Monthly Archives: December 2008

travel hacks: develop work-out routine in your hotel room

i got a twitter reply from Cameron Schaefer with a link to his blog on travel hacks.

one good one i like: Develop a Hotel Room Exercise Routine:

One of the best ways to stay energized and refreshed during long trips
is to exercise.  Most hotels have some type of fitness center, but
there’s an even simpler solution — work out in your hotel room. 
Push-ups and sit-ups are an obvious solution, but I discovered a tool
the other month that has made a huge difference in the variety of
exercise I can accomplish in a confined space: exercise bands.

More at Cameron's blog.

email sabbatical

I sent an email to a friend today and for the following message (name redacted to protect the innocent):

I'm [names]'s email bot.  I'm here to tell you that [names] is off celebrating [an accomplishment] without the Internet or email.  She will be gone until [return date] and decided to take an email sabbatical. This means that no emails received during her vacation will be stored, including your message. In other words, she will NOT receive your message. It won't be waiting for her because I've been instructed to throw everything away so that she can come home to a little less stress.

If you feel as though your message is still relevant post-[return date], you should email her again then. If it is uber urgent and you know how, contact her mother or brother.

For good reason, [names] believes that a vacation is spoiled by coming home to an inbox that is a mile high filled with requests for things to do. When [names] returns, she will be starting a new job and she wants to be at her best without such a crazy backlog.

I apologize for [names]'s quirkiness. She's definitely an odd duck. But I think that she deserves a proper break from the world. I hope you do too.


my best articles of the last twelve months

"Recessions Promote Breakthrough Innovations":

This was written last March but it
is much more relevant today.


"It Takes Tech to Be Elected President":

Much has been written about the
Obama technology coup.   This goes over a
history of tech innovations in elections.


"Social Media Gender Gap":

Men are from video games and women
are from social networks.


“How to Hire: When Good Isn't Good Enough”:

With the recession in full swing, it
is even more important to hire great people.


"You think for yourself but you act like your

This was my most talked about blog
in 2008 … on homophily.


"Implicit is the New Explicit":

getting users is hard
marketing.   Getting data can be a better


"The art of a job offer: encourage candidates to turn
you down":

Some non-obvious ideas on how to
give a job offer.

Best books I read in 2008




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Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell

Gang Leader for a Day by Sudhir Venkatesh

(special thanks to Marc Andreessen
for the referral)


Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely

(special thanks to Jeremy Philips for sending me the book and making me
read it)


How best to explore a new city

When I end up in a new foreign city as a tourist (or the
beginning of a business trip) I often seek out one or two people I can go to
lunch or dinner with.   That way I learn
more about the city and really understand what’s going there.


Recently I had an opportunity to go to Ho Chi Min City
(Saigon) in Vietnam
for a few days.  Before going I combed
LinkedIn to find people that were just one degree away from me (we knew someone
in common). I ended up setting up a
lunch with one person who know an entrepreneurial friend and another person who
knew a venture capitalist friend. These
people were enormously helpful to get a lay of the land, understand the city,
and get a good understanding of the culture.

I’ve done this in Santiago, Munich, and many other
cities where I did not know many people before arriving.  

If you’ve done this (or you try it) let me know about
your experiences (I look forward to learning more).

Hat tip to Scott Bonds who suggested I post this.

people take happiness cues from their own gender

there has been a lot of talk around last week's NY Times article Strangers May Cheer You Up (and thank you to the dozens of people that sent me the article).

but even more interesting … and buried mid-way through the article … is that "people take emotion cues from their own gender" according to Nicholas Christakis (physician at Harvard Medical School and author on the reported study).  

if that is true, it could be really interesting in marketing.   do people more heavily weigh over queues from their own gender too?

(Summation: read the study above if you want to get a better insight on how to make society happy)

The 150 Myth

You actually know more people than you think

All the literature and studies that claim that people can only build relationships with maximum of 150 other people is only half true. The “150” number is often referred to as the Dunbar number after anthropologist Robin Dunbar. As covered in Gladwell’s Tipping Point and CommonSenseAdvice:

Dunbar has developed an equation, which works for most primates, in which he plugs in what he calls the neocortex ratio of a particular species – the size of the neocortex relative to the size of the brain – and the equation gives us the maximum expected group size for each species. For humans, the max group size is 147.8, or about 150. This figure seems to represent the maximum amount of people that we can have a real social relationship with – knowing who another human is and how they relate to us.

Dunbar’s number is often misinterpreted to mean that you can only remember information on 150 people. But that’s not accurate, especially with the help of technology and other social utilities. Traditionally this 150 number meant the average person can only have a deep and meaningful relationship with 150 people.

But most relationships aren’t deep and meaningful … and they need not be bidirectional. If you just want to keep up on someone’s life (and know the ins and outs of where they are working, who they are dating, and when they are doing, you can easily keep track of thousands of people … and you do.

Even outside of using any external or web utilities, the human brain has the capacity to keep billions of discreet pieces of information. To better understand this, we can look at vocabulary:
According to study by Paul Nation and Robert Waring, most educated people in the United States have a vocabulary of at least 20,000 English words. Each word has a denoted and connoted meaning, many have a story (past tense, plural, etc), and often they invoke a picture. We have relationship with words much like we do with people, yet have a connection with 20,000 of them is not uncommon.

And not only do we keep track of words, we keep track of people.

Are you a sports fan? When I was in high school I could tell you the stats of almost every major league baseball player. I had a “relationship” with all of them (even though none of them ever heard of me).

And any avid reader of Us Magazine or Pop Sugar has an intimate relationship with hundreds (if not thousands) of stars. Many people know more about Britney Spears than they do about their next door neighbor. Or maybe you are a political junkie. You’ll know the ins and outs and the total biographies of Bill Clinton, Winston Churchill, Martin Luther King, and George Washington.

A person even has direct relationships with thousands of people over the years from your teachers in grade school to members of a softball team. My guess is that the average educated person can track over 10,000 people (though it would be tough to do a study to prove it) and people who are connectors and use internet tools might be able to track 30,000. and yes, that’s a lot more than 150!

Back to Dunbar … Dunbar’s number is probably a minimum, not a maximum, number of social relationships a human can have. If you are in a “tribe”, splitting into 150 person units makes sense. But if you are a social human, you can potentially be a part of many “tribes” and build different relationships and experiences in all of them. Back in prehistoric times, we may have only had the opportunity to be a part of one clan, but today we can be a part of many.