Thursday, December 30, 2010

Lending Kindle eBooks Now Enabled

You can now lend Kindle eBooks. It is still controlled by Digital Rights Management set by the publisher, etc. but it is a next step!

Posted via email from Mark's Musings

Thursday, December 16, 2010

HTML5 Canvas Tag Basic Example II - Gradients and Images

Per my previous post, working with the canvas tag in HTML5, here is some more code with gradients and an image.
Thanks again to Mark Pilgrim and his wonderful Dive into HTML5 site.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Loving Posterous' use of Github Gist to post code

Loving Posterous' use of Github Gist to post code in your Posterous blog. Just paste a Github Gist URL on its own line and Posterous pulls in the contents automatically, even for your RSS feed and autopost sites. 

Posted via email from Mark's Musings

HTML5 Canvas Tag Basic Example

It has been a while since I posted any example code. Was messing with the canvas tag in HTML5 and thought I would post it up.
Thanks to Mark Pilgrim and his wonderful Dive into HTML5 site, I was working through the canvas tag page and put this together (only got as far as the gradient section though). Enjoy:

Saturday, October 02, 2010

"How good software makes us stupid"-You're still smart, what does that say about your software?

In his post to BBC News Technology, "How good software makes us stupid." Like it or not, the research outcomes consistently show that the tools we use to learn also shape our ability to learn. The premise of the article is that good software makes things easier and us more stupid.
In retrospect, I know, hang around, and work around a lot of smart people. Therefore, their software must not be that good! Gaaa! I develop software! Must get better at making people dumber...or I a mean make things easier for them!

Posted via email from Mark's Musings

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

RSS - The Really Unknown Syndication

At work, on the corporate intranet site, there is a daily survey question. Today's question was, "Do you use an RSS feed to capture news or similar info from websites?" The possible responses were:
Yes – I like that it sends me news I request. 
Yes – I’m just learning how this works.
No – I’ve never used it. 
No – I don’t know what that is.
With most survey components, you do not see the tabulated results until after you answer the question. Before I answered I thought that the response rate would be about 60% answering either "Yes – I like that it sends me news I request" or "Yes – I’m just learning how this works." Wow, was I off. Here are the actual results as of the time of this post:
The "Yes – I like that it sends me news I request" had 719 out of 13,856 or  5% of total.
The "Yes – I’m just learning how this works" received 300 responses out of 13,856 for a 2% affirmative rate.
The "No – I’ve never used it" got a 2,766 out of 13,856 or 20% of the total.
Finally, the "No – I don’t know what that is" answer received a whopping 10,071 out of 13,856 for a 73% response rate.
Again, wow! 93% of the respondents are not using RSS even though it has been broadly available since 2005. Given that the RSS acronym means Really Simple Syndication there are a good many of my fellow employees that have yet to discover the convenience and pleasure of using RSS to gather and consume their news and information.

Posted via email from Mark's Musings

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Wired Mag is bumming me also!

From his August 23, 2010 blog entry, Nicolas Carr states that "he is bummed." Why? Because of Wired magazine's statements over the last 5 years:
Wired magazine cover story, August 2005: "We Are the Web"
Wired magazine cover story, September 2010: "The Web Is Dead"
Unavoidable conclusion: "We Are Dead"

He is right. If we are something and that something is dead, then irresistibly, we are dead. Wow! I could easily become bummed too!

Posted via email from Mark's Musings

Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Citizen Developer

I have been thinking about the rise of user friendly development tools. Recently, Google released the Android App Inventor tool which according to Google, "App Inventor requires NO programming knowledge. This is because instead of writing code, you visually design the way the app looks and use blocks to specify the app's behavior."
In addition to the Android App Inventor, Microsoft as released their beta version of WebMatrix, which "is for developers, students, or just about anyone who just wants a small and simple way to build Web sites."
So I did a search for the phrase "Citizen Programmer" or "Citizen Developer" to see what was out there. I found where last October, Gartner Group posted an article where they shared that by 2014, 25% of business applications will be done by these citizen developers. Interesting! The article defines a citizen developer as "a user operating outside of the scope of enterprise IT and its governance who creates new business applications for consumption by others either from scratch or by composition."
Historically, CASE tools were to enable the business person to do basic application development. In fact the programming language COBOL was meant to provide that ease of use and comprehension given its verbose and common-language structure.
I consider myself to be an example of a Citizen Developer as my educational background shows that you do not have to have formal development training to be a software developer. Since I received a B.S. in Education from Ohio University in 1993, I have basically learned to program by taking the time to learn to think computationally while learning and using the various interpreted and compiled languages and database systems.

The pattern in the past has been that tools that were marketed to enable business line personnel to create business applications actually required some development skills (such as Microsoft's WebMatrix discussed above). The result was that the tool was moved into the development teams as another tool in the software programming arsenal, leaving the users still depending on the software team to produce the programs.

However, it is my hope that tools such as Android App Inventor will proliferate and result in the growth of the Citizen Developer.

Posted via email from Mark's Musings

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Lions, tigers, tracking, oh my!

Just looked at a Wall Street Journal Blog article What They Know. While I agree that apps that record and retrieve keystrokes are evil, in my view, most tracking is for data purposes to better serve customers with more relevant advertisements. Agreed?

Posted via email from Mark's Musings

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Time...between compiles

Remember in the first Jurassic Park movie, Dennis Nedry the programmer who attempted to sell/smuggle dino-embryos off the island? He stated that it would take several minutes for the section of the software that he had just added code to compile, and that certain systems would be down during this compile. It was during this gap in time that he attempted to smuggle the embryos.
Anyway, I often have 5 minutes here, 15 minutes there waiting for compiles to complete. During these times I refuse to be involved in illegal activity! My employer will be glad to know that I am sure. But seriously, I try to get other things done such as planning the next section of code to write, consider more optimal database queries, and complete emails, etc in that time.
The point is that I have to plan the break or I catch myself surfing the net and wasting time. What do you do with your time in between tasks to stay focused? A list of items to complete? Does your type of work govern the web and flow of the day for you?
Oh... the build is to get going...bye!

Posted via email from Mark's Musings

Future of Tech: Mobile or the Living Room?

Was listening to the Pipeline podcast, episode 20 where "Dan Benjamin interviews Clayton Morris, self-described casual geek and anchor of Fox and Friends about inspiration and creativity, authenticity online and on TV, the way we as viewers are changing the shape of media, pursuing your dreams, balancing work and personal life, and more."
Towards the end of the show the discussion arose as to where the future of technology would be focused. The two spaces discussed were the mobile space and the living room. I aways thought that while mobile and home based technologies would have there own areas of products and services, the two would converge together into a "personal, electronically assisted living" that was not restricted by location but existed and functioned in your home as well as transportation.
We shall see.

Posted via email from Mark's Musings

Friday, July 09, 2010

Never Trust a Programmer

"Programming is a bit of mystery to people. It breeds a lot of distrust in an organization. In general, when you don’t understand what it takes to make something, anything seems plausible. You might think a house can be built in couple of weeks...." Good stuff! The rest here.

Posted via email from Mark's Musings

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Who is the "Bitsmith" in your domain?

Harvard Business Review's Management Tip of the Day today (Thursday, July 8, 2010) is Get Yourself a Bitsmith. A Bitsmith is defined as, "a person who understands both the work content and the tools needed to support the job."
One thing that organizations need to understand is that IT is more than a group of code and reboot monkeys that can be simply plugged into a position like a warm body in the Matrix. Successful IT in any company understands the objectives of the business and what it needs to do to see it happen. "By understanding the domain and the technology, bitsmiths can quickly take an idea from concept to implementation, speeding up productivity. Find someone on your team or bring someone in from IT who can serve as your bitsmith."

Posted via email from Mark's Musings

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Ubuntu Lucid Lynx DVD da bing, ba da boom

Got my new Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage movie DVD the other day. I wanted to watch it on my Ubuntu Desktop. Alas, I did not have the proper libraries loaded. Solution, query the smart and generous Ubuntu community. A quick search yielded How to play video dvd Movies in Ubnutu 10.04 Lucid Lynx.
In short, do the following from the terminal prompt:
$ sudo wget --output-document=/etc/apt/sources.list.d/medibuntu.list$(lsb_release -cs).list
$ sudo apt-get --quiet update
$ sudo apt-get --yes --quiet --allow-unauthenticated install medibuntu-keyring
$ sudo apt-get --quiet update
And, ba da bing, ba da boom...I was watching the DVD on my Ubuntu Desktop.

Posted via email from Mark's Musings

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Free Ubuntu 10.04 Manual

For those of you who are using Ubnutu Lucid Lynx (10.04) or are at least considering it, check out the free Ubuntu Manual. The Ubuntu Manual is available in many languages! Very nice!

Posted via email from Mark's Musings

Thursday, June 24, 2010

"Yee haw" instead of Yahoo?

"Yee haw" instead of Yahoo? Got a tweet from @BenABaker that pointed to a collaboration of 13 companies from Eastern Kentucky working together to solve the region's technical challenges. You've heard of Silicon introducing Silicon Hollow. Go Silicon Hollow!!

Posted via email from Mark's Musings

Posterous - from Pipe to Post Point

Originally, I was using Posterous as an entry point for blog and social media posts. Posterous enables you to have a single point of entry to various blogs and social media outlets via e-mail or the web.
Now Posterous is attempting to attract users of sites such as Ning and Tumblr. What I did this morning was import all my old blog content from my Google's Blogspot site from February 2005 to the present into my Posterous blog. It was a matter of point, click, and wa-la.
So, that is my rationale for stating that Posterous is moving from a pipe, or a single point of entry, to a post or end point for user-submitted content. It will be interesting to see how successful they will be in attracting rival blog site users.

Posted via email from Mark's Musings

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Linchpin Quadrants of Discernment

Recently I finished Seth Godin's book Linchpin. Along with many good sections, there is a discussion on an effective combination of passion and discernment. Here, discernment is the ability to understand, in a nutshell, that things change and what area(s) are in the scope of one's influence and/or ability to affect the circumstance(s) . A discerning, passionate person, a.k.a. a Linchpin understands that things change and knows what she can effectively do in the midst of that change.
Looking at the diagram used in the book below, quotes explaining the quadrants follow (from Kindle Locations to 3061 to 3083).

In the bottom right is the fundamentalist zealot. He is attached to the world as he sees it....Change is a threat. Curiosity is a threat. Competition is a threat. As a result, it's difficult for him to see the world as it is, because he insists on the world being the way he imagines it. At the same time, he has huge reservoirs of effort to invest in maintaining his worldview. Fundamentalist zealots always manage to make the world smaller, poorer, and meaner. The RIAA's campaign to sue people for listening to music online is the work of a fundamentalist zealot.
The top left belongs to the Bureaucrat. He's certainly not attached to the outcome of events, and he definitely won't be exerting any additional effort, regardless. The bureaucrat is a passionless rules follower, indifferent to external events and gliding through the day. The clerk at the post office and the exhausted VP at General Motors are both bureaucrats.
The bottom left is the corner for the Whiner. The whiner has no passion, but is extremely attached to the worldview he's brought into. Living life in fear of change, the whiner can't muster the effort to make things better, but is extremely focused on wishing that things stay as they are. I'd put most people in the newspaper industry in this corner.
And that leaves the top right, the quadrant of the Linchpin. The linchpin is enlightened enough to see the world as it is, to understand that this angry customer is not about me, that this change, in government policy is not a personal attack, that this job is not guaranteed for life. At the same time, the linchpin brings passion to the job. She knows from experience that the right effort in the right place can change the outcome, and she reserves her effort for doing just that.

Posted via email from Mark's Musings

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The future of IT: Data Centralization, everything else...Decentralized

Interesting article by Kishore Swaminathan, Chief Scientist at Accenture, IT 2015. In short, decentralized hardware and data access with centralized data.

Posted via email from Mark's Musings

Monday, June 14, 2010

Who Are You (on Twitter that is)?

Within a retweet by @prblog from @EmpowerMM that provided a link to various social media graphics. One in particular caught my eye that categorizes twitter users. Based on these categorizations, who do you follow? Do you tolerate the "smore" and/or follow the "maven?"
It appears to be a matter of one's interest. Some like to hear others complain so they will follow the "b1tch." Also, one's maven is another's smore.
How do we as twitter users become more like the "mensch" who observe the flow of information until others need our expertise and then come to their aid?

Posted via email from Mark's Musings

Friday, June 11, 2010

Text Data Mining/Visualization - Did I really say it that much!?!

Was poking around looking at text data-collection and analysis tools since a lot of our data is not in standard database or data file formats but in text. I ran across Wordle, an on-line text mining / analytic tool that generates "word clouds" from text . The clouds give greater visual prominence to words that appear more frequently in the source text. To create your own word cloud simply copy and paste your text into the tool or point your website/blog to Wordle via the same tool and it will formulate the word cloud.
Often, data mining/visualization will show unexpected patterns in the data that enable you to sometimes verify, or at least postulate, the cause of what the data displays. Ideally, the analysis will assist you in predicting future customer buying habits, upcoming income/expenditure levels, etc.
Anyway, pointing my blog to Wordle produced the image below. In looking at the word cloud, I know I have been discussing Ubuntu a good deal lately but I was not aware to what degree. Again, data mining/visualization shows that I need to move on to other topics in my blog!

Posted via email from Mark's Musings

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Imitation over Innovation?

Browsed to Google's search page and thought I was looking at a Bing screen for a few seconds. Google is, at least for now, showing a large background image as Bing as been doing since its onset.

Reminds me of a recent article, Defend Your Research: Imitation Is More Valuable Than Innovation by Oded Shenkar which argues that, "In all cases, he found imitation to be a primary source of progress, even though that progress often went unrecognized by executives and scholars. He also discovered that good imitation is difficult and requires intelligence and imagination."

Yet, Google imitating Bing?!?!

Posted via email from Mark's Musings

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

What Should You Be Measuring?

Dan Ariely, Professor of Behavioral Economics at Duke University wrote an interesting column entitled, You Are What You Measure. He states:
If we want to change what they care about, we should change what we
measure…..It can’t be that simple, you might argue— but psychologists and economists will tell you it is. Human beings adjust behavior based on the metrics they’re held against. Anything you measure will impel a person to optimize his score on that metric. What you measure is what you’ll get. Period.

Okay. With that said, what are the numbers that I should measure? My thinking is that in addition to the day-to-day numbers that are normally applied to me in my job, metrics such as these are good: how often do I help co-workers, what is the level of my customers' (manager, business line(s) I code for, etc) satisfaction, how many times do I take ownership of problems that are not mine, etc? Can you think of other numbers?

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Ubuntu Lucid Lynx with Windows XP Dual Boot

After getting my replacement hard drive for my Dell desk top I compromised between the need for a Windows Operating System and the desire to mainly use Ubuntu by setting up the system to dual boot to Ubuntu by default and Windows XP implicitly.

For an example of Ubuntu niceness, I had to update an Excel 2007 spread sheet. I was currently in Ubuntu and really did not want to shutdown Ubuntu and restart in Windows to make the update. I browsed to the the Places section in Ubuntu and noted that there was a File System that was separate from the Ubuntu install. Sure enough it was the Windows partition. And what do you know...I was able to browse the Window's partition files and select the Excel spread sheet. It then opened in Open Office's Spreadsheet application, which comes free with Ubuntu's Desktop install, from where I was able to make my change and save the updated file.

Okay, that seemed too easy. I then rebooted to check to see that the Excel file would still open in Excel and sure enough, it opened and had the changes that were made while in Ubuntu! Lucid indeed!

Posted via email from Mark's Musings

Friday, May 28, 2010

To Ubuntu or not to? that is a good question!

Last weekend my desktop hard drive went kaput. So instead of using my laptop until I got the disk rordered, received, and replaced, I literally dug out my old desktop from the garage. After blowing off the dust I hooked it up, and then installed the new distribution of Ubuntu Linux, 10.04 (also know as Lucid Lynx).

This operating system fits on one CD. That's heard it correctly folks...not one DVD...but one CD! And even better--the price...wait for it....wait for it...FREE!! Moreover, it is easy to install, contains the Open Office Suite, the Firefox Web Brower, etc. right out of the box (or rather ISO download in my case).

Since I have been using it this last week I have noted that everything is running well. I even installed the TweetDeck Desktop and had it rolling in no time (see below).

The only issue is, some of my applications that I need to run (QuickBooks) require Windows (and no I don't want to use QuickBooks in the Cloud, yet anyway). All is not lost as Ubuntu comes loaded with VirtualBox, a virtual machine that can be used to run Windows XP from which I can install QuickBooks, etc.
I just got the new hard drive via UPS and have it installed. Go with Ubuntu with a VirtualBox of Windows XP? Go with Windows XP? Thoughts? What would you do?

Posted via email from Mark's Musings

Thursday, May 27, 2010

OK, I think I have posting to Posterous with Markdown down

Here is a message with Java syntax highlighting on Posterous.
Get specifics here.

Here is a syntax highlighting and formatting Markdown example of philosophic Java code:

1 if(!succeed) { 
2      try();  
3  }

Increasing Serendipity to Increase Understanding

Serendipity is defined as "the faculty or phenomenon of finding valuable or agreeable things not sought for." In other words a serendipitous event is when you find something good that you were not expecting. But how do we do this with ideas and solutions to problems? One may think the answer is to randomly scour books and journals in the hopes of discovering new and helpful information. While this is valuable, I am finding that the most valuable information comes directly from people and not just the literary works they produce.

Serendipity therefore requires you to move outside your comfort zone concerning encounters with others. Take a chance and risk looking foolish. Introduce yourself to someone you do not know but may frequently see at work or on the bus. Find out what interests them. In a word, learn.

To me, this concept reminds me of the progressive rock group Rush's song, Hand Over First. A section of the  lyrics go:

Take a walk outside myself
In some exotic land
Greet a passing stranger
Feel the strength in his hand
Feel the world expand.

Feel your world expand indeed!

Posted via email from Mark's Musings

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Exponential (or Collective) Minuteness = Big Outcomes

Last Friday, May 21, 2010, got a tweet from @justinrains informing his followers that Google search page had a small version of Pacman that you could play. Of course, I browsed to the popular search page and began playing that classic game. The beauty now was that no quarters required! I spent about two minutes playing and then moved on with my day.

My thinking was that this was not much time wasted. However, what if that two minutes is multiplied by millions of users? According to Tony Wright, the founder of RescueTime Blog, just seconds viewing or playing pacman the other day cost 120 million in productivity. How? "The average user spent 36 seconds MORE on on Friday....$120,483,800 is the dollar tally, If the average Google user has a COST of $25/hr (note that cost is 1.3 – 2.0 X pay rate)."

Wow! Small amounts multiplied results in large outcomes. What if everyone could contribute small amounts of  attention and brain power to solve problems? This is what happens with CAPTCHAs:

About 200 million CAPTCHAs are solved by humans around the world every day. In each case, roughly ten seconds of human time are being spent. Individually, that's not a lot of time, but in aggregate these little puzzles consume more than 150,000 hours of work each day. What if we could make positive use of this human effort? reCAPTCHA does exactly that by channeling the effort spent solving CAPTCHAs online into "reading" books.

What is notable is that technology enables this "collective minuteness" that yields large results. The question then becomes how can we further use it to solve problems? Can collective involvement via social media help in the search/discovery/creation of alternative energy sources? Is there a way we can use mobile computing to assist healthcare? These are not questions for the sake of a blog posting! What are your thoughts?

Posted via email from Mark's Musings

Early location-based, social media..."Breaker 1 - 9, how about that south bound Kenworth at the 151 mile marker, ...."

This last weekend we traveled into south-central Ohio for a family gathering. On the way, I noted a truck driver talking on a mobile phone. I commented to my wife that the days of the CB Radio (those who are in the forties and older know something about CB Radios) are more than likely declining. She stated that while drivers will communicate via mobile devices, the CB is probably the tool of choice to gather and share local information and socialize. After I considered it I realized that as usual, she was correct.

In fact, I would call the CB Radio "the early location-based, social media." To use this tool all one had to do was be on the conventional channel, channel 19 for most truck drivers, and you were able to send and receive messages. Truckers would ask the channel for information on road conditions and traffic from those who were there or had just been there (location based services), ask general question,  or just share stories and socialize (social media content).

Finally, with concerns over  texting while driving, the CD Radio is offers an "eyes on the road" media utilization.

"Do you gotta copy on that?"

Friday, May 21, 2010

Please, Look at the Data

Clive Thompson looks at why we should understand how to read and draw proper conclusions from data.

Thompson states:

Statistics is hard. But that’s not just an issue of individual understanding; it’s also becoming one of the nation’s biggest political problems. We live in a world where the thorniest policy issues increasingly boil down to arguments over what the data mean. If you don’t understand statistics, you don’t know what’s going on — and you can’t tell when you’re being lied to.

One thing for certain, the "don't bother me with the facts" attitude will not work here.

Consider the economy: Is it improving or not? That’s a statistical question....Or take the raging debate over childhood vaccination, where well-intentioned parents have drawn disastrous conclusions from anecdotal information....There are oodles of other examples of how our inability to grasp statistics — and the mother of it all, probability — makes us believe stupid things. Gamblers think their number is more likely to come up this time because it didn’t come up last time. Political polls are touted by the media even when their samples are laughably skewed.

Of course, not everyone is a trained statistician. However, one does not need to be. We write while not being trained journalist. We use basic math while not being mathematicians.

For starters instead of looking at short term data, learn to consider long term trends with larger amounts of data. Also, understand that when there are correlations between trends or events, this does not mean that one is the cause of the other. In short, please look at the data.

Posted via email from Mark's Musings

"Betterness" does not just happen.

In this post, Umair Haque looks at eight ways to begin "betterness" in your life: Invest, Allocate, Cut, Work, Live, Civilize, Support, and Reflect. To summarize, the post informs the reader that to have a generally better life, one must not simply "settle" but get up and get busy on making a difference for both themselves and others.
None of this is easy. And no, it won't magically create a paradise overnight, or possibly ever. These aren't the only paths to betterness, or even the best ones. This is just a blog post. Here's the point. It is only by accepting the hard truth of personal responsibility for yesterday that each of us can begin to create a better tomorrow.

Related to this post, I am currently reading Linchpin by Seth Godin that drives a similar message. More on this book later.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Is the Motorola Droid Commercials Scary?

Is it just me or is the Motorola Droid Commercials a little scary?

In my view, the roving red eye of the Motorola Droid looks like a cross between the robotic eye of the Cylon of Battlestar Galactica fame and the Dark Lord Sauron's all seeing eye from The Lord of the Rings.

Motorola Droid Screen on Bootup


Sauron's Eye

Posted via email from Mark's Musings

It is the Cloud not the Clock

In the current Wired Magazine article, Breaking Things Down to Particles Blinds Scientists to Big Picture, Jonah Lehrer states:
Clocks are neat, orderly systems that can be solved through reduction; clouds are an epistemic mess, “highly irregular, disorderly, and more or less unpredictable.” The mistake of modern science is to pretend that everything is a clock, which is why we get seduced again and again by the false promises of brain scanners and gene sequencers. We want to believe we will understand nature if we find the exact right tool to cut its joints. But that approach is doomed to failure. We live in a universe not of clocks but of clouds.

In both business and software development we must understand that the latest tool and/or theory is not the final Utopian answer but rather a step in further understanding. 

Posted via email from Mark's Musings

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Google I/O - Web is killing other media

According to Google’s Vic Gundotra, the web is killing other forms of media.

I remember speaking to a Kiwanis Group (in circa 1996) and sharing that at some point the web "may," in the immediate future, effectively compete for the attention of the public as other forms of traditional media were at that time. When I stated that, some yawned and others looked at me as if I was crazy at worst and overly optimistic at best.

I have to admit that in the early days of the public internet I was not sure how popular the web would be. Again, that was when access from home was accompanied by the screech of a 9600 baud modem. Not the most optimum throughput for audio and video.

In any event, that is the case now.

Posted via email from Mark's Musings

Definitions and clarity matter What we have here is a failure to "communicate." Definitions and clarity matter.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Time to Think...Oh, the Humanity

In his blog post The Productivity Myth, Tony Schwartz states, "We need a better way of working. It's not about generating short-term, superficial productivity gains by using fear as a motivator and then squeezing people to their limits. Rather, it depends on helping leaders to understand that more is not always better, and that rest, renewal, reflection, and a long-term perspective are also critical to fueling value that lasts."

I often make the argument, we need to give all workers in all types of fields time to reflect on what the business is doing and how it can do it better, for not only the customer but also the employees and organization. 

What we do not need is primitive instincts operating the company. "If you operate at high intensity, under high pressure, for long hours, you inexorably burn down your own best resources — your energy reservoir — and you begin to rely instead on the physiology of fight or flight — adrenalin, noradrenalin, and cortisol. The prefrontal cortex shuts down in fight or flight, your perspective narrows, and your primitive instincts begin to take over." 

We need humanity, not just machinery. 

Posted via email from Mark's Musings

Monday, May 17, 2010

What is a More Effective Conversation?

What is meant by "conversation?" We see this term used a lot anymore with the advent and use of social media. GMail calls each thread of email a "conversation."  And indeed, it may be. Being curious as to what others thought about the use of the term, I did a quick search on the word “conversation” and ran across this image from Brian Solis’ blog:
My assumption is that many of you use many of these tools. While these tools certainly facilitate "virtual conversations," is that the most effective form of a conversation? Certainly it scales better. It is more geographically dispersed. But, is it the same as face-to-face encounters where you are in the same location with the person(s) interacting? 

Perhaps these e-tools can be used to initiate or setup face-to-face conversations? I for one am determined to have more face-to-face, and therefore, a more effective conversations.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Gut Based Decisions - A Cause of Heart Burn?

"Tell Your Gut to Please Shut Up," Please? In this blog post by Michael Schrage, the misnomer that intuition or gut-level decision making is statistically effective and sound is challenged. In fact, it is often touted that one's experience is enough to provide the foundation of sound decisions:
Leaders and managers are encouraged and exhorted to rely more on their intuition and judgment. Everyone knows that "Good judgment comes from experience. Experience comes from bad judgment." Ha ha ha. But where does bad judgment come from? My answer — and the replicable answer from Nobel Prize winning research: Trusting gut instincts and feelings.

He continues on:
The entire field of behavioral economics has been built on the intensifying recognition that people, particularly smart ones, are suckers for cognitive illusions and heuristic biases that pretty much guarantee that "gut-trusting" will, on average, yield heart burn.

What is the answer to this dilemma of intuition or gut-level based direction? Data. Making decisions based on actual information and not what you "sense" or "feel. "
While this is not new, Michael Schrage turns this from the enterprise to the individual:

What gives this issue great urgency and good timeliness is the nascent phenomenon discussed in Gary Wolf's excellent New York Times Magazine piece on data-driven introspection. He describes his cast of anal-retentive compulsively computational cast of characters as uber-geeks. To me, they're the uber-introspects: a new cultural class that values the ability to relentlessly act upon obsessive self-knowledge....Instrumenting ourselves, our thoughts, our actions, and — yes — our networks of colleagues and acquaintances, simultaneously transforms both self-awareness and situational awareness.

This has been personally demonstrated to me as I have recently lost 30 pounds in the last 4 months. In short, I simply monitored both my daily caloric intake and the burning of those calories by measured exercise with the help of the SparkPeople website. This tool made it easy to search the foods that I would eat that day and plan my meals while tracking the daily exercise. Moreover, what was most empowering was that when I knew the actual calories I had already consumed, in the evening, it made it easier for me to resist the desire to eat more. By knowing where I actually was with calorie intake and not having to guess in the midst of being hungry, I was able to say "NO" to more food.
Finally Schrage challenges the reader with a self-examining experiment:

So here's a simple, cheap experiment: the next few times you make a snap decision or judgment where your gut is your best friend, take 20 seconds to send yourself an email or text briefly describing what you did and why. Quit after doing it maybe 20 times. Then look at those messages from the vantage of a week later. I promise you'll be surprised. (I did a version of that exercise when I was having a nightmare time with a client. The resulting review left me biting my tongue and forbidding myself from sending substantive project emails without sleeping on them first.)

More on coming soon on the data-driven life.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Crowd-Sourcing Gone Too Far with Digg?

Michael Arrington brings up an interesting point in his Digg’s Biggest Problem Is Its Users And Their Constant Opinions On Things article. When designing a product, at what point is crowd input too much? 

The piece brings out several good points. For example, "Product should be a dictatorship. Not consensus driven. There are casualties. Hurt feelings. Angry users. But all of those things are necessary if you’re going to create something unique."

Even as interesting, in my view, is the picture with the article:

The feel of the image is very much like the artwork for the Black Sabbath Album cover, Mob Rules:

Perhaps the lyrics of this album's title song are appropriate for Arrington's article, "...if you listen to fools, the mob rules."

Posted via email from Mark's Musings

Monday, May 10, 2010

Social Tech Tools - Distractor or Emancipator?

I was perusing the Guardian web site looking for updates on the UK election and ran across a commencement speech by President Obama at Hampton University. In the talk he  stated, "With iPods and iPads; Xboxes and PlayStations – none of which I know how to work – information becomes a distraction, a diversion, a form of entertainment, rather than a tool of empowerment, rather than the means of emancipation."

This was the jist of my previous post, Multiple Information Streams, Self-Motivation, and the Outcomes where I ask, "...are the content streams you consume beneficial for you let alone society as a whole?" Well? What do you think?

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Saturday, May 08, 2010

Programming: A Social Activity

Here is a repost from almost two years ago. With all the discussion on social media and crowd sourcing of information, I thought a repost of this was timely:

I have been listening to a weekly podcast, Stackoverflow with Joel Spolsky and Jeff Atwood. Podcast 15 features a question that asks what the most effective code review methods are. On the podcast site, the show notes state,

Joel and I both agree: one of the most effective coding practices you can adopt on your team is interactive, sit-down-with-your-coworker code review. 90% of the things you will learn have nothing to do with the code. I believe programming is a far more social activity than most realize. If you write code, and nobody but you ever sees that code — did you really extract all the benefit from writing that code?


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Followers Don't Equal Influence-->Distribution and Expansion Does

I enjoyed a discussion with local technologist Clint Greenwood this morning at my local Panera. We were talking of the need to be aware of one's personal brand or online reputation and I mentioned that I had recently read a tweet from HarvardBiz that read, "On Twitter--Followers Don't Equal Influence." Interesting read. In short, one of the ideas the post communicates is the need to not just count how many follow you--the real indicator of influence is how many re-tweet your ideas and/or expand on them and redistribute them back into the social-information flow.

The article also stated, "We were surprised by how only a fraction of Twitter users actively tweet. And this small fraction of Twitter users provoke responses (mentions) and initiate information cascades (retweets). I guess many people use Twitter to browse others' messages rather than generating a lot new messages themselves."

As I have often stated, I really have no original ideas. Mainly they are mash-ups and extrapolations of existing thoughts and mental frameworks. Perhaps in the midst of those musings I get threads of new ideas? But then again, I am sure that has been thought of and shared before. Right Clint?

Posted via email from Mark's Musings

Friday, May 07, 2010

Test upload of video via Gmail to Posterous

This video was just shot at the Pub at Crestview Hills.

Thank you,
Mark McFadden

Posted via email from Mark's Musings

Is Yours a "Hunch-Friendly" Environment?

Kathleen Carr, editor at the Harvard Business Review Blog, recently posted an interesting entry entitled, "To Innovate, Create "Hunch-Friendly" Environments."

Thought #1: Within the post Carr states,  "...give your employees the latitude to explore their ideas and you'll be amazed what they come up with."  I understand that you have core objectives that you must and should meet. However, does your company provide any time for your greatest asset, your people, to think of new processes, products, and/or services?

Thought #2: Carr also states that organizations and individuals should be "...thinking in terms of next practices instead of best practices." In other words, we must think not only about how to improve current processes but what would could be doing going forward?

Thought #3: The post also mentions "...the importance of respecting people and their ideas, and how people need to feel a human bond at work if they're going to feel invested." While we know the value of respecting differing views, how do we increase the sense of "human bond" among ourselves?

I think each of the above ideas take one thing that we all seem to have little of--time.

With that said, my assumption is that providing small amounts of time for innovative thinking will be be well worth the investment. After all, any company is really an information based organization--both formal information with customer data and informal information of ideas that could improve the use of that formal information.

Posted via email from Mark's Musings

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Multiple Information Streams, Self-Motivation, and the Outcomes

Dana Boyd in her Web 2.0 Expo talk Streams of Content, Limited Attention: The Flow of Information through Social Media brings up some interesting thoughts as to the value of capturing shrinking attention spans by both businesses and individuals.

Within the rarity of sustained attention, other factors than limited time and having too many options come into play. When considering a more open access to data via the internet, one's attention will not always be placed on content that is most substantial or fact based:

We may be democratizing certain types of access, but we're not democratizing attention. Just because we're moving towards a state where anyone has the ability to get information into the stream does not mean that attention will be divided equally....Some in the room might immediately think, "Ah, but it's a meritocracy. People will give their attention to what is best!" This too is mistaken logic. What people give their attention to depends on a whole set of factors that have nothing to do with what's best.

She then goes on to say:
Our bodies are programmed to consume fat and sugars because they're rare in nature. Thus, when they come around, we should grab them. In the same way, we're biologically programmed to be attentive to things that stimulate: content that is gross, violent, or sexual and that gossip which is humiliating, embarrassing, or offensive. If we're not careful, we're going to develop the psychological equivalent of obesity. We'll find ourselves consuming content that is least beneficial for ourselves or society as a whole.

Boyd then goes on to discuss having multiple information options also results in selecting sources that look and think like we do, therefore limiting valuable, serendipitous encounters with differing ideas and concepts. However, that is a later post. :-)

Finally, I understand that what is considered "valuable" information is subjective. In my view, the determining factor is not "limited attention" but rather what motivates us to direct our limited attention to the information streams we select.  Are we constantly drawn toward and given to the siren songs of gossip, violence, and sex? I think a valid question is, are the content streams you consume beneficial for you let alone society as a whole?

Posted via email from Mark's Musings

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Status Last Ten Facebook App

I created this Status Last Ten Facebook application over a year ago and it is just starting to get some use. Display a list of your last ten status messages.

Posted via email from Mark's Musings

"Killer" Apps...Humans to Blame editor Thomas Wailgum provides a few scenarios of the darker side of the use of our data in his recent post The Killer Apps of Capitalism.

As he states, "Now, millions of customer records and corporate interactions can be examined with ease; seemingly disconnected swaths of data points can be mined, categorized, analyzed and presented to executives and line of business managers; and new trends and patterns discovered can show profit and loss at both granular and enterprise levels....But there is often a powerful human downside."

Wailgum then details how an insurance company used patient data to determine potential fraud cases and then canceled their customers' policies based on often unsubstantial information. A typical knee jerk reaction that calls for an abandonment of technology is not the correct response to it's improper use.

Finally Wailgum writes, "While technology is the enabler in all of this, technology isn't to blame. We must remember that real, live human beings are making decisions from the software's computational capabilities. We still have to hold the people accountable....Just because IT applications are dispassionate and without feeling doesn't mean we—the humans using the tech—have to be, too." (emphasis mine)

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Monday, May 03, 2010

B2B - Twitter | B2C - Facebook (?)

In a recent Harvard Business IdeaCast there was a discussion on the question of should every seek to utilize social media. The guest, Alexandra Samuel, director of the Social + Interactive Media Centre at Emily Carr University and the cofounder of Social Signal  mentioned that for those companies whose customers are other businesses then Twitter may be the tool of choice. She then proposed for organizations that are B2C (business to customers) channels, Facebook may be the best tool. Thoughts?

Posted via email from Mark's Musings

Friday, April 30, 2010

Redirect your hatred of Flash to the W3C

TechCruch's article The State Of Web Development Ripped Apart In 25 Tweets By One Man details tweets by Joe Hewitt, a software developer currently at Facebook, that was in response to Steve Jobs' blog post on Adobe's Flash. Within the article Hewitt states: 

"Redirect your hatred of Flash to the W3C, whose embarrassingly slow pace forced devs to use a plugin because the standards were so weak." 

To this I say Amen and bring on HTML5!

Posted via email from Mark's Musings

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Testing inline images from Gmail post to my blog

A few weeks ago Gmail added support for inline images, so you can place photos anywhere in the text of your post. Posterous will support this, in addition to posting attached images and automatically creating a gallery view for multiple images in an e-mail post. OK, here is image one below:

Below is the next image for testing:

I will assume that this is working and say, SWEET!

Posted via email from Mark's Musings

One of the Best Things a Marketer Can Do....

According to The Marketing Edge podcast, one of the longest running marketing and public relations podcasts, host Albert Maruggi, who weaves his 25 years of marketing and PR experience asks, "One of the Best Things a Marketer Can Do, Befriend A Developer." Indeed!

Posted via email from Mark's Musings

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Posterous already had the Facebook "Like" Button implemented

Had just added the Facebook Like button IFrame code to my Google Blogspot blog and was wanting to do the same for my Posterous site but they had it completed for me. Very nice!

Posted via email from Mark's Musings

Dilbert's take on the Lost (insert "Apple" here) 4G Phone in the Bar

Here is Dilbert's take on the Lost (insert "Apple" here) 4G Phone in the Bar:

Posted via email from Mark's Musings

Question--How to use data to predict and act to better serve customers and gain a competitive edge?

SAS, a company that produces business analytics software and services pitches their new Social Media Analytics tool SAS Social Media Analytics states,
"SAS Social Media Analytics is the first enterprise solution designed to meet the needs of marketers in medium and large companies. It helps them understand, predict and act based on social media data." (emphasis mine)
This is what we must consider going forward with all data, including social media based data. How can we use data to predict our customer's behavior and then act on those predictions to both better serve them and gain a competitive edge? Now that is a question! I am not certain that this SAS tool can do that but as we consider the implementation of social media, how can we use the data to anticipate and act upon customer need?

Saturday, April 24, 2010

It's about what it can do, not just what it is

Often, within the technology sector it is the technologists that form the etymology of terms and phrases.  We who make our living from technology need to understand that it is not just about the device or shinny new gadget or new programming language but really about what it can do for the individual, group, and society. 

The term "Social Media" is no different. For example, we are enamored with the emerging use of location based services and tools. And yes, it is cool. But, what does this mean for you, your friends, family, and culture at large? How will it help? Indeed, will it help you and/or your business? We talk about and discuss Twitter's search value and Facebook's Graph API and this is great. Yet, what can it do to better help developers enable users with better and more convenient tools?

Rob Key just wrote a great article on that very question entitled, Why we need to kill "social media." Please read it.

Posted via email from Mark's Musings

Friday, April 23, 2010

Which is Smarter--Man or Machine?

Which is Smarter--Man or Machine? Clive Thompson considered this question in his Wired Magazine article Advantage: Cyborgs. As the article title states, a blend of human and technology is the best senario. "The most brilliant entities on the planet, in other words (at least when it comes to chess), are neither high-end machines nor high-end humans. They’re average-brained people who are really good at blending their smarts with machine smarts."

Although, we are may not be sporting hardware hooked directly into our bodies like the Borg of Star Trek fame, hopefully what we do daily with our devices enhances our performance and brings enjoyment. After all, "resistance is futile" right?

Posted via email from Mark's Musings

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

LinkedHashMap, dynamic int Array, and an ArrayList in Java

Needing to build some dynamic items today and threw together: LinkedHashMap, dynamic int Array, and an ArrayList in Java. Perhaps they might help. The first class is code:

Here is the output:

Here is the class code:

Here is the TestDynamicIntArray class output:

Finally, here is the class code:

And the TestArrayList output:

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Pulling the Core to the Edge

In a recent post I discussed a few aspects of the book The Power of Pull: How Small Moves, Smartly Made, Can Set Big Things in Motion that I heard of during a Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders Lecture Series talk by John Seely Brown. Within the talk Brown uses the substantial and rapid knowledge growth and distribution among World of Warcraft gamers as an example of the efficiencies and scale of ideas that can be obtained in a pull based knowledge economy. Brown states “Look at the knowledge economy on the edge of this game.” According to Brown, the World of Warcraft gamers produce 12,000 ideas on average every night. The gamers have dashboards of data informing them and keeping them updated on new data and ideas, they review and critique submissions from other gamers, and they review game actions to improve performance! This was not in the actual core of the game but rather on the organized periphery where gamers interact.
Within the talk Brown also mentioned how that organizations need to “pull their core to the edge.” I thought, wow! Now that is interesting! Poking around on Google I found an article in the Harvard Business Review Blog entitled “How to Bring the Core to the Edge.” by John Hagel III, John Seely Brown, and Lang Davison.

In short, the article states the:
Edges within firms represent early stage business initiatives with high growth potential, whether new market-oriented initiatives or new work practices, often generated by the born-digital generation entering the workforce…. The ‘core,’ by contrast, is where the money and resources are today, whether we are talking geographically about the developed economies of the US, Western Europe, and Japan, demographically about the older generations with greater income and assets or technologically about mature technologies driving today's revenue and profitability. At the firm level, the core symbolizes the inside of the enterprise, its principal capabilities and primary revenue streams…. Edges spawn significant growth opportunities but, to scale this growth, it is essential for edge participants to gain access to the resources and markets of the core. At the same time, core participants experience margin pressures as competition intensifies and become increasingly desperate for new growth platforms to continue to create economic value…. Disruption theory suggests it's by bringing the edge to the core.

The article then states, "The approach we suggest is to instead bring the core to the edge, to expose your company to institutional innovations and new management practices that emerge on the edge."

Now this is good stuff! Imagine bringing the creative edge of your organization into a symbiotic relationship with the company core. This would result in positive disruption for the organization in general and individuals in the company in particular.

Social Media and the Big Shift to a 21st Century "Pull" Economy

During a morning jog, I listened to a talk from John Seely Brown where he discussed what he calls the "big shift" from the 20th century "push" economy to the 21st century "pull" economy. In summary, the "push" paradigm is largely the traditional command and control model while the "pull" based structure is a more dynamic interaction with what Brown calls "knowledge flows." Upon further investigation, I found an excerpt from a new book, of which Brown is one of the authors, entitled The Power of Pull: How Small Moves, Smartly Made, Can Set Big Things in Motion at Here is what I see as the essential elements pulled directly from the text:
At the most basic level, pull helps us to find and access people and resources when we need them. At a second level, pull is the ability to attract people and resources to us that are relevant and valuable, even if we were not even aware before that they existed. Think here of serendipity rather than search. Finally, in a world of mounting pressure and unforeseen opportunities, we need to cultivate a third level of pull the ability to pull from within ourselves the insight and performance required to more effectively achieve our potential.

The first level of pull, access, is very powerful. But in a world of near-constant disruption, its value is finite. Many of us are increasingly finding that we no longer even know what to seek, even with the growing power of search. While it’s great that all sorts of information is indexed and sorted on the web, even a daily tour through ones Facebook newsfeed reveals many new people and resources that could be relevant.

How do we find out which ones? How do we specify, when we go to, Bing, or Google, the areas of knowledge and expertise that would be most valuable? Show me the stuff that I really need that I don't even know exists, isn’t much of a search string. Access only truly works when we know what were looking for. At times like these, the cursor blinks in the search engines textbox, mocking us, asking the existential question: Do you even know what you are looking for? And even if we think we do, it’s guaranteed that unknown unknowns, as Donald Rumsfeld memorably called them, are waiting for us, both as opportunities and as barriers.

We must supplement search engines and their equivalents by exploring additional ways of pulling people and their knowledge to us. To address this challenge, we will need to master the techniques of attraction in both our personal and professional lives and learn to harness the power of serendipity, which is the faculty of finding people and things that we did not know we were looking for.

We need serendipitous encounters with people because of the importance of the ideas that these people carry with them and the connections they have. People carry tacit knowledge. You can’t learn brain surgery just from a text. You've got to stand next to someone who already knows and learn by doing. Tacit knowledge exists only in people’s heads. That means we must not only find the people who carry this new knowledge but get to know them well enough (and provide them with sufficient reciprocal value) that they’re comfortable trying to share it with us.

All of this might make attraction an effective form of discovering the things we didn't know we didn't know, but it also brings up a problem: How can we possibly have enough time to put this into practice? There are only twenty-four hours in the day.

To master attraction, we need two elements to come together in a powerful and reinforcing way. First, we need amplifiers that can help us reach and connect to large groups of people around the globe that we do not yet know (and may not even be aware exist). These amplifiers relate to our choice of where to live, what gatherings we attend, how we conduct ourselves online, and what we do to draw the attention of others. Second, we need filters that can help us to increase the quality as well as the number of unexpected encounters and ensuing relationships that are truly the most relevant and valuable. These filtering techniques help separate the wheat from the chaff in our interactions with others and become ever more crucial as we begin serendipitously drawing more people toward us. By simultaneously amplifying (to increase the sheer number of unexpected encounters) while filtering (to spend time only on those interactions that yield value to us and to others), we can shape serendipity in order to attract from the edges of our fast-moving world the people and knowledge we need in order to thrive.

The third level of pull: Achieve. Accessing and attracting in fact have diminished value unless they are coupled with a third set of practices that focus on driving performance rapidly to new levels. These practices involve participation in, and sometimes orchestration of, something we call creation spaces--environments that effectively integrate teams within a broader learning ecology so that performance improvement accelerates as more participants join.

Creation spaces differ in at least two ways from the learning organization approaches pioneered a couple of decades ago. First, they emerge as ecosystems across institutions rather than within a single institution, so they reach a much more diverse set of participants. Second, they are not primarily focused on learning their goal is to drive more rapid performance improvement, and learning occurs as a byproduct of these efforts.

The moral of the story? To get better faster at whatever it is you do, you've got to be supported by a broad array of complementary people and resources from which you can pull what you need to raise your rate of performance improvement.
This, in my view, is the goal of each of us. What I found of most interest was the concept of amplifiers and filters in the "attraction" step. Your social media tool(s) of choice can function as the tool to see these concepts become a reality. In the midst of your busy days of family, work, and various interactions please remember that social media tools enable us to both scale and sift our knowledge base to make us more informed and productive.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Organic...Better than Artificial

I recently noted an blog submission from a co-worker discussing the Technology Adoption Lifecycle utilizing Everett Rogers' Bell Curve (below).

Within her post she discussed how that the curve demonstrates that technology users adopt technologies and tools at differing rates. Therefore, allowing the statistical rate of adoption to take place in an organization was better given that it was organic. She then stated that one would need to, "Trust that organic structures are stronger than artificially forced ones...." After reading her insightful, well written post I realized that she was correct. Anything that is "artificial" has a high probability of not working within an organizational ecosystem, just as it would not in a natural ecosystem. I then replied to the post with this comment, hoping to increase that trust by providing a quick look at, at least in my view, why organic structures are stronger. In short, I took a page from nature itself.

First, organic structures emerge by leveraging the objects in its environment and therefore better suit the environment. This is dramatically different than an imposed, artificial structure that attempts to change the existing DNA matrix and kills existing organisms (existing ideas and business competitiveness) in the environment.

Secondly, organic structures are more adaptive. Because it is built upon the attributes of its environment, when change in the environment happens it contains the elasticity to "bend without breaking" and can gain an advantage over competing entities.

Finally, because organic structures are more adaptive, more fit organisms (ideas/products/services) emerge more quickly. Artificial structures must first remove competing organisms and then take root in the ecosystem before it can produce the fittest organisms.

Therefore, in my humble opinion, we can rationally and confidently trust that organic structures are stronger than artificially forced ones.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

html:checkbox gotcha

Was in the midst of testing a JSP that utilized the html:checkbox form input and what I quickly noted was that the checkbox values that were unchecked were not calling the settter methods in the JSP's corresponding Action. Upon inquiring with the finer brains in my area, Ahmed, co-worker in the next cube, helped by pointing out that his experience was that unchecked checkboxes are ignored and to handle the default settings in the Form's reset method. Sure enough he was right. Here is an excerpt from Apache's Struts site here:
A problem with a checkbox is that the browser will only include it in the request when it is checked. If it is not checked, the HTML specification suggests that it not be sent (i.e. omitted from the request). If the value of the checkbox is being persisted, either in a session bean or in the model, a checked box can never unchecked by a HTML form — because the form can never send a signal to uncheck the box. The application must somehow ascertain that since the element was not sent that the corresponding value is unchecked.

The recommended approach for Struts applications is to use the reset method in the ActionForm? to set all properties represented by checkboxes to null or false. The checked boxes submitted by the form will then set those properties to true. The omitted properties will remain false. Another solution is to use radio buttons instead, which always submit a value.

It is important to note that the HTML specification recommends this same behavior whenever a control is not "successful". Any blank element in a HTML form is not guaranteed to submitted. It is therefor very important to set the default values for an ActionForm? correctly, and to implement the reset method when the ActionForm? might kept in session scope.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

What Level Are You?

With the advent of personal computer technology in general and social media specifically, everyone is a potential “media mogul.” The question becomes, what level of intimacy do you want with your audience? The graphic below, from, shows us 10 levels of intimacy using various forms of media available to us. Let’s look at each level starting with 1 and working up to level 10.

Levels 1 and 2 – These levels enable us to communicate with large amounts of people. In a nutshell, social media has made mass communication the purview of the individual. What was once the domain of traditional broadcast media, the common person can now take part and “social-media cast” to thousands. While this level allows one to scale to more people, obviously it is not intimate. The value here is casual contact with the masses. In this venue, clubs and civic organizations can make meeting announcements at virtually no cost.

Another value of levels 1 and 2 is the amount of either positive or negative“buzz” that tools such as Facebook and Twitter provide. For example, you purchased a product and it is not working correctly. You contact customer service but they are apathetic to your plight and give you the normal spiel that, “You can only return the product on the third Tuesday of each month between 1:35 and 1:40 PM with the receipt and a notarized statement promising both your right arm and first born child.” However, because of Twitter and Facebook you now have additional channels and leverage. You tweet (on Twitter) and post a status (on Facebook) about your less than satisfactory experience with the vendor. Others read of your situation and enter the fray. If the vendor is smart, they monitor the “twitterverse” and “facebookdom” looking to remedy what could be a potential run-away PR problem.

Levels 3 and 4 – I put these levels together given that both a Facebook message and traditional email are “push” technologies that do not require real-time interaction. The idea here is that you to not require an immediate response and can send or push the message to the intended recipient(s) and wait for the response at the convenience of the responder(s).

Levels 5 and 6 – Real-time communication is of a higher level of intimacy in that it requires your attention “then and there” and is therefore more intimate. The only difference in these levels is the media. Level 5 is with a mobile hand-held device and level 6 with a device (desktop or laptop computer) that provides a larger form-factor of view and keyboard input. While some would argue that the form-factor size is of no barrier, the larger form-factor, in my view, allows for a more intimate experience.

Level 7 – Here—the handwritten letter—appears to be a dying media. The fact that effort must be made to handwrite the message, the time it takes in forethought to prepare (given that editing a handwritten letter is not easy, especially with a pen), and the tangible properties of the letter (texture and smell of the paper) make this a more personal media.

Level 8 – While this level is difficult to scale, unless you are conferenced into a group or on a speaker phone with a group, this one-on-one media is real-time and auditory. You hear the person which provides a level of intimacy not achieved in the previous levels.

Level 9 – This level is considered more intimate than the lower levels given that the person or persons that you are speaking with are able to be viewed. With technologies such as Skype and an inexpensive webcam, we can achieve a high level of intimacy in spite of geographic location.

Level 10 – The most initiate level is face-to-face, physical presence. Here you have visual and an auditory exchange of signals as well as tactile contact. This results in a more direct attention to the person(s) with which you are communicating.

In summary, humanity has always operated on different levels of intimacy in various environments and settings. With the internet and social media, we have more avenues to operate within these levels of intimacy. More opportunities means learning which media is appropriate for which situation, is it good for personal or professional use, or what are the emerging social norms for the media. Again, what level are you?