“An abnormal reaction to an abnormal situation is…

“An abnormal reaction to an abnormal situation is normal behaviour.”

Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning

Because it’s Friday: “Britain’s most trodden paths?” by Ordnance Survey

The Ordnance Survey has analysed over 500,000 routes recorded via it’s current “digital products” and put together a fabulous set of visualisations.

They’ve also assessed the data for the most popular routes. Not surprisingly Lake District routes dominate the league table of 1km grids squares. Scafell Pike Summit (OSGB GridRef: NY2107) is at the top of the list and another 18 Lake District grids in the top 20.

On the overall map it’s also interesting to see longer routes visualised such as the Coast-to-Coast, the West Highland Way, the Pennine Way and Hadrian’s Wall (click on the image below to view the high-resolution image on Flickr)

OS Maps: Britain's favourite routes

The Lake District National Park

The Lake District - Britain's favourite #GetOutside location

Scafell Pike - Britain's most popular route area in OS Maps

1. Keswick - The Lake District - Britain's favourite #GetOutside urban location

2. Ambleside

OS Maps routes in London

Because it’s Friday: “The Ultimate Door Bell” by Colin Furze

One of the things I remember about my father-in-law was a little obsession with door bells.

He would spend much of his time in the workshop and occasionally would miss people. There were a number of contraptions created from the various parts available in the workshop. Colin Furze takes this to a whole new level:

Office Speak: Yak Shaving

Have you ever started something and regretted it soon after, that’s not a definition of Yak Shaving but is the way I’ve felt writing this post.

There is no law of office speak, no one is the overall governor of the meaning of office speak in different context. For this reason I like to research the meaning before I write these posts to see whether my understanding of the term is widespread. There are many useful places to do this research; if a number of them agree I generally go with that definition.

It’s interesting to research the history of office speak to see how long it’s been around and how many iterations it’s been through.

I think I’ve worked out the history of Yak Shaving but it’s not absolutely straightforward and neither is the explanation of that meaning.

In Wiktionary there are two definitions:

1. Any apparently useless activity which, by allowing you to overcome intermediate difficulties, allows you to solve a larger problem.
2. A less useful activity done consciously or unconsciously to procrastinate about a larger but more useful task.

If you look into the discussion for these two definitions a number of people have commented that the second definition isn’t correct. I’m happy with that, because definition two doesn’t align to my understanding either. The first definition fits my understanding, so I’ll stick with that.

The history of Yak Shaving with this meaning appears to come from MIT where a student, Carlin Vieri, is credited with inventing it:

“Yak shaving.” Our very own Carlin Vieri invented the term, and yet it has not caught on within the lab. This is a shame, because it describes all too well what I find myself doing all too often.

You see, yak shaving is what you are doing when you’re doing some stupid, fiddly little task that bears no obvious relationship to what you’re supposed to be working on, but yet a chain of twelve causal relations links what you’re doing to the original meta-task.

There’s a less clarity on where Carlin Vieri got the term from, but it’s probably from a Ren & Stimpy episode.

Yak Shaving one of those terms that’s best described by an example:

The other day I noticed that one of the lights in the bathroom wasn’t working. I’d recently changed the light-bulb so suspected that there may be a wiring problem. To investigate I needed to get into the loft.

To get into the loft I needed to get the step-ladders that were in the garage.

We’d recently had a number of large deliveries. The boxes from these deliveries were stacked in front of the step-ladders. To get access to the step-ladders I put the boxes in the car and took them to the nearest recycling centre.

On my way to the recycling centre I noticed that I was low on fuel so I went to the garage for some petrol.

As payment for the fuel I withdrew some money from the ATM at the garage.

This is the nature of Yak Shaving – my goal was to fix a light, but I ended up doing all sorts of necessary apparently useless things before I could complete the task. In business we spend much of our time Yak Shaving:

  • Claiming expenses is Yak Shaving
  • Approval processes are Yak Shaving
  • Many, many meetings are Yak Shaving

My Tools: Moment – how much do I use my phone?

Most of us are inseparable from our smartphones and spend much of our life gazing into screens small and large. I’ve often wondered how much time I spend looking into my iPhone screen and now I know – a lot.

Moment is an iOS application that tracks how much time I am spending on my iPhone and how many times I pick it up.

If you had asked me before running Moment I would have told you that I probably used my iPhone for about an hour a day. You can see from the image below that I use it more than that, especially at a weekend. Much of this time is spent multi-screening when I’m also watching the television, but it’s still a lot of time, particularly as I didn’t think that I watched that much television.

I tend not to wear a watch so I was interested by how many times I pick up my iPhone. The answer appears to be somewhere between 30 and 50 times which is a few times an hour for the waking day (assuming I don’t pick it up in my sleep) which doesn’t seem too unreasonable.

What these image don’t tell you is that I also have an iPhone I use for work, so this isn’t all of my iPhone screen time. I also run Moment on that phone and was surprised by how little I use that phone in a normal working day.

There’s an axiom that says that you have to be able to measure things to manage them. Having measured my iPhone usage I think it’s time to manage it down to a more sensible number. An extra hour a day is a lot of time to recover that could be invested in more useful activities.

You need to leave the application running for it to take measurements, but that doesn’t seem to be a problem. The impact on battery life seems to be minimal also.