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All opinions on this site are solely those of the author unless specified otherwise. All affiliations and endorsements will be disclosed if present. If no disclosure, no affiliation exists.

Christopher Ambler is a Principal Architect at GoDaddy who writes sleek, performant, low-overhead Java and Scala code. In his copious spare time he can be found playing poker or listening to progressive music not in 4/4 time. He recently relocated to sunny California from Seattle.

Spam by Any Other Name

It's one thing to sign me up for spam. It's another for a company to do it and claim it's some kind of benefit.

Someone (who shall not be named) sent me a link to a property that was on Zillow.com yesterday. This was fine, as I've been thinking about such things lately, but what happened next was surprising. I got an email from Zillow:

Since a home was recently shared with you, we created a free Zillow account for you to browse millions of homes, save and share your favorites, connect with professionals and shop mortgages.

 

Seriously?! Not only did this indicate that the spam would start, but it also created an account on a site I'd never used nor wanted. I had to go delete it and unsubscribe. Now yes, it's one thing for someone to sign you up for spam. It happens. But that's typically someone pretending to be you, and one would hope that in 2017, double-confirmation would happen. In this case, however, Zillow knew that the account they were creating was for someone that hadn't visited their site and, as you can see from the message I got, I wasn't asked if I wanted the account. They just created it as if they were doing me some kind of favor.

Zillow? FAIL.

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ChrisSplaining: Trump on Teamwork

Donald Trump speaks highly of being a team player. He's right, even if he doesn't heed his own advice.

More than ever, working together is integral to survival as well as to success. Keeping the team spirit alive and well in your personal and professional lives will give you some very good, even surprising results.

-- Donald Trump (Think Like a Champion)

 

Working together is clearly important - nobody sensible argues against that. The benefits of teamwork fill book after book on business as well as personal life. But it seems to me that Mr. Trump, once again, demonstrates behavior that Shakespeare would have described as protesting too much*. It seems so obvious to call out teamwork in a book of business advice, but he regularly demonstrates that "me first" is his general rule. Loyalty, for him flows one way (to him) and any teamwork is predicated on his being served first and deferrals granted. Mr. Trump does not practice teamwork unless the team toes his lines.

Which illustrates the point I'd like to make: teamwork only works if you're a part of the team. Be first among equals if you merit such a position, but never be above the team. Lead by consensus, not edict. Otherwise, step away from this deception and lead deliberately, abandoning the urge to falsely claim that teamwork is your goal. Both are valid paths, but be honest about which you choose.


* In Hamlet, Queen Gertrude says, "The lady doth protest too much, methinks", indicating overstated insincerity. In this case, however, I have little doubt that Mr. Trump believes what he says, even if he doesn't live up to it.

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ChrisSplaining: Trump on Genius

Mr. Trump seems to revel in personifying the Dunning-Kruger effect.

Tell yourself that you are a genius. Right away you will probably wonder why and in what way you are a genius. And right away you will have opened your mind up to wonder - and to asking questions. That's a big first step to thinking like a genius, and it might unlock some of your hidden talents.

-- Donald Trump (Think Like a Champion)

 

Or not.

In my article "He Knows, You Know," I outline the Dunning-Kruger effect. In short, if you presume you're a genius based on very little information, you likely suffer from thinking you know more than you do. In this case, you will often make rookie mistakes because you think you're an expert when you're actually woefully underinformed.

Mr. Trump, in this and many other quotes from this book, likes to come at things from the aspect of presuming he knows everything and then has an open mind subject to change when presented with new information. Current events show that not only is this not correct, but that's it's also dangerous.

My advice is, instead, presume you know nothing and always question what you do think you know.

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Burning Man: Power from your Car

One of the best things you can bring for your trip to Burning Man, if you're not going full-on generator, is an inverter to provide AC power from you car. This is something that can charge your USB devices, of course (and at a higher power level), but also provide standard plugs for AC power. 

If you're wondering what you might use it for, I have two words for you: coffee maker. Okay, yes, I also use mine to keep my laptop charged (writing while at Burning Man is a thing - just mind the dust!). I've also used mine to run an AC-powered air mattress pump and other random things that don't lend themselves to battery-powered alternatives. I have no memory of someone bringing a flat screen TV and feeding it from an iPad to watch sports. Nope, I'm sure that didn't happen.

No recommendation of an inverter would be proper, however, without a little background on its operation. The battery in your car provides 12 volts of DC power. Inverters take that DC power and turn it into the 110 volt AC power that you expect to find when you plug something in at home. But in doing this, it drains a lot of juice from your car's batter. In short, you don't want to use this without your car running. Think of your car like a generator - it burns gas to get you power. So especially at Burning Man, remember to pack in some gasoline to account for any time you're going to have your car running to provide power, lets you find you're out of gas when it's time for the great exodus home!

The unit I recommend, above, can plug into your car's cigarette lighter or be hooked up directly to the battery. When your car is running, it will be charging the battery while you're simultaneously using it for power. Make sure that your car's alternator is rated high enough to support the load the inverter will place on the battery. Determine how much power you will be pulling and just make sure your car can support that.

Considering that an inverter like this is cheap, it's a great thing to add to your packing list.

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ChrisSplaining: Trump on Brevity

Business is no place for stream of consciousness babbling, no matter how colorful you might think you're being. You will discover that you can be an effective editor by cutting out everything that isn't absolutely necessary. Knowing where you're going in your conversation by being concise is a big step toward leadership and respect. People appreciate brevity in today's world.

-- Donald Trump (Think Like a Champion)

 

Generally, I tend to agree with this position, but with a specific exemption - sometimes there is need and value in putting completeness over brevity. Yes, in most cases it's beneficial to refrain from wandering all over the map. On occasion, however, a presentation needs to not only be complete but redundantly complete. Some things are so important that making sure all aspects are covered, and all participants are fully understanding all the angles and options is critical. If that means an extra half hour of "yeah, I got this," I argue that sometimes it's okay.

Bring snacks.

Now, all that said, I find it ironic that this advice, like much in his short book, Mr. Trump can't seem to heed, himself. Just his twitter feed alone puts the lie to the suggestion that he takes his own advice. And if you tuned in to any of his speeches where he goes off-script, well... enough said.

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