This blog rounds up my posts from around the web, including for the Harvard Business Review, the Wall Street Journal and Medium.


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Previous entries

When school doesn’t fit: our 2E story

When I sat down to share my insights into navigating the school system with a kid who just doesn’t fit the conventional student mould, I realized that my insights were meaningless without the context of our own experience parenting a 2E (twice exceptional) child.

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How digital tools can manage your kids’ schoolwork and activities

My friend and colleague Darren Barefoot recently asked his Facebook followers how parents manage the endless onslaught of emails from schools, afterschool programs and other kid-related activities. (He forgot the most important one: evite. God forbid we miss a birthday party invitation!) Darren was particularly interested in how two-parent teams share the duty of reading and replying to all these messages. I had to confess that Rob and I have a pretty un-fancy way of dealing with this stuff: we are both on the email distribution list for Sweetie’s grade 6 class, and we both see all the emails about class activities, hot lunch programs, school events et cetera…which means that we each tend to assume the other person is on top of it, and end up handling everything only after the “you missed the deadline!” messages start to arrive. In the case of afterschool programs and Peanut’s classes, all the email goes to me, which works a little better — at least I know I’m on the hook — but thanks to my brutal email filters, even then I sometimes miss key notifications. As soon as I posted my response to Darren’s question, I regretted my answer. Here’s what I wish I had claimed instead: We have a dedicated Gmail account,, that we use for all kid-related correspondence. This is the email address we use for teachers, camp registrations, and classmates. At the beginning of each year, we choose an email address for each child’s school correspondence that year, based on our basic Gmail address. For example, now that Sweetie is in Grade 6, we use read more

14 reasons not to allow your kid to fall asleep in your bed

Tonight I had the latest in my recurring argument with Sweetie about why she should go to sleep in her own bed instead of ours. I told her I could give her 14 reasons that I didn’t want her falling asleep in ours — and since I know I’m not the only person having this particular argument, I thought I would share my list so that other beleaguered parents can share it with their own kids. Without further ado: Because when you fall asleep in our bed, I have to move you. Because when I move you, my ancient back hurts. Do you know why? Because I waited years and years to have kids…you know, until I could afford a house with a separate room for the kids! Because I want to be able to watch The Daily Show without you waking up. Because I want to be able to watch The Daily Show without you being exposed to Fox News, either consciously or subconsciously. Because you steal the good pillows. Because I want to cuddle with your dad without you in the way. Because I want to more than cuddle with your dad without you in the way. Hey, you’re the one who’s always lobbying for a baby brother or sister. (But don’t get your hopes up: see point #2, above.) Because I don’t want to listen to Mermaids and Fairy Dust.  Because turning off all the lights so that you can fall asleep makes me sleepy, and I need to stay awake so that I can do some work once you are finally asleep. Because children who fall asleep in their... read more

Hey Vancouver: It’s okay to be boring

In a previous life, Gulliver was tasked with devising a way to measure the “liveability” of various cities. The ensuing report was aimed at firms who sent expatriate managers to far-flung places, to determine whether they needed to pay a hardship allowance. The trouble was, measuring things such as crime levels, transport efficiency and housing stock, meant that the most anodyne cities inevitably rose to the top. Vienna, Vancouver and Geneva always seemed to do well. Pleasant cities, yes, but mind-numbingly boring. What right-minded person would rank Vienna a better city than Rio, or Vancouver preferable to Paris? — Gulliver, in The Economist I admit, I am somewhat enjoying watching Vancouverites freak out over this article. (More accurately, they’re freaking out about the above quote — contrary to local media coverage, it’s not actually an article about how boring Vancouver is.) As with everything, this is a classic case of the best and worst things being the same thing. “Work-life balance”, “relaxed lifestyle”, “not Toronto” — these are the phrases Vancouverites use to describe what makes our city different from other cities. And not coincidentally, they are all ways of saying we’re a city with a slower pace than the vast majority of major North American cities. You know what “slower pace” means to a lot of people? Boring. And I’ll admit, I’m among them. If I were 24 and childless (or fuck that, 44 and childless) there are a dozen places I would find more interesting to live in. I would love to live somewhere that has more theatre, more community events, more shopping choices, and at least one good, independent,... read more

How the Internet made me a better mother

How does the Internet change who we are? Most of my work boils down to this one question, but today, it’s nipping at me with particular urgency. That’s because it’s my 44th birthday, and as I often do on my birthday, I find myself taking stock of my life, and the past year in particular. It has been a year in which I’ve made some dramatic life changes — changes that, a year ago, I  would have been loathe to even consider. Chief among them: leaving Vision Critical so that I can work at home, in part to be more available to our kids. The wheels were set in motion not long after my last birthday, when the latest school crisis forced us to recognize that our highly challenging, highly gifted 8-year-old just isn’t going to thrive in the mainstream school system. After a lot of soul-searching, we opted for homeschooling, and I reorganized my work to support that decision. A lot of people have since told me that the first year of homeschooling is, to put it bluntly, a disaster. And that has certainly been part of our experience. I started with my usual game plan: staff it out. I have honed the art of hiring great people, and we’ve had some amazing people on both the home and work fronts over the years. But homeschooling an 8-year-old with a 99.9% IQ, assorted learning challenges and an incredibly stubborn personality isn’t so easy to staff out. “I just need to find a physics Ph.D. with special needs training who’s willing to work for $50k/year”, I joked to friends.... read more

How kids create security risks — and business opportunities

In today’s Wall Street Journal, I outline the security risks posed by the hacker in your house: the child or teen who may be “borrowing” your credit card to make online purchases, downloading viruses or inadvertently open vulnerabilities in your network. That story draws on a Springboard America survey I recently conducted, asking 341 American parents for their experience managing in-home security risks. But those risks look different at different ages — creating opportunities for businesses to offer products and services geared towards the specific needs of the parents of preschoolers, elementary school kids and teens. That’s why I’ve put together a short supplementary report focusing on the way security risks change as kids get older. As I note in the Journal: Well-behaved 5-year-olds and rebellious 15-year-olds represent radically different security risks. Your toddler might accidentally bang on a bunch of keys and rename your hard drive; your fourth-grader might be tech-savvy enough to download a bunch of files—and viruses. Figuring out how to deal with those potential problems involves getting an accurate picture of the technology in your house and how your children use it. To get a clearer picture of how parents face different security risks depending on the age of their kids, I took the survey results in today’s paper a step further, breaking them down by the age of the respondent’s eldest child. The data shows that: Financial risks, like kids making unauthorized purchases, go way up during the teen years. Among the parents of teens, 3 out of 4 report that their child has made some kind of unauthorized online transaction; less than half... read more

A family Minecraft policy

Minecraft has become a global phenomenon because kids love playing it, and parents and educators praise the way it fuels creativity and learning. But we’ve held off on introducing it to our household because we’re concerned about the compulsive behaviour and conflict it seems to prompt in many families. After a lot of conversation and consideration, we’re finally ready to let our kids use Minecraft. But first, we asked them them five questions about how we’d keep Minecraft obsession in check…and then developed a family policy based on their input, our experience with other games and what we read about Minecraft online. Here’s the policy that both our kids had to sign onto before getting Minecraft accounts. Our Family Minecraft Policy Principles Getting Minecraft is an EXPERIMENT. Playing Minecraft is a PRIVILEGE, not a right. For safety reasons, Mum and Dad need to know what you are doing on Minecraft and we will set limits on when and how you play. We encourage you to use Minecraft to CREATE, BUILD, LEARN and CODE. We will regularly discuss and evaluate the impact of Minecraft on our families and on your individual learning and development. We want to hear your thoughts on how Minecraft is rewarding for you, and we want you to listen to any concerns we have, and come up with solutions that address them. Rules Minecraft can be played only during game time. As a reminder, that means: 30 minutes per day on weekdays (Monday through Friday), between 4-6:30 pm 1 hour per day on weekends (Saturday and Sunday), between 10-6:30 pm holidays and pro-d days still count... read more

5 questions to ask your kids before introducing Minecraft

Minecraft has become a massively popular game not only with kids, but with parents and educators who applaud its capacity to support creativity and real learning. Yet as much as Minecraft appeals to us as geek parents, we’ve held off on introducing it into our own home. We have a son who already finds it a struggle to resist the lure of screens or to turn off the computer when game time wraps up, and Minecraft seems to make that a challenge even for kids who don’t have a history of screen compulsion. Our son’s few experiences with Minecraft in camp or classroom settings — and the meltdowns that took place whenever Minecraft time came to an end — has made us very leery of providing ready access. But the older our kids get, the more we’ve felt like we’re depriving them by keeping them away from a game that is now a foundational element of kid culture. In their eagerness to tune into the game that all their friends are talking about, our kids have taken to watching Minecraft walk-throughs and “let’s play” videos whenever they can get access to YouTube (which we block most of the time, for exactly this reason.)  It seems ridiculous to let our kids spend a couple of hours each weekend passively watching other people play a video game that actually could be a creative and learning outlet, if we’d just give them access to their own Minecraft accounts. That’s why we recently told our kids that we’re ready to think about introducing Minecraft at home. First, however, they had to think carefully about... read more

8 easy ways to make me (and everyone else) love you more online

We all know the world runs on love. But every day, we squander that love by bugging the living crap out of other people, thanks to our careless interactions with technology. The good news is that there are some simple ways to avoid annoying people online (and off). Here are 8 simple guidelines that I guarantee will make me love you 14.3% more than I do right now. Put your phone number in your signature line, and use your sig line every time you email me. I don’t want to go rooting around through your past emails to find the one time you gave me your phone number. You are not being charged by the character, and I swear, including your sig line in every email message is not going to make the Internet slow to a crawl. Google before you ask. Don’t send me emails asking for how-tos or factual information you could find yourself in less than 10 minutes of googling. If you think I would immediately have the answer to a question that would take you a couple of hours to figure out, then I’m happy to save you that time. Fact check your Internet memes. Before you post the astonishing truth about the consumer product that is secretly killing me, or share that request for donations for the sad person suffering from disease X, take the time to make sure that what you’re sharing is current and accurate. Your best bet is to look at, the one-stop source for fact checking any Internet meme or urban myth. For health-related stories, look at QuackWatch. Bcc your group... read more

Why I’m leaving Vision Critical

As of today, I’m leaving my role as Vision Critical’s VP of Social Media so I can spend more time with my devices. While it’s been a delight to lead Vision Critical’s efforts on social media R&D, I’m returning to my life as an independent consultant so that I can focus on an even more demanding job: maintaining and optimizing my various devices, accounts and social media presences. Although these systems have flexibly accommodated the many hours I have put into my work at Vision Critical over the past three years, I want to be sure that when I look back at how I’ve spent my life, I’ve given my technologies the attention they deserve. My new lifestyle As you may be aware, our household now encompasses 7 computers, 4 iPads and 6 iPhones; simply keeping all these devices updated and synchronized is nearly a full-time job in itself.  In addition, I am responsible not only for my own primary Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn accounts, but also for maintaining my ever-growing number of blogs and Facebook pages.  Facebook alone requires a schedule that can accommodate the hourly breaks I need to view and reply to comments on my wall, and ensuring an adequate flow of relevant content to my other social networks takes up many of the minutes in between.  This leaves only a few hours in my day, much of which is occupied by installing system patches and application updates or reviewing a newly revised Apple ToS or Facebook privacy policy. Once I have fully updated, stabilized and automated the maintenance of all our devices and online... read more

How much sharing goes on in the “sharing economy”?

How much of the sharing economy really involves sharing? It’s a question that came up first thing today at the Collaborative Economy Conference, and it’s a question that came up in a number of responses to my recent post on picking the winners and losers of the sharing economy. What we call these new forms of economic activity really matters, because we risk diluting the social impetus towards real sharing — a norm that helps build social capital — when we use the term “sharing” to describe everything from Airbnb to Car2Go. Sharing, properly understood, is a very specific and consequential form of economic activity:  “the act and process of distributing what is ours to others for their use as well as the act and process of receiving something from others for our use“. For much of human history, this form of economic activity was actually the norm, as much agricultural production depended on the “commons”, grazing land that could be used by any member of the community. It was only with the 18-century advent of Enclosures Acts that we moved away from the commons and towards a model in which private ownership of assets and production became the new norm. As has been widely documented, this shift has had enormous consequences for wealth distribution and social capital — consequences that we obscure when we use the term “sharing” to describe businesses that lack any component of common ownership or resource sharing. That said, there is an underlying intuition driving this usage: the intuition that there is something important, new and different about the wide range of apps and web services that... read more

Picking the winners and losers of the sharing economy

Who will be the winners and losers in the sharing economy? That’s the question that’s raised — albeit indirectly — by Jeremiah Owyang’s latest blog post for the Wall Street Journal. Jeremiah and I co-authored the Vision Critical/Crowd Companies study, Sharing Is The New Buying, so I pay close attention to his work as one of the pre-eminent thinkers on the sharing economy. Part of what’s made our collaboration so fruitful is that we approach the collaborative or sharing economy through slightly different lenses, particularly when it comes to the distributive impact of sharing. As Jeremiah writes in his post (co-authored with Alan Webber): When it comes to the emerging sharing economy, the only thing that is clear is that there is no definitive ideological line.  Both liberals and conservatives see aspects of emerging companies and business models that they like and dislike. After all, in our view, liberals love job opportunities for the unemployed and disadvantaged, like online freelancer roles that enable many to work anywhere, anytime. However, they loathe how these workers must provide their own tools, health coverage, insurance and retirement benefits. Conservatives, meanwhile, love the entrepreneurial spirit and innovation surrounding the sharing economy, but loathe how startups are replacing traditional small businesses…From the liberal left to the conservative right, there’s no clear ideological perspective, as there’s something for everyone in this growing sharing economy. Jeremiah’s right to point out that both liberals and conservatives have found elements to love and to loathe in the sharing economy. I’m less confident in his conclusion: while there may be something for everyone in the sharing economy, there’s no reason to be confident... read more

If conferences were like slot machines

My Facebook friends should be forgiven if they think I’m in Vegas to try out novelty slot machines. I was actually here to deliver three presentations on “How social media drives consumer decisions” at the LeadingRE real estate conference. I got to my last presentation an hour ahead of time, set up my computer and had my deck all ready to go. About 10 minutes before I was due to start, a few people came in and asked “is this the LinkedIn presentation?” I looked at the conference program and sure enough, the room I was in was scheduled for a presentation, “R U LinkedIn”, by another presenter. But where was he? And where was I supposed to be? OK, I thought…these folks are here for a LinkedIn presentation. Am I just going to tell them my story about how social media drives purchasing? No, I know about LinkedIn. Heck, I wrote a book about it. I can talk about LinkedIn for an hour, off the top of my head. Just then, a conference organizer came in to find me and take me to the right place — a room with a hundred people who were waiting for me to kick off their MarTech (marketing + technology) conference. They were full of smart questions about social media, and like the rest of the fabulous audiences at this event, really raring to take their online marketing to the next level. So I’m glad it all worked out. But now I’ve got a pent-up LinkedIn presentation coming together in my mind. Even more appealing is the idea of an entire unconference... read more
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