I busted a gut

I am in the process of recovering from a ruptured appendix.  After a whirlwind eight-day tour of Michigan, including sleeping in five cities in five nights, I arrived home with a stomachache.  Little did I know.

I went to Michigan for a professional conference in Traverse City--ICT2011, which I liveblogged a bit over at my Google+ account except, whoops, I forgot to make most of the posts public--and I took the opportunity to visit family on the way there and back.  Let me just say to any employer sending someone to a conference:  don't send them alone.  When your employee is trying to make technical small talk with strangers in their field, the awkward silences are depressing.  Send a coworker along.

My last stop was in Williamston, to help my dear old friend Cat move to Grand Rapids.  The task of packing a house she'd lived in for 12 years proved overwhelming, so her boyfriend and I unstuck the gears.  I awoke early Sunday morning with a stomachache, which I thought meant I'd eaten a bad burger the night before.  I drove home uncomfortable, laid down to rest, and covered myself with a blanket.  And ran up a fever.  I felt slightly better as the day wore on, and we couldn't decide if I had food poisoning with a possible hernia (a painful spot on my right) or appendicitis.  Early Monday morning, I had a crescendo of pain so intense I could only breathe in gasps.  We went to the hospital.

They took out my appendix that day, noting that it was perforated before they got to it.  That means the bacterial soup inside it had a chance to attack everything else in my gut.  The doctor said the outsides of my intestines looked "pretty pissed off".  I replied "I can relate". 

The day after the operation I was swollen taut with inflamed intestines.  I couldn't even stand up straight for fear of the tension bursting my incisions.  They hit me with three different antibiotics in the hospital and gave me a fourth to take home.  It's Friday and I still can't button my pants, though I did manage a half day of work from home yesterday and another today.  Occasionally I get painful cramps that interrupt my ability to concentrate, and of course my digestive tract is not finished rebooting itself, but I hope to be able to return to the office Monday. 

Moral of the story:  do not mess with rapidly escalating abdominal pain associated with a low fever.  Get to a hospital.

Does Google+ solve a problem I don't have?

I recently joined Google+.  Why?  Everybody says it's supposed to compete with Facebook, but I like Facebook.  Why grind out another profile, track another feed, curate another presence?  And how do we know Google+ won't disappear like Google Buzz and Google Wave did, like cigarette butts flicked out of car windows on the information superhighway?

  • I use a lot of Google products (gmail, calendar, docs, blogger, etc).  Plus might actually allow me to share/social-ize some of the things I do in those services.
  • I have an Android phone; see bulletpoint above.
  • I generally like Google's user interfaces.
  • Google doesn't rearrange the furniture as often as Facebook, and they never do it with the purpose of catching my privacy settings off-guard like Facebook does.
  • Google clearly means it this time.  Buzz and Wave got a lot of hype, but they felt isolated from the rest of Google.  This time, all of Google's UIs are being revamped to be consistent with each other and to be integrated into Google+.
  • Facebook is successfully becoming what AOL tried to be:  a self-contained, closed system, a substitute for the broader Internet.  That's not good.  I already feel like I'm fighting Facebook, and as this trend continues, it's going to get worse.
  • Google is actually going to rename my beloved Blogger to make it part of Plus.  If I didn't get on board, I'd just feel resentful about it.
  • I now have to decide where to share things.  Which service should I put this status/photo/link in?  One, or several?
  • I have to build this network from the ground up, and a lot of the people I enjoy interacting with aren't on it yet.
  • This is unfortunately not one of Google's better UIs.  In my limited time with it so far, I'm finding it pretty counterintuitive.  They're trying to reduce clutter by hiding navigation tips, but for a first-time user of a novel service, that's a problem.
So, I'm on the plus bus.  We'll see where it goes.

New Blogger.com UI now available to all

As I've mentioned elsewhere, there's a redesign coming for Blogger users.  The new UI is now available (optionally, for the time being) to all Blogger users.  When you write a blog post, the UI will look different, but when your readers come to your blog, they won't see anything different.  If you write a Blogger blog, you can see it yourself by logging in to draft.blogger.com instead of the usual www.blogger.com.  I'm writing this post in the new UI. 

It's ... white.  The list of posts is very spread out, with the titles in standard 12-point font in something like triple spacing.  There are some very Web 2.0-ey features, like controls that only appear when you hover the mouse over them.  There are some features that are IMO missing, like the lack of hover-over text to tell me what those icons at the top mean.  They've incorporated a lot of the information that used to be in Google Analytics, and it's pretty granular.  For example, until now, I had no idea that my most-viewed recent post was the one I wrote about the closing of tabletalk.salon.com.

The new look for Blogger is visually consistent with the redesign of Google Calendar, which I really dislike.  I am a very heavy Google Calendar user, and I'm sticking with the old design as long as possible, because the new more spread-out spacing reduces how many things I can see - even on the giant monitors I use.  The new Blogger UI doesn't give me a rash like the Calendar one, though.

I think the redesign is intended to go hand in hand with Google+.  I recently heard that Google actually plans to stop using the name "Blogger" and rebrand the service with a new name when they incorporate it into Google+.  I have to admit, it's odd to use Google Calendar, Google Docs, Google Maps, etc, and ...Blogger.  Blogger has retained its name so far because it's huge--it's one of the 10 most visited sites worldwide.  With luck, they'll integrate all these services together better.  There are big changes coming!

Communication styles: You kinda need them all.

Getting a team to gel means opening lines of communication with everybody.  I have my own preferred ways to communicate, but they don't work for everybody, so I've had to adapt.  For example, it came as a bit of a shock to me when my boss told me that many of my coworkers were using IM to ask each other quick questions.  I hate IM, but it works for them.

As you might guess, I like email.  I work best in long-form written English.  It's precise, and it leaves a record, but it also creates a certain distance and formality.  The telephone is far more immediate and intimate, but it's easy to forget to ask an important question.  (I keep lists to remind me.)  On the other hand, the improvisational nature of a phone call can help you think of things that might never have occurred to you in the linear, boundaried process of answering an email.  And of course face-to-face gives you the chance to add tactile cues, like the dozens of touchy-feely prototypes I keep around my office.

The eight or so most important members of my team are spread across Europe, Asia, and the U.S.; many of them have English as a second language.  I can't afford to put additional obstacles in the way of our teamwork, like asking them to email when they prefer talking on the phone because it takes them forever to translate.  Having realized this, and adjusted myself to their preferences, I find we're getting better traction than ever.