The Community Steps Up, Big Time!

Three weeks ago the leader of my local .NET User Group were having problems landing a speaker for our meeting which took place last night.  I guess there’s some type of lull in the activity for speakers because we usually don’t have a speaker drought anytime in the year, until this month.

So my big campaign for the user group when I was interviewing for a board position was “Putting community back in the group”.  I put a lot of stuff on the table and this was one of them.  When I stepped in we already had a huge list of speakers choose from, and the group was getting ready for some fairly large product introductions (we also call them drops).  Our existing tools were changing and new tools were being introduced.  The speakers help sew up the gaps in our understanding of what we don’t know since depending on the speaker it’s usually their forte.

Last night we had three community speakers step up and talk about their passion and they did very well in fact.  Vastly different topics (GPU data processing, VIM/Auto-Hot-Key for keeping your hands off the mouse, and an authentication talk using pluggable providers-OAuth, OpenId, etc.  All very well thought out and presented, and I heard many compliments to the speakers on the topic and delivery.

Last night we definitely put the community back in the group, big time.

Moving On, Finally

I’ve been working with a team who will take over system support for a system my team has been building.  My team worried that we didn’t “deliver to the audience” while we delivered what we believe the customer wanted.

“Delivering to the audience” means, did we build something that developers (seasoned or not) could learn to understand, pick-up, and eventually own.  The big brass ring is always, can folks learn how to be more efficient or learn what not to do, with what we created – either case is still a valuable lesson.


This week we had three sessions.  Covered most everything we needed that exposed the patterns we used, and the ones we chose not to use.  Most of the dialog that came across the table led me to believe that they were going to get it, and it was going to sink in.  Our team who uses an unused executives office as a work room literally has an open door policy.  We stay available in IM and email contexts as well since most folks, developers in general, would rather communicate electronically.  The folks I met with this week seem to be more face-to-face and ready to get this stuff on them.  All good indicators that I can move off of this system with little or no ties to this system post-go-live.

So the goal here is to move back into what my team initially did, which I’m being told may change a bit in the future.  It sounds exciting and a bit spooky as well.  However, we enjoy being part of a larger strategy team that  helps folks learn how to be more efficient or learn what not to do, with what other folks (large and small software shops outside of our own shop) created by kicking tires and test-driving software in a real(our)world context.

I’ve always hated moving, but now I realize that not all moving is bad.  Sometime we have to move on, other times we’re asked or forced to move on; at least this time there are no boxes to unpack.

Hey, is this thing plugged in?

Well, I will admit I did give the PostADay challenge a good go, but I’ve come to realize I can make myself stare at my phone or pop open a “flash-post” in WP.  I just see myself moving farther away from sitting in front of my blog each day.  This has been a season the comes and goes for me, and I’ve seen my peers, near and far, just strike this balance of being plugged and unplugged.

So, I’ll keep the challenge going but only for a PostAWeek.  Hopefully, the ones I do post won’t read like their strained or distilled out of vague idea or thought.  Besides, what’s the sense in blogging if it’s going to be crap?  None.

And Now A Quote from Iago


"Iago"“When are we ever gonna get our hands on that stupid lamp!” This weekend was a great long weekend to sort more leftover baggage from 2010. Feels like I’ve dropped an easy 2 tons this weekend.

The whole “lamp” analogy is just about letting go of what I can’t reach, and honestly don’t want to. The idea right now is to just focus on “reach” – as in what I can reach, not “rich” which always seems to be much too expensive for me. Not in the sense of money, but mental currency.

Just this weekend I’ve had a very educational experience working on things that are within reach, and not the things that are so rich. Looking forward to rest of the week now.  Besides, I’m seeing that the rich stuff isn’t all it’s cracked up to be and ends up being very high maintenance, like that “stupid lamp”.

Happy Monday!

What about all this free time?

A friend of mine stopped in my office one day and he started a conversation about trying to help our division build or create free time in their week.  Free time so folks can work on a personal blue sky project for a whole or half day.  He told me something that blew the sweetener out of my coffee ( I like my coffee black), he said “of all the people I’ve spoken to, they have no idea nor are they interested in having free time at work to blue sky something”.

Now I’m no workaholic by any stretch, but I’ll pitch in if the dam is about to break, or if management says “go and do”.  There are things work related that I want to devote time to but can’t during the normal 9-10 stretch each day.  But after thinking more about this, maybe folks just want time to  think about nothing; For example, no mental challenges,  interacting with stuff we can’t ignore; not like turning off your smartphone, but more like turn off that TV inside your head that plays on some UHF channel static and all.

I’m actually rethinking my free time as well.  What would you do if you had a free 1/2 or whole day on the clock to work on a personal project at your shop?

Cabin On The Lake

Cabin On The Lake

My folks had an awesome idea recently.  They want to gather the family together and meet at a campsite with cabins for some fishing, hiking, and unplugging from todas las cosas!  How does that sound?  Umm, in a word awesome.  I will probably back date a few posts and get them to post over the week.  But, I’m sure I’ll keep my analog journal buzzing with stuff.

Over the years I hear about and know folks that are just in no big hurry to head back for some family get-together, and a (very) few others do and look forward to it over the holidays, but part of me thinks some genuine reconnecting  seems built-in; as in we want to (re)connect at least once a year with the folks that made us.

I took a week off and spent it working on house projects with my Dad and having long talks in the kitchen with my Mom about food, family, God, crime, radio, computers, weather; everything is on the table with my Mom; visiting sisters and nephews, and having lunch with my grand-daughter for the first time.

What a great week – my Dad’s mind is so sharp and building stuff with him is just a blast.  We laugh so hard at ourselves some times we couldn’t even swing a hammer and pound a nail in straight.  And my Mom really makes me laugh too – really good times.

But a week on a lake with a cabin; wake up and walk out on the end of a dock two minutes later and cast a line out onto a glass covered lake – that sounds great to me right now, well great anytime actually.

I really hope this trip works out, it will be a blast.  We stayed in cabins when I was seven and we all really just froze b/c there wasn’t any heat – and that was fun too. That cabin on a lake view and experience is blistered into my memory like it happened yesterday. I guess I like being outside, that probably helps, but I love being around my family, outside, more.

A Bunch of Really Smart Guys

I’m working on web site for a local developer group here in Orlando.  We met last Saturday to talk about plans for how the site is going to be rebuilt by grease-boarding some brainstorms, as well as a peer review of some of the stuff that some of the developers have been doing.

I’ve been very impressed by these guys since they stepped up for this community effort and although we’ve had some spirited discussions about technology, we always land on our zeros and ones.

Orlando Code Camp Home Page

Orlando Code Camp Home Page

It’s farther than you think

Lake Apopka Loop

Lake Apopka Loop

Today we went to a local trail that was converted from unused railroad tracks.  It’s a loop that is farther than I’m sure, but it’s called the Lake Apopka Loop.  We started down the trail and really didn’t set out to do a full 20 miles, it was the first time we had all four bikes on the carrier (which was a bit of a Rubik’s cube) and on this particular trail.  20 miles it is.

Three hours later, and at almost complete exhaustion, we returned to the trail head where we started out.  If you look at the map to the right, we did the yellow line, back and forth 10-miles each way.

At the 1/2 way point cramps had already set in, by the time we reached the last incline before the trail head none of us had any drive left.  Hopefully the next time I take on a twenty-mile trek it won’t be so far.

What a great day for a ride, kind of chilly, definitely not hot however it felt like we rode into the wind going in both ways.

Great day, great ride.

Going Bald

On Monday I shaved my head.  The responses I received were very interesting, indeed.  Most folks I’ve worked with for years at my shop didn’t even recognize me while I was standing next to them in lunch lines or waiting for my turn at the drinking fountain.  Those closer to me had no response at all, just a “Oh, you shaved your head.” – that’s it.

So not to read too much into those responses, I think it’s just another type of measuring stick.  I’m glad I took the leap, so much seems so different now: the way the back of my head feels on the headrest in my car – the leather is actually much colder than I realized; the way my hoodie creates the sensation of a squirrel or mocking-bird (I’m in FL)  landing on my head or that they’ve dropped something on my head during a morning run.

Shaving is quite interesting as well – you have to go really slow or the morning gets weird really quick.  Remember the feeling of pizza mouth, you get a bit of really hot pizza stuck to the roof of your mouth?  The feeling in the roof of your mouth an hour later is what your head feels like if you rush.  I think everyone’s hides are different so YMMV.

The consensus from other head-shaved guys say they have “no intention of growing any hair back”, I’m there too.

Happy New Me.

Today, A Win

Over the last few weeks I’ve been putting time into reading about patterns that aid in moving new ideas into organizations, i.e. what to do first, what to do next, how to keep the wheels on the idea.  One of the first patterns talks about weaving your new idea into your own work, then sharing it with others for validation and/or buy-in.  There’s more to it than this, but here’s where I’ll start my story.

I’d taken a very different approach to building in a feature for an application at my shop.  The business had a lot of input on how they need to perform tasks, I captured what I thought was everything in one, one hour meeting last month.  I used my (borrowed from a conference last year) idea for how to compose the information they had shared and today I shared their information in a new format they probably have never seen.  Four levels of employees all reading from the same pages, and everyone got that I populated those few pages with pictures, ideas, and information that told the story of how one part of the business works.

We went from the dry stuff to something a bit more interactive and fun – I let the end users show me how the feature’s workflow would be most beneficial for their day-to-day operation.  They seemed to get excited to have some authorship on the idea, and all with a low-tech prototype that allowed from quick changes on the fly as the conversation progressed.  We finished with only go over 15 minutes beyond our allotted time.

A good day, today, a win.