Working Up

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

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Copyright 0.1—We Don’t Own the Words, but Others Act Like We Do

December 5th, 2016 · No Comments

by Dwayne Phillips

Words written in the employ of a company belong to the company. Still, others will ask for them. Beware as you could be an accomplice to theft.

I am writing a few posts about copyright. I am compelled to do so by recent interviews with employers who seem ignorant of copyright basics. There is much good information on copyright and intellectual property rights online. The Wikipedia article is one good place to begin learning.

Sometimes writers don’t own their words. I have written many pieces while employed by a company. I wrote those on the job in the pay of the company. The company O W N S those pieces and those words. If I take a copy of those words home and give them to others, I am a T H I E F.

Excuse the over emphasis, but the content of the above paragraph seems to be unknown to many writers, other creators, and potential employers.

I have interviewed for jobs as a proposal writer. One frequent request is, “Can you provide us with copies of proposals you wrote in the past?”

This is a horrible request. Proposals written for companies are owned by those companies. Per above, if I take home the proposal (all or part), I am a thief, and the interviewer is requesting stolen property.

“Oh, but you can extract the parts of the proposal that you wrote and remove any proprietary information, and …”

No. I cannot. The above requests that I steal property, edit it, and hand it over.

Sorry. I hate to break the news to some persons, but that is the law regardless of what “everybody does all the time.”

→ No CommentsTags: Copyright · Work · Writing

Facial Recognition Folly

December 1st, 2016 · No Comments

by Dwayne Phillips

Facial recognition is easily fooled. So when will our law enforcement stop using it? The polygraph is one example from history of technology barred from court.

Facial recognition is one of the latest hot technologies in law enforcement. Facial recognition software scans huge databases to identify a person at the scene of a crime. Viola’ Got the suspect, bring ’em in and so on.

Recent research shows that a quarter, yes, 25 cents, can buy glasses that not only mask my face from the software, but also trick the software into identifying someone else instead. And I can pick the celebrity that I want to be at the scene of the crime. Oh well.

Let’s step back in history to another law-enforcement technology that was going to solve all crimes for all mankind, i.e., the polygraph. Connect witnesses to the lie detecting machine and all would be wonderful. Well, that is until persons demonstrated that they could lie all day and the polygraph wouldn’t detect anything.

So, given recent demonstrations of the folly of facial recognition, how long will it be before our courts toss it and our law enforcement stop wasting time and money?

→ No CommentsTags: Security · Technology


November 28th, 2016 · No Comments

by Dwayne Phillips

Sometimes, all that is needed is to explain the other people. This may be the most difficult task in the world.

Some people just don’t understand some other people. Why not? Because those are other people who are somewhere else. The two groups of people need someone who lives with one group for a while and lives with the other group for a while.


Explain to these people in this place what is obvious to the other people in the other place.

Oh, that is all that is needed. So, why doesn’t it happen? Some reasons:

  • No one is paid to live among groups who “oppose” one another.
  • Anyone who lives with the other group has been poisoned by their thoughts.
  • I don’t have the time to do this.
  • No one will listen to me anyway.
  • Life is busy enough without wasting time on those other people and their silly notions.

We could go on. Understanding those people is one of those simple things that seem almost impossible to accomplish.

→ No CommentsTags: Clarity · Communication · Differences · Group · Ideas

When Documentation is More Valuable than Working Software

November 24th, 2016 · No Comments

by Dwayne Phillips

Working software is more valuable than documentation—except when it isn’t. And we have Dwayne’s Declaration.

Part of the Agile Manifesto states:

We…value working software over comprehensive documentation

Some of us are old enough to have known this years before the manifesto was manifest. Of course we wanted working software, except when we didn’t.

So here I go, kill me, but

Documentation is more valuable than working software (in some cases).

Valuable documentation…

  • is that which comes from thoughtful and rigorous analysis
  • explains the situation for which software is assumed to be the solution
  • shows when it is better to just do the right thing at work and not waste money on new software

Finally, valuable documentation

  • shows us when we don’t need any more software

Please note the first bullet above. Documentation that is more valuable than working software comes about only after thoughtful and rigorous analysis. That type of work is common sense, but not common practice.

Let us Think before we Work.

Hmmm, perhaps that should have been in the Agile Manifesto. Let’s call it Dwayne’s Declaration. Of course it isn’t new. Many of us are old enough to have known this for years.

→ No CommentsTags: Agility · Analysis · Authentic · Communication · Engineering · Management · Thinking · Work

Two Workspaces per Person

November 21st, 2016 · No Comments

by Dwayne Phillips

Sometimes I work in groups of persons; sometimes I work alone. Why don’t I have a workspace for each of these types of work?

This is a silly request; I realize that. This request, however, reflects reality and it would certainly improve productivity. I want two work spaces for myself.

One is a large room with big blank walks. The walls would be best if I could write on them and stick magnets to them. This group work space allows for planning. That includes planning tasks for a project or planning the content of a product. Big walls allow for groups of persons to see what others are thinking and contribute to those thoughts.

The second is a room that has one essential item: a door that closes. Sometimes I create content by myself. I am assigned this content in the group work in the first work space. Now, I must work alone and create. Solitude is good for that type of work.

Of course I will never have two work spaces. That is not efficient. That is not affordable. That is not practical. I could go on with the that-is-not list. What that is is that is productive. I guess productive isn’t high on the list of what most organizations desire.

→ No CommentsTags: Communication · Design · Work

Agile Lite

November 17th, 2016 · No Comments

by Dwayne Phillips

Government contractors use a new form of the Agile methods.

I have met an ever increasing government contractors who claim to use a method they call Agile Lite. This is quite simple. The government official who directs the contractor tells them:

(1) Tell everyone that you are doing Agile.

(2) Every day, do what ever I tell you to do that day. And I change my mind often.

Only in government. It would be funny if it weren’t taxpayers’ money being wasted.

→ No CommentsTags: Agility · Government

Free Knowledge

November 14th, 2016 · No Comments

by Dwayne Phillips

O’Reilly creates a large section of “free” books on technology. Once again, they have raised expectations of other publishers.

I have long liked O’Reilly publishing. At first, the books with the excellent sketches of animals caught my eye. The content was usually as good or better than the covers. I attended a few conferences the O’Reilly held. They spoiled me as to how good conference presentations and presenters could be.

O’Reilly has recently put many books online for reading at no charge. Here is a link to the programming section of free books. At the bottom of the page, there are links to free books on other topics.

This is excellent. I applaud O’Reilly. As a writer, I cringe a bit because the writers are not being paid, at least I don’t know how they could be paid when the publishers gives away the books. Well, they don’t give away the paper books, but allow us to read them without charge.

This is excellent. I applaud O’Reilly. I know several would-be college students who have no money and don’t want to be in debt to the taxpayers for the rest of their lives.

→ No CommentsTags: Knowledge · Learning · Library · Publishing

Knowledge Management and Job Insecurity

November 10th, 2016 · No Comments

by Dwayne Phillips

This is what I find to be the biggest obstacle to managing knowledge in an organization.

Knowledge management is pretty simple: when someone learns something, record that information. When someone else needs that information, they don’t have to learn it again for themselves. The expense of learning is not repeated.

I have tried to do knowledge management since the early 1980s (no one called it knowledge management back then). The great majority of knowledge management efforts fail. In my experience, the reason is simple:

job insecurity

What I know, what I know how to do, those things make me valuable to this organization. If my knowledge is stored and available for other people to use, what use am I? I am expendable.

Silly thought? Maybe, but people believe this thought and act accordingly. They don’t participate in the knowledge management efforts. They would rather repeat knowledge-seeking exercises that costs tens of hours of time. They are paid to be at work, so they are paid.

Why work yourself out of a job?

Want a knowledge management program? Find a way to ease the job security fears. That isn’t easy, but I find it is worth it.

→ No CommentsTags: Knowledge · Management

Election Day

November 8th, 2016 · No Comments

by Dwayne Phillips

Today is election day. Our long national horrible nightmare concludes. Tomorrow we will awaken after a restless sleep and trudge through four years of wondering if we are still asleep and dreaming tortuous dreams.

The major party that “loses” this election will have the opportunity to correct itself and occupy the White House for 12 or 16 years thereafter.

→ No CommentsTags: Uncategorized

Knowledge Management in the 1980s

November 7th, 2016 · No Comments

by Dwayne Phillips

I recount my first knowledge management effort in the early 1980s. Premise: knowledge cost resources, so save it.

I was a newly graduated engineer in 1980. The US government sent me to the end of the earth to maintain electronic equipment. We had a lot of that stuff, and it failed fairly often. Pull it out of the rack, open the top, find the bad component, replace it, put it back in the rack.

This was a time consuming process. You saw a symptom, you read the maintenance manual, you looked at this, you looked at that, AHA! Here is the trouble. Fix and move on.

Being young, naive, and trying to help our Federal government save money…I had a brilliant idea. Let’s keep records of all this. My first knowledge management project was born. We got a few stacks of 5″x7″ cards and a wooden box to hold them. Each card corresponded to a piece of equipment. If the equipment failed, we pulled the card, wrote the symptoms, the key page of the maintenance manual, and the fix. We had a record of maintenance on each piece of equipment and how to fix that equipment.

Save time. Save money. Good stuff.

The fundamental premise was that the knowledge gained in any one equipment repair cost the government money to obtain. Let’s save what we could of that knowledge so that we wouldn’t spend the money again on the same work.

We implemented the system. I used it. Few other engineers used it. Why not? Read the next post on job insecurity.

→ No CommentsTags: Change · Communication · Knowledge · Management