John’s Recon

July 30, 2008

China and Soccer

Filed under: Uncategorized — John Prichard @ 6:59 pm

I thought that this article was exceptionally entertaining. Probably because FC Dallas, our own soccer team, is not doing too well and I feel particularly depressed these days even if it is silly. With so many Chinese really good at sports like diving and gymnastics, I thought they would be exempt from my particular depression. Not So.

Check this out from the Washington Post written by Xu Guoqi — the author of “Olympic Dreams: China and Sports, 1895-2008.” He teaches history at Kalamazoo College.

AGONY OF DEFEAT: The Goal China Can’t Reach

July 29, 2008

What would be considered success in our Conversation Network

Filed under: Uncategorized — John Prichard @ 7:27 pm

Well let me first start with a simple example. What would I consider success for our VP’s Blog. If he walks down the hall and more people approach him to talk to him because he seems more approachable and they feel like they know a little about him from his blog, then I think this is success. When they tell him ideas or give him information that he wouldn’t have gotten elsewhere then it will be measurable success. It will go up from there after some time passes.

For the our Conversation Network, the same kind of thing is true but in much larger capacity. After a couple of months after roll out, we should start to see online discussion with people from different environments and different walks of life. This in itself is success as it is starting to build a corporate consciousness … an appreciation for the diversity in our company and a glimpse of the limitlessness of our human resources. It doesn’t matter what the topics are at this stage … just the fact that people from different parts of the company are talking. There is some success in a person here knows that a person way over there shares the same interest even if on different sides of a discussion. This provides more opportunity for potential contacts in the near future when a person is faced with something that they will need help on. Even if the person that they know isn’t versed in the topic they need help in, this contact may still know of another.

About 3 – 4 months after roll out we should see some of the more adventurous people starting to talk about very interesting perspectives of business topics that couldn’t have happened in any other way … it could be about topics that would never have come up or with people that would never have been invited. Any one of these could lead to progress of thought that could completely pay for the whole enchilada.

What is success for social topics like “covered parking” or 401K investments … we should start to see the outliers on the different sides of a controversial topic come together more toward a middle ground building a consensus. This is success … arguing through all sides of an issue that others can read later helps others from wasting time on it since everything that can be said and argued, has. This also builds a corporate consciousness for this subject. This, in a way, is a social bonding of what it is to be a worker in our company and how we should think about stuff. This should also be considered a level of success.

About 8 months after roll out we should see a lot of people buzzing even if they are not contributing. We should see real topics addressed by the forward thinkers who have found other forward thinkers in our company. The speed of information flow increases and the strata of control starts to dissolve as people get real-time pertinent information directly from contributors as opposed to through 2 – 3 levels of intervening staff. Remember before and after email was introduced in our company … information flow accelerated rapidly and whole communication “networks” collapsed as new more direct information channels were formed. We start to evolve and form overlay virtual teams that address problems quicker and with less bureaucracy. Now this is the next level of success that everyone will recognize.

About a year after roll out, you should see about 35% of the people have an online presence and another 50% are listening/lurking. Now people don’t even talk about this being a success, but rather, just a more connected way of doing business. Just like we don’t talk about email and its enabling capabilities anymore. The company top-to-bottom side-to-side seems to know and understand what we are about, what we are after, and what kind of citizen composes our company. The company seems to be more engaged and even the support groups are engaged and on the front lines with the businesses. This is the kind of success we pay company advisers millions to re-energize the company. But wait there is more …

According to Chuck Hollis of EMC, GE is a company who wrote their own tools and started this journey almost 10 years ago. He now feels his company at one year after introduction to be in the child stage compared to GE. Maybe we should have GE come give us a pep talk later on.

My information for these scenarios I’ve discussed is based on extensive reading in behavior modification and examples of community on the outside. I am a member of an online community of 1200 (500 very active) that started with interest in the Mercedes car but now has every kind of person and every kind of skill set imaginable … lawyers, doctors, every kind of researcher and scientist, inventors and yes, even mechanics. They have a common passion together but a universe full of others. They help each other in all kinds of dilemmas and are able to accomplish extraordinary things. The pipelines of communication to almost every part of the globe is astonishing … all because we shared a common interest to start.

So measure success by looking at the company’s energy and its ability to form passions world wide … the money will follow.

July 23, 2008

So many sensors, yet so few monitors

Filed under: Uncategorized — John Prichard @ 11:43 am

I recently read some advice from a colleague that recommended we use the question/answer approach to gathering metrics. He recommended that instead of gathering regular metrics we ask ourselves a question and then gather data to support an answer. Example:

Data Knowledge
Number of users
Number of projects
Number of jobs running
What departments are using the product?

Metrics needed to answer the above:
Number of users per department
Number of project per department
Number of scheduled jobs per department – active

Other questions --
How often does each department use XX?
How often are new users added to XX?
Does all users registered within XX use the tool?

Ah, the Voice of Experience. His advice is so true. We gather so much information especially in IT but very little creates knowledge. Of course this concept applies to more than just metrics.

This reminds me when I ran a Unix Administration Team.  Joanna and I brought in Big Brother to monitor our environment. This was before BMC Patrol. One of our arguments was that since it was written in the scripting language of system admin, server administrators could write monitors in a language they were familiar with instead of just being alerted by sensors. A little magnet on the spokes of your bicycle that triggers an electronic pulse (Hall Effect) when it goes by the receiver mounted on the steering fork is what I call a sensor. A monitor is the little computer that takes these pulses and computes MPH using wheel circumference and time. Instead of alerting when the disk was 85% full, we created a monitor that used time, max disk size, % full to alert someone when the disk was going to fill up within 2 hours at its current fill rate.

Now that was a monitor you could sleep with.

July 10, 2008

Good BBQ at Chuck and Barbara’s C&B Bar-B-Que

Filed under: Uncategorized — John Prichard @ 5:28 pm

If you are in North Plano around lunch time, then try out C&B BBQ in downtown Allen which is a couple miles north of the plant near McDermott and Hwy 5. You won’t be disappointed. Chuck moved his long standing downtown Dallas BBQ (4 Country Reporter used to feature it) of 30 years up to Allen to be close to his grandchildren. Now we get to have a fine BBQ in the North Plano area for a change.

C&B BBQ is the orange building inside the triangle formed by McDermott, Dogwood, and Main St.

July 1, 2008

A Great Example of Digital Signal Processing

Filed under: Uncategorized — John Prichard @ 11:53 am

I’ve used my Rio Carbon mp3 player every day since March 2005 until I dropped it last Friday. I really haven’t found anything over the years to upgrade it with that was a good player and yet looked like a disk drive (don’t want music software on my PC just to load my player).

Well now they have video in them as well. I have found my new mp3 player but its called a PMP (premium multimedia player). I have chosen the Cowon D2 with 16Gb of flash memory and with a SD Card slot to add more. This is a fine player, covers my 3000 songs and the video looks nice too. The sound is really something.

So I go online to learn about their BBE and MP sound processing and find this fantastic description of the BBE and MP processing algorithms.

If you even wanted a good explanation of what digital signal processing (I did some of this in my engineering days) does for an mp3 player then read through this because it is easy to understand and gives real perspective in what you can do in the “frequency” domain.

An Incredibly (un)Lucky Low-Probability Kill(s)

Filed under: Uncategorized — John Prichard @ 10:44 am

My new MP3 player sounds great can’t wait to hear it plugged into the Bose Amp in my car. Better roll the garbage down the driveway first (one of my little chores). Oh look, a cute little lizard runs from behind the garbage can. We encourage lizards and spiders around our house to keep a watchful eye on our insects. Oh no! I walk up the driveway and there are TWO lizards who have been run over a wheel’s width apart. Not only that, but they have been run over in the middle by the narrow wheels and they are still alive and writhing in pain. Now, I have to sadly go and get the shovel to euthanize them quickly.

I was so on top of the morning with the great sounds on my new acquisition and now I am heartbroken over having to kill a couple of good neighbors. How Yin/Yang  life can be. [engineer on] What is more bizarre is how on earth did I hit these guys rolling a garbage can down a hill at 1 mph … two of them … one on each wheel. How low is the probability of hitting a fast moving 3 inch lizard with a 1-mph 1-inch wheel and then lower it again to hit another one with the other wheel in less than a foot later? [engineer off]

A couple of incredibly (un)lucky low probability kills  have ruined my morning. I know what it is … they were a couple of misguided lovers from two different sides of the garbage can area with a suicide pact and I was just a convenient means to their devious plan. Hey! I’m starting to feel better already.

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