Ultimate OCD Desk Organizer

I spend a lot of time at my desk, and it accumulates a lot of random stuff. Random critical stuff. My wallet. Glasses. Two types of glasses sadly. The tiny Apple TV remote that sprouts little feet and hides under the mail. Along with my Bluetooth headset, multi-tool, USB drives and other bobbles that I need on a semi-regular basis and find myself spending exactly 3.6 minutes each day trying to find under various bits of paper or books or anything else that’s landed on my work surface.

So I built this…

When the frustration level started to peak, I had started looking at various under-the-monitor shelves or other types of trays or something that would let me give all of these little desk minions a home of their own, but couldn’t find anything that really looked right.

Ideally I wanted something that was slightly pitched so that whatever I’d put there was visible and accessible from my seated position, and that meant it’d need to be textured in some way to keep items from sliding off. And it needed to fit the space under my screens, which meant fitting around a relatively large base for the three monitor stand.

So I quickly figured out I was going to have to build something.

I wound up laying out the objects I wanted to store on a cardboard template that fit the space under the monitors, then made a pattern in Infinity Designer on a few pieces of paper. I cut a piece of 3/4″ MDF in the same shape as the cardboard, then used spray adhesive to glue the pattern down.

Then came the router. It’s been a long time since I’ve had the router out and I forgot what a mess it makes when you don’t have a proper dust collection setup. I’m still shaking MDF dust out of my gym shoes.

But I did get the shapes all routered out, sanded and then screwed the shelf into some angled legs. A couple of turns in the drill press to make holes for USB cables for the phone charger, USB hub and headset dock, and it was ready to paint. I sprayed a semi-gloss black base coat, and then finished the insets by hand in dark blue which contrasts nicely with the other colored accessories on the desk.

I routered out five spaces for different pairs of glasses which in retrospect looks compulsive, but that’s what I had hiding on my desk when I took inventory. It turns out now that everything has a storage spot, I’m able to find specific pairs of computer glasses and distance glasses consistently because they get put away right away, and I probably just needed two slots. Still, I know right where the spare pairs live if I need them.

It was a fun Saturday project and it’s definitely helping me keep the key things I need to find right in front of me. If you’ve got the wood working skills and your desk is half as messy as mine was, it’s a worthwhile weekend distraction.

Eclectic Observations from Arriving Late to the LinkedIn Party

After having been bitten quite hard by Google’s August algorithm update, I’ve been on a mission to establish a bit more EAT related to my online presence in hopes of a recovery. If you’re wondering what the heck I’m talking about, EAT is a recent bit of buzz phraseology that has those of us with an interest in SEO pounding our forks at the dinner (i.e., revenue) table and hollering about the latest batch of secret ingredients in Google’s ranking algorithm sauce.

EAT in SEO parlance stands for “Expertise, Authority and Trust” and from all impressions, this seems to be a subjective measurement of a site’s credibility assigned by a human quality ranker at the Big G. And fundamentally this comes down to identifying people associated with sites, and establishing that those sites are built and run by bonafide credentialed humans and not Russian robots or other nefarious automatons. Google has a document that gives some vague hand-wavy instructions for its human raters to follow to find out more about a site’s pedigree, typically by looking off-site for items on the EAT menu.

I’ve been studying this menu for a while now, but one item off the appetizer list that I completely missed was setting up a personal profile on LinkedIn and getting a company page listed for DadsWorksheets.

So let me be candid here. I’m a terrific introvert. Where lately people run around denouncing the looming perils of social media addiction, I’m one of those dungeon dwellers whose arm need be twisted nigh off before I’ll log into my FaceBook page. And, yes, if you’re one of the hundred-odd people who’ve sent me a LinkedIn invitation in the last few years, I hope you don’t feel scorned that I didn’t join you and I’ll ask your forgiveness now… It’s just that I never actually setup an account until today.

But after arriving catastrophically late to the party and reaching out to a dozen connections who might take some pity on my apparently self-induced social media ostracism, I did have a few observations coming in the door:

  • Wow, most of you old friends look quite professional in your profile pictures. I find myself wondering if I should shed my sunglasses, or if there’s some value in maintaining profile picture continuity across StackOverflow, GitHub, Discord and all the other tech-oriented services I actually do lurk through regularly.
  • Indeed, your profile pictures match some envious résumés and work history.  And interestingly, some glaring omissions. I’m looking at you, dear Veebo alumi, and wondering about airing those battle scars publicly as well.
  • Even more nostalgia inducing than the prospect of updating my own dusty CV is seeing where so many of you have travelled since we parted company. Being in this soloprenuer consulting thing for so long, it’s easy to forget how many interesting places with great people you’ve worked with. It’s good to see you all again.

So maybe this social media thing isn’t all the cat videos and political noise it’s seemed to be, and I just needed to find the right place. We’ll see. For now, the hour or two on LinkedIn today was actually kind of fun.

Does Mark Cuban Want You to Die In Poverty?

A friend of mine asked me for the thoughts on this article and video…

What Mark Cuban Says will be the #1 Job Skill in 10 Years

The TL/DR is “creative thinking” therefore pursue a liberal arts degree, in lieu of other applied fields such as, pointedly, software engineering.

Which is probably suicide.

I’ve never quite understood the hero-worship over Mark Cuban. I get that he’s successful and made a lot of money in the tech bubble, but I think his key bit of acumen was getting diversified before the crash. After that, what? Basketball teams? Shark Tank? Okay. He probably doesn’t think much of me either, so whatever.

But, no, a liberal arts degree isn’t going to be any more valuable in 10 years than it is today. There’s nothing wrong with these skills for their own merits, but society and the economy is already telling us their value in an employment related context. And that value is not positively correlated in any respect to what college tuition costs.

Yes, in the coming years, we’ll have more data being produced, and more information being thrown at us. Just like if we compared today to ten years ago. But if anything, those societal changes have made knowing how to understand data, manipulate data, generate data even more of a valuable skill… The demand for software professionals (which is simply people who work with data) is vastly outstripping supply and will continue to do so for decades. The notion that because we have more data means we’ll need fewer data-literate professionals is, even on its surface, pure idiocy.

Meanwhile the job opportunities for liberal arts education majors seems often to come from service industry positions that have nothing to do with their degrees. These are exactly the places where automation is going to displace employment. And by, “displace” I mean totally erase. We are on the verge of possibly the biggest shift in employment demand since the invention of the steam engine, and hundreds of millions of people are going be underemployed due to technological innovation. If a graduate’s primary job skill is analyzing French literature, and they spent $100,000 and four years to get there, I’m going to go out on a limb and say they’re hosed.

There’s some sort of mythology around liberal arts degrees being more creative than applied fields. I don’t know where this thinking originated, but I’ll wager it didn’t come from anybody actually working on problems in any applied field. Problems in business and applied sciences not only require creative, critical thinking… They often have enormous consequences when creative solutions can’t be found on time and on budget.

Don’t believe me? Because, you know, Mark Cuban? Basketball? Maybe read these articles instead of listening to Mark…

Only 2% of employers are actively recruiting liberal arts degree holders. Compare that to the 27% that are recruiting engineering and computer information systems majors and 18% that are recruiting business majors.

It’s unclear whether liberal arts graduates are pursuing social service jobs because they’re more drawn to them, because they’re suited to a wider breadth of possible fields (which also contributes to a slow start salary-wise) or because that’s simply what’s left after all the other jobs are taken.

If you’re going to college, get a degree in building something. Business, “hard” science or engineering. These are problem solving degrees that require not just creative thinking, but creative problem solving. Those are the skills employers need.

Or, get a degree in, essentially, debt management. Because that’s probably the primary differentiable skill you’re going to acquire with an advanced liberal arts degree.