May 10, 2013
Jon Postel was an American computer scientist who helped to develop the basic protocols on which the Internet is built. Among other accomplishments, he is remembered today for the formulation of a robustness principle, now often referred to as Postel’s Law.
Be liberal in what you accept, and conservative in what you send.
March 30, 2013
Usability has become a top concern for corporate CIOs in recent years. A big reason for this has been the success of Apple, since the difference between the iProducts (iPod, iPhone, iPad, iMac, etc.) and their competitors is often summed up in a single word: usability.
Unfortunately, once we enter the walled garden of corporate IT, we quickly find many more weeds than flowers, in terms of the quality of the User Experience (UX) being offered. It is tempting to think that we can fix this problem simply by investing more time, energy and dollars on usability labs, UX experts and associated training for corporate developers, but in my experience a more nuanced approach is called for.
Here are my top five recommendations for those who would attempt to improve the user experience for IT applications.
February 12, 2013
When companies attempt to implement lean principles, some of their biggest stumbling blocks seem to be the cultural elements. While some of the Toyota methods are very clear and specific, the cultural issues often seem more difficult to pin down. Many organizations seem to translate the most obvious elements into terms that they are comfortable with, but something often seems to get lost in the translation, and their lean implementations struggle because they have not really modified some of the basic ways in which they think about their work.
It occurred to me recently that the basic differences in lean culture might be represented in a very simple model. At first the simplicity of the model seemed to be too good to be true, but the more I thought about it, the more it seemed to help clearly explain some of the issues that typically cause the most confusion.
December 3, 2012
Microsoft aficionados have been claiming that the new Surface “has all the convenience of a tablet plus the benefits of a PC.” It occurred to me this morning that this would be a bit like Schwinn and GM announcing a partnership to produce a vehicle that has “all the convenience of a bicycle plus the benefits of an automobile — just snap on the other two wheels and you can get some real driving done!”
The question, in both cases, is whether the engineering appropriate for one device will serve the needs of the other....
October 26, 2012
I first came across Ken Wilber’s work late in the last century when a friend handed me a copy of A Brief History of Everything as a birthday present.
Since then, Wilber’s influence has been cited by figures as diverse as Bill Clinton and Deepak Chopra, which should give you some idea of how broadly his work can be applied.
Wilber’s work is tremendously dense, deep and broad and deserving of further study, and I can’t hope to do justice to it in a couple of blog posts. However, Wilber offers a couple of models that I think deserve greater exposure and more general application, so I will attempt to give you my understanding of them in this post and a succeeding one.
Let me start with the Four Quadrants model.
October 8, 2012
Note: This post was originally published on August 10, 2010. It was updated on Oct 7, 2012, to provide some additional clarity around elements that were still proving confusing to some.
In all my years working on IT projects, I think I’ve observed more silliness around the topic of Earned Value Management — or EVM, for those in the know — than on any other subject I can think of.
The many varieties of dysfunction that people exhibit towards this project management tool tend to place them in one of the following categories:
September 7, 2012
There has been much discussion in recent years of the chief reason for Apple’s phenomenal success. Apple’s design skills, for example, are often cited as the primary discriminator between Apple and its competition.
In some ways, though, I think that long-time Apple users and fans are sometimes misled in this regard by their traditional loyalties: there is a certain tendency among us to seek vindication, and to assume that Apple is now succeeding because others are finally learning to appreciate the virtues that we had recognized long ago.
It occurred to me recently, however, that an explanation for Apple’s ability to dominate its chosen market segments may rest more on its ability to satisfy a long checklist for each of its products, rather than to simply succeed in one key area.
This product checklist might look something like the following.
August 4, 2012
When it comes to religion, I have to confess to being a bit of a mongrel.
My mother was a Methodist. My father was a nudist. And I once called myself an immortalist.
These days I choose not to align myself with any particular religious group.
July 29, 2012
Industry analysts and pundits are fond of depicting the technology marketplace as full of drama and unexpected twists resulting from unfettered competition between the giants of the industry.
Witness the recent excellent Vanity Fair article on “Microsoft’s Lost Decade.”
It occurred to me though, while thinking about this piece, that the truth may be a bit different.
As a matter of fact, I would assert that, once a company successfully stakes out a claim in the tech marketplace, it tends to work that area repeatedly, perhaps extending the edges a bit here and there, but rarely if ever taking over a competitor’s space.
July 17, 2012
I finally took the plunge into iTunes Match a few weeks ago. It’s not like me to sit on the sidelines for so long when Apple produces some cool new technology, but to tell the truth, I had a hard time understanding what it would do for me. Most of the coverage I had read seemed to assume I was starting with tracks encumbered with Digital Rights Management (DRM), or encoded at a relatively meager 128-kbps, and that I would hence benefit from the higher quality and relatively promiscuous tracks (256-kbps DRM-free AAC files) available from iTunes Match.
Unlike many, I suppose, I had the opposite situation: for many years now, most of the audio in my collection has been ripped from CDs into the Apple Lossless format. I’ve then meticulously converted each of these Hi-Fi tracks into lower-fidelity but smaller tracks that would fit more easily onto my iPod, iPhone and/or iPad. Both sets of tracks have coexisted more or less amicably inside of a single Media folder located on a networked hard drive. This arrangement has served me fairly well for years, giving me access to CD-quality sound at home, and lower fidelity but still serviceable audio when I’m out and about. So I struggled to figure out what iTunes Match could do for me.
Then, one recent day, I said “What the heck, let’s give it a whirl. For only $25 per year, it’s worth a try.”
Here, then, is my tale.