The America Invents Act Has Been Signed Into Law

I have written posts both on spurring innovation and the controversy over patents, two topics directly related to the recently singed into law America Invents Act.  The new law will shift the United States from granting patents to on the basis of whom was the first-to-invent to those who were the first-to-file. The reform also seeks simplify the process of granting patents, while intending to also increase development of new technologies that could benefit the economy. The move to the first-to-file system will align the U.S. with the method in use by the majority of other developed countries; however, it will be nearly 18 months before the law takes effect.

There is a great deal of speculation in the blogosphere and the media if the overhaul will have any significant impact, and I encourage those interested in the subject to search for the related stories.  Possible impacts I have come across inclue the creation of 12 million new jobs; however, it will be nearly two years before any actual effect the new law can be felt. In the short term the law only guarantees funding for the Patent Office.

On the subject, two related readings on patents and invention I have found interesting are professor Mark Lemley’s “The Myth of the Sole Inventor,” and the critique of his article by John Howells and Ron D. Katznelson.

Microsoft Exec Leaves Over Tweets

Wednesday I posted about how social media can give away information about companies when all of the employees posts, tweets, and updates are viewed together in my post about Sharing too Much.   I think it is also important to note that posting a little too freely can have negative impacts on a personal level, like was the case with Joe Marini.  Marini was the principal program manager at Microsoft for the Windows Phone web platform, and from what I’ve read about his case on tom’s GUIDE it appears different to me then many other social media mistakes that have cost people their jobs.

“I just got a chance to try out one of the slickest looking #Nokia phones I have ever seen. Soon, you will too! #wp7,” he tweeted on September 7. Not stopping there, he decided to actually rate the device with a firm ‘8’, saying that it had a solid feel, a good camera, a responsive UI and nice little touches on the body construction. So far, the phone sounds like a slick device.

But rating your unreleased product probably isn’t a good idea. Explaining why your product didn’t score a 9 or 10 probably isn’t the best promotional tool either, and likely a good reason to receive a swift kick out the door. “The camera was good, but I didn’t have optimal lighting,” he responded when asked why the device only scored an 8. “I’d like a larger screen too.”

While we have all heard stories about people posting pictures from the game on the day they called in sick, bad mouthing the company in tweets, or just releasing some things that are just too revealing, I think Marini was just being too honest a little too early.  Perhaps he knew he shouldn’t have released the information, or even worse given the new phone less than a 10; regardless, it shows that sometimes it is worthwhile to stay quiet about something.

Sharing too much

An article on Bloomberg yesterday, called Hewlett-Packard Shows Hazard of Sharing LinkedIn Profiles: Tech, showcases potential negative effects of sharing too much on social networks.   Our posts, tweets, and status updates could inevitably be monitored by our employers competitors according to the article.

Hewlett-Packard Co. (HPQ) Vice President Scott McClellan gave away more than his job status when he mentioned the computer maker’s new Web-storage initiative in his profile on LinkedIn Corp., a professional-networking site.

While I was already wise to our current employer taking a look, or future employers as part of a screening process, the level which outsiders could pay attention to them was only a small thought. 

As workers put more information about their lives online through status updates, location check-ins and resume changes, employers are more at risk of competitors watching their every move.

Understandably, the VP of Hewlett-Packard no doubt has more people with an interest in following his updates then someone further down the chain like myself; however, as the quote above gives mention to even someone such as myself could reveal valuable information.  This becomes even more true as the information can be aggregated with others to get a real sense of what is going on inside of a company.  A company here in India had chosen to follow 20 other companies using social media as a study, using employees LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook accounts.

At one of the companies, workers began to indicate in their postings that business was slow around October 2010.

“We could sense that they were edgy about something,” Sonwane said. A few months later, a vice president wrote in a LinkedIn status update that he was looking for a new job. When his followers asked why, he responded that the company was about to file for bankruptcy — which it did less than six months later, Sonwane said. He declined to identify any of the companies in the study.

While a wise onlooker may be able to see trends like this without the help of social media it would probably be wise to limit their access.

Startups from Disrupt

At Wired.com Ryan Singel and Mike Isaac posted a list called “The 7 Coolest Startups You Haven’t Heard of Yet,” which has a title that pretty much explains it all.  These new startups in the list were all presented at this year’s TechCrunch’s Disrupt Conference in San Fransico.  Out of that list two really stuck out to me:

Trello – Trello is a simple, powerful and free tool for team collaboration from well-known programmer/entrepreneur Joel Spolsky at Fog Creek Software. Projects are broken down into “cards”, which can be assigned to team members, with to-do lists on each.

Team members can see the entire board, keeping an eye on who is working on what, and what the progress of the project is. It’s akin to Basecamp and Pivotal Tracker, both online services popular with software teams, but Trello’s intended to be useful for all sorts of project management, from class projects to running a company. Expect this to be widely popular as its free features are hard to pass up and premium features are expected in the future.

I remember during school working on projects using a number of different programs of tools to colaberate with team members, Google Docs, wiki spaces, and email of course.  Despite having teams with great communication abilities, determination, and general know how our work on projects could often get confusing.  Who is doing what, is this updated, has this been finished, and other questions could require some effert to answer.   Having a free service which gives users basic project management functions could be helpfull in so many areas, and while I haven’t used Trello I am going to spend some time to experiment with it.

CakeHealth – Insurance companies want to screw you, plain and simple. Documentation is intentionally convoluted, deductibles and out of pocket maximums are difficult to keep track of.

CakeHealth aims to cut through the confusion of dealing with health care. Enter your provider and personal enrollment information, and the service acts as a financial planner that keeps track of your activity throughout the year. From warnings on potential billing errors to knowing exactly how much you’ve paid into meeting your deductible, it’s a clear dashboard amid confusing noise.

There’s an added bonus for mobile users — forgetting your insurance card at home is no longer an issue. With the iPhone app, you’ll never leave home without it.

For me dealing with my insurance company and doctor’s office to resolve issues could never get too easy.  So anything that can consolidate information, digitize my insurance information, and show me potential problems will get on my radar.

Creating Rituals

Ritualize practice. Will and discipline are wildly overrated. As the researcher Roy Baumeister has found, none of us have very much of it. The best way to insure you’ll take on difficult tasks is to ritualize them–build specific, inviolable times at which you do them, so that over time you do them without having to squander energy thinking about them.

A post Tony Schwartz at FastCompany.com circled around the idea of determination and creating excellence within yourself.  Schwartz asserted that excelling at a skill isn’t something that we are simply born with, but instead put the weight of research behind the adage “practice makes perfect.”

His list entitled the “Six Keys to Being Excellent at Anything” are:

  1. Pursue what you love.
  2. Do the hardest work first.
  3. Practice intensely.
  4. Seek expert feedback, in intermittent doses.
  5. Take regular renewal breaks.
  6. Ritualized practice

Schwartz provides some explanation and support for each of the points in his post that are worth reading, and while some or all of it may appear as common sense its helpful to find it written out like this.

Out of all the points listed the last one is the one I thought about the most.  I know that once you get in the habit of something it becomes easier to do, in the sense that it becomes easier to motivate yourself to do it.  For me that is getting in the habit of regular visits to the gym, daily visits in fact.  Once I start going everyday it becomes a habit, and I don’t even think about it.  I just go.  Personally this becomes a cycle, one I have fallen out of a few times.

Schwartz writes in another post on the HBR Blog Network, called The Skill That Matters Most, about building our self control as a skill.  Developing that skill is one way that we can increase our determination, giving us the willpower to do or stop doing the things we know we should or shouldn’t.  Once we build a ritual, or a routine, around something it makes it easier for us to will ourselves to do it by making it easier to maintain our determination.

Ironically part of how we build this skill is by creating a healthy lifestyle, like visiting the gym, because getting to that stage requires energy.  It is easier to will ourselves to do something when we are at peak levels because all of this determination and self control depletes our energy reserves.  Maintaining our energy reserves obviously has an impact on our ability to contribute, but it also impacts our ability to will ourselves to do things.