Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Overcoming the Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni

I couldn't resist grabbing the 3 CD audio book version of Patrick Lencioni's Overcoming the Five Dysfunctions of a Team when I last visited the library.  I had read the prequel several years ago and I figured 3 CDs wouldn't take that long to listen to. It turned out to be more like 2 or 2.5 CDs because the last bit was just checklists or something from the appendices.

In review, here are the five dysfunctions.

  1. Absence of trust.
  2. Inattention to results.
  3. Fear of conflict.
  4. Lack of commitment.
  5. Avoidance of accountability.
So, how do you overcome these things?  Apparently it involves having an offsite and discussing them and doing other stuff.  Honestly the book wasn't all that long and mostly served to remind me of the prequel.  I do know that he is a fan of using the Myers-Briggs Personality Type Indicator to help team members get to know each other. (I'm an ESTJ.)

I'm not minimizing the basic premise of why teams don't work.  Fear of conflict is a real issue.  But this book on overcoming the five problems didn't do it for me.  Or maybe, as has happened in the past, non-fiction audio books don't work well for me during my commute.

So that's about it.  Probably should've just reread The Five Dysfunctions of a Team.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

First Impressions of Harvard Business Review

I just finished reading my first issue of Harvard Business Review (September 2010) and came away pleased and with a mixed bag of results, two extremes of which I'll touch upon here.

On the plus side is Robert Schaffer's article titled Mistakes Leaders Keep Making.  Admittedly I'm the poster boy for narcissism so the Walter Mitty-like ability to see my own failures in the article makes it more compelling.  (This is also the reason I can't watch The Office.  Michael's cringe-inducing but well-intentioned antics hit just a little too close to home.)  Based on his 50 years of working with business leaders, Schaffer sees four fundamental mistakes that leaders continue to make, perhaps because they're so fundamental that they aren't explicitly addressed by the volumes of business books and articles published to date.  Without further ado, these fundamental problems are:

  1. Failure to set proper expectations.   You have to set clear goals and deadlines.
  2. Excusing subordinates from the pursuit of overall goals.  You can't let team leaders have too narrow a focus on their own objectives.
  3. Colluding with staff experts and consultants.  You have to make them responsible for outcomes.
  4. Waiting while associates prepare, prepare, prepare.  Endless preparation gives only the illusion of progress.

On the other hand, Dan Ariely's column titled Want People to Save?  Force Them instantly rubbed me the wrong way.  Ariely advocates that the best way to prevent two common failures of retirement planning (deciding to save in the first place and reducing investment risk as one's retirement date approaches) is to borrow a page from the Chilean government and simply deduct money from everyone's paycheck and invest it for them.  As justification, he points out that we already submit to a number of "deeply controlling" regulations and as examples he cites several from the motor vehicle code such wear a seatbelt and no texting while driving.  There's a big difference here.  If you text while driving the accident you cause will impact (pardon the pun) others either by death, injury, or property damage.  If you screw up your retirement plan, it's only you who'll suffer the consequences.  (Yes, I realize there is a cost to society if a large percentage of its citizenry cannot afford to live beyond retirement without government assistance.)  Nor do I wish to argue the analogy - if you motorcycle without a helmet or drive without a seatbelt the life you take will likely be your own.

But as I wrote, overall this issue of HBR was thought provoking.  I look forward to the next one.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

They say that 90% of TV is junk...

If you wore a Snazzy Napper and a Snuggie at the same time, you'd have the appendage-friendly fleece equivalent of a burqa.  Or at least the front half.  Gotta love the nose slit.

In an interesting psychology study, researchers at Washington State Univ. show that your colleagues won't like you if you're unselfish; what's objectively good is seen as subjectively bad.  In other words, you make them look bad.  In other leading workplace news, researchers argue for the importance of swearing:
  1. Swearing can let you develop social relationships (like with your court-appointed attorney at your harassment trial).
  2. Swearing can release stress (while inducing it in others).
  3. Swearing can be used as a form of positive politeness (no friggin' idea what this means).
  4. Banning swearing may inhibit self-managed teams (even less of a clue).
A Smart Bear, drawing upon experience seeing hundreds of startup presentations, writes about how to position yourself against the competition.   I like this: "Your company is defined by its own strengths, values, customers, and products, not by how it compares with other companies."  In other words, defining yourself as being against something else is a losing proposition.

Everyone has tips on how to design the call-to-action buttons on your web site but few actually provide a tool to do so.  That's the Super Conversion Button generator is so helpful.  These folks also provide button tips via SlideShare.  Also, the folks at Unbounce have a blog completely dedicated to landing page and conversion optimization.  The Web Squeeze magazine also goes into considerable detail on landing page design.

Now instead of just writing about CAD/CAM/CAE, TenLinks founder Roopinder Tara is selling it too at CADdepot.  AVL is going to add export to EnSight. Georgia Tech was named a CUDA Center of Excellence by NVIDIA.  For the second year in a row ANSYS has been named to FORTUNE's list of the 100 fastest growing companies, coming in this year at 39.

One million giraffes.  Cat extra. 

And here's an interesting icon map of the top million web sites illustrated by the site's icon scaled according to its traffic.

I'd call this unfair, but that'd be too whiny.  "The Situation" to make (note I don't write "earn") $5 million in 2010."  I only watched that show once for 20 minutes after lingering too long while flipping channels.  Those people are repugnant.

43% of companies will be blogging by 2012.  Measure your online influence with Klout.  (I'm just a dabbler.)  The SolidWorks Legion blog takes a look at how PTC has integrated social media with CAD.

I used Tagxedo to make a customized word cloud of my blog posts and here's what I got back.  Damn, this thing's good.

Ever wonder how companies pick their names?   Six Apart was coined because the company's founders were born six days apart.  In our case, it was because Trained Apes Software probably didn't give the right impression.

Proof #1,979 that creativity is not dead: Alien Pez dispenser.

Web Worker Daily (which unfortunately sounds like some communist era publication of the defunct USSR) offers a list of 7 ways to successfully work remotely.  I know several people who do this and I'm trying to figure out which one is The Cheerleader (and no, I'm not imagining them in the outfit).

Fulfilling my anal retentive periodic table fetish for the week: the periodic table of HTML 5.

Christie's is auctioning a bunch of Lehman Brothers' artwork on 29 September 2010 in London.  In addition to a Pink Panther drawing by Friz Freleng (catalog page 105) the auction includes some awesome lithographs by Sean Scully (pp 114-115).

Proof #1.41412 that simplicity in design is not dead: the Square Root Calculator.  

All you fractal geeks will love this 3D Mandelbrot fly-through.

Don't want to write your own style or user interface guidelines?  Just copy from Microsoft, NASA, Yale or any others on this giant list of UX guidelines.   If your interests are strictly on the software user experience side of things, these 11 principles of interaction design, while not new, are worth reading.  (#2 Consistency - I wish I could remember Cooper's quote from About Face on consistency.  It was something along the lines of a fanatical adherence to consistency.)

Scott Adams, creator of Dilbert, writes about how it's not easy going green.  My favorite quote from the article is "I went into the process thinking that green homes were ugly because hippies have bad taste."

I loved Gilligan's Island as a kid.  (And not just for Ginger.)  But I never knew Lovey Howell's real first name was Eunice.  (But TV Queen probably did.)

The folks running the AUVSI Unmanned Systems show had a great idea.  You could check out a Flip video camera, record your own video, and they'd post it to their AUVSI Flip Central web page for all to watch.

Here's an interesting opinion piece on how busy implies not committed, on how it's an excuse to hide  behind trivial tasks rather than proceed with important initiatives.  All I know is busy is way overused.  Perhaps it's like this: busy is to productive as complicated is to complex.

Here are two more Fort Worth food blogs: Linguine and Dirty Martinis and Not Just Here for the Food.  Do you know what a nurdle is?  It's a "wave-like glob of toothpaste applied to a toothbrush."  It's also apparently a reason to sue.

On the Siemens PLM blog, the rhetorical question is posed "Are you doing FEA for the color pictures?"  One interesting mandate in the post is "YOU DO NEED TRAINING" (emphasis theirs, but I agree).  I'm not exactly sure what's going on here because I couldn't find an About page, but it looks like Cudacountry is about young people exploring science and engineering with CAD and other software tools.

From the never give up category: Neptune is going to complete its first orbit of the sun since being discovered in 1846.  Unusual globes (not what you think).
It's not too late to get in on the bidding for a seat on a B-17 for the flyover of Texas A&M's home opener.

The Spaceship Company is hiring.  While not a flying car, Morgan Aircraft's VTOL jet sure looks interesting.  I wish I could recommend Aviation Week's Workforce 2010 Report but there's very little illumination to be found in it.  We giveth and taketh away:  the last W62 nuclear warhead has been dismantled while the B83 just had its first flight test.

It's not just TV, it's EngineeringTV.  Here's a list of some iPhone apps for engineeringCJR Propulsion has developed an in-house CFD capability for propellers.

Reader's Digest offers a list of 24 things you might be saying wrong (e.g. could care less instead of  couldn't care less).  Sadly, I am saying all of them.  On the other hand, check out these mythbusters for grammar.  Split infinitives to your heart's content and 4 other doors flung wide open.

No sense trying to explain what I don't understand so I'll just quote the article: "The radioactive decay of some elements sitting quietly in laboratories on Earth seemed to be influenced by activities inside the sun, 93 million miles away."  When writing a scientific paper be sure to spend at least 50% of your time (i.e. 12 hours a day) typesetting the paper so that all the tables look nice. 

Here's a sport I could really get behind, er... in front of?

...but 90% of everything is junk.  -- Gene Roddenberry

Saturday, August 21, 2010

First Family by David Baldacci

Baldacci's First Family, a political action thriller about a kidnapping gone wrong, succeeded in creating possibly the most sympathetic villain I've encountered in all my reading.  When combined with victims who are so utterly contemptible (and if you've read Baldacci before you know how he portrays the political elite) the character contrast alone is enough to propel the story forward.  The plot's intrigue is almost a bonus that binds everything together into a nice read (or listen in this case - audio book).

Former Secret Service agents and current private investigators Sean King and Michelle Maxwell are engaged by the First Lady to assist the FBI with solving the kidnapping of her precocious twelve year old niece, a botched job that left the girl's mother dead.  If that doesn't make you scratch your head, think again - why would the FBI need the assistance of a couple of PIs?

While election year politics rage around Washington D.C., a Viet Nam veteran hunkers down in his aging Alabama plantation to plan his revenge.  Years of painstaking research have led him to a startling conclusion about the cause of a painful and ultimately deadly chapter from his family's past.  And it is he who ultimately decides whose family comes first.

You might be familiar with Baldacci's work from the movie Absolute Power starring Clint Eastwood and if that captured your fancy First Family and his other books are worth trying.  But one thing I can do without in my audio books is a soundtrack and audio effects.  The whole point of books is that the words should be sufficiently powerful to generate images in your mind's eye.  If you're a frustrated movie producer, stay out of audio book production.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Horse Bits - Special Travis Edition

Mold-A-Rama machines made sculptures from hot wax.  I remember them from when I was a little boy.  Do you have a favorite toy?

These are blogs on the internet: Victoria YeagerA Little Business, fea-nux.

These are events you could attend: NAFEMS World CongressHuntsville Simulation Conference.  (But ask for permission first!)

Here are two fun things about cartoons: an iPad app, an unfilmed Batman script.

Two companies announced fluid structure interaction capabilities: FLOW-3D and Abaqus.

Those were big words.  Let's pause to relax with kittens.

I like the orange one.  His name is Mr. Winkles.

Pictures of email usage by state and region.

Don Norman wrote a new book.  It should be good.

The boss at ANSYS was on TV.  He said interesting things.  A vice president at Spatial was interviewed for a blog.  He also said interesting things.

I found stuff on the internet for drawing things on a computer.  Here they are.  There are a lot.  Take your time reading this list.
  1. GrabCAD
  2. Alibre Powered
  3. dezineBlog
  4. VCollab
  5. SolidWorks
Five.  That's a lot.  Let's take a break.

Bunnies are nice.  I like their big ears!

Do you like to read books?  You can read about a GPU.

A long time ago engineers liked certain things.  Can you think of things that engineers like today?

Math is hard, but it can help us make cool shapes.  Do you know what else is cool?  The navy has a new boat!

If you have a cell phone from Apple you can put it in a case that looks like breakfast.  But don't eat it ;-)

If you use Facebook at work your boss may get mad.  But it's good to use Facebook for work.  We call this a paradox.  And if you use Twitter, this web site will tell you how long you've been using it in case you forgot.   

Do you need pictures of flags of countries for a school project or to decorate your notebook?  You can get them for free here.

Oh, that was a lot of words.  I am tired again.  How about you?  Let's see some duckies.  Do you like duckies?

The duckies all wait their turn.  The one in front is working hard.  Climb, duckie, climb!

Making software is fun but when you share it with others it's important that they understand that it is good.  Give them a good demo.  Try hard to make sure there are no bugs.  Boo, bugs :-(  And don't say things unless you know they're true.

Would you like a pencil that was like a pen?  That would be great!  Or you could get this computer plug thing for your desk.   Before music came from the computer did you know you could put music on a piece of cardboard?  It's true!

Green Eggs and Ham is a good book.  You would like it.  (I hope you like this blog post too.  I had fun writing it just for you.)

Don't cry because it's over.

Rarely does my internet wandering evoke a powerful, genuine memory but sure enough that's what happened when I found Mold-A-Mania, a site dedicated to the wax sculptures produced on-demand by Mold-A-Rama machines.   I remember a childhood visit to the Cleveland Zoo with my older cousins.  It was summer, it was hot, I was tired, and I absolutely had to have a wax gorilla before we departed.  I'm fairly certain it cost 50 cents (that I had to borrow) and I remember the wonder of watching the machine's magical process.  And then it pushed out my gorilla, white, slick, and still almost too hot for a child to hold.  It spent the ride home in the car in my lap. Do you remember these?  I haven't seen a Mold-A-Rama machine forever.  It seems that the popular thing today is what our family calls "fifty ones" - you put in 51 cents (2 quarters and a penny) and the machine smashes the penny into an oval and stamps on a design.  My kids have lots of those but they lack the tactile pleasure of the Mold-A-Rama sculptures.

Enjoy Senosolgy, a Michel Gagne animation of avant-garde jazz.

Chuck Yeager's wife, Victoria, has a blogA Little Business is a blog by "a frustrated entrepreneur working for a poorly run small company."  Combine FEA and Linux to get fea-nux, an ANSYS blog.

The NAFEMS World Congress will be held 23-26 May 2011 in Boston.  The Huntsville Simulation Conference will be held 27-28 October 2010 in Huntsville, AL.
Got an iPad?  Like to fingerpaint?  Then you might want to get this free iPad animation app from Toon Boom.  Are you interested in Tom Mankiewicz' unfilmed script for Batman?

Flow Science announced the addition of fluid structure interaction (FSI) capability to FLOW-3D v9.5, due to be released in early 2011.  Not only are they adding a finite element capability for solving the solid mechanics portion of the problem, but a new body-fitted hex mesher will generate the grids for the solid regions.  Abaqus will also have FSI capability but they're coming at it from the other direction: they added CFD capability to their structural mechanics solver.

Here in Texas we send about half our email between 9am and 5pm and a bunch of other questionably useful business email usage statistics.

You can get a free preview of Don Norman's new book, Living with Complexity.  The preview of chapter one begins with the quote "Seek simplicity and distrust it" and follows with Norman describing the difference between complexity (which is neither good nor bad, can be natural and even fun) and complicated (which is often the result of poor design of technology).  If this book is anywhere near as good as his classic The Design of Everyday things, it will be another fine addition to your bookshelf.

The most intense moments the universe has ever known are the next 15 seconds.

What nuggets did ANSYS CEO Jim Cashman drop during his interview with Fox Business?
  • They've seen economic stabilization which has been good for their bottom line, although their customers still see some economic uncertainty as they plan for the future.
  • ANSYS is hiring but it's taking longer than they'd like which he blames on the fact that the US produces an order of magnitude fewer engineers and computer scientists as we need.
  • Because no one industry sector contributes more than 20% to their revenue they've been very fortunate from an income and profit standpoint.
  • Areas where they see growth are energy, automotive (electric and hybrid vehicles), aircraft (fuel efficiency), and electronics (advances in capacity).
Find out how studying the Berbers of Morocco leads to a position as VP of R&D at Spatial

GrabCAD is a new free CAD library; read their blog.  And there's the new Alibre Powered, a community for showing off your CAD skills.  Not to be outdone, the folks at Dezineforce have introduced their new blog, aptly named dezineBlogSymscape's August 2010 newsletter is out.  Need a free viewer for CAX files?  Try VCollab Presenter Lite.  Does SolidWorks really have the best user interface you'll ever use?

Still looking for a juicy summer read for the beach?  How about CUDA by Example: An Introduction to General Purpose GPU Programming.   Don't know what book to buy?  Consult What Should I Read Next?

Has anything changed about what matters most to an engineer since 1953?  According to a help-wanted ad from RCA back then it was professional recognition, good salary, unexcelled facilities, and suburban living.  The only one of those four that is probably suspect in 2010 is suburban living (including the illustration with the wife and 2 kids).  And yes, the engineer in the sketch is a man and in 2010 this ad would probably show a suitably diverse group of people.  But at its core, I can't think of anything good to add to the first three.  Technical freedom?  Opportunities for personal growth?

Here's an interactive timeline of milestones in data visualization.  The Apollonian Gasket and other mathematical shapes.

If/when I get a new phone, I should get this bacon and eggs iPhone case. Suggestions for how to be a good restaurant customer including "be a good tipper" (20%).  The recently commissioned USS Independence is one cool ship.

An interesting side-effect of the use of social media is the apparent conflict between activities that build the employees' personal brand versus contributing to the success of their employer.  I've been tweeting for 2 years, 3 months, and 10 days.  Find out this and more for yourself at Tweeting Since.  Hubspot gives us this list of 30 awesome B2B social media resources.  Need flags?  Have your pick of these 10 icon sets. And to put them all in context, check out this history of computer icons beginning with the Xerox Star from 1981.

Enjoy this animated walkthrough of the Clyfford Still Museum.

In this interesting dissection of a software demo it seems obvious that you want to avoid hearing the question "What's this good for?"  An opinion on software QA and QC: quality assurance deals with the process and quality control deals with the products.  Here's one follow-up on the CFD comparison chart debacle that appeared in Desktop Engineering a couple months back.  Rule of thumb: these are never a good guide for choosing which software to buy.

A couple weeks ago you saw an ultra-realistic simulation of particulate modeling.  Here's a cool simulation of a bullet breaking a glass.   Visualize the world's population by latitude and longitude at Radical Cartography.  (Click Projects, The World, Population.)

I've got to get me some of these: liquid pencils. I am also intrigued by this USB hub with power switches.  The internet was made for things like this: a museum of cardboard phonograph records.  My Desk is a flickr group for folks who like photos of desks.

In case you missed it, this past week was the 50th anniversary of Dr. Seuss' Green Eggs and Ham.

Smile because it happened.  --Dr. Seuss

Sunday, August 8, 2010

A is for Beginning - Influence by Art of Noise

If you're a fan of Art of Noise, you owe it to yourself to get their recently released anthology, Influence.  If you're a rabid fan, you probably have it already.  This 2 CD set features 19 previously released but recently reworked tracks than span their complete career and 20 unreleased experiments. 

For those of you who aren't familiar with AoN's work, I'm not sure how to describe it.  Dubbed into one of the tracks on Influence is someone describing them by saying "they nobly attempt stupidly impossible things."  For a less abstract description of their work, I'll borrow Anne Dudley's words from the 36 page booklet included with Influence.  "...music could be anything you wanted it to be - a collage - a scrapbook - jump cutting between styles."  "I can hear the freshness - the joy of experimentation - the inspiration of a sound sample that takes you places you didn't expect to go - the 'mistakes' that open yet more doors."

The first CD (The A Side) of released tracks goes beyond a compilation.  All these tunes have been taken apart, broken down, cleaned-up and remixed.  After all, when your oeuvre consists of experimentation and sampling, it wouldn't do to simply release a "best of."  In particular, Paranoimia (The Paranoid Mix) featuring Max Headroom is particularly well done (redone?) with Max's vocals slowed down in places to near imperceptibility.  At the same time, a new drum track drives the song forward with a renewed energy.

The second CD (The AA Side) opens the door on some of AoN's in-studio experimentation with several tracks that feature multiple takes of the same vocal line or alternate vocals back to back to back.  I'm tempted to compare the work to Brian Eno and David Byrne's My Life in the Bush of Ghosts (another personal fave), but there are vast differences.   Eno and Byrne build a coherent song around a single bit of "found" vocals, usually recorded off radio.  But AoN's work weaves multiple styles and samples into a song, albeit one that's nonlinear in its jumps.

That is not to say that AoN's work lacks melody.  Influence begins with perhaps their most well-known song: Moments in Love, and ends with a variation thereupon, The Invention of Love.  Their music is fun and wonderfully so and Influence is a fitting tribute.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

The best craftsmanship always leaves holes and gaps...

"It is therefore unholy to desecrate the symbol of manliness, hairiness."

Attention young people: this list of 11 rules you don't learn in school is worth a few minutes of your time.  It leads with my favorite (#1.  Life is not fair - get used to it.) and includes one that's rather self-serving (#7 Before you were born, your parents weren't as boring as they are now.).  While we're on the topic of lists of 11 items, here are 11 web design blunders.  How many have you made?

Lots of people want you to share your CAD models.  Marechi, currently in beta, is an online site dedicated to sharing 3D CAD models.  There is some cool stuff here at Moment of Inspiration, 3D modeling for designers and artists. Deelip Menezes thinks it's sexy.  Dassault Systemes' 3Dvia can now publish your CAD models to FacebookSolidWorks World 2011 will be held 23-26 January 2011 in San Antonio.  SpaceClaim 2010 was released.  (Also, if you check out the URL you can see these folks are exploiting the file name for SEO.)

Caption Contest!  Mine are too NSFW even for this forum.  Bonus points if you can guess the message it's really supposed to convey. (No fair using TinEye.)

The Dezignstuff blog poses the provocative question "Does geometry creation and editing still matter?"  Of course, the answer is yes.  The question itself is simply a counter argument to all the recent buzz about CAD-in-the-cloud and other web-related CAD stuff.  It is very similar to my thoughts on cell phones; all the apps and touch screens are swell but when are they gonna make the damn phone call quality and reliability better?

Why executives HATE social media.  Here's a brief summary.
  1. Executives aren't narcissists and therefore don't need to blog, tweet, or post every accomplishment.  (Counterexample: I am the poster boy for narcissism. Counterpoint: Even if this were true for the executive as an individual, it's not true for the executive as leading an organization.  Psst: it's called marketing.)
  2. Executives aren't joiners.  (Counterpoint: Should've thought about that before you started the whole "company" thing.  Think about the literal meaning of the word.)
  3. Executives don't like small talk.   (Counterpoint: Step down off your throne every once in a while, your highness, and get to know the little people.)
  4. Executives fear technology because it's out of their control.  (Counterpoint:  Another candidate for your Word of the Day calendar: trust.)
  5. Executives have been burned in the past by unfulfilled promises.  (Counterpoint: stop getting hung up on words like "twitter" and "flickr" instead think about engagement.)
  6. Executives don't like fads.  (Counterpoint: This shouldn't count as it's the same as #5.)
  7. Executives are inherently introverts.  (Counterpoint: Don't make me go all Myers-Briggs on you, but I'd like to see data to support that claim.)
  8. Executives don't like hype.  (Agreement.  Just bring the data.)
Here's part 1 of a guide to Practical Social Media by Mark Burhop, the SolidEdge product manager at Siemens PLM.  Maybe you should participate in #TechChat, a Twitter-based conversation with Guy Kawasaki about social marketing for the high tech industry.  The best blogs on the interwebs.  (Don't bother - I already looked.)

Artist Shi Jindian really knows how to make mesh generation tangible with his wireframe motorcycle.  (Be sure to click through to his portfolio.)  Damn - there I go with the sculpture again. 

Trippy music from Starstreams can be heard on KNTU 88.1 in the DFW area.  T-Rex cufflinks.  Don't know how useful this mini keyboard and trackpad would be, but it sure is cool.  A crack primer.  Curious about what a 3D mouse is?  Watch this video from 3Dconnexion.  I am not doing calculus just to get past your captcha.

Cool flying things: BAE's Taranis UCAS demonstrator, Sikorsky's X2 demonstrator, an F-15 lands with only one wing (an oldie but a goodie).  And although it's not strictly flying, this video illustrates the International Space Station coming together.  If I can't have a flying car, I want a feces-powered car.

I gag just looking at this canned pancake milkshake.  Our Japanese friends are no slouches when it comes to massive burger goodness

Litemind offers strategies for using your mind more effectively (or in my case, using it at all).  Your brain apparently has to be able to identify sounds as having certain patterns of rhythm and tone before you can comprehend it as music.  Watch the Abbey Road web cam (with sound!). Something you've already heard about: R.I.P. Google WavePencils.

I despise contrived acronyms on big engineering projects like the EU's CRESCENDO (Collaborative and Robust Engineering using Simulation Capability Enabling Next Design Optimisation).  It's OK to just use an evocative word without the linguistic gymnastics. 

Functional Color is a blog about color choices for information display.  The current lead article is about orange on black displays which reminds me of the old VT-240.  Here's the August 2010 issue of the UserFocus newsletter.

You're going to have to work a little for this joke.  Go to studio Klass, click on Works and then Slide Eat.  The annoying brats with this combo dinner table/slide are probably going to be sitting at the table next to mine tonight.

If your assets are worth protecting, try this knife-proof t-shirt.

We're a little late (29 weeks to be exact), but here's 52 Weeks of UX, for all your user experience needs.  Stanford University's Entrepreneurship Corner provides a free collection of over 1,600 lectures by entrepreneurial leaders.

I'm sorry to have to slam a second Duct Tape Marketing post this week (the first was done via Twitter), but I disagree with his assertion that the purpose of a business is to "create and keep purpose."  Circular reasoning aside, the position is that a business creates a cause around which employees and customers can rally.  It's a variation of Peter Drucker's relatively well-known statement that the purpose of a business is to create and keep a customer.  The latter is closer to the mark but let me be more direct: the purpose of a business is to generate profit.  If this makes you feel dirty, maybe you should reorganize into a non-profit.  The manner in which a business accomplishes this (presumably by creating value for its customers) can indeed involve creating a rallying point.

 Last week we were MRIing vegetables - this week it's x-rays of flowers.

...so that something that is not in the poem can creep, crawl, flash, or thunder in.  --Dylan Thomas

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Competing on Internet Time by Cusumano and Yoffie

Last night, as I usually do, I settled into a chair on my back porch and began a little after dinner reading. Within 30 minutes I was having trouble keeping my eyes open and had developed quite a headache. And that's a perfect description of how I feel about Competing on Internet Time, Lessons from Netscape and its Battle with Microsoft by Michael A. Cusumano and David B. Yoffie. Dull. Painfully dull.

This book is mentioned so often in various "must read" lists of business books or software books or entrepreneurship books that I finally decided to see what lessons could be gleaned. Apparently I waited too long.

I'm not saying this book is dated.  It's not like a high school history text that predicts "some day man will walk on the moon."  But it reads more like a legend of computing history rather than a business case study from which one can learn valuable, actionable lessons.

Internet time.  Hasn't it been almost a decade since we invalidated that whole idea about how the simple existence of the internet supplanted business experience up to that point?  And they drop the term "internet time" on about every 5th page, probably to strengthen the branding.

Perhaps I just waited to long to read this book (copyright 1998).  Is this what people in B-school read now?  Do they study the back and forth moves of Clark and Gates like cadets at a military academy study King Harold and Duke William at the Battle of Hastings?

For better or worse, Cusumano and Yoffie give the whole tale a Judo theme, forcing analogies into every confrontation: use your competitor's strength against them, never attack a stronger foe, and on and on.  Unfortunately, it gives the whole book the feel of a poor man's Art of War.

So I managed to read 132 of 336 pages and take about 2 pages of notes.  In that reading, I found a lot of contradictions.  Netscape's management is lauded for their experience, yet when placing blame for Netscape's reputation as an arrogant partner they write "management got carried away with their success and promised more than they could deliver."  The brilliance of their technical leaders is applauded, but their first releases are described as "rickety little things."  Netscape is criticized because "day to day, they never new the direction of their strategy" and that makes you wonder whether it is the result of Andreesen's abrupt changes in direction or management's appetite for extracting cash from every possible source.

Don't get me wrong: I used Netscape Navigator for years as my browser before switching to Firefox.  They were very successful in the marketplace from the standpoints of both product and profit.  I just don't care to read about it.

Note: In 1993 or thereabouts I was at the Tied House Brewery in Mountain View with a friend after completing some business at NASA Ames Research Center.  My friend nudged me and nodded with his head to a corner table where a middle-aged gent sat with a bunch of kids.  "That's Jim Clark," he said.  We had reason to recognize Jim Clark after having heavily used SGI computers for the past 6 years.  Perhaps that was Clark and the nascent Netscape team plotting their next Kaeshi against the hordes from Redmond.