Because it’s Friday: “Transient 2” by Dustin Farrell

I find storms absolutely fascinating, but I still regard storm chasers as a bit mad.

This film that is a combination of slow-lotion and time-lapse sequences by Dustin Farrell (@duston_farrell) shows the power that storms contain.

Here is my second rendition of storm chasing with a Phantom Flex 4K. The best shots from two years of storm chasing jammed into 3.5 minutes.

Stats: 35K miles traveled, 30 terabytes of hard drive space, 300 hours editing/coloring, 3 speeding tickets

Via PetaPixel.

What do you do on calls all day? Version 2, but still lacking in accuracy

It’s been a long time since I’ve had quite so much feedback on a post as I have to my recent conference call posts:

Conference calls are clearly a huge subject, which I suppose isn’t surprising considering how much time many of us spend on them.

Given the volume and veracity of the response I suspect that someone who set up a therapy group for people suffering from conference call ailments would have a long queue of people wanting to participate 😉

In the last post I asked whether I’d missed anything, well clearly I had, there were 11 segments in Version 1, here in Version 2 we have 20 different segments, and some of those I’ve had to consolidate together to retain a level of legibility. These new segments have all come from people’s comments. I’m still open to further comments from anyone who thinks I’m still missing something.

The size if each segment is, as you may have guessed, completely arbitrary, but I have tried to reflect my own person experience a bit.

What do you do on calls all day? Version 2

What do you do on calls all day? A not so accurate analysis

Following on from yesterday’s post: The 10 Rules of Conference Calls – A Not So Definitive List, and the feedback that I received, I thought I would do a quick, not so accurate, analysis of what I did on calls all day:

A graph showing what I did on calls...
What do you do on calls all day? I think I may have over-estimated some of these.

Did I miss anything?

I think that there may be ways that we can optimise this process?

The 10 Rules of Conference Calls – A Not So Definitive list

The conference call is now ubiquitous in many working environments, but wherever I have worked a number of universal truths seem to apply:

  1. The number of connectivity problems that you experience is directly proportional to the importance of the call. This rule applies in most connectivity situations, but is particularly applicable in situations where connectivity is normally reliable.
  2. The key member of the meeting will join the meeting precisely 2 minutes after you decide to close the meeting down having made numerous attempt to try and contact that key individual. This is a two part rule. The moment that you close the call all other participants will become unavailable making reconvening the meeting impossible.
  3. If a colleague asks you how much longer you’ll be on your call and you say 2 minutes the call will last for at least a further 20 minutes.
  4. If you are on a call while working from home a delivery person will knock on your door at the precise moment when you need to be contributing to the call. Other distractions are available.
  5. If anyone is going to have problems going on mute it will be the person on the call with the most background noise.
  6. You will be speak whilst on mute when you have your best idea. When you repeat your idea once you are off mute it won’t sound quite as good as it did the first time.
  7. If a colleague asks you how much longer you’ll be on your call and you say 20 minutes the call will only last for a further 2 minutes. In these 2 minutes your colleague will have already left or become unavailable.
  8. The delay between the published start time and the actual start time is directly proportional to the number of people expected on the call. This has nothing to do with any technical limitation.
  9. If the conference call has an online Q&A capability your question will be answered by the speaker at the very instant that you post the question.
  10. Any meeting that finishes early will be closed with the words “I’ll give you XXX mins back.” This rule applies to any meeting that closes more than 4 minutes early, but may still be applied to meetings that finish up to 30 seconds early.

I’m sure I’ve missed some?

Heaver Image: This is the beach at Rossall, Lancashire which is a wonderful place to walk and watch the sun set over the Irish sea and across the Cumbrian Mountains.

Concept of the Day: Parkinson’s Law

There are certain phrases in the English lexicon that are almost universally known, but their history is less well known – this is one of those phrases:

“work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion”

Cyril Northcote Parkinson

These words appear at the beginning of an article in The Economist in 1955:

It is a commonplace observation that work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion. Thus, an elderly lady of leisure can spend the entire day in writing and despatching a postcard to her niece at Bognor Regis. An hour will be spent in finding the postcard, another in hunting for spectacles, half-an-hour in a search for the address, an hour and a quarter in composition, and twenty minutes in deciding whether or not to take an umbrella when going to the pillar-box in the next street. The total effort which would occupy a busy man for three minutes all told may in this fashion leave another person prostrate after a day of doubt, anxiety and toil.

Parkinson’s Law, The Economist, 19th November, 1955

Parkinson’s initial observations were made in relation to the volume of civil servants and the amount of work being done. This is an ongoing discussion 64 years later, but not one that I feel in any way qualified to comment on. Parkinson was quite cynical about the reasons for an expanding civil service of his day – but I’ll let you read the original article and draw your own conclusion.

(Personally, in 2019, I find the caricatures of the “elderly lady of leisure” and the “busy man” jarring in their reinforcement of stereotypes.)

Where I can comment is in the business world where I see this law at play every day.

Meetings that are scheduled for an hour generally last an hour. This is remarkable when you consider the lack of preparation that goes in to most meetings. Interestingly enough meetings that are scheduled for 30 minutes generally last 30 minutes. Furthermore, there is, often, little discernible difference between the outcomes of a 30 minute meeting and 60 minute one. This is Parkinson’s Law at play.

Someone given a few hours to prepare material to present to a client will generally finish it in the time allocated and the material will be of a good quality. Given more time they would still produce material of a good quality.

Projects that are planned to deliver something over several months will rarely deliver anything in a few weeks, even when the project plan was highly speculative when created. Interestingly, it’s not unknown for projects that are planned for months to last several years, but I don’t think we can hold Parkinson’s Law wholly responsible for that.

I don’t think we can remove Parkinson’s Law altogether, what we need to do is to recognise it and contain it.

One of the powerful aspects of incremental delivery techniques like Scrum and Kanban is that they reduce the impact of Parkinson’s Law by breaking larger activities down into smaller constrained entities. Each entity is still subject to Parkinson’s Law; the constraint contains the impact within the increment.

The impact of constraints is easy to understand if you think about an 8 hour working day. Imagine within that day that you have 16 different subjects to discuss. Add to that scene 10 people sitting in a room for those 8 hours working their way through the agenda from top to bottom. What is the likelihood that with just 2 hours remaining there are still 8 items to discuss? Now imagine those same 16 different subjects and a schedule split into strictly enforced 25 minute slots that gives people a 5 minute break before the start of the next subject. What’s more this schedule requires conclusions to be reached within 20 minutes. Which of these two approaches will result in each of the 16 items being discussed? But will the conclusions reached be of the same quality as the ones discussed for longer? The impact of time on decision making is a complex one, and probably worth a post another day, but there’s evidence that decisions made quickly (not rushed) are often better than those made over a protracted period of time.

What I’ve outlined above is similar to the Pomodoro Technique. This techniques also utilises a set of time constrained slots, typically 25 minutes, and is often highlighted as a way of overcome procrastination, but I think it works just as well as a mechanism to constrain Parkinson’s Law.

My 25 minutes of writing is nearly up, and I want to read through what I’ve written, so I think I’ll leave it there.

Header Image: This is the view from Kirkstone Pass looking down towards Brothers Water and Glenridding beyond. These are some of my favourite hills partly because, for the most part, they are rarely visited.

Because it’s Friday: “Earth’s Rotation Visualized in a Timelapse of the Milky Way Galaxy” by Aryeh Nirenberg

A change of perspective on the star time-lapse videos that are so popular. This is what it looks like when we focus on the earth rotation.

If star time-lapse is your thing, Aryeh Nirenberg has many more on YouTube and Instagram.