Organization Relationships

A friend of mine who I used to work with once remarked (2007-ish) the University System of Georgia does not really work like a system so much as a loose confederation fighting over money. Given I have no access to budgets, I would not know. GeorgiaVIEW works remarkably well given there are only a few people running the system and hoards of people administrating it for their campus. There is a mostly correct mix of grassroots and top down pressure.

The Board of Regents Information Technology Services have fostered a culture of “help requests must go through the tickets”. Tickets allow the team to better triage issues. Tickets show leaders we are helpful. The unintended consequence is weakening the relationships we have. Tickets indicate we are too busy to be helpful. Relationships are accountable so an individual shows vulnerability to me by admitting not understanding, breaking, or other problems. My part of the relationship is to console, advise, or fix the problems. Tickets make all this harder because they are less personal.

When I talk with my coworkers, we covet the connections we hold across the system for they are the true value. How do we develop these relationships inside the formality of processes which fail to incentivise them?

We have email lists, instant messages, weekly Wimba sessions, etc., but there is obviously  a problem when the same people who have these things only tell me about things when they see me in person. I’m reminded of the ITS CIO spending time going to campuses to talk to them about their needs. Maybe that should something we do throughout the organization especially at my level? Also, when I was at Valdosta State, my best information about the needs of faculty members and students came from visiting them not the technology I developed to encourage reporting issues.

Technology is not magic. It does make those who are not communicating start. It just shifts the form and potentially makes it more difficult. Ideally the difficulty will be so slight no one will notice. One can make communication easier by going from a more difficult technology to a more easy form. Still… It is not as good as being there with the person.

I’m blogging this.

Elizabeth For about eight months I have participated in a group called the Brunch Bunch here in Athens. We get together to eat and talk. Many conversations drift into the nerdy (my forté?). The locations vary so I have gotten to try new (to me) restaurants. Elizabeth (pictured right) vouched that I am a great guy. Well, these are great people.
🙂

Elizabeth also brought a friend of hers from out of town, Claudia. Claudia, smartly has a newer version of my Canon Rebel. I have the XT. She has the XSi (two models newer). The newest is the T1i.

Downtown Athens is a great place to shoot photos. So, we walked around for an hour or so looking in stores to get out of the heat. This is the hat Elizabeth bought from Helix who also had some cool stone candle holders. Native American Gallery had some interesting petroglyph jewelry and gray flower pottery. I’ve got some ideas for gifts to give for upcoming birthdays, holidays, etc.

One of the employees at Helix and Claudia both asked if I had a blog. I’m sure it was because of my shirt! I only admitted to this one and blogging about Blackboard. Though, I guess I have diversified somewhat here. I probably should blog more about local stuff as well. That would mean getting out more as well.

I'm blogging this.For years, I have been collecting teeshirts from thinkgeek.com. At present the collection consists of:

Some others are on my wishlist. I do have some shirts from other places. By far the most popular is the xkcd sudo comic. I’ve added a few others from xkcd to my wishlist as well.

Feedback Loops

Remakes don’t scare me. Some are good. Some are bad. 

The thing to remember is, “Its just a movie.” The world won’t end over a poor movie. There’s always another one in a few weeks to either like or hate. If it stands up to the test of time, then you’ll buy the Blue-ray and next three formats over the next 30 years. If not, then just ignore it ever existed… Much like I’ve done with Superman III, Superman IV, Star Trek The Final Frontier, and hundreds of other movies.

Getting worked up over change? Not worth it.

Quibblers would have kept “Star Trek” more like its old self. Quibblers inhibit revolution. Quibblers would deny the basic law of forward motion in pop culture:

If you love something, they will remake it.

But if you really love it, you will set it free, and let them.

The Trouble With Quibbles

Film makers should keep in mind, the types of people involved in  fads: connectors, mavens, salesperson. Fans are mavens. People are going to trust the opinion of these fans. So if the fans’ concerns are just a few quibbles but still an endorsement, then the general public will flock to the movie. If these quibbles amount to wide rejection of the movie by the existing fans, then the general public will mostly stay away from it.

Quibbles are not really the issue. Endorsements are. 

I think you missed that there is a life-cycle to most such endeavors, and feedback is very useful at specific times, and disruptive (in a bad way) at others.

So, the problem with “fan feedback” non-stop is that they tend to fall into a mob mentality, off being “trolls” about any innovation. But, that said, remember that early forms of the Batman movie with the Heath L Joker was shown to fans (at a Comic Con) to get feedback on the style and whether too over the top. The feedback was used to find the balance and deal with the nature of the ending. Fans were given leaks and teasers (semi-trailers) along the way as well, but the mob rule was not allowed not hound the people making it.

That said, what makes a movie work or not is very different from what made its source material work. The reason the Spiderman movies worked for a large audience who knew nothing about the comics had a lot to do with the simpler nature of the comics. Batman has always been more complex in the psychology of its heroes and villains, as much by what does not happen as what does. Watchman is trickier given its narrative model and how much it connected with its time (Cold War, etc).

— PaulK
The Downside of Feedback

Design by committee sucks. So fans should not take over the process. However, total rejection of fan criticisms probably will result in rejection by the fans and slow sales.

The LMS is So Web 1.5

The claims Blackboard’s Learn 9 provides a Web 2.0 experience has bothered me for a while now. First, it was the drag-n-drop. While cool, that isn’t Web 2.0 in my opinion. A little more on track is the claim:

The all-new Web 2.0 experience in Release 9 makes it easy to meaningfully combine information from different sources. The Challenges Are Real, But So Are the Solutions

Integrating with a social network like Facebook is a start, but again, in my opinion, it still isn’t Web 2.0.

So, what is Web 2.0? I did some digging. I think the Tim O’Reilly approach meets my expectation best. He quotes Eric Schmidt’s “Don’t fight the Internet.” as well as provide his own more in depth.

Web 2.0 is the business revolution in the computer industry caused by the move to the Internet as platform, and an attempt to understand the rules for success on that new platform. Chief among those rules is this: Build applications that harness network effects to get better the more people use them. (This is what I’ve elsewhere called “harnessing collective intelligence.”) Web 2.0 Compact Definition: Trying Again

Users expect a site on the Internet to meet their needs or they eventually move on to a site which does. There are so many web sites out there providing equivalent features to those commonly found in an LMS. There is the danger of irrelevance. This is why every LMS company or group strives to continually add new features (aka innovating). The bar continually gets raised, so LMS software continually needs to meet this higher standard.

Tim additionally provides some other rules which you can see at the above link.

When an LMS reachs the point where the resources of the Internet helps people learn, then it will be a Web 2.0. As long as an expert or leader imparts knowledge on students, the LMS is still something different than Web 2.0. Sorry…. The irony? This is exactly what Michael Wesch and PLE advocates preach.

Digital Legacy

A book on time management in talking about long-term goal planning suggests we define the legacy we wish to leave. Coming from academia, I typically think of a legacy as a name on a building, an applicant with an alum for a parent, or a scholarship. However, the artifacts left behind by previous cultures are also a legacy.

Our digital footprints both could be part of this legacy or easily lost. I lean toward all this data we spew about the Internet will be lost eventually. I have seen floppy disks and hard drives die, taking with them the only copy of critical data. I have seen companies report their hard drives stolen from their machines in co-location as why customers lost their data. I have seen companies close web sites because they ran out of money. Let’s not forget natural disasters like earthquakes and floods.

So we keep backups.

Who will preserve these backups once we are gone? Are you able to read the data from computers 40 years ago? Maybe we’ll be better about being able to read the data from past when we reach 40 years into the future?

Not likely.

Labels

This started out as a comment to Adrian, but I it got so long it may as well be a post on its own….

The significance of racial labels is not in identifying the genetic makeup of individuals. The significance is in how the labels were used to enforce segregation long before the American Revolution. Before slaves in the United States were freed in 1865, defining who was Black was to identify who was eligible to be held in slavery and have ownership of property. There were grave concerns about mixing owners and slaves resulting in slaves gaining their freedom, especially once capturing them from Africa was no longer allowed. Defining race was about control then. Even in the more than one hundred years after the slaves were freed, defining who was Black was about control. Instead of who could be forced into slavery, the definitions of who is Black identified who could be excluded from power.  The fear was mixed people using the laws to somehow get access to power. Only since Affirmative Action has it become in any way beneficial for others to have less than pure European descent.

Adrian remarked many of us have ancestors which keep us from being purely from one or another group. Chatting with George and Lorenia yesterday, George pointed out even in Europe, southern Spain and Italy confounds the stereotype. Our increasing understanding of genetics and culture invalidates race as a useful means of describing individuals. Individuals have genetic markers linking them all over the globe. We are one species. My favorite example PBS show indicating the women described as Amazons moved to western Mongolia.

“The earth is but one country and mankind its citizens.” – Baha’u’llah

How Do I Get to Be Black Like Obama?

Barack Obama is called a lot of things. Being a candidate for President of the United States means a lot of people apply a lot of different labels, good or bad or indifferent, to categorize you and anticipate your every move.

I find it interesting people use the labels “African American” or “Black” to describe him instead of “Biracial”, “Multiracial”, or “Interracial”. The frustration I dealt with for most of my life was neither being Black or White enough to be accepted as belonging. Is it a case of, “If you have even a drop of a Black blood-line, then you are Black not White?” These musing about Obama did start after a Black homeless guy downtown looked at me and stated that I didn’t understand his point because I am not Black. See, I wasn’t kidding in that not Black enough post. By the two generation ratio of blood-lines, I am just as Black as Obama.

What makes Barack African American and me not African American?

  1. We both have fathers of African descent.
  2. We both have mothers of European descent.
  3. I at least had the influence of my father and his aunts and his cousins and my cousins to show me African culture. Barack had two White grandparents.
  4. Barack’s close friends in high school and college were of African descent. My close friends during those periods were all of European descent.
  5. Barack worked with and for people of African descent at the community level. I’m ecstatic just to have > 10% people of African descent in the cube area. It is new for me. I like it.

This is more important to me than the politics.

Being Judgemental

Mom sent me The Edison Gene: ADHD and the Gift of the Hunter Child for my birthday a while back. This is the latest book I have been reading while eating. So last night, I put Chelsea on the spot by asking her, “Which would you rather be judged by: what you do or who you are?” Yes, it was a trick question. More on that later.

Her first choice was what she does, but she quickly flipped to who she is. I smiled my most evil smile. The longer I smiled, the more she thought about it and was torn about which was the right answer.

The trick was, according to Thom Hartmann, our culture judges boys by a standard of what they do and girls by a standard of who they are. This dual standard ends up in boys getting overly recommended for ADHD testing. However, I see this kind of difference in evaluating people as one of the reasons for glass ceilings. People have a hard time achieving unless measured on the same scale.

So, that Chelsea could not pick prior to even hearing what it actually meant was funny to me.

Exclusion Groups

This is America! Equality! Liberty! Democracy!

Arizona has a bill S.B. 1108 to legislate the forbidding of student groups who are against the principles of America. Specifically democracy, capitalism, pluralism, and religious tolerance must be upheld by all.

A founding principle of the United States was dissent. Disagreeing with King George III, British Parliament, and mercantile oppression led to the colonies banding together and seceding. In Georgia, “The South will rise again” refers to states disagreeing with moves in Washington DC and electing to form their own country rather than continue to be oppressed.

The First Amendment to the US Constitution establishes the right to free speech. Student groups in K-12 and higher education allow students to talk in private, refine the message into a few coherent ideas, and then present that message in public. Restricting such groups to topics government deems acceptable sounds contrary to American values to me.

This bill came to my attention because of an amendment to the bill which would prohibit student groups based around race. The member of the committee wants schools to return to “melting pot” approaches for the student experience. Every student group I’ve seen based on race has a focus of helping minority students better adapt to operate within the culture of America. So banning the groups bans people doing the “melting pot” approach work.

“This bill basically says, ‘You’re here. Adopt American values,’ ” said Kavanagh, a Fountain Hills Republican. “If you want a different culture, then fine, go back to that culture.” Plan targets anti-Western lessons

Is the culture reflecting the values of the Founding Fathers? If so, then it may get a significant boom in population….

Literacy

Before we react to the lower amount of reading, what exactly is the problem we seek to solve?

Is the problem declining student reading scores? We need to improve reading comprehension. Students may need to learn how to read more effectively so increasing the quantity may not help that much.

Is the problem half of adults read no books in a year? Is that really a problem? What adults do seems to be the canary for pointing out how we are a culture going to collapse soon. Two, three generations later, we are still here… More wealthy and concerned about a wider variety of issues.

Howard Gardner has an interesting article in the Washington Post about how the form of reading has changed over time. Just because we read out of books in the 18th to 20th centuries doesn’t mean books will remain the primary form ideas will be delivered in the 21st century.