Oh the trends I’ve missed…

Ten things you think about, ten things that make you ponder. There are writers here on Virily that often post things that I find beyond interesting. Some of them force me out of my comfort zone and help me ponder the wonder around me. Some of them make me want to post big red letters on their post saying “Hoax: and not true. Some of them I argue with, their points interesting but not always what I see and believe. That is the wonder that is the online world. The joy of conversation. The wonder of sharing information with other people and of course, community. It is why I have stayed here on Virily; I truly love the community of writers and artists here. It feels like home.

Sometimes as you reflect you have to remember why you do things.  For me today I am sitting in my office, finally feeling better thinking about doing more of the things I love. It is after a vacation. A time to recharge and consider the many things that have gone well leading to the vacation as well as the many things that could have gone differently. Based on that I would like to share a few of the not gone well issues I’ve run into over the past few years. The first and truly painful was the reality of Populate. Populate was a second screen for your phone, designed to be always on the back. You could throw notifications and GPS directions on the back screen reducing the wear and tear on your phone’s battery.

The 1.0 version of the product shipped, they were crowdfunding the 2.0 version. Sad to say the company went out of business. It was a painful realization that you can’t always guarantee what you think is awesome, is truly awesome. Some others that went the way to the dinosaurs (although scientists point out that birds are relatives of Dinosaurs, so they didn’t go all the way away) include a huge number of Indiegogo campaigns. I no longer back projects on Indiegogo unless I know the creator personally. Far too many cool devices failed there. The one that makes me the saddest is Mi World. A multi-media service designed to stream your content anywhere. I have a lot of content! Goovis actually does that for me now, but that wasn’t available then.

Tech Wiz

The answer is easy, you tell me!

A person that I struggled to work with over the years once, in a moment of self-clarity asked: “what communication pattern and anti-pattern do you think applies to me.” First of all, in fairness, I don’t do that. I create the patterns based on what I observe, but I don’t assume that someone always uses the same patterns or anti-patterns. I also don’t like labeling people, and sometimes an anti-pattern is a label that sticks, far longer than the meeting did.

“The answer to your question is, I don’t. That is for you to decide not me.” Certainly, as an observer, I have an opinion. (I did, in fact, one of the anti-patterns was modeled after that person’s behavior in meetings) But it doesn’t matter what I think. It matters what you think. What do you think your pattern is?” For the next hour they, using the anti-pattern I had pegged them for describing the patterns that applied to them.

I have to say at the end of the house I was convinced that the anti-pattern I had assigned to them was right. But I was also right in not sharing my opinion. It is critical to remember that no one chooses to see themselves in a bad light. Self-reflection is more to see zits in the mirror than it is to correct the flaws we share with others. We are the children of a lesser god, to borrow from the play. Children who cannot see ourselves sometimes for where we are. I know sometimes I cannot see myself. I know a number of the patterns and anti-patterns I have found in others are in myself as well.

.doc

communications wanderer

Of my journey to being a technologist. My paddle to the computer…

During my career, I have made a couple of pit stops. Those pit stops were shorter moments of employment than I would normally have even considered. One was a situation of not being able to deal with the passing of my father and needing to leave. The other was an ethical situation that still bothers me.

That said, it is interesting how an IT career progresses. IT wasn’t a career when I started that was on my radar. It was a career in the sense that you could walk right out of college when I graduated and be an IT person. My degree, my focus, and my career right out of college were as a school teacher. I set out to follow in the giant footsteps of my father. I found out quickly that I couldn’t fill his shoes. But, I do recall in interviews superintendents saying to me “you aren’t long for education.” I thought that was an indictment of my teaching skills, so I asked them. They all said “no, you would be a great teacher, but you won’t be one long. I give it ten years.” Seems funny now that I think back. They were right (a total of three superintendents told me that. One said I would teach for four years or less. One said ten years and the other said nine years. All three were wrong. I was a teacher for seven years) in that I didn’t teach a long time.

I still teach, but now it is more by doing a presentation. I didn’t leave teaching out of some noble obligation, some grand quest. I left because I love technology. Not that you can’t be a technologist and an educator, you can. Rather that my love of technology was on the other side. Not how things work (which makes you a better teacher I am sure) rather my interest was what could I put together. My interest was not one I could do as an educator because frankly and fairly you have to help kids achieve their educational goals first. So I left teaching in the rear view mirror.

Now I am a technologist. People ask me all the time, how do I get to where you are? I tell them two paths they can take. One is to go and be a teacher for a year. Work in a 2nd-grade classroom and be responsible for everything. The other, if they are not inclined to be around children. Is to sit on the telephone helpdesk. To be a support person for a time. That is, like teaching a way to grow the skills, so many people don’t understand.

I love technology. Without question, it has changed the world in the time I have been alive. What once was is gone. Will a robot replace you is the new issue. Will AI render your job obsolete? It won’t render teachers obsolete. We need them, to see the child come to school and to look on their arms for bruises. Sure we could build an AI system that could educate kids, but in the Elementary Years of education, kids need hugs. They need a pat on the head.

Today is a wandering day. I am stuck in a moment of memories for some reason. As if remembering was even remotely important today over every other day that I awoke to blog. It isn’t, but for some unknown reason, I am stuck in the swirl that is a memory. Remembering the way things used to be, once upon a time.

I guess there are those who years ago were right. The Superintendents who said I wouldn’t be a school teacher my whole career. They had insight and vision at that time that I didn’t have. But there were others who were wrong. Like my ex-wife who told me I was best served by selling my computer and to stop playing with writing and computers and focus on being a school teacher. Otherwise, as she left, she said I would never be anything.

Sorry, ma’am, you were wrong.

.doc

happy now…

IT Jenga©, a great game for your IT friends!

The concept of IT Jenga© is one I shared yesterday. Jenga itself;f is a very simple game. You build a tower of blocks. When the tower is complete, you either take out any of the blocks below the top three rows and place it on a new top row. In theory, the game can go on forever. In reality, the game becomes unstable after 8 to 9 turns.

IT Jenga©, on the other hand, has a slight variation in its play. You still take turns but instead of removing one, and putting it on the top, you remove one and grab two more from the other pile. IT Jenga© takes two full sets of Jenga blocks to play.

The advantage is in IT Jenga© you don’t have to build a tower. You can create a larger base. The other reality of the game is that like regular Jenga without careful playing before building your organizational Jenga tower to start; you won’t last three turns.

Organizations, and I have worked with many over the years fail at migrations. At the first problem, most teams stop the migration and either terminate it or start over. There is nothing wrong with failure which is why we here at IT Games have released IT Jenga©.

You see the beauty of IT Jenga© is that if your tower falls, you start over. You can start with once again planning your migration. You rejigger the pieces that didn’t work. You shuffle the deck again. Perhaps your base needed to be broader. Maybe you were doing too much early and too little late. Or too little early and too much late.

The path to success is not hard if organizationally you are prepared for the what and how of the migration. Every migration starts out with an incredible promise a dream if you will. We could also call it a vision but let’s go with dream as it is a little bigger than a vision. That dream, we are going to enable more with the new solution, is awesome. You can do more with the new solution than you can with the old solution.

As an organization embarking on this new journey the first thing, you do to make that dream real is your plan. Plan for success! I learned many years ago that the easy way to plan was to start by assuming you were doing and going back and reviewing what you did right. Then writing the components of the vision, the things you want to do, and write that down as the dream. Once the dream was established, you would be able to move forward.

Look, the reality of big migrations is a pain. I won’t kid you. The failure rate of migrations isn’t any higher than one would expect. The problem isn’t failure, the problem is resolved. That is why I moved that vision to a dream. You see dreams are aspirational, which means in the strictest sense that when you are playing IT Jenga© based on that dream you will pay attention to the foundation needed for success.

I want to be a doctor. Therefore, what do I need to do?

You start with the things you need. For a good game of IT Jenga,© you need a base. That base needs to be able to both support the organization but also to allow the organization to grow. In the IT Jenga,© there is a variable coin you flip. Heads you end your turn. Tails you pick up a variable card. The variable card may be something like CIO discovers that she wants to have email on her phone add two additional IT Jenga© blocks to your IT structure. Effectively instead of the three you would normally do, you instead have to do five blocks. The coin flip occurs at the end of every single turn. You could, can and will have to plan up front for variables to make it past four turns.

Good luck! I hope you enjoy IT Jenga,©!

.doc

inventor IT Jenga©,

Travelers in an ancient land came across a computer…

Over the course of my schooling, there were a few poems that stuck with me. Early in my writing career, I wished to be a poet. To stand and deliver my poetry out loud. I did, for a long time, chase that dream. There are bits and pieces of poems that fit into my lexicon now because of that time and that dream. The two that I most often use when talking to technologists is Dylan Thomas’ “Do not go gentle…” and probably even more iconic and applicable to the world of technology in which I speak and most often converse is the line from Percy Bysshe Shelly’s immortal Ozymandias. “Look upon my works ye mighty and despair.”

The latter often used to explain to people that there are no great works if they can be forgotten. There is no statues that stand between us and our destination. Technology, as it exists today, is a way station, a moment in time. A river that flows beside us near us, but stays ever in its banks. As long as we respect the river, it will not jump its banks and wipe away what we are building.

This technology age in which we live has many possible outcomes that are exciting. Analysts and experts say we are in the information age. But too much information resides in places we cannot search for it to be an age of information truly. Or perhaps the analysts aren’t telling us of two information ages. The initial creation age where information is built, systems are built to store information and us as humans move from the reality of Fake News to the reality of verification. Then rises the second information age, where information is verified and ubiquitous. More available information leaves this initial information age as the statue of Ozymandias was. Up to its base in sand, a barren desert without nothing to be seen by the travelers. On the base on inscription “Look upon my works ye mighty and despair.” The first instance of Fake News. For there is nothing to be seen.

I wonder if 100 years, or 500 years from now, archaeologists won’t be standing, in front of some ancient computer reading analysts proclamation of this is the dawn of the information age. We have arrived, and now information is everywhere. Laughing, they turn around to welcome future 8-year-olds, who having already memorized the entire history of humanity up to the point we are now, look at the fluid, bending screen and ask polity. What is this that you are showing us, teacher? The archeologists are smiling and gently step to one side so the teacher can speak. “Class, this is the excellent analysis of 100 years ago. That they were in an information age.” The laughter ripples through the group of students. One young girl raises her hand.

IMG_0386“Yes, Millicent.” The teacher says the child’s hand in the hair.

“They thought that information was stored and then consumed?” The child asked.

“Yes,” The teacher answered. The children, the class, the teacher and the archaeologist all hung their heads for a moment. All of them realizing that the glorious statue in front of them, the mighty past age of information, was not. It was the mighty Ozymandias. Standing there, in all the glory of greatness, revealing behind him a barren desert with nothing to be seen.

There are two poems that to this day resonate and echo in my heart. Sadly, they also echo and resonate with my profession. Rage, Rage against the declaration of the information age. We should know, we should understand, that declaring this an age of information will only cause presentations to future 8-year-olds who will, upon seeing our great information age laugh. Let’s stop now, before we as the great future joke, build our statue in the desert. Let us not be a cautionary tale that is told as a reminder that no one is greater than time. That information as it is isn’t an age yet. Do not fall into that good trap, which lost cause. The information age lies there ahead of us. Let us not build roadblocks. Let us not rage now that the information age is here. Let us instead go gentle into that good future. Go gently into that good age that lies ahead of us. We are preparing information now. Someday let’s not be a joke.

“What did you learn at school today son?” A mother asks gently.

“Well, the best part of the day was when we heard an ancient computer, something called a podcast where great analysts rose out of the desert and proclaimed 100 years ago the information age. Our class laughed for a long time mother. It was a funny joke.”

.doc

Ancient traveler…

Of What, and why, and finally how?

For the past few years, I have blogged every day (roughly ten years of blogging every day). In doing that I have missed a few days overall. But I have managed to amass more than 5000 total blogs. If I could all the places, I’ve posted to, roughly ten different blogging sites overall. I started out on the Windows Live blog (that was ported to WordPress when Windows Live shut down its blog spot). I will not say I am driven to blog, but I love to write, and it is the best possible mix for me.

There are however technology changes to the blogging process overall that have made the process easier for me. The first is the k8000 keyboard and mouse from Logitech. It allows me to lean back and relax as I type out my blog. Plus, it is rechargeable, so I don’t have to change the batteries. I cannot tell you how many times before, I would be typing along as my keyboard ran out of batteries, and I would sit there dumbfounded. Why is the keyboard not working? I know I wasted a few hours over the years trying to fix a problem that was just a new battery away from being solved.

3Another innovation that I leverage heavily is my desk chair. I have had some office chairs over the years. I realized last year that having a comfortable desk chair was the single most important thing I could do for my home office. So I got a great ergonomic office chair. It is comfortable and lets me put the keyboard in my lap and type like my hands are on fire. Although in thinking back to what I just wrote, would you type with hands that were on fire?

There are other innovations that I use all the time as well that are less technology and more comfort. My office now has a ceiling fan. In the past, I always had directional fans in my offices but never a ceiling fan until we moved to Maryland. Yes, I am stuck in the corner of the basement, mostly to keep the mess contained (Spluge it is called by those who relegate me to the cellar). Having a ceiling fan reduces the heat in the basement office by 5 or so degrees in the summer. That is a nice addition. I also have a fan that moves the air around and is useful. But that is only turned on the hottest days.

The last thing that isn’t technology but helps me considerably is routine. Now, after all these years I am used to writing every day. It is something I learned many years ago when adding the writing institute at Indiana University one summer. Write every day, don’t stop, just write. I always think, when I write something like that about the Carpenters song “Sing, sing a song.”

Consistency in writing every day has helped. The cool technology helps me as well. Having the ability to scan and convert all the old family pictures into digital files helps me. It is fun to be able to wander through all the many things that have happened over the years. The more you share, the more the universe returns to you!

It has grown beyond what I started with. To think 12 years ago now, in 2005 I was very frustrated with the customer service provided to my family by Vonage. I wrote about that a few times in those early posts, in fact, I think it dominated my first five posts overall. I have shared serial stories that went from day to day until they were finished. I have shared the poetry of Sandler Boggs. I have pulled the tendril of family memories since my father passed away. Scanning the nearly 40,000 slides and pictures he left me. We also converted the films of my grandfather, hours of the old film now digital video files that share our family history all the way back to the massive snowfall in Cambridge Wisconsin in 1946.

Sitting in my comfortable office chair, pounding on my second K8000 keyboard (I wore the keys off the first one!) and sharing my ideas with the world. I can say that there are many things I’ve shared now, that I wish I could rewrite and redo. Things that I have pushed out into the universe that I wish were a little better. Stories, which told me were of incredible beauty, but my retelling was of average beauty. Images I have shared that were taken by photographers that I cherish. Not always the greatest pictures overall but the greatest to me, for me. A path to being one with who I was, and who I am yet to be!

.doc

cool tech dreamer

Be careful, and change your password!

I have no doubt as I embark upon my journey for today that I will arrive at my goal. I can see my goal now, clearly there in the distance. In the past it was fuzzy, it was hard to understand and unclear, but now it is evident. It is not ambition, nor is it about where I should be; it is my goal, my vision.

It can be hard as you traverse your career to realize that where you start and where you end are your choices. One of the things that I have come to accept is that I love technology. All of us, have something that helps us focus, helps us become more of what we believe we were meant to be. For me that reality is technology. For me it is not the reality of servers chattering with each other in a data center nor is it moving those workloads to the cloud. I’ve done that and it is interesting, but I am more curious about what lies just over the horizon.

The recent WikiLeaks articles from the CIA talk about the vulnerability of the many devices in your home. The national news organizations offer advice on using your device. Two of the pieces of advice are awesome; the first is turn the device off if you aren’t using it, the second is always change the default password. The last one seems to be difficult for a lot of people. Just changing the password makes it harder for low-end hackers to engage.

crappieIt is a hard reality to accept, but it is sadly where we are. The goal today is to be as safe as possible. There is no way to be secure, to be completely safe. If you go completely off-line, you are still at risk of your identity being stolen and used. If you turn off all the devices in your house, there is still a risk from your ISP not patching routers fast enough.

We live in a time of risk. But, so has the rest of the human race throughout history. We no longer have to fear bears attacking our families or us. That was a concern for many people many years ago. It is, of course, relative but we as humans have always had something to fear.

You cannot live in fear of what may be. You can pay attention and make sure that the things you add to your life to make your life easier don’t create vulnerabilities. Or if they do, that you manage and minimize those vulnerabilities. This is not a cry to pull back, to keep everything in your head and hope you don’t forget it. It is simply a call to be careful.

Don’t be afraid, just be careful. It is the advice you give your children; it is the advice your parents gave you, and it works. Be careful; there are people out there who do bad things. The goal is to keep them as far away as possible.

My simple security system:

· The more critical the account, the more often it should be changed (I change credit cards and my bank on-line every 45 days).

· The more key the account, the harder the password. I use passphrases for my most critical accounts. Pass phrases like “mycatlikestoeatdogfood@night17” is a great example. A little long to remember but you get the idea.

· Don’t panic and if you are hacked at work, call the security team right away! If you are hacked at home power down the device, disconnect it from the network and change the password offline if you can. If you can’t, then go ahead and hard reset the device.

Don’t let fear rule you. Just plan, prepare and do the best you can!

.doc

I am just saying…