Saturday, August 31, 2013

Dangling Tasks

I was one of those guys back in school who would do an assignment right when it was assigned. If there was still time in class, all the better. I really didn't like having work pile up when I didn't know exactly how I was going to get it done and I really hate having a deadline looming overhead. Once a task is started, it is easier to finish (apparently Newton's first law of motion applies) so I would start as early as possible and in many cases that would be sufficient and the project would get done soon after. That hasn't changed. When I get a new project, I like to get started quickly and let inertia keep it going. Doing the next thing is always easier than doing the first thing and it is pretty easy to build up a big head of steam when I'm doing things like writing an app or out on a photo shoot.
Conversely, I really don't like those little tasks that need to be done, and will take some preparation, but are not part of a larger effort. I call these dangling tasks. A mail-in rebates is a great example of a dangling task. There is usually a deadline for it and I need to do some work (chopping off UPC codes, finding and envelope and the right postage, actually mailing it) and it never really fits in to a project large enough to feel any satisfaction about getting it done. Similarly, returning products bought online, renewing prescriptions and getting an oil change are examples of dangling tasks.
While I love task lists for big projects (“Ooh! Look at all the fun things I get to do!”), the most annoying thing, for me, is needing to create a to-do list full of dangling tasks. Each item has its own friction that needs to be overcome to get it going and starting any dangling item has no impact on any other one. Emptying that list rarely happens because invariably a few of the items never overcome the inertia of me not giving a shit.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Trust the Internet

I'm flying to Newark today. Just as I was arriving at the airport, I received a text from Alaska Airlines saying that my flight was on time and departing from gate D11.  When I check in at the terminal, my boarding pass says gate C9 so I figured I'd confirm it with the guy at the baggage drop.  "C9" he says, "Go to the security check to the left, it's faster". Excellent!

So I go to gate C9, which is at the end of the concourse and I wait for a while, enjoying an awesome Beechers Grilled Cheese sandwich. When the gate display doesn't change to my flight, I start to wonder and I check the departures board.  It says D11.  Now it's even - 2 things say C9 and 2 say D11. Let's ask the Customer Service Desk person.

Me: Hi, I'm trying to figure out where my flight is ACTUALLY leaving from
She: Let me show you a secret.  Do you have a smart phone?
Me: Yes, but I want to know from YOU where my plane is leaving from.
She: Just check Google.  Enter AS 8 in Google and it is always right.
Me: It is more right than your own system and people who are checking your own computer systems?!?
She: Yep. I just tell everyone to check Google. It knows more than we do.
Me: Um... ok.  I guess I have a long walk ahead of me.

Sure enough, Google knows the truth.

For what it's worth, Bing knew it too.

Trust the internet, it knows more than the people.  At least at Alaska Airlines.

On the plus side, awesome grilled cheese sandwich!