Thirteen years

Still holding down this outpost on the web. My life and the world seem to have gotten more complex over that interval. When I started this, Facebook, Twitter, etc. did not exist. A few pioneers like Dave Winer seemed to have it well in hand and I felt as though I was late to the game. Guess that was a bit naive. 

This has been a source of continuing learning and a entree to a richer network than I would have ever imagined. More than reason enough to keep the experiment running.

Knowledge is a sobering thing

I sometimes wonder whether the thing that scares people about knowledge and science is how it can make you feel small and insignificant. This image is a visualization of the newest knowledge about where we on Earth fit in the universe. They’re calling it “Laniakea.”

It’s a very long way from when we thought that the Sun revolved around the Earth. For me, it engenders a sense of awe; what reaction does it trigger for you?


The video walks through the data analysis process that went into establishing our extended universal address. It’s a good example of Big Data and analytics at work. 

[youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rENyyRwxpHo&w=640&h=360]

If you’re interested there are several good articles discussing this work:

Our Place in the Universe: Welcome to Laniakea

This is the most detailed map yet of our place in the universe

Twelve years at McGee’s Musings

Still here. Not so many posts here over the past twelve months.

Working on making that change.

When I started this, blogs were pretty much the only way to share your thinking. A lot more choices today, although of late the emphasis seems to have shifted more toward ‘sharing’ than ‘thinking’. Both make the world a better place; striking the balance isn’t magically easy. 

Two efforts have cut into my capacity to share here. Each is moving into a phase where the balance is shifting to a more even split between thinking and sharing. Each will generate footprints here.

The first was finishing and publishing Think Inside the Box: Discover the Exceptional Business Inside Your Organization (WCG Press, 2013). This was a joint effort with my friend Tim Nelson.

My favorite (i.e. most ego gratifying) bit of feedback so far came from Richard Koch, author of The 80/20 Principle, in a review in the Huffington Post. Here’s what Koch had to say about the book:

I’m really excited! I’ve just stumbled across the best new technique for boosting the performance of any business. And guess what — the method is brilliantly retro. But even trend-setters and worshippers of the new new thing can’t afford to ignore the technique. Quite simply, it’s the best strategic display since the BCG Growth Share Matrix.

Richard Koch, Author of The 80/20 Principle:
review in the Huffington Post  – 08/05/2013

You can learn more about the book and the work behind it at Insidethe8020box.com.

The second effort has been work on developing a business/service concept called Collaborating Minds. It’s an effort to create a hybrid between what we know about large technology-augmented groups and high-performance teams. 

So, stay tuned. 

Eleven Years and Counting at McGee’s Musings

Yesterday marked the eleventh anniversary of the first blog post on McGee’s Musings in 2001.

In two weeks, we’ll practice the American version of democracy, choose a President, revolution will not occur regardless of who wins and, despite the rhetoric, life will go on. We (the U.S. and the rest of the planet) will still face a variety of wicked problems. 

Getting smarter about how we work as individuals, teams, crowds, competitors and the like remains a priority. My efforts in that regard haven’t yet worked their way to visibility here, but they will. Being part of the conversation is important. Listening is half of the process (maybe more). 

As always, my thanks to all of those who’ve been part of the interesting conversations that have taken place over the past year. 

New Year, New Beginnings

Beginner’s Mind.

Mindfulness.

Reflective Practice.

As the New Year gets underway, I’m juggling ideas on how to push forward on several fronts including McGee’s Musings. All have to do with rebalancing the mix of new thinking, ongoing learning, and drawing on experience. They also all have to do with variations on the notion of doing the work and sharing it earlier than my internal critic would like.

Here’s a wonderful quote from Ira Glass of NPR’s This American Life that captures some of this:

Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.

Ira Glass

This is drawn from an excellent interview with Glass on the topic of storytelling. Regardless of my experience or expertise in any area, I believe it’s important to keep what’s powerful about “beginner’s mind” and to keep the self-critic at arm’s length.

Another perspective is to do a better job managing the balance between consuming and creating. As an interesting and ironic example of this point, I’ve just spent nearly an hour tracking down a blog post I read the other day on this very point. The post was titled “The Dangerous Effects of Reading” from David Tate’s Certain Effect blog. He makes the following observation:

In our personal lives we tend to optimize for one of two things: input or output. Reading or writing. Consuming or creating. The environment we live in – the prevailing culture – by default is optimized for consumption. Even our personal computers are turning into devices that are optimized for consumption! This is terrible and dangerous.

If the world overwhelms you with its constant production of useless crap which you filter more and more to things that only interest you can I calmly suggest that you just create things that you like and cut out the rest of the world as a middle-man to your happiness?

So my primary goal for this coming year is to create more and to share it. I still will strive to exceed threshold levels of quality, but I’ll set the dial more towards “ship it” than to “make it perfect”. I trust my friends will help me adjust that calibration as we go.

Ten years at McGee’s Musings

Today marks the tenth year that I’ve been writing here. Like all things organic the pace ebbs and flows. Topics evolve and morph. Technologies appear and disappear. Over all this time, the reward that turns out to matter most is the opportunity to make and build relationships.

This week brought an excellent example. I was in New York at the contactcon conference to talk about the work that David Friedman and I have been doing on Collaborating Minds. Besides all the fascinating new people we met at the conference, I was also able to finally meet several colleagues in person that I’ve come to know digitally because I’ve been present here. Both George Por and Flemming Funch were at the conference as well and we were able to expand on our friendship instead of starting them.

A special treat was being able to meet Dave Winer face to face and to thank him for all he has contributed to my work. I started blogging using tools and ideas he created. For that matter I started using his tools for writing and thinking (ThinkTank and Ready) in the very earliest days of personal computing.

Once again my thanks to all of you that I’ve been able to meet and get to know from this outpost on the Web.

Collaborating Minds

Some details about what my partner in collaboration, David Friedman, and I have been up to lately.

Improved logo with background and tagline
For the past few months, my colleague Jim McGee and I have been hard at work on a project we’ve named Collaborating Minds. It will be an online problem-solving community — with a unique membership recruiting strategy. The goal is to create a resource that will be able to assist organizations with hard problems by providing rich insights and multiple perspectives. It’s a marriage of some of the ideas of crowdsourcing with the principles that make for high performance teams. It’s an example of getting more people to work together better, a topic I wrote about a while back.

Collaborating Minds’ main assets will be:

  1. Its network of 500-700 part-time participants
  2. Its approach to community building and structured problem solving,and
  3. Its software platform that supports and enables the community building and structured problem-solving. 

The people will be recruited and selected based on their interest and ability to work together in the community in just the way the software platform allows. They will include people from a very diverse set of backgrounds. We’ll have scientists of various stripes, engineers of various types, humanists, consultants, experts in all kinds of fields. So in that respect it will be like crowdsourcing.

The community and the problem-solving will be actively managed, and the members will be expected to get to know at least some of the other community members outside the context of the specific problems we are working on. Community members will help each other on their own issues and challenges, and can use the problem-solving tools provided to do so if they like.

The software platform includes a social network of a particular kind, and a structured problem-solving process and spaces for the problem-solving to occur. The problem-solving method will combine structured asynchronous elements and structured synchronous elements (online meetings). We also will have an alternative free-form option for members to use when the structure isn’t right for the problem at hand.

There’s a lot more info available now at the Collaborating Minds site. We are almost finished with the alpha version of the software platform and are starting to talk with people about recruiting and membership. We have a lot of unanswered questions (e.g., precise target markets, compensation, and governance) and probably some wrong answers to others. One of the best things about this idea though, is that we can aim our group at ourselves; if this sort of group can generate insightful and powerful solutions to hard problems (which I believe it can) then it help us solve the issues that remain ahead.

Collaborating Minds
David Friedman
Fri, 24 Jun 2011 19:07:11 GMT