recommended reading


Big Changes Are Coming to Microsoft Outlook

By Caitlin Fairchild // August 10, 2017


Outlook users, rejoice! Microsoft recently launched a beta version of their email service. If you're using Outlook currently, keep an eye out for some big changes, as well as some fun new details.

Most importantly, Microsoft says they are "implementing a more responsive web development framework." For the user, this means a better search interface (so you can actually find what you're looking for) as well as a conversational style inbox, which is useful for keeping track of long message threads.


The new search interface will feature photo aggregation, so every photo either sent or received can be found in one place. Users will also be able to mark their favorite contacts and folders, making them easier to find during a search.

Another new feature is Quick Suggestions. As you type an email, useful information about specific topics can pop up, like information about local restaurants and shops or the details of an upcoming flight.


Microsoft will also be incorporating emojis and gifs, which is bound to make every inbox a lot more colorful.

If you're interested in trying out this new version in advance, watch out for a "Try the Beta" button to appear...

Completing This 30-Minute Exercise Makes Teams Less Anxious and More Productive

By Leah Fessler // Quartz // August 10, 2017

Here’s a funny thing about work: We spend more time with our colleagues than with our friends and family. Yet more often than not, we don’t really understand our co-workers—because being honest with one another is scary.

When a teammate’s lack of organization annoys us, we vent to others. When a boss says “this is fine” (not “this is great”), we wallow in anxiety. Many of us figure out our colleagues’ personalities, preferences, and dislikes through trial and error, not through explicit conversation.

This strikes me as a colossal waste of time, productivity, and happiness. Ignoring these issues just leads to confusion and frustration, and, in time, can wind up threatening your job performance (and your paycheck).

Thankfully, there’s a tool that every team can use to bypass workplace miscommunications and angst, helping to amp up every employee’s potential and morale from day one. It’s called a user manual.

Meet the “user manual”

In 2013, Ivar Kroghrud, co-founder, former CEO, and lead strategist at the software company QuestBack, spoke with Adam Bryant at the New York Times about his leadership style. Kroghrud revealed that he had developed a one-page “user manual” so people...

A Former Facebook Product Manager on the Key to Solving Hard Decisions Quickly

By Corinne Purtill // Quartz // August 9, 2017


Rousseau Kazi became a product manager at Facebook in 2011 at the age of 19, while still an undergraduate at the University of California-Berkeley. He recently left Facebook to work on a new, unannounced project, and reflected on his career on the podcast “Modest Conversations” with Sam Lessin, an entrepreneur who is also a former product manager at Facebook.

The conversation turned to the subject of difficult decisions, where Kazi shared one of the most striking lessons from his six years at the company: the hardest discussions don’t have to be the most time-consuming ones.

“I used to think, ‘Oh man, being able to make the hard decisions is going to take all this time. It’s going to take hours and hours and hours, and weeks and weeks,’” Kazi said. “Over the career, I figured out that hard decisions are hard, but they can be quite time efficient. They’re not actually that hard to make.”

The key, Kazi realized, was getting all parties to realize just how much they agreed upon already. By his estimate, people tasked with solving difficult problems are already roughly 80% aligned in their thinking by the time they get to the table...

Setting Goals Around Tasks, Not Outcomes, Is the Best Way to Improve Performance, a Study Shows

By Oliver Staley // Quartz // August 8, 2017


The importance of setting goals is well-established.

Athletes routinely use goals as motivation. Corporate boards set goals for CEOs to create incentives. Scarcely a middle-school assembly or motivational speech goes by without a speaker exhorting the audience to set goals.

But some goals are more effective than others. A new study of US undergraduates suggests students who set task-based goals—such as taking a certain number of practice tests—will outperform students who set performance-based goals, such as a letter grade for the course. The findings, from economics professors at the University of California at Irvine, Purdue University, and the University of Florida, have been released in a working paper by the National Bureau of Economic Research, and so hasn’t been peer reviewed yet.

The researchers ran two experiments with a total of nearly 4,000 students in an introductory course at a public university. In one, students who set a goal of taking a fixed number of online practice tests were 5% more likely to get a B+ grade or better than those in a control group with no set goal. In the other experiment, students who set a letter grade as a goal were no more likely...

A Googler's Would-Be Manifesto Reveals Tech's Rotten Core

By Ian Bogost // The Atlantic // August 7, 2017


An anonymous Google software engineer’s 10-page fulmination against workplace diversity was leaked from internal company communications systems, including an internal version of Google+, the company’s social network, and another service that Gizmodo, which published the full memo, called an “internal meme network.”

“I’m simply stating that the distribution of preferences and abilities of men and women differ in part due to biological causes,” the Googler writes, “and that these differences may explain why we don’t see equal representation of women in tech and leadership.”

The memo has drawn rage and dismay since its appearance Saturday, when it was first reported by Motherboard. It seemed to dash hopes that much progress has been made in unraveling the systemic conditions that produce and perpetuate inequity in the technology industry. That includes increasing the distribution of women and minorities in technical jobs, equalizing pay, breaking the glass ceiling, and improving the quality of life in workplaces that sometimes resemble frat houses more than businesses.

These reactions to the screed are sound, but they risk missing a larger problem: The kind of computing systems that get made and used by people outside the industry, and with serious consequences, are a...