Settled in down under

March 2nd, 2010 No comments

I’m writing this post from the kitchen table of my new Sydney home. Actually zooming in it’s the Northern Beaches suburb of Manly, and zooming in even closer – for the locals – it’s Fairlight.

I’m not going to bother you with the details of the hows and whys of me and my ever growing family ending up here, but I can tell you it’s been both very relaxing and very busy times since we left Bergen early November last year.

Why relaxing?

In short because Australia is a very relaxing country and the Australians very relaxed and friendly people. Also, because now we’re actually doing what we’ve planned and wanted for a long time, not just planning it.

Why busy?

Because moving to the other side of the world, finding out as you go how and where to live, together with a wife, an eight, a six and a three year old plus a fourth one coming keeps you from getting bored.

Plus – and this is important – being busy is not a bad thing! We stayed in Melbourne for the first two months, enjoying an absolutely wonderful summer (i.e. winter – I know; it’s confusing) holiday with tons of new and exciting things to see and do.

What now?

Now we’re starting to get settled; the kids are at school, the non-furnished apartment is rented and filled with the bare necessities, we have found a maternity hospital, we are getting acquainted with the neighbouring area and people and we have located most of the 18 Manly beaches. Oh, and all…sorry most of the paperwork is filled out. (Holy moly; I thought we Scandinavians were bureaucratic. I’ve never seen so many forms in my life. The British legacy they say…)

Now I’m getting ready to do some work. Not too much, but just enough. The plan is you’ll be able to see the result of some of it here. Keep your eyes open.

Tags: ,

Logos with ethos and pathos

October 23rd, 2009 No comments

Miles, the company I work for, has a great slogan:

Miles – technical authority and warmth

It’s even better in Norwegian (Miles – faglig autoritet og varme) partly because of the wonderful and hard-to-translate word “faglig”, but also because it feels less grandiose, a bit more personal. Anyway, moving on…

In rhetoric – the study of writing or speaking as a means of communication or persuasion (Webster’s Definition) – there are three principles classifying audience appeal; ethos, pathos and logos. I’ll leave the explanation of these three modes of persuasion to Aristotle himself:

The first kind depends on the personal character of the
speaker; the second on putting the audience into a certain frame of
mind; the third on the proof, or apparent proof, provided by the words
of the speech itself.

That is:

Ethos: The persuader’s reputation, his or her honesty and moral authority.

Pathos: The passion in the delivery, the persuader’s ability to appeal emotionally to your target group.

Logos: The rational argument, the indisputable fact.

As Morten Teien so pedagogically explained to us during last weekend’s Miles Camp, drawing up (non-orthogonal) graphs to support him: The all too common mistake of including only one or two of these patterns promoting your ideas limits your chances of reaching through.  In our business it’s the Logos part that often gets all the legroom in our arguments, (wrongfully) celebrated as it is as our only source of light.

Including all three means of effecting persuasion greatly increases your chances of succeeding in your argumentation.

Ok, let’s backtrack then, to Miles and our slogan: In case you haven’t yet seen where I’m going, let me retranslate it for you, this time into “Rhetoric Greek English”:

Miles – Logos with ethos and pathos

So that’s why the slogan sits so well with us. It resonates with the ancient ideas of how to win through with your ideas, of how to persuade. I’ve always really liked that slogan, but I’ve just realized it’s a far better slogan than I was actually aware of. It’s genius!

And do you want to hear the best part? It’s true too!…

Tags:

Pleasing the geek in me

September 23rd, 2009 No comments

My interests are all over the charts. That should make blogging a breeze, since accordingly I should be interested all the time and have plenty to write about. But then there’s this notion of concentrating your blog around a theme, a thread…

You know what? Forget all that. For now anyway. Here’s a post on a geeky tech tip. It’s neither particularly advanced nor revolutionary, but oh so useful. It made my day and I’m sure it can and will make someone else’s too.

The tip: How to indent XML files in UltraEdit

I’m a long time Windows victim…sorry; user who has lately fallen in love with the Mac. I still use both though, both at home and at work. This tip is mostly a Windows one, but you can achieve the same with, for instance, Smultron on the Mac.

One of my favourite Windows applications is UltraEdit. It’s powerful and flexible, but most of all: Its power is available to me after years of (power) using it. There are lots of other great editors with rivaling or even superior power, but to make equal use of them I would have to learn to master them too.

doc_xml_icon_128x128Anyway: At work I view and edit tons of ugly XML files and for that I happily and successfully use UltraEdit. There has been one thing missing though: The ability to pretty print (i.e. indent) XML. I did make an attempt to install XMLValidator4UE, but it failed due to .NET framework issues, so I gave up and eventually installed Altova XMLSpy. That’s a great XML …eh… monster. You can do pretty much anything XML-ish, but that also soon became my issue with it; it’s basically too bloated for my use.

Enter HTML TIDY – a great little snappy app to aid you with cleaning up your markup. It has been living peacefully on my machine for quite some time now and sure – I’ve used it occasionaly, via the command line or through Notepad++’s TextFX HTML Tidy plugin. But I’m a friend of streamlining your tools and utilities. I don’t want to jump from tool to tool, certainly not for tasks I perform frequently.

Today I decided to make an effort to marry UltraEdit with Tidy. It was with great joy and ringing bells I discovered it was actually easy peasy. The key here is UltraEdit’s Tool Configuration. After that I just had to find out what parameters to feed my new little old friend. You can find them all on the Tidy Man pages, but in short these are the ones that did it for me:

-xml tells it that the input is an XML file
-i tells it to indent
-m tells it to modify the file in-place
%F is UE’s placeholder for the active file

Also, I had to specify the character encoding by adding the option -latin1 to tell Tidy to use the ISO-8859-1 character set to deal with all the ås and the äs and the ös (or as the Norwegians would say: The æs and the øs and the ås) </scandinavian_language_lesson>

I.e. tidy -xml -m -i -latin1 %F

Voilà! Press Ctrl-Shift-0 to indent the open file.

Caveat emptor: It’s not perfectly streamlined. …yet ;) I could improve it to dynamically load the correct charset. I could make it reload the file automagically (today I have to answer Yes to the “… has been changed by another application. Do you want to reload it?” message after indenting). I could… Hey, enough already – it’s working.

_geek_glasses_clearThe geek in me is pleased.


Tags:

We learn. Period.

August 9th, 2009 No comments
We learn. Period.
So, now researchers at MIT have showed that – contrary to the popular saying – we don’t actually learn from our mistakes, but rather our successes. According to them our brain cells react immediately to a success, fine tuning themselves accordingly, while failures however trigger neither change nor behavioural improvement.
But wait a minute; just two years ago Exeter psychologists showed that we really do learn more from our mistakes than from our successes by identifying a warning signal in the brain that triggers instantly on experiences that have previously rendered erroneous decisions.
Can we find the answer to this discrepancy in the cultural differences between realistic England and optimistic USA? Or is it just that the yanks had put to few electrodes at the back of the head? Or is it just the people writing headlines that just love to polarise?
I think that last one is closest to the truth. We want the answer to be either or. I mean, what kind of a saying is that; “We learn from both our mistakes and our successes”. Lame. But it’s true. So, my unscientific answer is:
We learn. Period.
Isn’t that great?! I think so.

So, now researchers at MIT have showed that – contrary to the popular saying – we don’t actually learn from our mistakes, but rather our successes. According to them our brain cells react immediately to a success, fine tuning themselves accordingly, while failures however trigger neither change nor behavioural improvement.

But wait a minute; just two years ago Exeter psychologists showed that we really do learn more from our mistakes than from our successes by identifying a warning signal in the brain that triggers instantly on experiences that have previously rendered erroneous decisions.

Can we find the answer to this discrepancy in the cultural differences between realistic England and optimistic USA? Or is it just that the yanks had put to few electrodes at the back of the head? Or is it just the people writing headlines that just love to polarize?

I think that last one is closest to the truth. We want the answer to be either or. I mean, what kind of a saying is that; “We learn from both our mistakes and our successes”. Lame. But it’s true. So, my unscientific answer is:

We learn. Period.

Isn’t that great?! I think so.

Tags:

Happy New Day everybody

August 4th, 2009 No comments

I know what I did wrong, why I’m still under water: My last posts were New Year’s resolutions. They where too ambitious, too long.

Tags:

Rising to the occasion

May 21st, 2009 No comments

About a month ago (wow – time flies when you’re having fun) we had the great honor of having Linda Rising guest starring at our, and I’m quoting myself, biannual “internal technical workshop weekend”. (Hey, that weekend has actually gotten a name since my last post, thanks to Geir Wavik: Miles Camp!)

And in the mean time…

…and while I’ve been at it, writing this blog post, averaging about one word a day, we’ve also finished a Miles Session – another one of Miles’ professional development initiatives. This month’s special guests here in Bergen were none less than Mary & Tom Poppendieck! Phew, busy days among the A-players… I’ll get back on my personal impressions from that one later. But now, back to this post’s leading star:

Linda who?

I didn’t know who Linda Rising was before I attended JAOO in Århus last year. Now I know! …now I know she’s an amazing lady who somehow manages to inspire the [beep] out of room full of people with her fascinatingly intuitive findings on the inner workings of our brains, delivered through her great storytelling.

Linda how?

Here’s the amazing part (besides her actually being a remarkable person. In person.) :

It’s not just that she inspires us, her audience, with her great storytelling techniques letting shine through both her passion for what she does as well as her openness and willingness to share. She actually manages to convince a bunch of engineers that the quality of an idea does almost nothing to help influence others. She tells us that the rational argument – our only source of light in life – is void of significance.

I mean, that’s like telling that saber-toothed squirrel in Ice Age to forget that acorn!

(Actually it’s not. That acorn is more equivalent to one rational argument that we should let go of. That’s probably why Martin Fowler says he doesn’t like analogies.)

Martin Fowler is a caveman

Still in the cave

Forget Mr. Fowler – let’s stick to that analogy for a while. Chronologically it has put us in the right setting. We’re all in the cave you know! We act and react based on what has kept us alive through evolution. There are things here that we simply cannot escape – they are hardwired into our brains. That’s just how we humans work. That can of course make one feel almost powerless, but once you start to understand these simple but oh so powerful triggers that rule our behaviour and interpretations things really start to lighten up and make sense.

a == b. Ergo, you have to do it my way

As I said (that she said), we salute logic arguments in our business. We core dump the results of our inner brainstorm and leave the room disappointed that the clueless washouts don’t get it right away, not understanding we have actually triggered their instincts of self-preservation. Evolutionary speaking, that reaction is a sound one: If Garog comes knocking on your cave one day eagerly explaining in his most persuasive manner his newfound idea of defending against angry mammoths by tickling them to death that self-preservation instinct can prove quite useful.

-No Powerpoint? What then?!

First we smile overbaringly. We know she’s wrong. You can’t argue with logic. The best idea always wi… oh, shoot. Strike one.

But still, how does she manage to convince us through theories of cognitive psychology? After all, that river between our camps is a pretty wide one to cross.

Well, not necessarily, not if you’re Linda Rising. By expressing and explaining our behaviour, our actions and reactions, as Patterns – a “style” that is both familiar and authoritative in our simple engineering world of mathematical reasons – she wins us over.

– Really, you can apply patterns to this psychological mumbo jumbo? And she gets to present at QCon and OOPSLA?! Hmm, ok – maybe she has a point here…

And once she starts telling (and sometimes acting) her stories with her calm and reassuring voice you’re lost.

Show me the patterns!

So, how does these patterns look then? Well, some of them are roles, like the Evangelist – the person (you!) introducing his/her passionate idea into an organization, but most of them are advice, or the “rules” if you wish, to play by in order to get your idea through all the way to the Late Majority.

Here are a few samples:

choco_chip_cookie

First, my favourite: Do food: Food makes people lower their shoulders and relax. It was an unwritten law among the vikings not to attack anyone during meals. It was considered cowardly to fight someone with their defences down. Not only the vikings I’m sure; food has always been considered a friendly gesture in all cultures.

Bringing food to a meeting changes the nature of the event.

Ask for help: This can be a tough one for some, but those people (/you?) will be surprised how open and helpful people can be in a change friendly organization. That last part is important. (If you’re in an organization not open to change, good luck.).

Just Say Thanks: The follow-up on the previous one. This one is so powerful, although so seemingly easy to implement. Anyone can do it. It’s just one word, and a nice one too. Sometimes that’s not enough though. As with most things in life, even the simple ones, mastering it is an artform. Just saying thanks folks to a group of individuals may disserve the intended purpose. But don’t let that stop you. Just go ahead and start thanking people – it’s a reward in itself just saying it. You feel good about yourself. Oh, wait. May I change my mind please? I think this one is my favourite pattern.

External Validation: As Linda said, most people may have had experience of a spouse not listening to advice or ideas only to find out he/she gets all enthusiastic reading it in the paper the following morning. We tend to be more attentive to outsiders, especially outsiders also being (looked upon as) authorities. That’s good news for us consultants. Instead of complaining – as we often do – on our powerlessness, being outside the organization, we should focus on our excellent position for providing external validation. After all, we where hired as experts in whatever area(s), brought in to help the customer solve problems.

And so on. There are about 40 more of these little babies in her book

Interesting theories, but couldn’t we just read the book?

Since these are are cognitive, behavioural patterns that exist within each and all of us – couldn’t just anyone get up there and convince just any paleolithic squirrel? Did we really have to fly in a woman all the way from Arizona? The answers are No, definitely not! and Yes we did. The real killer here is Linda’s background and experience combined with her speaking skills and smart brains. That makes her very credible, both technically, organizationally and psychologically. (Should you ever be looking at bringing in someone from the outside to explain such patterns as External Validation, she is the one!). Without that credibility we would run back to our Powerpoints before you could say “halv sju”.

And what about me? Why do I write such a loong post about this?

Both at JAOO and Miles Camp I could feel my inner strings resonating. This is really something that hit a note with me. On both occasions I thought maybe it was just me, but I can see, not only on Linda’s crazy conference schedule, but also on the reactions from my colleagues and my tutorial friends at JAOO. This is really interesting and highly relevant material.

I will return to some of these patterns here later. I just have to start trying them out first; both on “my” organizations and on myself. Yes, that’s right – some of these patterns work well applied to influencing yourself too, introducing new ideas into your own life. Well, doesn’t  that sound nice?!…

On a final note: I urge you to to read her book and – even more urgently – to attend one of her tutorials and/or sessions if you get the chance. You too will be inspired…

Reemerging from the internal deep dive

April 17th, 2009 2 comments

The first post was easy. This one has taken me 861 days to write. It better be good right?!

So why then? Why do I try this again?

Let me spend this post exploring the metaphysics of blogging. A gazillion people have done this before me; there are twitterers(?) (rhetorically) asking Why use Twitter and bloggers stating 29 reasons to blog… There’s one thing missing from all these though: They are not my reasons! So here they are:

Why blog?

  • I love to write. Hopefully it will make me better at it.
  • Telling stories is interesting! No, not just interesting – it’s important!
  • I suffer from input overflow. I need to output some too.
  • I want to share. (It’s hereditary: Whenever my mom stumbles upon something interesting, she calls her nearest and dearest to share. It’s very sweet)
  • I want to learn. (Hopefully there will be insightful comments here in the future, readers to interact with, to learn from)
  • It’s a discipline. It disciplines me.
  • I get to collect and articulate my thoughts.

That’s it for now. I will probably, hopefully find other bullets to add as I go along.

These reasons are not applicable just for blogging. It applies just as well to intranet contributions, actively taking part in study groups, workshops, discussions etc. (…and of course, to a far lesser extent; tweets…)

Also, these important reasons for me to blog are all part of a two-fold mission of mine: To share, engage and interact with my “tribe“, AND to inspire (and maybe help) others around me to improve in the same areas.

Now, officially setting out on this voyage, I’m really excited about getting another chance to listen to Linda Rising this weekend, as she joins us for our (Miles‘ that is) biannual “internal technical workshop weekend” in Oslo. Now that’s a story teller…

WordPress installed, weblog created and number lit

December 8th, 2006 1 comment

Well isn’t this snazzy?! Thanks to the Happy DreamHost Installer Robot and the excellent DreamHost One-Click Install I’m up and running with all sorts of fancy features in no time. Enough about that now. Take a look at this; great site and a highly admirable idea:

http://darfurwall.org/n/1972

Since it’s such a noble cause I forgive him (Jonah Burke – the founder of the project) for not handling my exotic given name very well, especially since he’s “kicking himself for not testing Unicode”. Go ahead and light a number and feel just a little bit better about yourself…

Tags: