There’s a quality that doesn’t come out in CVs that with time I find more and more essential in the workplace. That quality is the ability and willingness to admit fault and apologise.
I’m not sure whether the trait is becoming less prevalent as society changes; or whether I’m becoming more aware with time of its lacking.
Knowing when you’re wrong, acknowledging when you’re wrong. These traits are hugely important in building strong relationships with colleagues, clients and suppliers.
As for knowing when you’re wrong, I don’t think there are too many problems here. People generally know when they’re at fault. They may lie to themselves in order to create a version of reality that they can portray to the outside world. But usually, deep within, they’ll be conscious that they screwed up. No, it’s the acknowledgment of the error that is at issue.
I’ve worked with a few people in my career to date, both male and female, who are hopeless at this. Sometimes, even when the fault is clear for the world to see, the admission and the apology don’t come.
And I think there are two related issues at play: the human aspect and the career aspect.
First, the human side. People simply want to save face. Human nature is to be as good as you can be. And admitting error shows that you’ve failed somewhere. How on earth can that be good?
And second, the career aspect. Making an error might go against you in the promotion rounds. It might mean your contract isn’t extended. Or worse, if significant enough, it might mean you’re terminated. The workplace can be highly charged and competitive. And it’s often not easy to step up on this front.
But everyone makes mistakes. And once the mistake has been made, the stronger person is the one that admits to it and faces its consequences, as opposed to the one that hides behind falsehood.
Often, admission of blame sets things up for an open and honest discussion about how best to proceed. It’s amazing sometimes to see how this plays out. Try it. Before the apology, there’s an error that no one’s admitting to, which can create a highly charged, confrontational environment. Throw in the apology, and suddenly the confrontation disappears. Often, the other person is slightly thrown by the admission, and it creates a pleasing atmosphere, for both them and you. The change can be massive, and is often instant.
Failure to admit error delays the resolution of the issue at hand. It creates animosity between the parties involved. And it taints their relationship going forward—both with one another and with you.
On the odd occasion, I’ll even apologise when I’m *not* at fault. It’s generally an apology on behalf of a department or business unit. But it comes from me, and is worded in the first person. In these instances, I consider the benefit of a smoothed path outweighs the personal drawback of stepping into the frame.
So go on. Try it. As well as being the right thing to do, it can be rather therapeutic.
Below is a selection of the delightful non-committal adjectives used to describe Margaret Thatcher in the period immediately following her death.
an “extraordinary leader and an extraordinary woman”
“Margaret Thatcher was a unique and towering figure”
a “unique figure” who “reshaped the politics of a whole generation”
Lady Thatcher’s beliefs were “rooted in people’s everyday lives”
Lady Thatcher “broke the mould”
“the memory of her will continue undimmed, strong and clear for years to come”
“Margaret Thatcher was one of the defining figures in modern British politics. Whatever side of the political debate you stand on, no-one can deny that as prime minister she left a unique and lasting imprint on the country she served.”
Cheryl Gillan, former Conservative MP:
“may not see the like of Lady Thatcher again in our lifetime”
Lord Hill of Oareford:
“I think we all agree she made a huge difference to the country she loved”
a “truly formidable prime minister whose policies defined a political generation”
a “towering political figure”
And finally, a more obviously complimentary one.
Patrick Wintour, political editor of the Guardian:
“She had beautiful hands and lovely ankles”
A good while back, I had an interesting discussion with my dad. (I’ve had interesting discussions with him since. But they are not the subject of this post.)
I wondered why it is not significantly quicker to fly from London to New York than it is to fly from New York to London. He thought I was an idiot. (He may still think I’m an idiot. But that is not the subject of this post.)
My rationale was this. After take-off from Heathrow, the plane is, by definition, airborne. It is not in contact with the ground. Yet Earth is spinning beneath you, something that will be yet more apparent from Virgin’s new glass-bottomed plane. And it’s spinning from west to east.
Above LHR, Earth is rotating beneath you at a rate of 1,037 km/h, and 1,263 km/h above JFK. (That’s 790 mph to you New Yorkers.)
So let’s take the average of these two: 1,150 km/h. In an hour of westbound flight across the Atlantic, you will fly approximately 880 km (the rough speed of a commercial jet), but cover 2,030 km because of that spinning Earth. So you should be there in 2h 45m. Allowing for the time difference, you’ll arrive 2h 15m earlier than you set off. Like Phil Collins, but without Concorde.
Eastbound, your progress will be hampered as the earth spins in the same direction as the plane travels, and the journey back to London will take a staggering 20h 39m. More than a day wasted, once you’ve factored in the time difference. (The Gulf Stream will help a little, I guess.)
Why is it not so? Is it simply because the air is moving too? Or is something more complex—or indeed more simple—at play?
(I read recently that the reason for which a bumblebee doesn’t slam to the back of a plane/car is as yet unexplained by science. I have no idea whether that’s true. But maybe the same force is at play here.)
I was pointed towards an article yesterday about the futility of hashtags. My view is that it misses the point.
There are, in my mind, three purposes for hashtags:
- Bringing together thoughts on a single, relatively niche topic or event. #ukgc13 (UK Govcamp 2013) is as a good an example as anyone needs
Let’s take these in order. For a hashtag to be of any use in aggregating tweets, it needs to be relatively niche. Given that it’s made up of a single word or string, and given the manner in which tweets are structured and consumed, there’s little search engines can do to make tweets relating to the #SuperBowl or the #budget2013 of any use to either man or beast. So the event needs to be more targeted to be of any use here.
Second, people can use them for suppression. If I have a lot of followees watching the Uefa Champions League, and for whatever reason I don’t give two hoots about it, I can filter out all tweets mentioning the #ucl hashtag. This I see as useful.
Third, irony. It’s not a traditional use of a hashtag; but it’s one I like. I often use hashtags in Facebook updates. I occasionally use them in emails, sometimes in the workplace. If I still wrote letters by hand, I’d use them there too. (Hell. I may even use one as a reference for #HMRC to use when I pay my corporation tax later today.) I know they’re neither clickable nor useful. But they can add humour. Even on Twitter, I’ll use hashtags that are useless for humour value.
Wife watching programme about women who were convicted of the murder of their husbands. She is criticising them for being “sloppy”. #nervous
So to me, the article missed the point of the hashtag entirely. They’re a wonderful introduction that adds playfulness to the English language.
I met Boris Johnson once. Indeed, I presented to him.
It was 1998, if I remember. I was in my mid-twenties. We’d undertaken a survey of the Spectator magazine’s readership base. And I had analysed the responses.
I arrived by cab with a couple of colleagues at a little terraced house north of Chancery Lane, the Spectator’s offices. And we were shuffled off into a room that might arguably be advertised as a bedroom, were the property put on the market as a family house.
We set up the projector, and various people shuffled in, columnists and the like. There were probably six or seven of the Spectator’s elite, all here to listen to what I had to say. Amongst them: Boris Johnson and Petronella Wyatt. This all before their affair hit the papers in 2004.
And it was all rather surreal. I wasn’t fazed in the slightest. I simply reported on what their readers had told us they liked, disliked, read, didn’t read in their beloved magazine. And as I remember, the response rate was phenomenal, such was the loyalty and commitment of its readership.
And no one believed a word I had to say. They all knew better about what the readers liked than the data suggested. I particularly remember Boris huffing and puffing over readers’ alleged favourite columns. And then it was over. Boris left early, either to attend another appointment or in utter disgust at what I had to say. The former, I hope.
Watching him on TV this evening, his manner hasn’t changed a jot.
So, with Ryan Giggs having made his 1,000th professional appearance the other night, I thought it an opportune moment to post this, a chart showing his Manchester United longevity.
Quite impressive on all counts, I’d say, particularly with at least a year left to run. Remember: this only shows players with 100+ caps. Click through to see it full-size.
There is, in my opinion, something quite fundamental missing from online news services. Maybe it’s there and I’m not aware of it. Or maybe it genuinely is missing.
I’d like to register an interest in a news story. And I’d like to be actively kept abreast of developments in that news story.
There are certain stories that have a timeline, most notably those involving the judicial system. Someone is killed, someone is arrested in connection with that murder, they’re released and bailed, a second person is later arrested and charged, there is a trial, a conviction etc.
And people are declared ill, their illness progresses, either positively or otherwise, and each key moment carries a news story.
I’d like to be able to subscribe to a news thread in which I’m interested. And I’d like to be pushed updates to that news thread, whether those updates are days, weeks, months or years later. I’d rather not rely on actively pulling the news on the day on which the story evolves.
The feature would rely on the news outlet (likely the BBC) deciding whether a story was related to an earlier news story. But I trust them to do this. I trust them to link together the Jimmy Savile–related investigations, those of the Huhne–Pryce story, the horsemeat saga, the phone hacking fiasco etc.
Does this service exist? And if not, should it?
On a related topic, there are some stories that simply end prematurely. The news breaks, but there is no follow-up. It’s more prevalent in the lower-profile local news. But it’s frustrating to say the least.
One notable example in my life was the cycling accident that occurred near Clapham Common on 10 October. Save my own blogpost, there was only one story of the accident at the time, in the Wandsworth Guardian. It spoke of the possibility that the cyclist might lose the use of her arm as a result of the injuries she suffered.
I would very much like to read of her progress.
Today, Angela Epstein has been advertising her handsome household income and complaining about a change in tax law that takes effect on Monday.
Currently, the eldest child triggers a single child benefit payment for all parents of £20.30 per week, each subsequent child attracting £13.40 per week. So a one-child family will take home £1,055.60 per annum, going up to £1,752.40 for two kids.
As of Monday, households with children in which at least one guardian earns a gross income in excess of £50,000 will have their child benefit reduced linearly, until that income hits £60,000 at which point the payment will fall to zero.
There are countless discussions and tirades about whether the mechanism for the cap is right. For example, an equal-earning couple with a gross income of £98,000 would keep their entire benefit, while a family with a lone working parent earning £60,000 will lose it all. But that doesn’t seem to be Angela’s primary argument for her perceived entitlement to receive child benefit.
Angela’s primary argument seems to be this: Why should kids be discriminated against because their parents earn handsomely? She likens it to schooling and health services.
But here’s the fundamental issue with her argument. Child benefit is a benefit paid to the parent for having a child. It is not a direct benefit to the child. Indeed when enrolling for ours in 2007, I was told that I couldn’t have the money paid into my daughter’s account directly because it was not in the recipient’s name. So instead I set up an awkward direct debit to hive the equivalent amount of money off into her account.
Health services, schooling and the like are benefits—albeit non-financial—for the children themselves.
In principle, I have no issues with the new legislation. It is in essence a tax against high earners. But actually, it brings those that are parents back in line with childless high earners.
As an aside, why HMRC/DWP cannot tie their tax records together and automatically stop the payments for any couples affected by the legislation I have no idea. (That’s not true. I have all too good an idea. It’s all about CID and CIS. But that’s not important right now.) Instead, HMRC will continue to pay the benefit to parents who don’t actively opt out, and then claim it back under the self assessment. Luckily, this particular benefit is administered by HMRC, not DWP. Otherwise, all hell would break loose.
So people are lauding Flickr, suggesting that they’ll switch to it by way of protest, or as a more acceptable way of storing their photos.
But here’s the rub. Flickr’s a crock of shit.
OK. I’m being harsh. Here’s the reality, for me at least.
Flickr is a wonderful repository. It allows me to use a relatively intuitive user interface to upload my photos (and videos under 90 seconds in length). And it allows me to share these with fellow Flickr users that I deem to be either Family or Friends. I can tag stuff, group stuff, and map stuff. All rather lovely. (The 90-second cut-off is rather limiting and irksome, but not a major annoyance.)
It also has an add-on called Picnik that allows me to do some basic edits to the photos: cropping, filtering, rotating, removing red-eye etc.
But it’s not the storing of images that I have an issue with. My issue is with the user experience of the viewer. It’s appalling.
First, my friends and family. They must be Flickr account holders. In a day when Facebook is becoming the de facto standard for online identity (at least for social stuff), this is criminal.
My mum doesn’t want a Flickr account. And I want to share my photos with people I know, love and trust without forcing them to sign up to another service. I would estimate that 90% of the people I want to share my photos with have no interest in having a Flickr account.
And once they’re in, my view is that the user experience is at best, poor. My photos are presented to those I share them with sequentially, linearly. The first page shows my five most recent photos, all nice and big. If I flick to page two or beyond, the pictures become smaller, the 18 photos per page becoming more akin to a set of Windows Explorer thumbnails than anything more inviting.
I can click on any photo to access more sharing options, see where it was taken or to access a higher resolution version of the image. But it’s all so very functional.
To the viewer, the Flickr website has changed little in the four and a half years since I became a pro member, and changed little in the three or so years before that when I was a non-paying customer. It’s vanilla. It’s linear. It’s functional. It doesn’t embrace the user and take them on a journey. It doesn’t give the user the sense that they are experiencing the event, the concert, the playground, the dinner, the airshow, the beach walk with the user.
And it should. Yahoo! has the ability to bring photos to life, to create an absorbing experience that people want to come back to again and again. Montages, full-screen slideshows by default. It has the ability to exploit Facebook’s credentials (and user base) to draw people into its service, while at the same time converting an increased number of users into its premium service to pay for the platform.
Or else Flickr can continue being left behind by its competitors and, with time, become a relic of the internet.
I only hope you’re reading, Marissa.
On 22 November, I decided that enough was enough. I needed a new music solution.
All of my digital music was residing on my old, largely defunct laptop which I’d replaced in June. It was sitting in iTunes in a library that I was far from happy with, as I’ve documented in a previous post, titled How Apple ruined my music collection.
Now as many of you will be aware, iTunes is the biggest piece of shit ever to grace a PC laptop. I know many of you Apple fanboyz/girlz will wax lyrical about how wonderful it is on a Mac (although I understand that there are even Mac users who hate it). But on a PC, it’s supremely appalling. Dog shit, if you will.
But that aside, the problem with digital music is that it came too soon. People had big music collections. Mine weighs in at a respectable but by no means mind-boggling 5,500-ish tracks. At maybe 4Mb per song, that’s around 20Gb of music.
Computer hard drives could just about cope with such volumes when iPods were first introduced in the very early part of the new millennium. But iPods could not. They started at 5Gb, although they soon got up high enough to cater for my 20Gb.
But then smartphones were introduced. And these came with SSDs rather than spinning discs. This meant that they were faster, quieter and much more worthy of a hug. But it also meant that their storage capacity was limited. And it meant compromise. You were (I was) unable to store your entire music collection on your portable device. So you had to pick and choose.
Even today, over eleven years after the first iPod came out, my Google Nexus packs a rather paltry 16Gb of storage. But that storage is for everything. Currently, about 5.5Gb of it is used for apps, photos and data other than music. A further 2.3Gb I am unable to access (the Android OS, I expect). Leaving just over 8Gb for music, if I so choose. Not enough for my entire music collection.
Over the years, I’ve upgraded laptops a few times, and music has been lost along the way. I’ve restored partial music collections from iPods. DRM-ed music confuses the hell out of me, and I’ve slowly grown to loathe everything that iTunes is about. It could have been so wonderful. But instead it contributed significantly to fragmenting my music collection. (Every time I’ve upgraded my laptop, I’ve struggled long and hard about how to move my music across.)
Now I’ve often thought about buying a NAS. But I don’t really have a N to speak of to which I can A the S. And they sound that bit too scary. So I haven’t.
But then along came Google Music.
Overnight on 22 November, and throughout most of 23 November, my old laptop’s internal fan was in overdrive as the laptop was resurrected to upload 4,705 songs from its music library into the Google Play Music cloud. It was working. And I felt huge relief and excitement. (There are about 400 tracks thereon that won’t upload, but I’m not quite sure why. It may be something to do with DRM. They’re probably those ones with the funny icon next to them in iTunes, an icon that I don’t comprehend and that has no hover text.)
And now it’s there, it’s lovely. I can play it direct from the Chrome browser. No need for installs. Just lovely. Some of the metadata has been maintained from iTunes, including number of plays. (Sadly, the five-star iTunes rating has been replaced with one with only three levels: thumbs up, nothing or thumbs down.)
And while all of the music can be streamed from the Android app on my phone (which over 3G might rack up some big bills), I can also highlight specific music that I want to store locally. And that music has been downloaded to the Nexus to use up some of my spare disk space until such time that available phone storage exceeds music collection.
The only thing I’d like now is the ability to stream to my Sonos player. I’m expecting that’s on its way.
In the meantime, I’m happy. Happy that I again have a definitive music collection, one that is not tied to a device for the first time since I collected CDs.