Model rockets as terrorist threat

Educational Flying Model Rockets Ruled Terrorist Threat. Model rocketry is educational, it’s cool, it’s safe, and it’s fun. It’s launched everything from science fair projects to the careers of NASA engineers and astronauts as well as that of at least one SFT writer. Too bad the already-passed and signed Homeland Security Bill is going to kill this great constructive hobby for kids and adults. On May 24, every employee of any shipping entity who could possibly touch a package of in-transit model rocket engines on their way to a kid’s mailbox or store has to be explosives-handling certified, fingerprinted and pass a criminal background check. UPS, some trucking and railroad firms have stopped shipping the motors; Fed Ex employees have indicated to some model rocket flyers they likely will follow suit in the coming weeks. “It is the heart of the problem we face. Because if manufacturers like Estes can’t get rocket motors delivered to stores, the hobby is completely dead,” according to Tim Van Milligan, president of Apogee Rockets in Colorado Springs, Colo. Jay Apt saw his first model rocket catalog at age 13 in 1962. and went on to fly four shuttle missions that included two spacewalks and a mission to the International Space Station. “If we are to keep challenging our technology-inclined young people, we need to keep the benefits of model rocketry in mind when we pursue a tendency, natural in troubled times, to restrict anything which might be abused,” Apt said. “It makes no more sense to restrict aerospace modeling than it would have to ban rental trucks after they were misused in Oklahoma and New York.” U.S. Senator Michael Enzi, R-Wyo., intends to introduce legislation as early as this week to make what’s being called a “technical correction” to the 1970 Safe Explosives Act so that the material used inside the small motors is removed from the “explosives list.” Perhaps you might like to send a copy of this SFT story to your Representative or Senator along with your thoughts? [Sci-Fi Today]

Why is it that reason and thought are such unpopular activities? It seems to be some deparate desire to “do something” that disconnects reason from action. I guess I’m showing my age, but “think before you act” still seems like better advice than “ready. fire, aim.”

In business settings, we rightly fear “analysis paralysis” and celebrate action. But the record shows that the problem is about paralysis not analysis.

Truth and story

Truth & Story. This posting on truth and story made my day. I read it on Serious Play this morning shared it this… [UNBOUND SPIRAL]

An interesting story about story. I’ve been a proponent of storytelling in knowledge management settings and have always envied effective storytellers. This provides some good food for thought.

North, HarvardMan, North

Come South Young BlogMan.

Dave Winer is debating which route to take on his trek East: “I talked about the northern route, below, now let’s talk about the southern route. Stop in Phoenix where I have a dinner invite, catch some baseball, then cross New Mexico and Texas, swing into New Orleans for some gumbo with Ernie the Attorney….” [Scripting News]

Yes, Dave come South.  The weather’s great, the food is outstanding (the crawfish are really great this year), and you can come stay at my house and let your new laptop soak up the Wi-Fi cloud that permeates my humble abode.

[Ernie the Attorney]

The southern route may sound appealing, but your destination is Cambridge and Harvard Yard. That means cold, gray, serious. New Orleans would only delay the inevitable.

North through Chicago, however, acclimates you to your new climate. After a stop in Chicago, Boston and Cambridge will feel springlike and appealing. You need time to thicken that Southen California blood after all those years.

Why not RSS?

Why RSS?.

There’s an interesting cross-blog discussion going on about RSS. Follow the links:

  • “Maybe one day Corante will get RSSfeeds. I almost completely missed this Part II. Almost nobody reads blogs anymoe. Everything comes in through RSS.” [Marc’s Voice]
  • “Actually, a tiny technical elite reads RSS. Everyone else reads on the web. Maybe that will change. I’m not sure.” [EVHEAD]
  • “If I grab an RSS feed of his site, half the pleasure of visiting is taken away from me. The issue of RSS is about more than just textuality. Websites are still to some extent billboards, as they were back in 1995. But the slogan is often, ‘Come for the scenery; stay for the entertainment’.” [three legged pi]

Of course, all of you know where I come down in this debate. If you’re a casual blog reader, then that last course of action is for you. But once you start reading 20+ blogs on a daily basis, an RSS news aggregator becomes a huge advantage. There’s no way I could read 190 sites consistently and thoroughly without one. So at some point, you have to decide what’s more important to you – the style or the substance. In my case, it’s the substance.

And Corante, my foot is tapping while I continue waiting to read your content….

[The Shifted Librarian]

Why isn’t the question “Wny not RSS?” If you are writing because you think you have something to say what are you putting any roadblocks up to people reading it? If Joe is willing to come to my front door and explain things to me, why would I ever make the trip to Suzy’s for essentially the same information? And why should I have to go over to Suzy’s just to find out whether there’s anything new to see?

I suppose I can accept that someone wouldn’t want to provide full text feeds, but why would anyone refuse to at least publish headlines to bring me back to the site whose design I’m supposed to appreciate? Somebody help me understand the other side of this argument, cause I just don’t get it.

We all do knowledge work

We’re all knowledge workers now.

Here is a question:

How do you bring knowledge management to people who do not see knowledge as part of their job?

For example the workers in a process plant.  There is knowledge all around them and embedded in the work that they do.  How, in practical terms, to do you make them knowledge workers?

The question isn’t well framed yet as I’m still thinking out it’s dimensions… i’ll expand on it as I go and I welcome all input.

(Hint: this question isn’t entirely theoretical)

[Curiouser and curiouser!]

Matt raises an important question. First, in the example here, the question isn’t so much how do you make these workers into knowledge workers. They already are. The question is why don’t they view themselves as knowledge workers and does that matter?

I tried the following rules of thumb in a speech I gave last year. I figured you were a knowledge worker if:

  • 80% of your job is doing things that “aren’t your job”
  • “It’s not my job” is no longer an acceptable excuse
  • Your mother doesn’t understand what you do
  • Your boss doesn’t understand what you do
  • You don’t understand what you do

Flip, but there’s some essential truth buried here as well. Robert Reich talks about knowledge workers as “symbolic analysts,” which I find marginally helpful at best. At the moment, Peter Drucker has the most useful take on the problem I have found. I tried to capture some of his insight in a recent post I made on knowledge work and productivity.  

For me, the starting point is to look at knowledge work rather than at knowledge workers. For one thing that helps extend the focus to all those workers, like the ones Matt describes, who do knowledge work as only a portion of their work. It also helps by reminding us that there are aspects of every knowledge worker’s job that aren’t about knowledge work. Ordering a new battery for the old IBM Thinkpad I’m setting up as a Linux workstation is a pretty mundane information processing task at best. It’s certainly not knowledge work even if I am a knowledge worker. 

As I focus on the work as a path to understanding the worker, I find useful insights in thinking about the craft nature of knowledge work. In particular, the kinds of tasks that make up knowledge work call for much more reflection about what is going on than most of us find comfortable. We’re socialized to “get on with it” and “just do our jobs.” Reflection is unproductive and industrial work is about productivity. If my job is processing insurance claims or checking in returned rental cars at Hertz, then productivity is a legitimate concern. One the other hand, if my job is redesigning those processes, then I’d better be prepared to spend time reflecting as well as doing. If I am managing either of those processes, again, I need to be prepared to deal with the unexpected or unusual, which will also call on my ability to reflect and to connect my reflections to broader questions about organizational goals and mission.

What makes all of this challenging is how many more tasks call for an element of reflection and design as well as basic execution skills. What was the realm of senior executives, consultants, and analysts has become the day-to-day reality for much of the organization. This makes everyone uncomfortable. I can’t just check my brain at the door and do what I’m told. I have to think for myself and that can be painful. On the other hand, if I was one of the handful paid to think not just for myself, but for everyone else in the organization, the prospect of everyone thinking for themselves is at least scary if not threatening. On the scary side, there are lots of people called on to think for themselves who haven’t had a lot of practice. On the threatening side, if I’ve defined myself by my differences from everyone else in the organization, the prospect of being found out as less capable than I appear can be destabilizing.

We all do knowledge work. For some of us, it’s virtually all we do. For others, it’s a small component. Knowledge work is different mostly because the end products are defined in the doing, not in advance. That demands that we learn how to think about and be mindful of the work as we do it. That runs counter to what we are trained and socialized to do and that makes everyone uncomfortable. After years of getting credit for the answers, we need to learn how to craft better questions first.