A Software Vision Worth Following

Posted by bryanzug - 2005/09/30

There is a really poor translation of a verse in the Bible that has been floating around for a few hundred years — I am particularly attached to it in an anachronistic sort of way.

It goes like this –

Where there is no vision, the people perish: — Proverbs 29:18a (King James Version of the Bible; 1611)

While modern translations are more accurate, there is a truth captured in that wrong translation that gets to the heart of the why questions that I find occupy the unallocated system resources of my brain more often than not.

In a nutshell it comes down to this —

What work is worth doing and what work should, frankly, be set aside?

Call it ‘Philosophy 308: The question of why in the age of tech’. In laymen’s terms —

If I can do anything with the vast array of tech tools and resources at my disposal, what, if anything, should I be doing.

In a broad sense this question is what drives me to work at a Children’s hospital – I buy the idea that I’m making the world a better place by doing work that helps sick kids and their families.

But in a specific sense (particularly in the field of enterprise software development and implementation), I often find myself aching for a clear vision of why the hard work that my collegues and I do — why it matters.

Frankly, a lot of the time I find myself wondering whether it is worth the drama — as anyone who’s been in the game for any amount of time can probably tell you – the endless cycle of scope, design, prototype, test, refine, deploy, maintain, repeat can wear on you without a clear guiding vision.

So, I’m always looking for nuggets that keep me motivated — that remind me why this is a worthy use of my lifespan — milestones of hope when the going gets tough.

Came across one the other day that I want to pass along. It’s essay ‘#46 – Why software sucks (And what to do about it)’ by Scott Berkun.

(Have I mentioned that I would stalk Berkun if I had the time? – I digress.)

While the essay as a whole is brilliant, there is a portion that I found particularly poignant. It casts a vision of software development as a gift culture.

Man, stuff like this helps me get out of bed in the morning — if it does the same for you, please pass the word —

How good things are made When you create you are exercising the greatest power in the universe: bringing something that didn’t exist before into the world. Making something for others is a gift. Few people in the world have the privilege of earning a living by creating things. If you build things for yourself, you are both the creator and the consumer. But if you are making things for others, you don’t receive the gift: you are the gift giver. Most people suck at giving gifts (even to themselves: most of us don’t even know how to make ourselves happy, much less others). We could all fill rooms with the lifetime of junk we’ve received as gifts from people that: were careless, thoughtless, insincere, cheap, indifferent to or ignorant of our needs, had bad taste, no skills, or simply didn’t know us well enough to give something we’d enjoy. Bad software is a bad gift. All of the failures that lead to bad gifts apply to bad software. Good things in the world come from people that have the gift mentality. They do care about who they are designing for. They are sincere about trying to build something that will satisfy a person’s needs. They are willing to expend time and energy refining their thinking and developing new skills so that when they are finished they can sincerely offer what they’ve made to the world as a good thing. They see their work as a deep expression of generosity and as an attempt to live up to their own ideal of quality and workmanship. Good programmers, designers, architects or creators of any kind are simply thoughtful. They are so passionate about making good things, that they will study any discipline, read any book, listen to any person and learn any skill that might improve their abilities to make things worthy of the world. They tear down boundaries of discipline, domain or job title, clawing at any idea, regardless of its origins, that might help them make a better thing.

‘More Accurate’ Footnote —

Where there is no vision, the people are unrestrained, — Proverbs 29:18a New American Standard Bible (1995)


One Hand Raised in Favor of Openness

Posted by bryanzug - 2005/09/29

Met Scoble in this webinar on tech blogging for business the other day. Big takeaway for me was ‘The Corporate Weblog Manifesto’ he pointed to that he posted back in February 2003.

It really serves as a definitive scope document for the revolution he has helped lead – the one that’s changing the very nature of corporate communication, product evangelism, and software development.

It’s my current blog policy until something better (read — more corporate and sanitized) comes along.

Here’s some highlights (more to follow on more of his 21 points as time allows) —

1) Tell the truth. The whole truth. Nothing but the truth. If your competitor has a product that’s better than yours, link to it. You might as well. We’ll find it anyway.

Wow — tell the truth even if it doesn’t flatter you because people will find out anyway.

2) Post fast on good news or bad. Someone say something bad about your product? Link to it — before the second or third site does — and answer its claims as best you can. Same if something good comes out about you. It’s all about building long-term trust. The trick to building trust is to show up! If people are saying things about your product and you don’t answer them, that distrust builds. Plus, if people are saying good things about your product, why not help Google find those pages as well?

Warts and all honesty actually has a huge, often undocumented ROI, and it’s called customer trust.

Anyone familiar with Microsoft’s corporate history (especially from a technical or business perspective) knows full well the huge level of mistrust they have earned during their recent lifespan.

Whoever hired Scoble to do what he’s doing where he’s doing it should really be considered for a Nobel Peace Prize – from a cultural change perspective, the work is extremely significant, and will ultimately make the world a much better place.



New Orleans Overkill (Literally)

Posted by bryanzug - 2005/09/28

The news of New Orleans’ demise was greatly exaggerated….

Have to concur with this assertion by Scott Manning.

The Times-Picayune from New Orleans has released an article stating that the massive number of casualties that were predicted by the mainstream media at the Superdome and at the New Orleans Convention center were off. Extremely off. They are so far off that I can’t believe there hasn’t been a major story on how wrong they were.

The New Orleans coverage felt manipulative the minute I saw the same dead lady in a wheel chair on a gajillion different media outlets that were all hyping the death and destruction for a consistent 48 hour period following the storm.

It was overkill — literally.

(That’s an interesting sociological study I’d like to do –- It would be very interesting to quantify exactly how many times that image was hyped.)

And they wonder why folks like me don’t trust them.

It’s honestly insulting that they don’t realize the advanced hype sniffers that this season of cultural evolution has endowed to folks like me. I was 12 when MTV debuted and have been over marketed non-stop ever since. The sarcastic jaded skepticism isn’t so much a choice as it is a coping mechanism.



Default Chic

Posted by bryanzug - 2005/09/27

Obviously haven’t gotten around to changing the default template in WordPress for this blog – which got me to thinking about how many tech blogs I see around that just have one of the default blog templates installed.

I’m calling it “default chic”.

It really is a cooler than you fashion statement (ha ha ha) – my content is so compelling that you really should just get over my default out of the box HTML & CSS.

Truth is, within about 15 minutes, most of us could find a decent and free template to upload and replace Mr. Blue OSX Pill Top here.

Worse yet are those of us with design skills. We really could customize something original and aesthetically pleasing within 2-3 hours, but, alas, we just can’t be bothered – as they say, the cobblers children have no shoes.

One of my favorite tech blogs is that of technical project management wunderkind Scott Berkun. He’s got me completely smitten – his conversational, humorous and pragmatic approach to project management continuously helps me navigate all those areas of life where I have to work with other people (e.g. work, home, yada, yada, yada…)

I’m such a goner — I would stalk Berkun if I had the time.

And, yep, you guessed it – though he’s trying to get a custom look and feel together – he’s still strutting default chic.


This AM googling for “default chic” returned 886 results.



Google showing entire first episode of Chris Rock’s “Everybody Hates Chris” on demand in flash video

Posted by bryanzug - 2005/09/27

The headline says it all. URL is —

http://video.google.com/chris.html

If you don’t know why this matters, all I have to say is, “I’ve drawn the dots and numbered them. You’ve got to do the rest on your own…”



Elliot Massie is exploding my eLearning tech head

Posted by bryanzug - 2005/09/27

I recently attended an eLearning webinar by Elliott Masie that exploded my head (yes, very messy, I know, excuse me while I clean up the parlor).

It was titled ‘Is Instructional Design Relevant to RSS, Mobile Learning, Blogs, PodCasts, Wikis and New Tech?’ and I will be writing up my takeaways soon.

Having never heard of Masie before, signed up for his email newsletter and am finding it very helpful on eLearning technologies and trends. He’s publishing quite a few podcasts that are really great.

(Also learned from him that his research is showing that podcasts under 10 minutes offer a more optimized learning experience — had not come across that info anywhere, but the instant he said it, it made sense — but hey, what do I know, I’m just a web dev.)

Thought I’d pass on a few nuggets from Masie’s newsletter that ended up in my inbox this AM – enjoy…


The New Social Contract & Learning

Murry Christensen, the Dean of Learning 2005, has written a great chapter in Learning: Rants, Raves and Reflections on the changing nature of the social contract with employees. The audio, PodCast and text transcript are available at: http://www.learning2005.com/university

Results of Flash Poll – Development Time & Speed Satisfaction

Here are the results of our recent Flash Poll on e-Learning Development times and satisfaction: (Based on 659 responders) What is the average time in your organization to develop an e-Learning course?
  • 1 to 2 Days 26%
  • 3 to 6 Days 5%
  • 1 to 2 Weeks 4%
  • 3 to 6 weeks 25%
  • 7 to 12 Weeks 20%
  • 13 to 18 Weeks 9%
  • > 18 Weeks 11%
Satisfaction with your organization’s time to develop an e-Learning course?
  • Very Satisfied with Development Time 9%
  • Satisfied with Development Time 26%
  • It needs to be Somewhat Faster 28%
  • It needs to be Much Faster 37%


If Hell froze over yesterday, does that make Microsoft or Palm Satan?

Posted by bryanzug - 2005/09/27

When I saw the images on engadget last Friday of a Treo running Windows Mobile, my first reaction was – this is September, not April 1. Got the same reaction when I told Steve Kaiser, one of the smartest Microsoft developers (and nicest guys) I’ve ever met.

A couple of seconds later, I changed my mind and decided this was real and that hell had indeed frozen over.

Recalling what I noted on Sparkle a couple of weeks ago along with the re-org Microsoft announced last week, it was instantly clear to me that the sleeping Redmond giant was waking up.

What better way to deal with having –

  • …your hardware ass kicked by Palm,
  • …your mobile device development ass kicked by Macromedia
  • …your integrated mobile office ass kicked by Blackberry

Than to just say – we lost – next. The smartest people I know are the quickest to say, we should stop doing this and go a different direction because things have changed.

While I watched the press conference yesterday AM I thought to myself, is there a clone of me writing press releases for this project?



Here’s the Pedigree

Posted by bryanzug - 2005/09/22

Just a link to the resumé of Bryan Zug for bio purposes.

Ping me if you’re up to anything interesting in the eLearning space (or would like to be). I’m always on the lookout for interesting projects.



ASTD Techknowledge 2005 Presentation: Streamlining WBT Development with Macromedia Captivate and Flash

Posted by bryanzug - 2005/09/20

Here’s the .pdf handout to the ASTD Techknowledge presentation I gave in Las Vegas in February 2005 with my eLearning partner in crime, Karen Hofmann (every good eLearning technical developer needs a really great subject matter expert — and Karen is the Bees Knees).

It’s a case study of the first phase of development of our web based training (WBT) system using Macromedia’s Captivate and Flash toolset. Description from the session is below (along with a link to the ASTD file). Enjoy!

Streamlining WBT Development with Macromedia Captivate and Macromedia Flash at Children’s Hospital Seattle Presented by: Karen Hofmann, Bryan Zug, Children’s Hospital and Regional Medical Center In this session, participants will explore the use of Captivate and Flash in streamlining software training WBT development. Participants will examine successes and lessons learned by the presenters who are internal content experts and WBT developers at Children’s Hospital Seattle. The session will include a short introduction to Captivate, demonstrations of Captivate to Flash functionality, a look at Children’s WBT development Flash templates, and an overview of the WBT development lifecycle. Learning Objectives:
  • Apply the key strengths and weaknesses of Captivate and Flash in the full WBT development lifecycle.
  • Use Captivate to support streamlined project deliverable timelines by reducing Flash developer resources required for course production of enterprise-wide WBTs.
  • Enable novice, non-technical content experts to efficiently produce technical training content for your own learning audiences.


Sys-Con MX Developer’s Journal Article: Between a Rock and a Soft(ware) Place

Posted by bryanzug - 2005/09/20

Here’s a .pdf of the article I wrote for the March 2005 Edition of MX Developer’s Journal (a Sys-Con publications). It’s called “Between a Rock and a Soft(ware) Place: Streamlining Web-based training development with Captivate & Flash” and is the story from a technical web developer’s perspective.

MXDJ editor, Charles Brown, had some nice things to say about our work in the introduction to the issue, so I’ve included that in the .pdf as well.

I do have to say that I love the fact that they used the exact line I hoped they would use for one of the pullout quotes. It’s one of those that, as I wrote it, I thought to myself, that’ll make a nice pullout quote.

It reads —

When incorrect use of a system can kill people, you tend to be very serious about certifying that everyone using it has demonstrated correct completion of the system tasks that are a part of their job
That is so cool.

The MXDJ version of the article can be found at —

http://mxdj.sys-con.com/read/48958.htm



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