For readers: Read my urban fantasy series, The Piero Codex

  1. Cursing Fate book cover
  2. Cursing Fate book cover
  3. Cursing Fate book cover

Latest Articles

Martin Luther King Jr. Day

As I write this, I sit in an apartment in Atlanta’s Old Fourth Ward, just a few blocks from where the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. preached to his congregation. I cannot express in words the gratitude I feel toward Dr. King and all the thousands of people who marched with him to demand equal rights for all Americans. Since its birth, America has been a nation that aspired to high ideals of equality, and since its birth, America has struggled and failed to live up to those ideals. People like Dr. King are the most important people in America, people who serve as a national conscience, who remind us of the ideals we aspire to, and insist that we try harder to live up to them. Dr. King made us better as a nation.

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Take heed, managers: your 'best practices' are killing your company

If you are a manager, you need to understand the ideas of W. Edwards Deming. Deming wrote several books about management, in which he chastised American business schools and American corporate management for perpetuating a failed philosophy and failed management techniques.

Deming proposed a new philosophy of management motivated by quality and grounded in systems theory. The Deming philosophy is too deep, too broad, and too rich to be explained in a mere blog post. Volumes have been written about it, and as I read those volumes I am sharing my thoughts through this venue (with apologies to Mr. Deming if I misrepresent anything, I am still learning.)

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Systems vs Habits: Why GTD Often Fails

In my previous post, I wrote about David Allen's Getting Things Done book and productivity system. If GTD has a weakness, it is that, although the book describes the system very well, it does a poor job of describing the change of daily habits you'll have to perform if you really want to implement the system. The major reason people fail at implementing a GTD-style productivity system in their lives is that, no matter how simple the system may be, it's a big change from what they are used to.

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Getting Things Done -- Productivity System

David Allen's Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity is a phenomenon in the tech community. If you're reading this blog, you've probably already read the book, or at least know something about the productivity system that it defines. I read it years ago, but like many readers never put into practice more than a tiny portion of the system.

As 2012 drew to a close and I looked back on all the things I meant to accomplish, I decided that I should give this productivity bible another look, in the hopes of getting more things done in 2013. I won't bother to summarize the system that David Allen defines. The book is very readable and does a much better job than I could. Instead, I'm just going to note how I decided to apply the principles of his system in my own life, especially given the changes in technology and lifestyle since the book was originally published a dozen years ago.

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How to set up a new PC in 12 Steps, or How I spent my evening renewing my disgust with Windows

Step 1: Spend 30 minutes unpacking boxes, peeling plastic, and connecting cables.

Step 2: In breathless anticipation, press the power button.

Step 3: Spend another 30 minutes hunting for the Windows Product Key so you can access the computer you just bought. Find it, finally, on an indelible sticker on the far side of the computer's case.

Step 4: Enlist an assistant to type the Windows Product Key while you hang upside down under the desk using a flashlight to read it out.

Step 5: Insert CD to install hardware drivers, because Windows does not know how to use the network card in your PC.  Try to convince Windows that you know what you are doing and yes, you really want to run that program from the CD.

Step 5b (optional): Wonder at how Windows has not only failed to improve, but has actually gotten worse in the 10 years since you last bought a PC.

Step 6: Using a clunky-looking "wizard" from the CD, attempt to connect to wireless network. Be unable to find your wireless access point in the list because you live in a crowded apartment building, and the list is sorted randomly rather than by signal strength or even alphabetically. Notice that the list has multiple pages, and advance to page two. There it is.

Step 7: Enter password for wireless access point. Curse in frustration when it fails to connect. Blush with embarrassment when you realize CAPSLOCK is on. Turn CAPSLOCK off and try again.

Step 7b (optional): Curse the inventor of the CAPSLOCK key.

Step 8: Start Internet Explorer. Type "" into the location bar to download a real browser. Try to convince Windows that you know what you are doing and yes, you really want to run that program.

Step 9: Sign into Google Chrome. All extensions and bookmarks are automatically synced. Awesome.

Step 10: Using Google Chrome, visit and download the Windows Installer to install a real operating system. Try to convince Windows that you know what you are doing and yes, you really want to run that program.

Step 11: Let the installer reboot into Linux. Be amazed at how all the hardware is recognized immediately, including the wireless card. Feel like Ubuntu just gave you a warm hug when the wireless network manager pops up on the screen and offers to connect you to your very own wireless access point if you will be so kind as to enter the password. Check to ensure CAPSLOCK is off. Enter password.

Step 12: Click "Install Updates" when the update manager offers to do so. Wait.

Step 12a (optional): Write a blog post about your experience while waiting for updates to download. Feel sorry for people who have not yet discovered Linux.

A Framework for Innovation

How does a large company create an environment that encourages and leverages internal innovation? Here is my checklist of prerequisites for "enterprise" innovation:

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Systems and Mental Deficiencies

I was surprised when I read some of the things writer Terry Pratchett wrote or said about developing PCA, a form of dementia. I cannot now find the original source that I read, but there are several similar articles. He described some symptoms of the disease slowly robbing him of his own mind. The inability to see certain objects when they are right in front of you. Walking into a room but having no memory of why you went there in the first place. Difficulty comprehending written text despite recognizing every letter and word. Difficulty recognizing people's faces.

I was surprised when I read this, because these "symptoms" have affected me, well, pretty much my whole life. I thought they were normal.

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Natural Laws

I figure any phrase that people deem to be a "law" and find important enough to attribute to a specific person (even if incorrectly) probably contains some real wisdom. Here's a collection of Eponymous Laws from Wikipedia, all of which I have found to be true in my own experience.

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Efficiency: Enemy of Innovation?

The science of management in the industrial age was all about efficiency. It had to be. The whole concept of capitalism is based on efficiency. An entrepreneur acquires capital at a cost, and that capital must be made to produce profit at a rate higher than the cost of capital. If you borrowed money at 10% to start your business, you had to make it earn 11% at least. That meant controlling costs ruthlessly and milking every bit of productivity from every penny's worth of capital.

But talk to a systems administrator about efficiency. She'll tell you that, in terms of percentage of server utilization, there are two numbers you never want to approach, numbers that will cause midnight pages and pale-faced panic. The first number, of course, is 0%. Everything is down! The second, more surprising but equally frightening number is: 100%! At 100% utilization, everything breaks, because you have no more capacity for work.

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Journalism is too important to be locked behind a paywall

When I hear newspaper industry veterans talk about getting paid for content, it makes me want to cry. Case in point, this speech from Bill Monroe to the Midwest Newspaper Summit in Des Moines, Iowa, given Feb. 4, 2010.

What’s missing in today’s marketplace is a way to enable newspapers to protect that content and to profit when others reuse it. – Bill Monroe

I’m sorry Mr. Monroe, but I must disagree quite strongly. The reason journalism should be free is that journalism is extremely valuable. Sound counter-intuitive? Not at all.

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Why News Archived Behind Paywall Fails

One business model for online news that has been suggested, tried, and failed, is to make the news free for some short time, and then archive it behind a pay-wall. There is more than one reason why this doesn’t work as a business model, but the most obvious one is an old adage that should have been well known in the newspaper industry: yesterday’s news wraps today’s fish.

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The Tablet Fallacy (or, Old Media is Screwed)

"Help me, Obi-wan Tablet. You're my only hope!" says old media. But these are not the droids they are looking for.

There has been so much hand waving in the last month about 2010 being “the year of the tablet”, it boggles the mind. Much of the buzz has centered around the anticipated announcement of a tablet device by Apple, makers of the much-admired iPhone. However, media industry wonks are all abuzz about how the new platform will redefine newspapers, magazines, and other print products.

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The Three C's of New Media: Creation, Curation, and Compilation

Every media business is built around at least one of three key content activities: creation of content, curation of content, and compilation of data into content. Many media businesses, especially the large ones, make all three of these activities core competencies. Which sounds most like your business?

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The Real Value of Social Media is its Weakness

Many still doubt the utility of social media. I myself was among the doubters until I was forced onto Twitter and Facebook to test the social media integration for a web site I was developing. That’s when I discovered that, although Sturgeon’s Law applies to social media as much as anything else, the small percentage of “good stuff” is exceedingly valuable.

Case in point is this article: In a pinch, Twitter found a long shot source | By Daniel Victor. Stuck playing catch up on a story on a Sunday evening, with deadline looming, journalist Daniel Victor turned to Twitter in a last ditch search for sources. Long story short, Twitter came through for him.

The value of social networking tools like Twitter and Facebook is not immediately obvious to some (it wasn’t to me), and may even be counter intuitive. I’ve heard complaints that it’s difficult or impossible to form deep relationships through digital media, and Luddite sentiment that we should turn back to “face time” in our relationships. I disagree with the idea that deep relationships cannot be formed online, but the real value of social media is not in the deep relationships. It’s in the weak ties.

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