Two spaces or one; change and persistence

Selectric-ElementI learned to type before I learned to drive; now nearly 50 years ago. I was taught that you put two spaces after a period at the end of a sentence. Eventually, I left typewriters behind and began to write with text editors and word processors. I learned a little bit about proportional fonts and typesetting and, at some point in the somewhat less distant past switched over to using a single space.

This morning, i came across the following link in my Facebook newsfeed – Space Invaders: Why you should never, ever use two spaces after a period. – posted by Andy McAfee. It’s an old item and it’s an old controversy (for example, see Why two spaces after a period isn’t wrong (or, the lies typographers tell about history)).

What I find interesting about this is what it reveals about change and habits. The very first comment in response to Andy’s post was from someone who had also learned to type a long time ago. In their view, the controversy was a silly waste of time and they intended to happily continue to insert two spaces until the end of time. I’m sure that if I went back to the thread. someone else will have weighed in otherwise. There will be yet another impassioned argument over a convention. How do you get new knowledge into an established system of practice? How do you get from new knowledge to new practice?

We are now three hundred years or so past the Enlightenment. How long do you think it will be before reason triumphs over tradition?

duckrabbitgod

The importance of forgetting to creativity and innovation

Science fiction author Spider Robinson won the 1983 Hugo Award for Best Short Story with Melancholy Elephants. It’s a prescient take on an essential tension between creativity and commerce. Still worth reading. More worth contemplating.

Robinson explores where the boundaries of creativity might lie and what those boundaries might imply. There are tradeoffs to be made between the needs of artists and the interests of art as a whole. Those tradeoffs have artistic and economic consequences and striking the balance is by no means as self-evident as they might appear. Here’s the nub of his argument in his own words:

“I think it comes down to a kind of innate failure of mathematical intuition, common to most humans.   We tend to confuse any sufficiently high number with infinity.”  


For millions of years we looked at the ocean and said, ‘That is infinite.   It will accept our garbage and waste forever.’   We looked at the sky and said, ‘That is infinite: it will hold an infinite amount of smoke.’   We like the idea of infinity.   A problem with infinity in it is easily solved.   How long can you pollute a planet infinitely large?   Easy: forever.   Stop thinking.  

”Then one day there are so many of us that the planet no longer seems infinitely large.  


The ultimate bottleneck is this: that we have only five senses with which to apprehend art, and that is a finite number.


“Artists have been deluding themselves for centuries with the notion that they create.   In fact they do nothing of the sort.   They discover.   Inherent in the nature of reality are a number of combinations of musical tones that will be perceived as pleasing by a human central nervous system.   For millennia we have been discovering them, implicit in the universe–and telling ourselves that we ‘created’ them.   To create implies infinite possibility, to discover implies finite possibility.   As a species I think we will react poorly to having our noses rubbed in the fact that we are discoverers and not creators.”  

Go read the whole thing. It won’t take you long, But it will leave you thinking.

Saving Lives with Systems Thinking – Atul Gawande and the 2014 Reith Lectures

A three-year old drowning victim is alive and thriving today because someone in Switzerland cares about systems. Atul Gawande, surgeon, polymath, and author of The Checklist Manifesto, recounts the tale as the second of four BBC 2014 Reith Lectures on the future of medicine. The podcast of “The Century of the System” is well worth 40 minutes of your time. 

Gawande’s central point is that the power of design, coordination, and collaboration trumps heroics. This is so terribly hard to pull off because it runs against the stories of heroics that so capture our imagination and our egos. How we get to good designs in a world that honors heroes is the challenge. 

What’s on your must see list of social media for digital immigrants?

I’m giving a talk next week to the North Shore Interest Group of the Harvard Business School Club of Chicago. The announcement is below.

We’ll have Internet access and about 45 minutes. What would be on your list of must see items? Must know stories? Most useful perspectives?

The comments are open for your input. Or you can send me a tweet at jmcgee. Let me suggest “#NSIGtour” as a hashtag.

HBS Club of Chicago: “NSIG Social Media – A Cook’s Tour for Digital Immigrants

NS IG Breakfast Thursday, April 12, 2012 7:30 a.m. – 9:00 a.m. Max & Bennys, Northbrook

Social Media – A Cook’s Tour for Digital Immigrants

“Why would I want to share what I had for lunch and why would anyone care?” (remark overheard at multiple cocktail parties, country club locker rooms, and faculty lounges generally uttered by gray-haired executives and other digital immigrants in a cautiously disdainful tone of voice)

Starting near the elections of 2008, social media in all its forms has dominated the discussions and pontification around digital transformation that has been underwaJVMHeadshoty since the Internet boom and bust of the late 1990s. Facebook, Twitter, FourSquare, Yelp, LinkedIn, Apps, iPhone, iPad, Android, and other new terms pop up in otherwise ordinary conversations. Television news anchors read random tweets as polls close and well-informed pundits sit idly by. Bootleg videos taken on smartphones document citizen uprisings in the Middle East, but only after they are smuggled out of the country using technology designed and supported by the US Government.

On April 12th, the North Shore Interest Group will take an interactive Cook’s Tour of the social media landscape led by early digital immigrant, Jim McGee. Although Jim can pass as a digital native, he understands the reservations and concerns of those who find this new world to be seriously foreign territory. We’ll visit the landmarks and the coming attractions of this new world. We’ll also explore some of the ruins.

We’ll learn:

How to travel safely. How to look less like a target. How to stake out a basic clueful presence in the new world. And how to recalibrate our existing crap detectors to better separate signals from the digital noise. About Jim McGee Jim McGee is the Managing Director of New Shoreham Consulting, a Senior Partner with the Transforming Healthcare Consortium, and co-Founder of Collaborating Minds, an effort to hybridize high-performance teams and crowd sourcing principles to attack complex and wicked problems. He was also a co-founder of Diamond Management and Technology Consultants.

For over 30 years, Jim has been helping organizations make more effective use of information and communications technologies. He’s attacked these problems as an entrepreneur, senior executive, professor, author, blogger, speaker, systems developer, designer, architect, and consultant. His blog, McGeesMusings.net, focuses on technology, organizations, and the management of complex knowledge work. Jim is also the co-author, with Larry Prusak, of Managing Information Strategically.

Jim has a Doctorate in strategy, technology, and organization from the Harvard Business School, an MBA in strategy from the Harvard Business School, and a Bachelors in Statistics, from Princeton University. He’s an Adjunct Professor at DePaul University, and formerly was a Clinical Professor at the Kellogg School of Business at Northwestern University. Please sign up in advance. With enough R.S.V.P.’s we can order the buffet. Thanks for supporting the North Shore Interest Group!

DATE: Thursday, April 12, 2012 TIME: 7:30 a.m. – 9:00 a.m. LOCATION: Max & Benny’s (Brookside Shopping Center), 461 Waukegan Road, Northbrook COST: Please prepay now through the club website HBSCC members and their guests (with prepaid reservation): $20.00; HBSCC members (without prepaid reservation): $30.00 HBSCC Patron and Patron Plus Guest Pass members: FREE! Non-members of HBSCC (with prepaid reservation): $30.00

Reservation deadline: Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Click here to buy tickets!!!

Membership: Join the Club!

CANCELLATION POLICY:  All cancellations must be received within two (2) business days of the event or the attendee who made the reservation will be charged, regardless of participation, due to costs associated with the reservation.   NORTH SHORE INTEREST GROUP FUTURE DATES: We meet the second Thursday morning of every month. If you would like to present or have a suggestion for a presenter, please contact Alan Minoff.

Alan Minoff, MBA 1970 North Shore IG Chair minmich2312 AT comcast DOT net

Thanks for supporting the North Shore Interest Group!

Enormously moving speech on the way the Internet transforms lives Boing Boing

This has been lurking in my “to read/view” pile for months. The title from the original Boing Boing post sums it up quite nicely. It shows what is possible. Our challenge is to make it more common. The best 15 minutes I’ve spent in a long time.

Enormously moving speech on the way the Internet transforms lives Boing Boing: “Enormously moving speech on the way the Internet transforms lives By Cory Doctorow at 9:47 am Tuesday, Jun 7

Watch live streaming video from pdf2011 at livestream.com

I’m at the Personal Democracy Forum at NYU today, and the morning plenary has been a series of fascinating short talks. But one talk, by Jim Gilliam’s “The Internet is My Religion,” brought the house down. Jim worked in many early and influential Internet firms, went on to produce Robert Greenwald’s extraordinary films, and do many other notable things. Among them was surviving two bouts of cancer and a double-lung transplant. The story of how he went from a Jerry Falwell born-again to an Internet advocate and film producer ended with a standing ovation and not a dry eye in the house. Watch this, please, I’d consider it a favor.

Jim Gilliam- The Future of Sharing

The Joy of Stats available in its entirety

I’ve been a  fan of Hans Rosling since I saw his first TED video several years ago. Here’s a four-minute clip from a one hour documentary,The Joy of Stats , he did last year for the BBC.

 

Hans Rosling helps visualize economic development over the last 200 years

You can now find the entire video from the BBC by way of Rosling’s Gapminder website. I certainly wish both Rosling and this technology had been available when I was doing my undergraduate degree in statistics. I did have the benefit of excellent teachers, although none quite as gifted as Rosling. As for what the technology makes possible in terms of both extracting and explaining the stories hidden in the data, it is well and truly a brave new world.

Collaboration, games, and the real world

I’ve been thinking a lot about hard problems that need multiple people collaborating to solve. There’s no shortage of them to choose from.

This TED video from Jane McGonigal makes a persuasive case that I need to invest some more time looking at the world of online gaming for insight. Watch the video  and see if you don’t come to a similar conclusion.