Sunday, February 28, 2010

I will REALLY miss the Olympics, anyone else? Who is glad to see it go?

Every day and night, on TV (multiple channels no less) there were world class athletes hacking it out. 

I will miss it.

I'm a sucker for the majority of the stories that NBC tells. I actually wish they had spent a month or so before the games letting me know more about who I was going to watch. They did an hour long "first timers" special, which was pretty cool. But why not more? Even if it had been an online only special I would have watched several hours worth on the personalities etc. And for us athletes, I could have taken several hours on who they train, why they train, where they train, who they train with, etc.

And I really would have liked more about the "support staff". The men and women who wax skis, sharpen skates, massage sore muscles, etc.

But I will be sad to see it go. Not thaaaat much longer until London, and having been to Sydney in 2000 I connect more readily with the summer concept, and I can't wait.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Dear Trip Advisor, you're idiots

Harsh words I know, but I feel that at the moment.

I appreciate that you need users to be registered with your site to provide a review, but why not let me know that up-front? Instead, I write an entire review, and THEN you make me sign up for your site.

Ok, I thought that was pretty stupid, but I'll deal. It's 2010, we all are registered for 20 sites we'll never actively participate in (I'm looking at you Friend Feed and Friendster ).

But, BUT, you really frosted my cookies when you offered me a FREE GUIDE from your site. 

What, that made me angry? How on Earth is this possible? Oh, because it was for the city I JUST VISITED! W-T-F? How is this going to help me? What do I do with this? Look at all the stuff I missed out on?

Instead, why not offer me a free guide to ANOTHER city? You know, somewhere I'd like to travel to in the FUTURE?

So there, I really stuck it to you, and I'm sure you're smarting. 

How to integrate with an existing project team

Breaking into an existing group, in whatever form (sports team, social clique, company, or consulting project team) can be a daunting task.

What is the NUMBER ONE tip?

Cliche, but being nice to others makes it easier for them to be nice to you.

So be very polite and nice, say hi to almost everyone. Introduce yourself, ask people polite questions about what they do and show an interest (your making them a friend/ally, and it helps you figure out who does what; you might even learn about office politics).

Learn the jargon and use it. If nothing else, you give the appearance of being an insider who knows what is going on. Done properly, this works well. If you use the language incorrectly, you look rather foolish (kind of like how Americans think Canadians and the British are "quaint" for the unique words they use like "water closet" and "telie"; secretly this is why "Harry Potter" was so successful, the accents). Jargon is important. And beyond implying you know what you are doing, it is a cue to those around you that you belong, you have a handle on the situation, and you understand the work being done. On my newest project I didn't know what a "walkerbox" was. This was a very basic term, and made me look bad to not know.

Offer a helping hand. This is helpful and endearing to your new teammates, and to you. For you it is worthwhile because you can quickly, make connections, and pick up on a lot of the cultural elements. You can help your teammates by offering them assistance with even menial tasks, demonstrate you're a team player, and help them advance what they are working on. "Learn by doing" right? Well here's how to do, learn, and have it all be in a low risk environment. Often times people won't even take you up on the offer, but you at least made it (and should do so in an authentic way). Those who do take the help, will typically give you less than critical tasks. Which is great. Semi-trivial tasks still fit into the overall flow of work. You can see what feeds into your little piece, and what relies on it.

Work hard. Put in an honest days work. Show an interest in what needs to be done. Let them know from day one that you are there to help out, and you aren't more dead weight.

Show an interest. Ask questions and be inquisitive. Ask for documents to read, background material, examples to learn from, templates to use, etc.

Help the next person. Take notes, write down what was helpful to you. If there is formal "new person" or "on-boarding" materials then discover what gaps there might be. If there is no guide, start creating an informal to help out.

What other tips or tricks might people have?

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

A simple way of fixing comments on blogs

I, like the majority of the blogging world, have found the existing comment framework to lacking. I think there is an extremely simple fix that would greatly enhance the value of comments. That is for there to be at least two types (no more than 4) of comments. The two best are:
  1. Questions
  2. Basic comments
And these two threads should be segmented, ideally side-by-side in dual threads (two vertical columns). The two types could be altered based on type of blog and content, the type of post, etc. But in reality, the gist of those two types cover 95% of the comments. 

Thoughts? Wouldn't comments below this post do well if on the left-hand side people were to ask questions and the right-hand side people wrote "Great idea!" or "You suck!".

Monday, February 15, 2010

O'Reilly's *Open Government: Transparency, Collaboration, and Participation in Practice*

After starting off with a preface and some other material, Open Government: Transparency, Collaboration, and Participation in Practice by O'Reilly press starts off with some severely wrong information:

"Imagine not having Google to quickly find information; no Facebook or LinkedIn to find new colleagues; no instant messaging to communicate with those colleagues once you found them. Imagine having to ask for permission every time you wanted to publish content online, instead of being able to do it quickly and easily with a wiki or weblog. This is the state of computing in the federal government."
Let's take those point by point, with particular emphasis on the Intelligence Community:
  • "Imagine not having Google to quickly find information" - This ability exists within the federal government has this within each Department and/or Agency, especially within the Intelligence Community. You may not be able to search across all domains as easily as you can use the normal Google, which is a major detriment, but there is Google search. That real "Google" search is not federated is bad. However, you have to consider the rules and regulations of cross-domain and cross-organizational information release. There are reasons these things are limited and controlled. When information is TOO easily shared, it creates legitimate issues of safety. This isn't a business where a leaked detail can cost you money. These details can and will cost lives. The lives of your neighbors, my friends and your family.
  • "no Facebook or LinkedIn to find new colleagues"  - Nothing actually called that, but using Intellipedia you can easily find people's profiles. It's a workaround, but it is pretty good in that space.

  • "no instant messaging to communicate with those colleagues once you found them" - Again, always exists within each Department/Agency but not "federated". See below for my thoughts on this within large organizations. This comment is akin to complaining that I can't use the same platform within company A as company B. Well you can, it's called Gmail Chat, and you can use that from almost any unclassified government computer.
  • "Imagine having to ask for permission every time you wanted to publish content online, instead of being able to do it quickly and easily with a wiki or weblog" -They absolutely have these options and tools within the IC, and they are HEAVILY used. The bonus of these in the IC is that there ISN'T the risk of improper disclosure. Remember, there's a reason you have to get permission to disclose information. It's because the lives of others are at risk. And there is an unclassified version of Intellipedia within the government.

In general, in what incredibly large organization where people have for decades upon decades been specifically kept apart can you find ready integration? 

When IBM acquired Rational several years ago (I was at IBM then), it took several months to get Rational on our IT baseline, on our email (the sucky Lotus Notes), and our IM program (Sametime, which isn't that bad). Now imagine IBM acquired them 30 years ago and was legally not allowed to integrate.

I'm sure the rest of the book is excellent, and I look forward to reading the portions of the free copy I have. But I find these comparisons tiring. There is NO comparison of business to US federal government.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Early on in the storm

Not the calm before the storm, but something like that.

Over a foot as of midnight, I'm scared what it'll be in the morning.

Posted via email from Christopher's posterous

Friday, February 5, 2010

How to write a great resume

A more interactive way to demonstrate how to write a great resume (using Prezi):

Initial Prezi presentation image by: / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Closing Prezi presentation image by: / CC BY 2.0

Thursday, February 4, 2010

I'm breaking up with @foursquare (again)

I'm sorry Foursquare, it's not you, it's me.

Ok, it's not me. It's my friends.

See, I don't know enough tech savvy people somehow, and have no true close friends who use you. I realize I'm not the hippest or most tech savvy guy in the world myself. But I have imported over 600 friends, plus another 200 Twitter and Facebook friends. Of that group, exactly two are using you (and one is @Scobleizer, and everyone is friends with him).

Sure, I should take this as a sign I need to branch out more, network, etc. But so far you don’t seem to have enough value to someone like me. And for your sake I’m worried that there are several million people like me.

I will miss checking in at an IHOP near me to show when I’m home (other’s use the Ritz…), and it was fun being the major of a well known government agency, as well as two well used Metro stops.

The badges were cool, but I never really got much out of your recommendations/tips or itineraries. And I never got any freebies either.

Maybe I’ve got it all wrong; maybe I need to keep on trying this out. Maybe we can go see a social networking tool therapist (@Scobleizer I’m looking your way!), work some things out. But for now, my heart and my network just aren’t into it.

All the best, hugs and kisses, and I’m sure you won’t miss me…


Monday, February 1, 2010

Fixing a roof leak, again

First time around we came home from a vacation to Costa Rica over New Year's to find our roof had leaked and left around a third of our master bedroom ceiling. We thought the cause of the leak had been addressed by replacing a small portion of the roof where we had found a ridge in the shingles (see Roof Patch 1 & 2). That ridge was thought to have allowed water to just slightly pool and then enter the roof line to the ceiling via some bad adhesive that left a nail hole accessible to the water.

#1, I recommend at least a once a year self-roof inspection. Look for shingles who's adhesive has gone bad, they will be loose. Look for sagging in the roof caused by bad/faulty plywood. And anything else that looks bad.

Since I hadn't noticed any issues, this became a problem (obviously).

#2 make sure to clean your gutters. This caused an ice issue for my neighbor.

As we thought the small roof fix was the solution, we had our ceiling fixed and I painted it. As much as painting can be fun, I'd rather not do it for no reason.

So that was a great disappointment for me when he roof leaked the second time and ruined a new spot of the ceiling. This time we examined the roof and determined, as we probably should have the first time, was in need of replacement.

What is the primary reason? The pitch of the roof (see Roof Pitches). It is around 3 degrees, which classifies it as a very flat roof and is not well-suited for shingles.

So now we're going to have to increase the pitch to get a steeper angle. We'll do this by raising the point of articulation of that portion of roof with the main roof (the troubled flat spot is for the addition that was put on this sixty-plus year old house around three decades ago).

This will be at least a three day project. BUT the current 5 inches of snow on the roof/ground makes things more interesting.

Tip 3, it helps to have a neighbor who is a really great guy, and a skilled contractor. He did the fix on the first issue, for an amazing price. And he'll be doing the roof pitch fix this time too.

The pictures Shingle Dip and Shingle Ridge give you an idea of what was causing some of the problems where water was pooling and doing nasty things to our house.

Posted via email from Christopher's posterous

Recreating requirements

Recreating requirements for a system is my current, and very short deadlined, task for my current client. They had a contractor develop a system several years ago. This was done, and done poorly.

The implementation was poor, as the developers significantly diverted from the original design. This led to the system being redeveloped by a 2nd contractor. They improved the system, but have 2 years later not fully met expectations. A major part of this was not meeting contractual requirements of producing updates to their documentation (design, architecture, requirements, etc).

Where I fit in is producing a more up to date requirements baseline. What we have is the initial baseline of requirements when the replacement contract was let out. Then there are documents that contain comments and recommended modifications. And there are also "Change Requests" that stem from the system implementation. These are both fixes and modifications/improvements to the system.

To date I have had to sort and combine various comments, deconflict them, and then cross-walk those items into the new baseline while adding the Change Requests into the mix. Below is a good look at the type of a functional requirements matrix one can use for tracking requirements


You can find some templates for use by Ivan Walsh here.

Lijit Ad Wijit