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January 2008

Six month update on my elbow Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) treatment

Amid the broad range of emotions and activities in which I'm engaging this week - a sad last week at Nokia before an exciting new start at MyStrands - I was able to schedule an appointment for my 6-month followup visit with Dr. Mishra regarding progress on the platelet-rich plasma (PRP) treatment for my right elbow. [I am very grateful for Kevin's recent comment on an earlier PRP-related post, and an email from Mark, who had commented on my first elbow PRP post - and who has since also undergone the PRP treatment - which reminded me that I needed to schedule this appointment before I leave town.]

I was not looking forward to the visit, in part because I have not been diligent in my theratube exercises (probably averaging once every three days rather than three times per day since my three-month PRP checkup), and in part because I thought that if I wasn't 100% back to normal by now, I would have to choose between surgery and living with my elbow's current status, which is probably around 90% of pre-tendonitis strength (and absence of pain).

However, my fears, as is so often the case, were unfounded - at least with respect to the latter one (I should [still] resume more diligent theraband exercising). I found out that it can take up to 12 months for the full effects of PRP to manifest themselves, so the fact I'm not completely "cured" is not surprising, and in fact, my current status, in which I rarely feel pain greater than 3 (on a scale of 10) - even after moving a humongous solid oak entertainment center from our bonus room to the garage last weekend - is a significant improvement over the last checkup.

During this visit, I was able to exert 135 pounds of grip strength with my right hand with a subjective pain level of 1 (vs. 120 pounds of grip strength with a pain level of 4 at the 3-month mark), and was able to resist attempts to pull down my upturned or downturned hand with a pain level of 1 or 0. As I noted earlier, during my first visit, I was only able to exert 65 pounds before I hit the wall (of pain) at level 9, and my resistance was lower and pain higher for the upturned hand exercise. It is relatively rare for my elbow to be sore - except after I move heavy furniture or engage in repetitive motions for extended periods.

Among the differences I've noticed in the past 3 months were:

  • being able to carry around and drink from my 20-oz coffee mug with no pain
  • being able to carry heavy furniture with some pain (I would not have even attempted to move the entertainment center 3 months ago)
  • being able to do pushups with little pain (again, I would not have attempted pushups 3 months ago)

Dr. Mishra was actually quite encouraged - and encouraging - about my prospects for eventually regaining full use of the elbow with little or no pain! And, even better (to me), he suggested that if I have not reached that status by the 12-month mark, given the progress I've shown thus far, he would now recommend a second PRP treatment rather than PRP + surgery (which is what I thought would be the next step).

So, once again, my optimism is restored. I just did a round of theratube exercises (that makes 3x today), and will gradually start experimenting with exercising more regularly - pushups and perhaps even full-scale elliptical training (now that I'll be home - where we have a Precor FX - more regularly) - though ramping up on an [uncharacteristically] gradual slope. I will also restart my yoga practice.

I noted in my response to Kevin's comment that Dr. Mishra's PRP web page had a link to the Total Tendon Network, and that while I was excited about encountering my first Ning network "in the wild", it appeared to be a site targeting [only] tendon care providers:

This is a group of providers dedicated to improving the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of tendon related disorders.

Dr. Mishra told me that the site was, in fact, intended for both providers of treatment and patients who are receiving, or considering receiving, treatment (he said he will change the text on the login page - and said he requires login to ensure some level of quality control on this social network). I've signed up, but am still waiting for "approval", and so will report further on the Total Tendon Network during my next update ... probably around six months from now.

Leaving Nokia, Joining MyStrands

It seems like just yesterday that I was writing enthusiastically about joining Nokia, and then about my excitement about working at Nokia on an ambitious new project (related to Context, Content and Community) at an ambitious new lab (Nokia Research Center Palo Alto), but in fact it's been over a year since the initiation of that transition (I believe I'm always in transition, just differentially willing and able to recognize it). I am still enthusiastic and excited about prospects for the project and the lab; I have grown to love the people at the lab and throughout the rest of the organization; I am grateful for being given the opportunity to pursue the work I love in a supportive environment (instigating a new generation of proactive displays). All of which creates strong mixed feelings for me as I think and write about my decision to leave Nokia, but as I've noted before, this blog is first and foremost a platform for entering and working through my discomfort zones.

While I am sad about leaving Nokia, I am very excited about the new position I have accepted with MyStrands, a social recommendation and discovery systems company headquartered in Corvallis, OR, employing approximately 100 people in a dozen sites throughout the world. I have chosen the title, and will play the role, of Principal Instigator (which was my unofficial title and role at Nokia), starting up a new lab in Seattle - a startup within a startup - that will help design, develop and deploy new technologies to help people discover, relate to and better enjoy the other people, places and things around them. I am very enthusiastic and excited about joining MyStrands and creating a new lab, and will write more about that in a bit (and in subsequent posts, once I officially start with that company). For now, I want to acknowledge the joy I've felt at Nokia, and the sadness I feel about leaving some of that behind.

A year and a half ago, when I ran out of runway (as my entrepreneurial friends like to put it) for my startup company, Interrelativity, and started having discussions with various people in research labs about re-entering the research world, Nokia was one of the few places where my entrepreneurial endeavors were truly valued. Most research managers I spoke with saw a gaping hole in my publication record, and didn't understand why I wasn't writing conference and journal papers while I was trying to start a company. Even though my startup didn't succeed, Nokia - in particular, Henry Tirri - recognized the risks I had been willing to take ... and was willing to take a risk in hiring me. I, in turn, was thrilled to be able to apply some of that entrepreneurial energy in what is, in many ways, a startup within a large company with a long history that includes many generations of dramatic changes.

Some of this energy has been applied in traditional (or perhaps non-traditional) research channels, but much of it, especially early on, was channeled in far less tangible ways - contributing to the co-creation of a new culture, forging relationships with people and organizations, and attracting world-class talent to the lab. Nokia has an internal process for employees to define - and seek explicit managerial approval for - their own "individual incentive plans" which can include such intangible activities. I've been very fortunate to have a manager, David Racz, who has explicitly supported these activities, and who has empowered all the members of his team to assume leadership roles in activities that benefit the team, the lab and/or the organization ... as well as the team members themselves. I have learned a lot about management and leadership (and technology, economics, philosophy, psychology, neuroscience and evolutionary biology, to name just a few areas) from David, and hope I can effectively apply some of these insights and experiences in my new role.

Our team has grown from 2 to 12 over the past year, and despite - or perhaps because of - the diversity of people, I feel a strong personal connection with each of the members, above and beyond the professional dimensions of our relationship(s). In fact, it is these personal bonds - that also extend to many other members of the lab (which, under John Shen's leadership, has grown from 20 to 50), as well as people from other parts of Nokia - that I am saddest about leaving. I know from past experience that some of these relationships will persist well beyond the termination of my employment (January 25) ... but I also know that many of them will fade over time. I am grateful to have been a part of the Nokia family in Palo Alto, and to have had the opportunity to connect deeply with many people in ways that transcend "work".

Having recently written about the importance of aligning talents with roles in creating a high performance team, I can honestly say that I have never worked in an environment where I felt my talents – the things I cannot help but do (or, more formally, “recurring patterns of thought, feeling or behavior that can be productively applied”) – have been so well supported, or where I felt I could contribute so easily and effectively by simply doing what comes naturally to me: winning others over, connecting, relating, ideating and adapting (my top 5 talents, according to the Clifton StrengthsFinder).

So, one might wonder, why have I decided to leave such a supportive environment? In a nutshell, it is because my conversations with key members of the executive team at MyStrands lead me to believe that I will be similarly well-supported in engaging my talents there, and that my new role in setting up and coordinating the activities in a new lab will enable me to make even more significant contributions at MyStrands than at Nokia, through practicing what I’ve been preaching about leadership, innovation and – of course – helping people relate to the people, places and things around them ... and doing so closer to home, enabling me to strengthen relationships with my family and friends in the Seattle area.

Essentially, I am leaving the best job I've ever had for another job I believe I will love even more.

In making my decision, I've applied the No-Lose Decision Model from Susan Jeffers' book, Feal the Fear and Do It Anyway. I shared this model in a blog post during my last major transition (when I decided to join Nokia), and want to repeat it here, because I've found it very useful (again) ... and it may prove useful to others:

Before you make a decision:

  1. Focus immediately on the no-lose model (whichever path you choose will provide learning opportunities … even if it’s learning what you don’t like)
  2. Do your homework (talk to as many people as will listen … both to help clarify your own intention and to get alternative perspectives)
  3. Establish your priorities (which pathway is more in line with your overall goals in life – at the present time)
  4. Trust your impulses (your body gives you good clues about which way to go)
  5. Lighten up (it really doesn’t matter – it’s all part of a lifelong learning process)

After making a decision:

  1. Throw away the picture (if you focus on what you expected, you may miss the unexpected opportunities that arise along the new path you’ve chosen)
  2. Accept total responsibility for your decision (don’t give away your power)
  3. Don’t protect, correct (commit yourself to any decision you make and give it all you got … but if it doesn’t work out, change it!)

So, once again (or perhaps I should say "as usual"), I'm not sure what to expect, but I have high hopes that this new chapter of my career will unfold in ways that offer significant benefits for everyone involved. My experience at Nokia exceeded all my expectations, and I look forward to opening up new dimensions at MyStrands through which unexpected opportunities can be identified and embraced - by me and others.

Content-centered Conversations: The Pew Internet Report on Teens and Social Media

Pew_logoI finally read the recent Pew Internet & American Life Project report on Teens and Social Media. Among the most interesting findings, for me, were the correlation between the creation of content (online stories, photos, videos) and conversations about that content, and the connections between connecting online and connecting offline. As I'd noted with another recent Pew report I blogged about last month (on Digital Footprints), there were [also] a number of surprises in the magnitude of some of the numbers.

The concept of object-centered sociality - social practices (such as conversation and other acts of communication and connection) that are inspired by objects of interest within some kind of community - is something that I (and others, notably, and more eruditely, Karin Knorr Cetina and Jyri Engestrom) have written about before. Object-centered sociality is one of the central concepts behind our proactive display applications, which use large displays to show online media associated with people whenever they are detected nearby; our goal has been to spark conversations in the physical world based on objects typically only shared in the digital world.

What is interesting about the Pew study is that it offers some numbers to characterize the socializing that transpires around the social media created and shared [online] by teens (ages 12-17):

  • Photos: 89% of teens who post photos online receive comments on those photos (52% "sometimes", 37% "most of the time")
  • Videos: 72% of teens who post videos online receive comments on those videos (48% "sometimes", 24% "most of the time")
  • Blogs: 76% of teens who use social networking services (SNS) post comments on blog posts written by others.

Power Law of Participation I've noted before that commenting is a form of "filling buckets" (saying or doing things to increase others' positive emotions) online, and have often wondered about what factors influence readers' decisions about whether or not to post comments. The Pew numbers are interesting, but I'm still interested in knowing more. For example, the first two figures are about receiving comments - on photos and videos - and the last figure is about giving comments - on blogs (and only by SNS users). I would be interested to know the full set of numbers for giving and receiving for blogs, photos and videos, as well as the correlation between people who create content (post blogs, photos and/or videos) and people who comment on content created by others. I suspect the correlation is very high, and indeed, if one subscribes to Ross Mayfield's conceptualization of the Power Law of Participation, content and comments are simply different points along a continuum. And, speaking of the power law of participation, I'd also be interested in other social media practices by teens, e.g., favoriting, tagging, subscribing, etc. (an earlier Pew study on tagging reported that 28% of online users have tagged content, and 7% do so on a daily basis, but that study did not include the under 18 population).

I imagine the level of commenting - and other forms of participation - is affected by the scope of people who have access to the content, but I wonder if content that has restricted access (e.g., to family and/or friends) is more or less likely to promote participation - I'm wondering whether a variation of the bystander effect, wherein a smaller group may be more likely to take action (e.g., comment) than a larger group, might apply in this context. Anyhow, the report does offer some numbers on access restrictions as well:

  • Photos: 39% of teens who post photos online restrict access to their photos "most of the time", 38% restrict access "only sometimes", and 21% "never" restrict access.
  • Videos: 19% of teens who post videos online restrict access to their videos "most of the time", 35% restrict access "only sometimes", and 46% "never" restrict access.
  • Blogs: Unfortunately, no numbers are provided for how many teens who post blogs restrict access :-(. I, for one, would be very interested in these numbers.

The Pew report notes that that 64% of online teens (and 93% of teens are online) are content creators - "online teens who have created or worked on a blog or webpage, shared original creative content, or remixed ontent they found online into a new creation". I can't find a reference now, but I seem to recall an earlier Pew study sometime in the past year or two that reported the number of adult online content creators - er, I mean the number of online adults who create content - was 19%. This number has probably grown, as well, but probably not to anywhere near 64%.

The report also includes a breakdown of some specific online creation activities:

  • Photos: 47% of online teens post photos (vs. 36% of online adults); girl photo posters outnumber boy photo posters by 54% to 40%.
  • Videos: 14% of online teens post videos (vs. 8% of online adults); boy video posters outnumber girl video posters by 19% to 10%.
  • Blogs: 28% of online teens are bloggers (vs. 8% of online adults); girl bloggers outnumber boy bloggers by 35% to 20%, and the gender gap is growing larger over time.
  • Remixes: 26% of online teens have remixed content (vs. 17% of online adults), with no significant gender differences in this activity.

The largest arenas for online social media use are social networking sites, e.g., MySpace and Facebook. 55% of online teens have SNS profiles, and those teens are among the most active content creators in all the categories mentioned above, and often by huge margins (e.g., 73% of online teens with SNS profiles post photos, whereas only 16% of online teens without SNS profiles post photos). Of course, given the fact that many SNS platforms include tools for posting or embedding photos, videos and blogs, the wide discrepancies are not terribly surprising.

What may be surprising - especially to many critics of teen online media use - is another finding: "in many cases, those who are the most active online with social media applications like blogging and social networking also tend to be the most involved with offline activities like sports, music or part-time employment." And, teens who use social networking sites are nearly one third more likely to spend time with friends in person on a daily basis than average teens (38% vs. 31%).

One area that I found initially surprising is the observation that "95% of teenage girls participate several times a week in at least one communication activity, compared with 84% of boys" ... meaning that 5% of girls and 16% of boys are, well, rather uncommunicative. Upon further reflection, though, I realize that I have known some people who might fit this description (my wife might claim that I often fit this description). It's [also] interesting to note the significant gender difference here - boys are nearly 3 times more likely than girls to be uncommunicative.

FemaleBrainCover This - and other elements of the Pew report showing that teen girls tend to be more communicative than teen boys (e.g., 35% of teen girls blog whereas only 20% of teen boys blog) - is consistent with some statistics I recently read about in The Female Brain, by Louann Brizendine: e.g., women's brains have 11% more neurons in the centers of the brain used for language and hearing. Another interesting statistic in the book was that men's brains have 2.5 times more neurons in the areas associated with sexual drive than women do. She puts these together in some interesting observations relating to teens:

We know that girls' estrogen levels climb at puberty and flip the switches in their brains to talk more, interact with peers more, think about boys more, worry about appearance more, stress out more, and emote more. They are driven by a desire for connection with other girls - and with boys. Their dopamine and oxytocin rush from talking and connecting keeps them motivated to seek out these intimate connections. What they don't know is that this is their own special girl reality. Most boys don't share this intense desire for verbal connection, so attempts at verbal intimacy with their male contemporaries can be met with disappointing results.


Why do previously communicative boys become so taciturn and monsyllabic that they verge on autistic when they hit their teens? The testicular surges of testosterone marinate the boys' brains. Testosterone has been shown to decrease talking as well as interest in socializing - except when it involves sports or sexual pursuit. In fact, sexual pursuit and body parts become pretty much an obsession ... Young teen boys are often totally, single-mindedly consumed with sexual fantasies, girls' body parts, and the need to masturbate.

I plan to blog more extensively about Louann's book in the near future, but for now, I'll just note that there is a whole area of social media use by teens that is not covered by the study, which is prompted in part by the book, and in part by my having recently watched the movie Superbad. If, as some claim, the Internet is for porn, and teens are the most active users of online media, I suspect there is a use case that is significant to at least half of the teen population that is not covered by the study. I won't hold my breath about this usage model being included in some future study by Pew - and I'm not sure whether it really qualifies as social media - but I wonder if the pervasive loneliness, shame and fear of being "found out" that teen boys suffer can be ameliorated through some kind of content-centered conversation in this shadow dimension of online life ... perhaps it already is.