In defense of friction (Or, yes, I think business cards still make sense)

I’ve met a lot of startups trying to get rid of business cards. Because they seem old and create obstacles.

I often gather several business cards from events and days later will go through them, pulling out the people who are the most relevant for something we talked about, someone whom we have a next step. That friction makes sense. It causes an opportunity cost: by making me take several steps, I am more selective.

There’s this concept of an efficiency tax, that sometimes we want friction. It helps the experience. Business cards are one of them.

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Notes on reporting a challenging community journalism profile

I bylined a challenging profile of a Philly tech community member that published on last week. It was a 30-interview, 7,000-word kind of longread, something different than work I’ve done before.

I felt the story was important for a local community I serve, but I also felt there were broader lessons and concepts that I believe have relevance to other small communities everywhere. Between that and my own personal interest in continuing to develop my credentials in that kind of work, I invested quite a bit of my free time to the project over the last month.

We have published other pieces of longform — see other examples here. But this was the first person-specific long read profile I’ve written — others came close but were far less exhaustive. I have some thoughts to share below. If you haven’t already, please read the piece here.

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Beat reporters: here are some tips for interviewing efficiently and effectively

For as important as a skill as we consider source interviewing, we don’t talk much about it as being something that has changed amid so many other changes in journalism and news gathering today.

In my experience working with mostly young reporters, talking about interviewing is very much an after-thought. The assumption is you got some instruction at school somewhere and some experience at college media and then refined elsewhere. But, gosh, looking back, we leave a lot of that to chance.

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Here are a bunch of ways to build a personal network with less time

Involved people face pretty common time constraints: you want to be present in more places than your calendar allows.

This is true of beat reporters and community organizers and advocates and activists alike. Recently I was talking about just that topic with a friend, and we found ourselves exchanging a few tricks we each had for accomplishing our goals: expanding a network while maintaining relationships with others.

Continue reading Here are a bunch of ways to build a personal network with less time

By the time something *has* to be solved, it’s probably too late

I’m not a procrastinator, which is no small feat, considering my father and my sister both are.

I take a lot of pride in planning ahead on challenges or opportunities. Sometimes that runs counter to others, who are more to sitting on deadlines. Of course crashing into a deadline happens to us all but the reliance on them concerns me.

That’s because, as I’ve been thinking lately, if you wait for something to have to be solved, then it’s often too late. You can’t creatively or find opportunities for efficiencies. Once the deadline is here, it’s broken and you aren’t going to be able to fix it.

So? Change what a deadline means to you. If something is due on the 15th, your deadline must be the 10th and so you better get started on the 5th. Then you can be the person you say you are.

You’re adopting a puppy

For every project you take on, any commitment you make, you’re agreeing to a longterm relationship. Other people will depend on you, habits will form and roles will shape.

It’s like adopting a pet, as a colleague and I say to each other sometimes. Are you willing to walk the dog? To feed it and give it water and be willing to spend the energy, time and money if it gets sick?

I say that to myself when I want to start something new, and I find it helps influence my thinking. If I think of the longterm requirements and still want to move forward, then I will. If not, well, there’s no use to start at all. (One way I’m working to say no more often).


There’s familiar web slang to show complete agreement: +1.

It comes from Google+ (yes, a success from a Google social platform!), which was informed from other social sharing and commenting platforms and web forums that have literal up/down voting options to show endorsement.

In my work, I hear lots of people using the same literal phrase in meetings — and on emails and in group chat messages. It has a nice humility to it. It’s the opposite of stuffy and political corporate environments in which people feel the need to blabber just to show value. We all hate when we say something and then someone speaks up just to essentially say the same thing.

On a team that trusts each other, the goal is simply to gain consensus. So if a teammate offers an idea or makes a suggestion that I mostly agree with I’ll say just that: “plus one.” Other teammates do the same. You’ll be amazed by how quickly a meeting can move.

Give it a try.