Friday, June 15, 2012

If you don't like it, don't buy it

Being a relatively opinionated person myself, I've grown accustomed to using various online channels to share my thoughts on topics from technology to parenting and practically everything in between. For the most part, I generally try to keep my comments productive and positive. I figure my comments might actually be more meaningful and useful if I take such an approach.

It never ceases to amaze me when people use social media and other digital channels to beat each other up based on choices. I find myself asking, why??  Now, I can understand passion for a topic. I can understand begin steadfast in a belief. What makes me shake my head is when opinion sharing becomes snarky, rude, offensive, etc.  Again, why??

Apple vs. (name your favorite PC vendor). If you are happy with your choice, awesome! If you don't care for someone else's choice, again, awesome!

Ford vs. (whoever). Do you like the car you drive? Sweet! Don't care for your neighbor's car of choice? That's cool too, but, do you need to hate on him/her?

Don't like Facebook? Hate Twitter? YouTube? Cats? Dogs? Hot Weather? Cold Weather? Broccoli? Chicken? Football? Soccer? Rock Music? Rap Music? ????  Fine! But, why be judgmental about these things and even more importantly, why be judgmental about the people who DO happen to like them? It's not like someone's choice to use a Mac significantly alters the life of someone who prefers a PC, right??

Bottom line, we are all free to like or hate whatever we wish, but, can't we learn to express our choices and opinions in such a way that we are not being offensive? I love hearing alternative perspectives to my own, but, only when presented in a reasonable fashion. There have always been people who are more than happy to push their opinions on others to the point of being rude. However, with the relative ease of online publishing and the ability to do so anonymously, it seems many more people feel comfortable being nasty. After all, there's no consequences, so why NOT be rude?

My simple rule is this; If I don't like something, it's possible I may mention it, but, I don't buy it, use it, eat it, listen to it or endorse it. If you like whatever it is, I'm glad you're happy.

Thanks to No Haters Pictures for the above image.

Click here to get Images & No Haters Pictures - Pictures

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Faster and Faster

Ever have one of those days where you stop, turn your head around and wonder what happened when you weren't looking? I've found as I get older, this happens more and more. I don't think this has anything to do with me not paying attention, rather, I believe it's a byproduct of just how many things change and how fast. The speed of innovation, the willingness of younger generations to adopt new ideas more quickly and the sheer volume of new ideas have combined to create an environment of change that can be overwhelming.

Example: I was chatting with Rita (Rita Joseph, my long time friend, colleague and now manager) about this and she mentioned how the phrases she and I think of as normal are going away. "I heard it on the radio last night" is now "I heard it on Pandora". "Did you catch (name your TV show) last night? No? Guess you'll have to wait for reruns." is now "I caught up with the last 5 episodes of (show) on Netflix yesterday".  I make no judgement because I happen to like most new innovations, however, I get a bit nostalgic thinking about the demise of past technologies.

Now I understand how my grandparents must have felt when man went to the moon or when personal computers became prevalent. To me, this was normal. I've never known life without such things. For my kids, they've never known life without touchscreens and social media.

Sometimes I wonder, is it really going faster now or is it just my turn to notice??

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Now, this is a leap in the right direction!

Last week, I put a few thoughts together regarding the newly published Digital Government Strategy. Imagine my surprise when I received a Tweet from Mr. Macon Phillips, White House Director of New Media. Mr. Phillips asked me about my thoughts on a new program called the Presidential Innovation Fellows - MyGov. I have to admit, I felt pretty special being noticed by a man who works in the Executive Office of the President. So, of course, I immediately took the time to read over the program.

Being a person who's a little hard to impress these days, I have no problem saying that the intent of this program is one of the best I've seen in a long time. For the past 7-8 years, during my tenure with Adobe and since, I've had the opportunity to share my thoughts through various channels and venues on how government could have a significant, positive impact on the lives of most Americans if only government would stop and consider what people really want, how they want it, why they want it, when they want it, where they want it, etc.

So often, citizen interactions with government are complex, tedious, confusing or seemingly not related to the outcome the citizen is seeking to achieve. Generally, this is due to the history of how IT systems have been created throughout the years, typically built from the bottom up, giving the most attention to the technical aspects rather than focusing on what the people using the system are trying to do. Government is not unique in this manner, practically all IT systems have been built this way.

So getting back to the MyGov initiative, this program is intended to reshape the way government and citizens engage by bringing together a team of experts from government, academia and, most importantly in my opinion, 'regular' people to represent the citizens of the country. Not that I flatter myself enough to believe I had anything to do with this happening, it seems as though someone was digging around in my notes. I couldn't have come up with a better plan.

My only criticism, and it is minor in the grand scheme, to become a Fellow, participants must be available on a full-time basis for 6 months. While I understand the requirement, this limitation may preclude direct and active participation from those outside government and academia who may have a harder time getting the time away from their job. In my travels over the years, I have come across many extremely talented 'engagement designers' who could contribute significantly if there was a part time role as well.

Anyway, regardless of the fact that I recently started in a new role, I intend to apply to become a Presidential Innovation Fellow. I believe in this initiative and think it is important enough to put my personal career on hold should I be honored with a spot on the team.

Mr. Phillips, thank you for bringing this to my attention. And, thank you to all those in government who have lent a hand in creating this program.

I'm impressed.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Where's the Easy Button??

The marketing folks at Staples are geniuses for coming up with the idea of the Easy Button. Really, how many times has this idea been re-purposed by others to make a point? And each time, Staples gets a mention, even if not overtly!

Well, now it's my turn to give the Easy Button a push to make a point.

For the last 28 years, I've been exposed to a wide range of enterprise technologies and systems. As a sales engineer, a product guy, a CTO, etc., I've had the opportunity to experience some really GREAT installation procedures and some really cruddy ones as well. Some installations are intuitive while others were incredibly complex. There are many reasons for such disparity, ranging from the dependencies of a system/application to the skill of the team creating the installation procedure.

Yesterday, I jumped on a plane to Chicago to visit headquarters (Cleversafe) to stage a system scheduled to be shipped to a customer for a Proof of Concept at the end of the week. Having yet to perform a staging/installation exercise from scratch, I scheduled a full two and half days to be here for this activity. I mean, we're talking about staging a system that incorporates 12 servers that are starting out in boxes with no software. The entire POC system has a storage capacity of over 2 petabytes of usable storage. This should take awhile, right?

Imagine my surprise when the entire activity was completed in under 4 hours. (BTW, I was being taught on the fly, which slowed the process down just a little bit.) This included the following:

  • Bringing the boxes into the staging area
  • Removing the servers from the boxes
  • Placing the software image on each server
  • Configuring each server with the appropriate networking information
  • Connecting the machines into a network
  • Setting up the actual Cleversafe dsNet software
  • Configuring the dsNet
  • Burn in testing
  • Shutting down and reboxing the servers in preparation for shipping
When theses machines get to the customer, all that's left to do is take them out of the box, add the rack rails, slide them into the rack and connect power/network. At most, 90 minutes. Qualify for the Easy Button moniker? Oh yeah. 

It makes me wonder how many other storage providers can get a 2 petabyte system up and running from scratch this easily? 

Easy Button. Pushed.

And what is Bobby going to do with his extra time in Chicago? Well, I'll give you a hint. There's hot dogs, beer and a 7th inning stretch in store for him later tonight. Yeah, working for Cleversafe is a good thing.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Which comes first, people or information?

I just finished absorbing the new digital government strategy rolled out on Tuesday by the White House. Thinking strictly as a technologist, my first impression is the strategy is an exercise in stating the obvious. There's nothing blatantly WRONG with it, but, there's also nothing ground-breaking. This is a pretty standard and accepted approach to large scale platforms/systems/services.

Now, let's take a look at the strategy again with a different point of view, the customer. From this perspective, there is an obvious mistake in the strategy, not putting the customer/citizen front and center. Many will argue that the customer is represented, even called out in a bullet point. Yet, it is not the first bullet, it is the third. Subtle? Maybe, maybe not. It is my experience that whatever is written in a strategy or requirements document first is what gets the most focus, so, that would suggest that the 'needs' of the information come before the 'needs' of the customer. When the inevitable time comes to make trade off decisions in the design, who normally loses? Yep, the person using the system.

Forward thinking organizations who have wildly successful online applications and services have recognized this by building their digital strategies to first focus on people. Who's the target user? What do they care about? How do they use technology in their day to day lives? And most importantly, what are they trying to do?? It is only after the customer's perspective is fully understood that the technical aspects of the system should be considered. Systems and services are built from the top down, rather than the traditional approach of bottom up.

At the end of the day, what's more important, the system/data architecture, the APIs, etc. OR a citizen/customer successfully achieving a desired outcome? The answer? Both, however, it's time to get the horse before the cart.