John’s Recon

August 26, 2008

Influencing: the destination and not the path

Filed under: Uncategorized — John Prichard @ 11:25 am

Lets take a 3 year old since after the terrible twos they are easier for awhile. If you wanted them to keep their room clean, it normally doesn’t work that well to tell them to keep their room clean. You have to convince them that having a clean room is enjoyable to be in and attracts others to come and visit … like mom. If it works then they like having a clean room and the rest takes care of itself. An even more indirect approach works better since it originates as their idea which is an important concept in influencing … if they like emulating you and you express why you like a clean room for yourself then they might want it for themselves.

You influence for the destination (a clean room) and not the path (you should pick up your clothes). This takes care of all kinds of fundamental problems that come up in the path and cuts straight to the motivation. Just like giving directions, if you can get them to know where something is physically then they can figure out how they want to get there.

Martin Luther King did this in his I have a dream speech in 1963. He painted an indelible image in people’s minds of a fully integrated society … black and white children playing and holding hands without thinking a thing about it. This vision described a destination and not all the things that must happen to get there. He directly influenced a generation of change and indirectly influenced generations to come.

I’ve tried to do this with our conversations project … by painting what I think would be the future picture of collaboration in this company … engineers, sales, IT, etc. conversing along specific subject lines. The next time you want to influence a situation governed by people, think about the destination you want them to arrive at and try it.

August 15, 2008

Definition of Quality

Filed under: Uncategorized — John Prichard @ 4:47 pm

It seems a long time ago, but I was part of a Malcolm Baldridge Quality Award win. We tried for 5 years before we won this award. It wasn’t until we learned that we couldn’t do it ourselves but needed both our suppliers and our customers to team with us to build quality into our products that we got it right. I won the internal quality award for customer satisfaction this same year in ’93 being the first Systems Engineer to win for customer satisfaction. I proudly display this award next to my professional engineer’s license because it was very special to me.

All this to say that I have a favorite definition of quality that hangs on my wall for over 20 years.


“Quality is a customer determination, not an engineer’s determination, not a marketing determination, or a general management determination. It is based upon the customer’s actual experience with the product or service, measured against his or her requirements — stated or unstated, conscious or merely sensed, technically operational or entirely subjective — and always representing a moving target in a competitive market.”

Armand V. Feigenbaum

August 11, 2008


Filed under: Uncategorized — John Prichard @ 3:47 pm

Gurshaman passed “Marissa Mayer’s 9 Principles of Innovation” article around the tech staff. You can see why Google is the way it is. I like to think I practice in principle most of this stuff but I was struck by the sheer simplicity of number 5, Share as much information as you can. In Google, they have the people in the company do a snippet email every week that are 5 to 7 bullets describing the work they did, with what, and with whom. They put all the messages from their employees into a single web page that they index with Google Search, of course. This way they have a living work record and a phenomenal way to find who is working on what.

What a very interesting idea. My initial thought was to go see if we could do something like this but then I thought why not wait for conversation platform and do it here. The conversation platform (our social business network platform) will be indexing for search all the conversations anyway. All we will have to do is have the discipline to put this kind of information in a channel.

I propose a conversation channel called, Last Week. In it we put what we did, who we met, and with whom we worked last week. It can be short and simple or a little more explanatory with little grammar and doesn’t have to be PowerPoint prose. I suspect any resulting conversation that comes to be more clarification than anything else. I also suspect that when there are no rules then the data entry time to not follow a week but rather when you feel like it. Think if 500 people did this … a 1000

Here is the article for reference.

Marissa Mayer’s 9 Principles of Innovation


“There are two different types of programmers. Some like to code for months or even years, and hope they will have built the perfect product. That’s castle building. Companies work this way, too. Apple is great at it. If you get it right and you’ve built just the perfect thing, you get this worldwide ‘Wow!’ The problem is, if you get it wrong, you get a thud, a thud in which you’ve spent, like, five years and 100 people on something the market doesn’t want. Others prefer to have something working at the end of the day, something to refine and improve the next day. That’s what we do: our ‘launch early and often’ strategy. The hardest part about indoctrinating people into our culture is when engineers show me a prototype and I’m like, ‘Great, let’s go!’ They’ll say, ‘Oh, no, it’s not ready. It’s not up to Google standards. This doesn’t look like a Google product yet.’ They want to castle-build and do all these other features and make it all perfect.

I tell them, ‘The Googly thing is to launch it early on Google Labs and then iterate, learning what the market wants–and making it great.’ The beauty of experimenting in this way is that you never get too far from what the market wants. The market pulls you back.”


“We have this great internal list where people post new ideas and everyone can go on and see them. It’s like a voting pool where you can say how good or bad you think an idea is. Those comments lead to new ideas.”


“Since around 2000, we let engineers spend 20% of their time working on whatever they want, and we trust that they’ll build interesting things. After September 11, one of our researchers, Krishna Bharat, would go to 10 or 15 news sites each day looking for information about the case. And he thought, Why don’t I write a program to do this? So Krishna, who’s an expert in artificial intelligence, used a Web crawler to cluster articles. He later emailed it around the company. My office mate and I got it, and we were like, ‘This isn’t just a cool little tool for Krishna. We could add more sources and build this into a great product.’ That’s how Google News came about. Krishna did not intend to build a product, but he accidentally gave us the idea for one. We let engineers spend 20% of their time working on whatever they want, and we trust that they’ll build interesting things.”


“Eric [Schmidt, CEO] made this observation to me once, which I think is accurate: Any project that is good enough to make it to Labs probably has a kernel of something interesting in there somewhere, even if the market doesn’t respond to it. It’s our job to take the product and morph it into something that the market needs.”


“People are blown away by the information you can get on MOMA, our intranet. Because there is so much information shared across the company, employees have insight into what’s happening with the business and what’s important. We also have people do things like Snippets. Every Monday, all the employees write an email that has five to seven bullet points on what you did the previous week. Being a search company, we take all the emails and make a giant Web page and index them. If you’re wondering, ‘Who’s working on maps?’ you can find out. It allows us to share what we know across the whole company, and it reduces duplication.”


“I used to call this ‘Users, Not Money.’ We believe that if we focus on the users, the money will come. In a truly virtual business, if you’re successful, you’ll be working at something that’s so necessary people will pay for it in subscription form. Or you’ll have so many users that advertisers will pay to sponsor the site.”


“When I meet people who run design at other organizations, they’re always like, ‘Design is one of the most political areas of the company. This designer likes green and that one likes purple, and whose design gets picked? The one who buddies up to the boss.’

Some companies think of design as an art. We think of design as a science. It doesn’t matter who is the favorite or how much you like this aesthetic versus that aesthetic. It all comes down to data. Run a 1% test [on 1% of the audience] and whichever design does best against the user-happiness metrics over a two-week period is the one we launch. We have a very academic environment where we’re looking at data all the time.

We probably have somewhere between 50 and 100 experiments running on live traffic, everything from the default number of results to underlined links to how big an arrow should be. We’re trying all those different things.”


“This is one of my favorites. People think of creativity as this sort of unbridled thing, but engineers thrive on constraints. They love to think their way out of that little box: ‘We know you said it was impossible, but we’re going to do this, this, and that to get us there.'”


“When I was a grad student at Stanford, I saw that phrase on a flyer for another company in the basement of the computer-science building. It made me stop dead in my tracks and laugh out loud. A couple of months later, I’m working at Google, and the engineers were asked to write job ads for engineers. We had a contest. I put, ‘You’re brilliant? We’re hiring. Come work at Google,’ and got eight times the click rate that anyone else got.

Google now has a thousand times as many people as when I started, which is just staggering to me. What’s remarkable, though, is what hasn’t changed–the types of people who work here and the types of things that they like to work on. It’s almost identical to the first 20 or so of us at Google. There is this amazing element to the culture of wanting to work on big problems that matter, wanting to do great things for the world, believing that we can build a successful business without compromising our standards and values.

If I’m an entrepreneur and I want to start a Web site, I need a billing system. Oh, there’s Google Checkout. I need a mapping function. Oh, there’s Google Maps. Okay, I need to monetize. There’s Google AdSense, right? I need a user name and password-authentication system. There’s Google Accounts. This is just way easier than going out and trying to create all of that from scratch. That’s how we’re going to stay innovative. We’re going to continue to attract entrepreneurs who say, ‘I found an idea, and I can go to Google and have a demo in a month and be launched in six.'”

August 8, 2008

Cherohala Skyway to Tail of the Dragon

Filed under: Uncategorized — John Prichard @ 6:20 pm

Most that know me know that my wife and I take a little roadster trip to some nice place in the mountains and “enjoy” some twisties this time of year. This is a hold over from our motorcycle days when we went all around the southwest. Well this September 13 – 21 will be special in that it celebrates our 30th Anniversary. So we needed to go some place special. We picked the Smokey Mountains. We will be staying in Robbinsville, North Carolina which is very near two great roads with their own web sites …. <<<update: of course I took pictures >>>

Cherohala Skyway which winds up and over 5,400 foot mountains for 15 miles in North Carolina and descending another 21 miles into the deeply forested backcountry of Tennessee. The road crosses through the Cherokee and Nantahala National Forests thus the name “Chero…hala”. The Skyway is becoming well known in motorcycling and sportscar circles for it’s long, sweeping corners and scenic views.

and connecting to this is Tail of the Dragon … description … The Tail of the Dragon at Deals Gap, with 318 curves in 11 miles, is America’s number one motorcycle and sports car road. The nearby Cherohala Skyway is quickly becoming number two with its remote 60 miles of scenic mountain highway. The area also has other roads less traveled, but just as exciting.

Of course we will do as many of them as we can pack in under the speed limit which is sadly only 30 mph and not a mph more according to the web sites and the LEOs. Sooo glad I got new tires but it looks like they won’t be wearing on these curves. Looks like I am going to have to take pictures of even the road signs. That Tail of the Dragon symbol is cool.

Of course I hope I won’t be distracted thinking of work. Instead I will be distracted by the LEOs driving on the wrong side of the road on blind turns according to the website.

August 5, 2008

Olympic Soccer: Breathe Shallow and Breathe Less and Hope For Rain

Filed under: Uncategorized — John Prichard @ 6:13 pm

And score in the first 20 minutes and then play keep away for the next 70.

I hung out and attended a few concerts in Los Angeles in the late 60’s and the smog at that time hurt your lungs just walking a half mile in it. From this video this looks about the same. Back then people said it was the equivalent of an additional pack of cigarettes per day if you ran in it.

This copied from one of my favorite soccer blogs … what the Olympics is going to be like. These guys are part of our National Soccer Team … the best we have in the best physical shape possible … I guess China has home field advantage.

*** The Offside Rules ***


Press play on the image of US Olympic midfielder Maurice Edu in China (from his personal website) and you will see 1st hand why this maybe the most low-energy athletic event in history. Ever. Period. FACT! When you have superb physical specimens like Edu, Jozy Altidore, and Brian McBride saying that it’s too hot, they can’t see and they can’t breathe WHEN THEY ARE JUST WALKING you know there is a very real problem. If the smog –which is as thick and dirty as Kyle Beckerman’s dreads– in this video is any indication, these matches will be decided in the first 20 minutes due to mass respiratory failure; if no one scores by then it’s going to be nil-nil draws all around.

August 4, 2008

Search Indexing: If only it were as easy as crawling

Filed under: Uncategorized — John Prichard @ 6:31 pm

I have been working with Cameron on a project to “index” sites for search in our company. Its not as easy and automatic as I thought.

First a little background. If a web crawler were to crawl us internally it would find hundreds of documents with private markings on them and hundreds more that should have private markings on them but don’t. I’m sure this is like most older companies the were invaded by the ability to easily set up document servers and web sites before there could be a master security plan to cover it.  Since it is inside the company and physical access was so restricted for a long time, most of these documents are not secured. When we first had a network it was secure since there was no internet. Then as the internet age descended upon us we rendered thousands of documents into our internal web while at the same time our company was undergoing the informational age of partnering and sharing. Now more than half of the people that have access to our internal network do not directly report to our company. So we have started crawlers inside only to have to shut them off while we work on securing our data better.

Cameron’s project works on requests for indexing. The requestor has to check with the data owner and then the server owner to make sure the data is secured or is “white” non-sensitive data. Once this is OK’d then the data is crawled “indexed” to the specific boundaries agreed upon and the data then goes to the search engine.

Now to the problem that I little understood. I thought you turn on a crawler and it indexes everything and you are done.  –Not So! Oslo!–  For instance he indexed my blog site and showed me what comes up … oh sure there are the articles but oh what a lot of trash as well. It indexed the calendar, the little html dumajitters, the feed directories (so there was two or three of everything), and everything else that we don’t consider valid data. You could barely see the data for the other stuff. Then he custom tunes the crawler for this site to start eliminating this stuff so that what is left is real content.

He spent about 20 minutes to tweak it in perfect. Wow! How in the world is he going to be able to scale this process up into the hundreds of requests he will get each week? How many people is Google using to do this same thing? Granted on their scale they probably see the same application like this WordPress blog over and over again so they set some kind of template but still …

Bottom line — this ain’t as easy as just crawling — which is all I thought you had to do (just let a web crawler loose and it will index stuff). Of special note: Cameron mentioned that my WordPress blog was easy compared to SharePoint where much of our data is kept. Mercy!

Good Luck! Cameron!

Ever noticed how our conference rooms boss us around?

Filed under: Uncategorized — John Prichard @ 1:26 pm

We were talking in the car on the ride back from lunch, how people make an appointment with you that steps on your appointments. It doesn’t matter that you have something scheduled or that you have reserved the time on your calendar for something else. If they outrank you then they put it over the top of yours. And then Lee mentioned that conference rooms were worse yet. Since conference rooms are the scarce resource, then they get to say the time they are available and everyone must comply … wow the total dictator. Well, I here to say, “Mr Conference Room …. you ain’t the boss of us … Sir!”

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