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Inbox Zero is a Waste of Time. This is How a World-Class Behavioral Economist Tames His Email

By Oliver Staley // Quartz // March 23, 2017

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The Inbox Zero movement is now a decade old. Introduced by the awesomely named Merlin Mann in 2007, it was initially a system for managing clutter and distractions but it’s evolved into a modern philosophy, a means of asserting our humanity over the machines we live with.

While the act of clearing out an inbox can feel as satisfying as cleaning the refrigerator, it’s ultimately just another way of wasting time, argues Dan Ariely, a psychologist and behavioral economist at Duke University. Like writing meticulous to-do lists, obsessively sorting and deleting emails is “structured procrastination,” Ariely said on the Bloomberg Game Plan podcast.

We tend to tackle projects like sorting and replying to emails because they’re discrete tasks. And finishing them gives us a sense of accomplishment, he said. But it’s still keeping us from our actual work, which can be messy, frustrating and lacking in immediate payoffs.

“How many people are going to die happy knowing they got to email zero?” Ariely asked. “This is not the stuff that makes for long-term happiness, but because it’s present and immediate and beeps and someone’s waiting, it takes precedence over the things that are important...

IBM, Remote-Work Pioneer, Is Calling Thousands of Employees Back to the Office

By Sarah Kessler // Quartz // March 21, 2017

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Less than a year into her tenure as IBM’s chief marketing officer, Michelle Peluso prepared to make an announcement she knew would excite some of her 5,500 new employees, but also, inevitably, inspire resignation notices from others. She had already briefed managers and the leaders of small teams on the news, which had been set in motion before her arrival in September. The rumor mill had already informed most other employees. All that was left to do was to make it official.

“It’s time for Act II: WINNING!” read the subject line of Peluos’s blog post on the company intranet.

In a video message, Peluso, formerly CEO of fashion startup Gilt, explained the “only one recipe I know for success.” Its ingredients included great people, the right tools, a mission, analysis of results, and one more thing: “really creative and inspiring locations.”

Despite the upbeat delivery, that last point struck many as devastating news.

IBM had decided to “colocate” the U.S. marketing department, about 2,600 people, which meant all teams would now work together, “shoulder to shoulder,” from one of six different locations—Atlanta, Raleigh, Austin, Boston, San Francisco and New York. Employees who...

GitHub Now Lets its Workers Keep the IP When They Use Company Resources for Personal Projects

By Keith Collins // Quartz // March 21, 2017

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If it’s on company time, it’s the company’s dime. That’s the usual rule in the tech industry—that if employees use company resources to work on projects unrelated to their jobs, their employer can claim ownership of any intellectual property they create.

But GitHub is throwing that out the window. Today the code-sharing platform announced a new policy, the Balanced Employee IP Agreement. This allows its employees to use company equipment to work on personal projects in their free time, which can occur during work hours, without fear of being sued for the IP. As long as the work isn’t related to GitHub’s own “existing or prospective” products and services, the employee owns it.

Like all things related to tech IP, employee agreements are a contentious issue. In some states, it’s not uncommon for contracts to give companies full ownership of all work employees produce during their tenure, and sometimes even before and after their tenure, regardless of when or how they produce it. These restrictions have led to several horror stories, like the case of Alcatel vs. Evan Brown.

Evan Brown, a programmer who worked for Alcatel in Texas in the mid-1990s...

Why Is Silicon Valley So Awful to Women?

By Liza Mundy // The Atlantic // March 17, 2017

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One weekday morning in 2007, Bethanye Blount came into work early to interview a job applicant. A veteran software engineer then in her 30s, Blount held a senior position at the company that runs Second Life, the online virtual world. Good-natured and self-confident, she typically wore the kind of outfit—jeans, hoodie, sneakers—that signals coding gravitas. That day, she might even have been wearing what’s known as the “full-in start-up twin set”: a Second Life T-shirt paired with a Second Life hoodie.

In short, everything about her indicated she was a serious technical person. So she was taken aback when the job applicant barely gave her the time of day. He knew her job title. He knew she would play a key role in deciding whether he got hired. Yet, every time Blount asked him a question about his skills or tried to steer the conversation to the scope of the job, he blew her off with a flippant comment. Afterward, Blount spoke to another top woman—a vice president—who said he’d treated her the same way.

Obviously, Second Life wasn’t going to hire this bozo. But what the heck: He was here, and they...

Robots Won’t Take Your Job—They’ll Help Make Room For Meaningful Work Instead

By TL Andrews // Quartz // March 15, 2017

josefkubes/Shutterstock.com

Unencumbered by the prospect of re-election, outgoing presidents tend to use their final speeches to candidly warn against threats they believe to be metastasizing in society. For example, George Washington spoke of the ills of hyper-partisanship and excessive debt. Dwight Eisenhower denounced the waxing power of the “military industrial complex.” President Barack Obama singled out an economic peril in his otherwise doggedly hopeful final address in Chicago: “The next wave of economic dislocations won’t come from overseas,” he said. “It will come from the relentless pace of automation that makes a lot of good, middle-class jobs obsolete.”

Obama articulated a fear felt by many around the world: That all our jobs will eventually be done by robots. Research backs this fear: One study found that automation will threaten at least 47% of jobs in America and up to 85% in the rest of the world. But a number of economists are beginning to argue that this view of automation excludes a lot of the story.

Putting automation in context

To simply argue that automation is going to gobble up jobs ignores the potential for productivity gains. The Business Harvard Review found that the IT revolution led to 0...

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