis
Now here is a tool that makes the life of a blogger a bit easier. It is called tumbalizr and their alpha version site allows you to type in a URL and then select a pixel width. It gives you a thumbnail JPEG of the site you selected (either a screen or the whole page). Then you can embed the shots into your PowerPoint presentations, websites, or blog posting (see left). Cool!

Now, if it would only allow you to select a portion of the screen to save as a JPEG, then it would be perfect!
Jennifer B. Davis
Smashing Magazine did a great contest recently asking people to redesign the dreaded 404 Error Pages to something more beautiful and user-friendly. You'll love some of these. My favorite is this one designed by Vi-Su.

I like how the creative designers re-envisioned how to deliver a bad message in a more beautiful way. One them by Jeremy shows how a message can be delivered in sensitive copy. He writes, "Oh Boy...This is awkward. 404 Error: Not Found. Man....I feel bad about this. Whatever you are looking for ha smoved or has been removed from the server. Let's take you back to the start and hopefully you can find your way."

I wish more companies (especially service organizations) took this approach. Be personable. Show you care about the customer. Try to sincerely help them out. What else can you ask for?

Jennifer B. Davis
GrandCentral, acquired recently by Google, is a new service that allows you to get one number that is then forwarded to whatever phone(s) you are currently using at the time.

I could see this being as popular as the universal email addresses (Yahoo, Hotmail, gmail) that allow you to mask your ISP and move around without changing your email address. Combined with voice-to-text messaging and Google's other services this could be pretty powerful for those of us that are not tied down to one phone.

They are currently in private beta (which you might be able to get in on through InviteShare), but you can sign up to reserve a number when the service becomes more widely available.
Jennifer B. Davis
After years of admiring the innovation of on-demand printing businesses, I have decided to launch one myself, as a shopkeeper with

You can find the store at

This site has a huge variety of products that celebrate the active lifestyle of Hot Springs Village, Arkansas. The Village is 26,00 acre gated community, complete with 12 lakes, 9 award-winning golf courses, and lots of recreational activities.

Check it out and spread the word to anyone who might live or visit Hot Springs Village! Fans of Creative Outlet Labs will like to know that this is one of the first of many planned sites and projects in the works. Stay tuned for updates.
Jennifer B. Davis
Consider the juxtaposition of these two quotes I read today:

"Nothing can be so amusingly arrogant as a young man who has just discovered an old idea and thinks it is his own."
- Sidney J. Harris

"The fool sees not the same tree that a wise man sees."
- William Blake

Can a person, young of age or of heart, discover something new in an old idea? Is rediscovery a sign of wisdom? Is one person's wisdom another's amusing arrogance? Is there "nothing new under the sun" as the proverb says, but only fresh eyes seeing it anew?

Jennifer B. Davis
Michael Bungay Stanier from Box of Crayons had a newsletter back in June that talked about his 7 Sources of Joy. It is great read. His 7th source of joy was "freedom from fear" and he included the picture posted here. We'll never know what this guy wrote on the wall, but I can bet it wasn't that he was afraid of wearing skirts!

So, it made me rethink the use of a tool I had blogged about before from GE called ImaginationCubed. I tried it and I can say it is pretty powerful, so read on. Go to the link. Grab a pen. Select the color that suits you. Write out your fears. Illustrate them if you wish. Read them there. Think "what is the worst thing that could happen?" Change your pen to big and white and erase your fears.

Bonus: Also works on a MagnaDoodle.
Jennifer B. Davis
Whether true or myth, this story illustrates the characteristics that often set-apart extraordinary leaders from the pack:

There was a bleak and cold day in which George Washington stepped out of his headquarters. It was cold, so he drew on his great coat, turned up his collar and pulled his hat down to shield his face from the cold, blowing wind. He walked down the road to where the soldiers were fortifying a camp and no one recognized this tall muffled man who was in fact the commander of the army.

He came across a group of soldiers who were under the command of a corporal. They were building a breast work of logs and the corporal, all filled with himself as being important and superior, kept on barking orders. "Up with it," he cried. "Now altogether push!"
They were trying desperately to push this final log up on top of the crest. Each time they tried just at the last moment, the thing would fall back. They were exhausted. The corporal would again say, "Up with it! What ails you? Up with it!" The men would tug again and again and the log came crashing down because they weren't quite strong enough to do it.

Finally, the third time he starts barking at them, Washington himself goes up to them and exerts all his strength to push the log and it falls into place. The exhausted men were about to thank this unknown soldier. At that point he turned to the corporal and said, "Why don't you help your men with the heavy lifting when they need another hand?"
The corporal replied, "Don't you see that I'm a corporal?" Washington said, "Indeed," as he opened up his coat and revealed his uniform. "I'm the Commander-in-Chief. The next time you have a log too heavy for your men to lift, send for me!"
Jennifer B. Davis
I was told about a great service the other day that combines so many things that I love (internet technologies, personalization) while allowing you to pay tribute to people you love. The site is called MuchLoved and on it you can create and post tribute websites to loved ones who have passed away. They can include photos, life stories, timelines, journals, and ways that the grieving can share their thoughts and pictures, as well as donate to relevant causes. The sites can either be public or you can invite a selected audience. MuchLoved is a registered charity and they accept donations. There are for-profit companies doing similar things, like or, but I like the interface and feeling of MuchLoved much better. I could see how this service would be great for those extended networks of family and friends who are not physically about to participate in memorial services.

Shifting gears a bit, as I often do, I wonder if a similar set-up would work for other occassions.

  • Weddings ( features some features like this and it would be a great addition to the services provided by Bella Pictures).

  • Retirement roasts (a completely underserved market, it would seem).

  • Milestone birthdays.

  • Baby dedication/blessings.

As a parent to young children, I could see setting up a website to commemorate a baby's one year old birthday, allowing people to leave their well-wishes, photographs, and the like. It could live on in the form of a website, and perhaps the template could also feed a print-on-demand scrapbook to help commemorate the day!

In fact, the book could become part of the event it is commemorating, in the case of a wedding. The guest comments, stories, and advice submitted before the wedding, engagement photos, and the like could be combined with a guest book for the big day!

Jennifer B. Davis
Ran across this quote from Albert Einstein: "You see, wire telegraph is a kind of very, very long cat. You pull his tail in New York and his head is meowing in Los Angeles. Do you understand this? A radio operates exactly the same way: you send signals here, they receive them there. The only difference is that there is no cat."

Is this the real reason they call cabling for internet connectivity CAT5?