Saturday, March 06, 2004

The evolution of digital thought

I didn't start out as a nerd, intrigued by circuit boards and technology. But I did have a thirst for knowledge when I was young, and read everything I could get my hands on.

I've got a couple of degrees, though none of them have anything to do with computers or technology. Then I found myself entranced by databases filled with information, and it was a quick slide towards geekdom.

A friend helped me build my first computer. Now my world is littered with used computer parts that friends somehow believe belong in my hands. Must be the smile on my face when they give that spare graphics card, or network card or dvd player.

Every so often, I get to take a collection of those bits and pieces and make a machine out of it. And I can't help but think of Tracy Kidder's Pulitzer prize winning book, The Soul of a New Machine. The Wired article I point to is a look at the twenty years since the book was written. Anyone interested in project management or starting a small business, or working in the technology field could find a lot worse ways to spend their time than read the original. After you've done that, I'd recommend revisiting the link from Wired.

I also felt a bit of the same excitement, following a link from blogdex, in reading A History of Apple's Operating Systems. Makes me want to break out the old system seven machine I used for a while.

Friday, March 05, 2004

Rewarding Fridays

To every week ad beginning and an end. I'm excited about getting started on Mondays, and thrilled to make it to Fridays.

I've been thinking that a reward incentive plan for Fridays is a good idea. Not happy hour at the end of the day, but something, anything that acts as a pat on the back for a job well done, and a week of fine, fun-filled effort.

One of the nice things about Friday is the ability to spend sometime over the weekend thinking about it. If I come up with some good ideas on how to implement this plan, I'll post them here over the next couple of days.

Wednesday, March 03, 2004

Defining and Revising Measures

There's an old saw about supervision and running a business that goes, "You can't manage, what you can't measure."

But what is it that you should be measuring? How do you come up with a grasp of the difference between success and failure?

One start is to carefully define your business objectives. What did you write in your business plan? Your marketing plan? Do you have one of either? If not, consider putting one of both together. If you haven't reviewed your plans in a while, consider taking them out, dusting them off, and seeing how you might need to update them.

I was thinking earlier today that it's easy to get stuck in a rut, to buy supplies from one vendor without checking to see the prices offered by others because you've grown comfortable with the relationship between you and your salesperson.

Likewise, it's simple to go forward with business as usual, without checking the cost of doing business.

One of the most difficult things there is to do is to take a step or two, or three back. The day-to-day concerns sometimes obscure the bigger picture.

How much of a profit should your business be making? What types of benefits should it be able to afford you? How do you know that your customers are happy? Consider ways to define the measures you use.

NASCAR and the Fortune 500

An old time favorite, it's hard to believe that it's been a little more than a year since Slate ran Fortune 500, Meet Daytona 500 - What NASCAR can teach us about business. Interesting stuff, it examines the role of cooperation in competition. Highly recommended.

Tuesday, March 02, 2004

The problem with problems

The greatest and most important problems in life are all in a certain sense insoluble. They can never be solved, but only outgrown.

-- Carl Jung

Note to self: Painful but true, and something to carefully reflect upon.

Work is hard, learning to work should be easy

I remember training someone once, and telling them that, "work is hard." I'm not sure what impression it made initially, but I wanted to impress upon them that sometimes it takes an effort, and commitment, and an ability to rise to challenges.

I've trained quite a few people, actually. I'm getting better at it as I go. I try a number of approaches in showing someone how to accomplish a task, and have learned better to figure out whether or not I've gotten through to them and achieved some type of understanding.

Recognizing that different people learn in different ways is a good start. Some folks need discussion, and others want printed manuals. There are those who have to experience something first hand, and get those hands dirty in the process. Demonstrations, combined with discussions, and hands-on learning tend to work well for a number of tasks.

For instance, if I want to teach someone how to use a computer program for the first time, I'll set some goal, or a series of goals, and break the training down into a number of tasks. The repetition, and frequent usage can help the person gain experience and confidence.

I'll start by telling them what we are going to do, and explain the steps in the learning process. First, we'll start by me showing them how to perform that task by myself, with them looking over my shoulder. Then they will try it out with me telling them what to do step-by-step. We can discuss the process, and the reasons for it some more during that stage. Then, they try again, with me just watching, and present to answer questions if they have any.

Then, we repeat as necessary. The next day, we go over it again, just to make sure that they feel comfortable.

Work can be hard, and training someone to work can be hard, but helping someone to learn how to work can be easier if you have a good method to follow. The one I described works for me.

Tiger and the Oscars

One of the best things happening on Oscar night were the commercials. And one of the best of those was Tiger Woods playing a groundskeeper, trying to get rid of a bothersome groundhog. The story line was based upon the movie Caddyshack, a homage perhaps, to Bill Murray's nomination as best actor.

The scruffy looking Tiger ends up getting a little help capturing the rodent with the help of an exterminator who plays the song "I'm Alright" to lure the critter out of hiding. He tells Tiger that, "It works everytime."

As for the winners of the night - Congratulations New Zealand.

Monday, March 01, 2004

It's not all fun and games, evidently

An article on the challenges of Game Development goes into depth, and provides a perspective that you might not have expected. Game development is work.

just who are these people writing oline?

The Pew Internet & American Life Project takes a good look at online users, writers of blogs, webcam operators, and the demographics of content creators.