My Profoundly Simple Burning Man Takeaway

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I had no idea what to expect going into Burning Man, aside from the knowledge that it was the supposed holy grail of festivals, without being an actual festival. A few moments came as more than mildly shocking- but those happened more along the lines of “I am by choice biking at night in a dust storm with 0 visibility while slightly intoxicated at the same time as 80,000 other people… Let’s again put the emphasis on by choice,” and less along the lines of, “oh look, the 100th naked person I’ve seen today. (Hope they’ve been reapplying sunblock).” The group that I went with has attended countless festivals, camping trips and holiday celebrations together, and venturing into the desert together certainly felt right, however much it may have impeded experiencing full participation in the wider Burning Man community. If I go again I’ll certainly push myself more to do some solo exploring, which, thanks to Burning Man I now feel ready to do. Because my profoundly simple takeaway from my five days in Black Rock City was this: being open to meeting strangers is a choice you can actively make (and they usually are 0% as intimidating as you were anticipating). As an extrovert I’ve never had a problem meeting new acquaintances through friends, but I would not often be the person to instigate interactions with strangers, whether they are waiting next to me in the bike lane at a red light or squished next to me on MUNI. What I saw first hand at Burning Man was just how easy it is to actively decide to be open and friendly to everyone you meet, how easy it is to make the choice to be open and not guarded- but also that is is certainly a choice, and one that is made with each human interaction you encounter.

And all I had to do for this realization was almost die in a dust storm? Totally worth it.

What’s in a culture?

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I read somewhere recently that the best company culture is still a work in progress. What I’ve come to believe is that company culture, on a fundamental level, is simply about relationships. The relationships that employees have to their jobs and to the mission of the company. Relationships that exist within the organizational structure, between managers and associates, between members of the leadership team. And of course, the bonds and friendships that exist between coworkers. Without those relationships there is only work from 8:30AM to 6PM, Monday through Friday, 261 days a year (give or a take a few evenings and weekends thrown in).

Like any other relationship then, the relationships which make up company culture require continual investment and maintenance. A good (married) friend of mine once told me that the thing about marriage is that every day you wake up and you choose to be in your marriage. Every day you wake up and you choose the person you married to be your partner and your friend. In the same vein, I believe that growing a great company culture means choosing to be the culture you wish to see, so to speak, every day. Fostering community and happiness, trust and positivity, I believe culture is the key to a successful company.

With the requisite amount of Kombucha and yogurt jokes, of course.

The Shuttle Buses Are Not The Problem.

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 Most of what’s being reported about the “class warfare” occurring in San Francisco is happening from afar. I’d like to zoom in for a second and point a few things out. First of all, while calling the recent Google shuttle protests “class warfare” sounds exciting and sort of SF does Les Mis-ish, I think this is taking it WAY too far. Let us not forget that the type of people who are drawn to the Bay Area are passionate individuals who love to take up a cause. For the most part the recent protests have seemed reasonable to me if not downright necessary. Gay marriage? Absolutely. Public nudity rights? Not for me, but hey, whatever floats your boat. But protesting companies like Yahoo and Google for running shuttle buses from SF to the peninsula is not the same as protesting for our rights. In fact, it’s just the opposite. Everyone has a right to live in the city. Riding a shuttle, in fact, keeps more cars off the roads.  For everyone who is enraged at the ruling that companies using Muni stops will pay $1 per stop, you need to understand the fact that the city isn’t allowed to make a profit on this, and that it is just a pilot program. It’s a step in the right direction.

What pisses me off the most is that I might be clumped in with the entitled tech startup stereotype because I work at a tech startup, but I’m still living paycheck to paycheck, and my only form of transportation is my bicycle. Housing rates are ridiculously high, but that’s because SF is an awesome city, a lot of people want to live here, and the amount of housing hasn’t increased at anything like the rate that people have been moving here. The shuttles are nothing more than a symptom of the tech boom.

So let’s not waste any more time talking about them, and instead focus our energy on finding ways to increase housing or make housing more affordable.

Life Is Eventful: How Getting Out There Got Me Here

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The Fetch Blog

We’re taught from a very young age that there are certain major life events that will have significant importance and deliver at least a modicum of respect. Being born (though you aren’t quite aware of that one), graduating from college, getting married, having children, buying a house, turning 50, etc. These are the Events with a capital ‘E’.

What no one really tells you, however, is the way the other kind of events will impact your life. These events will present the opportunity for learning, fun, and personal growth. Occasionally they will offer you a few hours of complete anonymity, and with it the extraordinary chance to be whoever you want.

When you scan The Fetch each week, deciding which events you’d like to attend, you never know how they will go. You could meet a new friend, make a new connection that leads to a new job, or find the perfect person with…

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If Marissa Mayer Succeeds…

If Marissa Mayer succeeds in bringing Yahoo! back from the grave will it be attributed to hard work or good advice?

If Marissa Mayer succeeds will she be compared to Steve Jobs (in his 1996 resuscitation of Apple) or will she be heralded as “the female Steve Jobs”?

If Marissa Mayer succeeds will her haters still hate her or will they applaud her with the pretentious false air of having known she would succeed the whole time?

If Marissa Mayer succeeds will I have a better chance of being considered a person working in tech first, and a woman working in tech second?

And most significantly,

If Marissa Mayer succeeds will she go down in history as the person who saved Yahoo! or the woman who saved Yahoo! ?

Facebook Is What You Make Of It

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One of my close friends recently deactivated her Facebook account. When asked for the reason she told me, “This morning I saw a status update from a girl I haven’t spoken to in years. The status was about how bummed out she was about being unable to take her puppy back to school because it hadn’t had it’s shots. That was the moment I felt completely over knowing minute details about the lives of people I barely know.”

Fair enough.

I think it’s a safe bet that most people who have been on Facebook since the early years (ahem 2005) have at one time or another considered deactivating their accounts. Although I have seen a number of friends deactivate, most have reactivated. The most common reason for re-joining the herd is FOMO (fear of missing out) related to all those events, handily posted to Facebook.

Fact: It’s hard to be in the loop and not on Facebook at the same time.

What I want to advocate here is not settling for being bombarded with useless nonsense about people that you barely know.  I want to advocate for curating your Facebook accounts to deliver you relevant information about people you actually care about. (That shouldn’t sound as refreshing as it does.)

Do some spring cleaning.

I regularly go through my “friends” list and try to delete anyone that I can’t remember talking to within the last six months. For those of you worried about cutting out people permanently, Facebook has added a nifty “unfollow” feature that will allow you to remove said “friends” from your news feed. The “review tags” function is also handy, especially with so many employers scouring potential employees’ Facebook accounts for incriminating photos. On the note of employment…

Facebook as a professional tool? Yes you can!

When I started working in the Bay last summer I was unsure how to approach being “friends” with my employers on Facebook. The obvious solution was to make a second, professional account. Before you write this off as too much effort, let me say it was one of the smartest things I’ve done in a while. My professional account is kept on public, and allows me to share blog posts with the family members, teachers and colleagues who don’t necessarily need to know every detail of my personal life. If you search for my name on Facebook you’ll find my professional account, not my personal account. Oh, and the best part? You know every time you’re asked to log-in to a site through Facebook? I use my professional account, with no worries that my private information will be accidentally shared with the world.

The last point I want to make is in relation to a somewhat disconcerting trend I’ve noticed recently. Not only is “Facebook stalking” a real thing, a waste of time, and (very) creepy, it is also proven to affect overall happiness and self-esteem. If you find yourself wasting time on Facebook doing this I’d recommend adding a Google extension like StayFocusd. Another good trick is to not keep your Facebook automatically logged-in.

Now log off your Facebook and go play outside, it’s Spring!

 

 

Reddit: The Gold Standard of Online Communities

bb-redditAs far as online communities go, reddit stands out from the rest. Created by Steve Huffman and Alexis Ohanian in 2005, the site is both a hub and a home for the citizens of the Internet. (Rather than explain reddit in detail, I suggest you follow the link and check it out for yourself).

So what makes reddit so remarkable?

Where to begin. From raising over 14k for a man with kidney cancer, to providing a shopping spree for a young girl with huntington’s, to mailing 70 birthday cards to one user’s dying grandmother, to the “Random_Acts_Of_Pizza” sub-reddit, the site exemplifies the altruistic abilities of the Internet.

Not to make this blog post sound entirely starstruck of the reddit community, I will note that there have been negative cases in the news relating to reddit. This is unavoidable in any community, online or off, and shouldn’t make people afraid of becoming involved with online communities.

My own personal experience with reddit has been inspiring, enriching, and a lot of fun. I use reddit to learn, ask questions, and engage with other users. One of the highlights of my involvement with reddit has been participating in a number of the exchanges. I first got involved with this when I stumbled upon the r/snackexchange sub-reddit. The snack exchange is a magical place where strangers exchange candy and snacks from all over the world. Sounds incredible? It is.

Studying abroad in London I was hit with a serious craving for girl scout cookies. I posted a request on r/snackexchange, and was contacted a few hours (!!) later by a reddit user in Texas who said he’d trade me girl scout cookies for some English snacks. I received a huge box a few weeks later, with this inside:

Reddit Snack Exchange

Reddit Snack Exchange

In-credible.

Last May I participated in  the reddit cookbook exchange. This exchange program is different than the snack exchange, with exchangers being paired anonymously. I sent a cookbook to an assigned reddit user, and someone else sent me a personalized vegetarian cookbook (along with other goodies).

Reddit Cookbook Exchange

Reddit Cookbook Exchange

Most recently I took part in the 2012 reddit secret santa. I sent out my gift, but never ended up receiving anything. Consequently the program rematched me with a super-hero secret santa, who sent me this incredible assortment of gifts:

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Reddit Secret Santa 2012

Needless to say, I have been deeply touched by the friendliness and kindess of the reddit community.

So what does the reddit community teach us?

Claire BeDell wrote this great piece on what reddit can teach Community Managers about anonymity, setting boundaries, and comment moderation. Reddit is the perfect example of how the Internet has something for everyone. The site is proof that no matter what you’re interested in, other people with that common interest exist.

And at the end of the day, reddit exemplifies commendable community service both online, and off.