I gave up my buckit

Back in June, I wrote about the use of a dedicated twitter account for system updates. Actually the post is much, much more than that – it’s good reading, I promise. Go check it out. I’ll wait.

See, I told you. So, yesterday, I finally gave up the extensionorgsys twitter bucket. Actually, I gave it up weeks and weeks ago, quietly setting its archive to be protected, while waiting on twitter to enable account deletes again, which finally appeared to be working when I checked again yesterday.

You might ask why? – which of course is a fabulous question..

I wrote up the core reason before:

…it’s not social. It’s broadcast. It’s not following its followers. It’s not interacting. It’s not a conversation.

Could it have been? Certainly. There are individuals ( and companies and organizations ) sticking a real human behind the “generic/faceless” twitter accounts – giving them a real human (though somewhat of an anthropomorphic) voice. With real interaction, real conversation. Without that, there really isn’t much of a point to using twitter for this.

But I already have a twitter account. And I don’t need another one. And @extensionorgsys was even starting to get support requests (that I wasn’t seeing because it was tied to a generic email address, not mine, and I can’t tie it to my mobile number, because I can only tie one account to my mobile number).

But, you might say – that shared account could let more than one person use it! That’s what many others do and with my co-worker Daniel also doing “extension.org systems work” – maybe this was a natural place and case for that.

Maybe so. But I was already being hypocritical about the social networking of having a non-interactive broadcast account – do I need to add hypocrisy about using shared accounts also? (Paranoid system admin say: shared account bad. security good. Practical system admin say: It’s Twitter account, who cares?)

And again, we both already have twitter accounts, and I guarantee when the time comes to post a systems event notice, we’ll have to scramble around to find the shared password, hope the other didn’t reset it, maybe even get confused about which account window is which.

Ah. But what about those that really want to keep up with “extension.org systems” events and don’t want to read about me cursing over wrapping up fra-gee-lee major awards?.

Three words. search changes everything.

Twitter bought summize. And search.twitter.com can – in real-time – (well, provided it’s working) – find tweets that contain #extensionorgsys. So now, I can, Daniel can, others can, post tweets relevant extensionorgsys – and you don’t have to follow me to learn the sordid details that I sometimes listen to John Denver.

So the search maintains the information, but also maintains the human, conversational, interactive voice that can directly respond and speak to the issues to which it’s tweeting about.

So what if a spammer uses the same code phrase/hashtag? Or gasp, someone not affiliated with extension.org systems? Well – you cross that bridge when you get to it. But it’s not much different than someone getting hold of the shared password for @extensionorgsys. In fact, it’s might be better – because the individual voices themselves bring the legitimacy to the table. When we are out there, interacting, you begin to know who and who isn’t “extension.org systems”. I’m more interested in that here. Too many “Eye-Tee” organizations put themselves behind generic email addresses support “storefronts” – for some very good reasons that you don’t want single points of failure – but it serves to dehumanize the process. It helps to know and interact with the real individuals that bring those services to you. Especially in our case where it’s only two people that are “systems” here.

The fundamental is this, the power of a brand – any brand – is its people. That is doubly true for the business I’m in. And anything we can do to express the brand through the unique, individual, human voices that make up that brand – the better. There is definitely a place for those faceless accounts that have a real human voice behind them interacting, carrying on conversation – but if they don’t interact and the working conditions make other kinds of interaction easier – then you empower the individuals that can provide the voice, and you use the power of search and aggregation to bring them together. And give up the buckit.

And in the end, that is likely way more powerful.

Don’t Praise Me, Bro

I have had the great fortune in the close to 12 years that I’ve been working at NC State of being able to do work that I enjoy, that I’m passionate about and I have had the great honor to have worked with a lot of smart, caring, involved, hard-working people that care about those around them.

Both of which mean that I’ve been, at times, in the right place at the right time to receive praise and recognition of the things I’ve worked on. It’s something I’ve never quite been entirely comfortable with.

Don’t get me wrong, I have enough of an ego that I don’t shirk away from being the center of attention. I have been known a time or two (cough) to take over a meeting, a forum, a discussion with long rambling soliloquies in one form or another. It’s not really a center of attention thing.

I like to think that I do good work. I certainly care very deeply about my work, and want it to be the best it can be, and jokes and sarcasm aside, I care very deeply that others can learn from, make use of, and benefit from that work. I’m sure I’d be lying to you and myself if I said that part of me doesn’t want some recognition of that.

But even given that, when it comes to praise and recognition, I always get a little embarrassed. I don’t really know how to take it. I’ve tried to learn more how to graciously accept it, because when you don’t have that skill, you can appear at best ungrateful, and at worse, you can insult the one providing the recognition, and you might cheapen the praise for others.

But still, I’ve been trying to put my finger on it – and I think it comes down to the old “it’s got a good beat and you can dance to it” line from American Bandstand I’m composing the metaphorical equivalent to the album, and I guess I’m the artist that wants a little more than “it’s got a good beat” – I’m not necessarily expecting the person hearing to have the faintest idea about how to compose music themselves (because I sure don’t know how – as my flawed metaphor will surely attest) – but to be interested enough in how it sounds to tell me they played it all night – and ask questions about that middle part – and let me tell them that I borrowed that classical part written for the glockenspiel and turned into an electrical guitar solo. Honestly, I’d feel that – or at least I hope that I could – handle the flipside – having someone come up and tell me out of the blue that they really didn’t like it and maybe had I used a part written for the violin instead of the glockenspiel, it would have been better.

Without that, praise and recognition sometimes feels like it’s not far removed from judgment. And maybe uninformed praise and recognition really isn’t that much different than uninformed judgment.

Maybe I really am an educator deep down. I’m not looking for praise or recognition – but for understanding

Right here, in my lockbox

Dear Higher Education Faculty, Administrators, and Staff:

Did you know that your public funded ideas can find their way to the public?

On the internets?

For free?

You might think that your hard work and efforts could be safely ensconced away in obscure journals, embargoed for months at a time, but the pressures on the publishing industry are introducing new and dangerous threats to your ability to keep your public funded research efforts away from the public.

Through no fault of your own, your work could be released into the global body of knowledge, forming a foundation for the greater good by being shared with people you’ve never met, never heard of, who might take your basic research and build on it – or transform it in ways not even thought of yet. And they, gasp, might not even have a PhD!

And that’s just your findings – what about your data?!? Public funded DATA might find its way to the PUBLIC

Patents are not enough.

Intellectual Property Agreements are not enough.

105 years of copyright is not enough.

Your public funded ideas need to be protected from the public with a lockbox.

You need DRM.

Yes, DRM. Digital Rights Management. You need the ability to completely lock up your findings and your data in the digital world’s equivalent of a treasure chest buried on a desert island, protected by zombie scorpions. No, make that cursed zombie scorpions.

Only DRM can save your work – and your massive potential fortune that your future heirs will receive from your research results, embargoed, in your lockbox.

DRM can never be broken. And when it is within a few hours of you posting the lockbox – you – or better, your University’s legal department can sue the person that broke into your lockbox under something called the DMCA.

And when that doesn’t work – you can sue their neighbor – that grandmother that shamelessly downloaded your function that describes how polymerized derivative silicon substrates behave under high frequency UV wavelengths because “it had a good beat and she could dance to it.”

Think about it. DRM has done wonders for the music industry. Just like selling information has done for the publishing industry! Remember that software that you couldn’t get installed to complete your research? That was DRM! If it frustrated you – just think what it will do for the public! Your public-funded research will be safe from the public for generations to come!

Think about it. Actually don’t think – just do! DRM can be a win for you too.

What did it for you?

11th Grade by XKCD
comic by the fabulous Randall Munroe, http://xkcd.com/519

For me it was after 11th Grade, and a 6-week summer math program where one class in in the first 3 weeks involved playing with this interesting ‘Assembly Language’ thing (though I totally didn’t get the second session on ‘Pascal’). I don’t remember the platform. It was an emulator/teaching program of some kind.

Admittedly, 12th Grade AP Calculus also really helped though – mostly to begin developing more advanced problem solving strategies – not so much for the calculus.

And getting my first computer in 12th Grade – an Emerson 286 with an AMD 16 MHz 80286 (Intel’s only went to 12-something) and a 40MB HDD – running Compaq MS-DOS 3.31 – or some similar variant because MS-DOS 3.x didn’t support bigger HDD’s than 32MB. And I think 1MB of RAM. I didn’t understand any of the DOS versioning and the fact it wasn’t an Intel chip for several years.

Okay, there was a capstone moment like the weekend of Perl. I managed to get a copy of 4DOS from somewhere – I think this was right after starting at NC State. And 4DOS had a flag for the “del” command that allowed for recursively deleting things. You can imagine where this goes next.

Yep, my career was set in motion by 3 weeks of Assembly Language, AP Calculus, and one horrifying night where I recursively deleted most of the files on my 40MB HDD and key parts of the OS install with 4DOS.

Explains a lot doesn’t it?

They changed ours

one year ago:

I twittered his name last night, and a fellow dog-loving friend from Iowa said “Winston and Truman, eh? They should be able to change the world!”

Yes, I think so. They’ve already changed ours.

Invisible Cape

One year later, he really hasn’t learned to fly, but they both have shown us that wishes come true.

Making a wish

How Project Names Happen

So, being a developer and the systems manager hath its privileges. I get to wade through a convoluted process to come up with names of projects – and I get to apply them. Because, well, I can.

I’ve already rambled on more than once in the blog about desktop and server names, but I’ve never really talked much about coding projects.

Really, mainly that’s because the names are usually boring. And also that I/we thankfully don’t start many coding projects. Starting an application/project is not something to be taken lightly – and well, we already have what is likely too many projects anyway.

However, today I am taking the baby steps into a new rails project. Currently – our “Identity” project is serving as a hub of activity tracking. For a whole host of reasons, I’m thinking of separating the actual data collection and storage and “generation” of that data into a separate application (but leaving some of the views into that data within the Identity tool).

So, what to name it? We’ve named projects after Greek Words, the protagonist from a movie about a talking plant with psychological issues, and boring things like “project function.”

But this needed different. Our activity views are part of the idea of [freeranging][5] or [“work wide open”][6]. And after spending a few minutes in Google and Wikipedia trying to come up with names that were related to “free-range” and getting no further than pasture management strategies – I needed a new tack.

Our activity views are both a reporting/monitoring mechanism – but they are also an experiment in [workstreaming][7].

Hmmm…. streams. The [first free-associated “stream” idea that I had][8] was clearly NOT going to do.

So what’s the next most famous “streaming” idea? That’s right…

Dr. Egon Spengler: There’s something very important I forgot to tell you. Dr. Peter Venkman: What? Dr. Egon Spengler: Don’t cross the streams. Dr. Peter Venkman: Why? Dr. Egon Spengler: It would be bad. Dr. Peter Venkman: I’m a little fuzzy on the whole “good/bad” thing here. What do you mean, “bad”? Dr. Egon Spengler: Try to imagine all life as you know it stopping instantaneously and every molecule in your body exploding at the speed of light. Dr. Ray Stantz: Total protonic reversal! Dr. Peter Venkman: That’s bad. Okay. All right, important safety tip. Thanks, Egon.

Hence, the new project for activity tracking, Google visualization, json data feeds, etc.

[Protonic Reversal][9]

And except for the ones brought to you by the stork, and the tooth fairy – is how project names happen. I mean, really, who you going to call?

(okay, sorry, couldn’t resist)

[6]: https://rambleon.org/2008/10/18/work-wide-open/ [7]: http://blog.k1v1n.com/2008/11/freerange-tools-workstreaming.html [8]: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Islands_in_the_Stream [9]: http://justcode.extension.org/projects/show/activity