July 15, 2016

Breaking Radio Silence Again

It has been a while since I’ve posted here. I’m thinking I may go back to a daily update for a stretch to keep the blogging muscle limber and trained.

Personal InfoCloud Backlog too

Over on other blog, [http://www.personalinfocloud.com](Personal InfoCloud) I have had a few more recent posts, but I have a very long backlog of content for that space as well. I need to rewrite the intro to the latest post there, [http://www.personalinfocloud.com/blog/2016/6/20/team-roles-needed-for-social-software-projects](Team Roles Needed for Social Software Projects).

I also have a series there called [http://www.personalinfocloud.com/?category=Shift+Happened](Shift Happened) that I have at least 12 most posts that need to get written (edited, or more likely rewritten). The next two in the Shift Happened series are related to UX in enterprise software and services and the subject of Adaption. Both of these subjects could likely have more than one post each. The UX in enterprise needs a grounding / framing piece as many still think of UX as visual design and not things being designed for use (nor all the various roles and domains that make up successful UX design). The Adaption pieces need the framing of complexity and complex adaptive systems to get set as a footing, but also needs to frame how adaption works and enables being comfortable in an ever changing environment that we live in today. As well a focus on Adaptive Road Maps is needed as how one plans in an ever shifting and complex environment is needed when today’s road maps for the next 2 to 5 years are shot to pieces after a quarter or two. Having and maintaining a long focus on where a company or product is headed is really helpful, particularly when needing to understand foundation priorities needed for a long haul in a world were agile practices drive the day-to-day, but those agile practices are incredibly nearsighted and often discourage the long view (I’ve had a lot of work related discussions about this in the last 6 months or so as it is a common deep pain point for many).

Health

A common question is about health after the eColi issue in 2014 to early 2015. My health seems to be good. Getting through last winter’s holiday season had me on edge as I was partially expecting to fall ill again. Thankfully, I stayed healthy.

March 13, 2016

PubPub from MIT Media Lab

I just stumbled into MIT Media Lab’s PubPub service that is an open platform for writing new research journals. It has some nice collaborative features, versioning, embraces markdown at its core, and inline discussions.

Social Circles

One of the pieces I really want to explore is how its social dimensions work. My my take on different things I write and have interest in have different social circles that I want to ping and get feedback from. But, there are subjects and groups / communities that I really would like to participate in as well. This is a more complicated and complex area that really needs work and focus. Google+ tried this but deeply flubbed it as their circles are based on individual’s perspectives and not socially constructed realities (knowing the boundaries of who is involved in a circle and having really solid social interaction design around that is a basic requirement, something nobody at Google seemed to consider nor have basic foundations in social sciences to understand this basic need). For PubPub, getting these constructs right would be really helpful and make it a really powerful service and platform.

Other than PubPub

PubPub is fairly close to what I was hoping Poetica would become and Draft app. I’ve been thinking about this for The Lenses and its subset, Social Lenses writings. Also just being able to write blogs and get knowledgeable sanity checks on them from others before posting. This is something I was trying to do with Draft app and had some success with people who are familiar with markdown (which is most people I interact with), but alerting people or subsets of groups that there is something I would really like early looks at and feedback is where it falls a bit short. It also seems like Nate Kontny is now more focussed on Highrise (light CRM service that he took over and now is CEO) than Draft. Also with the purchase of Poetica and its imminent shuttering, I’m looking at other options.

Some of what I have interest in can be found in Medium, but I’d rather just syndicate there, given their use policy. Medium is a really nice content creation platform, with some okay drafting with feedback capabilities, but I’m looking for a bit more. I also really prefer Markdown approach these days as it keeps things really light and I can edit and work on writing from most any platform I have with me or at my access, even if I’m lacking a network connection (which is something that is really helpful for focus for me actually).

One PubPub Wish

The one thing I wish PubPub had was an open source version where I owned the platform and could run it on a server of my choosing. But, it looks like this is in the plans (a few bugs need to be squashed on their way to this), as the PubPub About page states.

January 14, 2016

Podcast That Gave Life Back to the Living

A few years ago after my mom passed away, which was 11 months after my dad passed, I was in a deep fog. I was in Stockton, California a lot for about 16 to 18 months taking care of things and wrapping things up (mostly trying to sort out a lot of mysteries of where things were and went - some mysteries remain). On my trips out there I would get out to the Bay Area every few days to see friends, have work focussed meetings, or just get out of town.

On those trips, as well as errands around town (including around DC), I would listen to podcasts. They were great ways to have (sort of one-sided) conversations around things I had interest in, but was lacking someone else with that interest with depth where I could learn things. They also kept me entertained. The big thing was they kept my mind going (it was a slow time on the work front) and not dwelling on loss.

Many of the podcasts I listened to then were on the 5by5 Network. I deeply enjoyed Mac Power Users (and still do) and many other shows there. But, there was one I really enjoyed, which was Back to Work with Merlin Mann and Dan Benjamin.

Back to Work Was a Lifeline Back

I’d met Merlin a few times through special web related things were both were involved in, he is a friend with many friends, and we had the pleasure (at least for me) of meeting for lunch. But, Back to Work laid me out in a wonderful way.

While, I got a lot out of the productivity, life guidance, how to think through things in a manner that will improve things, and other more serious things; what was a huge, no giant, help was the humor. That stretch after losing both parents and being an only child (trying to keep it all together), while being somewhat (okay a lot) numb to things in life because of the loss was tough. There were days where it was tough to do things and get things done that needed to be done, but they mostly did. But, that bright light that deeply helped was Merlin and his humor on Back to Work. This humor and riffs fit how my brain works really well. It also would get me laughing insanely hard to the point of nearly crying. It also nearly caused me to have to pull off the road I was laughing so uncontrollably.

That finding and holding on to my sense of humor, from just being able to laugh, helped me through that deep grief fog. It helped me get the light part of my brain back to life. When things get tough (like last year’s serious health issues) I make light of it and get myself to laugh. During the stretch after my parents died, I had lost that ability to do that for myself. Thanks to Merlin, I got it back and walked out of the grief fog intact (maybe even in better shape than going into it).

Every time I listen to Merlin these days on Back to Work, Dalrymple Report, and Reconcilable Differences I think I need to just say a little thanks for a little unknown gesture that had a big impact, laughter. So, thank you Merlin.

January 1, 2016

What to do with Podcast Favorites

Another thing I’m wanting to sort is podcasts I like, make that one’s I listen to and like. I have a list of podcasts I regularly listen to tucked into the left column in my links: podasts.

But, there are often podcasts I listen to that I really like and would like to easily share out to others. When I run into podcasts episodes that I hear mentioned I will track them down and most often use Huffduffer to grab it and putting into my listening queue that I most often consume in Overcast in the car driving to get my son or going through my morning routine that includes making breakfast and coffee and consuming them while scanning news and the day’s plans.

Last year I found many of the episodes of Exponent with Ben Thompson and James Allworth that I really liked a lot. While Overcast has a nice share component within it, that functionality takes the person clicking to it to Overcast’s web page for the podcast (or to the exact timestamp in the podcast) and to play it. While I like the idea of this, what I’m really wanting is to primarily link to the actual podcast page (hopefully this is something beyond a Soundcloud page, which I find to be really frustrating for this purpose as well).

Potential Zeef Solution

I do use a “podfodder” tag in Pinboard, which I occasionally push things into. But with this I don’t have it easily exposed elsewhere and people aren’t exactly looking for a podfodder tag they don’t know of (well they may do so now, but now isn’t then). I keep thinking I will do something similar I do to the “linkfodder” tag in Pinboard, which I use on things I read I really like (when I remember to tag them).

With “linkfodder” I pull that tag into Zeef, which is a list making and managing site that structures related content well, as a link widget. The Zeef link widget pulls the last 10 from the “linkfodder” list and makes them available in as a JavaScript component, which I embed in the side of this vanderwal.net blog. I could do the same thing for "podfodder’ (in 2 minutes I added the feed to a private page in Zeef and may make it public), but I’m not sure where the widget will be best placed.

Wishing a Solution Were Just Here

About a year ago Matt Haughey wrote about podcasting needs and more directly Matt Haughey has social subscription list wish. I keep hoping somebody would have built this podcasting social subscription list as a tool. It seems like a perfect thing for Huffduffer as a “rate after listening” feature. This seems to be wide open for somebody to do, it may not have great money attached to it, but it would be a great service that has value.

Happy New Year - 2016 Edition

Happy New Year!

I’m believing that 2016 will be a good year, possibly a quite good year. After 7 years of bumpy and 2015 off to a rough start on the health front it stayed rather calm.

I don’t make resolutions for the new year. It is a practice that always delayed good timing of starting new habits and efforts when they were better fits. The, “oh, I start doing this on on New Years” always seemed a bit odd when the moment something strikes you is a perfectly good moment to start down the path to improvement or something new.

This blog has been quiet for a while, far too long in fact. Last year when I was sick it disrupted a good stretch of posting on a nearly daily basis. I really would like to get back to that. I was planning to start back writing over the past couple weeks, but the schedule was a bit filled and chaotic.

Digging Through Digital History

This past year I did a long stretch working as expert witness on a social software case. The case was booted right before trial and decided for the defense (the side I was working with). In doing this I spent a lot of time digging back through the last 5 to 10 years of social software, web, enterprise information management, tagging / folksonomy, and communication. Having this blog at my disposal and my Personal InfoCloud blog were a great help as my practice of knocking out ideas, no matter how rough, proved a great asset. But, it also proved a bit problematic, as a lot of things I liked to were gone from the web. Great ideas of others that sparked something in me were toast. They were not even in the Ineternet Archive’s Wayback Machine. Fortunately, I have a personal archive of things in my DevonThink Pro repository on my laptop that I’ve been tucking thing of potential future interest into since 2005. I have over 50,000 objects tucked away in it and it takes up between 20GB to 30GB on my hard drive.

I have a much larger post brewing on this, which I need to write and I’ve promised quite a few others I would write. The big problem in all of this is there is a lot of good, if not great, thinking gone from the web. It is gone because domains names were not kept, a site changed and dropped old content, blogging platforms disappeared (or weren’t kept up), or people lost interest and just let everything go. The great thinking from the 90s that the web was going to be a repository for all human thinking with great search and archival properties, is pretty much B.S. The web is fragile and not so great at archiving for long stretches. I found HTML is good for capturing content, but PDF proved the best long term (10 years = long term) digital archive for search in DevonThink. The worst has been site with a lot of JavaScript not saved into PDF, but saved as a website. JavaScript is an utter disaster for archiving (I have a quite a few things I tucked away as recently as 18 months ago that are unreadable thanks to JavaScript (older practices and modifications which may be deemed security issues or other changes of mind have functional JavaScript stop working). The practice of putting everything on the web, which can mean putting application front ends and other contrivances up only are making the web far more fragile.

The best is still straight up HMTL and CSS and enhancing from there with JavaScript. The other recent disaster, which is JavaScript related, is infinite scroll and breaking distinct URLs and pages. Infinite scroll is great for its intended use, which is stringing crappy content in one long string so advertisers see many page views. It is manufacturing a false understanding that the content is valued and read. Infinite scroll has little value to a the person reading, other than if the rare case good content is strung together (most sites using infinite scroll do it because the content is rather poor and need to have some means of telling advertisers that they have good readership). For archival purposes most often capturing just the one page you care about gets 2 to 5 others along with it. Linking back to the content you care about many times will not get you back to the distinct article or page because that page doesn’t actually live anywhere. I can’t wait for this dim witted practice to end. The past 3 years or so of thinking I had an article / page of good content I could point to cleanly and archive cleanly was a fallacy if I was trying to archive in the playland of infinite scroll cruft.

Back to Writing Out Loud

This past year of trying to dig out the relatively recent past of 5 to 10 years with some attempts to go back farther reinforced the good (that may be putting it lightly) practice of writing out loud. In the past few years I have been writing a lot still. But, much of this writing has been in notes on my local machines, my own shared repositories that are available to my other devices, or in the past couple years Slack teams. I don’t tend to write short tight pieces as I tend to fill in the traces back to foundations for what I’m thinking and why. A few of the Slack teams (what Slack calls the top level cluster of people in their service) get some of these dumps. I may drop in a thousand or three words in a day across one to four teams, as I am either conveying information or working through an idea or explanation and writing my way through it (writing is more helpful than talking my way through it as I know somebody is taking notes I can refer back to).

A lot of the things I have dropped in not so public channels, nor easily findable again for my self (Slack is brilliantly searchable in a team, but not across teams). When I am thinking about it I will pull these brain dumps into my own notes system that is searchable. If they are well formed I mark them as blogfodder (with a tag as such or in a large outline of other like material) to do something with later. This “do something with later” hasn’t quite materialized as of yet.

Posting these writing out loud efforts in my blogs, and likely also into my Medium area as it has more constant eyes on it than my blogs these days. I tend to syndicate out finished pieces into LinkedIn as well, but LinkedIn isn’t quite the space for thinking out loud as it isn’t the thinking space that Medium or blogs have been and it doesn’t seem to be shifting that way.

Not only have my own resources been really helpful, but in digging through expert witness work I was finding blogs to be great sources for really good thinking (that is where really good thinking was done, this isn’t exactly the case now, unless you consider adding an infinitely redundant cat photo to a blog being really good thinking). A lot of things I find valuable still today are on blogs and people thinking out loud. I really enjoy David Weinberger, Jeremy Keith, and the return of Matt Webb to blogging. There are many others I read regularly (see my links page for more).

April 30, 2015

The Humanity of it All

This morning started with my early morning reading and I found Om Malik Interviews Brunello Cucinelli after a more somber stretch of reading.

Om’s interview is a breath of fresh air for me. There is so much in this piece that resonates with understanding not only quality of product, but quality of life and living. There is so much wisdom and understanding the humanity of life and living. Not only are many of our social platforms missing this, but our work and the environments where we live.

There is so much that is fantastic in this piece, but the focus on sane work life and real balance is great to see. Also the focus on ensuring the whole ecosystem is sustainable and thriving is essential. But, the slice of this where Bruello says, “We need a new form of capitalism, a contemporary form of capitalism. I would like to add “humanistic” to that equation” is key. The article mentions “human” 15 times and to me bringing humanity into our work focus and life focus is essential.

There are so many good things in this it may be the best thing I have read in a while, but also highly likely to reread a few times.

Thank you Om

Good Bye Elizabeth Randolph

This morning’s reading I came across Kevin Hoffman’s piece In Remembrance of Elizabeth Randolph and Elizabeth Randolph Memorial Service Details and Obituary. This caused the day to start with tears as I’ve know Elizabeth since the early 2000s as part of the DC and Baltimore information architecture community. I really enjoyed seeing her at events as she was always friendly and calm with great insights. I’m bummed as I didn’t know she was sick.

I will miss her at events and knowing she would nearly always be there.

March 28, 2015

Inviewed on Shift Podcast

On Friday I had the pleasure of spending about an hour with two of my favorite people, Euan Semple and Megan Murray on the wonderful podcast, Shift. We covered tagging, taxonomies, meaning, power, and the future that we are all hurtling towards.

I am a big fan of their interviews (as their conversations between them are familiar from past conversations between us) with other. I still have a few to get to.

Interview with New Steve Jobs Biographers is Quite Good

On Friday I saw that John Gruber had interviewed the authors of Becoming Steve Jobs as part of Apple’s Meet the Author Podcast series. I had been reading snippets and reviews about the book for a couple weeks, with Steven Levy’s “The War Over Who Steve Jobs Was” and Rick Tetzeli’s Fast Company except “The Evolution of Steve Jobs” and found them interesting and much more inline with the many books I read over the years about Apple and Steve Jobs, than I did the Walter Isaacson book snippets I read.

This morning I watched the iTunes podcast of Brent Schlender and Rick Tetzeli: Meet the Author and it more than lived up to expectation. It was incredibly good. So good I bumped the book to the top of my wishlist.

Why this book?

I have read quite a few books about Apple and Steve Jobs with Alan Deutschman’s “The Second Coming of Steve Jobs”, Steven Levy’s Insanely Great, and Adam Lashinsky’s “Inside Apple” standing out from the many others I read and all the Silicon Valley history and culture books I have read along the way. They stood out as they grasped the lore, debunked it as well as extended it. They filled in the gaps with new stories and understandings. But, under it all they looked to only tell the stories of what, the place setting, and how, but they get to the why.

This book seems to fit why I liked the others with filling in the background and understanding the lore. This book seems like it will fit well in my underlying interest.

My fascination with Apple and Steve Jobs has to do with influence and foundation setting. In particular its early-ish influence and foundation setting with me.

I was born in the Bay Area, but grew-up up and down the whole of the West Coast in and just outside the major cities until my second year junior high when my parents moved to the California’s Central Valley. Being back in Northern California and a little over and hour from San Francisco we got San Francisco stations. This meant in the late 70s the personal computer was being talked about a lot. My dad was a systems and operations guy in the health insurance industry and there were always magazines around with computers in them. His fascination and work with computers rubbed off.

But, being in Northern California meant television and print news also covered computers and technology. This hippy guy with long-ish hair and a scruffy beard was continually on talking about what was happening today and in the near future. It was Steve Jobs. His near future visions influenced my perception of reality and how things should be. Our family’s first computer came in 1983 and it was an Osborne Executive, which I learned to use and copy code (copying small software that was handed out in local user groups) and play around with to see how things worked until they broke (then I swore and did it again).

But, in 1984 the Mac came out and that changed my whole perception of things. Not only did I have computer envy for the first time, but I also began to understand the future of where things were headed and was (then) thankful I didn’t go into computer science as a major as things became much easier to use (what I sorted out a few years later is much of what I wanted to do would have been aided by having a formal CS background). But around this time I also was meeting people who worked at Apple and they loved what they did and loved their jobs. Many at college had Macs and our newspaper my last semester not only was set up with Macs, but we got a new type of software, desktop publishing, for Mac from Aldus, called Pagemaker. It was so new we got a lot of training as part of the deal. We sort of had a digital newsroom (with a fully functional sneaker net).

After Jobs left Apple I followed what he was doing and had deep interest in Next. During this time I still had Macs around with most jobs and in grad school a couple students had Macs, but they weren’t as prevalent as they were in the late 80s in California. Often jobs I had would have a Mac around for creatives or testing, but by the mid–90s they were buggy. When Jobs came back to Apple as advisor as part of Apple purchasing Next in 1997 I still knew a few people at Apple and they were quite happy to see him back in some capacity. The shifts and changes at Apple fascinated me as the guy who influenced a lot of my belief in personal computing, what is was doing and could do, and how it should be done (with a focus on the user and ease of use - this was a “no duh” for me in the early 80s as I was making and breaking things on my Osborne).

Around 1999 I started cluing into the Steve Jobs keynotes again and in 2001 I picked up my first Mac, a PowerBook G4 Titanium, lovingly known as a TiBook. I got it because my laptop I was using, a light Toshiba, was tied to my project I was on and I left that project. I missed having a laptop, but I really wanting power, good screen, and ability to have UNIX / LINUX as well as a major consumer OS. In the TiBook I had UNIX as the core of OS X with command line ability, OS X, Classic Mac, and importantly a Windows emulator that allowed me to use Visio and MS Project (those needs would dwindle and become tiresome the more I got used to the Mac and its ease of use and its “it just works” approach to things - these do not always hold up). But my needs for the 4 OSs on one device that was powerful and relatively light eased into the background as the lack of needing to spend regular time maintaining things turned quickly into me just doing my work on the device.

Over the years with my Mac and increasing interest in Apple and how they do things and frame things, I got to know even more Apple folks as friends went to work there and I gave a some talks inside Apple. I was also running into people who had managed at Apple and I enjoy interacting with them as they think and work differently, which often fits how I like working and approaching things.

It is this trying to understand why my Apple tools and software (mostly) work really well for me and how I enjoy working with Apple (and ex-Apple) folks (I also have this enjoyable fit with McKinsey folks, but for very different reasons). It is trying to understand the what, how, and why of the fit with Apple, but as well as they “this is the way things should be” that was seeded in my head in the late 70s and was feed and groomed through life, that has me interested in understanding Apple and Steve Jobs.

March 20, 2015

The Shifting of Timetonic Plates

Much like the shifting of tectonic plates that cause earthquakes, the bi-annual shifting of timezones not in unison causes rumblings in schedules and disturbances of varying severity. This shifting of timetonic plates can be really problematic for businesses coordinating meetings, establishing seamless logistics, and syncing interaction schedules across continents and regions.

Unlike earthquakes form the shifting of tectonic plates, the timetonic plateshifts are all man made disruptions. There are many valid reasons of shifting from standard time to daylight savings (or in some regions, just daylight) time and shifting back. Part of the rationale is safety for children going to and coming home from school. But, the recent shift that was made to get more day light evening hours in the United States was driven by the outdoor entertainment industry (read BBQ makers and similar) has made the prior no difference or a week or two difference from the usual timezone differences we normally work around. Now we have nearly a month of being off kilter in the spring and two or three weeks in the fall.

One day people may realize if we are going to make shifts we should all do them in sync. Nobody is that special that they can create an hour more of daylight (as one bleary brained U.S. Congressman claimed in the need for the shift a few years back). The damage this does to commerce and extra effort this always takes when systems are out of sync in our heavily interconnected world may not be worth the cost of trying to be special.

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