There never weren’t going to be problems with Open Source software

That doesn’t mean, of course, that Open Source projects are useless — rather, it is an acknowledgement that nothing is perfect.

There was a time when software was, like documentation, a complementary if proprietary add-on to a hardware purchase. Software was free of charge in that its development costs got baked in with the price of the hardware on which the mission-critical software was to run. Those were the early decades of computing, before the term “personal” became a market-expanding prefix and software gained a wider audience for more commodified hardware.

Then the inevitable happened: software also started to become somewhat commodified, as languages and frameworks and libraries and protocols attained their own reputations among developers as de facto standards. There were and are plenty of areas remaining for innovative differentiation and even niche applications/utilities, but the profit margins for software have been approaching zero for businesses that lack a diverse product line of interoperable functionality which extends across vertical or horizontal market boundaries.

Plenty of innovation — during the dawn of personal computing in the 1970s and 1980s as well as during the internet era — has come from developers committed to delivering what is known as freeware or shareware or, more recently, the amalgamated Open Source movement. Disparate Open Source projects hoping to maximize their software’s interoperability with other projects will often turn toward established cross-platform standards as well as middleware products which enable EAI (Enterprise Application Integration) mapping and ETL (Extract/Transform/Load) data compatibility.

Business managers themselves like to extract what they can from this or that Open Source software project, especially if they can get away with not contributing anything back to the codebase (Aleph Infotinuum Services will leave it to the individual to decide whether such tactics lack ethics — AIS comes down on the “no” side with a caveat that Open Source ideals are mostly of the commune-style misguided type whose inherent inefficiencies are easier to hide within virtual marketplaces featuring intangible products).

As with any typical commune, delivering quality products at regularly scheduled intervals proves to be difficult if not impossible. As with any typical commune, the concept of success becomes warped toward feeling rewarded for self sacrifice. As with any typical commune, things get bureaucratic instead of entrepreneurial. Most Open Source projects lack proper incentives, or at least they did until a band aid solution came about in the form of bounties for effort (e.g. for creating new features or hunting down existing bugs).

One big problem with that, and with Open Source in general (and if you’re going to be even more general: with any kind of collectivism), is that developers without defined compensation for defined duties tend to put much more work into creating new features than they put into hunting & fixing bugs. Be sure to follow the link below for more Open Source shortcomings.

Dropping these 5 bad habits will help your career

Other sagacious advice includes avoiding chili before a big meeting.

Superstar business managers never tire of seeking ways to help differentiate their employer from other employers. Sometimes, such efforts backfire, thereby calling into question the manager’s judgement. Sometimes, they’re downright fraudulent, thereby calling into question the manager’s ethics.

The golden mean between superstar and fraudster is where most managers, indeed most professionals, ply their trade. They are willing to make judgement calls and accept accountability for those calls. On the occasions when they make a mistake, they try to learn from it and hope that they will get a chance to demonstrate the ways in which they were able to turn crisis into opportunity.

The fact that no one is perfect guarantees that each of us will, at least once in a while, make a mess of things, at least temporarily. Whether it’s procrastination, or pedantry, or positivism to the detriment of freedom to innovate, try to avoid repeating such messes.

Don’t let your organization’s CIO position represent Common Introspection Omissions

Ensure that whichever employee fills the CIO role can demonstrate Copacetic Infotinuum Operations.

The infotinuum is eternal. It is the proverbial Borgesian library of Babel. Fortunately, your employer needs to care only about an infinitesimal nook within such an endless labyrinth of knowledge.

The question that arises is: how to care for such a nook? Today’s typical CIO must be comfortable with more technological striplings & stalwarts than those from even ten years prior. Increasingly, business imperatives go nowhere without an efficient infrastructure of networking and communicative persistence — which makes infotinuum management the circulatory system of any enterprise lifeblood.

Employees comprise the enterprise heart. Contractors and supply chain vendors provide occasional infusions. Consumers oxygenate, and sometimes exsanguinate.

Here are a few things a CIO can do to help his or her employer avoid anemia or, worse, sacrifice on the figurative altar of consumer fickleness:

  • Stop fearing cyberattackers — from at least as far back as the BBS heyday, wise sysops (known these days as sysadmins) have recruited hackers, at least in a surreptitious manner, to help them hone their security practices
  • Spread the good-for-business word — offer more than just apologia by convincing other teams within your workplace to snatch up some of your own team’s talented personnel
  • Consider seamless business/infotinuum integration to be the only acceptable success — it isn’t possible to redefine any term, much less success (indeed some who try are doing so for purposes of making their mediocre efforts appear more successful)
  • Put the Copacetic in CIO — don’t try to be cool, just remember that those who don’t already consider their career to be cool are still looking for the right career

Epistemological death by streaming video?

What PowerPointâ„¢ did for presentations, streaming video threatens to do for learning.

When new slideshow technology started to replace overhead projectors in education, courses that featured an instructor displaying hundreds of digitized slides became known as death by PowerPoint. Institutions and businesses cut costs, but also forgot to keep in mind their customers’ learning demands.

Marshall McLuhan theorized that any medium contains traces of previous media, and that content matters less than the medium itself. Streaming video for course delivery show traces of the previous media it replaced, namely the dreaded PowerPoint slide deck. Watching streaming videos of a class lectures with no interactivity or engagement offers no pedagogical improvement.

Using the latest media, whether it is streaming video or virtual reality, does not always guarantee better learning. Inspirational, imaginative and meaningful learning starts with aligning media strategies with an analysis of the content, users, and objectives.

Measure twice, cut once

History’s framers & carpenters have some important wisdom to share with IT hipsters.

Perhaps your employer has decided that it’s time for a change (to be accurate: your employer’s employees make such decisions as they react to consumer demand). That sounds simple enough, except for the change part.

“Build it and they will come” is, of course, the stuff of fantasy. To put it into IT terms, it’s the stuff of vaporware. That’s why your organization needs a framework to outline the pathway toward the realization of synergetic outcomes. Or something like that.

Seriously, though, all stakeholders must have a say in the planning phase for any significant change to process or infrastructure, and managers must give the planning phase enough breathing room to articulate desires and goals and potential impediments that might even preclude the project under consideration. A multi-year action plan targeting perceived competition is inadvisable, since that implies a bureaucratic mindset instead of what your enterprise must always demonstrate: a consumers-come-first management attitude which leaves the competition struggling to come up with its own within-five-years-this-will-pan-out plans of bureaucratic futility. Let your competitors dig themselves into deeper holes as you concentrate on helping your employer serve consumers.

Think of such planning in terms of staying agile through short, iterative sprints of regular process revision. Don’t jump toward every new idea that gets entered into the backlog. Allow your coworkers that vital breathing room. Give everyone enough time to measure the cost & benefit of this or that strategy pivot, and then give them enough time to measure it again. That might seem like duplicating effort, but in actuality it’s an age-old strategy for making sure that you don’t cut the figurative branch on which your organization sits.

To use metaphors which originate outside the construction industry, companies are more like slow-turning freighters than they are turn-on-a-dime hydroplanes. Keep in mind the opportunity cost of repeated spin-down-spin-up rampages toward this or that trend, and play it cool so consumers want to hang out with you (to be accurate: your employer’s products).

“CHANGE NOW OR ELSE!” scream bureaucrats pretending to be business managers

When implementing new technologies and their corresponding processes, make sure those impacted understand the what/how/when/why of such a shakeup to their professional routine.

If your employer decides to introduce something cutting-edge, or even something about-darned-time, more than a few of your coworkers will balk at the suggestion that what they’ve been doing up until that point has been adequate for only the olden days. Although they won’t admit as much, many people consider a job to be a necessary evil which they must endure for the sake of what they consider to be their real life. Such people, despite making apparent career missteps, might in any case be valuable to the company — at least to the extent that replacing them would be more of a hassle and expense than it would be worth — and it is they who will therefore present the biggest change management challenge.

They don’t know what’s being changed, and they don’t particularly want to know because they prefer to concentrate on their Monday-through-Friday duty to pick up their kid from daycare. They don’t know how the change is going to take place, and they don’t particularly want to know because they wouldn’t have taken the position in the first place had they known that it would sometimes seem like school is back in session. For them the when of the project to implement a new technology is always too soon for comfort, and the why is typically more of a “Why me?” whine.

Don’t get too down on them. They are, for the most part, afraid, and even though such fears are, for the most part, unreasonable, many who so much as perceive a fearful future will do what they can to prevent any of the changes which might present the professional challenges they’d rather avoid. They don’t understand their own genuine influence — often to the point of wondering why their employer’s competitors are eating it alive as they try to ensure that no one need ever keep up with the innovating times.

Indeed, that is how socialism destroys societies. Corporatists want time to stop so they won’t ever face the cost of retooling or retraining, while welfarists want time to stop so they won’t ever face the limitations of their current skill set. Be instead a business manager who wants their coworkers to help them demonstrate to competitors how the not-so-scary changing times are always leaving behind the fearful.

Before falling for marketing syrup regarding The Cloud, be sure to recollect the early days of smartphone data charges

If you are a manager whose due diligence regarding the procurement of IT infrastructure amounts to “It’s cool and it’s convenient and we’re sure to use it all the time,” don’t be surprised down the road when you receive a pink slip.

There was a time when the server industry presented itself to consumers as boring but reliable. Now it’s more about vendors competing to appear most like a Times Square spectacle, as though “five nines” has mutated into a table of three-card monte.

There was also a time when consumers of computer & networking hardware laughed at the idea of returning to an IT paradigm based around big servers offering connections to to dumb terminals. Indeed, during the BBS heyday known as the 1980s, sysops and the users of their dial-up systems tended to consider any pitch regarding terminal-based computer networking as a thin-client grift designed to wrest control of their data from their newfangled hard drives.

2017 is, of course, a different time, a time of increasing grifter heyday. Systems administrators, web/app developers and users alike are far less likely now to be savvy about the dangers of trusting third parties with their day-to-day needs for data storage and processing. Server manufacturers understand as much, and they also understand that taking advantage of the relatively ignorant masses who have flooded online during the past two decades might lead to increased profit. All they needed during the early part of this century was a clever-sounding name for their tired old server marketspace.

There happened to be a diagram all ready to appropriate as both symbol and denotation for their rejuvenated industry. For a long time, collaborators standing in front of whiteboards and sales professionals making presentations to prospective clients tried to depict networks in general and the internet in particular as looking like a cloud (the idea being that computer networking takes place within an ethereal realm).

Now that's a handsome cloud

Now server vendors are implying by way of slick marketing rhetoric that the entire internet has become their exclusive vendor domain, so don’t be a sucker. Minimize the amount that your employer uses The Cloud, and thereby minimize bottom line costs in the same way you do by limiting the amount of personal time you spend online with your relatively dumb terminal known as a smartphone.

There is no such thing as a CXO (Chief eXperience Officer), and you should consider walking away from any company which tries to create such a position

No customer ever fails to have an experience with your employer, and any enterprise which seeks to control that experience by way of a C-level strategy is asking for consumer boycott & consequent bankruptcy.

Business managers do exactly that: manage a business. Trying to manage consumers is not only foolhardy and futile, it makes the business look like a bully.

Marketing is one thing. That thing is, of course, persuasion — and any marketing professional who resorts to dishonesty for purposes of persuasion is going to find themselves staring down at the gritty tile inside the unemployment office (okay we’re dating ourselves here: that should be “staring down at the gritty carpet inside the room at home where they’re online looking for a new job). For the vast majority of marketers who don’t resort to dishonesty, persuasion is still not synonymous with control.

One thing that marketing is not about is “architecting” anyone’s “journey.” Within the enterprise, such behavior amounts to bureaucracy-style incompetence. At the point of consumer contact, it reflects a lack of respect for consumer self-determination.

Each consumer is at all times in the driver’s seat of economic production (as opposed to the Keynesian canard about consumers having an imaginary spend-spend-spend obligation as some kind of collective engine of production). Luckily for civilized humanity, we experience almost all of our lives — even while at work producing things for market — consuming things already available from various markets. Imagine the relatively tiny producer aspect of your personality trying to dominate the much larger consumer aspect, and then imagine how much more frustrating it would be to have complete strangers try to dominate consumer you.

The only legitimate way for your employer to drive sales and accumulate profits is to persuade existing & potential customers/clients that your product or service is the logical choice to satisfy their demands. Leave the bullying disutility to your competitors, and come together as a team, C-levels and others (without any bureaucratic nonsense), to keep smiling at consumers and trying to persuade them as they plot their own journey through life.

Beware IT practices that are more worst than best

Technocrats and likewise Progressive experts offer many pigs in pokes.

Most professionals can relate anecdotes of managers behaving like know-it-all bureaucrats who expect displays of personal acquiescence regarding every idea that, upon hearing someone else’s anecdote or marketing pitch, they become convinced their employer cannot do without. From shelves filled with third party vaporware to initiatives destined for likewise obscurity, the common denominator of misguided business imperative appears to be the scapegoats who receive a reprimand or a pink slip for the sake of covering bureaucratic tail.

There are, of course, legitimate business imperatives which competent managers will recognize as opportunities for their employer to serve consumers better and thereby increase profitability. Discerning the difference between legitimate and misguided is what separates successful managers from just-do-as-I-say bureaucrats.

Your work colleagues are exactly that. They are neither above you nor beneath you, and they certainly are never your internal customers or your internal vendors. Hierarchies satisfy only an underlying bureaucracy, while the thing which you and your coworkers must focus on is satisfying consumers.

Take best practices for IT. Please. Seriously, though, among the thousand or so “best practice” recommendations for IT programs, approximately none of them are right for your organization. Considering the fact that approximately is not synonymous with precisely, the key is the same as it always is for managing an enterprise: due diligence.

Rethinking feedback in learning

Does feedback always improve learning?

Instructional designers often assume that feedback is necessary in learning design to correct errors, confirm knowledge, and provide direction, especially in asynchronous learning. Writing feedback is such a common task in elearning design that most rapid authoring programs have quiz-making features to automate it for instructional designers. They provide some variation on the default “Yes – that’s correct!” and “Sorry, try again.” responses. If your project timeline and budget allows, you can customize the responses to specific selections. But is feedback always valuable? Does it lead to better learning?

Not always. Feedback can’t overcome deficiencies or problems in the learning content or design. In other words, if learners don’t understand the content, feedback after quizzes or activities won’t solve the lack of understanding. The better solution is to redesign the course content, activities, and assessments.

Feedback is most beneficial to reinforce difficult or challenging content, and refresh content that learners have forgotten. Feedback also helps learners navigate their own path and set their own goals through the learning content, important features for self-directed learners.