Happy New Year

100 Years of Flight: A Lesson about Learning Curves

Kevin Kelly excerpts from Bayles' and Orland's Art and Fear:

The ceramics teacher announced on opening day that he was dividing the class into two groups. All those on the left side of the studio, he said, would be graded solely on the quantity of work they produced, all those on the right solely on its quality. His procedure was simple: on the final day of class he would bring in his bathroom scales and weigh the work of the “quantity” group: fifty pound of pots rated an “A”, forty pounds a “B”, and so on. Those being graded on “quality”, however, needed to produce only one pot -albeit a perfect one – to get an “A”. Well, came grading time and a curious fact emerged: the works of highest quality were all produced by the group being graded for quantity. It seems that while the “quantity” group was busily churning out piles of work – and learning from their mistakes – the “quality” group had sat theorizing about perfection, and in the end had little more to show for their efforts than grandiose theories and a pile of dead clay.

Remarkable that the law of learning (experience) curves should appear in art just as it does in semiconductors, and should in space vehicles. Something to keep in mind on this 100th anniversary of practical powered flight: We didn't get to 747s and F-22s by building one – or four- vehicles n 1903 and perpetually refitting them. Thousands of early experimental aircraft were built, run, wrecked, obsoleted, scrapped. If we want to have a similar oucome in space one hundred years hence, it's time to get onto the 'quantity' curve. And apparently only the private sector has the stomach for that trip.

Update: I didn't know this test was scheduled when I wrote the post, but it makes the point admirably.

Hat tip to Ole Eichhorn. [Due Diligence]

Sound advice regardless of what you're working with or learning about. Fail early and fail often.

I had expected to post a bit more than I have over the last few days, but I have limited connectivity and bandwidth. The good news in that is that I do have snow and in the spirit of learning curves I've been adding more miles to my snowboarding experience. I expect to be back to regular posting in a few days.

To all of you, a healthy and happy New Year.

Zip-Linq cables: device charging without bricks.

Zip-Linq cables: device charging without bricks. It used to be that I shlepped a power-strip (sometimes two!) with me when I went on the road, because they haven't built the hotel-room yet that has enough plugs to charge my entire device array, not least because everything that fits in my pocket comes with a charger whose transformer brick eats two or three outlets.

Then I discovered USB and FireWire charging — and more specifically, Zip-Linq retractable cables. Instead of plugging everything into the wall, you attach your device to a little bon-bon-sized retractable wire that goes into one of your computer's ports and plug your computer into the wall. This is especially handy if you're travelling overseas, since it's just not practical to buy enough Euro-220 adapters to get your devices to talk to the local alternating current. Your laptop probably has an international power-supply requiring only a plug adapter, and once that's attached to the wall, you've got know-quantity/know-interface power for all your gizmos.

Before I leave on my next trip overseas tomorrow, I will slip into my pocket a Firewire cable (for my little backup harddrive, which I yanked out of an old PowerBook and put into a tiny enclosure, so that I can back up every day on the road), a cellphone charger (one for my US Motorola iDen phone, one for my European Nokia phone — and cables are available for most manufacturers: Motorola, Sony-Ericsson, Samsung, Kyocera, Sanyo) and a PDA charger (Palm, iPaq).

Rael crashed on my sofa this weekend and pointed out that Zip-Linq is now shipping a wall-adapter, so that if your laptop is unavailable, you can plug this into the socket and still charge up.

The best part is that at $10-20 these wires are actually cheaper than the manufacturers' chargers for the most part. Link [Boing Boing Blog]

Interesting to see what kinds of things are possible when you start to think in terms of what you can expect to find in the environment that you can take advantage of.

Rick Klau celebrates two years blogging

Two year anniversary.

Hard for me to believe, but this marks the two year anniversary of my first blog post. Starting a blog was a direct result of a phone conversation with John Robb, and in the past two years I’ve had the pleasure of meeting some remarkable people.

To those who continue to read, comment and share, thank you.

By rick@rklau.com (Rick Klau). [tins ::: Rick Klau's weblog]

Congratulations to Rick on hitting the two-year milestone for his excellent blog. Certianly, Rick is one of those remarkable people that you get to meet courtesy of blogging. Looking forward to seeing your thinking somehwhere.



New weblog – Abusable Technology

Coordination trifecta: Abusable Tech (Clay Shirky). To make a trilogy of places where the net’s coordination costs change the nature of collaboration, I add a link to Abusable Tech, a weblog devoted to chronicling abuse or misuse of security tools, to today’s earlier posts about Howard… [Many-to-Many]

An all-star list of contributors to the new blog. There is an RSS feed , although I really, really, wish that the default out of Moveable Type was a full feed instead of the niggardly first 30 words or so. It's a design decision that appears rooted in old assumptions.

Hal Macomber on listening skills

Developing the Master Skill of the Leader

I prepared this top ten list of listening skills with an eye towards developing mastery. Not that I have mastered the skill of listening, but because it is a skill worth mastering. I am sharing it here due to the enthusiasm readers have shown for the topic.

[Reforming Project Management]

Hal Macomber has a long, but excellent, post on listening as a core leadership skill. Full of good advice and pointers to more.

Good listening starts with genuine curiosity. But in a leader it also requires the strength to set aside any assumptions that you might already know the answer and be willing to be surprised.

Take 10 Seconds to Get Soup to the Needy

Take 10 Seconds to Get Soup to the Needy. Take 10 Seconds to Get Soup to the Needy — Here is an easy way to make a difference this holiday season. Campbell's is donating a can of soup to the needy for every person that goes to their site and votes for their favorite NFL team. Their goal is 5,000,000 cans. Go here to vote. It will only take a few seconds of your time to fill some empty tummies with warm soup this winter.

Like Zach Lynch, on whose Brain Waves blog I found this bit of charity (and from whom I appropriated this text word for word), I'm not a big football fan, but this is a no brainer. [Frank Patrick's Focused Performance Blog]

Even if the TV commercials are stupid.

Doc Searls – It's the Story, Stupid

Seeing through slides.

Scott Rosenberg: The single deadliest thing a speaker can do is read from his own slides. Agreed. It always exasperates me to see slides used as speakers notes rather than as helpful visual aids.

Want to know how to give a good presentation with slides? Here’s what I learned from two masters. It’s more than a half-decade old, but its tips are no less useful.

[The Doc Searls Weblog]

I’ve used this before as part of teaching presentation skills to consultants. Blogging it now so I can find it again later.

Storylines in a new organizational narrative

10) Tools Rule.

Jay Rosen‘s latest is Nine Story Lines in a New Campaign Narrative. Excellent, as usual. It should be required reading for candidates preparing to mix it up as the political season gets into full swing.

I wouldn’t be a techblogger if I didn’t add one more story line, without which the other nine wouldn’t mean squat.

We’ve only begun to see what can be done with tech tools as instruments of applied democracy.

More later, after I get some sleep.

[The Doc Searls Weblog]

While Jay and Doc are focused on the political process, their analyses also apply to organizations more generally. Both political campaigns and organizations are instruments for acquiring and deploying power (in the sense of the ability to accomplish work) effectively. The Dean campaign is a case study in progress of what can happen if you start with different premises. That case study is worth tracking on both levels – for what it portends for our political leadership and for what it suggests for leadership and management in general.

I’d also recommend looking at Ed Cone’s excellent case study of the Dean Campaign in Base Line magazine, “The Marketing of the President 2004.”

Finally, let me suggest that all of this can be fruitfully thought of in terms of the late Donella Meadow’s advice on places to intervene in a system.