A blog looking at business communication, knowledge management, scripting tools, OS technology news and other things of interest to mobile tech workers. As I find interesting news this will also contain pointers to thoughts related to configuration managment, change management and general software development.
Road warriors like me live in eternal fear that their the great container of their life's work and effort will suddently come to a dramatic end ... far from home. I refer of course to the fear of the dead laptop.
This week I was almost the cause my own demise. I am adding some software and need more space and decided that I didn't need one of my linux partitions anymore ... so I usurped it into my Win2K installation ... I heard little voice in the back of my head that kept yammering on about how this is not a good idea ... something about the bootloader being rendered useless... I forged ahead eager for more space.
After making the new partition available to Win2K, I needed to reboot and did so ... and to my horror discovered that my machine was no longer bootable. I had deleted the partition that had my bootloader's config files ... my laptop was now a brick.
I took me about an hour of poking around, booting with another disk and searching the internet before I finally found the magic series of commands to get the disabled grub bootloader to boot into Win2K... I reproduce them here in the event I ever in the future ignore that nagging voice and kill my laptop again ...
When I get back home tonight, I'll have to dig up my Win2K install CD and fdisk /MBR it and go back to a single OS bootloader config. Maybe this won't happen to me again for a while. Don't think my blood pressure can take it ...
I want to go back and add to an earlier post on status reports. McGee picks up on a Roland Tanglao comment on the whole Status Reports Blogging thing.
Roland notes that transparency is the sticking point. As I mentioned in an earlier post this has been my experience as well. It is a little scary being the first one in an organizatoin trying to open the windows on my work patterns and daily accomplishments. But, there is tremendous value to working this transparently. The peer review, input, mentoring opportunities ... do make it worthwhile.
This is all in addition to the getting closer to finding the Holy Grail of replacing status reports altogether with something that actually works.
Here is a fantastic catch by McGees Musings. Rand has put some thinking into how to fix status reports ... using social software. He does a quick look at whether a wiki would help, but settles on the conclusion that blogs are a better match. I agree. Infact, I have been modelling this in my organization for the last few months. Here are some thoughts I have on how it has worked so far.
Very Public Status Reports - Using a blog for status information means that the readership is pretty wide open. Your status report just doesn't go to your manager, but to your peers and perhaps others. This is a good thing and has resulted in more people making use of the status report.
Its like people watching you work - Public status blogs means that others can watch over your shoulder. In my case as a field consultant it means that R&D people can get a feeling for a day in the life of a field consultant by just keeping tabs on what I am doing. Also there is lots of opportunity to help new people get up to speed faster. Reading my status blog they can see how I approach problems, ask questions, get clarifications, learn new techniques, challenge my approach, etc.
Having my status information in a blog makes it more available to me... its been much more useful to me in a blog than if it were buried in a word/excel pile.
Writing my status in a blog is easier for me. Perhaps its just the blog format or that I am beginning to feel comfortable doing things this way ... but status reporting gets lots easier.
Resistance to blogging status from management seems to be that they can't filter it. I think this might be because it tends to be daily focused vs. weekly and summarized.
So, has it worked for me? Well, I still need to produce actual weekly status reports outside of my blog. This is because I need to deliver them to clients who can't access the internal blog. Also, not all of management has really 'got' blogging status reports. So for now I am duplicating somewhat and producing a status report using the blog as the source for the material. Not as bad as it sounds. Copy and paste is my friend :-) I have noticed that the quality of these weekly reports has gotten much better since switching to a blogged daily status pattern.
The thing I have wondered about is that my status blogging tends to be daily focused. It makes it easier to go back and track my work on a given client site if I do this. At the end of week, I produce a rolled up weekly status report that draws on what I've put on my blog all week. If this kind of aggregation could be automated it might make this work better. I can see my management having something like an internal feedster portal page that automatically aggregated things into a team/mobblog aggregated blog.
Anyway, I think that blogging is where this kind of thing needs to go. I'll keep doing this for a while. I am curious to see if others start reading who would not normally read status reports. It is the horizontal communication that I really want to spark.
New Wiki Implelementation Struggles - To structure or not?
I am working on an implementation of several wikis. One is my personal wiki which runs on my laptop. I've often written about it here. Things are by and large going very well. I am also involved in my team's implementation of a wiki.
So far, the biggest struggle has been related to how much structure to put in place. We are using TWiki which is incredibly powerful. The trouble is that is has this neat capability to associate 'forms' with topics in a wiki that allow you to categorize and add formal data fields.
These are incredibly handy in building formal pages that group like topics, summarizing group thoughts, voting, etc... But i can't help feeling that it does break the wikiness of the wiki.
What I think we need is somesort of best practices regarding categorization. I don't want to go so far that we lose the benefits of easy editing, dynamic categories based on the text of topics, etc. At the same time, I do need to create places in the wiki where things are summarized / grouped automatically ...
Perhaps these questions are unique to Intranet deployments and the discussion belongs in Bill Seitz's Intranet Wiki forum. Any thoughts on this would be greatly appreciated.
Perhaps this isn't so revolutionary, but it was definitely an Aha moment for me. I use my wiki primarily as a 'closed door' office. As I travel to different consulting engagements, it is the home for most of my work products.
It recently occured to me that I can open the door... So, I have been able to turn my personal wiki into a full fledged wiki when the occasion seems right. I plug into a client's network and make my wiki available to the group I am working with. Everything is recorded in my Wiki ... this will make requirement meetings, status reports reviews, planning sessions quite different. Then I unplug it.
My personal Wiki can be transformed into a Portable Wiki! (Portable in the sense that it can move with me but still be a collaborative document environment where ever I am working ...)
This likely means that I need to think about security a bit and I hadn't planned on it... But I think it is worth it.
Jack points to this article about developments on the intranet front by Gerry McGovern. Emphasis so far is on Management buyin and support being supercritical to the success of any serious intranet effort. I think this applies regardless of how big or small the organization is.
I think this is even more critical if you are going to add social networking tools like blogs and wikis that are different into the intranet space.
I am interested in experiences that people have had introducing Wiki and Blogs into the intranet space. If anyone has a secret hoard of experience /reports from the front lines, please post them in the comments. I'll summarize them here.
My team has recently started using Instant Messenger as a supplemental way to communicate. We're fairly distributed around North America at any given time so it sounds like a good idea. I have noticed that it isn't as efficient as a phone call. Although a phone call and IM together seems to work well for quickly sending files, urls, etc during the call.
I've also been to several different organizations lately that have this chronic multitasking syndrome the article mentions. And, the groups that I've worked with used some sort of instant messenger like technology internally.
So I am wondering if this is a good thing for mobile workers? Or does it rob us of our focus?
I've been blogging off and on about using a personal wiki to manage my principal activities on my laptop. As I travel, this has made keeping organized and finding information incredibly easy. That said, I have run into a snag. I am implementing a Wiki at the office based on TWiki. Trouble is I am running something much more simple on my laptop .. MoinMoin. One is based on Perl (Twiki) and the other is written in Python (MoinMoin) and the syntax between the two is different ... which makes publishing data from the personal up to the corporate painful ...
Perhaps I can write a script to convert the syntax ... but that is so painful. Why don't we have a single standard syntax??
Dave Winer's catch of the day is Diego Doval's comprehensive introduction to weblogging. The post does a great job of bringing together a his own thoughts ( checkout 'Is blogging dangerous?' answer 'Yes. Most definitely. And addictive, too. :-)') as well as a huge list of links to other people's work explaining the concepts and utilities of trackback, comments, etc.