Welcome, all you Like Minds!

Welcome to Exeter in Devon, all of you who are attending the Like Minds conference this week (Thursday and Friday, October 28 and 29).

The success of the Like Minds conference is a great credit to the organisers, the speakers, the sponsors, the local community and, of course, the participants. With each conference, there has been an increase in its scale, duration, diversity and ambition. Continue reading “Welcome, all you Like Minds!”

Sell the opportunity

Treat every problem as an opportunity, we are told. At first sight it is an attractive idea, but further investigation reveals that it is a little too glib. Problems and opportunities are similar but different things; in a sense they are the opposite of one another.

Edward de Bono, I think it was, who captured the difference as follows. Presumably, in general, we do things because we can see the benefit of doing them. A problem exists when we can see the benefit of doing something, but we do not yet know how to do it. An opportunity exists in the opposite situation: when there are things that we know how to do, but we have not yet seen the benefit of doing them. Continue reading “Sell the opportunity”

Meeting Ann Holman

Innovation was a theme on Friday morning, when I had the pleasure of meeting Ann Holman in person. What an energetic and forward thinker she is!

We’d already conversed briefly by electronic means, and so we arranged to meet IRL (In Real Life), as others have termed it. Ann had already tweeted, although at the time I had not seen her message, that drinking coffee at the Innovation Centre, Exeter University, was an important ancillary benefit of meeting me there! So we know one source of fuel for her thinking; and our meeting place was one element of the “innovation” theme. Continue reading “Meeting Ann Holman”

Is “IT” “in denial”?!

Wow, the big picture of the IT world seems to be crumbling with increasing rapidity! Many people are at risk of getting hurt if they continue to hold traditional attitudes.

The post “Why the New Normal Could Kill IT” captures it well.

Thomas Wailgum provides an insightful description of the challenges facing the important operational aspects of IT in many organizations. Many of the symptoms and some of the causes that he describes are undoubtedly true and have been adversely affecting the performance of many people for a long time!

But, who really cares? Continue reading “Is “IT” “in denial”?!”

Less is more manufacturing productivity

Recollections of an memorable project

Thinking about the concept of “less is more”, takes me back to a small and initially unpromising project that a maverick boss of mine persuaded me to get involved in many years ago. It provides an interesting example of counter-intuitive optimisation.

The scene…

There was a manufacturing plant which produced credit cards. The plastic cards were manufactured in sheets; this involved a lamination process which started with a “layup” of three plastic sheets and ended up with them laminated together as one sheet. The lamination was done in a press which was heated and then cooled; this caused the plastic sheets to melt slightly and to become welded together as one.  To produce cards with flat and clean surfaces, each layup also had shiny metal plates on either side to produce a smooth finish.

The instinct … Continue reading “Less is more manufacturing productivity”

Less is more!

There seems to be an upsurge of interest in the philosophy of “less is more”. A couple of recent articles about product design, in general and in a specific case, address relevant aspects of this phenomenon.

What do we know?

On one level, we tend to question: how can “less” be “more”? We know it makes no sense! This is true: it really does not make any sense, if all that we focus on is measurable, countable, sequencable information – the kind of information understood by the “left side” of our brains.

On a different level, we know that “less” really is “more”. Less complexity is more simplicity and fun; less distraction is more concentration; and so on. This makes sense when we are thinking about the whole picture – the kind of information which is handled by the “right side” of our brains.

At the moment and on this topic, there is a specific product which is exercising the minds of people who follow these things. Continue reading “Less is more!”

Social communication is with us

The technology of communication devices, systems, services  has changed over the years. There have been telegraph, telephone, radio, television, and a variety of others. The characteristics of each technology have dictated the behavioural model of the systems and the services available to users.
With the advent of the internet, systems have tended to emulate traditional models: bulletin boards, post (email), with the web being based on a well-known “request-response” model until relatively recently.
But, now,  the gloves are coming off! People are building software-based communication services to provide whatever behavioural model they choose; consider, for example, Facebook, Twitter, FriendFeed and there will be many, many more.
So far, their matching of the models to any specific requirements has been very loose. They build something and then figure out what people use it for!
There is an opportunity to get serious now: to decide whatever experience we want users to have; to design it and build it. Then to iterate models based on live tracking of actual scenarios. This is potentially very big … and keep half an eye on “augmented reality”.

Liking LikeMinds 2010

A global local conference

How often does a great conference on an emerging subject attract local, national and global participants to a quiet corner of the UK? Not often, I suspect.

Nevertheless last Friday, 2010 February 26, it happened again at LikeMinds 2010! The first time it happened was in 2009 on October 16th. Back in February 2009, two people met having got to know each other using Twitter, the popular social media tool/service. Scott Gould is a Devon-based web and experience designer. Trey Pennington is an American social media and business consultant. They met in Exeter and set the date for a half-day event which became LikeMinds 09. A local conference centre was the venue. People came from far and wide to became part of the inaugural gathering. Afterwards, they knew that they’d started something and felt the need to repeat it.

This time, just over four months later. More came to LikeMinds 2010, in the same relatively small venue. The same loyal bunch of social media specialists came back and brought more with them. There was more buzz and activity. This time, it lasted a full day and was followed by a business-oriented summit event at a prestigious location.

It was good to be there. It was good to meet new people. It was good to get a real sense of what is going on in human social communication. And all of this in my local city of Exeter, Devon, England.

There is more to come on this conference! But to give you a flavour, here is the talk by Chris Brogan … after I’d had lunch with him!

And, I am sure, more LikeMinds conferences to come.

A better Java programming course?

Questions, questions!

What would a better training course be like?

In what ways would it differ?

For whom would it be better?

How would we know that it is better?

What would we measure?

Better for learners and providers

In general, whatever you are learning, all of these questions might be important to you. To a large extent, the answers depend on your needs and on the structure of the subject area. So, more specifically, my interest is in the answers in the case of learning to use a programming language.

In talking to potential partners who would like to be able to deliver a course on Java programming, I am struck by the absence of any discussion of what might make a course better than other courses. Naturally, there is discussion about the course being “better” for the training provider.

But in the end, the needs of the learner will surely dominate. So, of course, “better” must mean better in the eye of the beholder, who is ultimately the learner, although there may be two or more layers in between.

What is needed?

Having spent hundreds of hours training people in Java programming, it is clear to me that there is more than one way to approach the subject. Having spent hundreds more hours training people in object-oriented design for implementation in Java, it is also clear to me that the most generally used approach does not work at all well.

People who have completed a Java course, apparently without undue difficulty, can frequently manage to avoid understanding some important concepts.

So, a few years ago, I set out to do better. The resulting course has been the subject of my thoughts, from time to time, ever since.  It seems to stand the test of time.

Improving the sequence!

For the Java programming course in question, I have modified the sequence in ways that are mostly subtle, but not always! As you may know, this is consistent with my belief that the sequence is the foundation of learning anything.

When the course is available, we can discuss the specific differences from a more normal sequence. But, in the meantime, I am thinking about what might be expected  by learners and others, and about whether further changes are also possible.