I Thought He Came With You is Robert Ellison’s blog about software, marketing, politics, photography, time lapse and the occasional well deserved rant. Follow along with a monthly email, RSS or on Facebook. About 7,250,102,787 people have not visited yet so it might be your first time here. Suggested reading: Got It, or roll the dice.

Important to you

Important to you

Facebook, I spotted a typo. I think you might have meant to say important to us.

Why Microsoft is Likely Doomed Based on one Email Folder

Close up of the useless Junk folder in Microsoft Outlook

When you get a piece of spam in Outlook you move it to Junk or block the sender. And then, even if that junk mail is marked as read, the Junk folder has a BOLD MESSAGE COUNT. It's the only folder that does this. I cannot do any other work while I have a bold message count and so I have to switch to the Junk folder and delete the message to get rid of it.

Regular email: read, file, done.

Junk email: recognize as spam, click block sender, confirm that I really want to block the sender, switch to Junk folder, mark as read, delete.

Something is really wrong with this workflow. It's a lens through which you can view the ultimate demise of the company. Sure, Office isn't going away soon and Azure is growing like crazy and SQL Server runs on Linux. But somewhere in Redmond 5,000 people designed a Junk email folder that is the MOST IMPORTANT folder in Outlook. The rest were presumably too busy making Windows Update worse to stop this.

My Google experience is that I really don't get much spam. The spam that I do get is hidden from me unless I actually need to rifle through it for some reason. On the occasion I actually get legitimate junk I just flag it as such and never have to touch it or it's ilk again.

As a courtesy

As a courtesy to the next passenger

I'm on a recently built A340-600. This sign is about as useful as the ashtrays. This must be a weird tradition that gets handed down from airplane to airplane from one sign author who got grossed out by the thought of a moist sink but has never squelched around in piss on the lower deck stink fest that is installed on this particularly strange airbus.

It's like someone loved the whole elegant spiral staircase up to a bar motif of the 747 and thought wouldn't it be a giggle to do the exact opposite.

Real Time

Real Time

Real Time with Bill Maher is the most excruciatingly awkward show on TV.

The typical setup is that Bill has a first important guest, then three panelists and finally a second important guest. So it kind of sucks to be a panelist. Just by being there you're signalling that you're not important enough to negotiate the first or last slot.

It's not great for anyone though. After the first interview slot Bill is going to jump up and walk over to his desk for the panel session. And you have a horrible choice. Either you follow the stage directions and sit still, somehow emasculated, while Bill leaves you behind. Or you stand up too, asserting yourself but looking somehow awkward and presumably you don't get invited back in a hurry.

Next the panel gets to argue for a while before the second important guest is wheeled in. At this point Bill interviews the newcomer for a long time leaving the panel hanging. Just sat there.

Right when you're wondering if the panel has left the building Bill brings them back into the conversation and at this point they are so desperate to get a few points home that the second important guest is often frozen out.

It doesn't last long though because Bill then cuts to New Rules and ignores the second important guest and the three panelists for a few over-written jokes followed by a variable five minute diatribe.

I cannot believe how many politicians, journalists, comedians, commentators and authors are desperate enough for HBO sized chunks of publicity that they'd put themselves through this social wringer.

I love it.

(Image credit: screenshot from Real Time with Bill Maher opening credits)

The Harvard Business Review Fallacy

A typical Harvard Business Review two by two grid where it's easy to guess the good quadrant

Every Harvard Business Review article worth it’s salt boils some complex problem down to a two by two grid. Usually something like awesomeness and profitability:

Being non-profitable and not awesome is no fun. Awesomeness without profitability might work for some organizations. Being profitable but not awesome for others. But the place to be is awesome and profitable!

With this bracing insight the authors will cherry pick some companies that match the upper-right hand quadrant and tediously stretch their turpid insight out to book length.

In reality this is a false dilemma (or technically a false tetralemma, but that’s an awkward phrase so I prefer the HBR fallacy instead).

My favorite example is Pascal’s Wager. This is a typical HBR two by two grid based on belief in God and the existence of God.

  1. Don’t believe / No God, you’re fine (meh).

  2. Don’t believe / God, go to Hell (infinite punishment).

  3. Believe / No God, you’re fine (meh).

  4. Believe / God, go to Heaven (infinite reward).

You only have one rational choice here says Pascal.

There is a lot wrong with this argument, but the wrongest thing is the HBR fallacy. There are infinitely many possible Gods with infinitely many good and bad outcomes. You might be living in a universe where the only God is the God of the Thargoids. The one real God might send you to Heaven only if you kill a gopher every Wednesday.

Nobody is going to open any doors and show you any goats.

Risky

Risky

The World Economic Forum has published a risk/reward matrix for 12 key "emerging" technologies. You'd think this would be pretty good, because:

"The report’s conclusions on risk are heavily based on its Global Risks Perception Survey, which gathers the opinions of the World Economic Forum’s multi-stakeholder communities of leaders from business, government, academia and nongovernmental and international organizations. Members of the Institute of Risk Management are also consulted."

For some reason IoT devices are the second highest risk. Ahead of biotechnology (we're all dead from an engineered virus), nanomaterials (we're all dead because we're now gray goo) and space technologies (we're all dead because we provoked a violent alien civilization).

The least benefit comes from Geoengineering. Because with Trump in power I'm sure we're going to solve Global Warming via emission cuts. There is apparently more benefit in Virtual Reality and even more in 3D Printing.

(Image from World Economic Forum)

Where did that app icon go, Android?

Where did that app icon go, Android?

As much as I’m looking forward to Daydream VR and trying to train my Google Assistant to swear there is one big problem left with Android that Mountain View should tackle first.

Where the fuck did my icon go Android?

Every so often when I update apps an icon is missing from my home screen. It’s one of sixteen apps that I use frequently enough to have pinned there but I can’t remember what it was until my muscle memory sends my finger flying to the empty square an hour or day later. Until then I’m distracted and can’t focus and scroll helplessly through the recently updated list in Google Play trying to figure out which of the updates is the culprit.

It’s not the first time I’ve been through this so I took a screenshot of my home screen just so I could not go through this again. But Google Photos backed it up and deleted it to save space so it’s somewhere in Drive that I can’t find doing me no good at all. When I figure this out I’m going to borrow my daughter’s instax and keep a hard copy in my wallet.

Google booking me a restaurant and a babysitter at a whim won’t save the time I lose to hunting down missing apps.

It might be fixed in Nougat but I can’t update for an unknown number of months because of device/carrier/manufacturer fragmentation so that’s still Google’s fault.

I have been a HTC loyalist so maybe it’s Sense and not Android in which case sorry Google, I should get mad at HTC instead.

I’m pretty sure it was Goodreads.

Methyl L-α-aspartyl-L-fucking-phenylalaninate

Methyl L-α-aspartyl-L-fucking-phenylalaninate

Every time I go back to the UK now I experience some sort of culture shock. A couple of years ago it was the matryoshka of Marks & Spencers. This trip, post-Brexit, I was expecting a J.G. Ballard style post-apocalyptic wasteland. But it was even worse - it's nearly impossible to buy tonic water without sweetener.

I'm unlucky (or maybe lucky) enough to be sensitive to aspartame and anything made with the stuff tastes foul to me. I can no longer have a gin and tonic in a pub because the full-fat tonic is as tainted as the diet stuff. It's not just tonic water, many other drinks are laced with the stuff. And kids in the UK now live on Fruit Shoots which are short on fruit and long on chemical warfare.

Is this some sneaky anti-obesity move I haven't read about? More likely the vile artificial stuff is just cheaper than actual sugar and it's a cost saving measure.

Oh, and I saw a crew of motorway workers washing traffic cones. In the rain.

Meeting Defragmenter

Meeting Defragmenter

Screw Holacracy, I have an idea that will revolutionize business and drive the next wave of global productivity gains. It’s a simple question of fixing meetings.

My dream week is one where I have two miserable days with back to back meetings and forget lunch, there isn’t even enough time to grab a coffee. Sound miserable? The upside is three uninterrupted days where I can cruise through a ridiculous amount of work.

My real week - meetings dotted throughout each day with half hour breaks in between. And many of these meetings will involve eighteen people shoehorned into a closet because someone booked the big room for a 1:1.

We need a meeting defragmenter.

Let go of picking a time and a room. Just say who you need to meet with and for how long. The meeting defragmenter will pick the best room and group all meetings as close together as possible with a five minute break in between.

Your company can decide if you prefer to load mornings or afternoons, or maybe Mondays and Thursdays. You can set core hours for each team.

Information workers take around twenty minutes to enter a state of flow which is where you need to be to write great code, conduct awe-inspiring analysis or generally do anything of value to your company. A half hour gap in between meetings is just enough time to get back to your desk, dismiss unwelcome interruptions, start to get into a state of mind to tackle some real work and then realize it’s time for another meeting.

Giving more people more blocks of useful time would be an incalculable benefit to their mental health, their businesses and the global economy. This one simple tool could change the world.

As usual if any of my billionaire investor readers are interested, call me.

(Previously)

Goodreads Feature Request

Goodreads Feature Request

Goodreads needs a shelf called "currently-reading-but-if-i'm-honest-will-never-finish". On this shelf I will put Infinite Jest.