Archive for April, 2007

Privacy, Google, & Shooting the Messenger

Monday, April 30th, 2007

Google’s effort to index governmental websites may hasten the end of your privacy, but won’t change the outcome. Personal privacy is dead, and only obscurity remains.

The concept of personal privacy began very recently, with the Industrial Revolution and consequent transition to urban living. Before that, most people lived in small towns, where there were no secrets.

The advent of privacy brought with it sociological advantages (one could be unusual without facing close-minded social pressure) and disadvantages (dangerous weirdos can operate unchecked).

For better or worse (I won’t argue for either one), this recent concept of privacy is now declining as the cost of information transmission, storage and search fall to zero. This brings good and bad, but is a technological inevitability.

Google is just a messenger of change. The trend will happen regardless. As Sun founder Scott McNealy said years ago, privacy is dead — deal with it. Anyone can find out anything
about you for under $50, and legislating against that is like shouting at the wind.

In short, then, it’s time to get very comfortable with who you are and what you do, because it might be on the front page of Slashdot tomorrow. Everyone will have access to that info.

Luckily, keep in mind that most people won’t care. We tend to overestimate our own importance (for example, by writing blogs), but in truth, the odds are low that anyone will find out your embarrassing secret, whatever it may be.

Time management with a single question

Monday, April 23rd, 2007

“What is the value per hour of what I’m doing at this moment?”

“Value” doesn’t necessarily mean money. The point is that, beyond financial planning, return on investment is an organizing principle.

When you are able to answer the above question accurately at any time during your workday, you understand time management deeply. You know which parts of your day generate most of the value — often ten, a hundred, even a thousand times the value of your least valuable moments.

I said “accurately,” not “precisely.” Precision doesn’t matter. Nor do the units on your yardstick: they can be dollars, fun, self-improvement — whatever is important.

Armed with this knowledge, changes automatically suggest themselves. If, at that point, you are still busy, it’s generally by choice.