Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Le Minivan trop-plein!

What sort of crazy people jump in the car to go North to Canada in Winter?

Well, that would be me and my family. We're currently in Quebec, Quebec - the most French place in Canada. My French is limited. No, check that, it's actually somewhere between non-existent and hopeless. Thanks to Madame Brown in Year 9, I can sort of say some stuff. (Most of it wrong) Anyway, we've been enjoying the snow - so far there's been just under a metre.

We've been swimming outside in -17 degrees, Cross country skiing in Montreal, been to the Canadian Museum of Civilization in Ottawa (including the coolest children's museum) driven through the driving snow (It was driven mainly by the wind) and somehow, haven't managed to drive each other crazy - despite having eight people in our dodge minivan.

(we managed to rope Ali's sister Jen and my Sister Kirilee into the adventure.)

Anyways - there's free internet here at the best western in Quebec, so I'll try to get some pictures and more impressions up soon. Adieu!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Idle Hands, the Devil and Heffeweisen

Just cleaning the kitchen after a busy days worth of work on the infovark project. Sometimes you have those days where you feel you're working your very hardest, and yet, things seem to go backwards just to spite you. After a solid 6 hours worth of code, less then 2% of the 300+ unit tests that we've written were passing. Oh well. I guess you get that on the big jobs.

I was just pondering, as I was scrubbing those pesky pans (does it ever seem to you that all pans seem perpetually dirty? It's just like you're cleaning them, but you can't really scrub off anything more than one layer of dirt. Pan dirt is special. I think it contributes to much tastier food.)

Anyway - oh yeah - pondering. I was thinking how sad it is that no matter how well humans adhere to whatever their particular religious code may be, that there will always be someone somewhere else who would view them as condemned to some kind of hell. If you're the world's most pious Christian, then the Orthodox Jewish faith would see you as going to hell. And the Muslim folk. And a bunch of other, not quite exactly the same but similar divisions of the Christian faith.

If you're the best Buddhist ever, and you never even step on an ant or swat a mosquito for your whole life, then, there will be a bunch of Christians who will be honestly very sad that you never "saw the light" and "accepted Jesus into your heart". Your religious peers may well revere you, but to everyone else, you're just plain old damned.

It makes me feel a bit sad for all those people striving to be faithful, knowing that somewhere, someone will condemn them.

Personally - I'm an atheist, so as far as anyone else is concerned , I'm going to their own individual religion's version of hell, and I'm okay with that, because frankly, the whole think seems completely nuts.

But scrubbing pans is universal. We all have to do it at some point. In the pan scrubbers religion, nobody is damned. We all get to go to pan heaven, where the stainless steel shines so bright, we all gotta wear shades.

Or something. It's late :)

Monday, October 15, 2007

Changing the 'We'

(This is cross-posted with my new company blog, inforvark.com
I'm pretty excited about the new job, new challenges, and so you can expect to see more project management, Enterprise 2.0 technology and software posts happening over at the infovark site. I'll try and keep Over The Falls up to date with personal stuff, but no promises! )


For most people, the use of the nominative plural pronoun (’we’) tends to refer to themselves and to the other significant people who happen to be sharing their lives.

If you work for a company, or any kind of collaborative venture where there are multiple people working towards a similar goal, you’ll find that you use the word ‘we’ an awful lot. For example ‘We need to refactor that code, and we should probably add some comments’ or ‘We need to get our TPS reports done by Monday’.

I think that the use of the word ‘We’ is one of the nicest things about being at work. That one little word indicates collaboration is occurring. It shows that you accept some joint responsibility for your success (or failure), and it reminds you that you’re all in this together. Whenever you start a new job, or a new project, the first few times you say it, you notice that you just said it. It’s a thing, at first. Then it quickly becomes part of the corporate vernacular, and you aren’t as aware of it anymore.

Personally, in the last five years, most of the time I said ‘We’, I was referring to TOWER Software. TOWER make a well regarded ECM suite called TRIM Context, which is designed for the government and highly regulated markets. After 5 years, I decided that I was brave/crazy enough to try something on my own, and was fortunate to find a kindred spirit in my TOWER Colleague, Dean.

And so for both of us, Infovark is a new kind of ‘We’. We‘re a small startup based in Northern Virginia, who have a vision for changing the way people work together.

Anytime somebody says ‘We’, we want Infovark to be there supporting them. To make it easier to share information. To help them make decisions. To help them get to know each other. And to take away the burden of complex, enterprise software that is hard to use and understand.

It’s an ambitious goal, but it’s one that we’re utterly committed to.

And so, it starts! We hope you’ll stick with us, and share the journey.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Quote for the day...

“If you don't like change, you're going to like irrelevance even less."

- General Eric Shinseki.


Found on R.Todd Stephens new collaborage blog, via Jesse.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Inspiration

Apparently Einstein once said:

'The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we used to create them.'

That's way cool, if it's true. And even if not, it's still way cool :)
*

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Social Networks ate my blog!

Hello!

I haven't updated my blog in forever - and personally I blame Web 2.0.

Between Twitter, and now Facebook, and my crazy work commitments, I seem way too busy to even think of anything interesting to say...

Friday, June 22, 2007

NeoHippy Leanings


Simon's new blog, The Cluttered Desk, talks about how people in your head when you read are composites of people you know.

It's true - it reminds me of how I read somewhere that one theory of dreaming is that all of the people you meet when wandering around in your dreams are really you. Ocassionally in a vaguely lucid dream, you can become aware of this, which makes weird dreams even weirder... But on some level, this makes sense - for instance, while you think you are talking to your Wife, you're really talking to the way you imagine your Wife to be - it's not like she's actually in your head...

Reading is similar to dreaming in that respect. The late Kurt Vonnegut, in his last interview, said of reading that he thought reading was a difficult task. If you could do it right, you could be transported to the murky waters of the Atlantic with Herman Melville, or a deserted tropical island with Defoe.

But if you couldn't do it, I guess there's always TV, right?

Friday, June 01, 2007

Lifehack - Nothing is Easy


"I'm annoyed!" I announced to nobody in particular.

I pushed the desk away from me and rolled back into the middle of the cubicle.

"What by?" Dean asked, turning away from his machine.
I thought for a bit.

"Well... I'm annoyed that things don't just come into existence because I think of them."

"Uh -right... You're actually annoyed by that?"

And you know, I was. I mean, I still am.

In software development, solving conceptual problems isn't always easy, (or even possible) but it is usually rewarding. Unfortunately, just solving the problem isn't enough. Once all the hard thinking is done, you then have to sit there, and wiggle your fingers in a very exact and particular sequence, until your design is completely implemented. Then remove all the mistypes and little deviances from your perfect unimplementable design.Then re-test it, over and over. And that's the thing that's annoying.

And the more I think about it, the more this little truism seems to apply to everything in the world. Knowing what you have to do is all fine and dandy. It's the doing of it that's annoying.

For example, I know I have to get up and go into the office tomorrow. I won't want to. I will want to lay in bed, and listen to the Typewriter Bird outside the window. I know I should eat less, and excercise more. I know that watching CSI:Miami is a complete waste of time. I know that. Doesn't all that knowing count for something?

Bah. Being smart enough to know what I need to do should be enough!

But, one thing I do know with my thinking brain is that reality doesn't work like that. That nothing comes as easily as thinking.

And so, lately, I've resolved to pursue reality with a little more vigor than I previously have. To work harder at materializing these clever thoughts into actions and artifacts.

And central to this, is the mantra that 'Nothing is Easy." Essentially, I've just assumed, slightly pessimistically, that everything I need to do will take more attention and concerted effort than my default appraisal might expect.

And so far, it's been a remarkably liberating thing. I find that at the end of the day, I've done much more, simply as a consequence of expecting to do much more.

Today, for every action you conciously pursue, from preparing breakfast to all your daily work tasks, remember that it will take MORE than you think.

That nothing is easy.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Aw...

For some reason, I was a little bit disappointed when I visited:

http://www.abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz.com

Every Good Domain Name is taken. Here's Why.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Blather...

Well, I'm still alive - and feeling largely refreshed after a long over due vacation to DisneyWorld, the happiest place on earth. To try and get y'all back up to speed (yes, they really do say that down in the South), here's a bulleted list of stuff that I've found interesting...
  • As well as being the title of this post, Blather is a plug-in that my friend Stilly wrote for his gTalkBot, that allows you to publish all your twitter-esque daily musings to your Blosxom powered blog. Very cool, and Stilly's Blathering is pretty entertaining too...

  • While on the topic of Stilly, his second book just got published! - it's a how to guide on building your own PVR using Myth TV. I had a go at this a while ago, and it was really kind of confusing, especially for a Linux N00b like me. A book is long overdue...

  • My friend Ian Schue, who works with me here at TOWER NA has started blogging. Apparently the birth of the universe, donuts, quantum computing and giant ants are all somewhow connected... A great read!

  • My lovely Sister-In-Law, Ruby, now a proud mum for the second time, has also given birth to a blog;

  • I've also enjoyed a vicarious European vacation, courtesy of Simon and Karina.

  • I finally bought a Das Keyboard II - easily the best keyboard I've ever typed on. If you spend a lot of time at a keyboard, you should consider getting one of these.
  • Lindsay went to Disneyland and rode the teacups too! I have to dig out the vomit inducing footage of the whole Taylor family squished into a single teacup...

  • If you were wondering what else I'm up to, I'm been slightly more vigilant at updating my twitter feed than my blog.


Thursday, April 19, 2007

What does ECM Stand for?

(Apart from Enterpise Content Management...)

Ron Miller's post on returning from AIIM really rang loud with me.

"...It was the complete lack of innovation. I can't help feeling that ECM has lost its wow factor. It has matured to the point it really has nothing new and exciting to offer customers."
I work for an ECM company. It's a good one, and my company has plenty of experience and a great product. But I can't shake the feeling that the whole world of enterprise software is utterly devoid of any real innovation. There's nobody thinking different. The most interesting thing to really happen to the ECM industry in the last three years has been SharePoint, and it's not really very interesting at all.

Add to that the whole round of market consolidation that's happened recently has ensured that things are going to be more consistent than ever before. There's no pressure on any one of the major ECM vendors to deliver anything revolutionary. The RFP process ensures that the whole industry is focussed on box-checking, staid and static feature sets that deliver questionable value. Even worse, that same procurement process ultimately places the decisions into the hands of people who aren't going to really interact with the solution all that much - so the people who use the software aren't important enough to effect change.

And so, there's no real impetus for change in the market. It's more about business as usual. About services costs, and new license revenue wars. About sales demos and shipping software that nobody uses. About delivering the same old stuff.

Although I can't find the reference, I believe it was Shigeru Miyamoto, creator of some of the world's best video games, who once said:

"If all you do is give customers what they are asking for, you will be able to keep them happy. But you will never be able to really surprise them."

It's not the kind of thing that is going to inspire the next generation of people to become better at what they do, or save them from ridiculous working hours.

John Newton and the guys over at Alfresco have recognized that this is the case. But it's going to take more than just a different business model. Safe is risky, remember? For a long time I've held on to the notion that what we really needed was some truly great, inspirational software. But even this might not be enough. (Hey, maybe enterprises want boring, hard to learn and use unhelpful software. It does keep them busy, after all.)

I really feel that software needs to improve people's lives, or else it's just a complete waste of time. Change the world, or go home. It's Tail-Chasing. It's nothing more than a bunch of stuff that we all did while we occupied the planet in order to 'pay the bills'.

There is such a huge amount of potential in both our technology and our ingenuity, to improve the way that we do things. And at the heart of all this activity are those nebulous organizations of people that we refer to as 'Enterprises'. Managing their content is important, no doubt. But improving the way they function is more so.

Better functioning enterprises benefit us all -because we are their employees, their customers, their citizens. Enterprises only exist because they are made up of people, and they exist solely to interact with people like us.

Striving to maintain the status quo is actively retarding the (already slow) development of enterprises, and that doesn't help anyone at all.

If they work better, we all work better.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

What's better than actual tax?

Virtual Tax!

I just spent WAY too long in the local Fairfax H&R Block, waiting for Michael, the local tax guy to figure out how to do my taxes. While he was "out back" trying to cajole the system into filing my 1116 (Foreign Tax Credit) form, I sneakily opened a web browser on his machine...

The default home page was an internal intranet site. It told me, in delighted H1, that H&R Block had just opened an island on second life.

"No way!", I hear you exclaim (Or is that just me thinking loud...)

Way...


As long as you don't have to pay tax twice on your second life... although I guess it kind of makes sense. Incidentally, my tax 'burden' here in the US for the last year ended up being the princely tithe of 185 dollars - apparently because I have four kids. Still, it seems crazy low. I don't know who's paying the taxes over here, but it turns out that it's not me...

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Life in a cupboard...


This is my new 'office'. It's a cupboard. Because we have Ali's Sister and family staying with us in the crapshack at the moment, I had to forgo my study to be used as an extra bedroom - so I moved into the cupboard in the hallway.

I know, it sounds a bit nuts, but I really like working in here! There's no distractions, I can shut the door, It has great soundproofing and acoustics so I can crank up the music - and best of all, nobody can come in and talk to me, because there's no room for more than one person. So if people want to talk to me, they have to wait until I come out.

Joel Spolsky is currently trying to find a bigger office for his Fog Creek developers. Maybe he just needs to move them all into cupboards...

Creamy Snuff?

Okay, this is just plain weird.

In India, you can buy Toothpaste packed with Tobacco.

"In a state of despair or when you are depressed, use Ipco Creamy Paste to drive out the blues. It will change your attitude and your reactions so that your responses will be positive, leading to improvement in your state of mind."

Um... Okay.

Crazy nicotine dreams...

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Yep - We can Mow that....

Since late Summer, Simon and I have been working on a way to fix the Craftsman Riding Mower that we bought for fifty bucks. It had been left in the rain for a year, after it refused to start. Well, we replaced the fuel line (it was full of some weird looking fungus), replaced the starter motor (unnecssarily, it turned out) replaced the battery and the ignition switch, banged one of the engine mounts back into shape, drank an awful lot of beer, and finally - Voila! We can mow anything!

Here's the maiden voyage:



And Even better - It can tow kids!


Sunday, April 08, 2007

Low tech is good

I really got a kick out of Miranda July's new website for her upcoming book. (link via Seth Godin)

(You know, there was a time when it wouldn't have been possible to build yourself a website using the top of your refrigerator.)

It seems to me that the best marketing in the world is the stuff that comes honestly from people.

For all our new-fandangled technologies, various broadcast media, and in a world that is full to overflowing with 'Your call is important to us' style corporate bullshit, A Single Conversation between two people still counts more than everything else.

I guess it's because as people, we're all hardwired to listen to each other.

(Well, most of us, anyway :)

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Papparazzia

My Brother Grae is a photographer for Snapper Media, one of the leading "Independent Photo Agencies" in Australia. Basically, he's what might commonly be referred to as "the Paparazzi", (although he does a lot less street photography these days)

He's currently in Melbourne, following the celebrities around the children's hospital.

While such a job might seem glamorous, and the sort of thing that Video Games are made of, His latest post about the stark reality of his current gig really touched a nerve with me.

You can keep up to date with his travels over on his blog, Please Don't Punch Me.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Patrick's Science Show

My Son Patrick decided to prove the theory of gravity with some help from his baby brother Lincoln, our tree house, a large log, and a shoe...



Thanks to Simon for producing, directing and uploading the episode!

The Path Less Travelled...

Speaking of Red and Blue Pills, one of my oldest friends has bravely declined the suppository in favour of starting along his own path.

Marimba is a service designed to connect music students and teachers using some of the latest "Web 2.0" technology (there are only a few months left where I'll actually be able to write that phrase...)

Cam Grant is one of the smartest and most talented people I know. Besides teaching me all about XML way before it was cool, A long time ago (can it really be more than ten years?) he introduced me to Jazz Fusion, by bringing home a box set of Weather Report CDs.

And now, he's decided to create his own kind of fusion from his two great passions, technology and music.

But let's face it, technology is really only of interest when it does something amazing. By helping musicians become better, and to improve and grow, Cam's really helping to fill the world with new music - which is just a truly inspiring thing to be doing.

If you're planning on being the next Jaco Pastorius, you're a music teacher, or you are just thinking of taking up those piano lessons from when you quit in the seventh grade, you should drop by and bookmark AcousticPath.com - I have no doubt that it will be worthwhile for you - and maybe for all of us :)

Red Pill/Blue Pill

Simon sent me this comic the other day. Like him, I'm not sure of it's origins, but it sure made me laugh...



Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Here be Trolls...

Just a quick shout out to Kathy Sierra, who is sadly seriously considering never posting again as a result of some seriously odious behaviour. Kathy's blog, Creating Passionate users has been a great source of inspiration to me, and is always required reading.

The thing about nasty troll-folk, is that the threats really rattle you. They get into your head and live with you. It's stupid, and sad. You don't want them too, but they do, nonetheless. I know it's the internet and everything, but it's made up of PEOPLE, OKAY! You shouldn't say anything you wouldn't say in person.

Anyway, If you're a fan, make sure you stop by the comments section and show your support. And if you aren't, you should stop by and read the archives - you'll probably become one :)

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Watch the Cricket World Cup for Free - P2PTV

If you're a cricket fan who happens to be stuck far, far away from people who care about cricket, like say, America... there is a solution!

If you have access to the Internet, and half decent bandwidth you can download a program called sopcast, (program download here) which is a clever spin (probably from off to leg...) on bitTorrent, and other p2p sharing protocols - basically it allows one 'broadcaster' to share a channel as a torrent, allowing for other watchers to pass bits on to each other after they watch them.


It's kind of like watching TV at someone Else's house, except you bring their TV over to your house. Oh, and you don't know who they are. And then you send your TV over to some other random strangers house. Okay, so it's nothing like that at all....

Anyway it seems to work pretty well for me. The odd dropout, but hey - it's free - so who's complaining?

Channel 21237 has the Cricket World Cup - C'mon Aussie!

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Stuck in Seattle


I'm over here in the Pacific Northwest, at the Seattle Tacoma Airport, having just given a TRIM Demonstration to a potential customer.

I haven't really had much of a chance to see the city, or much of anything, although the view from the plane flying in over Pugent Sound was really quite spectacular. It's really weird seeing a giant mountain sticking out of the clouds. That just looked kind of... wrong.

Unfortunately, I have to wait over here until midnight to catch the redeye flight back home - all the airports close on the east coast, so it's not possible to catch a flight after about 1PM in the afternoon once you factor in the time zone difference. Which sucks. Airports are just not that interesting.

And that's why you get boring blog posts like this. Nothing to say. Bored. Just read this post forty-five times if you want to approximate something like the kind of boredom that 9 hours at an airport can bring.

* sigh *

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

TwitterVision

What's better than seeing what your friends are doing right now?

Seeing what Everyone is doing!

Twittervision is a great mash-up of google maps and twitter.

Stare at global banality people. It's real!

Monday, March 19, 2007

More Twitterage

Well, I'm currently up to day 5 in my twitter experiment. And, you know what? I'm starting to get it. At first, I just signed up all by myself, but that was boring, so I nagged my friends to join. (I can be a surprisingly effective nagger. )

Once you have a few people making updates, the whole thing changes. I don't have time to read lots of long detailed posts each day, even from people I really like - but I will happily consume 10 100-word updates from my friends as to what's going on. It kind of distills down to the essence of social media.

The other thing that comes to mind is that we're all so disconnected these days. I spend lots of time talking to people, but comparatively few of them are actually here with me. Twitter gives you a tiny bit of the joy that you might experience if you were spending time with your twitter pals, except it provides it in quick, bite-size chunks.

140 words isn't enough to boast, or to really bamboozle people with your intellect - so Twitter posts seem more honest and personal. Like Haiku, there's the challenge of trying to fit more into the restricted posting window than you should be able to convey..

Anyways, I'll post some more once the experiment officially ends on Tuesday. Till then, you can get up to the minute updates on what I'm doing (like you care!) by heading over to http://twitter.com/goodgord.

Join up! - Add me as a friend! And if you have already done those things, then update!

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Mind the Trees - Amazon Surfing

This Video is of what maybe the longest wave in the world, the "Pororoca" or annual tidal shift from the Atlantic Ocean through the Amazon river. Incredible!

More here.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Twitter Schmitter,.

Okay - I've looked at Twitter.

And after some serious souls searching, I have to say, I don't get it.

It looks like a weird kind of micro-blogger thingy. I don't see how it could possibly be interesting, or really anything...

But, I read TechCrunh, and Scoble, and it's all like twitter-mania. Even Barack Obama and John Edwards are Twittering?

Okay fine, 901AM, you win. I'll give it a week.

One measly week of additional meaningless internet blog micro-excreta. And after that, I'll be able to conclusively denounce the whole thing as kiddy nonsense. Okay?

You can find my twitterings (?) at http://twitter.com/goodgord.

But only for a week.

UPDATE: Okay, I still don't get it. Apparently it has something to do with cats

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Apple does it again...

Those guys over at Apple just don't stop. Check out the latest innovation over at The Onion...
A Product launching product! Now, you really have to be on the cutting edge of innovation for an idea like that!

"Get ready for the future of product introduction," said Jobs, looking resplendent in a black turtleneck and faded jeans. "The iLaunch will be able to make announcements from this, or any other stage, making human participation in generating consumer awareness almost entirely unnecessary."

But - the real question is - can you get it in different colours?...

Rusty's back!

Rhys returns from the corporate wilderness with his latest web design. Shiny!

You know, you just can't appreciate it through RSS. Graphic designers must really hate that...

Monday, March 05, 2007

Winter snaps

Some frosty (full colour!) photos from wintertime here in Northern Virginia



Friday, March 02, 2007

Ubuntu






This is the first post I've ever written from a Linux OS. To be honest, I never thought I would ever make one. But, just on spec, today I took an old laptop I use occasionally, and installed the latest version of Ubuntu.

The whole installation process took me less than twenty minutes, and you know what? Everything I thought about Linux is wrong. This machine (a Sony Vaio P3 with 512 mg RAM) has a few weird components in it - I assumed that I would have to screw around and look for mouse drivers and do lots of command line typey-typey stuff. Ring up Stilly and ask him what the 'secret word' was to unpack a tarball kind of magic But nope - nothing.

Everything just worked.

Wireless, USB, Graphics, sound, all drives - everything. No hassle. And it looks brilliant! Kind of like a cross between Vista and OSX. Easy. Intuitive. And fast, too. This old machine performs brilliantly - better than it ever ran any version of windows.

And because nearly all my stuff (bookmarks, mail, documents, feeds) are all online and browser based, I haven't had to install or restore anything from backup. My world came with me. It's really never been easier to switch your OS.

Microsoft lost an awful lot when they lost the API war.

And I'm sure they couldn't really care less, but it looks like they've lost me, too.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

But Seriosly...

Seriosity are copping some flak for their unique approach to trying to solve the collaboration problem in the enterprise, in an increasingly information cluttered world.

The application, called 'Attent', works by attaching virtual currency (called 'Serios') to an outlook email. By setting the amount of Serios attached to an email, an information worker can indicate how 'precious' that email is. The Serios, once received, can then be bartered, exchanged, or used to reward employees - (how about spent in an online auction for a week of one developers time..., or used as brownie points towards a raise, or whatever)

While the comments over on TechCrunch seem to universally chastise the approach, I think that these guys are on to something. We need to realise that enterprises are made up of people, not automatons. Rather than mandating corporate behaviour and re-enforcing it with a big stick, the most nimble and effective organizations are going to be the ones that match up processes with the way people are.

Again, if we take Simon's Post on the TOWER Software blog - he obviously doesn't want to file stuff. If left to his own devices, he certainly wouldn't. The system that caters to his laziness is going to result in him being more effective than one that forces unfamiliar behaviour on him. Where Seriosity is concerned, we know that people like to measure things - particularly how favorably they compare with other people. By trying to engineer an enterprise system that plays into the way people instinctively want to behave, they're trying to get more value from their workers.

Trying to replicate the learning curve from modern consumer video games, as Dean says, is not a bad thing - I can't think of many other software forms where the manual is completely irrelevant. (for 'work' enterprise software, remember that even if nobody reads it in Userland, you can guarantee that the help desk guys read it religiously...)

Creating compelling work environments where people can do their work without forcing themselves away from their instinctive behaviour has to be a solid strategy. Lots of those comments were from web 2.0 entrepreneurs saying "Why did they get millions in VC funding for that?"

Leaving aside the question of whether sending Serios with your emails is a good idea, I can see why these guys got the money.

It's because they're trying to engineer the people, not the systems.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Why bother with filing?


Simon dropped something of a megaton bomb on the Tower Software blog the other day. For those of you who can't be bothered with the link, the (heavily paraphrased) summary goes like this:
"If I mis-file something, it takes me all day to find it. It also takes me all day to organize my filing cabinet. So, in a world where Google can give me stuff no matter where I file it, Why should I bother filing anything at all?"
ECM Systems, like TRIM Context, are often heavily based on information science, and encourage a kind of "virtual filing".

It reminds me a bit of my own post in 2005, where I was musing on exactly the same thing, perhaps unsurprisingly, after having to search through my personal piles of mess, just like Simon...

A few years have passed, and I've cultivated some partial answers...
  • Retrieval - Filing things properly and retrieving them is still the single most efficient way to manage data. Finding a document that's been filed properly will always be faster. It sounds to me like Simon organizes things much better than I do- if he'd been able to remember where he filed his passport, he would have been in and out of his study in no time at all. Sure, an unstructured mega-sort and index is getting more practical as hardware and processing power increases, but it will never be as efficient as finding something precisely where it's expected. High speed hunt and pick is always going to cost more, and take longer. There's a reason Google only completes a full internet crawl every 3 months or so...
  • Business Topology - a structured repository is worth a lot more in terms of business value, because it can teach you about your business, how it really works (as opposed to how you think it works) and can also give you clues as to what you need to do to in order to optimize it. Being able to see exactly where people are doing their work, and tracking and reporting on it is they key to operational efficiency. Nowadays, your information IS your organization. Is your organization a big vault filled with random stuff?
  • Context - Just like I was saying about Pandora - sometimes it's not what you're looking for, but what's filed next to it that counts. If I can find an email about a given project, all by itself it's not very valuable. Within a folder containing everything else that ever occured during the life of that project, it's business context becomes apparent. Now, instead of looking for an email with the word 'Strategic Plan' in it, I have every single business document that contributed to the Strategic Plan being formed. That's powerful stuff.
  • Control - If nothing was filed, every single piece of controlled information would need to be manually assigned at the document level. Having a structured and laid out filing plan allows you to apportion security and business logic in a much less granular, more sensible way - it's part of what allows you to scale. Applying security policy to a non-definitive search: 'show me all the things that contain the word missile' is hardly responsible. You might miss stuff. And what's worse, you'll never really know for sure...
So, there are more reasons to file in a modern Google World than you might think. Unstructured Search is all about making sense of chaos - systems like TRIM are more about organizing data when it comes in, and keeping the chaos to a minimum to encourage optimal knowledge retrieval.

Although it pains me somewhat to say it, I think that responsible, truly effective information management is really more about files and folders and policy than it is about giant supercomputer AI robots indexing a massive vault of random assorted business confetti looking for patterns.

(That doesn't mean that giant supercomputer AI robots aren't cool though. They are. )

Monday, February 26, 2007

Electric Mario

Has anyone else noticed that the logo for Newfoundland Power and the logo for Nintendo Power are almost identical?






Probably just me...

Thursday, February 22, 2007

And, in a quest for more girlfriends...

... The worlds engineers are having an

"Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day!" as part of Engineering Week

It's tomorrow - February 22, 2007.

More here.

Some of the best software engineers I've ever worked with have been girls - it's just that comparatively there have been hardly any of them...

Me, I'm going to sit down and watch cyberchase with my daughter...

blog == about == blog

I've been blogging a lot over at the TOWER Blog lately, and that's made me resuscitate my feed reader (something about having to have some interesting content...)

So I fired up blogbridge, but then, as always, I went looking for something better... Why can't I pick a feed reader and stay with it? I don't know, I just can't. Form is freed from content! I want my content to look and behave ... better!

Anyway, I ended up coming back to the Google reader. They've obviously listened to the worlds complaints, and they have made it significantly better. In fact, I might even go so far to say that I'm delighted with it.

I've always felt that RSS feeders should be web based, but both bloglines and newsgator gave me the shits for various reasons. For a while, I was using the Google homepage, but that's too much hassle, and doesn't really track what you've read or where you've been.

If you were one of those guys (like me) who checked out Google reader in the beginning and dismissed it, you should go back.

It's good.

And it just further entrenches all my personal information into the Google machine.

Is there any other way?

*sigh*

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Whee!

Look how much fun you can have with three inches of icy snow, an abandoned brightly lit parking lot, a two dollar toboggan, and a few beers...



Awesome.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Advice for the hungover...

I just returned from Tampa, Florida, where this years North American TOWER Software TRIM User Forum (TUF) was held.

Yes, it's all about ECM, and TRIM, but as nearly anyone who's attended a TUF can tell you, it's also about having lots of fun, and something called 'Customer Advocacy', which often seems to entail a lot of drinking...

My mate Greenie, another Aussie over here with TOWER came up to me the morning after the night before, looking positively green and smelling faintly of vomit:

"Y'know mate..." He said to me,

"I reckon you must have to be really sick to die."

Oh man.. I laughed so much that I had to sit down. Well, mainly because my head was also killing me.

You can read about the much more sensible, work related efforts of the conference over on the TOWER Software Blog

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

The Wii Help Cat


With the latest firmware upgrade, my Nintendo Wii seems to have acquired a new feature - this mysterious black cat slinks onto the screen every now and again when the Wii is idle. If you try to grab it, it runs away - unless you sneak up on it with the wiimote very carefully. If you actually manage to pet it, the cat will give you a reward - a useful tip about how to use the Wii Dashboard, or whatever feature you're in.

What a crazy idea - making people work hard for a measly tip! (hang on - that's the whole principle behind the service industry in America...)

And yet, no matter - it's fun! I always try to catch the cat (if I'm lucky enough to have it appear). It dawned on me that if those same tips were presented every time I turned on the Wii, in a boring grey window, that I almost certainly wouldn't read them at all...

Dean and I were discussing yesterday how strange it was that people pay real money to do boring busywork in game worlds, that they wouldn't do in real life. Things like in World of Warcraft ("bring me back my chalice/treasure/pants" or whatever), or the Sims, where people are just managing pretend people's boring lives, instead of their own.

Sometimes seemingly bad design (intentionally making things harder to get at) can make them more attractive, and ultimately have greater impact.

You can read a full analysis of the help cat ,(and see a a video of it in action) over at Lost Garden.
Actually you should really go and do that, it's a good article on usability and design...

Monday, February 12, 2007

A Wiki Novel

One silly Christmas Party in 2005, My colleagues and I decided that what the world needed was a wiki novel. That anyone could edit. So, after a few beers, we started one, with the sentence:
"It's a compelling story of Vernon "FireFox" Wilson, a crack addicted journalist who decides to leave his humdrum job and become a ninja....
Alternatively, it could be about something good."

I kind of forgot about it, but Big Headed Simon pointed out that the Reluctant CyberProf had mentioned it in one of his essays... Then I kind of forgot about it some more, until Little Headed Simon told me that Penguin are actually doing the same thing, with their new wiki-novel, A Million Penguins.

They're proclaiming that:
" Anyone's allowed to write and edit the world-first novel, A Million Penguins, which is constructed in a similar way to the online encyclopedia, Wikipedia"

World First? I don't think so! We know better, right folks?

Anyways, I went back to our novel, and to my surprise (and secret delight) It had grown to two chapters! Two! Count-em!
(Admittedly, they're not very good chapters, but hey... )

So, if you'd like to hang with the cool kids, and get in on the real world-first wiki novel (instead of those fancy publishing company pretenders), you should drop by and share your literary acumen with the world... :)

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Color vs Colour

I must be thinking in American these days. I just accidentally stumbled on this great site:

ColorPicker.com - Quick Online Color Picker Tool

Purely on spec - just by typing in the url directly. Once I'd found my colour with no hassle (great site - couldn't possibly be easier) , I realised that the only reason I found it was because I didn't spell colour right....

Monday, February 05, 2007

Synaesthesia

Check out the wonderful Whitney Music Box, by KrazyDad.

If you liked Electroplankton, you may well find you stare and play with this for a while.

The idea is to turn a harmonic visualizaion (basically dots moving at standard related speeds around a fixed point) into the corresponding harmonic music. The result is hypntoic and beautiful - and very natural sounding.

You can read more about it the theory here.

Going Through the Motions...

Well, Saturday started okay. Ali and I slept in, while the kids ate cereal and watched cartoons. We woke up and made breakfast. I sat down to do some work, and play with Ruby on Rails some more. I went to the store and bought some coffee and bananas. All in all, everything was shaping up much like a Saturday should. I was happy.

And then, came a strange cry from my 4 year old son.

"Dad! I can't have a wee!"

I'm often a little hard to distract when I'm concentrating, so I guess some part of my brain might have registered the strangeness behind that statement, while I was still mostly trying to divine the magic of ActiveRecord...

"Aggh! There's water all over my feet!"

Okay, that made me stand up, and step down the hall to the bathroom.

Yep, there was indeed about two inches of clean water all over the floor - repeated attempts by Link to flush the blocked up toilet had generated a nice cascading fountain spilling out all over the tiles in the bathroom.

Okay - Blocked toilet, not the end of the world. I grabbed the handy plunger and began to plunge, ignoring my wet socks (ew).

Then from the other end of the house:

"Aggh! There's poo coming out of the shower! Gross!"

I left wet sock footprints on the carpet between the two bathrooms.

And it was gross. A chocolaty brown ooze had emerged from the shower drain in the ensuite.

Gagging, I put the plunger over the drain, and plunged some more. A brown sea-spray of finely filtered family excrement shot all over me, and the shiny bathroom.

"Ew!" came the yell from the other, spouting toilet, "Now the Bathtub is full of poo!"

Oh man. This was not good. Every single facility for cleaning humans was overflowing with sewage, and I was covered in poo.

For the next three hours I worked with an auger and plunger, trying to clear the blockage to no avail. It's funny how, at first, I was all squeamish about the poo. After three hours, I'd kind of come to accept it as part of my life. Eventually, in desperation, and thoroughly soaked with poo, I opened a sewage access cover in the basement, and stuck my entire arm up the pipe.

I know. It's revolting. Just writing about it makes me gag. At the end of the disgusting tube I felt something soft and wet, like a giant spitball. With the carefree abandon of a man with his arm dangling in a septic tank, I firmly poked at the thing with my finger.

Well.

What happened next made all the disgusting things that had happened so far pale into insignificance. This gigantic brown fountain of human excrement poured out around my arm, and spouted about 4 feet into the air. It was like the Captain Cook Water Jet, (only brown and full of bits of poo and toilet paper). I desperately tried to replace the lid of the pipe cover, squirting the jet stream in five different horizontal directions across the basement. I fought the poo, with all the strength I had, and eventually, the torrent subsided enough to let me replace the access cover.

Successful, yet feeling defeated, and in no condition to go out in public, I slumped against the basement wall. From up above, I could hear my son's cheering:

"YAY! Daddy fixed it! Now can I have a wee?"

Perhaps today will be a better day...

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Advertisers Beware..

Your days are numbered.

Now that computers can automatically generate slogans, and pick up free imagery via tags from Flickr, there's a whole lot more pressure on you guys to actually do something REALLY impressive...


Check it out : The Ad Generator, at http://www.cogandsprocket.com/adgen/adgen.html

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Lifehack:Ahoy, Me Hearties!

As previously mentioned, I have something of a tendency to procrastinate.

I really hate that I do this. The absolute worst thing about procrastination is that there is no reward. It's kind of like you say "I'll show me! I just won't start anything until it is due..." And then you end up working like crazy at the last minute. Ha. Take that...

So, naturally, I'm always out to find a way to trick myself into more productivity.

My current tool this week is the Ship's Bell - based on the sailor's system of watches.

Once you learn to tell the time by counting the watches, it becomes a lot more apparent how much time you're wasting.
And just by associating the sound of the bells with the fact that you should be working, I've found myself focusing on single tasks for the whole 'watch' - often more.

If you'd like to try it out, you can download a little system utility for windows that will sound the bells for you from fredsplace.org.
Or you know, you can just do it later, if you want...

New URL

Hey - this is neat - the new version of blogger supports custom domains - so this blog now lives at goodgord.com instead of goodgord.blogspot.com

(but old links will still redirect. So don't panic or anything.Phew!)

That's really nice of google to offer such a service, which I'm sure took them considerable effort to build, just so I can have eight less letters in my blog address...

Friday, January 19, 2007

What a Robot Really Wants

Dean made an interesting point on the TOWER Blog today about the future of ECM, and its relationship to Knowledge Management.

Having the information at your disposal becomes a lot more valuable when you can use contextual information from other related content to analyse exactly what you have. It's just like Simon was saying about Pandora - real value comes from analysing multiple classification axes - not just one. As always, somewhere there's an academic at work on the problem - the article on Faceted Classification has some good starting points...

It reminded me of an article that I wrote for KMWorld, a publication that deals extensively with knowledge management, about robots, and how you need to empower decision makers with information.Funnily enough, when I tried to find my paper, there were a bunch of third party vendors who were charging money for me to read it. So I thought that I'd just post it here for free:

What a Robot Really wants…Knowledge at the point of decision
By Gordon Taylor, TOWER Software

A small, two legged robot stands atop a glass topped coffee table. On its two dimensional world, it has to contend with a pot plant, an old TV guide, and several coffee cups, along with the ever present danger of plummeting over the side towards the carpet below. As the robot navigates its way around, a constant evaluation process occurs inside its software ‘brain’. First, information is collected through its sensors. Secondly, that information is analyzed, using a decision tree to determine the optimal course of action.

What do the adventures of this robot have to do with knowledge management? It’s more important than you might think. You see, right before the robot takes its next step — once this simple two stage process is completed, the robot could be said to ‘know’ something. It’s collected all available information, and analyzed it. Knowledge is created through analysis of information.

So the effectiveness of our robot friend — or if you like, how ‘smart’ it is, depends directly on two things — the accuracy and relevance of the information supplied and the effectiveness of the evaluation process. Poor information, through faulty sensors or too few sensors, will result in an inaccurate picture being fed to the decision making processes. Poor analysis will lead to bad decisions, regardless of the quality of information supplied.

Now I’m sure you saw this analogy coming, but face it — your enterprise is exactly the same. To create a smart enterprise, you need to have a stable, reliable information base, and the analysis tools that allow you to create valuable knowledge — knowledge that fosters good decisions.

Information management has been refined over the years, to the point where most enterprise architects are including a central structured repository as part of their information architecture. ECM systems, built on solid data storage solutions, are the platforms that facilitate these sound information management policies.

At the heart of these information systems, is metadata — data stored about the data you store. By monitoring, storing, and indexing specific information about your business content, ECM vendors allow their customers the ability to easily find any piece of information, and its relevant business context, quickly and efficiently. These systems are built on information management policy and principles that have been around for a long time.

So, if your organization has a sound ECM policy and system in place, it’s not likely to fall off the coffee table because of poor quality information. The next generation of Enterprise systems will focus on how to manage the analysis of that information base to support your decision making process.

The DIKW Model is an information hierarchy that’s frequently cited when trying to address this problem. The model was originally recorded in a 1932 poem called The Rock from TS Eliot:

Where is the life we have lost in living?
Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?
Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?

In the modern, slightly less poignant implementation of the DIKW model, we find four layers:

Data
Information
Knowledge
Wisdom

Nowadays, thanks to advances in data storage, the science of information management, and the implementation of these systems in ECM products, the transition from data to information is largely a solved problem.

Getting from information to knowledge is much more difficult. Knowledge includes the ‘how’ aspect of a problem. Returning to our robot, it’s the analysis of the information that tells it ‘how’ to proceed.

Current efforts at solving this problem are varied, and you’ll probably recognize them as the more modern features provided by ECM vendors. Collaboration — allowing people to discuss and share information in order to facilitate progress. Workflow — prescriptive, best practice knowledge defined by a business process analyst is another attempt to provide ‘how’ information. Content Management tools, like Blogs and Wikis all provide additional published content around a topic — more published analysis to help people decide which step to take next.

Tools like these are striving to bridge the conceptual void between information and knowledge. While the jury is still out on how effective they are, the challenge is considerable. The next time you need to evaluate a system for inclusion in your Enterprise Architecture, consider how well it bridges this gap. Think like a robot. Do I have the right information available? Will this system enable me to make better decisions? Without a careful approach to both aspects, you could end up on the carpet.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

My Friend said that you said...


Big Headed Simon explains why he thinks that Pandora is better than Last.FM.

Oddly enough, This week, I too was thinking about Pandora, and what a good example it is of how taxonomy doesn't have to be boring. In fact, the article that I just wrote over on the TOWER Software Blog, explains it.

It's like we're spontaneously having a conversation about the same topic, on different sides of the planet by talking to different people...

The Internet is strange sometimes...

Saturday, January 13, 2007

How to get your message across

If you've ever wondered what the best way to present information for maximum impact, or if you've ever sat and stared at a blank Visio Canvas trying to figure out how to get your concept across, then this is for you.

The Periodic Table of Visualization Methods provides an interactive guide to all kinds of great ways to present information - from concepts and metaphors through to timelines and cluster diagrams.

How's that for inspiration? Neat...

Thursday, January 11, 2007

iPhone

Just in case you've been living on another planet, Apple announced the iPhone today.

I tried not to be impressed and excited, but I just couldn't help it. I want one. It's kind of interesting that the iPhone is still designed to be a two handed experience - one of the great things about RIM's Blackberry devices are that they can be operated with only one hand - at least for checking and reading mail. The iPhone looks to me like it might be a bit of a hassle to check your email while driving. (not that that's a good idea, or I EVER do it...)

And, in a nice piece of bleeding-obvious litigation, Cisco has already decided to sue over a trademark infringement.

Still, whatever you call it - it's surely a very lustworthy piece of tech-kit....

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Cogito ergo non laboro

I just noticed (after what looks like nearly 170 days) that Stephen's Blog is alive and functional. And to top it off, he's made his applescript application for handling TRIM Context reference files available to all and sundry.

If you're using the Mac with ICE, you really need to go and download this thing -it pretty much ensured that Stephen never had to leave his beloved iBook for that hateful windows machine!

Anyways, (a very belated) welcome :)

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Humans Suck at Predicting the Future

I really liked this post from Chris Fralic, which points us to all the awesome predictions of things that were supposed to happen in the Internet in 1995:
"Gopher. The lower-profile poor cousin from outta town, the media has been so absorbed in the publishing potential of Mosaic that it hasn't noticed the continued, and dramatic, growth of this easier-to-use; albeit less visually sexy; alternative. One key difference: I can always find what I want in Gopherspace with only a step or two."
Yeah - that Mosaic thing was really a flash in the pan... Still, one other prediction caught my eye:
"The first intelligent agent software packages will emerge, allowing Net users to ask for a specific piece of information like "What is the population of Fiji?" or "How far is Saturn from the Sun?" An agent will go out on the Net , find the information, and return it without the user knowing the source."
Hey! - I remember all that 'Agent ' talk - (wasn't that where Clippy came from?) But this question reminded me of something I found in HTTPSpace much more recently - Hakia.

Hakia claims to be a "meaning based" search engine, and you know it's not half bad. For instance, try the results to both of those far-off zany impossible questions:
You'll find the correct answers easily - first hit, first page. It's not perfect - but it certainly is intriguing. Mind you, Google does a better job than Hakia, no doubt - I don't even have to leave the search result page to get the answers....Truth be told, I don't know if I'd pick "Internet Search" for my first start-up venture...Having said that, I find myself constantly returning to it, which I guess is a sign that it must be kind of good.

It's no "Intelligent Agent", but I guess I've always got Search Dog for that...

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Snap Happiness

Some random shots taken over the holiday :)





if (Year++){do while brain != numb...};

Happy New Year!

For my family back home in Congo, it's traditional to spend the New Year on the Beach. It usually rains a bit, but if you drink enough, nobody minds. And if you drink enough (like say - Fuzzy has been valiantly doing), then there's usually a midnight swim in the ocean, often complete with phosphorescent plankton that mirror the stars.

9903 miles away here in Virginia, things were a little different. But, not to be outdone, my excellent family and I headed for the sea anyway - to Ocean City, Maryland.


Of course, as Australia lives in the future, The New Year rolled around down under at about 8 AM New Years Eve, our time. I was a little late, but thanks to the awesome guys down at Malibu's Surf Shop, I managed to get all kitted out and ready to get into the Atlantic Ocean in the middle of winter:

The swell was small - maybe 2-3 feet. Feeling pretty gosh darn confident with all my fancy protection, I sauntered out into the water. Then I heard this strange noise as the first wave passed around shoulder height - it was kind of like the hollow sucking noise as the last of the bathtub water drains. Shortly after, I realised there was no more breathing for me. That weird sound? That was all my air spontaneously exiting my lungs.

Turns out that Northerly swell was mainly just made of melted icebergs.

I have never, ever experienced cold like that. My brain was throbbing with the worst ice cream headache I ever had. My fingers wouldn't bend, my lips went blue, and I acquired the ability to speak exclusively in profanities.

Then, almost magically, I found myself standing on the beach. I really don't remember leaving the water. Some primal protection reflex just marched me right out of there. And for a while, I seriously considered going back to the hotel for a hot shower. But no, I came here to surf, and I wasn't going to let the Atlantic ocean beat me. So, I gingerly went back in and managed to get in a decent hours worth of surfing. I also learned to be very, very careful about bailing on waves - the thought of putting my head back in the ocean was a far too intimidating prospect!


All in all, it was a pretty great experience - As crazy as it sounds, I'd do it again in a heartbeat. And I think I could maybe learn to deal with the cold. But I sure do miss the Pacific Ocean!