Working Up

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

Working Up header image 1

Augmented Reality Glasses

March 2nd, 2015 · No Comments

by Dwayne Phillips

The application of augment reality glasses remains the same as it always has been. The trouble is that application isn’t fashionable or cool.

Google Glass is up and down these days. I can’t follow the story, so I don’t know if it is dead or reborn or something.

The application of augmented reality glasses remains as it always has been:

Augmented reality glasses are useful in situations when a person is using both hands for a critical task.

Consider a car mechanic who has both hands grasping tools in the middle of an engine and needs to understand what that little part in front of him is and is supposed to do and how it is supposed to appear and so on. The mechanic can’t stop and find answers in a manual or online. The mechanic needs the augmented reality glasses to recognize the part and display pertinent information.

Now consider a surgeon who has both hands holding tools inside your chest on the operating table. Hmm, that’s a bit more important than an oil change on your car.

Now consider a parent holding a baby still with both hands while trying to determine how to remove that object that is preventing the baby from breathing. Again, a bit more important than an oil change.

These examples are much more important that pointing Google Glass towards a city block full of restaurants while trying to learn which has the best, latest reviews for Chinese food.

It is a matter of perspective.

→ No CommentsTags: Technology

People-Augmented Applications

February 26th, 2015 · No Comments

by Dwayne Phillips

Every now and then we remember that we can allow a person to help another person and that we have the technology to enable that.

Be My Eyes is a combined application and service that helps sight-impaired people see things clearly. The impaired person points their smartphone at a thing and is connected to a fully sighted person. The fully sighted person helps the sight-impaired person understand the thing. Our software technology doesn’t understand the thing as well as a person.

This isn’t the only app in the world that employs a person to help software help another person. A key to these apps is the communications infrastructure we have and the smartphone that has a camera and a gateway to the communications infrastructure.

I think this is the near-term future of person-helping software. Of course near-term is subjective and may mean anything from one week to one century.

I believe that person-helping software is the only kind that has any value.

Video games are nice, but pale when compared to helping a blind person take medicine that will heal instead of medicine that will kill.

→ No CommentsTags: Communication · Consulting · Ideas · People

Performers, Predictors, and Punishment

February 23rd, 2015 · No Comments

by Dwayne Phillips

When a performer doesn’t perform as predicted, the predictor is in the wrong. Too bad that we usually fail to recognize that.

I write this the week after all the big tech companies posted their quarterly financial reports. Some companies didn’t perform as expected, i.e., as predicted. The result was that the stock price, i.e., the value of the company fell the next day. The company was punished for not performing as predicted.

I find that odd. What I see is that the predictors were wrong. They predicted one future, while the future was something else. They need to adjust their predictions so that they are closer to reality the next time.

I work with several non-profit organizations that depend on volunteers. Sometimes the volunteers don’t volunteer as many resources as someone predicts. The result is that the volunteers are harangued with pep talks that hope to encourage them to meet the predictions of the predictors. Again, I see the fault in the predictors. They need to learn something and improve their predictions.

I don’t understand why the performs—the companies and the volunteers in these examples—are the ones “punished.” Why aren’t the predictors taken to task? My guess at the answer is that the predictors are the ones who have the power to punish, and we know that we don’t punish ourselves when there is someone else handy.

→ No CommentsTags: Competence · Estimation · Expectations · Judgment

That is for Someone Else

February 18th, 2015 · No Comments

by Dwayne Phillips

Let’s be practical, but let’s still try to attain what we wish. When told that something is “for someone else,” question to motives of the person telling you that.

I first encountered this practice when I was in high school. I attended a small, rural high school in Tangipahoa Parish, Louisiana (Loranger High School). These places are so small and obscure that all the spelling checkers are telling me that these words are not in the dictionaries.

The guidance counselor constantly told the kids, yes, we were kids, that they should attend some type of vocational-technical training. Attending college was for other people, someone else. The kids believed her. That was too bad.

I have found this many times since. Writing a book, earning PhD, marrying a good person, etc.—these were things for someone else. You should settle for far less.

I do not advocate people blindly quitting their jobs and going for the billion-dollar bonanza. I have see too many people fall into bankruptcy doing that. I am practical, but I am for people trying to attain something they wish to attain.

When someone tells you that your wish is for someone else, not for you, stop and consider the advice. Also consider the source of the advice. Is the adviser trying to keep you out of their own little exclusive and exclusionary club?

→ No CommentsTags: Change · Choose · Differences

Us as the User Guide

February 16th, 2015 · No Comments

by Dwayne Phillips

Don’t look to the provider’s user manual; look to the rest of us.

I don’t know why it has taken me so long to write about this topic. Almost everyone already knows this, but for the record…

I ran into this situation again this week. I was learning how to use a large, complex piece of software (or as everyone calls them these days, “an app.”). The person showing me the app reminded me of a simple technique,

For help, Google the topic.

Of course. If you are using any app that has more than a thousand users, go to Google (or Bing or Yahoo or your favorite search engine).

We could go to the provider’s online help, but relatively few people at the provider actually use the app, so they have limited knowledge of how real users use the app and the questions we have.

We have the answers. We put the answers on the Internet. When in doubt, go to us.

→ No CommentsTags: Communication · Consulting · Education · Ideas · Internet · Knowledge · Learning

Libel, Slander, and Deflate-Gate

February 12th, 2015 · No Comments

by Dwayne Phillips

It may come as a surprise to many, but laws against libel and slander still exist.

I write this five days before the 2015 Super Bowl. The big topic of conversation in the football world is about under-inflated footballs (yes, western civilization has come to this).

What surprises me (at least a little) are the comments from the commentators on television, radio, and in writing on the Internet.

Bill Belichick is lying. Bill Belichick is a liar.

Tom Brady is lying. Tom Brady is a liar.

These come from former players employed to comment from their experience. These also come from “experienced journalists.”

This blog post is not about Belichick and Brady. This blog post is not about football. This blog post is about libel and slander.

libel: a published false statement that is damaging to a person’s reputation; a written defamation. (Google)

slander: the action or crime of making a false spoken statement damaging to a person’s reputation. (Google)

Libel and slander are still crimes. The laws against them did not go away at the turn of the 21st century. It seems that some persons at the media outlets would remind everyone else of this.

→ No CommentsTags: Communication · Writing

Too Many Words

February 9th, 2015 · No Comments

by Dwayne Phillips

Yet another reason for brevity: the more the words, the more the mistakes.

There must be some statistic somewhere that shows the number of mistakes per 1,000 words that writers make (is it a mistake to end a sentence with the word “make?” Did I put my punctuation marks in the right place there?).

Given x mistakes/1,000 words, it seems obvious that to reduce the number of mistakes, all writers and speakers will reduce the number of words we spout.

Somehow, for some reason, few of us heed that advice. We run on and on with page after page and minute after minute of explanation and wordy words.

And so I will end this blog post here. I could add more words, but that would only increase the chances that I write something stupid.

→ No CommentsTags: Brevity · Clarity · Communication · Writing

We Get One Chance

February 5th, 2015 · No Comments

by Dwayne Phillips

We each get one chance to share an idea with others. I cannot overemphasize the need to be ready for that chance.

I have been working with a colleague for several years now. This colleague has an idea he wants to present to others. He has been talking about the one idea to others for several years now. He is finally reducing the one idea to a set of clear statements.

Now that he has the clear statements, no one is listening.

Why not? Because he has exhausted the audience. Now that he is ready to share his one idea, the audience turns off at his first statement. They have heard it all before. Actually, the have heard lots of murmuring before. They have never heard the clear statements that my colleague has. And they never will hear them. They are exhausted.

We each get one chance to share an idea with others. We should present that idea to ourselves and friendly advisers a dozen times first. We should pound the fluff out of the idea until we have reduced it to a minimal set of words in a minimal set of points.

After we have worked the idea to death, we are ready to present it to others—not a second earlier than that boring, beat-it-to-death point in time.

→ No CommentsTags: Clarity · Communication · People

The Purpose of Most Meetings

February 2nd, 2015 · No Comments

by Dwayne Phillips

Contrary to management theory, meetings are not about (1) information or (2) decision. They are about nice people in a nice setting.

I had always been taught that there are two types of meetings:

  1. ones in which the group decided something
  2. ones in which information was provided to the group

Hearing those items over and over again confused me for years. The vast majority of meetings I attended fell into neither of those two categories. I needed years of confusing experiences to notice that most meetings—probably 90%—served another purpose:

the meeting allowed nice people to spend some nice time together in a nice setting

The person presiding over the meeting needed a break from the slings and arrows of outrage that filled the day. The person wanted to have a nice time—a nice chat with nice people.

Why not take the meeting across the street to McDonald’s?

You just didn’t do something like that. Meeting at McDonald’s, or some other favorite place of nice-ness, would be too obvious. The facade of the meeting being one of the only two official reasons to have a meeting would be shattered, and we all know that shattering time-honored facades is against all rules of decent behavior.

Too bad.

→ No CommentsTags: Magic · Management · Meetings

Tell Them it is Normal

January 29th, 2015 · No Comments

by Dwayne Phillips

Life is full of challenges and frustrations. Some of these are normal. When encountering normal with a person who has not encountered it before, explain to them that it is normal.

I once tutored a young man through a frustrating process at work. In the middle of the pull-out-your-hair and smash-your-head-through-the-wall day, I told him, “This is normal. Expect it every time you do this. No one is picking on you.”

I have found many frustrating experiences in life. Most of these are normal. No one was picking on me personally. They treated everyone badly all the time. Normal.

It is so helpful to know that the situation is normal.

Tell people,

  • the first draft being lousy IS NORMAL
  • several heartbreaks before you find a spouse IS NORMAL
  • most of life’s disappointments and run-arounds and frustrating situations and people IS NORMAL

Work your way through the norm and keep going. That is easier on some days than it is on others, but that, too, IS NORMAL.

→ No CommentsTags: Communication · Consulting · Education · Expectations · Learning