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Destroying Your Enemies Through the Magic of Design

a list apart - Thu 20th Nov 2014 00:11

A note from the editors: We’re pleased to share an excerpt from Jenny Lam and Hillel Cooperman’s new book Making Things Special, Tech Design Leadership from the Trenches, available now. A List Apart readers can also enter to win a copy of the book.

Hierarchical organizations large and small are rife with politics. In fact, the smaller the stakes, the more vicious they can be. Political organizations are ones where what things look like are just as, or more, important as what you actually do. Dealing with perceptions as well as ego and insecurity is part of dealing with human beings. This is who we are. And as soon as we create situations where there are winners and losers we create politics. And fighting. In some organizations, regardless of how brilliant your design may be, the politics will kill your plans before they have a chance to really blossom. And that’s a shame.

The single most important thing you can understand about navigating the gauntlet of organizational politics is the relative risks of saying no versus yes. Your job, your dream, your passion is to say “yes.” Yes to your product vision. Yes to your design. Yes to delighting customers. But the road is littered with opponents. These are people who will raise concerns about your proposals, reasonable sounding concerns. Concerns that may or may not be genuine. Maybe they’re good thoughts to consider that have been offered in good faith, and maybe they’re just obstacles designed to trip you up and damage you as a competitor in the organization. If you suspect an opponent’s motivations are personal, you’ll never prove it. That only happens in the movies. In effect, their motivations are irrelevant. Genuine or jerky, your only remaining option is to deal with their issues at face value.

But how?

Before we answer, let’s pause for an anecdote.

Years ago we worked on one of two teams in the same company that worked on competing projects. This happens often. The company’s leadership hopes competition fosters innovation, and people bringing forth their best ideas. The other team was huge and had been working on their project for years. There were smart and talented people on that team doing good work. They even had good design talent, but the team wasn’t design driven. They were technology driven. This is not to say that they didn’t think about customers. They did. It’s just that the high order bit was their technology choice, and then they did their best to design around those choices.

Our team was small. We had decent ideas and were design led. Our team fashioned a high-fidelity prototype that illustrated our ideas. It was on rails, a glorified slide show. And it was gorgeous. The other team had code. We had beautiful images that moved.

As things came to a head politically, we finally revealed our design to the other team. After the presentation, they looked like they’d been punched in the stomach. Even though they had code, we just had a better story. We had something inspiring. Their stuff was flat. And boring. Literally and metaphorically. And even though they were creative and smart, the genetics of their team had led them down an uninspiring path. They knew it. And so did the execs who saw both teams’ work.

Within a week those execs tried to merge our teams. And when it was clear that we were culturally incompatible, their project was killed. Was our design work solely responsible for the end of their project? No. Was it one of the things that sent them over the edge? Without a doubt.

Now let’s return to our discussion of how you can deal with the people who oppose your plans in your organization. Your first choice is to use the logic of your arguments, your personal charm, and maybe a little horse trading to get those folks on board. And in many cases that works. It’s always your best option. We’re big fans of working together harmoniously. But the larger the organization (and it doesn’t have to be all that large) the higher the odds that there will be some people where reasoned discussion and collaboration doesn’t work. Ever.

Remember, the political economics of saying “no” in large organizations are so much better than saying “yes.” Saying “no” costs essentially nothing. You don’t need to prove anything. You’ll almost never be proven wrong for saying no. And the optics are great too. The person saying “yes” looks overly enthusiastic, while the person saying “no” in reasonable tones sounds like the grownup. The naysayer just has to raise reasonable doubt to save the company from wasting time and money on some “foolish and poorly thought out initiative.” However, saying “yes” is costly. You’re putting yourself out on a limb. You’re being specific. You’re opening yourself up to attack. You’re trying to do something.

As a user experience design leader you have a secret advantage. It’s the thing that often overcomes every opponent, every craven naysayer. It’s the High Fidelity Visualization.

What is the High Fidelity Visualization? It could be anything from a series of beautiful UI mockups, to a user experience prototype on rails, to a freeform prototype that the audience can try themselves, to a beautifully produced video showing customers using the prototype.

There will always be “no” people. But “no” people rarely have counterproposals. And when they do, they’re usually vague or a set of yawn-inducing PowerPoint bullets. By definition, they don’t want to be out on a limb or they’d be subject to attack. So they keep things light on details. But when you show up with a High Fidelity Visualization, if you’ve done your job, and told a great story, everyone else in the room will fall in love with your plan. Decision makers will get excited. They’ll start defending your ideas against the naysayers. Emotion motivates them to become advocates for your plan, your story. And this is a good thing.

But take note, we liken these visualizations to nuclear weapons. They’re incredibly powerful tools and can cause collateral damage. You’ve got to get the dosage just right. Sometimes you can do such a good job getting your company’s leadership on board with your ideas that now they bother you every week to find out why the product isn’t done yet. After all, that prototype looked essentially ready to ship, and you didn’t spend a lot of time in your pitch meeting talking about the smoke and mirrors you used to put it together.

The point is this: with a beautifully executed High Fidelity Visualization that sets the right tone, you can neutralize the people in your organization who love to say “no.” This is your secret advantage as someone with vision, an ability to visualize your plan and bring it to life in people’s imagination, and the leadership skills to deliver on that vision. Tell the right story with your execution here and anyone who’s getting in your way will fall by the wayside.

And for those of you who feel this is militaristic in tone, you’re right. Hierarchical organizations with more than ten people on the team invariably have a representative population of personality types — including people who will get in your way. If you really want to make something special and deliver it to customers, then you need to get the doubters on board or run them over. Partnering with the doubters is always preferable as long as it’s not at the expense of your ideas. But unfortunately, it’s not always possible. It’s not personal. It’s not about being a jerk. It’s not about beating your chest. It’s about making something great. And if you’re in an organization where people with limited vision and possibly political aims are forever stopping you from delivering something wonderful, you need to arm yourself and fight. Spending your time arguing endlessly with people so you can deliver a watered-down version of the great thing that resides in your head is a waste of your time.

How do you know which feedback is killing your vision and which is making it better? Listen to everyone, open your mind, but trust your instincts. If you stick to your guns and fail, at least you’ll learn something. If you turn your ideas into some sort of compromise mishmash and you fail, you’ll never know exactly what caused the failure and you truly will have wasted your time.

Good luck soldier.

Categories: thinktime

The wrong question to ask yourself before crowdfunding

Seth Godin - Wed 19th Nov 2014 20:11
A friend explained to me all the reasons for her upcoming Kickstarter campaign. The machine she wanted to buy was sorely needed, it would increase her productivity and also make her day significantly easier--it made perfect business sense. These are...         Seth Godin
Categories: thinktime

Jonathan Adamczewski: Unquestionably bad

Planet Linux Australia - Wed 19th Nov 2014 18:11

Question 5:

Consider the following 6 data structures:

  • Stack
  • Queue
  • Hash table
  • Doubly-linked list
  • Binary search tree
  • Directed acyclic graph

Using these as the subject matter, construct 6 really good puns.

 

Answers:

After receiving a range of questions from different sources, I was unsure which to answer first — I was stack as to where to begin. And so because this was the last question that I received, it became the first that I answered.

Don’t get me wrong — I did appreciate the question. The capacity of my gratitude is, theoretically, unbounded. Thanqueue.

We have a cuckoo aviary. I keyp a record of each birth in a hatch table.

I noticed that I was leaning to one side. I spoke to a physician about it — he told me I was overweight because I was eating too much bread. My list, it seems, is linked to my dough-belly.

On a school trip to a pickle factory, my daughter went missing. I was able to climb the brinery search tree and spot her, though it took longer than I had hoped due to my poor balance.

While out walking, I deflected a cyclist’s gaffe, knocking him aside as he rode the wrong way down a one-way street. I looked down my nose at him and gave a topological snort to help him on his way.

 

The reader may decide whether the answers satisfy the requirements of the question.

Categories: thinktime

A 21st Century Education: Pedagogy, Neuroscience and Technology

Location The Auditorium, Melbourne Brain Centre Ground Floor, Kenneth Myer Building 30 Royal Parade (corner Genetics Lane) The University of Melbourne, VIC Australia See map: Google Maps Professor Baroness Susan Greenfield 26 November 2014 - 6:00pm - 7:30pm Join our panel of prominent scientists and educators to consider some of the opportunities and risks digital technology has for education in the 21st Century.

Digital technology is a disruptive force driving unforeseen change in societies, economies and businesses throughout the world. Susan Greenfield proposes that our brains are also changing in response.

What do these unprecedented changes mean for the future education of our children and young people? What do they mean for their education now? What can teachers and parents learn from neuroscience that will help them prepare children for life in the 21st Century?

read more

Categories: thinktime

"This will blow over"

Seth Godin - Wed 19th Nov 2014 08:11
Your employees notice when you take action. And when you don't. When a storm hits your company, the instinct is to wait it out, to seek shelter, to work to set an agenda, not to let the outside world set...         Seth Godin
Categories: thinktime

linux.conf.au News: Speaker Feature: Katie McLaughlin, Andrew Bartlett

Planet Linux Australia - Wed 19th Nov 2014 04:11
Katie McLaughlin Before All Else, Be Graphed

3:40pm Wednesday 14th January 2015

Katie is a part of the Engineering team at Anchor Systems, working to improve *all* the things. She has a history of enterprise development and Windows system administration, but has been successfully converted to the ways of the penguin in recent years.

When she's not changing the world, she enjoys making tapestries, cooking, and yelling at JavaScript and it's attempts at global variables.

For more information on Katie and her presentation, see here. You can follow her as @glasnt and don’t forget to mention #lca2015.



Andrew Bartlett Pushing users into the pit of success - stories from the Samba 3 -> Samba 4 transition

23:40pm Thursday 15th January 2015

Andrew Bartlett is a Samba Developer currently employed by Catalyst in Wellington, NZ. Andrew has been developing Samba since 2001, and has had a strong focus on the Active Directory DC project for the past decade or so. He is passionate about authentication systems and making Samba a great, interoperable alternative to the dominant implementation from Microsoft.

For more information on Andrew and his presentation, see here.

Categories: thinktime

UX for the Enterprise

a list apart - Wed 19th Nov 2014 02:11

Imagine this scenario. You’re hired to design a product that has a guaranteed audience of 50,000 users, right out of the gate. Your clients have a dedicated support staff with a completely predictable technology stack. Best of all, your work directly improves the quality of your users’ lives.

That’s enterprise UX.

Yes, those 50,000 people use your software because they don’t have a choice. And sure, that completely predictable technology stack is ten years out-of-date. But, despite its quirks, doing UX work for enterprise clients is an opportunity to spread good design to the industries that need it most.

Enterprise UX is a catch-all term for work done for internal tools—software that’s used by employees, not consumers. Examples include:

  • HR portals
  • Inventory tracking apps
  • Content management systems
  • Intranet sites
  • Proprietary enterprise software

Since switching from working with smaller clients to tackling the problems of the Fortune 500, I’ve fielded a lot of questions from designers mystified by my decision. Why choose to specialize in enterprise design when you could do more interesting work in leaner, more agile, t-shirt-friendly companies? Isn’t big business antithetical to design culture?

The answer is: yes, often. Working with enterprise clients can be an exercise in frustration, filled with endless meetings and labyrinthine bureaucracy. It can also be immensely rewarding, with unique challenges and creatively satisfying work. As designers, we live to solve problems, and few problems are larger than those lurking in the inner depths of a global organization. After all, Fortune 500s tend to have a “just get it done” attitude toward internal tools, resulting in user experiences that aren’t well designed or tested. By giving those tools the same attention to experience that you give consumer-facing products, you can improve the lives of your users and support the organization’s values and brand.

Why bother with enterprise work?

Enterprise UX is often about solving ancillary problems by creating tools that facilitate an organization’s primary goals. These problems are rarely as compelling or visible as the goals they support, but they’re just as necessary to solve. A company might build the best-designed cars in the world, but it won’t matter if its quality-assurance process is hobbled by unusable software. Good design enables enterprises to do the work they were founded to do.

Enterprise employees are also consumers, and they’ve come to expect consumer-level design in all the tools they use. Why shouldn’t a company’s inventory software or HR portal be as polished as Evernote, Pinterest, or Instagram? When a consumer app is poorly designed, the user can delete it. When an enterprise app is poorly designed, its users are stuck with it.

The stakes can be enormously high. The sheer scale of enterprise clients magnifies the effects of good and bad design alike. Small inefficiencies in large organizations result in extra costs that are passed on to the end user in time spent, money lost, and frustration increased. Likewise, when an enterprise prioritizes user experience for its internal tools, it becomes a more effective organization; a recently released business index shows that design-driven companies outperformed the S&P average by 228% over the last ten years.

A perfect example of the business value of enterprise UX is found in the article, “Calculating ROI on UX & Usability Projects”:

…if you optimize the UX on a series of screens so that what was once a 5 minute task is now a 2.5 minute task, then you’ve increased a person’s productivity by 100%. That’s huge. HUGE. If the company has 100 phone agents who have an average salary of $40,000 + benefits (~$8,000) (+ an unknown amount for overhead), you could either release or retask those agents on other activities with a savings of $2,400,000/year. (half of 100 agents x $48,000).

It’s simplified, but the point is dead-on. A company with 100 phone agents could result in millions of dollars of savings. Imagine the impact on a company with thousands of employees? Or tens of thousands?

We have an opportunity to set the tone in some of the largest industries on the planet. Many big organizations have been defined by engineering and business thinking, with any design being either incidental or unintentional. Now, as those companies wake up to the value of solid design, they have to contend with the years of cruft that have obscured their tools and processes. Design is essential to shedding the excess and building better, leaner, and more human organizations.

Working on enterprise projects

There’s no such thing as an average enterprise UX project. The variety of projects within even a single company can be dizzying. I’ve worked on sites with a million visitors in the first week, and apps that fewer than 12 people use in a year.

Projects that would be iterative in the consumer space may be a one-off in the enterprise space, so it’s crucial to get things right the first time around. Further, due to cost, culture, and the immense hassle of rolling out updates to tens of thousands of employees, enterprise clients are often bogged down with wildly out-of-date solutions. We’ve heard of huge companies begging Microsoft to extend the lifespan of Windows XP; that’s the rule, not the exception.

Designing internal tools for a Fortune 500 company requires adaptation, but it isn’t a seismic shift from the world of consumer-facing design. Though a set of universal rules governing enterprise UX might not exist, there are a few principles I wish I’d known when transitioning from working with smaller clients.

Design for the end user, not the client

As with many design jobs, the end users of your software probably aren’t the same people who commissioned it.

In large organizations, the divide between the user and the client can be vast. The director of operations might commission an inventory app for warehouse personnel, or someone from IT might commission a reporting tool for the sales team. In an enterprise-scale bureaucracy, the clients in charge of UX projects are often in higher-level management roles. And while they typically have an invaluable grasp of the big picture, they may not completely realize the everyday needs of the people who will use the software.

Conduct your stakeholder interviews to understand and agree on your client’s business goals, but don’t forget to gather user and empirical data too. Fortunately, that type of research is easier to do in an enterprise setting than in the consumer space. Corporations like to quantify things, so data on productivity and software use may already exist. And, unlike consumers who need an incentive to fill out a survey or participate in an usability study, enterprise users have an inherent investment in the end product—setting aside some time to answer your questions is part of their job.

A successful enterprise UX project considers the users’ needs, the clients’ goals, and the organization’s priorities. The best user experience sits at the intersection of these concerns.

Be an educator and advocate, but above all, be flexible

Being a designer is as much a consultative role as a practical one; to justify our design decisions, we need to explain to clients our guiding principles and teach them the basics of good user experience. Otherwise, we’re nothing more than pixel-pushers.

Most enterprise clients have their own procurement procedures and project management techniques that don’t jive with a healthy UX workflow. Designers often find themselves needing to shoehorn their process into an existing structure, an exercise which can be frustrating if not approached properly.

I was recently involved in redesigning a section of a large corporation’s website. My team was responsible for handling the visual design—the content was set, and a development partner had already been hired.

Ordinarily, we prefer to have plenty of overlap between the design and development phases, to ensure that the live site matches the intentions of the design. However, the tight deadline and the client’s existing workflow made this impossible. Instead, we handed off the final mock-ups to the developers and hoped that everything was implemented without a hitch.

We didn’t see the site again until a week before launch. Predictably, the soon-to-be-live site had numerous inconsistencies. Issues that would have been obvious with a glance from a designer—incorrect fonts, uneven margins, wrong colors—were left until the last minute to fix. The process provided ample room for the developers to do quality control (remember that ancient tech stack?), but not the designers.

We wrote a list of crucial changes, ordered by priority, to bring the site in line with our design and the client’s goals. Many items were fixed before launch, and the client fast-tracked a second iteration to fix the rest. But none of those design issues would have launched in the first place had we insisted on more interaction between the designers and developers. Some good did come out of this challenge: we recommended the client reevaluate their design/development workflow requirements, explaining why the two processes needed to overlap. We also examined our own workflow to figure out how to make it more accommodating to the peculiarities of enterprise work—adding a postmortem phase, for instance, enables us to give feedback to a third-party developer while maintaining a tight timeline. If we were asking our clients to be flexible, we needed to be flexible too. Sure enough, the client offered us a greater opportunity to set the terms of the process on the next project.

Needing to adapt to a new set of restrictions is an opportunity, not a hindrance. One of the most valuable things a designer can offer a large organization is insight into the design process and its importance. Design education and advocacy can extend beyond a single project, giving the client an understanding of how to better accommodate design thinking within the organization.

Learn the culture, speak the language

Designing internal tools for an organization requires an understanding of that organization’s culture, from the basic mindset to the quirks that make it unique.

Corporate clients are often forced into short-term thinking, which can make it difficult to push longer-term design goals. When dealing with enterprise clients, remember their priorities: meeting a quota by the end of the quarter, exhausting a budget so they can secure the same amount next year, or improving a metric to keep the boss happy. Corporate clients are less concerned with design trends or UX best practices—they just want something that works for them. It’s best to frame design decisions around the client’s goals to sell them on your thinking.

Of course, that’s easier said than done. It isn’t always obvious what the client cares about. Plenty of organizations pay lip service to values that haven’t really permeated the culture, making it hard to know what to aim for in the design process. It’s amazing how many enterprises describe themselves as “design-focused” or “innovation-driven” without anyone below the C-suite knowing what those terms mean.

So how do we figure out what an enterprise client is really about?

It takes some time, but one of the best ways is to pay attention to the language your clients use. Different organizations have different vocabularies, which reveal the way they think. You’ll likely encounter jargon, but your job is to listen—and help your clients translate that language into actionable goals. Do employees talk about “circling back” or “talking about this offline”? Structured communication may be important to that company. How about “value-add” or “low-hanging fruit”? Quick wins and return-on-investment are probably cornerstones of that organization’s culture.

No client wants to learn design lingo just to be able to communicate with you, and corporate clients in particular are busy with a million other things. Learn their language so they don’t have to learn yours.

Go ahead

We designers live to solve problems, and enterprise organizations provide fertile ground. They present a different set of constraints than startups and smaller clients, and while some designers balk at the idea of their work being constricted by a bureaucracy, others remember that the best design flourishes within well-defined boundaries.

Working on enterprise projects is something every UX designer should try. Who knows? You may just like it enough to stay.

Categories: thinktime

Cultivating the Next Generation of Web Professionals

a list apart - Wed 19th Nov 2014 02:11

I’ve spent most of my career at institutions of higher education, and during that time, I have had the good fortune to work with several incredible students. Former interns are now LinkedIn connections working for television shows, book publishers, major websites, ad agencies, and PR firms, and the list of job titles and employers makes me proud. Along the way, I tried to give them interesting projects (when available), enthusiastic references (when merited), and helpful career advice (when requested).

And despite their success, I feel like I fell short. I could have offered more to them.

Mentoring opportunities, after all, aren’t limited to internships and official programs. There is a lot that we as individuals can do to serve as role models, ambassadors, and teachers to the web professionals of tomorrow.

Skillsets will evolve and technologies will come and go, but we can create the digital experiences of the future today through the values and attitudes we instill in the next generation of web workers.

Finding new layers of learning

The web has matured significantly since it hijacked my career path back in college, and so have our understanding of and attitudes toward it. “Doing it right” calls for strategic skills like testing, measurement, and planning; interpersonal skills like negotiation, leadership, and collaboration; and technical skills in writing, coding, or design.

But has the education of the next generation of web professionals matured accordingly? How much are they learning bricklaying versus architecture? This isn’t meant to be a condemnation of curriculums at colleges and universities, where we are beginning to see more courses, certificates, and even degree programs that reflect this approach. This is more an acknowledgement of the new nature of education nowadays—experiential, fluid, occasionally roundabout, and highly networked.

We often talk about how the success of our work is determined by the strength of our relationships and our ability to work with people. This is what Jonathan Kahn has been talking about and working on with the Dare Conference. We need to extend that way of thinking to the relationships we build with each other, and, in particular, with the future professionals who will one day take our place at the client’s table.

I’ve always cherished the thoughtfulness that our industry regularly displays, and how, despite serious concerns about sexism, diversity, and harassment, there is an overriding sense of justice and support. Within our profession, we have built a special community. Since our future colleagues are among these students, let’s welcome them into it.

Bring your experience back to the classroom

Future web professionals require connections to peers and leaders in the field and to enhanced learning experiences. We can build those connections by meeting students where they are: in their classrooms. What undergraduate or graduate programs offered in your area align with your skillset? Reach out to the relevant faculty—in journalism, public relations, computer science, human-computer interaction, graphic design, technical writing, and other departments—to see if they are looking for guest speakers.

Brand and content strategist Margot Bloomstein has spoken to undergraduate classes about a half-dozen times, and invited top names in the field to speak to her own content strategy class at Columbia University. My Meet Content partner-in-crime, Rick Allen, teaches a course at Emerson College in Boston on electronic publishing, and he’s been kind enough to invite me to speak to his graduate students twice (and sometimes I think the experience is more rewarding for me than for them!).

You can also reach out directly to college career centers. Amanda Costello, a content strategist at the University of Minnesota, has had success with this approach, working with them to organize and promote events where she can talk about her work with students who may have an interest in a web profession.

If you catch the bug after a guest-lecturing stint, reach out to those programs or your local community college to see if they are looking for new adjunct faculty, and teach your own course. It’s a huge time commitment, to be sure, but teaching is a great way to approach your work with fresh eyes and maybe realize a thing or two you didn’t know before—while sharing your knowledge with an eager audience.

Expand learning opportunities off-campus

Invite students to the next local industry event. Hackathon? Content strategy meetup? UX book club? It’s all good. Work with professors teaching relevant courses to see if their students can get extra credit for attending, or maybe host a “student night” of lightning talks where they can talk about their research or perspectives on the field so far. Similar to Costello’s approach, send information about your professional networking event directly to career centers so they can promote it to students who may be interested.

We can also make powerful connections outside the construct of a university setting. Karen McGrane recently wrote about how she pays forward the 30 minutes an academic whose name she can’t even recall gave her that helped steer her toward a graduate program and, eventually, a career.

With that post echoing in my mind, I recently agreed to meet with a young woman who reached out to me via Twitter. She was intrigued by my job title, curious about how I got to where I am, and wondering what her next steps might be. We closed our 30-minute conversation over coffee on an Au Bon Pain patio with me promising to connect her to a former intern of mine, whom I had counseled as she struggled to find her place postgraduation and watched as she emerged confident with a rewarding job in her chosen field.

I don’t know if that connection will help her, or if anything I said in those 30 minutes made sense, but if nothing else, I know that I helped reassure her that there are people in the industry who are willing to meet a complete stranger for 30 minutes on a Tuesday and talk shop. For someone just starting out professionally and looking to find her place, that’s significant.

Make conferences more accessible for young attendees

We are lucky to work in an industry with several opportunities for professional development, events where we can gather in person and learn from each other. We need to work harder to bring college students into this fold. There are two main obstacles: awareness and budget.

Building the pathways to make students aware of conference opportunities (both for presenting and attending) is doable over time, but a tougher problem to solve is budget. The average college junior does not have the resources to pay a conference fee, let alone airfare and hotel. Within a university, a student may receive funding from the provost’s office or a dean’s special-projects fund to attend an academic conference. But what about professional events?

As sponsorship dollars fly fast and furious around various events, let’s consider the possibility of offering scholarships to select student attendees or a discounted student rate, as some conferences (like An Event Apart) already do. In this vein, for two years running, Facebook has sponsored content strategy fellowships that fund three students’ attendance at the annual Confab Central content strategy conference, in addition to extending an opportunity to apply for a content strategy internship with the social-networking giant. Some conferences, like UXPA, organize a student volunteer program that helps staff the conference while providing a free conference experience (complete with networking opportunities) in return. If sponsorships and scholarships aren’t possible, conferences should work with colleges to allow attendance at events relevant to a student’s major to count as course credit.

But what about taking that a step further and creating a professional development experience just for students? Two such initiatives are currently underway. One is the Center Centre at the Unicorn Institute, a user experience design-focused education project spearheaded by Jared Spool and Leslie Jensen-Inman. Also, the HighEdWeb conference has introduced the CrowdSource Summit, a sub-conference geared toward college students with the stated goal of providing them with a multidisciplinary, human perspective on web professions. (Full disclosure: I spoke at CrowdSource Summit in October.)

While attendance is great, presenting is even better. In helping to organize Confab Higher Ed for the past two years, I am particularly proud of the fact that we have included sessions that feature not only student-generated communications efforts, but also teams with student copresenters. And offering those opportunities can yield results. Recently, I learned that one of last year’s student speakers, RIT’s Erin Supinka, landed a job as a social media manager at Dartmouth in part thanks to the recommendation of Dartmouth content strategist Sarah Maxell Crosby, who attended Supinka’s session. I hope to see this trend continue, and be echoed at other conferences.

This increased access for students would have to go hand in hand with making conferences’ social activities less focused around drinking and creating more all-ages social events. A List Apart technical editor and front-end developer Anna Debenham recently wrote about this on the ALA blog, observing that all of the efforts I’ve outlined here would be for naught if we don’t address the social component as well. “The more young people we encourage to join the fold, the more we are excluding from these events,” she observed. (Debenham has even crafted some handy guidelines for event organizers.)

Expand your interns’ horizons

If you have interns at your company, don’t limit their involvement to tasks like research, answering emails, or bug fixes. Get them invested in the culture of your organization by discussing clients, projects, process, deliverables, and industry trends and challenges with them. Let them sit in on a kickoff meeting, client pitch, or deliverables presentation, and encourage them to share their ideas in whatever way is most appropriate. Earlier this year, Jim Ross wrote for UX Matters not only about how interns can get the most out of their opportunity, but also how companies can give interns enlightening, productive work experiences. The Boston-based web design firm Upstatement offers a development apprenticeship that seems like it would be one such position.

The other day, I sat in on a weekly status call with a client. Our project manager called in our co-op student who had worked on a landing page design and asked her to explain to the client the different options and the reasoning behind them. The PM could have easily summarized the work, but instead she asked our co-op to represent her own work—which, I might add, the client liked.

In addition, have interns talk to people in roles that are distinct from their skillset or comfort zone—programmers, project managers, IAs, UX specialists, content strategists, designers, you name it. These mini job-shadowing opportunities will help establish a well-rounded approach to web work.

A couple of years ago, I wrote for Meet Content about how student workers can help support content strategy work (both from the staff perspective as the one managing the students and assigning them work, and from the student perspective of someone thinking about a career path and looking for paid work that will help advance them along). Last year, a design intern at Fastspot wrote glowingly on the company’s blog about how deeply involved she became in the agency’s process while working there. It’s within these purposeful, immersive early work experiences that students discover their true callings as professionals—as well as the things they don’t like, which is important too.

Building the future

In a 2010 HighEdWeb presentation, Dylan Wilbanks (then at the University of Washington) exhorted the audience not to let the politics of higher ed beat them down and make them bitter. “Love the web, love higher ed, love people,” he implored us.

In thinking about the importance of mentorship, I am drawn back to Wilbanks’s words. We may love the work that we do, yes, but we also love our field and the people within it. This love is why I care about what not only the web will look like in five, 10, 20 years, but also our profession and our community.

In an August post on The Pastry Box Project, Brad Frost reminded us of the importance in remaining self-aware as professionals, always asking ourselves why we do what we do and not just getting dragged along by the act of doing. “Understanding why we enjoy doing what we do better prepares us for whatever the future has in store,” he wrote. In short, we need to actively give a damn.

The more we openly communicate about what drives us, the better off we, our colleagues, and our future colleagues will be. We use forums like this to debate and evolve our understanding both of the web and of ourselves as professionals, to everyone’s benefit.

By the same token, because we care so damned much, we should be similarly engaged with the next wave of web professionals. We should work to cultivate their senses of passion and exploration, and their appreciation of a well-rounded approach to web work, so they can take the web places we’ve never dreamed it could go. Now that’s being future friendly.

Categories: thinktime

Andrew Pollock: [life] Day 293: Kindergarten, Property Occupations Act Roadshow

Planet Linux Australia - Tue 18th Nov 2014 22:11

Zoe woke up at some point in the night. I have a vague recollection of a conversation with her, and lacking the willpower to get out of bed to put her back to bed in her own bed. The next thing it was 5:30am and she was sleeping sideways in bed with me.

Despite all that, I felt more rested this morning, which was good. We managed to get going quite early as well, without really trying. I had to be out at the Sleeman Sports Complex at 9am for a roadshow by the REIQ about the new Property Occupations Act, which kicks in on December 1 to replace the current Property Agents and Motor Dealers Act.

It also rained this morning, which doubly made it necessary to go to Kindergarten by car. We were actually running so early that we got there before opening time, which I've only managed to do a few times all year.

I ended up getting to the Sleeman Sports Complex about 15 minutes early. It was fun playing "spot the real estate agent's car".

I didn't learn anything earthshattering in the briefing, but it was useful to get fully up to speed on the new legislation. I just hope that being half way through a course that has covered the old legislation isn't going to be a problem.

I got home from that with enough time to just chill out for a bit (I ended up doing a bit of tinkering) before it was time to pick up Zoe. The weather was still a bit questionable, so I picked her up in the car.

Zoe wanted to watch Megan's tennis lesson again, and I had to be at home for a 3pm video chat, so I left her with Jason and popped home.

After my video chat, I went around to Jason's and helped with a bit of painting before heading home to start on dinner.

I had enough for Jason, Megan and Megan's little sister, so they came over for dinner as well.

I got Zoe down to bed at the normal time, but her bedroom is ridiculously hot. I'm not terribly confident I won't get another uninterrupted night's sleep.

Categories: thinktime

Of course it's been done before

Seth Godin - Tue 18th Nov 2014 21:11
John Koenig calls it vemödalen. The fear that you're doing something that's already been done before, that everything that can be done has been done. Just about every successful initiative and project starts from a place of replication. The chances...         Seth Godin
Categories: thinktime

Jeremy Visser: One week with the Nexus 5

Planet Linux Australia - Tue 18th Nov 2014 18:11

My ageing Motorola Milestone finally received a kick to the bucket last week when my shiny new Nexus 5 phone arrived.

Though fantastic by 2009 standards, the Milestone could only officially run Android 2.2, and 2.3 with the help of an unofficial CyanogenMod port. Having been end-of-lifed for some time now, and barely being able to render a complex web page without running out of memory, it was time for me to move on.

I was adamant that I would only buy a Nexus phone. Vendors that ship OEM customisations to the Android image are the spawn of the devil, and I wasn’t interested in buying a device that would be abandoned after the next model came out. After all, I’m not a gadget person. This is a big deal for me, and I hope this phone lasts me four years, just like my Milestone did.

Can I just say how fantastic the hardware is. The case is much more aesthetically pleasing than most of the Android phones I’ve had the (dis)pleasure of trying out, the screen is beautiful, and the software keyboard is smooth, accurate, and responsive.

On the screen. I think five inches is the maximum size I can cope with. I must say, being a person with small hands, I am not a large screen person. I can only just reach the opposite X axis with my thumb, and I need to reposition my hand (or use a second hand) to reach the opposite X and Y points. So yes, that’s why I didn’t get a Nexus 6.

On the software, I am thoroughly impressed by Android 4.4. Thoroughly. Google have done just about everything right. Nearly anything bad I have ever said about Android in the past either doesn’t apply to Android 4.4, or only applies to customised OEM builds.

Everything I would have wanted to root my phone to do previously is totally unnecessary.

Out of the box, FLAC audio and IPsec Xauth VPNs (main mode only, not aggressive mode) are supported. Just by installing an app, I can get my strongSwan IKEv2 VPN working.

Interestingly enough, this phone constantly bombards me with security warnings as a result of the fact that I have installed my own certificate authorities. I think this is an interesting development, and is probably a proactive stance against the possibilities that ISPs and/or governments may encourage you to allow them to perform SSL man-in-the-middle attacks on your connection in future for tracking and advertising purposes.

Hopefully warnings appearing on users’ phones worded such as “your network may be monitored” is enough to scare off those who may have such evil intentions.

The phone is amazingly responsive. Not only that, it multitasks with ease, and the user interface is smooth.

One minor criticism is that Google Maps appears to be capped at around 15 frames per second. This is odd, as similar apps such as Google Earth run at a much more pleasing framerate.

It is probably an unfair comparison, as the Nexus 5 is so much higher specced, but overall I am finding the device much faster and more responsive (and therefore I’m more likely to grab it and use it for quick tasks) than my iPhone 4S.

Ever since the release of iOS 7, my iPhone has been frustratingly slow and unstable. Sadly, apps crashing due to low memory conditions are an almost daily occurrence.

It is unclear to me whether this is a deliberate decision by Apple in order to make their later model iPhones look better, but I find it fascinating that I find my Nexus 5 being more pleasurable to use than my iPhone 4S. Something I would not have thought possible a fortnight ago.

I’m so impressed by Android 4.4 that I’m almost dreading the impending 5.0 upgrade in the fear that Google will “do an iOS 7″ — i.e. make the device significantly less useful by making it slower and less stable.

Categories: thinktime

Baroness Susan Greenfield visits the University of Melbourne

Teaser:  Renowned British neuroscientist Baroness Susan Greenfield presents a number of public lectures during her time as a Visiting Professorial Fellow at the University of Melbourne.

Renowned British neuroscientist Baroness Susan Greenfield joins the University of Melbourne this month as a Visiting Professorial Fellow to the Melbourne Medical School.

Throughout her career as a researcher, writer, broadcaster and member of Britain’s House of Lords, Baroness Greenfield has remained committed to the importance of science education. She holds strong connections with Australia, acting as a Council Member for the Royal Institute of Australia (RiAus), an organisation that aims to communicate science to the general public in an engaging way.

Baroness Susan Greenfield

read more

Categories: thinktime

linux.conf.au News: Speaker Feature: Marc Merlin, Jussi Pakkanen

Planet Linux Australia - Tue 18th Nov 2014 07:11
Marc Merlin Why you should consider using btrfs, real COW snapshots and file level incremental server OS upgrades like Google does

11:35am Wednesday 14th January 2015

Marc has been using linux since 0.99pl15f (slackware 1.1.2, 1994), both as a sysadmin and userland contributor. He has worked for various tech companies in the Silicon Valley, including Network Appliance, SGI, VA Linux, Sourceforge.net, and now Google since 2002, both a server sysadmin and software engineer.

He has done hacking in various areas like mail with exim, mailman, SpamAssassin and SA-Exim, as well as maintained various linux distributions at Google and elsewhere, and given talks about some of those projects, and others at linux conferences since 2001 (LCA, OLS, Linuxcon, Usenix/LISA).

For more information on Paul's presentation, see here.



Jussi Pakkanen Making build systems not suck

2:15pm Thursday 15th January 2015

Jussi got his doctoral degree in computer science in 2006. Since then he has worked in various problem fields including mail sorting. He is currently employed by Canonical where he has worked on various parts of Ubuntu desktop and phone. In his free time he dabbles with drawing, creating computer games, photography and whatever else might catch his fancy.

For more information on Jussi and his presentation, see here. You can follow him as @jpakkane and don’t forget to mention #lca2015.

Categories: thinktime

Andrew Pollock: [life] Day 292: Kindergarten, return from Sydney, groceries and general malaise

Planet Linux Australia - Mon 17th Nov 2014 22:11

I felt pretty exhausted this morning. In fact, I felt exhausted before I flew to Sydney for the weekend. It hasn't gotten any better.

I managed to get on an earlier (by an hour) flight back, which gave me a comfortable amount of time to unpack, put away the laundry and generally tidy up before picking up Zoe from Kindergarten.

After I picked her up, we popped over to the supermarket to do some grocery shopping and escape the heat, before heading home.

I had a crack at making sushi for dinner tonight. It turned out so-so. I'll tweak it a bit more next time.

Zoe seemed pretty worn out by bedtime too, and went to bed easily. I'm looking forward to a long night's sleep.

Categories: thinktime

Is a photo of a Magritte painting better than the original?

Seth Godin - Mon 17th Nov 2014 21:11
A major Magritte show ran at the Art Institute of Chicago. It was fascinating to see all of his greatest hits in one place, nicely curated and hung. Unlike the Louvre, photography was forbidden, which got me thinking about ideas,...         Seth Godin
Categories: thinktime

linux.conf.au News: Speaker Feature: Paul Foxworthy, Keith Packard

Planet Linux Australia - Mon 17th Nov 2014 07:11
Paul Foxworthy Auprefs.info – A vain attempt to rescue the Australian democracy with a few hundred lines of Java Script

11:35am Wednesday 14th January 2015

Paul is an open source developer and trainer. He is a committer to the Apache OFBiz project and also currently serves as a director of Open Source Industry Australia. He is very pleased at this, his eighth LCA, to have finally done something just possibly cool enough to talk about.

Away from work, Paul tries to get away to his bush block in eastern Victoria, and to teach agile techniques to Ilke the German Shepherd.

For more information on Paul's presentation, see here. You can follow him as @ConcreteGannet and don’t forget to mention #lca2015.



Keith Packard Putting the Polish on Glamor

10:40am Wednesday 14th January 2015

Keith Packard has been developing open source software since 1986, focusing on the X Window System since 1987, designing and implementing large parts of the current implementation. He is currently a Principal Engineer with Intel's Open Source Technology Center. Keith received a Usenix Lifetime Achievement award in 1999, an O'Reilly Open Source award in 2011, sits on the X.org foundation board and is a member of the Debian Technical Committee.

For more information on Keith and his presentations, see here.

Categories: thinktime

Sridhar Dhanapalan: Twitter posts: 2014-11-10 to 2014-11-16

Planet Linux Australia - Mon 17th Nov 2014 01:11
Categories: thinktime

"I need you"

Seth Godin - Sun 16th Nov 2014 21:11
Three magic words. They light up our brain, they grab our attention, they initiate action. But they're being corrupted by the ease of reach and the desire by some organizations to grow at all costs. I doesn't always mean a...         Seth Godin
Categories: thinktime

Michael Still: Fast Food Nation

Planet Linux Australia - Sun 16th Nov 2014 21:11






ISBN: 9780547750330

LibraryThing

I don't read a lot of non-fiction, but I decided to finally read this book having had it sit on the shelf for a few years. I'm glad I read it, but as someone who regularly eats in the US I am not sure if I should be glad or freaked out. The book is an interesting study in how industrialization without proper quality controls can have some pretty terrible side effects. I'm glad to live in a jurisdiction where we actively test for food quality and safety.



The book is a good read, and I'd recommend it to people without weak stomaches.



Tags for this post: book eric_schlosser food quality meat fast industrialized

Related posts: Dinner; Dishwasher Trout; Yum; 14 November 2003; Food recommendation; Generally poor audio quality on pod casts? Comment Recommend a book
Categories: thinktime

Tim Serong: Salt and Pepper Squid with Fresh Greens

Planet Linux Australia - Sun 16th Nov 2014 18:11

A few days ago I told Andrew Wafaa I’d write up some notes for him and publish them here. I became hungry contemplating this work, so decided cooking was the first order of business:

It turned out reasonably well for a first attempt. Could’ve been crispier, and it was quite salty, but the pepper and chilli definitely worked (I’m pretty sure the chilli was dried bhut jolokia I harvested last summer). But this isn’t a post about food, it’s about some software I’ve packaged for managing Ceph clusters on openSUSE and SUSE Linux Enterprise Server.

Specifically, this post is about Calamari, which was originally delivered as a proprietary dashboard as part of Inktank Ceph Enterprise, but has since been open sourced. It’s a Django app, split into a backend REST API and a frontend GUI implemented in terms of that backend. The upstream build process uses Vagrant, and is fine for development environments, but (TL;DR) doesn’t work for building more generic distro packages inside OBS. So I’ve got a separate branch that unpicks the build a little bit, makes sure Calamari is installed to FHS paths instead of /opt/calamari, and relies on regular packages for all its dependencies rather than packing everything into a Python virtualenv. I posted some more details about this to the Calamari mailing list.

Getting Calamari running on openSUSE is pretty straightforward, assuming you’ve already got a Ceph cluster configured. In addition to your Ceph nodes you will need one more host (which can be a VM, if you like), on which Calamari will be installed. Let’s call that the admin node.

First, on every node (i.e. all Ceph nodes and your admin node), add the systemsmanagement:calamari repo (replace openSUSE_13.2 to match your actual distro):

# zypper ar -f http://download.opensuse.org/repositories/systemsmanagement:/calamari/openSUSE_13.2/systemsmanagement:calamari.repo

Next, on your admin node, install and initialize Calamari. The calamari-ctl command will prompt you to create an administrative user, which you will use later to log in to Calamari.

# zypper in calamari-clients # calamari-ctl initialize

Third, on each of your Ceph nodes, install, configure and start salt-minion (replace CALAMARI-SERVER with the hostname/FQDN of your admin node):

# zypper in salt-minion # echo "master: CALAMARI-SERVER" > /etc/salt/minion.d/calamari.conf # systemctl enable salt-minion # systemctl start salt-minion

Now log in to Calamari in your web browser (go to http://CALAMARI-SERVER/). Calamari will tell you your Ceph hosts are requesting they be managed by Calamari. Click the “Add” button to allow this.

Once that’s complete, click the “Dashboard” link at the top to view the cluster status. You should see something like this:

And you’re done. Go explore. You might like to put some load on your cluster and see what the performance graphs do.

Concerning ceph-deploy

The instructions above have you manually installing and configuring salt-minion on each node. This isn’t too much of a pain, but is even easier with ceph-deploy which lets you do the whole lot with one command:

ceph-deploy calamari connect --master <calamari-fqdn> <node1> [<node2> ...]

Unfortunately, at the time of writing, we don’t have a version of ceph-deploy on OBS which supports the calamari connect command on openSUSE or SLES. I do have a SUSE-specific patch for ceph-deploy to fix this (feel free to use this if you like), but rather than tacking that onto our build of ceph-deploy I’d rather push something more sensible upstream, given the patch as written would break support for other distros.

Distros systemsmanagement:calamari Builds Against

The systemsmanagement:calamari project presently builds everything for openSUSE 13.1, 13.2, Tumbleweed and Factory. You should be able to use the packages supplied to run a Calamari server on any of these distros.

Additionally, I’m building salt (which is how the Ceph nodes talk to Calamari) and diamond (the metrics collector) for SLE 11 SP3 and SLE 12. This means you should be able to use these packages to point Calamari running on openSUSE at a Ceph cluster running on SLES, should you so choose. If you try that and hit any missing Python dependencies, you’ll need to get these from devel:languages:python.

Disconnecting a Ceph Cluster from Calamari

To completely disconnect a Ceph cluster from Calamari, first, on each Ceph node, stop salt and diamond:

# systemctl disable salt-minion # systemctl stop salt-minion # systemctl disable diamond # systemctl stop diamond

Then, make the Calamari server forget the salt keys, ceph nodes and ceph cluster. You need to use the backend REST API for this. Visit each of /api/v2/key, /api/v2/server and /api/v2/cluster in your browser. Look at the list of resources, and for each item to be deleted, construct the URL for that and click “Delete”. John Spray also mentioned this on the mailing list, and helpfully included a couple of screenshots.

Multiple Cluster Kinks

When doing development or testing, you might find yourself destroying and recreating clusters on the same set of Ceph nodes. If you keep your existing Calamari instance running through this, it’ll still remember the old cluster, but will also be aware of the new cluster. You may then see errors about the cluster state being stale. This is because the Calamari backend supports multiple clusters, but the frontend doesn’t (this is planned for version 1.3), and the old cluster obviously isn’t providing updates any more, as it no longer exists. To cope with this, on the Calamari server, run:

# calamari-ctl clear --yes-i-am-sure # calamari-ctl initialize

This will make Calamari forget all the old clusters and hosts it knows about, but will not clear out the salt minion keys from the salt master. This is fine if you’re reusing the same nodes for your new cluster.

Sessions to Attend at SUSECon

SUSECon starts tomorrow (or the day after, depending on what timezone you’re in). It would be the height of negligence for me to not mention the Ceph related sessions several of my esteemed colleagues are running there:

  • FUT7537 – SUSE Storage – Software Defined Storage Introduction and Roadmap: Getting your tentacles around data growth
  • HO8025 – SUSE Storage / Ceph hands-on session
  • TUT8103 – SUSE Storage: Sizing and Performance
  • TUT6117 – Quick-and-Easy Deployment of a Ceph Storage Cluster with SLES – With a look at SUSE Studio, Manager and Build Service
  • OFOR7540 – Software Defined Storage / Ceph Round Table
  • FUT8701 – The Big Picture: How the SUSE Management, Cloud and Storage Products Empower Your Linux Infrastructure
  • CAS7994 – Ceph distributed storage for the cloud, an update of enterprise use-cases at BMW
Categories: thinktime

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