Understanding Starbucks 10-year renovation system

I’ve read somewhere that Starbucks updates each store every five years, and does a more complete facelift for each store every ten years. I used to think this was for cosmetic reasons. However, with the introduction of pre-ordering drinks from the mobile app, I’ve changed my mind – redesigning stores is necessary for this sea change in how we buy coffee.

If you’re not familiar with ordering Starbucks on your mobile app, it’s pretty simple. You can choose any Starbucks drink or food item, customize however you’d like, choose your local store, pay on your phone, and then go to the store. Your drink is waiting for you on the bar when you arrive!

It’s nice because it’s fast, there’s no waiting for a barista to prepare your drink, and if you happen to like a half-caf, skim, no whip, three pump white chocolate mocha with a caramel drizzle, well then you skirt the shame of needing to order that out loud in front of other humans.

The latest estimate I found was that 7% of orders were mobile orders last September, but in some locations up to 20% are mobile at peak time.  I’d bet you a Frappuccino that number has gone up.

This has created two interrelated problems at Starbucks stores. One, the stores are currently staffed and managed to handle multiple people walking in and ordering drinks. With increasingly more people using mobile ordering, I’ve noticed several times when there are one or more cashiers waiting for customers to arrive, while the barista(s) are behind on drink orders, since so many are coming in through the mobile app.

The other problem is one of store layout. This is why Starbucks’ policy of updating stores every few years will be crucial to this working out. The thing about walking into a Starbucks is that most of them are designed with a lot of thought put into the experience of walking in. It’s clear where to go to order, it’s clear what direction the line goes in, it’s easy to browse merchandise while you’re waiting (which is good for Starbucks, I’m sure), and then it’s clear where to go to wait for your drink.

Now, however, many customers are coming into stores to pick up drinks they’ve already ordered. It’s not always obvious how to wend one’s way through the tables to get to the bar. It’s not always obvious who to talk to for your drink. There’s not always enough space at the bar for the proper number of people to wait for their drinks. There’s not always enough counter space to store the drinks that are ready.  And while you’re waiting for your drink, you can’t easily browse merchandise.

The square footage of stores is probably not the problem here, but the layout is. It’ll be fun to see what the newest Starbucks stores look like that are designed to optimize for mobile ordering rather than an exclusive in-store experience.

That time I got an ad for Call of Duty: Modern Warfare in a meditation app

This isn’t a post about meditation – not really, it’s about online advertising – but it starts with meditation.

The part that is about meditation

I’ve been trying to learn to mediate/practice meditation/begin meditating. Whatever you call developing mindfulness. It hasn’t been going too well, which people tell me means that it’s going very well. OK, then.

One of the issues I have is that I thrive on reading things, rather than listening to them. True, I used to have a long commute and lived on podcasts, but other than that I’d always rather read something than, well basically, do anything else.

There are people who tell me I should sit with the discomfort of listening because that’s part of the package. And I trust them. But I don’t think many people understand my relationship with reading, so I also started looking for apps that have a daily written meditation I could read.

I stumbled on this set of apps from a company called dailypedia. It’s cool, they have a daily quote from people ranging from Gandhi to Steve Jobs. I chose four apps – one is quotes from Mother Teresa, one is quotes from Marianne Williamson, one called “Living Spiritual Masters” and one called “Life Wisdom.”

With me so far?

The part that’s not about meditation

I open the first app, and an ad pops up. It’s for Amazon. I don’t think about it. The next app I open shows an ad. It’s for Call of Duty: Modern Warfare.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare

The koan

Why, I mean WHY ON EARTH, would I sign into a meditation app and get a Call of Duty ad? Is there any reason that there would be a correlation between people who download meditation apps and people who play first-person-shooter video games?

How online advertising works for complete beginners because I’m not qualified to tell anyone else

Now I know a little about online advertising. That’s not sarcastic – I literally know only a little about it – enough to place Google Ads, manage a budget, and somewhat evaluate how it’s doing. I hope to get better at this in the coming year, but that’s where I am right now.

I thought about it. First off, most ad networks (companies like Google who place ads all over the web and mobile apps) use pay-per-click advertising. That is, you only pay for the ad if someone clicks on it. Just showing the ad doesn’t cost the advertiser (in this case Call of Duty) anything.

Next, I realized that usually when you create an ad, by default it’s shown all over the network you purchase it on – that is, all over the sites that have chosen to get revenue from that particular set of ads.

Now if you’re the app publisher, you want to maximize revenue. So you might start by accepting any kind of ad that the network wants to put in your app. Over time, you’ll whittle it down to the ones that people click on, not wasting real estate on un-clicked ads.

If you’re the publisher, you want as many people as possible to see your ad. So you might start by showing your ad everywhere. Over time, you’ll whittle it down to the places that you get clicks, avoiding places like meditation apps where the only clicks are accidental bleary-eyed mistakes by well-meaning consumers of the app just trying to get to their damn Mother Teresa quote because it’s only January 5th and they’ve already forgotten twice this year.

It’s even possible (and let me say that I think this is unlikely) that there is a large number of people downloading meditation apps because violent video games have made them feel unsettled, and it’s a major untapped market. Call of Duty doesn’t pay unless someone clicks, so they’ll advertise everywhere. The publisher wants to maximize revenue, so they’ll see what works.

And if you’re the ad network, you just want as many ads in as many places as possible to start, then you want the publishers and the advertisers to tweak as necessary for their needs.


Where this breaks down is that the app has just totally lost me as a customer. I’m new at meditating but I’m also self-actualized enough already (imagine that!) to know that if I am trying to be mindful by reading a quote by Mother Teresa every morning, seeing a video clip of Call of Duty feels Wrong.

It’s time to stop hating on marketecture

It’s time we stop hating on marketecture.

For those of you unfamiliar, marketecture (a portmanteau of marketing + architecture) was originally defined as “any form of electronic architecture perceived to have been produced purely for marketing reasons.”  However, it has grown into a more general derisive term used to describe semi-technical diagrams.

Here are a few examples of marketecture.


















People who dislike marketecture criticize it for being lightweight, not technical enough, and slide fodder. They want real technologists explaining real technologies in a really technical way.

But I’m here to speak up for marketecture. First off because it’s part of my job to create it, and also because I’m a real technologist explaining real technology in a really technical way.

The thing is this – the right way to teach someone something new, about a new system, or process, or (dare I say) architecture, is breadth-first.

A small detour into search algorithms, but don’t tune out – this won’t be too painful, even if you’re not technical.

There are two categories of how computers search for things. As an analogy, think of how you might attack a crossword puzzle. Let’s say you fill in a word, “PRODUCE”. The first thing you probably do after that is start trying to fill in the word that crosses with the P in PRODUCE.  Let’s say that’s the word “PACKAGE.”  But what do you do after that? Do you try to fill in the other words perpendicular to PRODUCE? That’s breadth-first. Or do you try to fill the word that crosses the A in PACKAGE? That’s depth-first.

So going back to marketecture, I would put forth that we learn (and should teach) breadth-first: Here’s the entirety of the thing I’m going to explain to you, next, let’s zoom in one level and examine that next.

And that’s what marketecture is great at: breadth-first explanations. Here’s an overview of the concept/process/system. It doesn’t depict every detail at every level. It’s not complete, but it’s not inaccurate. Think of a block diagram for a CPU, or a diagram of the human circulatory system, or of the electrical wiring of a skyscraper. Not complete, but not inaccurate.

I’ll also add this completely unscientific study of every presentation I’ve ever delivered. When I’ve been asked to skip or hurry through the marketecture slides, I am invariably peppered with questions 4-7 minutes later that were addressed in my marketecture slide.  When someone is texting through the beginning of my presentation, their first set of questions once we’re into the technical depth is invariably marketecture content.  And when someone is looking over my shoulder to find someone more “technical” to talk to at a tradeshow, their questions are always, always, covered in my marketecture diagram.

Just like it’s time to stop trivializing marketing, it’s time to stop hating on marketecture.


Today is my 17th careeriversary.

That’s right, 17 years ago today I started my first job in the storage industry, as a technical trainer for Legato Networker, working for Cambridge Computer Services at 355 Western Ave.  I had no idea what storage or data protection were, I hadn’t really ever had a “real” job prior, and I was living in someone else’s apartment until September 1, when my own lease started.

Here are some things I’ve picked up along the way.

On Learning

      • Always be learning.  My dad is not the only one to have given me this advice, but he’s the one whose saying it I remember the most clearly.  And it’s true.  When I stop learning in a job is when I get bored, complacent, dissatisfied, and unmotivated.
      • Take time to learn.  My boss Kevin at Dell taught me this.  He put unprecedented amounts of time for learning into plans for onboarding new employees, as well as into ongoing plans for existing team members.  He truly saw it as part of one’s job to do that learning.
      • Learning means making mistakes. Publicly. I’ve had to do a lot of learning – and failing – in front of other people.  But I’ve found that It’s important to get comfortable doing this, or I don’t learn quickly enough to get anywhere.

On the home front

  • Outsource everything possible.  As a working mother, I’ve paid close attention to advice from female senior executives.  This was the best piece I’ve gotten, from various people – outsource whatever I can: laundry, dinner, transportation, cleaning, etc., so my time with my family is my time with my family.

On not being intimidated

  • Everyone is a person.  I am almost never intimidated.  Everyone is a person with concerns, with goals, and with a world outside of work.  So I just talk to them as I would anyone else – I’ve developed the confidence to know that I have a right to be heard if I’m in a conversation with someone.  Also, I try not to forget about the actor-observer asymmetry fallacy.  TLDR: It might be you, not me.
      • Speak up.  My best opportunities at work have come from going to someone with an idea to solve a problem or to improve something, when it wasn’t my job.  My best contributions are often asking questions that nobody else wants to or thinks to ask.

“Maybe we should manage our tech support cases on a bulletin board visible to everyone”

“I can project manage our 12-person team into producing two whiteboard videos apiece.”

“Sure, I’ll figure out how to get 80 people on a tour of our labs, in 10 groups, one of which only speaks Japanese.”

And when I didn’t ask for a title or a higher salary, I didn’t always get one.  When I did, I did.

On Career Trajectory

      • Get through unpleasant times by picking a date in the future.  When I’ve been thrashing in a role about whether to stay or not, I stay put. Then I pick a date in the future and forget about leaving until then, at which point I can re-evaluate, knowing it’s not a split-second decision.  I’m happier during the waiting time too, knowing that it’s finite.
      • A network decides a career.  What everyone says about having a good network is true, and then some.  After my first job, all my job offers and opportunities have come from my network. I landed here at Infinio because it looked like a cool place, and mrDiva was connected to Matt who worked here because I had introduced him to Gina several months earlier.  So, I try to keep in touch with people, maintain relationships, and be generous with favors.
      • Know when you get the call.  Sometimes opportunities come up that are unexpected or not exactly what I want. I’ve had to recognize which of these are opportunities I shouldn’t turn down, even if they take me on a different path than I expected, and figure out how to say yes.

Years ago, right when we found out I was pregnant with babyDiva, and mrDiva had just graduated from his MBA program, he got a job opportunity of a lifetime. The timing was strange, it would mean a cross-country commute, and he had never done what they were asking him to do. But it was so obvious to me that it was “the call” and he had to say yes. He did, and it has been more than he ever expected.

      • Say yes then figure it out.  I recently read a great blog post that now of course I can’t find anywhere about always opting to move into a role where you don’t know what you’re doing. It’s scary as hell, but great advice.

When I was on maternity leave for each of my children, I got a call about coming back after leave into a bigger job – a job that I didn’t know how to do.  Sure, I said, both times, wanting to get back to Netflix.  Shit, I said, both times, when I came back.  And Got It, I said, both times, 90 days in.

Let’s see what the next 17 years have in store.

Bucket List Item: Edward Tufte course

A few months back, I finally had a chance to take the Edward Tufte course.  Edward Tufte Envisioning InformationTufte is an academic, well-known for his work on how information is visually presented.  You may be familiar with one of his books, like Envisioning Information.   I went into the course thinking I’d learn about how to draw better diagrams and make slides more consumable.  But the point of view presented was much more sophisticated than that.

All day, he kept saying “the information is the interface,” but it wasn’t until towards the end of the day that I understood what he meant.

He gave the example of a touch-screen guide to the National Gallery about which he proposed a major overhaul.  You can see the two versions here.  Rather than using a lot of screen real estate for menus and have multiple layers of menus to get to a particular piece of information, he let “the information be the interface.”  His argument is that information comes with its own hierarchy, and technology’s capabilities have encouraged us to make unnecessary complex architectures in how we access it.

An even more striking example was this one.  It’s an image of different styles of music along with representative artists, and links artists who influenced or were influenced by one another. It’s a beautiful chart.  When Tufte projected it in class, he had a version of it where when you touched an artist’s name, it played a song of theirs. I was struck by the magnitude and variation of information that could be accessed with nearly no overhead of menus, labels, or orientation.

It would be incomplete to describe the content of the course without also describing Tufte and the setting itself.  The course was held in a giant room, with at least 500 attendees, significantly larger than any course I ever took in college.  Interestingly, it was one of the only professional environments I’ve been in that didn’t skew to one gender or another – like pure tech or marketing – the mix was pretty even.

Tufte is obviously accomplished: Obama appointed him to the independent panel reviewing how the funds from the 2009 Stimulus Package were allocated, and his analysis of the presentation of information about the Space Shuttle Columbia’s readiness for flight was included in NASA’s official report of the crash.  Many of his ideas are important counter-cultural recommendations in the face of technology. And he knows it.

However he lacked two major qualities – one was his lecture style was disorganized – he seemed to jump from topic to topic, meandering for different amounts of time on different topics, without a clear agenda.  I don’t think I left the course feeling like, “OK, these were the topics he wanted to cover today.”

The other criticism I had was that he gave the audience no real tools to implement any of the things he suggested.  For example, he had several recommendations that would require massive organizational change, such as providing reading material at the beginning of a meeting and dedicating the first 10-20 minutes of a 60-minute meeting to quiet time where participants could read the content.  A good idea (maybe) but pretty impossible for most people to bring back and implement.

Some of what he reviewed with us was too basic for my taste.  One example is when he brought up various images of graphs used in New York Times articles and other publications.  He encouraged us to do things like look at the scale and consider who authored the graph.

All of that said, I was happy to have taken the course.  It got me out of “the everyday”, and makes me think more critically about how I present information in my daily work.


How to fail at reference selling (and how not to)

Back when I was a sales engineer, I’d occasionally re-read Rich Casselberry’s post entitled, “So you want to meet with me.” Rich was a customer of mine, and he had great advice for vendors who wanted time on his calendar.

Since September, I’ve been running marketing for Infinio, and in doing so I’ve gone from only thinking as a “seller” to also thinking as a “buyer.” My entire career has been in sales and marketing, but now I’m also a purchaser of marketing software and services. I have a new appreciation for Rich’s pain and preferences. And I have some of my own.

Today’s rant is on reference selling. Reference selling is, theoretically, a great idea. Rather than telling me about your product, tell me about someone who succeeded with your product. Instant third-party validation. It’s why when we’re selling we focus so much on customer stories, and why when we’re marketing we seek to publish case studies.

Reference selling can also be very useful in cold calling and cold emailing. But it can also be completely useless.

Exhibit 1: Ineffective reference selling

Today I received an email touting assistance this company had provided “…companies like Microsoft, Tinder, Reddit, and SurveyMonkey…”


It’s hard to fathom a list of companies that my company has less in common with. Sure, they are all well-respected technology companies (in Tinder’s sake, well-respected modifies technology). But not one of them is at the scale or size of Infinio, or in the same technology space as us. Sure, we aspire to be Microsoft (who doesn’t?) but it’s not apparent from a cold email that the fact this company helped Microsoft means anything to me.

Admission time.

The truth is, I’m a grump when it comes to cold calls and cold emails. I should be nicer, really. I work with salesguys all day and then I go home and my husband is in professional sales as well. But I can’t help it.

So there has been just a single cold email I’ve responded to this year. And it was this one.

Exhibit 2: Effective reference selling

A few months ago, I received an email from a conference exhibits company. They used the name of my industry’s biggest tradeshow in their subject line, and their short email included names of eight companies whose booths they had produced last year.

Of these eight companies, all were in our general space, two were roughly the same stage as us, four were bigger, and two were well-known large companies. I knew people who worked at two of the companies.

Of course I was interested. I immediately emailed Infinio’s Events Manager, and said, “Can you also take a look at this company?  The other booths they have done are relevant to us.” She met with them, and it was a great fit, and now we’re very interested in working with them.


Here’s the thing. I don’t have any idea if the first company had something I’d want. I have no idea because I don’t have time to follow up on every cold email I get (I’ve gotten nine, just today.) And that company didn’t take the time to learn enough about me to approach me in a way that would catch my interest

It’s a good lesson. And as a marketing leader, I have an extra arrow in my quiver – the experience of being a customer.

Where are the female tech evangelists?

A few weeks ago, Todd Mace posted the following on Twitter, about his blog post on tech evangelists:

Those are great examples of people contribute a lot to our community – and the rest of this post is in no way a slight to them.


One of Todd’s asks was for other evangelists he may have left off the list.  Twitter provided some more.

Again, those are great examples, and I follow most of those people, have hired some of them on a contract basis, and always enjoy seeing them in person.


In the ensuing discussion, which was a mix of “what do you mean by evangelist” and “thank you for including me,” as well as some more additional names, and not one woman’s name was added to the list.

Not one.

Is it actually possible, that there are NO women evangelists?  I get it, there are fewer of us. When you go to a tech conference, there’s never a line for the restroom (and when is there never a line for the restroom?)  But I don’t think that there aren’t women evangelists, I just don’t think we call them that.

There is a (post-feminist?) trope I’ve heard that says, women who work are balancing so much with work, family, home, elderly parents, that we don’t have time for work-related extra-curriculars.  We go out for beers after work less often, we attend fewer conferences, and we don’t have the time to collaborate on outside-of-work professional projects.

The thing is, I don’t think that’s true.  I am part of a professional networking group that meets monthly.  Two of our community’s podcasts (Speaking in Tech and Geek Whisperers) each have a female host.  And based on anecdotal evidence, I will make an educated guess that tech conferences have a male/female ratio of attendees that mirrors that of the industry.  Speakers, not so much.

In a post that she has since retired, Shanley Kane writes that men and women get different titles for doing the same job.  “When women do it, it’s community management.  When men do it, it’s technical evangelism…When women do it, it’s marketing. When men do it, it’s growth hacking.”  She’s exactly right.  I think there are many, many women in our community who are influencing and impacting and contributing, and I think we just don’t call them “evangelists.”

And since being an “evangelist” is sexy while being a “community manager” (or whatever the title is) isn’t, women aren’t getting as much attention for their contributions.

Do you remember when Mitt Romney referred to a “binder full of women” when explaining how he tried to bring more women into his cabinet when he was governor of Massachusetts?  Well, I got out my binder full of women…women evangelists that is:

And Gina helped me out:

The point I made to Todd was simple:

And that’s the thing.  There’s a revolution going on around how people learn and communicate. Temple Grandin keynoted at SXSW about learning styles, and Susan Cain’s research on intro/extraversion is being considered groundbreaking in how people communicate at work. Isn’t it possible that evangelism can be a broader practice than was initially defined?

Here’s the other thing.  A lot of recent surveys and papers have pointed out that the single most important factor in job satisfaction is the feeling of appreciation and contribution.  I’ll posit that is true not just for job satisfaction, but for community satisfaction, too.  If we continue not to recognize the women in our community, they (we) will stop wanting to contribute.  And that will be a major loss.

Todd’s not a bad guy – he was happy to add these women to his list. It’s a failure by our community, I believe, to properly recognize everyone’s contributions. And it doesn’t escape me that I added women, but there is a lack of other kinds of diversity in this list as well.

Let’s see how we can get better at this, shall we?

Here’s something else Amazon could sell me

Amazon sells me a lot of stuff.  I read somewhere that you can pull a report of everything you have bought from Amazon, so I did, but I’m afraid to look at it.  In a given week, I probably place 4-6 orders, not counting my standing monthly “Subscribe and Save” orders, or the ones mrDiva places. Now we also have an Amazon Echo so we can just ask “Alexa” to order things for us from Amazon.

Here’s a list of what I’ve ordered from Amazon in the past week, and here’s where I would have bought it pre-Amazon:

  • Sneakers for my daughter (Stride Rite)
  • Water shoes for my daughter (Target)
  • Duplo (Lego) set (Toys R Us)
  • Measuring cup (Target)
  • Humidifier cleaner (Supermarket)
  • Book (Barnes and Noble)
  • Diapers for my daughter (Target)
  • Diapers for my son (Target)
  • Wipes (Target)
  • Birthday gift for friend (Toys R Us)

Needless to say, Amazon has captured a huge share of wallet in our household.

We know that Amazon plays games with prices – and that “list price” is a construct whose time may be over.  Of course Amazon offers me products they think I’ll like and follows me around the internet offering me items I’ve looked at.

But I think Amazon could be even smarter with their Big Data.

One way is with Amazon Pantry.  Pantry is for household and supermarket items, and you basically fill a box of a certain size, then pay flat rate shipping.

The thing is, I’m a great candidate for Pantry.  In fact, I make a monthly grocery store run to the “big” grocery store to get cereal, granola bars, microwave popcorn, cookies, chips, and all the things my local market charges through the nose for, and that my organic market doesn’t carry.  (I mean, it would kill them to stock Oreos?)  I’ve bought some of these items from Amazon in the past.

So I’ve looked at Pantry a few times.  I’ve even loaded up a box to see what it would cost.  But I feel like it’s hard to compare prices with what I typically pay, so I haven’t pulled the trigger.

And Amazon knows all this.  They know that I’ve put things in a Pantry box, that I’ve tried to search for the same items on both Pantry and non-Pantry pricing, and that I’ve given up with a half-full box several times.  So you know what would be compelling? Something like this:

“Hey Sheryl, we noticed you were looking at Pantry.  We combed through your orders in the past, and noticed that if you had bought these things in a Pantry box instead of a la carte, you would have saved $20!”

But that’s not my real idea for Amazon.  My real idea is around budgeting.  Personal finance is a huge online business.  Mint, Wave, and numerous others all have healthy businesses helping people budget. The thing is this: a HUGE portion of my budget is spent through Amazon.  They have a ton of data about my spending habits in different categories and my purchasing patterns.

There are also some things I don’t buy on Amazon.  But Amazon Payments could cover that. Theoretically, any online purchase I make could be tracked by Amazon.  And I would love to get that info – to know, where was I spending money, and what were the trends.  Were diapers really costing me as much as I thought?  How much did I spend on clothing last summer?

Not only that, but once Amazon started offering me financial information, I might be inclined to see what Amazon recommended for things like car insurance, or mortgage rates.  And they wouldn’t have to even sell that to me, but they could offer it as a referral.  I can already buy a cell phone plan, magazine subscription, and software contract from Amazon.  Why not insurance?  Why not my kid’s 529?

The point being, as I said earlier: Amazon has a huge share of our household wallet.  Their ability to provide information to me about my own spending habits would be valuable – valuable enough that I could turn to them for other purchases as well.  At this point, if Amazon doesn’t sell it, I probably don’t buy it.

How we (don’t) talk about maternity leave in the tech industry

This morning, Business Insider pointed me to a Medium post by Peretz Partensky, whose co-founder Na’ama Moran is pregnant while raising another round of VC funding for their startup.

It’s a great post, and if you’re interested in this topic at all – by which I mean, if you work in tech you should be – it’s an important read.  It also links to several other thoughtful pieces by women reflecting on pregnancy and work in high tech.

When talking about venture capitalists, Patensky says,

“But just because they aren’t asking, it doesn’t mean the pregnancy isn’t foremost in their minds. It is almost worse left unaddressed.”

This is an incredibly important point, and one that is relevant in general, not just in the venture world.  Somehow, the anti-discrimination laws introduced to protect women during pregnancy have instead created an environment where people are afraid to talk about pregnancy.

I’m lucky, and I know it – during both of my pregnancies and subsequent maternity leaves I worked for people who were open and invested in my successful departure and return.  Most recently, at my current company Infinio, where we’re very direct and everything is discussed openly, and before that at Dell, where I had great management who were somewhat stifled by corporate guidelines.  And that put me in a situation where I find the anti-discrimination laws, at least as they were enforced, a hindrance to figuring out exactly how I would manage being out.

I get it – first and foremost there should be laws that protect women from discrimination while they are pregnant and when they have children.  But right now this is coming at a cost of better – actually, any – dialogue about pregnancy and children in the workplace. People are afraid to say the word “pregnant.”  Afraid to ask about a woman’s plans. Trained not to push a woman to commit to plans after maternity leave.  And thus relegated to making assumptions about women’s preferences and choices that may be completely incorrect.

Like I said, I was lucky.  Before I went on my first maternity leave, my Director asked me if I thought I wanted to come back to the same level of responsibility or something that was less taxing.  (Legally, they had to hold my role at my level for 12 weeks, but he was asking something subtler than that.)   Knowing I wanted my old job back but being open to the idea that once I had the baby I’d feel different, I said, “I think full force, but I won’t know until it happens.”  I will always remember what he said, “No, if you think you want to come back full force, you probably will.”

It was great advice, and he was right.  It is also a great example of the kind of direct conversation that is usually missing in planning for maternity leave.

I’ve written about this before.  Here are my comments on maternity leave, and here are my thoughts on Marissa Meyer.  I also found this post on someone else’s experience being the first pregnant woman at her startup very helpful.

Twitter’s impact on public and private

I’ve been reading a lot about Twitter today, being its 10 year anniversary.  I joined Twitter just tweetover 5 years ago – so halfway through, although I’d argue it’s not the more interesting half.

One thing I read this morning was Om Malik‘s original critique of “twittr” from GigaOm.  Most notable was this comment: “The annoying SMS messages from nocturnal friends is not the only thing which bothers me about this service, but also the fact, that the texting a message(reply) to twttr ends up on their website.”

How far we have come that we don’t even think about that any more – or we do, and we want it to be on the website.

The thing I’ve noticed is this: we’re being really careless – liberal maybe? – about what’s public and what’s private online these days.  I started to notice this on Facebook first.  I’d comment on someone’s post, and someone would reply to my comment, but really be starting a 1:1 conversation with me.  Say the original post was about common core math.  I’d write something like “I don’t think it’s that bad – that’s how we make change from a $20.”  Then suddenly someone is saying to me, “Sheryl, hey, how’s your baby doing?”

At first I avoided these conversations, feeling like out in public on Facebook was like talking (too) loudly in a cafe. But over time it’s become somewhat a new norm and I have to admit to participating in it.

Another example is group text messaging.  I’m in several group chats for text messaging.  And eventually they all evolve into 1:1 conversations that everyone else is just a part of.

Another example is that I’m part of a ListServe (yes I live in 1992) for moms in the Boston area. Over 10,000 people are members.  The freedom with which we casually post questions and advice to an audience of 10,000 is stunning.

None of these is a bad thing, but I’m noticing that this blurring between what’s a private conversation and what’s a public conversation is getting greater.  It’s not public/private like people divulging secrets (although social media seems to be ripe for that too).  More what I’m getting at is that everything has become, by default, public, rather than by default things being private.

And I see that as Twitter’s influence.  The “Twitter Effect” if you will.  None of this is news, but think about it in the context of public and private.  Facebook is based on reciprocal relationships – you decide who is in your circle, and when you share, it is with those people. Twitter, conversely, is about showing up and talking, and anyone who is interested can listen to what you have to say. (OK, face it, they are both about selling your information and preferences, but this is about how you interact with the other users, not the advertisers.)

There are benefits to this – the impact of transparency on businesses, for example, is often positive.  And many people have cited social media as a simple and inexpensive way to alleviate loneliness, to connect people, and to provide access to resources not otherwise available in a traditional network.  But there are drawbacks, too – like oversharing, information overload, and a loss of the intimacy that comes from 1:1 sharing between friends.

The world we live in gets stranger by the day.  And it’s good to take a minute to reflect on where we are with social media – and where we’re going.