Archive for June, 2006

On Hardwork, Loyalty, and Losing a Friend

We reached the point yesterday where we needed to part company with our family dog. She is old and got sicker and sicker all week. Large vet bills and many decisions later, we had our last afternoon with her yesterday. My wife has been a wreck all week, my kids have been distraught, and it’s finally catching up with me. I can make a little bit of denial go a long way. Sweeney has been a part of our family from the beginning – my wife has had her longer than me. When our kids could hold their own bottles, they drank them while lying on her like a backrest.

I met Sweeney the night I picked my wife up for our first date. She was lovable from the start – a very docile and well-mannered dog. I grew up with dogs around, so had no problem warming up to her, and we were instant pals. My wife named her after a very cool bar in St. Paul named Sweeney’s, where the breeder worked. We ended up at Sweeney’s on our first date.

Sweeney was a beautiful female black lab – a very Minnesota dog if there ever was one. Labs are great dogs for a variety of reasons – they get a long great with kids, are very trainable, and are an extremely hard working breed. Labs have long been bred for waterfowl hunting (she was robbed of that experience under my care), and have tendencies to push through adversity to get the job done. A good dog has a strange way of seeming to always be in a good mood no matter what, and passing that on to you. Sweeney always kept a positive energy flowing in our house. They are loyal, friendly, fun dogs.

We have been through a lot with Sweeney – she has helped us be a more complete and happy family in numerous ways. When our kids were first born, we learned suddenly and stressfully that she had a mild case of fear aggression. At first we thought that was it, she was gone. We had friends that went that route with their dogs. But encouraged by our vet we discovered Robert Anderson, an animal behaviorist from the University of Minnesota, and the power of postive reinforcement training. Sweeney trusted us, we persevered and were all a lot happier as a result – she more relaxed, and we more responsible pet owners. Those learnings meant a lot to me – I learned that I had made all of the serious and common mistakes that a lot of pet owners do trying to train dogs. I learned that a calm voice and focusing on rewards rather than punishments work miracles. Sweeney made me think a lot about how to be a good leader.

Sweeney has dumbfounded me at times with her tenacity. I have pulled her from a hole in the ice on our lake with the air temperature at minus 20 Farenheit (minus 40 windchill) and watched her run home, icicles forming and breaking off her fur while she bolted. I have seen her bound through the woods wrecklessly and break through a stick that put a 1 inch hole in her chest and again she kept on going. She swam for hours in the lake – by herself, mind you, as if for pure entertainment – from early spring ice-out into late fall ice-in. She got up to greet me anytime I got up at night or early morning – like she’s instantly ready to do whatever, anytime. All are qualities to be admired.

I can hardly stand to think about what our kids are feeling. They haven’t known a day without Sweeney around, she’s their best friend. They definitely can’t imagine going up to our cabin without a dog. They used to always argue about who got to feed her at night, or who got to hold her leash more on walks. She put up with a ridiculous amount of pushing, pulling, yanking, and everything else they could dole out over the years and kept coming back for more. I suppose it skewed their perception of what you can get away with in a friendship. Or maybe it showed them what a good friend is willing to put up with sometimes.

I don’t know quite what we will do next or when. We are dog people, so will no doubt get another. Our boys insist that we are getting another female black lab immediately and naming her Sweeney. I don’t think there will ever be another Sweeney for me. Hope you are resting easier now, girl, we all miss you.

Medical Technology Company Seeks High Quality Project Manager

I’m aware of a Fortune 250 medical technology company in the Minneapolis area that is seeking a high quality project manager as a permanent employee. Experience with managing web development projects using Agile techniques is desirable. The group you would join is very engaging, tied to high visibility business initiatives, focused on user-centered design and staying on top of technology trends. If you are interested and fit the bill, or know someone who is, please drop me an email for details…

Scaling Down, Open Source-*, and RMR Episode 10

Anyone who has read this blog previously knows I’m a huge fan of Redmonk Radio. I am woefully behind on podcast listening – my podcasts folder is about as bad as my need-to-read research folder while I wait for someone to send me a free iPod – but I just got through Episode 10 on “Adobe Live, DRM, Freemium, JavaOne, Predictions”.

The title might not advertise it, but this is actually a great redux discussion on open source business models and the freemium concept. This is a great, if indirect, listen for anyone who needs to understand how open and free models actually increase the value of your core offering, rather than cannabalize it. In particular, I liked Cote‘s comments on the idea that in the world of services and information (arguably even physical products) ultimately you are paying for a relationship – there are just different variations of how the contract and license are structured. But the relationship holds the real compensatory value. Open source is often discussed in the context of software licensing, here Redmonk discusses it in the context of open source analysis. But the concepts and model are much more generally applicable – call it OS-*

This listen came at a great time for me as I had just read this article on long tail-ish thoughts. I don’t quite know where I’m going with my own mash of these thoughts, but my mind is churning.

In large companies, there is still often a hold-it-close mindset even within the walls – information sharing should happen a lot more than it actually does. The RMR conversation has great applicability here, because you should share freely whatever you can in order to more quickly get to the true value of your services and skills. I’m also hot on the centralization topic lately – this is a very natural tendency of many EAs and many corporate IS groups, but it’s not automatically the right idea. It’s enterprisey and all that, but EAs should actually be scouring their organizations for hidden long tails.

The real value of EA should be building services and infrastructure to enable the smallest and most agile business processes imaginable, not building behemoths.

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Brief Update on Conference Attendance for 2006

Thought I would drop some very brief thoughts on conference attendance for 2006. I am seriously bummed that I missed MinneBar due to prior engagements – I am very hip on that type of conference format. Chock full of practioners and a heavy dose of social networking. Cote’ got me interested with his thoughts on BarCampAustin, and low and behold we had one here that I missed. Could it be that we get ourselves in on BarCampEarth? What do you say Twin Cities techies?

At this point the main event this year for me will be the Colorado Software Summit in October. This will be my second time (an alumnus!) and I’m definitely looking foward to it. This conference was very intense – early morning to early evening everyday, lots of great folks to network with in between. The presentations are heavily technical, and satisfy the hunger for details. Definitely drop me a line if you will be there. I would also love to meet any other Denver-area techies when I pass through either Sunday or Friday – could there possibly be a Denver Tech Meetup happening around then? I should be so lucky… unless they are locals only. 😉

I’m also considering presenting at a Delphi Group event the week before – would be extremely interested if anyone could provide me with references or a review of a prior Delphi event, either in comments or via email. What do you say readers, is this worth the time?

We have people going to the Agile and No Fluff events this year, so I’m hoping to glean something from those through osmosis. I seriously should have presented at Agile this year, considering that it’s in my backyard. Oh well.

SOG In My Old ‘Hood – Anthropology, Ethnography, and Ethnocentricism

Great post, Steve! One of my dirty secrets is that I was an anthropology student in the early 90s, so I feel semi-qualified to comment on a couple items. First, kudos to you for being careful to say the tribesman had more free time – it is (or at least was when I was in school) considered a known truth that the hunters (men) in hunter-gatherer societies really didn’t provide the sustenance, except in some pretty barren geographies. The gatherers (women) were usually the ones filling stomachs, and it was certainly the more time consuming job. Maybe the more things change, the more they stay the same.

On the ethnocentricity topic, I considered myself very fortunate to be in anthropology when postmodernism was peaking. Among other things, the topic of ethnocentric biases and impact of the observer were analyzed, and perhaps even over-analyzed [see note]. Ethnographers usually waxed on and on about all of their potential biases and the impact they had on the culture they were studying before ever getting to their findings. There were also some great introspective books at the time on how even the notion of writing all of this down is it’s own ethnocentric and culturally specific behavior. Maybe I took it a little too far, but I enjoyed books like Writing Culture : The Poetics and Politics of Ethnography and just about anything by James Clifford way more than any of my assigned texts.

I think it’s good to be introspective at this level about your work, but maybe it’s even better to be extrospective. It’s one thing to talk to just your peers about the shortcomings of your field or discipline, but maybe transparency is even more important. Publishing and declaring those thoughts is a kind of catharsis. Something I like about blogging is sharing the fact that I’m no wonk or Maven – I have more questions than answers. I have biases and influences – some that I’m aware of any surely many that I’m not.

This is also part of the reason I’m interested in analyst interviews on Redmonk Radio – sure there are various analyzing-the-analysts blogs, but the fact is that many of us analysis consumers have trouble even keeping up with the analysis, let alone the meta-context around it. Analysts should turn the camera around more often, and share their introspection through their mainstream analysis outlets. (Of course, blogging analysts normally do this as a matter of course.)

At the end of the day, we can try to get past all of those contextual factors, but they remain and should be acknowledged (mindfully). Thanks for that trip to the past, Steve.

Note: Here is a post-modern anthropology joke that will certify me as a geek: An ethnographer and his informant (the subject of the research) are talking, and after an hour or so, the ethnographer says “But enough about me… let’s talk about you!”

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