‘For eight years Barack Obama walked on ice and never fell.’

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Photo via barackobamadotcom

Obama was born into a country where laws barring his very conception—let alone his ascendancy to the presidency—had long stood in force. A black president would always be a contradiction for a government that, throughout most of its history, had oppressed black people. The attempt to resolve this contradiction through Obama—a black man with deep roots in the white world—was remarkable. The price it exacted, incredible. The world it gave way to, unthinkable.

-From Ta-Nehisi Coates’s history of the Obama presidency, in The Atlantic.

‘With Child’: Kiera Feldman on a Pregnancy in South Dakota

Ashley arrived for her prenatal appointment at Black Hills Obstetrics and Gynecology, in Rapid City, South Dakota, wearing a black zip-up hoodie and Converse sneakers.1 To explain her absence from work that morning — a Tuesday in April 2015 — she had told a co-worker that she was having “female issues.” She was twenty-five years old and eight weeks pregnant. She had been separated from her husband, with whom she had a five-year-old son, for the better part of a year. The guy who’d gotten her pregnant was someone she’d met at the gym, and he’d made it abundantly clear that he wanted nothing more to do with her. Ashley found herself hoping that the doctor would discover some kind of fetal defect, so that her decision would be easier. She glanced across the waiting room at a television playing a birth-control ad and laughed darkly. “Jesus, Lord, it would be so nice if someone just pushed me down a flight of stairs.”

-In Harper’s, Kiera Feldman reports from Rapid City, South Dakota, one of the most restrictive states in the country when it comes to ending a pregnancy.

Words Matter!

When you are a leader, your words will be heard.

Your followers will be emboldened by those words, and they will act on them.

These followers will have good and bad intentions.

All the more reason to choose your words wisely.

Facts also matter.

If you take care to traffic only in real things, you build credibility for your words and your actions.

If facts don’t matter to you, then it makes it hard for anyone to believe you!

Nothing you say will hold any weight.

Followers will interpret your words as they please.

Detractors will assume the worst.

You must live with those consequences when facts don’t matter to you.

The rest of us have to live with those consequences, too.

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Photo by jessmercer

‘Believe the Autocrat’

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Photo by gdbrekke

Rule #1: Believe the autocrat. He means what he says. Whenever you find yourself thinking, or hear others claiming, that he is exaggerating, that is our innate tendency to reach for a rationalization. This will happen often: humans seem to have evolved to practice denial when confronted publicly with the unacceptable. Back in the 1930s, The New York Times assured its readers that Hitler’s anti-Semitism was all posture. More recently, the same newspaper made a telling choice between two statements made by Putin’s press secretary Dmitry Peskov following a police crackdown on protesters in Moscow: “The police acted mildly—I would have liked them to act more harshly” rather than those protesters’ “liver should have been spread all over the pavement.” Perhaps the journalists could not believe their ears. But they should—both in the Russian case, and in the American one.

At New York Review of Books, a frightening must-read essay by Masha Gessen on what it’s like to live in an autocracy, having lived in and reported from Vladimir Putin’s Russia.

A Letter From My Daughters, and a Letter to Myself

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Photo via hillaryclinton

It’s shortly after 5 am PT. In the other room, my daughters, already awake, are writing a letter to Hillary Clinton, thanking her for inspiring them and millions of others. I am in the dining room, staring at apoplectic headlines from publications that I trust, knowing that millions of Americans in other cities don’t read or believe the same words.

I live in a city that’s booming economically, and nearly everyone in my peer group — both in my city and in my industry — supported Hillary Clinton. We fretted about the disastrous consequences of a Trump victory, but perhaps I still did not take it seriously, with polls putting the odds of victory at 70%. I shared Facebook posts and tweets and expected that everything would work out okay. The polls favored Hillary, and so did common sense.

As it turns out, not even common sense is guaranteed in America. Continue reading A Letter From My Daughters, and a Letter to Myself

‘Slack Creep’ Is Real. Here’s How Your Company Can Avoid It

Berenstain Bears Slack
Image via Christa Mrgan (@antichrista)

I gave a brief talk about Slack at our company meetup this year, but I thought it would be helpful to expand on this problem and share it publicly.

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Slack (their open letter strategy notwithstanding) is one of the truly great work tools we’ve embraced inside Automattic. We’re a distributed company, which means there is no office and everyone works “remote” (we hate that word) from spots all around the world — 500+ employees across more than 50 countries.

Having real-time chat adds an important level of intimacy and energy to our daily work, and it makes it easier than ever for our teams to quickly discuss projects and ideas. Slack also adds some very smart layers of fun (GIFs, emoji, thoughtful messaging and copy) to differentiate itself from the cold, sterile world of work productivity.

But. Slack has its limits.

Despite what its marketing campaign suggests, Slack is not a replacement for email. Its usefulness hinges on employees knowing the difference between what’s appropriate for real-time chat, and what needs to be communicated in a more timeless forum. Slack can’t do everything, and teams should discuss best practices for using it. Continue reading ‘Slack Creep’ Is Real. Here’s How Your Company Can Avoid It

Membership, Paywalls, and Funding Journalism Without a Football Phone — Longreads Community

In the 1980s, Sports Illustrated landed on a surefire way to drive subscriptions to its magazine. A high-quality print product? Top-notch journalism? Yeah, yeah, sure — probably all of the above. But as a child sitting in front of my television every afternoon, what really sold me — and then by my constant pleading, sold […]

via Membership, Paywalls, and Funding Journalism Without a Football Phone — Longreads Community