Working Up

Working Up in Project Management, Systems Engineering, Technology, and Writing

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The Smartphone: Today’s Transistor Radio

November 20th, 2014 · No Comments

by Dwayne Phillips

Today’s smartphone bears a striking resemblance to yesterday’s transistor radio.

Okay, yell at me. I will wait.

Now that you’ve screamed your lungs out, let’s compare today’s smartphone to yesterdays transistor radio. In case you are young(er) and don’t know what a transistor radio is, see this page.

Attributes that the smartphone and transistor radio share:

  • Fits in your pocket
  • Provides music
  • Provides latest information
  • Uses an ear bud for privacy listening
  • Needs a charged battery
  • Depends on wireless reception
  • Can be inconspicuous
  • Can be obnoxious
  • Has (had) a cool factor

I rest my case.

→ No CommentsTags: Change · Systems · Technology

Science, Politics, Hyperbole, and Trust

November 17th, 2014 · No Comments

by Dwayne Phillips

Politics often delves into hyperbole to make a point. Hyperbole could be the death of science.

A recent poll (don’t you love it when someone starts with that phrase?) shows that Americans view scientists as competent but not trustworthy. What’s up with that? Politics.

IMHO, scientists are depending too much on politicians for funding their science. The scientists have to report in ways that bolster the unscientific opinions of the sponsoring politicians.

Associating closely with politicians is fraught with peril. One bad habit of politicians is the use of hyperbole. They take evidence that leans in one direction but needs further study and exaggerate. As a result, the scientists is associated with the exaggerated or hyperbolic claims.

We know what the temperature of the earth was 20,000 years ago to a tenth of a degree!

Really? Perhaps the scientist reported something like:

Given our measurements of arctic ice prevailing theories of gas in ice and temperature of the atmosphere, and the calculations from the most-accepted parametric models, and the limitations of significant digits…

That doesn’t sound so hyperbolic. It also doesn’t sell well on the evening news sound bites. It is, however, what a scientist would say if s/he weren’t depending on a big fat check to continue research and continue feeding a family and making the mortgage payments.

Let’s not just pick on the climate scientists. Other scientists “know” the color of the skin of dinosaurs. Other scientists know how big the dinosaurs were (until someone finds some more bones). Other scientists know… well, you know.

Science is difficult. Finding funds for science is difficult. We make deals with politicians to get funds, then we give them our reports, then we cringe privately when we hear science statements turned to hyperbolic political statements. Then we go back to the source of funds.

Aligning science with political movements is a bad idea.

→ No CommentsTags: Science · Systems

Hello World

November 13th, 2014 · No Comments

by Dwayne Phillips

Yet again, we have a less expensive way to broadcast live to the entire world.

Recently, GoPro (makers of those neat little action cams) announced that if you wince just right and combine GoPro with LiveStream with a smartphone with the Internet with some imagination…you can show the world what your GoPro camera sees L I V E, a.k.a., real time.

All this costs less than $500. I remember as a kid, here we go again with some old guy writing about the way things used to be and how far we have come, how it was a big deal for a television network to show us video live from Europe using those new-fangled communications relay satellites. No one, not even the television network, could afford to do that for more than a few minutes.

And here we are today with almost anybody able to do this. The question is:

Now what happens?

Who knows?

→ No CommentsTags: Communication · Culture · Technology

Unpaid Overtime and Undertime

November 10th, 2014 · No Comments

by Dwayne Phillips

Unpaid overtime is almost always followed by undertime, i.e., people not working.

Unpaid overtime is a fact. It is not just a recent occurrence as it has occurred for, oh, let’s say, centuries. People work extra hard for a period of time (hopefully a short period of time).

Then what happens?

People “make up” for the unpaid hours by taking longer lunches, arriving late in the morning, leaving early in the evening, or (more likely) all three. These activities are undertime.

This has something to do with human nature I suppose. People can’t sprint forever. That is why it is called a sprint. Unpaid overtime is a sprint. People rest after sprinting.

If you ask people to sprint, i.e., work overtime without any extra pay, expect them to rest afterwards. If you cannot afford to have them rest, pay them for the overtime.

This is, yet another, example of the adage:

there is no free lunch

If you thought there was a free lunch, sorry to disappoint you.

→ No CommentsTags: Management

It’s Not the Event, It’s the Reaction

November 6th, 2014 · No Comments

by Dwayne Phillips

We don’t choose what happens in life. We do choose how we react.

The title of this post is something that I’ve heard numerous times from consultant and author Jerry Weinberg. It seems that almost every day I trip over yet another example of this.

The phone rings at 2 AM. Something bad has happened to someone I know. I didn’t choose that event—far from it. I do, however, react to the event. I choose how I react.

This is real life.

Emotions are also real. The phone call brings disappointment or horror or angst. If I cry or laugh or become depressed is my reaction that I choose.

Perhaps other posts with examples will follow.

→ No CommentsTags: Choose · Reaction

Hyperventilation, Hysteria, and Commitment

November 3rd, 2014 · No Comments

by Dwayne Phillips

Hyperventilation and hysteria are shows of emotion, not commitment.

A recent post from Seth Godin reminded me of the above. I have been the victim of the “why aren’t you going berserk?” syndrome over the years. I was once reprimanded for concentrating on performing the work instead of yelling and screaming at the walls.

Let me state this:

I have never seen electrons in a circuit change direction as a result of screaming.

Believe me, if I had seen evidence that screaming would change how a circuit behaves or how electrons on a disk drive arrange themselves, I would scream a lot and often. Since I have never seen such evidence, I just concentrate on the task at hand and attempt to accomplish the work.

That concentrate-on-the-work habit bothers some people to a great extent. Perhaps, one day, I will understand that response.

→ No CommentsTags: Choose · Communication · Differences · General Systems Thinking · Reaction

Forward to the Past, Yet Another Time

October 30th, 2014 · No Comments

by Dwayne Phillips

Google, Adobe, Chromebooks, and Creative Cloud take us yet again forward to a day long ago.

Google and Adobe have just announced that we can run Adobe’s Creative Cloud on a Chromebook. Wow. I am not trying to be flippant. This is a big deal. You buy a $200 or $100 Chromebook and run Adobe’s software.

Of course you are not running the software on the Chromebook. It would take hours to load a video and do the simplest, smallest edit to it. All the software is running in the cloud on an Adobe computer. The video or whatever is sitting on a Google disk drive or one that Google and Adobe shares.

Once again we go back to days gone by (wasn’t that the title of a Walking Dead episode? But I digress.). In decades past I would sit in front of a relatively inexpensive computer and run software on a relatively expensive computer. The computer in front of me, we called it a “terminal” back then, would merely display things to me and take input from me via the keyboard.

The Chromebook today is the terminal of old. I think people call this “thin client” or something like that now. “Thin client” sounds so much better than “terminal.” Well, I don’t think so. I like the term “terminal,” but, then again, I am old.

→ No CommentsTags: Computing · Technology

Too Close for Comfort

October 27th, 2014 · No Comments

by Dwayne Phillips

For many of us, being close shows us the details, and those details make us sick.

I give to several non-profit organizations. One of them is based ten thousand miles away. Another is based five miles away. I see many details of the one that is five miles away. I don’t like what I see. I see few details of the one ten thousand miles away. I am happy with the situation in that one.

I guess this is part of my temperament. Details cause me to think, rearrange, imagine, and make things perfect in my mind. Details cause me to notice all the intricate problems and how they might be worked better. Sigh.

In many ways, I am happier when I am ignorant. I try to use this; I try to be more ignorant about the non-profit that is five miles from my home. I find myself less critical and more happy.

Such is one of the odd things about life.

→ No CommentsTags: Competence · Expectations · General Systems Thinking · Problems

Progressive Government IT—Decades Behind

October 23rd, 2014 · No Comments

by Dwayne Phillips

A look at 21st century Digital Government shows that government is still decades behind.

Look at this ground-breaking document from our Federal government. It describes how to achieve 21st-century excellence in IT services for the citizen.

Okay, enough of the hyperbole. Let’s look at the document. It shows IT in three layers: information, platform, and presentation.

WOW! Where have I heard that before? How about the ISO seven-layer model from 1994? How about just about any description of object-oriented programming from the last three decades?

Groundbreaking government stuff. Decades behind schedule. I guess I should be impressed by something here, but …

→ No CommentsTags: Government · Systems

Great Ideas and Those Who have Them

October 20th, 2014 · No Comments

by Dwayne Phillips

A great idea is merely a requirement; it is not a design. The thinker of the great idea is important, but so is everyone else involved in the endeavor.

Allow me to start with a blunt statement:

Steve Jobs did not design the iMac, the iPod, the iPhone, and nothing else that made Apple what it is today.

Allow me to soften that a bit:

Steve Jobs did state the requirements for those products that made Apple what it is today.

Jobs was the “idea man” at Apple. He stated what he wanted the iPod (just one example) to be.

  • Real designers designed a build-able product.
  • Real testers tested the product.
  • Real builders built  the product.
  • Real manufacturers manufactured the product.

I’m not picking on Steve Jobs. He is merely a well-known example of a person who has a great idea. Let’s try this statement:

A great idea is an important requirement.

The designers, builders, testers, and everyone else involved in the endeavor carry the requirement to fruition as a product. Without them, the great idea is merely science fiction; with them, the great idea is a great product.

→ No CommentsTags: Design · Ideas · Requirements