Can you Commit to Writing One Email A Week?

Employees regularly rank leadership communication as the top opportunity their leaders have to increase engagement. Despite myriad communication technologies, or maybe because of them, communication remains a difficult skill for leaders to master.

When I hear the solution to a communication problem is “overcommunication,” I cringe. I don’t need more communication with the 40 meetings on my calendar this week and the 30 unread emails, direct messages, and text messages. I’m barely keeping up with the communication I’m already receiving; is more the solution?

And yet, here I’m going to advocate for one more email a week. It may technically be more communication, but it’s the right communication.

A more comprehensive argument for overcommunication is that communication should be more thoughtful, whether that means more or simply more intentional. A weekly email is one thoughtful thread in the fabric of good communication.

Consider using this weekly email method to improve your communication skills, whether you’re a CEO, manager, or a team member.

The weekly email…

Every Friday morning, I send my entire organization, stakeholders, and partners an email. Before I get to the goals and content of the email specifically, the distribution list is important, so I’ll categorize each.


  • My organization – the people under my leadership, those I’m most accountable to providing an engaging workplace.
  • Stakeholders – the people across the company that need to know we’re delivering.
  • Partners – often these are people with co-dependent relationships with my org, and our success hinges upon their buy-in and involvement.

By addressing each audience together I’m forced to consider the messaging more carefully.

If it were an email to only one of those audiences my tone and content may change. Grouping everyone together requires more thought into how the email is perceived.

This is something I’ve grown to appreciate over time. It’s a self-induced check and balance. Depending on how you want to influence the outcome, you could spin communication to be more positive or negative to one audience. Instead, I must be measured and avoid overstating anything that my organization, a stakeholder, or a partner may call me out on.

My goals

Misalignment and poor communication aren’t the results of having too little information. It’s the stuff that you didn’t think needed to be communicated.

  • Focus time. In a fast-paced environment, it’s refreshing to pause. I set aside one hour every Friday morning to exclusively reflect on the week, calibrating my focus. If I’m getting off track I’ll notice (or everyone else will notice), and then I codify that thinking into an update.
  • My team hears from me. I could stop there. No matter your org size you could go a while without hearing from your leader, but certainly, in bigger groups, you could go months without hearing from someone in your leadership.
  • Our stakeholders and partners hear from me. Those I’m accountable to and dependent on get a window into what we’re up to on a weekly basis, not just when we have a win or things go wrong. They’re on the journey with us and maybe I can earn some empathy along the way.
  • Recognition. I look across my org for meaningful work accomplished in the last week and call it out. I want that team member to be recognized not just by me, but in front of their peers, stakeholders, and partners.
  • Sharing my thoughts and focus. It’s helpful to understand what’s vying for your leader’s attention. I also believe the better people know me the better they’ll be able to work with me.
  • Sharing greater context. With a large distribution list, most of what I share won’t be perfectly relevant to everyone. We’re human though and we want to know what else is going on. After all, misalignment and poor communication aren’t the results of having too little information. It’s the stuff that you didn’t think needed to be communicated that might fill in the blanks.
  • Reinforcing goals. Partly for my own benefit, I’m reminded every Friday morning what we’re really trying to achieve and I have to figure out how to summarize that week’s work into how it aligns with our goals. Hearing versions of those goals reiterated every week brings more and more clarity for my team.
  • I get questions and input. This is my favorite part – any engagement with the email is a win. More often than not I get questions to go deeper into something. That sort of engagement is precisely the point.

The content

My format is always the same …. 4-ish bullet points prefaced by, “Happy Friday! Here’s what’s top of mind for me this week.”

I always recognize someone from my team in the first bullet for something they did in the previous week. This is an opportunity to draw attention to something that reflects the efforts of the daily tasks at hand. These are the sorts of things that don’t get recognized in a presentation at a departmental meeting held once every three months.

Every bullet in my email has a key phrase that I bold so that anyone scanning it can easily identify a topic they want to learn more about. They can save time and ignore my email if they aren’t interested in anything else.

Among things I’ve included in these bullets:

  • Project updates
  • Hiring and staffing changes
  • Feature launches and other accomplishments
  • Addressing problems and outages
  • Focus on key metrics
  • Links to YouTube videos that answer questions like “What is a user experience researcher?”
  • My thoughts on remote work and links to research
  • HR updates

Leadership communication isn’t solved with an email

Many details are omitted from an email that is easy to read. I won’t be able to include all pertinent updates in a weekly email, and I won’t even be aware of half of the information that my team has that would be worth sending.

Even if they’re taking up a lot of my time, there are many topics that are simply not appropriate for sharing (employee issues, contract negotiations, and other confidential information).

Though I love getting replies to the email, it’s not the medium for real engagement. It’s more of a passive communication. Bi-directional communication is possible, but this is really a one-way blast. No one is replying-all on these, so the group doesn’t benefit from a conversation.

It’s faceless. They’re my words, but it doesn’t capture my tone or personality the same way talking to me does. People need more from a leader than just scripted emails.

More on how I address these blank spots in future posts!

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A post I wrote on my journey to bettering my leadership skills

Improve Privacy, Speed, and Security with Server-side Tracking

Last week I converted my site’s tracking from the standard client-side script to a server-side tracking setup that sends Google Analytics all its data server-side using Google Tag Manager.

My Page Speed score improved dramatically (still room to improve). That’s one of the benefits Google touts, as well as more privacy and security control.

GTM still loads its JavaScript client-side and a single Google Analytics file, but it eliminates calls to URLs like that fire at page load and other events. Instead, that URL request happens server-side so the user’s experience isn’t impacted at all.

I wouldn’t say there are security or privacy benefits by default, but it certainly enables some. Namely, you can process data server-side before sending it to Google or anywhere else. For example, dropping third-party scripts on a site creates a lot of risk that can be mitigated by deciding, server-side, what data to actually make available to the third party.

I recently wrote about the growing privacy challenges. Server-side tracking helps, but certainly isn’t a silver bullet. Implementing server-side tracking adds a lot of complexity and requires more hands-on maintenance. The vanilla Google Analytics implementation can be configured via their UI to meet privacy requirements, but server-side settings are a bit more raw.

This video was the most helpful resource I found in setting up Tag Manager and Analytics. Thank you Julius Fedorovicius.

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Digital Privacy Progress, But It’s Going to Get Worse Before it Gets Better

The California Privacy Rights Act (CPRA), which went into effect on January 1, 2021, a piece of legislation that amends the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA). The CCPA was groundbreaking and forced businesses to provide consumers with options to access and delete their personal information. The CPRA grants Californians even more privacy rights, including the right to control how companies collect, use, and share their personal information. The CPRA also requires companies to provide clear and easy-to-understand privacy notices, and to obtain consumers’ affirmative consent before collecting and using sensitive personal information. Digital privacy got even more focus in 2022 when the first enforcement action specifically called out the absence of Global Privacy Control, a new tech standard to signal an opt-out of third party data sharing.

This 2021 law goes into full effect today, January 1, 2023. This ends a number of exemptions and moratoriums. Financial services are no longer exempt by GLBA, and employers must honor CPRA requirements for employees, not just their consumers.

Because California is home to much of Big Tech, CPRA is likely to have a far-reaching impact, setting a global standard for data privacy protection and inspiring other countries to create legislation that provides similar rights and protections.

Many countries and US states are enacting similar privacy laws. In the US that’s creating a patchwork of state regulations that are increasingly difficult to comply with.

With every new privacy law, consumers are closer to having full control of their data. We’re still a long ways off, but eventually regulations will make it such that the default for businesses is to not have access to your data or be able to share it with third parties. Your digital identity will be something you’ll be able to trace across the web.

Artificial Intelligence fundamentally changes the scale of the the privacy problem

AI is going to hasten the pace of regulation. The wonderment of ChatGPT this past month has mostly revolved around the job-killing or job-changing effects of the technology. While ChatGPT may not have access to your personal information (or at least not reveal that it has it), other AI will.

Imagine AI crawling the vastness of the Internet to find pieces of your digital identity that are seemingly unrelated to a human, but AI can instantly link the last 4 digits of your social found on one site to an email address you used 12 years and a personal blog you wrote in the 2000s to your face found in a video clip.

Abuse of personal data online is only going to get worse. Bad actors, or simply negligent data custodians, will prove repeatedly that our endless supply of personal information to the Internet that the web of data really is a web that can be traversed. Deep fake photo, video, and audio is yet another wrench in all of this.

Regulators will, and should, continue to make it more difficult for companies to rely on data capture and data sharing. We’ll see security regulations be enhanced, but security alone isn’t a solve for this problem. Privacy requirements will empower individuals to barter their data more thoughtfully.

It’s hard to predict where consumer empowerment will really take us. Until the dangers are real and present, people aren’t going to change data sharing behaviors even if the mechanisms are clearer and easier. It’d be a full-time job to understand every website’s and app’s controls and fine-tune them to your personal privacy preferences. Regulation is often a reaction anyway, so we’ll likely experience pain before change.

A couple things are certain:

  • Legislators will keep bolstering privacy laws
  • Companies will need to invest even more in privacy engineering

I should add, AI isn’t bad. It’ll just be misused as humanity has demonstrated with every other technology.


Chasing nostalgia of the 20th century home video

It’s not everyone’s experience to rewatch home videos from the 80’s, but for those who do, they know the joy it brings.

I’m fortunate to have several hours of home videos across most of my childhood that I converted from VHS to digital and will have forever. It’s not uncommon to pull those videos up at a family gathering and connect with each other, recalling shared experiences. Watching home videos is moving.

We’ve had cameras in our pockets for two decades now. Thanks to Google Photos, I think I’ll be able to keep all of that forever (or at least until it faces a Yahoo-like demise), but we’ve created a media pit… a graveyard for photos and videos that will never be looked at again because of the enormity of the task to actually do that. My kids alone, only two and four, will probably have to set aside a full year of their lives to consume everything my wife and I have captured already.

Annual summaries

Instead of giving my kids the keys to the media vault and wishing them luck to find meaning, I’ve started creating annual summaries.

These annual summaries are my version of home videos my kids will be able to rewatch with each other and their new families. They’re short, a few minutes, so it’s not exactly the same as watching my Mom’s 20-minute walkthrough of our house or 45 minutes of my 3rd grade play, and yet I don’t think my kids will feel deprived.

Instead, they’ll get the highlight reel, and still have access to the raw stuff that they can go dig deeper into. Google and Apple have made media search so good, and it will likely improve even more dramatically by the time they’re ready to remember their wonderful parents.

I make these videos at the end of each year and put month markers throughout to help understand the chronology – probably more significant with young kids who change so quickly.

I record song overlays

A departure from the traditional home video is that I don’t include any video audio. The reels are overlaid with music I’ve recorded myself … at least some are. I’ve used artist recordings as well, but the tradition of recording a song myself is something I think my kids will appreciate. This year I recorded “Beautiful Life” by The Collection, “Forever Young” by Bob Dylan, and my toddlers helped me record “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star”.

The songs are chosen to pair well with themes of that year, and based on what I can actually recreate myself. I’m no pro. My hope is that this extra personal touch of Dad’s music makes rewatching these home videos that much more heart warming.

I’m sure there are tools that aid with creating this sort of annual summary video, and if they aren’t quite as robust now I’m sure they will be at some point because I think it’s a problem younger generations will want to solve.

I hand pick all the clips and edit them down in iMovie. I’m guessing I spend about 15 hours creating one of these videos, plus more time on recording and editing the songs. I’m fulfilled just by creating these; I look forward to it. It’s a joy and I love watching the final video with my family and can’t wait to watch with them when they’re adults with their own kids.

My 2022 Annual Summary

Here’s what 2022 looked like for the Dalys!

A Daly 2022

Have you tried a home exchange?

In October my family of four flew to Oregon for free (with credit card points) and stayed for a week in a million dollar house for $150. And an Oregonian family stayed in our house for the same.

We signed up for HomeExchange this summer, a site that facilitates trading homes with like-minded people looking for cheaper, authentic, unique experiences. Within days of creating a profile and uploading some photos I was getting requests from, Denmark, France, Colombia, Mexico, California, and Oregon.

Look, Denton, Texas is a great place I’m happy to call home, but this is middle America with no forests, mountains, beaches, interesting architecture, or religious history. We do have a Chairy Orchard (someone’s yard with a bunch of chairs…).

So I wasn’t expecting many requests from places objectively more desirable. But people need to come to Denton for lots of reasons: house hunting, weddings, family gatherings, surgeries, or just one of many stops on a tour of America.

There are two options when exchanging homes:

  1. Reciprocal Exchange – a literal trade, staying at each other’s home during the same period.
  2. GuestPoints Exchange – pay a nightly rate with GuestPoints when someone is offering up their home during a period they won’t be using it.

Our first HomeExchange experience was with GuestPoints. When you sign up and complete a few tasks you earn points you can spend. We went to Galveston and stayed in a lovely house 2 blocks from the beach for free*.

*There is a $150 annual fee that covers cancellations and property damage, but there’s no limit to your number of exchanges.

Not only was the house that we stayed in perfect for us, but there were so many touches you don’t get with a hotel or Airbnb. Our host (who we only ever texted with), left us personally addressed toys and snacks for our kids and cookies & wine for mom and dad. Because you’re opening your home up for others there’s an added level of pride and care that’s certainly absent at hotels, and rare among rental homes.

Airbnb’s used to have that personal touch, but they’ve lost that and gotten much more expensive. It’s made home exchange an even more appealing option in 2023.

Then came our reciprocal exchange with the Oregonian family. They also have two young kids, and so the week spent in each other’s homes was as good as an amusement park for kids who are always more excited by another kid’s toys. Their family was exploring DFW as a possible new residence. We were just in awe of the gorgeous city that is Bend, Oregon right at the start of Fall.

We have more exchanges lined up and look forward to a lifetime of trading our home in order to explore places we’d never have thought to seek out. There’s no education like traveling, and what better way to do it?

An unexpected pro of participating in home exchanges is that it motivates you to keep up with all those little home maintenance projects you otherwise put off. Paint touch-ups, fixing a sticking door, replacing the bathtub drain stop that leaks a little.

Want to swap houses for a week? Check out our house here. I’d love to answer any questions and share more about our experiences.


Beautiful Art

Do you ever listen to a song, and while you’re immersed in its beauty you get a rush of this feeling that you wish your work could be as perfectly complex, composed, balanced, thoughtful, and poetic?

That thought overwhelms my senses.

I’m certainly influenced by my ability to make music. I’ve been singing, playing guitar and piano, and recording for more than 20 years. Naturally I want to emulate what I’m hearing in music. But the unique aspect is that I want to feel that same accomplishment with what I do in my day job.

I used to make websites and do all kinds of tangential things. Today I only do tangential things: organizing teams that do that work. When you’re a maker (of music or websites) the craft is at your fingertips. It’s in your control. With enough time and resources you could conceivably achieve a work of art in any medium.

In my role now it may still be possible to get there. Or maybe that’s a feeling you can only get being hands on with something. Or it could just be harder. Or it could just be harder for me. At least it’s what motivates me though, the ambition to orchestrate things to beautiful outcomes.

As for beautiful art that constantly gives me this feeling, Noah Gundersen…

Personal Finance

A savings planner that works

One of the most difficult things about budgeting your savings is knowing how much to put where and when. It’s hard enough to budget your everyday expenses, but then you have to figure out what to do with anything else you want to save.

Assume you’ve already used your savings to pay off any credit card debt, and assume your mortgage is “good debt” that you aren’t in a hurry to payoff. Where do you place your excess cash?

401k/403/b, IRA, Roth IRA, HSA, 529, index funds, stocks, crypto?

There are so many considerations: level of income, tax situation, kids (and age of kids), retirement goals and progress toward them, medical circumstances to name a handful.

Fortunately, Personal Capital has a savings planner tool that is the ultimate hand-hold, guiding you through how much you should (and can based on contribution limits) save where.

I use this tool frequently to ensure I’m on track with getting the most of out of my savings. It helps balance for risk by ensuring you have enough cash on hand for emergencies, then guiding you through putting your savings in the highest returning options first.

Screenshot of savings planner on Personal Capital

COVID-19 Deaths Compared to All Deaths in the U.S.

This chart shows a few things:

  1. Gray bars are the actual number of recorded deaths in the U.S. for the given week.
    1. The gray area in the latter 8 weeks also represent actual deaths, but are significantly incomplete while death certificates are still being processed.
  2. Red bars are the actual number of recorded COVID-19 deaths in the U.S.
    1. The red area in the latter 8 weeks also represent actual COVID-19 deaths, but are significantly incomplete while death certificates are still being processed.
  3. The orange line is percent of expected deaths – the number of deaths for all causes for this week in 2020 compared to the average number across the same week in 2017–2019.
    1. The orange dotted line is where the currently available percent of expected deaths is, but is significantly incomplete while death certificates are still being processed.

The raw data is available from the CDC. It’s been copied into this Google Sheet in order to produce this chart.

Number of deaths reported in this table are the total number of deaths received and coded as of the date of analysis, and do not represent all deaths that occurred in that period. Data during this period are incomplete because of the lag in time between when the death occurred and when the death certificate is completed, submitted to NCHS and processed for reporting purposes. This delay can range from 1 week to 8 weeks or more. Percent of expected deaths is the number of deaths for all causes for this week in 2020 compared to the average number across the same week in 2017–2019. Previous analyses of 2015–2016 provisional data completeness have found that completeness is lower in the first few weeks following the date of death (<25%), and then increases over time such that data are generally at least 75% complete within 8 weeks of when the death occurred.



Seriously, banks? Obvious website security issues at major US banks

Of all the websites you visit you probably assume your bank’s is setting the security bar. Well…

Google publicly announced last year they would begin sunsetting SHA-1 support in Google Chrome, the green lock icon you’d expect to see on your bank’s website might start turning white, orange, or red depending on how out of date their security is.

Back in 2011 the CAB forum, an industry group of leading web browsers and certificate authorities working together to establish basic security requirements for SSL certificates, recommended that websites should start using SHA-2. In fact, the government published deprecation plans in 2011 to take effect in 2014: “SHA-1 shall not be used for digital signature generation after December 31, 2013.”

Insecure httpsSo you’d expect your bank to be privy to this information and waiting with bated breath to upgrade their security as soon as available. Unfortunately, the login form of all of these major banks fall short of very clear expectations:


Google even warns users that, “The site is using outdated security settings that may prevent future versions of Chrome from being able to safely access it,” and, “Your connection to XYZ is encrypted with obsolete cryptography.”

This doesn’t mean they’re inherently insecure. Banks do have many layers of security and are held to a higher regulatory standard (in the US at least). But this is low hanging fruit, easy to implement, and is a public declaration of a commitment to security.

More reading

Google Tag Manager

Google Tag Manager dataLayer.get()

I wanted to use reuse data stored in our Google Tag Manager dataLayer variable and finally found an obscure slideshow reference on how to to actually do just that.


If you’re using Google Tag Manager you’ll already have the var dataLayer = [{}]; setup on the page. You’re presumably using dataLayer.push() to populate it with data so now just use the get() function to call for the keys previously pushed.