Apple sucks

Over the weekend, in getting ready for my trip Bangalore (via London, where I sit now with a long layover), I decided to download some episodes of “The Office” from the iTunes video store. I downloaded a few hours worth of video, dutifully paying for the video using the account I’ve used for all my iTunes purchases in the past.

After settling into my seat for the 10 hour flight to London, I booted up my laptop, ready to enjoy the videos I had downloaded and presumably paid for. Imagine my horror when I clicked “play” on the first episode and got this screen:

iTunes authorization screen

Of course, you have to be connected to the Internet to authorize, so I was out of luck for my whole flight.

Apple, you suck. (At the very least, build the authorization step into the download process — aren’t you known for obsessive user focus?)

Excited about Hack Day

We’re doing another Hack Day at Yahoo! tomorrow — can’t wait. I have no idea what’s going to happen. And that’s the best part (and absolutely intentional). We leave lots of room for emergence.

See Jeremy and my post for info on the last one, plus some Flickr photos. Expect more after tomorrow.

Bonus reading:

Disconnected from the desk actually means more connected

In Jeremy’s “where almost doesn’t matter” post, he mentions that I often gather my stuff and say, “I’m living out of my bag for the rest of the day.”

So why do I do that? Tim Converse nails it for me:

My hunch is that what being unchained from your desk makes possible is talking to more people face-to-face in more various places, which is really about greater personal control of the all-important Where (and the all-important face-to-face contact), than it is about making Where disappear.

This past Friday was a case-in-point. I left my desk in Santa Clara for the day at 11am to go to a meeting at our main Sunnyvale campus. I hopped the Yahoo! inter-campus shuttle and was soon instant messaging with one of my colleagues while going 60 mph down highway 101 (thank you, EVDO!) When I arrived in Sunnyvale, I IM’ed my colleague and asked him to grab another colleague and call my Treo from a conference room (we had something important to talk about). I was still connected to IM when I folded my laptop under my arm and stepped off the shuttle. My phone rang and I slipped into the landscaping for a little privacy (the mobile office does have its disadvantages). When I hung up, I got a text message on my Treo from Matthew with the room where we would be meeting. All of these communications were high-value, but none were face-to-face until I met up with Matthew. Oddly enough, by the end of the day, I had seen each person mentioned in the above scenario face-to-face for one reason or another. Living out of your bag doesn’t mean avoiding face-to-face meetings at all.

I think all the virtual communication is necessary in the era of Web Development 2.0. When you’re moving fast, lots of small decision points come up, and it’s best to get those decisions out of the way as soon as it’s feasible.

Side anecdote: if you live out of your bag, you have to make sure your bag is well-stocked for all circumstances. One of my great moments in bag history was a day when Caterina was asking around if anyone had a Treo charger because her battery was dead. I had the charger, but instead I pulled out a fully-charged spare Treo battery and traded for her dead one (which I charged later). It was the Silicon Valley high-tech office version of a Mentos moment.

I encourage everyone to pack an extra fully-charged cell phone battery in your bag. One day you will be sitting in stalled Manhattan traffic on a Friday afternoon on the way to the airport and need to make a critical call, and your phone will be dead. That’s when you will remember that spare battery and thank me.

Tactical is the new strategic

I was talking to a friend recently who works in a large Silicon Valley company about the expectations of managers within large companies and we discussed how big company managers routinely describe themselves as either “tactical” or “strategic.” Typically, those who say they are “strategic” talk down to those considered more “tactical,” directly or indirectly. This is wrong-headed. Marc Hedlund’s post about Web 2.0 development practices over at O’Reilly Radar firmed up my existing feelings on the matter:

More often, though, the developers and the CEO respond to the majority of the support email. One CEO told me he responds to about 80% of all the mail they receive. How better to know what people are saying about your product? he asked.

These days (especially in the web world), being conversant in “big picture” issues means knowing the details, as the anecdote above illustrates. I would bet that the fact that it cost a hundred dollars to FedEx a 30-pound bag of dog food was dismissed as a “tactical” concern by Pets.com board members back in the dot-com craziness as they pursued the larger “strategy” of selling pet food online. We know how that ended up.

“Strategies” are big and sweeping and inherently pass the task of implementation to someone else. Tactics are inherently about executing. The distance between “strategic” and “tactical” is measured in meetings, PowerPoints, conference calls, and, well, “not writing code.” Limiting (or even mostly eliminating) that distance is the key to making things happen.

I’m not saying that strategy isn’t important, just that strategy directly combined with tactical skill is the real killer combo. “Strategy” in the absense of tactical engagement is a loser’s game. If you’re a manager who gets down in the muck to make things happen (not to be confused with “micromanagement”), take heart: tactical is the new strategic.