29 April 2005

Eye-Robot (apologies to Dr. Asimov)

So a couple former military R&D officers from Israel came up with a remote-controlled video camera about the size of a baseball. It's called the Eye Ball, and it's primarily intended for law-enforcement types (and, they hope, military users). The ideas is to throw this little thing into an area (say, a hostage situation) and let it look around, beaming back the real time audio & video so you know what the heck is going on before you physically enter the room.

So it's cool tech, but that's not why I mentioned it. The world is full of cool tech. The key bit in the article, and the reason I'm writing about it, is this:

Instead of throwing it, we've seen some officers moving the Eye Ball around on one of those little wireless cars you can get at Radio Shack.

Bottom Line: Never underestimate the innovative capabilities of your users... and never fall for the LIE that tech developers really understand the real-life CONOPS, configuration, or (all too often) the requirement.

Have you talked with a user today? This week? Have you paid them a visit?

28 April 2005

Who's Changing?

Is your job & environment changing you, or is it the other way around? Are you an instrument of change, a leader of change, or a subject of change.

I'm not talking about your own maturity and growth. I'm talking about gut-level changes, and conforming to an externally imposed pattern.

I humbly suggest we are here to change our environment, not the other way around.

More David Whyte

"Poetry is a break for freedom. In a sense all poems are good; all poems are an emblem of courage and the attempt to say the unsayable; but only a few are able to speak to something universal yet personal and distinct at the same time; to create a door through which others can walk into what previously seemed unobtainable realms, in the passage of a few short lines."
--David Whyte

26 April 2005

Disruptive Innovation, part II

As Hugh MacLeod recently pointed out in his blog:

Dinosaurs don't like meteors...

(but mammels, of course, are another story.)

25 April 2005

Positive Attitude

"Without faith we're left with nothing but an overwhelming sense of hopelessness every single day, and it will beat you. I didn't fully see until the cancer, how we fight every day against the creeping negatives of the world, how we struggle daily against the slow lapping of cynicism. Dispiritedness and disappointment, these are the real perils of life, not some sudden illness."
- Lance Armstrong (emphasis mine)

Industrial Extinction Theory

The latest issue of WIRED magazine offers this insight from Harvard Business School guru Clayton M. Christensen.

"An entire industry can putter along for decades, steadily improving its products, services and bottom line - only to be suddenly eviscerated by people from nowhere using simple, inexpensive, profoundly powerful techniques. Disrupters start by serving people whom established players don't even recognize as customers. Eventually, the newcomers learn so much so quickly that they can't help but radically outperform the incumbents."

Sound familiar?

22 April 2005

Operation Verse

Got your "secret" mission? More secret for some of you than for others, depending on your willingness to be bold and share...

I'm curious - what was your reaction when you read the assignment? How did it make you feel?

21 April 2005

Artificial (non)Intelligence

Check out this story of a prank pulled by some guys at MIT who wrote a computer program that generated a jargon-filled academic paper, then submitted it for a conference.

Gee, that's not fair! Now all these people at conferences will have to actually read & understand the submissions before accepting them for publication.

The Work Poet

I'm reading an amazing book by David Whyte titled Crossing The Unknown Sea. He's a poet who writes about work - a philosophy of work, what work means, why we do it, etc. Building on quotes from William Blake, Whyte writes:

...to feel that what we do is right for ourselves and good for the world at the exactly same time - is one of the great triumphs of human existence.

He also talks about the unbeatable combination of knowledge, imagination and articulation. All three are things we can develop & improve in ourselves. What are you doing to increase your knowledge, imagination and articulation?

18 April 2005


Without question, the most abundant, least expensive, most under-utilized, and constantly abused resource in the world is human ingenuity. - Dee Hock

13 April 2005

My Dad's Equation: S=R/E

I don't remember the first time my dad shared this equation (S=R/E) with me, but it has been a topic of conversation many times over the years and it has helped shape my understanding of life ever since. I'd put this right up there with that other elegent, simple, illuminating equation E=MC^2.

Here's what it means: Satisfaction equals reality over expectations.

Go ahead and take a minute to run through the implications. When things work out better than you expect (i.e. when reality exceeds expectations), your satisfaction level increases, no? And when they don't turn out the way you'd expect, disappointment sets in, which is another way of saying satisfaction decreases. At the extreme, as your expectations approach zero, satisfaction approaches infinity (not that I'm recommending zero'ing out expectations - not sure that's possible or wise).

This equation also shows why perfectionists are so dissatisfied (and why perfectionism is so pointless) - there will always be a mismatch between expectation and reality if you expect perfection.

So the question is, which parts of the equation can you adjust? Can you change your reality? Can you change your expectation? In my experience, the answer to those two questions is sometimes.

08 April 2005

And the Raven...

So the Army just took delivery of it's 100th Raven micro-UAV. Four hundred soldiers have been trained. The Cool Thing: "the hand-launched Raven puts UAV capabilities into the hands of platoon leaders and company commanders."

The Other Cool Thing: "we delivered the first Raven in-theater 20 weeks after contract award." NICE!

Getting Wiki Wid It...

I believe in the power of the masses, and that's based on several data points - Linux being the most famous. My opinion is also based on The Cathedral And The Bazaar by Eric Raymond. And now the online encyclopedia Wikipedia is adding even more credibility to the idea that a free-style, independent enterprise can produce high quality products apart from any central control. I'm crazy about Wikipedia - both it's philosophy and it's quality (in terms of both content & ease of use).

Weird Tech Update

Just some stimulating ideas for your reading pleasure:

Part I: I just came across an article about a Micro Air Vehicle called the Wasp. It's 13 inches long, 6 oz. One application is to use it to search ships before boarding. Interestingly "According to the C4ISR Journal article, however, it's not yet clear how or whether the Wasp will be deployed." Is it good or badthat we don't quite know how it'll be used?

Part II: Another article talks about how scientist are able to control the behavior of fruitflies by remote control. As the article describes it: "Like a hypnotist who gets a man to act like a chicken when he hears a code word, scientists have genetically modified fruit flies to jump or beat their wings when flashed with lasers."

Part III: How's this for innovative locomotion? The TETWalker's applications range from planetary exploration to nanotech movement.

06 April 2005

What's Your Plan?

From the first day you put on a blue uniform, you know this isn't a permanent gig. They won't let us do this forever, even if we wanted to. So it's not too soon to start thinking about what you want to do next.

Now is the time to dream, to make plans, to take action. Now is the time to get degrees, certifications, qualifications, etc. Now is the time to build networks. Cause a 20-year career is over a lot sooner than you might think.

And then what?

05 April 2005

How To Write Good

Just a handful of thoughts & principles for writing well:
  • Put words on paper (or on the screen). I personally compose on a spiral notebook, but the point is to get the words out.
  • Relax! Don't write at attention. Go ahead and use "I" (and never use "this author" - ugh!)
  • "Good writing is bad writing rewritten." That means the first step in writing well is to write badly
  • Delete, delete, delete (scratch out, scratch out, scratch out) - see above.
  • Specifically, delete that "that"
  • Compare: "The choice of your words has been such that..." - vs - "Your word choice is..."
  • Be funny, be honest, be plain, be yourself
  • I tend to use lots of pop-references, humor, history, etc
  • Read. Expose yourself to good writers, let their voice/example/style soak in and shape your own.
  • Some people say to write what you know. I say to write what you enjoy. If it's boring to you, it'll be boring to everyone else, so don't waste your time or mine (and if it's interesting to you...)
  • Have fun with it!

04 April 2005

Helping Others Succeed, part III

The conductor of an orchestra does not make a sound. His power depends on his ability to make other people powerful. – Ben Zander, Conductor of the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra.

Helping Others Succeed, part II

The best thing you can do for your fellow, next to rousing his conscience, is – not to give him things to think about, but to wake things up that are in him; or say, to make him think things for himself. – George MacDonald, The Fantastic Imagination