On the Radar: Web Calendars, Lip-Syncing and Love (oh, my)

* “Boil the ocean”:http://www.google.com/search?num=100&hl=en&lr=&safe=off&q=%22boil+the+ocean%22&btnG=Search, an egregious consulting term used to limit the scope of a project: “we’re not looking to boil the ocean with this.” Fast Company took “a shrewd look”:http://www.fastcompany.com/magazine/88/debunk.html at the phrase, and Bob Congdon digs up its “earliest use”:http://www.bobcongdon.net/blog/2004/06/boil-ocean.html.
* “Moleskine Bible”:http://www.esv.org/blog/2006/04/journaling.bible.coming (“via Tim”:http://www.challies.com/sideblog/archives/001828.php). Very forward-thinking book design on the part of the Standard Bible Society. Bibles used to be beautifully constructed books that were admired, but rarely touched. That’s beginning to change as people want to — literally — interweave the story of their lives with the Scripture.
* YouTube: “Two Chinese Boys”:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gbdpTCJgnwc (“via Slate”:http://www.slate.com/id/2140697/). Be sucked into the vortex of incomparable splendor that is YouTube.
* ??Fortune Magazine??: “The Great Escape”:http://money.cnn.com/magazines/fortune/fortune_archive/2006/03/20/8371767/. Forty million American employees toil in soulless cubicles. How did they get there — and can business ever break out of the box? Probably not.
* ??Crain’s Chicago Business??: “The new face of technology”:http://chicagobusiness.com/cgi-bin/mag/article.pl?article_id=25714&bt=37Signals&arc=n&searchType=all (“via Jason”:http://37signals.com/svn/archives2/crains_chicago_business_cover_story.php). Start-up! Start-up! Start-up! πŸ˜‰
* ??Kathy Sierra??: “The myth of keeping up”:http://headrush.typepad.com/creating_passionate_users/2006/04/the_myth_of_kee.html. You can’t keep up. There is no way. And trying to keep up will probably just make you dumber.You can never be current on everything you think you should be. Good to know I’m in good company.
* ??Michael Idov?? for ??Slate??: “Bitter Brew”:http://www.slate.com/id/2132576/. You know that charming little cafe on New York’s Lower East Side that just closed after a mere six months in business — where coffee was served on silver trays with a glass of water and a little chocolate cookie? The one that, as you calmly and correctly observed, was doomed from its inception because it was too precious and too offbeat? The one you still kind of fell for, the way one falls for a tubercular maiden? Yeah, that one was mine. Pragmatic advice for anyone who handles money. Worth listening to…twice.
* ??Sam Andreades??: “The Redefinition of Simon Peter”:www.villagechurchnyc.com/worship/sermons/2006/01/the-redefinition-of-simon-peter/. Are you really free from how others look at you? I don’t just mean saying ‘I don’t care what other people think of me’–there are plenty of people in New York saying that. … Are you really free of carrying the responsibility of your reputation with others?
* Apple: “Get a Mac”:http://www.apple.com/getamac/ads/?ilife_medium (“via Dan”:http://hivelogic.com/links/133). Quietly brilliant new “switcher” ads by Apple. Is it me, or does PC look a little like Mr. Gates? πŸ™‚
* ??John Gruber??: “Good Journalism”:http://daringfireball.net/2006/05/good_journalism. One can only hope that Apple will one day handle security issues as well as Microsoft does now. Wow, you can _taste_ the bitterness in this article.
* ??Evan Ratliff??: “Now for a Quick Lesson in International Relations”:http://www.nytimes.com/2006/04/30/fashion/sundaystyles/30love.html?_r=1&pagewanted=all&oref=slogin (“via Angela”:http://hereisangela.blogspot.com/2006/04/modern-love.html). Feeling suddenly like a shy 10-year-old in the playground, I pretended not to understand. But he walked off, and there was nothing to do but follow. I was already uneasy in Dhaka, unable to blend in or communicate, and now self-consciousness was joined by a simultaneous thrill and fear that I was walking into some vortex of cultural misunderstanding.
* ??Angela Wu??: “Religious map of America”:http://hereisangela.blogspot.com/2006/05/religious-map-of-america.html. Like, if you grew up going to church all your life and everybody else you knew did, too, you might fervently believe lots of things… (bonus: “cows”:http://hereisangela.blogspot.com/2006/05/beating-dead-cow.html)
* The Village Church just might be getting “a new calendar”:http://www.villagechurchnyc.com/events/ based on the open-source “WebCalendar”:http://www.k5n.us/webcalendar.php?topic=About. WebCalendar has been okay to work with, but not trivial to integrate with the site — due in part because it’s “ugly as a dog”:http://www.k5n.us/webcal-screenshots/wcss-month.png out of the box. Still, it will export an iCal feed, so if you’ve got 30 Boxes or Google Calendar, you can “subscribe”:http://www.villagechurchnyc.com/events/publish.php?user=public.
* ??Fast Company??: ” Varnished History”:http://www.fastcompany.com/magazine/94/pr.html. The documentary itself won’t be featured in any film classes — but in the tawdry realm of corporate propaganda, there has been worse.
* ??InterVarsity??: “Ministry Exchange Overview”:http://www.intervarsity.org/mx/item/3674/. IV constructs a massive content management system to share ministry materials, providng features as web-2.0 savvy as tagging and RSS feeds. Well done–this is worth watching for a while.
* ??Ken Walker??: “The Debate Over Newark, Part II”:http://blog.newarker.info/2006/05/04/the-debate-over-newark-part-ii/. Have you heard? We’re getting a new mayor in Newark after 20 years of the same administration. The candidates recently debated — here’s how it went.

Projects vs. jobs–what's the difference?

When Mike replied to my blog on the 21st, he said:

Thats just a really deep way of saying, ‘I have a job that makes me think.’

Er, well, actually it’s more than that. By saying that projects are journeys, I mean they are a means of going from one place to another. The skillset that I had before the TVC site was different from the skillset I have now. The things I know about our church are different. The way I approach working on the site now is different than when I started.

It’s also the same where I work. One particular project I’m working on now has to do with deploying a CRM tool to a sales organization. Once you get involved in enterprise-wide systems, you start to learn all sorts of things about the enterprise–both its people and its systems. I have learned a lot in the past several months on this project and, if all goes well, I will be able to look back several months from now and see what I’ve learned and accomplished and, perhaps more importantly, see how I can use those learnings on future ventures.

Mike included in his comment my remark, Systems design is both passive and active; it’s simultaneously something that you do and that happens to you. This highlights my point about the journey. When you embark on a project, it’s not immediately clear what information is known and what is unknown. It’s not clear what is to be built and with what reqiurements. It’s not clear where the budget is coming from. It’s not clear who will take ownership of the completed product. It’s not even clear whether or not the proposed idea is even going to work. This is an epistemological problem–how do you know what you know?–which is, I think, really unique to project management and delineates it from other work.

Jobs have a relatively constrained set of rules by which you play. These are usually understood well in advance (“I fold papers and stuff envelopes”) and determine the majority of your choices. Systems design is way different. There are constraints that go into systems design, but they are not all well known at the start and are learned along the way.

True, this does make me think, but stating that projects are journeys isn’t just a flowery way of saying so. πŸ™‚

A project is just another job. You have nothing, or very little when it starts and a product at the end. It actually kinda bothers me that it is being thought of differently.

Actually, the difference between a job and a project is fairly well defined. The Wikipedia definition isn’t great (and I might just go change it myself after this blog), but a project is, essentially, the coordination of resources within a set of constraints (such as time and money) to accomplish a goal. That goal is inherently the creation of of something new that didn’t previously exist.

If I could perhaps rework the terminology a bit:

==

work
an ongoing process of doing what is necessary to run the business
e.g. turning on the lights, maintaining software, filing paperwork
project
a time-bound process of creating something new for the business
e.g. installing new light fixtures, designing a new software application, creating a new filing system
job
a role that may encompass work, projects, or a combination of both

==

So, for example, you could have a job that encompasses work (such as grading students’ papers) and projects (such as creating a marching band program). Make sense?

Work and projects are different in what they produce, so they need to be managed differently. Imagine you’re a widget-maker. You enter the office every day and sit down at your desk and crank out widgets–maybe 30 or 40 per day. This is work. Your knowledge of widget technology is fairly static and your focus for improvement is on output–perhaps your bonus is determined by the number of widgets you produce. This is how you manage work.

Perhaps your company wants to be the world leader in widget development and they’ve tasked you with inventing the next best widget. This is a project. What do you do? You set goals and meet with widget content-experts to get their feedback. You make plans to try out different widget designs. You go looking for money in the organization to develop your widget. A timeline is most likely given to you (and it’s most likely by freakin’ marketing) to have new widget development completed in six months. This is how you manage a project.

Now imagine yourself an employer. You have people on your payroll that do work and people that do projects. The people who do work keep the business running so you can make money to pay your bills. The people who do projects advance the business in ways that make new money–either by developing processes that create efficiencies (which results in savings), or by developing processes that may create new opportunities (which results in capital). For example, a business can undertake the project of launching an e-business portal (that term sounds so 1997), which results in sales in a new market that didn’t previously exist and therefore new money.

Now, you’re still that employer. Which kinds of employees are you going to be more excited about? Most likely, the project people–they’re the ones bringing in the new money to the business. This is why business are all gaga about project-based work, and why lots of people are getting involved with project management.

Mozilla Changes Gears

There’s quite a buzz in the Mozilla community about an organization restructuring. This restructuring comes with the third modification of Mozilla’s roadmap.

Mozilla: Mozilla Development Roadmap. We have come a long way. We have achieved a Mozilla 1.0 milestone that satisfies the criteria put forth in the Mozilla 1.0 manifesto, giving the community and the wider world a high-quality release, and a stable branch for conservative development and derivative product releases. See the Mozilla Hall of Fame for a list of Mozilla-based projects and products that benefited from 1.0.

This is but a small section of the rich discussion of the Mozilla restructuring available at the site, which contains some exciting announcements. Among them:

* Phoenix is going to become Mozilla’s major browser development effort
* Thunderbird—a mail client similar to Phoenix’s agile application design—is going to become Mozilla’s major mail client development effort
* Aside from the migration towards these applications, much of the development effort will now focus on making Mozilla do what it does with a more streamlined codebase
* Advanced-user featuresets will be built as modular plugins—this is particularly good news if you’ve ever tried navigating the drop-down menus in Mozilla and got overwhelmed with too many options

…and there’s more interesting activities that aren’t explicitly constrained to the application end-user.

I’ve had a growing interest in Mozilla over the past year or so as I’ve encountered more educational experience in programming and project management but little ‘real world’ work experience. What’s cool about the project is that everything is out in the open for everyone to see. If you want to learn how to hack Mozilla, you can. If you’re interested in seeing the latest bugs in Phoenix, you can. If you want to discuss issues with the developers directly, you can. If you want to peruse code, you can. Even their development timeline is available. The Mozilla project offers, for the wannabe hacker, an opportunity to see real development efforts in action and, for the project manager, the opportunity to see what works and what doesn’t.

What’s more exciting, though, is that the Mozilla project seems to be undergoing a turning point similar to the one that Linux underwent a couple of years ago: the popularization and user-orientation of the project. Not only has the Mozilla project created a viable, standards-based choice for cross platform development (such as the much anticipated OpenMind project), but is now creating applications that are meaningful for the end user. My favorite of these is, of course, the Phoenix web browser. (Haven’t made Phoenix your primary web browser yet? Here’s a good list of reasons why you should.)

As Mark Pilgrim put it recently, In the future, there will be so much open source software available, programmers will be judged by how much they know about it and how well they can glue it together to build solutions. Looks like this year is going to be a pretty exciting jumpstart into that future.

Project Management Methodologies

One of the interesting (if tedious) responsibilities for my Senior Project class at NJIT is to discover, interpret, and choose a project management methodology. Having had no real prior experience in the theory of project management, this has been a real challenge to me: I feel like I’m desperately trying to claw my way up from the bottom of the learning curve. Read on for more.
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Open Source Project Management

Update: it’s no secret that I am using Basecamp for project management these days.

Basecamp project management and collaboration

The Linux desktop may not be ready for Joe User and his grandmother, but is it ready for the knowledge worker? This is a question I’ve somewhat accidentally been endeavoring to answer since the semester started. A lot of people go looking to prove Linux out when it comes to the desktop in a sort of anti-Microsoft methodology. My latest experimentation, though, wasn’t born out of a desire to prove Linux right or Microsoft wrong—it came out of an immediate need for tools to get my job done as project manager at school. While NJIT provides a lot of these programs for download through Microsoft’s Academic Alliance program, I wasn’t able to get a hold of them easily (the intranet site required that I authenticate three separate times, and still wouldn’t let me do it!). Read on to see just how Linux is performing in these areas.

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