Henry Ford via Andrew McAfee on "busyness"

Ran across this bit in Andrew McAfee’s Blog

Ford once enlisted an efficiency expert to examine the operation of his company. While his report was generally favorable, the man did express reservations about a particular employee.

“It’s that man down the corridor,” he explained. “Every time I go by his office he’s just sitting there with his feet on his desk. He’s wasting your money.” “That man,” Ford replied, “once had an idea that saved us millions of dollars. At the time, I believe his feet were planted right where they are now.”

Summit 07 Accomplished: Pres File Available

I managed to finish my presentation for this year’s IA Summit, and present it in under 50 minutes. Huzzah!

As promised, I’m posting the whole thing with notes here on the blog. If you want the PDF of the presentation (16MB), go here: http://www.inkblurt.com/media/hinton_summit07.pdf

And if you want to see the “blog post of record” about the presentation — with extra reference and research information & links — then check out the post here: http://www.inkblurt.com/archives/446

Thanks to everyone who attended the presentation and asked such terrific questions!

The Incredible Power of the "Side Project"

Colleague Michael Magoolaghan passed along a link to the transcript of Tim Berners-Lee’s testimony before Congress.

Hearing on the “Digital Future of the United States: Part I — The Future of the World Wide Web”

It’s fascinating reading, and extremely quotable. But one part that really struck me is in the first paragraphs (emphasis added):

To introduce myself, I should mention that I studied Physics at Oxford, but on graduating discovered the new world of microprocessors and joined the electronics and computer science industry for several years. In 1980, I worked on a contract at CERN, the European Particle Physics Laboratory, and wrote for my own benefit a simple program for tracking the various parts of the project using linked note cards. In 1984 I returned to CERN for ten years, during which time I found the need for a universal information system, and developed the World Wide Web as a side project in 1990.

While TBL didn’t invent the Internet entirely, his bit of brilliance made it relevant for the masses. Even though that wasn’t his intention right off the bat, it became so as he realized the implications of what he’d done.

But let’s look at the three bits in bold:

  1. He started studying Physics, then decided to follow a side interest in microprocessors.
  2. He created an e-notecard system for himself, on the side of (and to help with) what he was contracted to do at CERN.
  3. He developed a universal version of his notecard system so everyone could share and link together, as a side project in 1990.

Imagine the world impact of those three “side projects”?

This really begs the question for any organization. Does it give its members the leeway for “side” interests? Are they considered inefficient, or just odd?

It’s not that every person is going to invent another Web. It’s more that the few people who might do something like that get trampled before they get started, and that the slightly larger group of people who might do something merely impressive are trampled in the same way.

There was a time when amateurs were the experts — they were the ones who dabbled and learned and communicated in excited screeds and philosophical societies. They were “blessed” to have the time and money to do as they pleased, and the intellectual curiosity to dig in and dirty their hands with figuring out the world.

It could very well be that we’re in the midst of a similar rush of amateur dabbling. Just think of all the millionaires who are now figuring out things like AIDS, malaria and space flight. Or the empowerment people have to just go and remix and remake their worlds. There’s an excellent O’Reilly Conference keynote I wish I’d seen, but the pdf of the slides gives a decent accounting. Here’s an abstract:

Rules for Remixing; Rael Dornfest & Tim O’Reilly

Citizen engineers are throwing their warranties to the wind, hacking their TiVos, Xboxes, and home networks. Wily geeks are jacking Jetsons-like technology into their cars for music, movies, geolocation, and internet connectivity on the road. E-commerce and network service giants like Amazon, eBay, PayPal, and Google are decoupling, opening, and syndicating their services, then realizing and sharing the network effects. Professional musicians and weekend DJs are serving up custom mixes on the dance floor. Operating system and software application makers are tearing down the arbitrary walls they’ve built, turning the monolithic PC into a box of loosely coupled component parts and services. The massive IT infrastructure of the ’90s is giving way to what analyst Doc Searls calls “do-it-yourself IT.
We see all of this as a reflection of the same trend: the mass amateurization of technology, or, as Fast Company put it, “the amateur revolution.” And it’s these hacks, tweaks, re-combinations, and shaping of the future we’re exploring in this year’s Emerging Technology Conference theme: Remix.

I saw Mark Frauenfelder on Colbert Report last night, talking about Make Magazine and the very things mentioned in the abstract above. Colbert marveled at the ingenuity, and I wondered how many people watching would think to themselves: “Hey, yeah! Why not just take things apart and change them to the way I want them???”

It’s on the rise, isn’t it? Wow. Another sea change, and I’m not even 40. What a time to be alive.

All hail side projects and passionate tangents. Long may they reign.

But for now… I gotta get back to work.

Design vs Development

Austin Govella makes the point razor-sharp in his post on Agile Development and Design:

Agile development won’t give you better design. Design models things to be made. Development makes things you’ve modeled. Agile development methods promise better model-making, but don’t promise better models. Agile development can actually devastate design.

Thanks man. I’m going to quote you in, like, a hundred meetings in this month alone.

Interview with Etienne Wenger on Communities of Practice

Excellent video interview with Wenger.

Interview with Etienne Wenger on Communities of Practice — Knowledge Lab

Etienne Wenger is one of the founding fathers of Social Learning Theory and the concept of “Practiced Communities”. People are learning together – every individual deals and engage in many different communities of practice. Here people negotiate and define what competence and knowledge is. To know something or to be competent builds on the individuals experiences of being in the world – learning is a constant transformation or journey of the self.