October 13, 2007

Bulk view

LEGO

I had a lot of fun at the rtlToronto LEGO contest today. All these
grown-ups (and one kid) had built robots that could swing from two
ropes suspended from a beam. The banter and the stories were
hilarious. Most robots were built around the same concept: motors and
gears swung a weight back and forth, similar to the way children swing
their legs in order to amplify their motion.

What made it even more fun was that I had suggested the swing
challenge to Wayne when he was brainstorming an idea for the LEGO
Challenge, so it was great seeing all these people make a crazy idea
of mine happen. <grin>

One of the club members told me that when the idea was raised over an
rtlToronto dinner, people laughed and said that it was going to be so
easy. Then a week before the contest, people started panicking. Trips
to the playground, physics tutorials on the Net, and sheer trial and
error helped these LEGO fans learn more about pendulums than they did
in high school. Just goes to show you that some things that kids can
do aren’t that easy!

Good stuff.

Random Emacs symbol: term-input-ring-file-name – Variable: *If non-nil, name of the file to read/write input history.

Weekly review

I had *awesome* conversations again this week. I greatly enjoyed meeting Jennifer Dodd, Jamie McQuay, and Hartwell Fong at Farcoast last Wednesday. We talked about so much: science outreach, Second Life, quantum computing… Then there’s yesterday’s conversation with Ian Irving about tech evangelism and consulting. This is amazing stuff. I want more people to enjoy these great conversations! =)

I’ve been getting ready for my job at IBM, which starts on Monday. I
checked the public transit route to 3600 Steeles, and
Stephen Perelgut is right: it’s not
complicated. I’m getting used to wearing grownup clothes, too! ;) Yesterday, W- complimented my pairing of a gray cashmere turtleneck with a gray dress. I’m finding myself drawn to neutral bases (white and gray for the most part, with a bit of black), and I’m now looking for a few accessories to add color and whats-it.

I made more progress on my book. I spent some time learning how to use
Org, and feel comfortable enough with it to write the section on
planning my day. I think I understand it now. I’m also comfortable
with planner-appt, and I’m going to recommend that over the little
hack I put together before.

This has also been a great week for exercise. I went to trapeze
classes twice thanks to W-’s encouragement, and have successfully been
able to hook my knees over the bar or hold my legs extended over my
head without assistance. Whee!

My goals for next week are:

  • Finish the raw text for the first chapter in my book.
  • Get on board smoothly: find out my manager’s expectations, help him figure out a great way to use and develop me, finish the onboarding paperwork, and set up direct deposit
  • Make it smoothly onto the bar in trapeze classes
  • Attend the Toronto Public Library board meeting to see if I’ll make it my primary charity this year
  • Contact the U of T Career Centre; also, see if I can access the contact directory
  • Connect with Mohan and see what I can do to help, or what holes there are in my Web 2.0 network
  • And if there’s time, I want to figure out how to blog using Org, too.

On Technorati:

Random Emacs symbol: backward-delete-char – Command: Delete the previous N characters (following if N is negative).

Notes from Mentors: Technology evangelism

Here are notes from a conversation I had with Ian Irving on technology evangelism.

Ian Irving had plenty of stories to tell about the time that he was
helping companies adopt Lotus Notes. As a technology evangelist, his
job was to not only show people how to set up their e-mail
infrastructure, but also to help them adjust to the cultural changes
facilitated by these technologies. He told me how he would switch to a
new, unfamiliar office every week with the mandate to find the key
influencers and help them adopt e-mail. He also told me how different
companies had different cultures that either helped or hindered this
adoption, and had similar problems that motivated the exploration of
possible solutions. Although companies believe their business problems
to be unique, a consultant with a wide variety of experiences can
create much value by seeing patterns.

One of the key things he did as a consultant was to translate the
technology into human terms. “I was a talker to suits,” Ian explained.
Technologists have a tendency to focus on the software or tool, and to
try to give as much information as possible. Ian consciously developed
the ability to talk to business people who had other priorities and
perhaps less technical backgrounds. It was important to realize that
they didn’t need to know all the technical details, and that
overwhelming them with data would be counterproductive. Recognizing
his tendency to over-communicate, he adopted the habit of asking
people what level of information they needed, and frequently checking
if he’d said enough.

His experiences helped me remember that with all the fuss about Web
2.0 and the next generation workplace, it’s easy to forget that
similar widespread changes have happened before. While e-mail and
intranet instant messaging are now entrenched in company culture, they
weren’t always that way. Stephen Perelgut
told me how he once conducted a workshop for people learning how to
use Lotus Sametime, IBM’s enterprise instant messaging system. Like
other technologies such as the telephone, these things were once new
and disruptive.

The conversation with Ian Irving helped me
learn more about one of my favorite professions. I’m glad he shared
those insights with me. And to think that that conversation came about
just because I wished him a happy birthday the other day… People are
amazingly helpful! =)

Try sitting down for coffee with one of your role models. You’ll learn
a lot, too!

How to make a complete map of every thought you think

Michael Nielsen is also responsible for telling me about How to Make a Complete Map of Every Thought you Think, a book about the clarity that comes when you record everything you think. That’s way more than I’m doing right now. Fascinating, though! More about this after I read the book. Random Emacs symbol: apropos-sort-by-scores – Variable: *Non-nil means sort matches by scores; best match is shown first.

Happiness evangelist

Michael Nielsen pointed me to
The Happiness Project, a terrific blog/project by Gretchen Rubin. Last August, Gretchen realized that she wasn’t just doing the Happiness Project; she was a happiness evangelist. Isn’t that the best title ever? =)

Random Emacs symbol: url-gateway-method – Variable: *The type of gateway support to use.