A site of endless curiosity

Technology, History, and Commentary on Amateur Radio

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Discovery consists of seeing what everybody has seen, and thinking what nobody has thought.
– Albert Szent-Gyorgi

The most eclectic Amateur Radio site on the Internet

…One of the essays, by Susan J. Douglas, looks at the excitement set off by Marconi’s introduction of radio – the “wireless telegraph” – to the American public in 1899.

“Wireless held a special place in the American imagination precisely because it married idealism and adventure with science,” she writes.

Popular Science Monthly observed: “The nerves of the whole world are, so to speak, being bound together, so that a touch in one country is transmitted instantly to a far-distant one.” Implicit in this organic metaphor was the belief that a world so physically connected would become a spiritual whole with common interests and goals….

The rise of wireless also set off a popular movement to democratize media, as hundreds of thousands of “amateur operators” took to the airwaves. It was the original blogosphere. “On every night after dinner,” wrote Francis Collins in the 1912 book Wireless Man, “the entire country becomes a vast whispering gallery.”

Listen to Amateur Radio in real-time, now, this very moment, on-line here

Burn a feed to this site (RSS) –
(What the heck is RSS?  Watch this and find out in 3 min. 45 sec.)

Written by frrl

September 3, 2008 at 3:12 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

What’s Worth Doing?

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I abandoned this site 3 years ago.

Recently, I checked the e-mail associated with this blog and found hundreds of comments needing approval.  So, people are still reading this site. About 1 million hits since I started this blog.

I re-read some of the articles I wrote.  It’s hard to recognize them.  I wonder what it means if you read things you wrote in the past and hardly recognize your own writing.

YouTube Celebs and Forrest Gump

When I look at the channels of YouTube celebrities that I used to follow, I wonder how long they can do the same thing – over and over again.  At what point do you say to yourself, “I need to do something else”.  And, what is that something else?

I am reminded of a scene from the movie Forrest Gump.  Forrest just decides to run and run; and run some more.  His running makes him into a celebrity.  He runs for three years across the United States and many people follow him on his runs.   Then, just as mysteriously as Forrest started running, he stops running.

What is the magic thing that happens when Forrest says, “I’m pretty tired.  I think I’m going home now”.

Knowing when to move on…

Many people do things far beyond when they make sense.  These folks get caught in a cycle of endless repetition, perhaps in a state of mindlessness.  It’s a comfortable repetition and maybe this is the trap – comfort, being safe and comfortable in what you do.

Other than comfort, maybe it’s momentum.  Some YouTube celebs might get caught up in this, and far worse, be dragged across the media topic landscape by what their followers find interesting.  “Subscribers” are the pied pipers; content providers are the hapless rats and children.

Worse than that, some people do things that aren’t worth doing.  Sheldon Cooper from the sitcom Big Bang Theory knows that.

So, what’s worth doing?  How do you know?
When do you stop?  What’s next?
How do you measure your progress for time invested?

Written by frrl

December 3, 2016 at 9:31 am

Posted in Uncategorized

What are this? What are all of this?

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There are lots of interesting things in the world.  For some people they represent an amazing number of possibilities. For other people, they remain disengaged and never see the potential and possibility of things.

Some people in their 50’s don’t have a computer or don’t have a smart phone. I know better than to ask them why.  And I know better than to encourage them to get either or both.

People now in their 50’s were in their 20’s or 30’s when computers became readily available in the consumer market in the 1980’s. If they didn’t see the potential of it then, and henceforth for the following 30 or so years, then they will not see the potential of it now. It would be a disservice to try to convince them otherwise.

The world divides itself in this way.  Those who see, and those who do not see;  those who see the potential of things and those who don’t.  Those who have curiosity and those where curiosity is seriously muted.  Intervention should not be allowed to try to change those who do not have sight into those that do.  That is the way of the World.

So, I thought about all this when I came across this YouTube video from Jenna Marbles… “What are this?”

So watch this video and wonder how people divide themselves similar to Jenna’s two dogs – Kermit and Marbles

  1. Those who see all the things, objects, and ideas in the world yet comprehend little or none of it.
  2. Those who, as Jenna describes the behavior of her other dog, Just bark or want food”.
  3. And those who do see the potential of things, make video’s and wonder why people (or dogs) must differentiate themselves into these groups in the first place

After you watch, read a related article – Vintage Steve Jobs: Good Artists Copy; Great Artists Steal
and Releasing Innovation by Breaking Paradigms: seeing what no one else can see

Written by frrl

October 20, 2013 at 5:58 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Chromecast – Barbarians at the gate

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If you haven’t been living under a rock for the last five minutes (in Internet time), you probably know about Google’s Chromecast.

Chromecast is a $35 HDMI dongle that hangs off the back of your TV set.  It allows you to stream YouTube, Netflix, and just about anything you can view in your Chrome browser to your TV.  This is nothing new.  A modern TV with wireless can do the same thing.

I am not going to review the Chromecast – there are already hundreds or thousands of those.

But I am going to tell you what I thought about when I hooked mine up.


A television is an end device.  By this I mean that a traditional television set has been a specialized device that only certain content can appear on.  In the old days, about five or so years ago, you had to be someone special to get content to a television.  You had to be a “Network” (CBS, NBC, ABC, etc) or a cable provider delivering content such as AMC, CNN, CNBC, and so on.  To have content on a television, you had to have millions of dollars.  Development of television programs was done by professionals and it cost millions of dollars to produce and distribute.

The same was true with books.  In the old days, before self-publishing and easy global distribution on if you picked up a book you kinda knew that someone (the author(s)) probably spent a year of so researching and writing the content.    There was a tacit assumption of professionalism.  We had corporate entities called “publishers” that filtered the good from the bad.

What about radio?  The physical end device called a “radio” was like a television end device.  To be heard on a traditional radio station meant that you had hundreds of thousands of dollars and the value of the content was somehow commensurate with the cost of the broadcast capability.

Assembly of the Hordes

Anyone can offer an e-book on Amazon and get global distribution.  And anyone can put a video on YouTube and get global distribution.  If you listen to “radio” as Internet streams you know that anyone can be a broadcast radio station with global distribution.  The cost of the global distribution of content is approaching $0.

What has changed, is that there is no longer a vetting process for what we have traditionally understood as books, radio, and television – and lets add journalism to this as well.  The Wall Street Journal web site can appear in a tab in your browser next to any blogger on the Internet.


So when I hooked up the Chromecast to my television I knew that the Barbarians were at the gate.  My television end device is no longer a gatekeeper on the quality of content (with all respect to Newton Minow) and now a video of “a cat flushing a toilet” can appear on the same device as AMC’s Mad Men.

The Take

It may be an odd thing to say, but I think it’s true.  The traditional role of radio, television, and books was to serve as a coherent guideposts for the culture.  In a certain sense, before all this new media, we (the society and the culture) were “all on the same page”.  We all watched, listened to, and read the same limited variety of content on the television end device, the radio end device, and books and newspapers guarded by publishers distributed on paper.

But now, these “filters of coherency” have been breached by modern technology.  Content from everyone and everywhere washes over us like a tsunami on all devices.

With no gatekeepers there will be a chaos.  And in chaos, people wander aimlessly.

At $35, Chromecast has breached the walls of my television set.  The last bastion of protection is your own mind and decision-making.  There will be no “cats flushing a toilet’ on my television anytime soon.  Hope I can say the same about you when you hookup Chromecast to your TV.

Read More…

FCC Chairman Newton Minow 50 years later: a vaster wasteland


Written by frrl

September 29, 2013 at 5:51 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Tagged with , , ,

Draw my Life

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At this place, at this moment of time, all mankind is us, whether we like it or not.

We wait. We are bored. No, don’t protest, we are bored to death, there’s no denying it. Good. A diversion comes along and what do we do? We let it go to waste. Come, let’s get to work! In an instant all will vanish and we’ll be alone once more, in the midst of nothingness!

– Samuel Beckett, Waiting for Godot

We have gone from the industrial age to the information age and now we’re in the connection age.  Clearly, some people find their identity, passion and their salvation as YouTube celebrities.

I wonder what could be said of the 10 million connected subscribers to Jenna’s YouTube channel.  No doubt, they themselves are Waiting for Godot.

Written by frrl

July 18, 2013 at 5:30 am

Is the ARRL ready for the Second Century? Part I

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Next year, the ARRL will mark the 100th anniversary of its founding with a year long celebration including a Centennial National Convention in Hartford, where it all began.  We are proud of what has been accomplished in the first century of the ARRL’s existence.  What’s in store for the second?
— QST June 2013; ARRL CEO David Summer (K1ZZ)

QST magazine is the official publication of the ARRL.  The ARRL’s mission is: “To promote and advance the art, science and enjoyment of Amateur Radio.”

QST has a column, written by CEO David Summer (K1ZZ), called “It seems to Us”

The subject of the June 2013 QST “It Seems to Us” was titled: Building For Our Second Century.

In 2014 the ARRL will be 100 years old.

In the article, CEO Summer recounts some of the history of the ARRL from its beginning including ARRL’s evolving  role as the principle advocate for Amateur Radio to government.

Summer goes on to say that there are tens of thousands of people “…whose lives and careers have been enriched beyond measure” and that we need to recognize “a great debt to those who came before us, who did the difficult and sometimes thankless work of building and sustaining a national association to promote and advance the art, science, and enjoyment of Amateur Radio”

The ARRL Second Century Campaign

The rest of the article is about the ARRL Second Century Campaign.  The vision statement of the ARRL SCC  includes “securing significant financial resources to fund the ARRL’s commitment to its future objectives”.

The article ends by stating the fundraising goal of $10 million by December 31, 2014 and with this statement

None of us can know the specific challenges our association will face in the future or the opportunities that may arise for the ARRL to make Amateur Radio even more valuable as a community and national resource.  But we know this: Our predecessors made great sacrifices so we can enjoy te benefits of Amateur Radio.  We owe the same opportunities to the generations of radio amateurs that will follow us”.

Everyone who reads the QST article will pick out certain aspects based on their background, experience, and interests.

There are very few books written on the history of Amateur Radio and the ARRL.  In a sense, the history of Amateur Radio is the history of the ARRL.  An older book on the history of Amateur Radio and the ARRL ( I should just assume these are coextensive) is: Fifty Years of ARRL  published by the ARRL.  This book covers the beginnings of the ARRL to about 1950.

A more recent book is: The World of Ham Radio: 1901-1950 by Richard A Bartlett

Both these books cover the first fifty years of the ARRL.  But it is interesting to note that Bartlett’s book was published in 2007.

The missing 50 years of the ARRL (1950 – present)

The casual reader may ask the question, if Bartlett’s book was written in 2007 why did he stop writing about Amateur Radio and the ARRL as if some sort of catastrophe had occurred and both the ARRL and Amateur Radio are of little interest beyond1950?  Did Amateur Radio and the ARRL disappear in the 1950’s?

Bartlett has an answer

Why end this book as of the year 1950?  It is because the story of ham radio’s development essentially takes place in the first fifty years of the twentieth century.  Having been created, accepted, regulated, and achieved permanent status by 1950, the story after that becomes one primarily of repetition.  The one great exception is in the area of technology, and save for minimal descriptions necessary to the story, that has not been our concern.

The last page of the last chapter of Richard Bartlett’s book ends with this:

Time passes on, and the old guard gives way to the newcomers.  In November 1948 death came to Kenneth Bryant Warner, who for nearly thirty years was secretary and general manager of the ARRL.  “It was Maxim who conceived our League, it as Warner  who breathed into it life and energy and vitality, whose balanced judgement and clear vision ensured its growth and success,” reads his obituary. “With his passing we suffer the loss of a great leader, an untiring servant in the cause of amateur radio.”  p. 230 The World of Ham Radio 1901-1950

That’s the end of the story for Bartlett.  In 1950’s and beyond, the ARRL and Amateur Radio entered a state of repetition with no forward progress of the ARRL or Amateur Radio worthy of mention in any following chapters.

Poised for the Second Century?

Posted on the ARRL website regarding CEO David Summers K1ZZ findings (emphasis mine)

Mr. Sumner reported on his research into “state of the art” strategic planning by large membership associations. Perhaps because of the negative impact of the financial upheavals of 2008 and the revolution in electronic publishing, at this time there appears to be no consensus among associations as to the value of strategic planning or the best way for associations to go about it. The ARRL Board last updated the organization’s strategic plan in 2009 and normally would conduct an in-depth review three to five years later. The committee discussed the perceived shortcomings of past strategic planning efforts along with possible improvements. Without taking a formal decision the committee concluded that while strategic planning remains important to the ARRL, planning for a successful Centennial celebration in 2014 is the current priority. A fresh approach to strategic planning should be taken immediately afterward.

The Take (non-Profits)

… We are proud of what has been accomplished in the first century of the ARRL’s existence.  What’s in store for the second?  — ARRL CEO David Summer

Many of us get calls all the time asking for a monetary donation to a worthy cause.  Generally, I ask them what they are going to do with the money.  In most cases, the person doing the solicitation does not know much of anything about how the money will be invested or used by the organization.  These folks are generally just doing the solicitation and are not ready to answer this question.  Understood and accepted.

So the next step, if you want to find out how your money will be invested or used by the organization, is to go to the organization’s web site and check out their strategic plan, programs and initiatives, and the track record of results they have achieved to date.  Some organizations do this better than others.  Many organizations use the Balanced Scorecard along with all the details to show how all the parts of the organization fits together (strategy, operating model, alignment, metrics, measures, etc.)  to deliver its goals in service of the mission.

No matter what model of strategic planning you use, or how you show the tangible benefits, the existence of these assets gives potential donors (monetary, or time as a volunteer) some confidence that the money (or their time commitment)  will in fact be used effectively to further the mission of the organization to the stakeholders.

Creating a sense of confidence for donors

The (historical) absence of these assets is not helping the ARRL Second Century Campaign.  The history of ARRL’s strategic planning effort has been troubled for years.  Further adding questions about the  Second Century Campaign is the statement made by CEO David Summer K1ZZ on the ARRL web site quoted above.  And most recently in the June 2013 QST article (emphasis mine)

None of us can know the specific challenges our association will face in the future or the opportunities that may arise for the ARRL to make Amateur Radio even more valuable as a community and national resource.

This statement strikes me as profound

Is this to say that we “throw up our hands”, not have a plan, and live day-by-day just because we can not know, with (technical) certainty, what the future will hold? It is exactly this situation of imperfect information and an uncertain future where CEO’s and executive leadership can shine.  It is exactly this situation where CEO’s can differentiate themselves by being able to navigate these uncharted waters to identify opportunities which the organization can exploit to move it forward.

Some CEO’s see the same event either as threat or opportunity.  In the 1990’s, Jeff Bezos of saw the potential of the internet for selling books that no traditional bookseller could see – it was the beginning of the demise of the traditional bookseller.  In 1979 Steve Jobs saw at Xerox PARC the potential of a graphical user interface for personal computers that no Xerox executive could see.  David Sarnoff saw the potential for wireless “one-to-many broadcasting” and built the RCA corporation.  In this same vein, what in the current environment does the ARRL see as its opportunity?

Restoring confidence in the ARRL and Amateur Radio’s future

The ARRL could help its cause in its Second Century Campaign by having “in hand” a plan when asking for monetary donation.  Or better, to have a story to tell  to potential donors about what the ARRL has accomplished since “The First Fifty years” up to the present.  What is the compelling vision of the future for the ARRL and Amateur Radio – who the ARRL is and why they matter in the current context where always-on wireless global connectivity is available to nearly everyone on the planet.  What is the strength of ARRL executive management team and what is the record of their accomplishments?  What executive “bench strength” has the ARRL accumulated over the years?  Treat the ARRL Century Campaign as a VC (Venture Capital) due diligence test and you will probably know all the questions a major donor would ask.

Messaging – Perception is Reality

The combination of Richard A Bartlett’s sentiments quoted above about “50 years of ARRL repetition with no forward progress worthy of mention”, CEO David Summer’s statement that “there appears to be no consensus among associations as to the value of strategic planning or the best way for associations to go about it” and his most recent statementNone of us can know the specific challenges… or the opportunities that may arise” does not give one confidence that the ARRL knows its destiny or that our donation will be used effectively.”

In essence, the messaging and perception might be: we don’t see the value of having a forward-looking plan; don’t know how to create one – we are waiting on a consensus from others to tell us how to do that; and we are not sure of the challenges or opportunities that face our organization today or in the future.  Will this motivate any potential donor to open their wallet and give a large donation?  “Repetition of yesterday”  is the easy way out of this conundrum – but it won’t inspire anyone.

The role of the CEO and executive leadership

There are opportunities and challenge every day!  The role of the CEO and executive leadership is to diagnose the situation and trends – to “see around corners”.  It’s an exercise in CEO and executive leadership analysis, choices, and direction setting followed by execution – allocating resources, aligning people to measurable goals and outcomes, and holding them accountable.  The formula is pretty simple.  The devil is in the details and discipline of execution.  The ability to navigate and accomplish all of this, and to be transparent to stakeholders all along the way,  is a differentiator among CEO’s in any industry.  Even if an organization has a strategic plan, the majority fail in execution.

There is an old saying, “If you want to know the future, create it”.  We can learn this from anyone who taken advantage of disruption and changed an industry.  In a sense, uncertainty, disruption, imperfect knowledge is just what some CEO’s need to redefine and reposition their organization to lead in the future.  One only needs to look to Steve Jobs who, in 1996, snatched Apple out of near bankruptcy to make it the most valuable company in America in 2012.  In the process Apple redefined the personal computer industry, the music industry, and what we understand as a telephone.

Why can’t this apply to the ARRL?  Is it time for the ARRL to stop the “50 years of tiresome repetition” that inspire only a rare few of the up and coming generations?  Isn’t it time for the ARRL to re/position itself for the Second Century?

ARRL CEO David Summer titled his article “Building the Second Century“.  He thinks of this in terms of the primacy of a donor action of a financial contribution.  Where is the concomitant organizational action – long overdue?  Building denotes concept, design, architecture, and construction.  Show us the blueprint for the ARRL Cathedral of the Second Century.  And only then, will major donors fund your enterprise.

Read more

The work of one such organizational architect

American Radio Relay League – The Future Mission
December 12, 2003 by Richard Kiefer, K0DK

Amateur Radio: Projecting an image of ham radio to 7 million people in 22 minutes

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The Opportunity

Episode 17 of Last Man Standing (wikipedia) depicted the use of Amateur Radio.  The ARRL gave the Amateur Radio community early notice that Amateur Radio would be depicted in a major prime time sitcom.  Many amateur radio folks were looking forward to watching this episode.

The episode aired in March, 2013.  For many hams, it was not what they expected.  One could ask, what sort of image did the script writers project of Amateur Radio and what do seven million people now think of Amateur Radio?  One could also ask, what is the power of the ARRL in influencing the public messaging and image of Amateur Radio?  The ARRL spends some portion of its budget on PR.  Did episode 17 of Last Man Standing enhance or detract from that messaging, “brand building”, and PR by the ARRL?

Impressions from the Amateur Radio community

You can look to the ARRL forums for some discussions.  Three months after airing, there are only 4 comments on the official ARRL forum.  Only three of those comments contained any real content and analysis.

Here they are:  (

“ABC Comedy Last Man Standing Episode 17”  It was disappointing in how Ham Radio was depicted.  This looked more like “CB Radio” and advertising for the equipment and the illegal Linear Amplifier shown. The average TV fan would assume that anyone could use these expensive radios to chat without having to type to their friends! According to the show, some of the writers/producers are Ham Operators and they know the requirements to become licensed. Being a 40+ year ARRL Life member, 20 WPM Extra Class licensed Ham, makes me wonder about the shows story line and how far they are going with it. Lastly, while Ham Operators enjoy the hobby, they also volunteer their services in disasters and various community events. KB3SM: a proud Old Ham…


Dear OM,

Our main page had a news story back on March 4th that announced the airing of this show. The spokesman of this show, who is an active Radio Amateur, warned us about the way Amateur radio was presented. From our news story, Mr. Amodeo says,:

“As a ham, I am very excited to be able to have an episode that presents our hobby in an upbeat and positive way,” Amodeo told the ARRL. “As a television producer, I am pleased to present a very funny episode for our more than 7 million viewers. This episode will feature more ham gear than seen in mainstream movies such as Frequency, Contact and Super 8 — all great films that had Amateur Radio in them. It’s worth noting that although hams will enjoy the episode, it was written with our 7 million non-ham viewers in mind. Please be prepared for some inconsistencies related to Amateur Radio, but enjoy the show nevertheless.”

I don’t watch this show, since I’m too busy to watch television, so I can’t comment on it. Wish we could come up with a show of our own, but we don’t have the resources.


Bob Allison


As a retired geezer, I did watch the show. It was a 30-minute sitcom, what do you expect? Answer: not much when it comes to “important content” regarding amateur radio — or anything else.

I noticed the “illegal” use of the radio by an unlicensed and unsupervised person, of course. It was irresponsible to say the least for a ham to leave his rig “live” in a house full of teenagers.

But I marveled at how the writers could weave radio and international QSOs into the plot in a very quick and (to the uninformed) believable way. I bet there are a lot of young people who now have a different impression of ham radio as an alternative to mindless texting, Facebooking, etc. It was artfully done, I’d say.

Not that I’m likely to watch again. I’m the wrong demographic!

If we had a “show of our own”, I’m sure it would not get 7 million viewers.

73 Martin AA6E
ARRL Technical Advisor
ARRL Test Engineer

Storyline and writers depiction of Amateur Radio

We can look a little deeper into what was depicted in this episode.

Amateur Radio was a sub-plot in the episode titled “The Fight”.  The daughter, Mandy was getting poor grades in high school.  So, the parents decided that the reason for this was that she was spending too much time using her computer and smart phone.  To remedy the situation the parents decide to take away Mandy’s computer and phone until she pulls up her grades.

Of course, Mandy recites the mantra of her generation when her parents take away her devices, “This is how people of my generation communicate and exchange ideas”.  Without her devices, Mandy is having withdrawal symptoms.

Mandy wanders into the basement trying to find out where her parents hid her devices.  On the shelf she comes across an old typewriter.  She mistakes the typewriter for a laptop with a missing monitor.

Across the room is her fathers Amateur Radio station.  It’s fired up and running.  So, she walks over to it, sits down, picks up the microphone and stats talking.

All the comments above made by Hams is dead on.  What she did was illegal – you need a license to use a ham radio or be “third party traffic” with a licensed amateur radio operation present at the radio.  Leaving a ham radio on and unattended  like that was irresponsible.  And finally, no one just walks up to a radio with a linear amplifier and just starts talking without doing some technical fiddling.

“Who Are You People?”

When Mandy starts talking on the Amateur Radio, other Hams come back to her.  She asks, “Who are you people?”  One ham responds that they are amateur radio operators and that people all over the world can hear what you say.  In response, Mandy says, “Oh, it’s like twitter but more advanced since you don’t have to type”

Mandy tries to use what she knows about Twitter on Ham Radio.  So, after talking, she “hash tags” her last sentence and gives permission to “Re-Ham” (Re-Tweet) what she just said.  The ham folks reply with “LOL Mandy.  Did I get that right?

The writers have set up the dialog to get a laugh out of the generation gap between Mandy (a millennial) and the amateur radio operators (Baby Boomer generation and older).  Both generations try to talk to each other across the generation gap by trying to use idioms and phrases they think the other generation would understand.  Mandy tries to adapt her generations terms and concepts (hash tags, re/tweet) to the language of hams (“Re/Ham that’).

The personal stories of World War II

Mandy is trying to do a paper for school on World War II.  A couple of Ham’s respond.

Mandy tells the hams she is working on a paper for school on World War II.  She gets two responses.  The first ham (Walter) says he was on Omaha beach (D-day invasion).  Mandy misunderstands this as Walter trying to tell her about his vacation.  The second ham, a woman says, “I remember the war like it was yesterday.  Better than yesterday since I’m in early stages of dementia.”

Again, the script writers play on the generation gap between Mandy and the amateur radio operators go get a laugh.  Anyone of age who was present in World War II to have personal stories to tell is now in their late 70’s or 80’s.  The writers throw in the comment by the Ham that she is suffering from “early dementia” for good measure – it got a laugh.

Mandy does her paper and her parents compliment her on the all the personal stories of World War II she has cited.  She got those stories from the ham radio operators who she talked to.  They were there in World War II.

The Take

This episode of Last Man Standing was seen by an estimated 7 million people.  What impression did the mainstream masses come away with of Amateur Radio?  That Amateur Radio is a legacy technology with a bunch of old people?  Perhaps.

The 2009 ARRL has set this strategic goal

The ARRL will have a membership in 2020 with 60% of the members being under the age of 40.

I have not seen them report on this progress.  But engaging young people is essential to their continued existence given that the average age for hams is late 50’s and into the early 60’s and 70’s.  Young people are heavily under represented in the Amateur Radio community.

Is this a crazy idea?

While watching episode 17 of Last Man Standing on the internet I got treated to a whole bunch of commercials.

I saw ads for Google, Verizon, Internet Explorer, Land Rover, Nokia, and Bank of America.

I was treated to an interactive ad for Nokia smart phone video stabilization.

There were two ads for cat food and one ad for a carpet company (Luna).

What I did not see was an ad for the ARRL, or for any amateur radio equipment.  Was there no company or organization associated with Amateur Radio for which it would make sense to squeeze a 15 second spot for Amateur Radio between the two cat food commercials or the carpet commercial for this episode where Amateur Radio played a role?

Of course, any ham will tell you, that it’s crazy to advertise amateur radio to the mainstream.  The key is to ask them why.  Further, given the episodes depiction of Amateur Radio an ad would be embarrassing to whatever company or organization placed it.

The lasting impression to  7 million people

Those 7 million people who watched the episode of Last Man Standing now know the term “Amateur Radio”.  They saw some nice (expensive) equipment.  They got a few laughs at Amateur Radio’s expense built on the generation gap between Mandy and the Hams.  Now they will go on with their life and forget about amateur radio or know it as some sort of quirky legacy technology ( in the same scene where they saw a typewriter) before the advent of always-on global communications available to nearly everyone on the planet.

For Amateur Radio to survive it’s about influence and impact.  But I think that the portrayal of Amateur Radio on Last Man Standing to the mainstream masses has now relegated Amateur Radio only to a technical curiosity easily forgotten.

As a ham, I am very excited to be able to have an episode that presents our hobby in an upbeat and positive way,” Amodeo told the ARRL…  It’s worth noting that although hams will enjoy the episode, it was written with our 7 million non-ham viewers in mind. Please be prepared for some inconsistencies related to Amateur Radio, but enjoy the show nevertheless.

How many chances does the ARRL get to reach 7 million non-hams in the Last Man Standing demographic with a 22 minute story at no cost to them?  This high stakes portrayal of Amateur Radio to the mainstream also gives us some insight into the ARRL’s influence (influence to a team of creative sitcom script writers?) and ability to mange the public image of Amateur Radio.

Written by frrl

June 3, 2013 at 2:33 am

“Ding Jinhao was here” What does it all mean?

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The vandal carved ‘Ding Jinhao was here’ in Chinese in the 3,500 year old Luxor Temple.Hong Kong (CNN) —

Parents of a 15-year-old Chinese tourist have apologized after the teenager defaced a stone sculpture in an ancient Egyptian temple with graffiti.The act drew ire in both Egypt and China — generating a massive online backlash amongst China’s unforgiving netizens.The vandal carved ‘Ding Jinhao was here’ in Chinese in the 3,500 year old Luxor Temple.

This morning, I heard a few people talking about this story.  Not so much about the facts of the incident, but what it means.

This event has a connection to a recent vblog on YouTube.  I posted a link to the vblog “The Aspirational Snobbery of Youth” and made a few comments here.

Celebrity and notoriety without love of the work or career

I listened to the vblog a few times, this is what I get out of it.

It’s not that vblog author Delboy  is complaining about the aspiration of youth (or anyone else , for that matter) as much as he is making the point that some people want to get it (money, status) without really working for it.  Delboy cites money as what drives people to take the short cut to fame – not love of the work or career.   For other people, it’s not so much money as it is status and notoriety. They want it… and they want  to get it doing as little work as possible.

On the backs of others accomplishments

So, 15-year-old Ding Jinhao decided to write his name on the wall of the 3,500 year old Luxor Temple in Egypt.  The Luxor Temple in Egypt is a major tourist attraction in Egypt.  I had the good fortune of visiting that temple in the past.

So, the intent seems to be, that by placing his name on the Luxor temple those visiting the temple will see the name “Ding Jinhao”.  No one would come to see Ding Jinhao.  But they would come to see the Luxor Temple.  And, the logic must be, by placing his name on the wall, Ding Jinhao will somehow get recognition / status / notoriety that would otherwise not be available to him.  It’s status or recognition by proxy.

Someone else (a whole cadre of other people) did the work of conceptualizing, designing, architecting, funding, and building the Luxor Temple.  Ding Jinhao did none of this. He took the easy route.  Put your name on (or over, deface) the work of others.

So, back to Delboy’s vblog.  As he says, some people want celebrity without paying their dues and doing the hard work.  Some cooks want to be called “Chef” – without training and without apprenticeship. Some people want to have the celebrity of a singer – but they can’t sing.  Some people imagine themselves as a train engineer driving a train – but really, all they are cut our for is to be a stoker.

People just are not satisfied with who they are.  In itself, being not satisfied with the status quo of who you are (now) is called “ambition”.  And that’s good – if you do the work to gain the competency and skills to deserve the notoriety of title or position.  It’s not good if you get your notoriety by taking short cuts – like taking the title without the competency or track record of success.  Or, simply by defacing the work of others – layering your name on the achievements of others or by hiding or destroying the work of your predecessors (see story of Amenhotep II below)

How it works in small organizations

You can see this same thing going on in small organizations.  If there is a diminished focus on results then anyone can take on any job title.  Notoriety and celebrity without the results.  In some, “once great organizations”, if the stakeholders are not vigilant in who they allow to become “celebrities” in the organization without results then it’s equivalent to allowing  the organization to be defaced.

The Take

So, if Ding Jinhao wanted celebrity and notoriety – he got it.  In the organizational context, those that “run them into the ground” because they have the title and not the talent to deliver results, then they will get the same sort of notoriety and celebrity that Ding Jinhao has now.  And history will certainly remember them.

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The Aspirational Snobbery of Youth

Of Telegraphs, Telephones, Radios, and Organizational Momentum

Read about defacing the Temple of Isis in Philae here.

If your accomplishments are not that strong, destroy the work of those that came before you… (
Amenhotep II, the son of Thutmose III, who became a co-regent toward the end of his father’s reign, is suspected by some as being the defacer during the end of the reign of a very old pharaoh. He would have had a motive because his position in the royal lineage was not so strong as to assure his elevation to pharaoh. He is documented, further, as having usurped many of Hatshepsut’s accomplishments during his own reign. His reign is marked with attempts to break the royal lineage as well, not recording the names of his queens and eliminating the powerful titles and official roles of royal women such as, God’s Wife of Amun.

Written by frrl

June 2, 2013 at 4:32 pm

The Aspirational Snobbery of Youth

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It’s the humility with which you accept your lot in life that makes you a gentleman

For some people, for all their life, they were told that an ordinary life was for average people – and they certainly are not average.

With the easy availability of GoPRO cameras these days there a a few bikers doing, what I would call, high-speed video blogs.  Basically, guys on their motorcycles with a GoPRO camera strapped to their helmet with a remote mike riding to work or pleasure riding doing a blog.

One such blogger is YouTube channel Delboy’s Garage.  In addition to showing you all sorts of things related to motorcycles he does a few opinion blogs.

So, here’s an interesting blog in praise of ordinary people with ordinary jobs.

Enjoy the countryside in the UK as you listen to his opinions on the “Aspirational Snobbery of Youth.

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Check out a related post

Alain de Botton: A kinder, gentler philosophy of success

Written by frrl

May 27, 2013 at 2:41 am

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Senator McCain, CEO Tim Cook, Apple, Fashion, and God

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Yesterday I caught some of the Senate hearings on Apple avoiding paying taxes.  The issue of taxes aside, something that Senator McCain said gives great insight into his personality and perhaps a generation.

Senator McCain to the Apple CEO, Tim Cook:

Sir, there’s only one thing I really wanted to ask you today. Why do I keep on having to update all the apps on my iPhone? Can’t you guys fix that already?

Can’t you fix it?
Once and for all…
So I don’t have to get these updates…

Tim Cook replied that  McCain’s iPhone got updates because Apple is making things better all the time.

The Static, Finished Universe

John McCain, like many, thinks in terms of a “static universe”.  Things  should work in a certain way and then stay that way forever.  Change is bad; I am satisfied what with I have; why change it?

Perhaps such an idea is generational.  McCain is of the generation who have one career, work at one place their entire life, and defend the status quo at all costs no matter what.  I meet these people all the time in just about every organization.

Pre-rational belief systems

Henry Ford once said, “If you think you can or think you can’t – you’re right”

The idea is that your attitude has a direct effect on outcomes.  If you think the World is static then it is; if you think it’s not then it’s not.  These sorts of decisions are pre-rational.  The outcome will be what your pre-conceived ideas make it.  You make your own Reality.

God’s perfection

Perhaps we have been influenced too much by the traditional Christian theological position of the perfection of God.  The idea that God, in his/her perfection is “changeless”.  This is pure metaphysics.  Why should “changelessness” be perfection?  In the 13th century St Thomas Aquinas brought Aristotle’s metaphysics into the Catholic tradition.  That’s the long and short of it.

A different idea

If you saw the movie The Social Network about Mark Zuckerberg and the creation of Facebook then perhaps you remember this scene in the movie.  Someone asks Zuckerberg this question, “When will Facebook be finished?”

Zuckerberg replies, “Facebook is like fashion, it will never be finished.”

It’s matter of perspective – and it makes all the difference in the world.

Like fashion, nothing should be finished.  No idea, no concept, no product, no innovation, no organization,, and even your career – should never be finished.  There is no life when one is finished.

The Take

McCain is probably not alone.  Fix this software and be done with it.  To change something implies that it’s broken.

Fashion is not  broken.  Innovation is only broken when it stops changing.

Traditional Theology got a shock in the 20th century by Process Theology.  That movement in theology in the 1950’s “outted” traditional theological debt to Aristotle and St. Thomas Aquinas in the notion that “changless” is some sort of perfection.

Shocking as it might seem, the Process Theologians held that “God’s future is open”.  God is not static and not finished.

As the McCain and Cook short exchange demonstrates, just about every organization, every government, and every social context is a collision between those who want to stop the world and those who want to change the world.  Exchanges like McCain-Cook demonstrate how people differentiate themselves in thier pre-rational belief systems about change and what it implies.

There are insights every day about how people think, if you know where to look. Hopefully, McCain and Cook learned something interesting about themselves and their view of the world in this exchange.  And now you know it too.

Life and Death in America’s Global Corporations: The curse of competency

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I caught this recent posting by Seth Godin

Competence vs. possibility

As we get more experienced, we get better, more competent, more able to do our thing.

And it’s easy to fall in love with that competence, to appreciate it and protect it. The pitfall? We close ourselves off from possibility.

Possibility, innovation, art–these are endeavors that not only bring the whiff of failure, they also require us to do something we’re not proven to be good at. After all, if we were so good at it that the outcome was assured, there’d be no sense of possibility.

We often stop surprising ourselves (and the market) not because we’re no good anymore, but because we are good. So good that we avoid opportunities that bring possibility.

Anyone who has spent time in many of America’s largest corporations can observe the curse of competency.

The largest corporations are your biggest opportunity and your biggest liability.

The Competency of Cogs

The largest corporations take their toll on those who are obsessed with competency and, at the same time, are suffering from personal insecurity.  Obsessed with competency and the actual achievement of competency – especially in a functional/operational area – closes one off to taking risks.  Taking risks and learning something new is not for the insecure nor for the non-curious.

The largest corporations have a warm place for the super-competent, super-insecure, super-nonCurious.  You become a nameless cog is a giant machine.  You may be tossed aside without ceremony with the slightest organizations change or change in technology that operates the giant mechanism of the company.

Opportunity in exchange for non-competency

On the other hand, America’s largest corporations are the best asset for competent risk takers and the super-curious.  This environment provides unlimited possibility – if you know how to work it.

America’s largest corporations are both poison and cure; limitations and opportunity; life and death for your career.

It is always interesting to listen to the “super-competent” brag with arrogance about greatness self-assured in their domain of knowledge. Yet, when you look at where they are in the giant corporation you might find that, after 20 or 30 years, they are still without any strategic or direction setting role in that organization.  Essentially, a “senior” position no different from where they started out after graduating from high school or college.

In a sense, you need to embrace failure (or at least the possibility of it) in order to become competent.  Competent people with high levels of insecurity can’t achieve this.

The irony is that to become a strategic decision maker in America’s largest corporations in the context of an ever uncertain future you must travel a road of nearly continuous incompetency and have the intellectual fortitude, resilience, adaptability, and appetite for failure that each new challenge presents.

So, the confident, super-competent, non risk takers, need not apply.

Everyone finds their place.  And everyone knows who and what  you are

Your choice in America’s largest corporations.  Cog or executive?

Eventually, everyone finds their place in the organizational hierarchy of America’s largest corporations.  Your position and final destination in the hierarchy says much about how you deal with risk, uncertainty, ambition, resilience… and oh yes, how much your particular competency has limited your career possibilities.

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Only the Paranoid Survive

Doing more; Doing more of the same; Doing just a little different

Written by frrl

April 27, 2013 at 4:24 pm

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White House Easter Egg Roll: Thinking deeply, or not

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135 Years of Fun

On Monday April 1, 2013, the First Family will host the 135th annual White House Easter Egg Roll. This year, more than 35,000 people from all 50 states will be joining us on the South Lawn for games, stories, and, of course, the traditional egg roll.

In addition to all the fun and games, the day’s activities — which will include sports courts and cooking demonstrations — will help educate families on smart ways to incorporate healthy eating and exercise choices into their daily routines, which are key pillars of First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! initiative.

Every year since 1878 the White House has held an Easter egg roll.

People don’t think too much about it.  That is, they don’t think too deeply about it.

Of course the White House can’t associate a Christian significance to the Easter Holiday… separation of church and State and all that.

So, there will be no (Christian) crosses or talk about death and resurrection.

But, there will be eggs and perhaps an Easter Bunny or two.

No cross but eggs.

If we know that the cross, death, and resurrection is out the picture then why are eggs and bunnies in the picture?

Does anyone ask what the significance of eggs are?  In a sense, the egg is as much religiously charged as is the cross.

The Take

Here are a several observations.

  1. Our holidays are being wrenched free of any historical context or significance – Christian, Pagan, or otherwise.  Too dangerous.  Easter means what Easter means in this moment – this year, today.  What Easter will mean next year will wait until what is needed is discovered.  Easter is a “movable” feast in time and meaning.
  2. People don’t ask what these holidays/rituals/celebrations mean in historical context.  Should they know?  Or, is ignorance bliss?
  3. People, seemingly, aren’t equipped to ask questions.  It does not occur to them to ask questions.  Good or bad?  Short term or long-term?  Locally or in the context of America’s global competitiveness?  Perhaps thinking critically and framing the right questions is more valuable than having the correct answers to the wrong questions.

So, this year, “Easter” will be pressed into service of promoting Obama’s agenda of healthy eating and exercise.  The menu will also include a side order of Yoga free from any fatty and unhealthy references to Hindu Philosophy.

If someone wants to manipulate a society, culture, or group the inability of the target to think deeply and ask questions is the manipulators best advantage.

It comes down to an issue of education and society.  How educated do you want your society to be?  Sometimes, the less the better.

How about adding “education’ to the list of White House Easter activities and including some sessions on the historical origins of Easter?  Probably not  a popular idea – with the White House.  They would need to talk about fertility rites, goddesses, myths, and all that stuff.  Oh, and the Christian significance as well.  Part of that session would also have to include the derivative  insight that every political generation over millennium  has used such holidays to re/interpret according to their needs.  Messy business to bring all this up on Easter.

No, its more fun to search for wooden eggs… just do it… don’t ask too many questions.  Be Happy.  And, “Lets Move!” this Easter.

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When Nudge comes to push and shove

Written by frrl

March 31, 2013 at 5:48 pm

“Friend Me”: What would Aristotle say?

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For without friends no one would choose to live, though he had all other goods; even rich men and those in possession of office and of dominating power are thought to need friends most of all; for what is the use of such prosperity without the opportunity of beneficence, which is exercised chiefly and in its most laudable form towards friends?      —   Aristotle Nicomachean Ethics – 384-322 BCE

One might wonder, after a period of 2,000+ years, has there been any (what is called) “progress”.

Surely we can distinguish between “progress” in the area of technology and progress in other areas such as culture and society.

Aristotle (384-322 BC) lived more than 2000 years ago .  Surely, if Aristotle were transported from ancient Greece to the modern world he would find the progress in science and technology absolutely astounding.  But, if he were to look at our social relationships 2000 years distant from his own time what would he discover?  Would Aristotle say that, after two millennium, we have made any progress in human relationships?

Perhaps he would say we have taken several steps back from the “golden age” of Greek culture.

Aristotle on Friendship

Aristotle wrote about friendship in Nicomachean Ethics.  He divided friendship into three categories.

Pleasure Friendship

Friendship of young people seems to aim at pleasure; for they live under the guidance of emotion, and pursue above all what is pleasant to themselves and what is immediately before them.

Utility Friendship

Those who pursue utility . . . sometimes . . . do not even find each other pleasant; therefore they do not need such companionship unless they are useful to each other; for they are pleasant to each other only in so far as they rouse in each other hopes of something good to come.

What’s in it for me?

According to Aristotle, Pleasure and Utility friendship is partly motivated by a  “what’s in it for me” attititude.  The friendship exists only insofar as there is some benefit – pleasure or utility – that can be derived from the relationship.  When the benefit erodes, so does the friendship

Therefore those who love for the sake of utility love for the sake of what is good for themselves, and those who love for the sake of pleasure do so for the sake of what is pleasant to themselves, and not in so far as the other is the person loved but in so far as he is useful or pleasant.

And thus these friendships are only incidental; for it is not as being the man he is that the loved person is loved, but as providing some good or pleasure. Such friendships, then, are easily dissolved, if the parties do not remain like themselves; for if the one party is no longer pleasant or useful the other ceases to love him.

Perfect (or True) Friendship

Finally, Aristotle defines Perfect Friendship:

Perfect friendship is the friendship… [of those] …who are good, and alike in virtue; for these wish well alike to each other qua good, and they are good themselves. Now those who wish well to their friends for their sake are most truly friends; for they do this by reason of own nature and not incidentally; therefore their friendship lasts as long as they are good-and goodness is an enduring thing. And each is good without qualification and to his friend, for the good are both good without qualification and useful to each other.

Here is how Philosophy Professor Dean A. Kowaalski sums it up:

So, for Aristotle, the highest form of friendship occurs between persons of equally good moral character (virtue), which is enhanced due to their interactions. Such friendships are admittedly rare; when they do obtain, it is because the friends spend a great deal of time together, developing a secure mutual trust. Their relationship is fostered by participating in joint ventures and engaging in activities that exercise their own virtues for the betterment of the other and the friendship. All of this is done primarily for the sake of the other person (and not for selfish purposes), even though their interests have grown so close together that it is difficult to separate them. Consequently, complete friendship results in a sort of second self, a true partner.

The Take

There may be a Myth of Progress.  In some contexts, progress seems obvious perhaps because of the selection or limitation of what one considers.  Surely, “progress” is an in-your-face fact when one looks only at technology and our understanding of how the world works – science in general and physics in particular.

But has there been any progress in social relationships?  Or perhaps there been a degradation brought about by the progress in technology.  Perhaps the more technology we have the greater distance we can put between ourselves and other people and still call them “friends”… to the point that they are no friends at all… merely markers or counts on a Facebook page or the number of  Twitter followers.

Technology is “enabling”.  Enabling to make True Friends as Aristotle would define it?  Technology may simply enable those who have a “what’s in it for me” motive of  finding merely pleasure or utility in others.  “Friends for pleasure” is now easy to find on the Internet.  Friends to scam and friends for transactional relationships are easy to find as well.  Have your “friended” or “liked” Starbucks or other organization or business?  Why are they your friends?

So, if Aristotle were to step into the 21’st century world of technology there would not be much he would understand.  We have made fantastic progress.  And, I think he would agree based on his writings of Universal Physics, Human Physics, Animal Physics, and Metaphysics of this time.  But Politics and (Nicomachean) Ethics where the above quotes on friendship came from?  Any progress here in two millennium?

What Aristotle wrote 2,000+ years ago about friendships being only for utility and only for pleasure and easily dissolved is as relevant for today as it was in ancient Greece.

It might be a revelation to you if you examine your friendships within Aristotle’s framework – friends of pleasure; friends of utility; and perfect friends.

How many perfect friendships do you really have?  Has technology been a benefit or a liability?  And have we made any progress in two millennium  in answering Aristotle’s basic question, “how should men best live”?

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Read about Dunbar’s number – If You’ve Got More Than 150 Facebook Friends, They’re No Friends at All

Alone Together.  Why we expect more from technology and less from each other

Written by frrl

March 25, 2013 at 1:40 am

Carbonite Review: What’s your digital life worth?

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I’ve been doing local backups of my desktop operating system and personal files for years.  I just use windows image backup and windows file backup.  It works good enough and it’s built into Windows.  Of course the backup goes to a second drive.

The second drive is generally another internal drive to the desktop or an external drive.  Best bang for the buck is a Fantom external drive that has both a USB and eSATA interface.  The eSATA interface lets you connect the Fantom external drive to an existing SATA connector on the motherboard.  This happens via a passive SATA connector that can be routed to the back of the desktop.  Some laptops have a eSATA connector.

So the problem is all these backups are in your house.

My really important stuff goes on a DVD and in a safe deposit box.

Well, there has to be a better way.

Keeping your data safe from local natural and un/natural disasters

I finally got a cloud-based backup solution – Carbonite

Here are a few observations on Carbonite for those considering a cloud-based backup solution.

  1. It’s inexpensive and worth the price.  I opted for the Home Plus subscription for $89/year.  For this price you get unlimited space, the ability to backup an external drive, and drive mirroring.  This is really more than a home user really needs.  The Home plan at $59 should be sufficient for most people.
  2. It knows what to backup.  Carbonite is for backing up your personal files.  If you let it choose, it generally picks the right things to backup.  Carbonite clearly marks folders that it is going to backup.  You have the choice to add or remove folders for backup through an extension to the right-click context menu in windows file explorer. So, by default, it backs up my downloads folder.  For me, this is just a temporary location.  So I removed it as a Carbonite backup target.
  3. It will backup new users as they are created.  I have a number of user accounts on my PC – some which I created after installing Carbonite.  Carbonite backs up new users without any intervention on your part.  (Suggestion for those who want to stay virus-free.  Create a non-privileged, non-administrator account on your PC and use that as your normal account.  Never login with Admin privileges.  Windows will not make system level changes unless you provide specific permission and supply the Admin password while logged in as a non-privileged user.)
  4. Carbonite  works in real-time in the background.  “Set it and forget it”
  5. Detailed information on backup progress.  The Carbonite Info Center desktop application clearly shows what is awaiting backup down to the file level and location.
  6. Use it in conjunction with Windows Image Backup.  Carbonite does not backup your OS.  This is best done with the standard Windows Image Backup that is included with most versions of windows.

Some finer points.

Carbonite does not maintain point-in-time backups.  On my Mac I use the built-in Time Machine backup which is included with Apple OSX.  Time Machine allows you to view your Mac at any point in the past.  So, if you deleted a file a month ago, that you created 3 months ago, that file is still available on Time Machine  (as long as you have enough space on your Time Machine drive).

Carbonite does not work like this.  If you delete a file on your PC and don’t grab it back from Carbonite’s servers in 30 days, it’s gone forever.

The idea is that you need to keep every file you want to save available on your PC in a place that Carbonite expects to backup.

So, the difference can be summed up by saying that Carbonite is not an archive facility.  And sometimes, this is what you want.  For example, you may have some music, documents, videos, photographs, books, etc that you really don’t need right now, so you “archive” them on DVD and put those in a safe place.  Placing these seldom used items on a DVD and removing them from your PC frees up space on your PC.

External Drives.  What was said above applies in an extreme way to an external drive.  Carbonite applies the same rules to external drives.  So, if you have Carbonite backup your external drive you need to keep that drive attached and running.  If you detach the drive for more than 30 days Carbonite will think you have deleted all those files. And, since Carbonite does not keep point-in-time backups, all your files on the external drive will be deleted on Carbonite’s servers.  Again, Carbonite is not for archiving files.

Security and file encryption.  Carbonite says that it encrypts files on your local machine before sending them over the Internet to Carbonite’s servers.  Carbonite says files are stored as encrypted on their servers. Carbonite does all the key management for you.  But, as the iPad app will demonstrate, that key is flying around so that files are viewable in many locations.  Don’t forget that human beings work in data centers and they have access to everything – despite corporate policy, controls, and audits.  There is an option in Carbonite to manage your own keys, but I would not recommend that.  A better option is to encrypt super-secret files yourself using something like AxCrypt and then let Carbonite back up the already encrypted file.

The really good stuff

There are few downsides as long as you clearly understand how Carbonite works.  There are some really nice features.

  1. Access to your files on the web.  Pretty straightforward.  Login to Carbonite on the web and you can access all your files
  2. Access to your files on iPad.  Install the free Carbonite app on your iPad and you can not only see the file names that are backed up but also view them.  The Carbonite iPad app has built-in viewers.  So, if you have some backed up EXCEL worksheets, no problem.  The Carbonite app can display them in all their workbook glory.  (See note above on file security and encryption)
  3. Free backup of your iPad videos and images.  How much better can it get?  The free Carbonite app for iPad will backup your videos and images on your iPad.  No limit.
  4. It all just works silently behind your back and in real-time.  If you have a really important file that you just created you can instruct Carbonite to back it up as soon as possible.  A series of colored dots always tells you the backup status of each file.

The Take

At the time of this writing a 1TB external drive costs about $89.  That money is better spent on a subscription to Carbonite.  Not only do you not have to deal with physical hardware you don’t have to worry about keeping that drive safe against natural (or unnatural) disasters.

Carbonite is “set it and forget it” plus file access from anywhere via web or tablet application.

The “unlimited” nature of Carbonite’s offering for less than $100 is generous.  So if you have multiple PC’s in the house then buy a subscription for each.  However, if you are on the frugal side, there is a way you can have Carbonite backup files from other PC’s via a Windows Homegroup or a traditional file share.

Carbonite is not archival storage.  But, it would be a useful additional optional service element for any cloud-based backup solution to add archival storage.  For example, maybe you have 5 years of historical tax returns or other historical financial information.  You need to retain these records for some period of time.  But, you don’t want it spinning around on your hard disk for security reasons.  So, a possible solution for this scenario would be for cloud-based backup solution providers, like Carbonite, to offer tiered storage.  Archival storage would cost less and be accessible within some period of time on request (maybe 24 hrs).  This would keep your historical data safe and not require it to be continually present on your local hard drive as is the requirement now with Carbonite.

Bottom line, archival storage aside, Carbonite is a “buy”.

Written by frrl

March 10, 2013 at 12:48 am

Marissa Mayer no more work from home: misdiagnosing the problem

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Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer spent her first few months on the job making her employees feel better about where they worked. Then, recently, she took a big step backward, rescinding the treasured right to work from home.

Now she’s in damage control mode. So we get an opaquely sourced New York Times story explaining that Mayer had an excellent reason for the morale-killing new policy: boosting morale.

Still following?

People unhappy with the change are being quietly told that there is no change, really — at least not one that applies to them. Instead, it’s aimed at the roughly 200 workers who have arrangements that let them work from home full time.

“Although they collected Yahoo paychecks, some did little work for the company and a few even had begun their own start-ups on the side,” reports the Times

I read a few articles on this new policy by Marissa Mayer at Yahoo.  She is definitely bucking the trend of work from home.

From the limited number of articles I’ve read so far there is no mention of exactly what sort of work these people do.  None of the articles have dug into this deeper question.  Who are these people and how strategic are they to the business?

Who’s minding the store?

To make people who…  “collected Yahoo paychecks, [and] did little work for the company” show up is not going to solve the root cause of the problem.

This is a management problem and executive leadership problem.  By making the “offenders” (so called) show up at work is misdiagnosing the problem.

At the bottom of an organization a good project management disciple would make deliverables clear, identify who is working on what, and when the deliverables are due.  If no task assigned to an employee is longer then 40 hrs then any missed task deliverables will be noticed in about a week.

So, if any employee collected a paycheck and did little work for the company then some things seem obvious

  1. There is a problem of accountability.  This works two ways.  Employee committment to the company to do a good/excellent job.  A committment from the company to hold everyone accountable.
  2. There is a project management problem.  Doesn’t the management know what their employees are supposed to be doing?  Are there no milestones on projects, or schedules, or any way of tracking missed milestones and deadlines?  If employees can get paid and do nothing then Yahoo has little financial management at the project level. 
  3. There is a financial management problem at executive levels.  If there is no scrutiny on financial performance at the project level then this shows there are problems at the executive level as well.
  4. The operating model seems broken.  If projects can squander money then strategic initiatives, operating model, projects, and individual financial incentives and performance measures are not aligned.
  5. You hired (and retained) the wrong people all across the organization.  Employees that get paid and deliver little or no value to the company, Project Managers that don’t manage projects or people, executives that don’t watch financial performance of projects, and an operating model that shows signs of wear certainly suggest that Yahoo has hired and retained the wrong people at all levels.

The Take

If the above five points are near on the mark then Marissa Mayer making people “show up” is not going to solve the problem.  By misdiagnosing the problem she will be on a treadmill of revisiting the problem until the root cause is properly diagnosed and addressed.

She is there for a turnaround, right?  Here’s her chance.  “Show up for work”… I call this one “a clean miss”.

Written by frrl

March 7, 2013 at 6:38 pm

Why our digital life will be the end of history

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High School

My high school reunion is next week – but I won’t be going.

It’s not that I didn’t have a good time in high school… I had a great time in high school.  And it’s not that I never went to my reunions over the years.  I went to all of them over the years – too many to mention.

A high school reunion doesn’t make sense any more.  Only someone who understands what it means to dial a phone and can recognize the sound of a turntable needle skating across a vinyl record understands reunions.

A high school reunion used to mean getting back together with friends from high school that you haven’t seen in a few years.  My high school has a reunion every five years.

But a high school reunion doesn’t make sense when you see your high school friends frequently – perhaps every day or maybe once a week.  How can this be when high school is long past and your friends are scattered to the four corners of the globe?

I see my high school friends nearly every day.  I get their Facebook updates.  I look at their pictures on Instagram.  We listen to music from the good old days by exchanging playlists on Spotify.  There’s Facetime and Skype.  And I have some long-term games on Zynga going with a few of them – Words with Friends and Draw Something.  The impediment of geographic distance and separation in time and space is nearly erased.

So a reunion doesn’t make sense anymore.  There is no need to “get back together” since, in a sense, we are all still together.  It’s just that we don’t all travel to a physical location on a daily basis to engage each other.  And, like the difference between the medium and the message its the physical location that’s different but the content as engagement is the same.  Perhaps the engagement in social media, anytime anyplace, exceeds what was available to us in high school.

Time has been flattened; geography erased

In a general sense, time has been flattened.  What is disappearing is the sense of past and present.  In a very real sense, the past is present and evolving.  Our digital life and technology has put us on the trajectory of giving us access to every book ever written, every movie ever made, every track of music ever recorded, every picture ever taken,  every personal video clip ever recorded,  every status update ever made on social media, and every word anyone has ever posted to the internet.

So, what is there to remember that is not immediately available?  Do I need to remember, with a sense of loss, the music I used to listen to in high school? No, it’s readily available on Spotify.  Do I need to remember, with a sense of loss, the movies we watched?  No, they are readily available on Netflix.  Those favorite clips from TV?  Maybe its on YouTube.  Do I need to wonder where my high school friends are?  They are all immediately present wherever I go.

History has traditionally been a fading memory of the past recovered with great effort and difficulty.  But what becomes of History when all the past is readily available in the present?  In fact, we have so much history that is available with in-your-face immediacy, perhaps abundance creates a new set of problems.  How do we forget?  Are there some things that we must forget to make the future livable?


If people are looking for immortality perhaps we have it.  As the cost of digital storage approaches zero it may be possible to archive everything ever posted to the Internet.

Imagine a time, perhaps 50 years from now, where Facebook or social media in general  is now the “ancestral record” of the digital generation.  The millennial generation, posting to Facebook and other social media would have a timeline of 50 years.  In 50 years, the children of the millennial generation would know more than they ever wanted to know about their parents and grandparents.  It’s all there in the cloud.

Right now, in 2013, we go to to discover (in the hard sense) our family tree.  We search through old boxes of film photographs in the attic or basement to find picture of grandparents and relatives.  We ask our older family members, perhaps with fading memory, to tell us stories of how life used to be.  We recover stories through oral history with difficulty.

The whole idea of past history being a difficult work of discovery is undergoing radical change.  In the future, the past may be as immediate as the present.

The Take

Thousands of years ago, folks imagined  the akashic records…  a sort of giant library that is ever-present and all around us…

The akashic records, – akasha is a Sanskrit word meaning “sky”, “space” or “aether” and is described as containing all knowledge of human experience and all experiences as well as the history of the cosmos encoded or written in the very aether or fabric of all existence…

The akashic record is like an immense photographic film, registering all the desires and earth experiences of our planet. Those who perceive it will see pictured thereon: The life experiences of every human being since time began, the reactions to experience of the entire animal kingdom, the aggregation of the thought-forms of a karmic nature (based on desire) of every human unit throughout time…

People who describe the records assert that they are constantly updated automatically and that they can be accessed through astral projection or under deep hypnosis.

There will be no need of astral projection or hypnosis to access these records.  Access will be granted to anyone with a wearable or embedded device that can access whatever it is in the future that will have the Internet as its progenitor.   How much of your digital life is already part of the “akasha” record?

Read More

After the Interview is Over: Managing Digital Oral History Collections


Written by frrl

March 7, 2013 at 4:44 am

Doing more; Doing more of the same; Doing just a little different

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I always read Seth Godin’s blog.  They entries and short, direct, to the point, and always give me something to think about.

Here is a recent posting

“I’m making money, why do more?”

Because more than you need to makes it personal.
Because work that belongs to you, by choice, is the first step to making art.
Because the choice to do more brings passion to your life and it makes you more alive.
Because if you don’t, someone else will, and in an ever more competitive world, doing less means losing.
Because you care.
Because we’re watching.
Because you can.

There is a difference between doing more and doing different.

Sometimes, doing more of the same is your biggest liability – whether its your personal life, a for-profit company, a non-profit organization, or a government agency.

I always encounter people in organizations that are intent on “doing more”.  This is their biggest mistake.  They do more of same expecting to get promoted.  The only thing “doing more” (of the same) in non-strategic job roles is going to get them is “more of the same” since few managers will promote someone who excels at being  “a workhorse”.

Doing more (of the same) didn’t keep most traditional booksellers from going out of business.  Amazon did it different.  Different beat more of the same.

For non-profits, doing more of the same when the social, economic, technological, cultural and other external realities are shifting under your feet is going to send you on a trajectory of irrelevancy.  Traditional organizations like the Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, and the ARRL faces this challenge.  Do more of the same when the external context has radically changed –  or do different?

NASA essentially accomplished its biggest goal in 1969 by landing a man on the moon and returning safely back to earth.  What happens when you do it 6 more times?  Doing more of the same triggered some scrutiny by Congress with a report saying they needed a viable strategic plan, not to do more of the same, but to do more of something different – something that can engage the national vsion.  How about the US Post Office.  They would like to do more of the same (delivering physical postal mail) but seemingly most of the public doesn’t need more of the same.  Customers do different and the Post Office is now in decline because they are not doing different – what customers really need, want, and are willing to pay for.

The Take

Do more?  Ok.  But sometimes, doing more of the same is really doing less.

Doing a little different may grant you the privilege to do more of the same…  Then the chance to do different again…  and the process repeats.

Read more

Doing more of the same.  From one of the few books on the social history of amateur Radio “Why end this book as of the year 1950?  It is because the story of ham radio’s development essentially takes place in the first fifty years of the twentieth century.  Having been created, accepted, regulated, and achieved permanent status by 1950, the story after that becomes one primarily of repetition.”    Read the posting – ARRL: Does the ARRL need a Strategic Plan?

NASA – more of the same. From the office of the Inspector General ” These problems are not primarily of NASA’s doing, but the agency could craft a better response to the uncertainty, for example, by developing a strategic plan that includes clear priorities and a transparent budget allocation process. A better response would improve NASA’s ability to navigate future obstacles and uncertainties. An effective agency response is vital, because at a time when the strategic importance of space is rising and the capabilities of other spacefaring nations are increasing, U.S. leadership is faltering….”   NASA: What to do after mission accomplished

More of the same.. missing it allOf Telegraphs, Telephones, Radios, and Organizational Momentum

Why?  Group ThinkThe C-word: Consensus

Doing a little differentStupid Survives until smart succeeds

Written by frrl

March 4, 2013 at 6:17 pm

Passing the time; passing away

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We build our own prisons and serve as our own jail keepers, but I’ve concluded that our parents and the society at large have a hand in building our prisons. They create roles for us – and self-images – that hold us captive for a long time.

“There are people whose clocks stop at a certain point in their lives.”– Charles Augustin Sainte-Beuve

Sometimes I hear the expression, “Passing the time”.  People are trying to find ways to “pass the time”.  That is, they are bored, have nothing to do, or otherwise unmotivated to do anything.  They need to find a distraction, or entertainment, something to “pass the time”… until they pass away.  Life as a tragic waiting game for death.

Sometimes I hear about people who visit the doctor and they are told they have some sort of terminal illness.  One of the first things they do is to catch up on their “bucket list” – do all those things they had planned on doing before the end of their life.  These people are running out of time.

So, how can some people struggle to “pass the time” when they have all the time in the world while others struggle to do all they can in the limited time they have?

We only have one life.  We all have limited time.  Why would anyone struggle to “pass the time”?

What do jobs and the concept of education have to do with it?

Reading the Huffington Post I ran into an article about Bill Gates.  The article had a quote from Gates

Gates’ belief that education is the greatest predictor of America’s future is supported by a report released last March that declared education to be an issue of national security. “A Nation at Risk,” penned by former New York City Schools chief Joel Klein and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, argues that a failure to provide quality education in areas like foreign languages, science and technology will create major future deficiencies of engineers, diplomats and soldiers, among others.

“As we’re not able to train people for the jobs, you’re going to hit a limit that, no matter how good the economy is, you’re not providing the opportunity,” Gates said Wednesday.

Whenever I read something like this I cringe.  What always seems to be confounded in these opinions and statements is the difference between getting an education in the classical sense and getting a vocational education.  Whenever you hear “job” and “education” in the same sentence think “training”.  Training is not an education.  Perhaps we conflate the words training and education so much we lose the distinction.

Management consultants – hands off the educational system

For all the respect I have for the consulting firm McKinsey I had to set that aside last year when I read their report “Boosting Productivity in US Higher Education”.  Boosting productivity?  They used terms like “unnecessary credits” as if higher education was like a factory to produce “just in time” workers for immediate deployment as dictated by what America’s corporations need today.

Why are people … Passing the time?

People who are “passing the time” are generally not working – either by choice or by circumstance.  When I hear “passing the time” I get the idea that the educational system and the job market have both fulfilled their purpose and at the same time it has destroyed someone.

Note the use of the words “train people” in the quote above by Gates.  Training people is like manufacturing a part (a cog) for a giant machine.  I don’t think many people would identify themselves as a “cog” but that’s how most companies treat people and that’s what they are.  Companies have “roles” and there is generally little problem in swapping different individuals in and out of roles (interchangeable parts).  This is especially true for jobs that are non-strategic (operational, support, etc.)

So, when you are out of a job you are essentially a cog without a machine.  And a cog without a machine really has no purpose or identity.  Having no purpose or identify all a cog can do is “pass the time”.  Opportunity?  A custom manufactured cog for a particular machine in a particular era has little chance of reuse.

The Take

Too many people don’t consider the difference among education, vocational education, and training.  As Gates points out, America needs people to be trained for jobs.  But, unfortunately the terminal point for people “trained for jobs” will be quick obsolescence in a rapidly changing job market and/or wages reduced to poverty level to the extent that “training” is readily available to anyone producing surpluses of undifferentiated workers.

Gates’ belief that education is the greatest predictor of America’s future is supported by a report released last March that declared education to be an issue of national security.

Yes, education, not training.  But the article does not make this distinction.  What is important for America is not so much a ready and able”trained’ workforce to solve pressing in-demand problems of today but an educated segment that can create a tomorrow for America in the context of a global economy.

No one who is educated to “make the future” will ever have time to “pass the time”.

Training people for today’s jobs seems to be a tragic (and necessary) sacrifice of people which leaves them aimless near the end of their lives.

Read more

Re/Imagine everything – Mary Meeker 2012 Internet Trends Year-End Update – Business Insider

The Future of Digital – The Future of Digital… is not in a rear-view mirror

McKinsey – Boosting Productivity in US Higher Education

Do we want management consults messing with higher education?

Creating life strategies and the road to continuous self-renewal

Written by frrl

March 3, 2013 at 5:37 am

Trends for society through technology: What Jay-Z knows

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Mary Meeker from venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins recently gave a presentation at Stanford University on the the state of the web.  The slide deck is filled with industry trends and statistical data to back it up.

So, I went through the deck and if you’re paying attention to the world we live in, nothing in the deck should be a surprise to you.  Every presentation of this kind is backward-looking.  That is, it describes trends that everyone can observe.  These sorts of presentations do not “look around corners” nor do they speculate on a discontinuous or non-linear future.  Of course, these latter events in history represent the significant opportunities for society and culture.

All that being said, there is interesting trend data and statistics in Mary Meeker’s deck.

The linear societal doom

It was going good until I looked at the last few slides in the deck.  One slide shows US spending on entitlements and debt as percent of GDP.  Another slide shows the distribution of taxes among entitlements, defense, interest and other.  The US spends 57% of taxes on entitlements.  A third slide shows that entitlement and interest expense will exceed GDP by 2025.

What Jay-Z knows

We were kids without fathers… so we found our fathers on wax and on the streets and in history.  We got to pick and choose the ancestors who would inspire the world we were going to make for ourselves.  – Jay-Z

What Jay-Z knows is about peer groups.  Pick your peer group, don’t let it fall to chance.

Everyone who walks on the face of the earth encounters peer groups.  Each peer group has it’s own culture and set of standards.  Whether you are going to be successful in life (a sort of difficult self-referential idea inside the group) depends on what peer group you hang with.

We could probably all agree that being part of the entitlement system which represents 57% of tax revenue spending is, in a sense, making one group of people pay for the existence of another group of people.  If this entitlement peer group continues to grow then a well-functioning economy is unsustainable.  When entitlements and debt exceed GDP (Gross Domestic Product) then that will be the end of the “late great USA”.

Pick who will inspire you…

Reading the slide deck its easy to see that the folks who consume these sorts of decks believe that “the future has unlimited possibilities”.  And, as Jay-Z says, “we pick and choose… [those] who would inspire the world we are going to make for ourselves.”

But what about the other peer group?  What about the people who consume 57% of the taxes that other people pay?

There are people everywhere where the temptation of having someone else pay your way is too strong to resist.  I encounter these people from time to time.  They have little regret or embarrassment for their situation.  They would rather spend their time “working the system” to try to get benefits than spend their time positioning themselves to be productive members of society.

The Take

Read the Jay-Z quote again and then page through the slide deck linked below.

Who will you pick to inspire the world that we collectively will make?  Are you the “Meekers’s” or a recipient of the 57% of tax revenue?

Mary Meeker 2012 Internet Trends Year-End Update – Business Insider

Read some related postings

The Future of Digital… is not in a rear-view mirror

How do organizations deal with changes in the external environment?

ARRL: Does the ARRL need a Strategic Plan?

NASA: What to do after “Mission Accomplished”




Written by frrl

March 2, 2013 at 4:42 pm

Voice mail, suckers, and those people formerly known as the audience

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The NPR “three minute fiction” quoted below is certainly a sign of the times… brought home recently as I and thousands of people watched the reality(?) show Gold Rush Live on “television” (what’s that?) as will as on ustream.

The difference between traditional television and ustream is the participatory nature.  That is, Ustream turns what used to be a “broadcast” (one way; one-to-many) into the opportunity for engagement (multi-directional, many-to-many) through usteams real-time “Social Stream”.  In parallel with the social steam on Ustream was another engagement opportunity through Twitter and the #GoldRush and #GoldRushLive hash tags.  There may have even been a Google Hangout at the time of the show.

I wonder if this re/definition of “television”  is just another step along the path of the dissolution of those people “formerly known as the audience” (see link below)

So what?  The Generation Gap

“Being social” (perhaps in an ever evolving way) is one of the things that clearly distinguishes the generations.  Whereas the social graph of previous generations reached no farther than the distance you could comfortably walk or dive now those boundaries are eliminated.

“Quiet, I’m making a long distance phone call” was something you could hear in an old movie.  But now that boundary is shattered.  “Where you are” does not matter.  Everyone can talk to everyone – no matter where they are.

With the generations, the social graph has changed dramatically.  Who you can (potentially) interact with is now unlimited.  It’s curious to listen to the generations.  To this generation they can’t understand why their parents and grandparents are not on Facebook, twitter, and other social media.  While, at the same time, parents and grandparents don’t understand why kids are texting, uploading videos to YouTube, twittering, Instagramming, blogging, and so on.

Will there ever NOT be a generation gap?

What one understands as the typical size of your social graph and the expected velocity of engagement in a diversity of forms is changing at blazing speed compared to the plodding velocities of the past.

What is to become of traditional voice mail?  Is that the last place you check before thinking the worst has happened?

From three-minute fiction on NPR –

Dude, yeah. It’s me. Look, what is the deal? Where are you? You haven’t responded to a single email. Everyone is worried, man. We checked your Facebook and you haven’t updated your status in a week. A freaking week. You haven’t even liked anything. And you like everything. Like. Like. Like. You’re kind of obnoxious with the liking, dude. No offense. But nothing. Not even a single I­can­haz­cheeseburger cat. So then we check your Instagram and again, nothing. No hyper contrast photos of the home brew from last weekend, no warm fuzzy photos of the goat cheese tart you and Beth made, no moody black and whites of the graffiti under the overpass. You haven’t filtered any phone pics for days.

So then we check your Twitter. Not a tweet, not a retweet, no direct messages from you and, dude, not even any mentions. What the hell, man? You can’t stay relevant with a week of tweetless silence. You may as well be dead. So then we check your Tumblr. You haven’t updated that either. It’s been EIGHT days, dude. Time to shut it down. And your last post? What the? What is that about?

Proper punctuation and capitalized letters? Pffft. Whatever. You haven’t responded to any IMs, the invites to Google Hangout, or answered your Skype. So then we check your Flickr. And your SmugMug and your Blogger and your WordPress and your FourSquare. You aren’t checked in, you are checked out. So yesterday, I send you a text. It says it was delivered. But you didn’t
text me back, man. So here we are. Reduced to this. Do you know how low this is, this moment? I’m leaving you a voicemail, dude. What is this, 2004? No, it is not. It’s 2013 and this shiz is horrifying, son. Unacceptable. Do you know how many voicemails I leave in a week?

None. Zero. You want to know how many voice mails I get in a week? One. From my mom, dude. From my mom. Voice mail is for suckers, man. And moms. Look, I don’t know what’s going on with you, but it’s scary. If we don’t hear from you soon, I don’t know what we’ll do. We’ll have to, like, come over to your house or something. Knock on your door. That’s weird, man.

Weird. Just the thought of it. Face to face contact. Who does that? Don’t make us do that, man. Log on. Text me. Facebook me. Just don’t call my voice mail, dude. I don’t check that stuff.

Read more

The People Formerly Known as the Audience

Augmented Reality: Successful dating with “Sight”

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It’s February 14th – Valentines Day

So, what if you had “Sight” – an embedded contact lens that provided you an augmented reality and “coaching” (when needed) on a date?

Check out this video from Bezalel Academy of Art and Design graduates Eran May-raz and Daniel Lazo, titled “Sight,” credited to an entity named Sight Systems

If we are in an age of “love in the age of algorithms” then what better addition than “Sight” –  enabled by technology and our always-on hyper-connected global reality – giving you that extra “edge”.

And if “Sight” doesn’t quite work out for you in a “legitimate way” then perhaps the ending of this short digital film will suggest an alternative, but less acceptable approach, to a successful dating experience.

Written by frrl

February 14, 2013 at 6:43 pm

The Future of Digital… is not in a rear-view mirror

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Last night we watched President Obama give the State of the Union address.

But what about the state of Digital?  What happened over the past 20 years?

How can you see the future in a rear-view mirror… ?

Check out this great slide deck to see how far Digital media, wireless, and the internet has progressed over the past 20 years.  I found it interesting that the title of this deck is “The Future of Digital” yet there is not a single slide in the deck that projects the future in any year past the present.

One of the many lessons of history is that anything truly “interesting” that happens is going to be unexpected, non-linear, dis-contiguous, and disruptive to the status quo.  So, a simple extension of any of the historical statistical data provided the slide deck will not capture the future of digital.

“The business of the future is to be dangerous”

How many of us are complacent passengers “along for the ride” with technology and digital media without really being fully aware of how technology and digital are changing us – culture, society, and even the neuroplasticity of the mind.  There are a couple of links below to folks that are thinking about the affects of media on us.

Those who are thinking seriously about this owe one to Marshall McLuhan.  Back in the 1960’s he recognized the extent of how the medium changes us.  To put it succinctly,

“We shape our tools and thereafter they shape us”.

In any case, an excellent  “retrospective” more than the future of digital captured as statistical depictions is linked below.  From: IGNITION: Future of Digital conference on November 27-28, 2012 in New York.

The Future Of Digital

Related reading

In the vein of  Black Swans & “The business of the future is to be dangerous”…

The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable

Will there be books in the future?

Understanding Media: The Extension of Man

The Shallows: What the internet is doing to our brains

Too Big to Know: Rethinking Knowledge Now That the Facts Aren’t the Facts, Experts Are Everywhere, and the Smartest Person in the Room Is the Room

Written by frrl

February 14, 2013 at 5:52 am

ARRL: Does the ARRL need a Strategic Plan?

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Management is about generating yesterday’s results.  Leadership puts the leader on the line.  No manual, no rulebook, no uberleader to point the finger at when things go wrong. Leaders are vulnerable, not controlling, and they are taking us to a new place, not to the place of cheap, fast, compliant safety.

Strategy in the Corporate World

A few days ago, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg gave an interview to the UK Daily Mail.  In that interview, Zuckerberg talked about Facebook’s greatest challenge and missed opportunities.  “Facebook’s biggest challenge – and its greatest opportunity lies in mobile devices which is an area that the company did not pay much attention to until just last year.”

About a week ago I watched a Bloomberg video interview of Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer at the World Economic Forum in Davos Switzerland.  In that interview she talked about the future of Yahoo and the concept of the “interest graph” to compete in search against Google and Facebook

A few months ago Hewlett-Packard CEO Meg Whitman appeared at the quarterly earnings call to talk about the HP turnaround.  An extensive amount of material was presented detailing the turnaround and how all levels of the company will become aligned to the new strategy.

Everyone has one…

Needless to say, every public company has a strategy.  Strategy is driven by the recognition (diagnosis) of challenges and opportunities.  The nature of the challenges and opportunities sets the stage to formulate an  approach to best address the situation.  The approach translates into the development and execution of a coordinated set of actions across the enterprise along with metrics and measure to assess progress.  You can see this clearly played out in HP’s multi-year turnaround strategy made public at the recent quarterly earnings call.

In general, you can look in just about any quarterly report or annual report of a public company and find the strategy.  They differ in degree consistent with the diagnosis of the extent of the perceived challenge and opportunity in the external and competitive environment in which they operate.

Strategy in government agencies and charities

So why is it that NASA and the ARRL have such difficulty when it comes to formulating a strategy?


In late 2011, the Congress directed the NASA Office of Inspector General to commission a “comprehensive independent assessment of NASA’s strategic direction and agency management.”

In part, this is what it said:

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is at a transitional point in its history and is facing a set of circumstances that it has not faced in combination before…

Other than the long-range goal of sending humans to Mars, there is no strong, compelling national vision for the human spaceflight program, which is arguably the centerpiece of NASA’s spectrum of mission areas…

Although gaps in U.S. human spaceflight capability have existed in the past, several other factors, in combination, make this a unique period for NASA. These include a lack of consensus on the next steps in the development of human spaceflight, increasing financial pressures, an aging infrastructure, and the emergence of additional space-capable nations—some friendly, some potentially unfriendly…

These problems are not primarily of NASA’s doing, but the agency could craft a better response to the uncertainty, for example, by developing a strategic plan that includes clear priorities and a transparent budget allocation process. A better response would improve NASA’s ability to navigate future obstacles and uncertainties. An effective agency response is vital, because at a time when the strategic importance of space is rising and the capabilities of other spacefaring nations are increasing, U.S. leadership is faltering…

The ARRL (American Radio Relay League)

The ARRL as an organization is nearly 100 years old.  Below is their self-diagnosed position on a strategic plan

Posted on the ARRL web site regarding CEO David Summers K1ZZ findings (emphasis mine)

Mr. Sumner reported on his research into “state of the art” strategic planning by large membership associations. Perhaps because of the negative impact of the financial upheavals of 2008 and the revolution in electronic publishing, at this time there appears to be no consensus among associations as to the value of strategic planning or the best way for associations to go about it. The ARRL Board last updated the organization’s strategic plan in 2009 and normally would conduct an in-depth review three to five years later. The committee discussed the perceived shortcomings of past strategic planning efforts along with possible improvements. Without taking a formal decision the committee concluded that while strategic planning remains important to the ARRL, planning for a successful Centennial celebration in 2014 is the current priority. A fresh approach to strategic planning should be taken immediately afterward.

Challenge and Opportunity

What NASA and the ARRL have in common when it comes to the difficulty in strategic planning revolves around the assessment of challenge and opportunity.  This has many dimensions.  Partial considerations are suggested below.

In a sense, for NASA, it’s a case of “mission accomplished”.  It’s fair to say that NASA’s biggest challenge and accomplishment was putting a man on the moon and bringing him safely back to earth.  This was the challenge that President Kennedy set for NASA on May 25, 1961.  NASA accomplished this goal in July 1969 with Apollo 11.  NASA repeated this accomplishment five more times with Apollo 12,14,15, and 17.

NASA Mission accomplished – six times over.  Now what?

For the ARRL, in a sense, just as in the case of NASA, for the ARRL it’s also “mission accomplished”.  I will have to rely on Richard Bartlett’s assessment in his book The World of Ham Radio, 1901-1950: a social history.

In the epilogue of the book, published in 2007, Bartlett provides an answer for those who would ask him the obvious question: If you published the book in 2007 then why end the history of amateur radio and the history of the ARRL in 1950?  What happened in Amateur Radio and the ARRL over the past 57 years which is not accounted for in the book?

Why end this book as of the year 1950?  It is because the story of ham radio’s development essentially takes place in the first fifty years of the twentieth century.  Having been created, accepted, regulated, and achieved permanent status by 1950, the story after that becomes one primarily of repetition.  The one great exception is in the area of technology, and save for minimal descriptions necessary to the story, that has not been our concern.

ARRL Mission accomplished – back in 1950.  Now what?

NASA and the ARRL – Sources of identity

NASA and the ARRL have something else in common of a deeper nature.

The identities and goals of both organizations was set externally.

The Congress and the President of the United States created the national Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) on October 1, 1958.  Amateur Radio was first governed by the U.S. Department of Commerce (the U.S. Department of Commerce and Labor until March 1913), then by the Federal Radio Commission, and finally (in 1934) by the FCC.

The broad missions of each organization was set by other agencies

For NASA, the preamble to the act of congress was, “An Act to provide for research into the problems of flight within and outside the Earth’s atmosphere, and for other purposes.”   For Amateur Radio, the definition of the Amateur Radio Service was set in Part 97 Amateur Radio Service Subpart A–General Provisions §97.1 Basis and purpose.

If an organization gets its identity and goals outside of itself, then how much latitude does the organization have (or, think it has) when it senses that its basic purpose or goals need to evolve to stay relevant as the external environment changes?

Engineering and operations, not Strategy

The third aspect that the ARRL and NASA have in common is based on the combination of the two commonalities mentioned above.

Insofar as the identity of each organization was set externally outside the organization.  And, insofar as the goals of the organization were set externally outside the organization both organizations developed a culture of, what could be called, engineering and operations.  There was no need for either organization to develop the capability to re/define identify and or re/establish strategic goals.  The operating model of such an organization has a focus of delivering preestablished goals and sustaining ongoing operations.

In the corporate world this is never the case.  Corporations are constantly challenged to re/define their identity and re/position in the context of the ever-changing environment of challenges, opportunity, and competition.  The job of assessing and diagnosing the environment, framing an approach, and then aligning execution and resources is the job of the Chief Executive with oversight from the Board of Directors.  So, it’s no wonder that analysts, on a quarterly basis, will badger Zuckerberg, Mayer, Whitman, and every other CEO of a public company  into articulating their latest strategy.

The Take

What are the legitimate reasons for any organization to not have a strategic plan?

Well, probably the most obvious reason based on what is written above is that  an organization without a strategic plan does not recognize any challenge or opportunity in the context in which it operates.

If there is no new challenge and no new opportunity and you are satisfied with the organizations current performance then there is no need of any strategic plan.  One simply operates in a state of sustainability by repetition – for as long as you can maintain it within a budget, or for as long as you continue to not recognize a challenge or opportunity in the external environment,  or for as long as you can get away with it until stakeholders commission a “comprehensive assessment” (as in the case of Congress and NASA above) to find out why you don’t have a compelling vision of the future that can engage a national interest.

The last page on the last chapter of Richard Bartlett’s book ends with this:

Time passes on, and the old guard gives way to the newcomers.  In November 1948 death came to Kenneth Bryant Warner, who for nearly thirty years was secretary and general manager of the ARRL.  “It was Maxim who conceived our League, it as Warner  who breathed into it life and energy and vitality, whose balanced judgement and clear vision ensured its growth and success,” reads his obituary. “With his passing we suffer the loss of a great leader, an untiring servant in the cause of amateur radio.  p. 230 The World of Ham Radio 1901-1950

The way Bartlett ends his book begs the question as to why he thinks Amateur Radio and the ARRL entered a state of 57 years of unremarkable repetition.  Was it because every ounce of value was developed from Amateur Radio’s pre-defined identity and purpose?  Or, was it because in 1948 Amateur Radio and the ARRL ran out of great leaders like Bryant who “breathed into it life and energy and vitality… [ that] ensured its growth and success.” .

Bartlett does not give an answer – one way or the other.

Related Reading

NASA: What to do after Mission Accomplished
ARRL: Reaping the Whirlwind

The Boy Scouts recently celebrated its centennial
Read the intro to the Strategic Plan from Chief Executive Robert J. Mazzuca

As our first century of Scouting comes to a close, I am delighted to share with you our 2011–2015 National Council Strategic Plan. This document represents the confluence of our vital mission with a clear corporate direction and will be the cornerstone for our second century of Scouting. I am particularly proud of the grassroots support and feedback given by Scouters throughout the country that provided guidance as we developed objectives and goals that are in direct support of local councils. This investment made in setting our course may well be one of the most significant accomplishments in the history of our movement.

The National Council is committed to following this strategic direction with a very formal process; allocating manpower and financial resources appropriately, and setting course corrections as the environment dictates.

The stakes are simply too high to put forth anything but our best effort

And then read the 2011-2015 Strategic Plan

It’s amazing how many opportunities CEO’s get to differentiate themselves.

Will there be books in the future?

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Recently, someone asked me if I thought there would be “books” in the future.

So, never to over analyze things, whenever someone poses a question like this a few things occur to me… What does this person mean by a “book”?  And, what motivated this person to pose such a question in the first place?

The “book” – container and contents (“medium and message”)

In 2013 the question of “what is a book” certainly is legitimate.  Does the person think of a book in the traditional sense – that is, a physical object that carries/conveys/transports writing?  In this sense, the physical medium of paper and ink is a container.  Is “the book” the container or what it contains?

So, in 2013 with the ascendency of digital distribution and the decline of traditional bookstores it’s easy to understand the difference between the container and the contents of the container.  In brief, the new container is the digital distribution but “the book” remains the same – if what you mean by “book” is the contents (the message)

The deeper question of “the book”

It begs the deeper question.  Will there be “books” in the future?  And here we mean by book not so much the content as a genre of thinking.

Back in the 1960’s Marshall McLuhan came on the scene with a phrase that is linked to his basic insight – “The medium is the message”.  Prior to McLuhan people had the idea that the medium is an innocuous container and what really mattered was the content.  So in the case of a book the container should not matter in the least.  What is important is the content (message) and it does not matter if the “book” is in digital form, “paper and ink” form, or any other form or container.

The idea of an  innocuousness container goes far deeper than the simple example of a book.  What about the containers of mass media such a radio, television, newspapers, telephones, and the internet?  Are they all just innocuous containers of content?

“The Medium is the Message”

McLuhan says, no.  “The medium is the message“.  Briefly, what this means is that the medium (radio, television, newspapers, telephone, etc) changes us in a way – perhaps a diabolical way – that lies below the level of consciousness.

In essence, the message (content) is the meat that distracts the guard dog so the thief can rob you. The crime is the theft of the way we think.  The thief is the medium and the content (message) is the distraction.

Building on McLuhan, the idea is floating around that the medium of the internet is changing the way we think – and not in a good way.

Briefly, the internet has made us “shallow”.  On the internet we see a page at a time.  And even on that page we might skim a few lines of each paragraph.  Pages on the internet are filled with links.  And in some cases –  like the link I used above to Marshall McLuhan to help people if they don’t know who he is – is not so much helpful as it is a distraction from reading the rest of this blog entry.

Maybe someone clicked on the link, read about McLuhan in the Wikipedia, followed the links on the Wikipedia page, and never came back to this blog.  Those people are not reading this paragraph.  Those people fell for the power of distraction inherent in the medium of the web.

The Take – Will there be books in the future?

So, will there be books in the future?  Perhaps there will be old books in the future.  But, if McLuhan and others are correct about the medium’s ability to change us in diabolical ways below our level of consciousness then we might say that “books” might not exist in the future.  And in this case, by books I mean a genre of  “long form thinking”.

After the affect of the internet perhaps our ability to think deeply about anything will be diminished to the point that people of the future may not be able to read the books of the past nor create new books for future generations.  People living at “internet speed” simply will not be able to pay attention long enough nor think in a sequential manner or deep enough to read a book or write a book – as commonly understood in the 20’th century.

Find out more…

Check out this video from the 1960’s.  As for the term “Global Village” in the 1960’s who doubts that we have truly arrived and that “Global Village” may not be a term we use anymore since this is now our native habitat in the early 21st century.  What about the  prediction of the end of “literary man” and the rise of “tribal man” (a new man created by the electronic media).  When you hear the term “tribal man” in the video think about today’s social media such as Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, and all the rest  Think about the diversity of  “public identity” that people fashion for themselves in social media.  Does anyone have an identity anymore other than what the media creates for people?

Written by frrl

February 3, 2013 at 7:26 pm

ARRL: Reaping the Whirlwind

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“Why end this book as of the year 1950?  It is because the story of ham radio’s development essentially takes place in the first fifty years of the twentieth century.  Having been created, accepted, regulated, and achieved permanent status by 1950, the story after that becomes one primarily of repetition.  The one great exception is in the area of technology, and save for minimal descriptions necessary to the story, that has not been our concern.
The World of Ham Radio, 1901-1950: a social history by Richard Bartlett

It is rather interesting that a book published in 2007 ends with the above Epilogue.  The author is essentially saying that, for him, the evolution of ham radio ended in the 1950’s  and so that is where his book on Amateur Radio will cease to tell the story.  There is nothing else to report other than “repetition”.  It’s a sort of “Mission Accomplished” and the date in history is 1950.

Look in the index of the book and you will find that the ARRL (American Radio Relay League) has about the most page references of any entry.  The ARRL figures prominently in the story of Amateur Radio since its founding at the beginning of the 20th century up until where the author ends the story.

A couple of weeks ago there was a segment on 60 minutes on the newspaper industry.  The newspaper industry just like traditional book sellers, travel agents, video rental, and all the rest have been hit by a technological revolution.  This technological revolution can be seen either as death through  irrelevancy or as harbinger of opportunity – depending on your perspective.


Newspapers are in trouble because they continue to do what they do, and what they always did – print newspapers no matter what the massive changes (opportunities) that were in front of them all along.  Traditional newspapers are in  trouble because they were in a state of repetition while the whole world changed, and continues to change, around them.  Printed newspaper are falling into a state of irrelevancy for an increasing large number of people.

In the case of the The Times-Picayune which was profiled on 60 Minutes the reason the paper gave for not changing was the traditional audience for the paper.  The idea being that they would be loyal to their current audience and the preferences this particular audience chooses to consume their news.  But, in the end, the current audience and their preferences could not sustain the ongoing full operation of The Times-Picayune.

The Take

There is an interesting parallel between the decision of the author of The World of Ham Radio published in 2007 to cut short the history of Ham Radio in 1950 and the newspaper industry.  Both the ARRL as a proxy for Amateur Radio and The Times-Picayune as proxy for newspapers in general are caught in decades long cycles of repetition.  Both remain loyal to their existing audience.  The audience for both is generational.

As for the The Times-Picayune newspaper they were forced into shutting down parts of the enterprise due to financial concerns brought about by change.  They were forced into this unplanned event based on financial drivers.

As for the ARRL, it seems to be a waiting game of how they deal technological change which makes Amateur Radio an interesting hobby in the context of our taken-for-granted always-on hyper global connectivity available to anyone with a smart phone  and the issue of their membership which shows a clear generational preference.

This is from ARRL CEO David Summer K1ZZ posted on the ARRL website:

Mr. Sumner reported on his research into “state of the art” strategic planning by large membership associations. Perhaps because of the negative impact of the financial upheavals of 2008 and the revolution in electronic publishing, at this time there appears to be no consensus among associations as to the value of strategic planning or the best way for associations to go about it. The ARRL Board last updated the organization’s strategic plan in 2009 and normally would conduct an in-depth review three to five years later. The committee discussed the perceived shortcomings of past strategic planning efforts along with possible improvements. Without taking a formal decision the committee concluded that while strategic planning remains important to the ARRL, planning for a successful Centennial celebration in 2014 is the current priority. A fresh approach to strategic planning should be taken immediately afterward.

In 2014 the ARRL will celebrate its 100th anniversary.  One would wonder if the ARRL  Centennial celebration – its current organizational priority – is primarily a look back or a look forward.  If it’s a look forward then can the ARRL afford a delay in the Strategic Plan that sets its course for the future in the context of its membership which is in a generational bubble and modern taken-for-granted hyper-connectivity global communications technology available to anyone with a smart phone – not just those with an Amateur Radio license.

“at this time there appears to be no consensus among associations as to the value of strategic planning or the best way for associations to go about it“… is that what happened to the newspaper business in general and The Times-Picayune in particular?

Read more…

NASA: What to do after Mission Accomplished?

Written by frrl

January 14, 2013 at 6:58 pm

The Future: Hidden in Plain Sight

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“‘All right,’ said the Cat: and this time it vanished quite slowly, beginning with the end of the tail, and ending with the grin, which remained some time after the rest of it had gone.  ‘Well!’ I’ve often seen a cat without a grin,’ thought Alice: ‘but a grin without a cat! It’s the most curious thing I ever saw in my life!’”  Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

If you go wandering around a typical Fortune 500 company chances are 100% that there will be a “Diversity Program”.  By Diversity program the majority of organizations implicitly and unthinkingly understand this to be – primarily and exclusively – diversity around ethnicity.

What about generational diversity?  What we should all know for sure,  based on simple observation, is that in any large organization there are individuals representing 4 distinct generations.  It would be easy to say that these 4 generations are easily mapped into age groups –    but I won’t as this is sometime not nearly the case – depending on the organization.

For those organizations that are in the path of the increasingly velocity of technological change and which must adapt to survive and prosper then making some sort of assessment of who you have in key positions becomes important.

There is a tremendous amount you can learn about people by having simple casual conversations.

In plain sight

Individuals differ widely in what they notice and what escapes their notice.  People differ widely in their level of curiosity.   People differ widely on what drives them into discovery.  If you had the opportunity to have a simple informal conversation with someone how would you get a handle on the above?

Comments on the content of television aside, everyone watches television.  You might watch the nightly news, a reality show, PBS or whatever.  No matter the category of the television programing something pervasive is going on.  Did you notice it?

Ask someone if they saw the “hash tag” on the nightly news, the reality show, or the PBS show.  Maybe they don’t know what you’re talking about.  Ask them if they see that word beginning with the # mark at the margins of the video image.

It’s a valuable observation to make note of the diversity of the answers you will get if you ask people about hash tags as part of an informal conversation.

  • Some people, even though they watch a lot of television, will tell you they have never seen these hash tags even though they did.  That is, they are not overtly conscious of seeing them.  Their eyes saw them but it was not raised to a level of consciousness.  The hash tags are there – but not there.
  • Some people will tell you they saw those tags.  But they won’t know what they are.  For these folks, they see the tags, know that they don’t know what they are but don’t have a level of curiosity to find out what they are, what they mean, and how to use them.
  • Some people know what those hash tags are and tell you they have them as pre-defined search terms in Twitter.

So, if you were to wander around an organization, in sort of non-threatening way, and have a simple informal conversation with people in different parts of the organization and at various levels of the organizational hierarchy – what would you expect to hear?  From what parts of the organization, from who in the organizational decision-making hierarchy.  Who should know what and should you be surprised by the answers you get?

If you were to ask those responsible for new product development about hash tags and they didn’t  know what a hash tag was (didn’t see ’em (but yes they did); saw them but didn’t have the curiosity to find out) what would you think?  What about those folks in engineering – does it matter if they know what a hash tag is?  And heaven help you, if someone in the marketing department doesn’t know what they are.

It is easy, and an oversimplification to make a projection (hypothesis) that those who know and those who don’t know are easily segmented into age groups and into levels of the organizational hierarchy.  That is, young people know, old people don’t know;  those in higher levels of an organization know – no matter their age; people near the bottom of an organization don’t know – no matter their age.

Try it. You might be surprised at what you discover.

But clearly, if your VP of product development or someone in the marketing department doesn’t notice these sorts of remnant grins of the Cheshire Cat marking the future in plain sight at the margins of the television screen then perhaps you need to make a more detailed assessment of how well your organization is positioned to recognize the future with such people in place. 

So, when it comes to strategic direction and strategic priorities, it’s not so much about ethnic diversity as it is about generational diversity and the advantage some generations have in seeing what other generations can not – even though it’s in plain sight.

Read more…

What does the next generation think about who should be doing what…
Why Every Social Media Manager Should Be Under 25

Written by frrl

January 14, 2013 at 4:38 pm

Who NOT to invite to your brainstorming sessions

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I caught this posting by Seth Godin

The cost of neutral

If you come to my brainstorming meeting and say nothing, it would have been better if you hadn’t come at all.

If you go to work and do what you’re told, you’re not being negative, certainly, but the lack of initiative you demonstrate (which, alas, you were trained not to demonstrate) costs us all, because you’re using a slot that could have been filled by someone who would have added more value.

It’s tempting to sit quietly, take notes and comply, rationalizing that at least you’re not doing anything negative. But the opportunity cost your newly lean, highly leveraged organization faces is significant.

Not adding value is the same as taking it away.

Pick carefully those people you invite to your brainstorming session.

Sometimes people are picked for brainstorming because they have certain domain knowledge but the selection process forgets some crucial elements.

  1. Those people who want to “go along to get along”.
  2. Those people who are in a domain that is not exactly “social”.
  3. Those people who are not generally familiar with paradigm shifts.

The purpose of brainstorming is to come up with new ideas and be creative.  At its best, a brainstorming session with different perspective can allow a group of people to “see around corners” in a way that is not possible with a team of solitary disconnected individuals – no matter how smart or extensive their domain knowledge.  They key is to build upon other people’s ideas in an open way.

So, people who want to “go along to get along” ( consensus thinkers – read) don’t make good brainstorming group members.  Those who lack social skills may miss important social cues during a session and perturb the social dynamic that is so important to brainstorming.  Finally, as Seth points out, there are many people, who are excellent in delivering their domain knowledge in an operational setting but generally are not the authors of paradigm shifts.  For this last group of folks  delivering consistency and the status quo are as fundamental to them as water is to fish – that is, an unnoticed environment in which they live.  Delivering the status quo is the exact opposite of the purpose of brainstorming.

If your brainstorming session is not producing the results you expect then maybe the problem is not the process – but the people you have selected.

Written by frrl

January 14, 2013 at 4:16 am

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Lost your job? How to Kickstart(er) your new entrepreneurial career

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Liberty in traditional conservative thought also depends on maintaining the underlying institutions of free-market capitalism-above all the independence, culture, and energy of the entrepreneur. The entrepreneur once did play a central role in the system-but this was more than a hundred years ago. Today roughly 90 percent of working Americans are employees-a very different kind of individual.    –America Beyond Capitalism: reclaiming our wealth, our liberty, ans our democracy

Breaking old Paradigms

I know there are a lot of people out of work.
So, what are you going to do?  Stand there and wait for someone to give you a job?
Waiting around for someone to tell you what to do was an excellent fit for the 20th century “industrial age” factory worker.
“Why, when I ask for a pair of hands, does a brain come attached“, says Henry Ford.
Show up on time, respect authority, don’t ask questions, head’s down, do your work.
We will tell you when you can leave – maybe at the end of the day.
Do the same thing tomorrow, and the next day, and the day after that.
Until we tell you to stop and do something else.
If you do that for this (same) company, at the end of 30 years, we will give you a pension (maybe) and a boot out the door.

Got an idea?  Get funded!

Well, that’s not the way it works, and will work, in the 21st century.
It may be hard to break out of an old paradigm of “waiting for someone to give you a job”
It’s about leaving your comfort zone and exploiting your talents.
It’s about taking initiative and being responsible for your own outcomes- no excuses,
“No one will give me a job”

Back in the days of the “irrational exuberance” of the dot com bubble and burst it was a challenge to get funding.
You needed to convince angel investors or a venture capital firm to give you seed capital.
And then there was the business plan, term sheet, equity, issues of control, governance, legal issues, and all the rest.
Not something for the small guy to take on.

Today for the entrepreneurial individual or the small team it’s a lot easier to get funding for a project.


It’s been around for a while and it’s available to anyone who has an idea and a good pitch

Kickstarter is a funding platform for creative projects. Everything from films, games, and music to art, design, and technology. Kickstarter is full of ambitious, innovative, and imaginative projects that are brought to life through the direct support of others.

Since our launch on April 28, 2009, over $350 million has been pledged by more than 2.5 million people, funding more than 30,000 creative projects.

Thousands of creative projects are funding on Kickstarter at any given moment. Each project is independently created and crafted by the person behind it. The filmmakers, musicians, artists, and designers you see on Kickstarter have complete control and responsibility over their projects. They spend weeks building their project pages, shooting their videos, and brainstorming what rewards to offer backers. When they’re ready, creators launch their project and share it with their community.

Every project creator sets their project’s funding goal and deadline. If people like the project, they can pledge money to make it happen. If the project succeeds in reaching its funding goal, all backers’ credit cards are charged when time expires. If the project falls short, no one is charged. Funding on Kickstarter is all-or-nothing.

Read more here  –

Check out this quick video from Seth Godin on his project

Or search the Kickstarter web site for sample projects.  Then think of what project YOU could do – if you had financial backers.

Ham Radio Projects

Technology (Arduino) Projects

The Take

There has been a lot written about reforming the educational system away from its traditional role of generating a supply of “workers” in the true industrial-age sense.  What we need now are people who have ideas, the entrepreneurial spirit and those who can leverage networks of people for collaboration, knowledge, and effort.

Kickstarter is a platform and a resource, made possible by the internet and global communication – new in the 21st century – that can provide the individual and small team access to millions of potential financial backers to fund projects.  If you have a good idea and a pitch then there are people waiting to help you along your way.

The Millennial generation has given the out-of-work Baby Boomers a gift.
Leave your comfort zone and use it.
What are you waiting for?


The  Deliberate Dumbing Down of America – A Chronological Paper Trail by Charlotte Thomson Iserbyt
Read the reviews here
Get the book for free here –

What is school for?

Do we want management consultants messing with higher education?

Written by frrl

December 28, 2012 at 6:47 pm

The game of Monopoly: a lesson in socialism or a lesson in capitalism?

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There are those who argue that it may be a dangerous thing to teach children how they may thus get the advantage of their fellows, but let me tell you there are no fairer-minded beings in the world than our own little American children. Watch them in their play and see how quick they are, should any one of their number attempt to cheat or take undue advantage of another, to cry, ‘No fair!’ And who has not heard almost every little girl say, ‘I won’t play if you don’t play fair.’  Let the children once see clearly the gross injustice of our present land system and when they grow up, if they are allowed to develop naturally, the evil will soon be remedied.”

Lizzie Magie’s 1902 commentary on The Landlords’ Game, on which Monopoly is based

While doing some Christmas shopping I walked past an end-cap in the toy aisle.  There I saw a new version of Monopoly.  Monopoly Millionaire Edition.

“First to win a million wins!”

The first to win a million dollars wins?  What happend to the old Monopoly game where the point was to “crush the competition into the dust”?

From one of the Monopoly strategy websites linked below here is a strategy to win

If you want to win, follow this set of instructions, which is a sum of everything stated above:

  • Buy every property you can, especially properties from different color sets.
  • Try to acquire the most important sets, otherwise, any set will work.
  • Once you have a set, DO NOT get rid of any of your other properties. If you hold on to the other colors, no other player can get a set
  • If no other player can get a set, they can’t charge you super high rent. However, since you have a set (hopefully), you can!
  • Charging high rents will knock the other players out of the game, leaving you the winner!

Let me translate:

  1. Get all the land you can.  They are not making any more land.  It’s a zero-sum game.  The more you have the less is available for others
  2. Get the most expensive properties as a priority.  But any land is better than no land.
  3. Hold on to whole blocks of properties (color sets)
  4. Charge super-high rents when other players land on your property
  5. The more high-rent properties you control the faster you can crush the other players into the dust and bankrupt them.  You win; they lose.  That’s how the game of Monopoly is played and that’s the way it works in real life.  From board game to real life – lesson learned.

Kids and adults have played the traditional Monopoly game for decades.  Has anyone thought about the underlying values of this game?

Obviously, we are training our kids to be great capitalists through the defeat of other people.

Certainly, Monopoly is not a game of cooperation.

I’m just wondering, this new  Monopoly Millionaire edition, is it non-competitive? 
Is is realistic, or even possible, that we can all “win” without defeating other people?
I don’t think so.

Harpers and NPR did a great set of articles on the history of Monopoly

Listen to the NPR podcast –

Read the article from Harpers –

Lots more links to the history of the game Monopoly and Strategy to win

Lizzie Magie’s 1902 commentary on The Landlords’ Game, on which Monopoly is based

Why Socialism by Albert Einstein

Progress and Poverty
An inquiry into the cause of industrial depressions and of increase of want with increase of wealth… The Remedy

The Landlord’s Game – 1906

The Shocking History of Monopoly


Strategy to win Monopoly

Other Related
Why the rich can get richer by sheer dumb luck

Written by frrl

December 26, 2012 at 10:43 pm

Quick review: Amazon Kindle Paperwhite

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So what’s the deal with the new Kindle Paperwhite?

I purchased a new Kindle Paperwhite book reader a few days ago.  Since I have two other Kindle devices – an original e-ink Kindle and Kindle Fire – I pretty much knew what I was getting.

Really, if you already have a Kindle e-book reader then the only reason to get the Paperwhite is for the built-in reading light.  If you have the earliest Kindle, the one with the keyboard sans touch screen, then the addition of the touch screen is nice but not essential.

One step forward, two steps back

The amount one reads, all other things being equal, is about both availability and convenience.  With the addition of the back-light, the Kindle Paperwhite adds another level of convenience.  With my older e-ink kindle it was something of a bother, or at least an inconvenience, to get an external light source just right in order to see the e-ink Kindle screen in a dark room.  Now, with the built-in reading light, all that inconvenience is eliminated.  As for availability, there are more books then every available for Kindle through purchase, public library lending, Amazon lending library, and books being place in the public domain.

The Amazon Kindle Paperwhite takes two big steps back through, what I would call, “the great silencing of the Kindle”.  Unlike earlier versions of the e-ink Kindle e-book reader the Paperwhite is mute – it has no speakers… and it has no speakers because it is incapable of making any sound whatsoever.  No text to speech, no audio books, no music, no nothing.

Every product has a set of features.  Some people just count features – the more features the better.  Right?  Well, no.  Different consumer segments (and individuals) place a different value on each feature.

I’ll take a long-shot here and propose that there are very few avid book readers that would judge the value of text-to-speech as “low”, or “frivolous” to the point that this feature should be eliminated from a product.  Or, to put it another way, that the ability of an e-book reader to play audio books, and more importantly, the capability to convert any e-book to human speech would always enter into a buying decision.

The generic text-to-speech capability of the older Amazon e-ink Kindles along with voice navigation of the screen gave those with a visual disability the world of books that they may not have any other way with such convenience.  Now Amazon has taken that capability away.  Why?

Companies don’t do things without a business justification.  But, does the business justification outweigh the benefits the speech-enabled Kindle gave to certain under-represented segments of society.  Google as a company started out some simple values.  One of them was, “Don’t be evil”. (” …said he “wanted something that, once you put it in there, would be hard to take out”, ”  read more )

The Take

The Amazon Kindle Paperwhite is fine addition to the Kindle e-book reader line of products.  It’s outstanding feature is the addition of the built-in back light.  I find that I read more books more often on the Kindle Paperwhite for the simple reason that I don’t have to fuss with finding the lighting to read the Kindle in a dark room.  In a well-lit room there is little difference between the Kindle Paperwhite  and any of the older Kindle e-book readers.

Amazon took two steps back with the Kindle Paperwhite by silencing it.  No audio books and no capability to turn “any book into an audio book” though its excellent text to speech capability.  This was a wondrous feature.  My older Kindle e-book reader with aural capability will not find its way into the trash any time soon due to this lack of capability of the newest Kindle e-book reader.  The visually impaired have lost a friend at Amazon.

Amazon should take a look at Google’s informal corporate motto in their pre-IPO S-1 filing and re/think the Kindle product roadmap in this context.

We believe strongly that in the long-term, we will be better served — as shareholders and in all other ways — by a company that does good things for the world even if we forgo some short-term gains.  (reference)

Read More

Read other postings on this site related to the Amazon Kindle  ( )

Folks that have any e-book reader would benefit from Calibre

Folks that want the audio for a large collection of books in the public domain should check out LibriVox

Written by frrl

December 23, 2012 at 12:25 am

NASA: What to do after “Mission Accomplished”?

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It’s always interesting to watch the evolution of organizations especially when the primary mission for which they were created has been substantially accomplished.

One such organization is NASA

There are a couple of easy options to consider after the main event (Landing a man on the moon)

  1. Identify a new compelling vision and mission for the organization consistent with external realities and priorities
  2. Invent “busy work” to justify the organization status quo
  3. Face the harsh reality that the organization is adrift and find a fresh perspective absent #1 above and when #2 becomes obvious

It seems we might have examples of the second and third option –  lacking a new compelling vision and mission for NASA

Mars the Hard Way

In recent weeks, NASA has put forth two remarkable new plans for its proposed next major initiatives. Both bear careful examination.

As the centerpiece for its future human spaceflight program, NASA proposes to build another space station, this one located not in low Earth orbit but at the L2 Lagrange point just above the far side of the Moon. This plan is indeed remarkable in as much as an L2 space station would serve no useful purpose whatsoever. We don’t need an L2 space station to go back to the Moon. We don’t need an L2 space station to go to near-Earth asteroids. We don’t need an L2 space station to go to Mars. We don’t need an L2 space station for anything.

The other initiative is a new plan for Mars sample return, which is now held to be the primary mission of the robotic Mars exploration program. This plan is remarkable for its unprecedented and utterly unnecessary complexity.

Unfortunately, however, rather than propose the most cost-effective plan for a Mars sample return mission, NASA has now set forth the most convoluted, riskiest, costliest approach ever conceived.

Clearly, though, the group that drifted into it was attempting to make the Mars sample return mission provide an apparent excuse for the existence for an assortment of other NASA hobbyhorses. For example, we note that it makes use of the LaGrange point space station. But this does not help the Mars sample return mission, which could much more simply just return the samples to Earth, where far better lab facilities are available than could ever be installed at L2. Rather, by invoking the L2 station as a critical element of the mission plan, NASA is inserting a toll both blocking the way to the accomplishment of the sample return, while radically increasing mission and program cost, schedule and risk and decreasing science return. The same can be said for requiring the use of electric propulsion, a technology program that was inserted into the human Mars mission critical path based on an unsupportable claim by a well-placed advocate that it could speed up interplanetary transits, and that now needs some alternative rationale.

This planning methodology is equivalent to that of a shopaholic couple who ask an architect to design their dream house but insist that he include in his design as critical components every whimsical piece of random junk they have ever bought in the past and piled up in their back yard, in order to make those purchases appear rational after the fact. By capitulating to this kind of thinking, the NASA leadership has transformed Mars sample return from a mission into a “vision.”

Read the rest of the article –

The report from the National Academies

In late 2011, the Congress directed the NASA Office of Inspector General to commission a “comprehensive independent assessment of NASA’s strategic direction and agency management.”  This report has now been published and is available to the public.  Here is an excerpt:

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is at a transitional point in its history and is facing a set of circumstances that it has not faced in combination before. The agency’s budget, although level-funded in constant-year dollars, is under considerable stress, servicing increasingly expensive missions and a large, aging infrastructure established at the height of the Apollo program.

Other than the long-range goal of sending humans to Mars, there is no strong, compelling national vision for the human spaceflight program, which is arguably the centerpiece of NASA’s spectrum of mission areas. The lack of national consensus on NASA’s most publicly visible mission, along with out-year budget uncertainty, has resulted in the lack of strategic focus necessary for national agencies operating in today’s budgetary reality. As a result, NASA’s distribution of resources may be out of sync with what it can achieve relative to what it has been asked to do…

Although gaps in U.S. human spaceflight capability have existed in the past, several other factors, in combination, make this a unique period for NASA. These include a lack of consensus on the next steps in the development of human spaceflight, increasing financial pressures, an aging infrastructure, and the emergence of additional space-capable nations—some friendly, some potentially unfriendly….

These problems are not primarily of NASA’s doing, but the agency could craft a better response to the uncertainty, for example, by developing a strategic plan that includes clear priorities and a transparent budget allocation process. A better response would improve NASA’s ability to navigate future obstacles and uncertainties. An effective agency response is vital, because at a time when the strategic importance of space is rising and the capabilities of other spacefaring nations are increasing, U.S. leadership is faltering….

You can read the full report along with recommendations here –

The Take

Just about every organization faces the challenge of redefining itself in a new context.  When you read NASA’s complex plan for Mars you can see an organization struggling.  It’s better for an organization to face reality and accept that it has a problem (no matter how painful) rather than invent rude-goldberg type space missions to justify existing and legacy infrastructure, personnel, and budgets.

But being proactive about these issues and knowing when you need to re/invent the organization is what leadership is all about, right?  For NASA, does that thought leadership come from inside the organization or do we need to wait for someone outside the organization to define NASA’s next compelling mission as bold as the moon landing?

If the next compelling vision has to come from outside the organization then what does that say about the creativity,  innovation, vitality, and influence of the organization?  What does it say about the people in the organization and how it operates?  How many public corporations ask “outsiders” to develop a strategic plan for their business?  None!  That’s a senior leadership responsibility.  If NASA itself can’t come up with a compelling vision that captures the national interest – if it has to rely on outsiders to show it where to go – then it seems to me an essential element of NASA leadership (esp. thought-leadership & vision) is missing.

To “give” or impose on NASA a new mission and strategic plan is to treat the symptom and not the cause of some of NASA’s problems post “Mission Accomplished”.

Read More

Reviews Agree On Need For New NASA Strategic Plan
Expert Panel: NASA seems lost in space, needs goal

Should the “will of the people” guide NASA?  read

Written by frrl

December 5, 2012 at 8:28 pm

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