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    No doubt you have heard or read about, and possibly (more like probably), installed for yourself one of the popular Ad blocking programs or browser extensions in order to improve your web browsing experience, protect your privacy, and even perhaps to send a message to the internet publishers of the world that you are sick and tired of a terrible, ad-filled user experience.

    While Ad blockers have been around for quite some time, their usage has recently seen a dramatic uptick. A study released last month by PageFair and Adobe reported that the usage of Ad blocking tools worldwide has grown by 41% in the last year, and now about 45 million US internet users use these tools, (a 48% growth rate in the 12-month period ending in June 2015).Robert Rauschenberg, Yoicks, 1954

    Finally, ad blocking has hit the news more openly due to the recent release of Apple's update to the iOS operating system that powers iPhone and iPad that now supports Ad blocking apps and Safari browser extensions to enable ad blocking. Immediately, Ad blocking apps shot to the top of the App Store popularity charts, (although the number one app, Peace, was quickly withdrawn by its creator for reasons of 'conscience').

    And the short-tern and pretty obvious repercussions to online publishers from this rise in user Ad blocking? 

    A loss of revenue, for sure, for those sites that rely heavily on banner and display ads for revenue. If these ads are not seen, they can't be clicked on, and therefore can't produce revenue. From the user/reader perspective this is great, you never clicked on any of these ads anyway, and they drover slower page load times, potentially ate of monthly data allotments on mobile, and were just plain creepy and annoying. 

    But for the publishers, you or me or anyone blocking these ads presents to their point of view almost a breach of understanding of sorts. The deal, such as it it, is that for non-subscription and non-paywalled sites, the publisher would provide 'free' content, and you, the reader, would 'agree' to put up with seeing and occasionally clicking on ads to fund the content creation operation. It is impossible to tell for sure the number of sites that if Ad blocking continues to grow at the current pace will end up either having to shut down, or adopt an alternate business models, (subscriptions, donations, or more 'sponsored conent'). Sponsored content, for now, looks enough like 'regular' content that the ad blockers can't easily identify it as such.

    The deep backstory behind some of what is going on here, and not really worth diving into on an HR blog, is the macro battle being waged for user time and attention, and the corresponding advertising dollars that follow, between Apple, Google, Facebook and if you wanted to be generous, probably Twitter and LinkedIn too. The iOS 9 updated placed a non-deletable 'Apple News' app on your iPhone, Facebook wants every important publisher to publish direct to Facebook, and LinkedIn and its Pulse app want to be the sole source for your news as well.

    Some of these companies, (Facebook and Apple for sure), want to control and segregate user's interactions with the internet into their own platforms, devices, and/or apps - formats where they can define the rules of engagement and protect their advertisers ads from being blocked. Others like Google, want to continue to drive traffic to sites (again, especially on mobile), that don't attempt to drive users to download individual publisher apps as opposed to using the mobile web.

    It is still really hard to know how these trends are going to play out, how we find and consumer information might change, and how the revenue models will adapt. But ads are like water - they will continue to push and flow into whatever openings they can find to get in front of our eyeballs on on our mobile phone screens. 

    But to tie this back, if I can, to the HR/Talent/workplace space, I think the potential for the reduction of independent voices in our space is the real threat and the thing to worry about longer term. If indeed the rise of Ad blocking, combined with the ubiquity, wealth, reach, and influence of the world's largest tech companies drive us to an environment where fewer, siloed, and single-entity controlled sources of information dominate the conversation, then that can't be good for the generation, discussion, and spread of new ideas.

    This, to me, is worth paying attention to in the next couple of years. Sure, web pages free of ads do look better, load faster, and are less frustrating.

    But if the tradeoff is a world where all of the news (or at least most of it), gets filtered, approved, and distributed via Apple, Google, and Facebook can't promise to be a less frustrating one either.

    Have a great week!                         


    You call it 'feedback', they hear it as 'criticism'

    Let's start with some level setting and definitions:

    Feedback (noun) - reaction to a process or activity, or the information obtained from such a reaction

    Criticism (noun) - an ​opinion given about something or someone, esp. a ​negative ​opinion, or the ​activity of making such ​judgments

    Feedback, especially when you fold in the more technical elements or applications of the term, (like feedback from a machine or from some kind of industrial or mechanical process), more or less connotes neutrality, impartiality, and crucially, accuracy. Sure, sometimes feedback slants negative, but it should be accurately negative, if such a term exists. Because when negative feedback gets interpreted by the recipient of said feedback as being unfairly or inappropriately negative, then it ceases to really be feedback at all, and becomes criticism.

    And while most folks seem to appreciate and respect honest, accurate feedback, not nearly as many are down with taking accepting criticism, or for that matter, critics.  In fact, many really creative, innovative, and talented folks, the ones everyone is trying to recruit and retain, have little time for critics.

    One example:

    The Finnish composer Jean Sibelius faced plenty of criticism in his career. Sibelius's response to criticism was dismissive: "Pay no attention to what critics say. No statue has ever been put up to a critic." 

    If you have decided to throw in with the current trend and ditch the annual performance review process (that flawed as it is, has likely served its purpose over the years), you are going to have to get better at assessing how people are interpreting the 'feedback' you and your managers are now laying down on the reg.

    One of the main reasons that the traditional performance review process has failed many organizations is that it only provides any kind of feedback to employees on an annual basis. Even if the feedback was kind of terrible, at least the employees only had to endure once a year. So sure, by making the process more regular, more frequent, and less formal solves most of that 'recency' problem.

    But more and more regularly scheduled feedback does not by itself make anyone or any manager actually better at giving said feedback. And if more feedback simply adds up to or is interpreted as more criticism, then 'modern' performance management won't be much more effective than traditional performance management has been. 

    Make sure you are not setting up managers (and yourself) for failure simply by taking an ineffective process, changing its name,  and asking people to do it more frequently. 


    Top 5 Reasons to get your HR Technology Conference ticket today #HRTechConf

    I think by now most readers of the blog know that I am the Co-Chair of the HR Technology Conference, coming up fast on October 18 - 21 in Las Vegas. I have spent months putting together the program and working with literally hundreds of folks ranging from HR executives, IT and Business leaders, the big, massive HR tech companies that everyone knows, and a growing and increasingly innovative set of HR tech startups to develop this year's slate of content, demonstrations, and educational sessions.

    And since a great opportunity to attend the Conference at a reduced rate expires tomorrow, Wednesday September 16 at Midnight EDT, I thought I would try and make sure blog readers were aware, and offer up some of my own thoughts about why this year's event is once again a 'must-attend' for HR, Business, and IT leaders, as well as anyone interested in how technology can enable better business outcomes through people.

    So with that said, here are my Top 5 reasons to register today and come out to the HR Technology Conference this October:

    5. Presentations from HR and Business executives from many of the world's leading organizations on their challenges and how they have utilized a wide range of HR technology solutions to address these challenges. Just some of the companies on the agenda this year are MGM Resorts, Allstate, Unilever, Cisco, Marriott, Novo Nordisk, Delta, UPS, and many more. You will hear first-hand and unfiltered how these and many more organizations are attacking the same kinds of problems you have in your shop.

    4. Two General Sessions focusing on what is "Awesome" and new in HR Tech. Once again we will showcase the best innovations in the HR Technology industry both from the vibrant startup community, and from the big, brand name tech companies that you know. Details on both of these "Awesome New Tech" sessions will be released soon, but rest assured (I have seen all of the demos), that you will not want to miss either of these sessions to learn how the most innovative solutions can help your business.

    3. The first ever HR Tech Conference Hackathon, where teams of top engineering and design talent from across the HR tech insecurity will show off their skills and creativity in a classic, 48-hour hackathon format. This will be a great look into the behind the scenes of how great HR technologies get created, and a chance for many of the top and most talented people working in HR tech to shine.

    2. In another first for HR Tech, the new 'Customer Success' track will help HR leaders, no matter where they are on their organization's journey with HR technology, to gain important insights, tips, and learn from best practices on every point of the journey. From creating an HR technology strategy, to business case creation, vendor evaluation and selection, change management, implementation, and relationship management - leading industry experts will be their to help guide you along the way. At the Conference, we want to help provide attendees with the tools to succeed along the entire journey, not just the first step.

    1. Finally, once again HR Tech will be the largest, best, and most comprehensive event in the industry for everyone interested in improving work, workplaces, and business outcomes and how technology can support these goals. We will once again have a sold-out Expo, with a growing section carved out for the HR tech startups that are innovating like mad, a record-high number of sessions and speakers, and thousands of the best and most creative people in the HR tech industry today. HR Tech has become an essential event for leaders that are charged with solving the most important business challenges today - driving better results through people. 

    And one Bonus Reason, it is Vegas!

    C'mon, you know you love going to Las Vegas. In late October the weather will be perfect, sunny and highs about 80 or so, the food, drink, and entertainment options are limitless, and you the Conference and the other myriad social events that happen around the Conference are an incredible opportunity for you to network, socialize and have fun.

    I hope to see many of the blog readers out at the Conference this year!

    As a reminder, the Early Bird registration rate expires at Midnight EDT tomorrow, (Wednesday September 16). And as an added bonus - if you head on over to LinkedIn and become a member of the HR Technology Conference Group, you can use the registration code LINK15 to save an additional $150.00 on top of the $350.00 Early Bird discount (expiring Sept. 16) – That’s $500.00 in savings when you register by Wednesday.



    Learn a new word: The Friendship Paradox

    Do you sometimes get the feeling that somewhere there are amazingly cool things being done by seemingly very cool people that you are somewhat connected to and have awareness of due to your Facebook/Instagram addiction? 

    I mean every time on the weekend when you scroll though your timeline, (in between loads of laundry and cleaning up dog poop), you are treated with images of people laughing at a party, strolling on a white sandy beach, or enjoying another #perfect #sunset with #wine?

    Quick aside, and this is for everyone - ENOUGH with the sunset/sunrise pictures. The sun rises and sets EVERY day and everyone has seen this phenomenon thousands of times. We get it already.

    Ok, back to the point.

    Why is it that it seems like lots and lots of other folks are having an AMAZING time while you, well, not so much?

    It could be due to something called The Friendship Paradox. The Friendship Paradox is the phenomenon that your friends have more friends than you do. How does that make sense?

    Actually pretty simple, from a recent article on the topic called The Inspection Paradox is Everywhere, by Allen Downey:

    In 1991, Scott Feld presented the “friendship paradox”: the observation that most people have fewer friends than their friends have.  He studied real-life friends, but the same effect appears in online networks: if you choose a random Facebook user, and then choose one of their friends at random, the chance is about 80% that the friend has more friends.

    The friendship paradox is a form of the inspection paradox.  When you choose a random user, every user is equally likely.  But when you choose one of their friends, you are more likely to choose someone with a lot of friends.  Specifically, someone with x friends is overrepresented by a factor of x.

    Ok, so let's accept that the Friendship Paradox is valid, and that for the most part your friends have more friends than you do. But why do they all seem to be happier and to be having more fun than you as well?

    Well, it turns out that the Friendship Paradox extends to things like success, wealth, and happiness too. 

    From a long-ish piece on the MIT Technology Review site titled How The Friendship Paradox Makes Your Friends Better Than You Are:

    To study other types of network, Youg-Ho Eom and Hang-Hyun Jo looked at two academic networks in which scientists are linked if they have co-authored a scientific paper together. Each scientist is a node in the network and the links arise between scientists who have been co-authors.

    Sure enough, the paradox raises its head in this network too. If you are a scientist, your co-authors will have more co-authors than you, as reflected in the network topology. But curiously, they will also have more publications and more citations than you too.

    Eom and Jo call this the “generalized friendship paradox” and go on to derive the mathematical conditions in which it occurs. They say that when a paradox arises as a result of the way nodes are connected together, any other properties of these nodes demonstrate the same paradoxical nature, as long as they are correlated in certain way.

    As it turns out, number of publications and citations meet this criteria. And so too do wealth and happiness. So the answer is yes: your friends probably are richer and happier than you are.

    That has significant implications for the way people perceive themselves given that their friends will always seem happier, wealthier and more popular than they are. And the problem is likely to be worse in networks where this is easier to see. “This might be the reason why active online social networking service users are not happy,” say Eom and Jo, referring to other research that has found higher levels of unhappiness among social network users.

    So if you’re an active Facebook user feeling inadequate and unhappy because your friends seem to be doing better than you are, remember that almost everybody else on the network is in a similar position.

    So there you go, you have learned a new word/term and a little bit on the backstory and research behind a phenomenon that you have undoubtedly experienced, maybe even this past weekend.

    You were home raking leaves or fixing the leaky bathroom sink or maybe just glued to your sofa watching football and eating chips while everyone else out there was busy being better looking, having more fun, and just living way larger than you.

    Except for me. I assure you I was not one of those people. 

    Have a great week!


    Remember Harvard Graphics?

    I saw this clever post yesterday, titled Computer Science Courses That Don't Exist But Should, and one suggested course in particular really stood out:

    CSCI 3300: Classical Software Studies

    Discuss and dissect historically significant products, including VisiCalc, AppleWorks, Robot Odyssey, Zork, and MacPaint. Emphases are on user interface and creativity fostered by hardware limitations.

    While I am not nearly geeky enough to know all of those old products, (the only one I recognize is VisiCalc, and I never even used that), it made me think back on my introduction to software and workplace technology more generally.Pretty slick UI, right?

    And the one 'classic' piece of workplace tech that I remember most fondly, for reasons I will share in a second, is Harvard Graphics, the first general use charting and data visualization tool to gain acceptance in the office. In the late 80s and maybe a little into the early 90s, Harvard Graphics was the go-to tool for creating at that time were really amazing bar, pie, line, and other types of charts that today we would just laugh at for their simplicity. But pretty soon Microsoft Office took over the office, and Harcard Graphics pretty quickly fell out of fashion.

    But I loved my time with Harvard Graphics. Back in the day, when the first colorful stacked bar chart of regional sales broken out for the last 4 quarters emerged from the plotter, (look that one up, kids), and I marched it in to the CFO's office, suddenly I was looked at not like the 22-year-old kid who knew nothing, but as the 22-year-old kid who created something cool.

    After getting a glimpse of what the HG program could do, the CFO started setting me off to make more and different kinds of graphical representations of our financials that would be used in exec meetings, sent out to the regional presidents, and often tacked up on the wall in the CEO's office. No one would ever tack a boring looking income statement on their wall, but a 3-D multi-colored bar chart of gross profit margin by product segment? That was high art to some of these guys, and I was the only person in the office, (probably because I could not add much value anywhere else), that was able at that time to produce these charts.

    That simple little program, and the rest of the office's reluctance to embrace anything new or seemingly complicated, helped me cement a reputation as someone clever, useful, and for being what then passed for technically savvy - which make no mistake helped out your career as much back in those days as it does today.

    Harvard Graphics got me at least two raises I am pretty sure.

    Ok, the walk down memory lane is over. Have a great weekend and think about this little tale the next time some new and scary and complicated technology shows up in the office.

    It just might be the one that gets your work tacked up on the CEO's wall.