Monthly Archive: September 2010

Go watch The Social Network next week « Boy Genius Report

Go watch The Social Network next week « Boy Genius Report.

I have to say that I have been very torn about Social Network.  On the one hand, Facebook, the company, is right here, I have so many friends (well, 5 or 6) that work for them, and I am a little sick of hearing about it as a company (along with Google). Enough already!  I get it, it’s a great story that has defined the concept of social networking!

On the other, it’s a script by Sorkin and directed by Fincher, and stars Jesse Eisenberg.  What a trio.  I know the movie will be quality but wasn’t sure how I felt about the topic.

Apparently, though, it’s darn good.  If BGR, about as entrenched in tech and social networking as any person/group, can say that it’s a truly excellent movie, then I guess I’ll go…

the conundrum of the blogger

I have been a very frustrated blogger lately.

First, I haven’t been blogging lately at all, so that title might be in jeopardy.  Since one becomes a blogger by blogging, it is a title that one bestows upon one’s self by fiat, and…is therefore not much of a title.  So I am in jeopardy of losing a title which I give to myself by doing the act which is the basis of that title.

No wonder I don’t blog more.  I barely make sense and spend most of my time in my head…

The inspiration for this post is that I just caught up on about 7 posts by a friend of mine who is a GREAT blogger (she keeps it private and I respect her choice to control who accesses it.  Otherwise I’d link to it because it truly should be shared).  In fact, she is married to another GREAT blogger who is a great writer in general.  They are both funny, witty, and able to capture all of their personality and humor and everything else in their posts.

Meanwhile, I find myself overly serious in my posts, and fear that the few people that read this blog think I’m morose, obsessive, and taking myself way too seriously.  I’m all about complaining about the lack of strategic planning in academia, about how we need to fix things…in academia, or how co-workers and/or my work environment are challenging my professional mental stability via chaos, disorganization, and frustration.

To top things off, I don’t blog enough – even about these serious topics – to get anyone to really notice.  I’ve got a draft about the next steps of “edupunking” my law school that has been sitting there for weeks.  If I can’t be funny, at least I can write things of substance.  But if I only write such things every 3-4 weeks, then who is going to notice?

So…the conundrum is that I’m a blogger that rarely blogs.  I’m a (hopefully) funny guy that is always serious when writing.  And one of the ways I want to set myself apart from others in my field is by way of my great, sagacious and insightful writing about academia…but I don’t do much writing.


a funny thing

Something a bit odd happened earlier today.   An e-mail had gone out to various senior members of the law school that came from one of the school staff but looked a bit fishy.  Had some elements of unsolicited spam in it – “Have you heard the latest on..” and “the biggest scam you’ll find is…”  Stuff like that.

I immediately informed several people that this person was indeed someone from the school, and that I’d look into whether there was anything wrong with her computer or perhaps if someone else had been infected with a virus and was spoofing her e-mail address.  I was going to get to the bottom of this, I was going to set things right, and I was going to prevent bad things from happening to my colleagues.  I was going to be the Assistant Dean of Awesomeness.

When I called up the person and asked if she had sent the e-mail on purpose, she explained that she did indeed send it, and that it was on behalf of one of the faculty she supports.

Me (somewhat deflated but still wanting to be helpful):  “Oh, okay, well just wanted to check because some folks thought it might have been spam or you had a virus.”

Her (non-chalantly):  “Okay, my computer is fine.”

That’s it.  Simple.  Seemed like a done deal.  I summarized my findings to the senior staff who had first inquired and thought things were done.  Wasn’t exactly the most exciting thing but at least I figured things out.

Then…the person sent the message again, with the little added “sent on behalf of Professor X,” which is how it usually is handled.  I’m not on the list myself, so I didn’t know she had resent it.  I also don’t see until later, when I am once again included in the conversation, that she has been mildly lauded for having corrected herself and that it was good of her to clarify her intent in sending the original e-mail.

So, because I had chosen to call her, because I had let her know that she had committed a bit of a faux pas, she corrected herself, and avoided a bad impression on the school, and in fact possibly made a good impression on some.  Yet no word to me, and maybe even not much acknowledgement.

I don’t know where I’m going with this but sometimes this kind of stuff rubs me the wrong way.  Is it too much to ask for a “thanks” or to acknowledge that someone helped you out of a situation?


Some things have bad timing.  A critical decision, an important meeting, a message that must be sent, a mission that must be clarified.  Rarely is there a good time for such things.

But we do not get to choose the timing of when we must do that which is our responsibility.  That which is the right thing, at that moment.  We do not get to choose when we need to be firm or decisive.  We do not get to choose when we need to be that person, that messenger, that leader.

What we can choose is whether to actually rise to meet that need and be that person.  Or whether we choose to slide down the slippery slope to mediocrity and ineffectiveness.

This rather grandiose start springs forth from recent thoughts I’ve had about being a manager and, I hope, a leader.  It is indeed a very steep and well-greased slope that a manager faces every day, every week, and certainly from month to month when the easy way is so close, so present, and so, so tantalizing.  That meeting can wait.  We should do this or that only when all the right indicators (and one always chooses one too many indicators) are in alignment.  So many excuses.  But being a good manager means, among many, many other things, riding the edge of that slippery slope, seeing it for what it is, being able to measure its grade…and steering clear of it.

A manager is always a manager.  A leader – and managers are not the same as leaders, and while I am in fact a manager, I can only claim to be a leader if I also claim to have motivated followers, and I’m not sure I’m there yet – must always be visible and sending that message that is clear, concise, and stirs others to attention.  They are very different roles, but management and leadership are both needed.  And once taken, cannot be relinquished, taken for granted, or handled lightly.

I am a manager.  And timing is not my friend lately.  But timing is irrelevant.   I do not get to choose when to deal with HR issues vs. spend time innovating vs. having weekly staff meetings vs. making presentations to hundreds of people on ground-breaking ideas.  I do not get to choose when to be visionary, and when to simply keep my goals in sight and my team in play.  The practical and the idealistic must always be within my domain, yet I do not always have the luxury to choose when I the former will overwhelm the latter.

This balancing act, and avoiding the slippery slope, is perhaps the hardest part of any manager that has broad ambitions of moving up and perhaps attaining leadership roles.  If you are on the slope, then you will always be losing some followers.  At some level, you just decide which followers you are willing to lose, because the reality is that there are multiple slopes, and any decision one makes is going to at least put one’s foot onto that decline.  But until that point, the slope is all danger, and no gain.

Right now, I’m lucky because the slope is obvious.  But it is steep, and even the path around it is indeed very slick and littered with poor decisions, many of which do not in fact lead from each other.  One can get onto that slope via 10 small bad decisions or a single moment of cowardice.

And so timing is irrelevant.  Management and commitment are not.  Management doesn’t listen to the clock.