Thursday, December 14, 2006


Started off on James Governor's blog this morning, with an interesting post about a series of events taking place in UK lead by James Stamper and got lead through his blog to a very interesting paper on Requirements Elicitation. Having recently implemented change policy, governance and SDLC at Corel, I was very interested to see this blast from the past - a pertinent reminder that we still face the same issues 14 years later and the human condition still prevails in IT.

Carnegie-Mellon's Michael G Christel and Kyo C Yang provide a brilliant and still relevant position as seen in the overview of the problem in the abstract of the paper:

"There are many problems associated with requirements engineering, including problems in defining the system scope, problems in fostering understanding among the different communities affected by the development of a given system, and problems in dealing with the volatile nature of requirements. These problems may lead to poor requirements and the cancellation of system development, or else the development of a system that is later judged unsatisfactory or unacceptable, has high maintenance costs, or undergoes frequent changes. By improving requirements elicitation, the requirements engineering process can be improved, resulting in enhanced system requirements and potentially a much better system.

Requirements engineering can be decomposed into the activities of requirements elicitation, specification, and validation. Most of the requirements techniques and tools today focus on specification, i.e., the representation of the requirements. This report concentrates instead on elicitation concerns, those problems with requirements engineering that are not adequately addressed by specification techniques. An elicitation methodology is proposed to handle these concerns.

This new elicitation methodology strives to incorporate the advantages of existing elicitation techniques while comprehensively addressing the activities performed during requirements elicitation. These activities include fact-finding, requirements gathering, evaluation and rationalization, prioritization, and integration. Taken by themselves, existing elicitation techniques are lacking in one or more of these areas."

Like it or not, agree or not with the methodology, you are engaged in requirements elicitation if you are in IT. I have to run to an ops meeting, but I am not stopping my rant on this yet. It strikes me that we have come a long way with Agility, but the bottom line is that if you don't start your journey facing in the right direction, then it will always take you longer to get there.

Now, where am I going?

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Pass the Beatz, Pastor Beatz

Posting on mix2r is a great way (brilliant idea, Duane and Matt) for musicians to share ideas, collaborate and get feedback on tracks, hacks, jacks and smacks. It feels funny to do it though - its not like you are just putting music out there to share. Instead you are asking for an audition with other musicians that are also interested in auditioning for you...something like that. I'll get used to it.

My favourite music: Music I have never heard before
Where to find it: Click a random link on mix2r

RAW data

Robert Anton Wilson has a blog. Not a big blog, but RAW Data is significant as a moment in time.

It's either a first for high-brow thinking or a first for low-brow posing/faking.

I know that we are all hoping it's we need one of those Google verification tags that works on thought leaders.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Noone cares what you think...

I hear this a lot in conversations around blogging, forums and general social computing studies. "Noone cares what I think, why would I do that...?"

I want to set the record straight on this. Noone cares what you want them to think. Everyone cares what you really think. Subtle? Obscure? Marketing diss?

Just be yourself. Really.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Use case for Flex Data Services

I have been working on an interesting use case for Flex and Flex Data Services, that will build nicely into the recently announced Apollo runtime.

More and more products are focusing on in-product messaging, a pipeline for updates, upsells, upsets, uplevels, etc built into the product interface and then pumped full of sometimes useful, sometimes necessary and sometimes not - clickable marketing matter.

Assuming it is only a matter of time until this approach matures completely and usefulness is part of the usability, it seems to me that what we ultimately need is some way of pumping a series of messages, samples, updates, patches, etc into a local object that can be accessed by users in different ways, whether they are online or offline...hmmm

Given the richness of the Flash interface, the ability to build nice transitions and states into applications or widgets within applications, and the horsepower delivered by FDS to get all that data streaming out to the applications, whether or not it is being viewed in real time and the general productivity of the programming paradigm would position Flex well for stuff like this.

I know I should stop coming up with ideas that Adobe is not interested in focusing on - I had that same problem when I worked there, right DM? ;-) But it seems to me that this is a viable use case, and one that I am going to explore further for some future projects I see coming my way.

Friday, November 17, 2006

What is that guy doing with all those gears?

Have you seen the IBM ads made up in Flash with the guy figuring out integration by bouncing around, falling, flying and tumbling in turmoil through a whole bunch of rotating disconnected gears? Sorry I can't dependably link to the ad since it seems to be tracking my clickpath in some very strange ways.

I can't figure out what they are trying to tell me...I have done a lot of integration projects and I definitely don't remember feeling like I was bouncing through gears. I think I was actually bouncing through global services, support, manuals and help files, but they were not gears, did not spin well, and they definitely did not look the same or even appear to have much to do with each other from a pure shape perspective.

One of us is brain dead.

I know it's a Rational ad, so maybe it has something to do with the way former Rational developers were packaged out of the blue?!? Were all IT guys just given the gears?

Was I right?

I just found a set of predictions I had made back in 2003 regarding the use of web services. Now you have to realize that I was at Microsoft back then, fully baked on the koolaid, but I think I actually came pretty close - although most of the projects I have had insight to seem to be still figuring this out. At least they are talking about it!

See the original here

And now the silliness...

# Web services will continue to gain traction in enterprise integration projects as earlier planned projects move into the execution and completion phase. In the small and medium space the emergence of pay-per-use business models will begin to gain traction as larger architectures allow integration with 3rd party services. The Basic Profile and core standards will continue to erode ebXML market usage as developers move to true open standards. Third party enhancements, both hardware and software, will further enhance production cycles. Mainframe and legacy will continue to decline as larger SI and MIS organizations move to services oriented platforms for both outsourcing and insourcing projects. In the early adopter space, Web services development and management will begin to commoditize as predictable ROI models emerge.

# Businesses will use mobile devices powered by Web services to access intelligent information. It is vital that users can access the information they need and not receive cluttered results. The average mobile device is not powerful enough and does not have enough storage to generate intelligent results on its own. However, access to intelligent information will be achieved through mobile devices using XML and Web services.

# Enhancements to Web services including standardization around WS-Secure Conversation, WS-Federation and WS-Authorization will drive the proliferation of Web services in business to business scenarios. Businesses will be able to execute Web services with full confidence around the authorization, authentication and integrity of these Web services.

Microsoft iPod

In the low, retreating wake of the Zune launch, there is some very funny commentary hidden between the lines of a great parody video on Google.

What if Microsoft had designed the iPod instead of Apple?

Check it out on Google Video!

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Customer experience vs user experience

I want to pick this fight again. It's not over yet, and IMHO, we have not yet cracked the nut fully. I still see, hear, feel - sense - a lot of confusion over what people mean when they use these seemingly similar terms to define things that are often at odds with each other, and are driven in different ways out of necessity.

Is user experience a road trip and usability the road and signs? This was one of the metaphors provided in some posts a couple years ago on Interaction by Design. I am not sure it was ever properly solved in the post or resulting comments, but it never got to customer experience anyway. Suffice to say that the confusion stems from the fact that there is already confusion over what people mean by user experience.

Let me try it a different way - in relation to a software company selling software. User experience is what happens in the software. Customer experience is what happens when the user purchases the software. This may oversimplify the outcomes but it does clearly delineate the differing responsibilities of the various teams involved. Developers, usability experts, scenario testers, interface designers plug themselves into the software development process and arrive at the desired state - the world's leading illustration software example. But it doesn't sell itself, now we have to sell it.

So, now we take the information we have from that user experience and begin to define a marketing campaign, website, training, tools and more to entice potential users to come and see how great the user experience is. In my fleeting thesis, this would be the customer experience. A whole new set of usability challenges ensue, but now related to websites, ecommerce, community, online support, training, etc...hopefully handled in way that effectively set realistic expectations about what the user experience would be.

We can't sell ice to eskimos...that was some other department that was trying to do that. Not sure but I think they were all laid off. But let's explore that for a second. The user experience for the ice is based on the fact that it is cold, hard, made up of water, useful for types of construction, food storage and more. The customer experience is all about going to the cold place, cutting the blocks, or maybe just stopping by your local gas station to get a bag. In this last example the user and customer experiences are actually pretty disconnected, as it normally would be from a retail perspective. I don't want the gas station to be frozen, clear, made of water or to preserve my food (I guess gas stations all sell food now though) - and I don't want my ice to have any fuel content, or be branded with little seashells.

One thing I think we can all agree on, is that when it comes to customer experience, the only true owner is the customer. While it is going to take a lot of x-functional effort to make a great customer experience, the customer is going to point it all back at one thing - the customer environment. With user experience, it is also owned by the user, but there is a more clearly established set of rules, goals, sciences and legacy knowledge we can draw on in order to define that part of the road.

I will continue this by providing more interesting, humorous and embarassing examples of each in order to keep track of my thoughts on can follow along over the ensuing days and weeks and that will be your customer experience, or click, search or nav your way elsewhere as part of your user experience. You decide.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Rhythm in Rwanda, Bass in Bangladesh

Duane Nickull has just launched one of the coolest ideas I have seen on the web in a long time - - a website that allows musicians to post and share tracks or parts of tracks with each other.

Download, mix and post.

Upload, wait and listen.

Play, ponder and pillage. Politely. is going to be a great way for musicians to bend their writing a little harder, and work together in a truly collaborative fashion without all the normal shenanigans relating to sharing files, formats, etc...

The only thing I didnt like was that the launch corresponded to the teardown and rebuild of my studio - it will take me another week or so to start posting.

Kewl. Props to Duane and Matt McKenzie for thinking like Rockstars 2.0.

Friday, November 03, 2006

A strange thing happened on my way to Nepean...

...last night women stole the blues.

Last night, at the CentrePointe Theatre in Nepean, the strangest and most wonderful thing happened...women stole the blues. Sure, women have played the blues forever, as long as there has been the blues - and the senses of playfulness, irony, righteousness and sincerity have always shone through in a way that can make you smile all the way inside or drag tears from your own tired souls comradery with the idea of the song. But last night was different, last night they stole the blues forever. And they have no intention of giving it back.

Humour me, I am going somewhere with this.

Perhaps it was the collective force of unique approaches and new blood that the collection of Sue Foley, Ellen McIlwaine, Roxanne Potvin and Rachel Van Zanten that meandered through the evening with a slow and careful collecting of all things blues and placing them in the front of their game.

Sue Foley would probably tell me women stole the blues a long time ago and she would know. Taking on what is probably the dream of many established women blues players, her Guitar Women project (a book, website and CD series) proves beyond a doubt that there were a lot of people in on the plan to steal the blues, and that the plot dates back to the beginning. But I had no idea, so all I could do was sit there while she effortlessly nailed some of the fastest, cleanest and most pronounced blues leads and heavy Telecaster-driven rhythms I have heard in a long time.

Ellen McIlwaine would share with me that it takes a lifetime of work, trial and tribulation in order to feel what she knows you have to feel to play like she does. Her approach to the guitar is nothing short of brilliant, transporting and hiding the blues in the tones of India, the middle east, and Japan where she was raised. At one point I was glad when she reminded the audience that "...remember this is just a plain old six string" because I know we had all gone with her on her journey around the world and with our eyes closed there was no way that it was one woman sitting up there with an acoustic guitar.

Gatineau native Roxanne Potvin doesnt mess around too much with "the way things were" choosing instead to take the blues on her own path - a sort of honky tonk meets rag meets funk with some really naked and clean guitar poking its way through the lush fabric she sows around her striking vocals. I was amazed that Ottawa could stay in their seats and sort of nod their heads back and forth, because my whole body was wiggling around my chair trying to steal the blues back and just collectively bring us to our feet to dance.

The star of the evening for me though, was emerging slide artist Rachelle Van Zanten. Her job in the dark quartet of theives is to ensure that we men never ever take the blues back again. From the tear-jerking soulful fingerpicking kind of theivery that leaves you all coccooned in your own blues to the thumping, sliding, grinding and old-school vocal stylings of some tunes that you know in a different setting would have had the whole room moshin' - come on grandma, I know you've been a member here at the theatre for years, but why not write your tag on the bathroom wall, grab another drink at the bar and come right back in here for some heart-pounding, sweaty dancing.

Now that women have stolen the blues, and sent Rachelle in as their guardian of the flame, we never have to worry about listening to some bad balding basement chunkers with out of tune guitars slinking their way through a CCR song.

The other part of the night that proved that we are not worthy was the art show, silent auction, and announcement of a bursary fund for young guitarists right here in the Ottawa area. As a father of some budding young musicians I was more than happy to help - and I am the proud owner of a 4' x 5' Paul Alain painting of Ellen McIlwaine, one of a series of four that hung behind our shameless theives. We are secretly planning to bring the paintings back together one day (we collect art about music) and build our own monument to that cold night in Nepean, when women stole the blues.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Guitar Women

Very cool concert coming to Ottawa this week. I will blog about it after the show...

World-renowned and multi-award winning Canadian guitarists Sue Foley and the slide guitar supa-star Ellen McIlwaine gig with two of Canada's fastest rising talents Roxanne Potvin and Rachelle Van Zanten, for an evening of outstanding guitar. Four incredibly talented musicians, Guitar Women at CentrePointe Theatre in Kanata is inspired by the book being written by Sue Foley at this site which pays tribute to great women guitar players from around the world.

According to the site, the evening also features a “Guitar Woman” art exhibit showcasing nationally renowned artist Phil Alain and photographer Michelle Valberg.

Spooky tracks for Hallowe'en

Always tough to find some good music for Hallowe'en but I found some here...

  1. Oddio Overplay - Happy Halloween!

    Ghouls with Attitude - streaming MP3 or by track - sweet, ambient and spooky.

  2. The Haunted Mansion Source Loops

    Original music and sound effects tracks used on Disney's very cool Haunted Mansion ride. The audio is in MP3 format and is awesome. Enjoy.

  3. Scary Halloween Sounds

    Hundreds of spooky sounds, from door creaks or goblin gags.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

New digs

(repost due to blogger error)

A whirwind year and a ton of water under the bridge, and not just in the creek that runs through our new property.

I wanted to let readers know that I was leaving Adobe, and I was going to be moving my blog as part of that move - probably not the wisest move to have a corporate blog in today's world.

Anyway, I am pretty pumped to be back in the internal design and development saddle after spending 7 years helping to build and launch great platforms for other companies, like Edge, Key Media, Microsoft and Adobe.

In this next leg of the journey, I am pulling together an awesomely talented x-functional team to build a best of breed software marketing, distribution, registration and purchasing center. I will tell you more about this later...

For now, I am sad to leave Adobe. I made a lot of great friends there and together we did some really amazing work. I think the Flex product lineup is super-solid and I definitely plan on using it for the journey I am on now.

Enjoy Max!

I really wanted to publicly thank a few people:

- Duane Nickull for his relentless pursuit of architectural excellence and hard work on LiveCycle
- Ben Forta for all his hard work on Max and the brilliant RIAForge
- Mike Potter for all the amazing PHP stuff and the AEDP program
- Ted Patrick for, FXT and some stuff he is still working on
- Marcel Boucher and Greg Wilson for the toolbox
- Hong Qiu for getting the developer centers in order
- James Ward for all the hard work on the JSR, Oracle, awesome demos and more!

Keep at it guys!!

That's still a lot of trees

(Originally posted on IMHO)

Recently in a local business journal that monitors government contracts and spending, I came across a series of contracts that were awarded to multiple vendors for toner cartridges - remanufactured toner cartridges. The total spend was in the millions for these refurbished cartridges, far in excess of any of the IT contracts in the same publication that would indicate a move away from the endless reams of paper that are generated by the Ctrl-P or Apple-P or Command-P functions.

It strikes me that the use of the computer has probably generated even more paper usage and waste than we thought we would save by replacing our pen with a keyboard and our dayplanner with a productivity suite. So I did some really bad journalistic investigation to see what I could find out.

First I compared some Google search terms.

- "toner cartridge" generated about 8.7 million responses
- "paperless office" generated about 700,000 responses
- "printer" topped out over a billion responses
- "monitor" returned about 670,000 responses

The good news was that PDF returned about 2 billion responses so at least we know people are trying to reduce paper usage by turning documents into PDF. But then we print PDFs all the time - so if each PDF response was printed out 5 times and averaged 2 pages that would account for 20 billion sheets of paper or 2,400,096 trees or 3524 acres of forest.

In the end, we know it has nothing to do with technology preference, choice or anything like that. It is still all about lifestyle, choices, safe thinking and preservation of ritual. We need the chainsaws running if we are going to keep up with the advances in technology.

Sad, but true.

Some more helpful but somewhat useless facts to help you determine the impact of Ctrl-P:

- 1 ton of uncoated virgin (non-recycled) printing and office paper uses 24 trees
- 1 ton of 100% virgin (non-recycled) newsprint uses 12 trees
- A "pallet" of copier paper (20-lb. sheet weight, or 20#) contains 40 cartons and weighs 1 ton. Therefore,
- 1 carton (10 reams) of 100% virgin copier paper uses .6 trees
- 1 tree makes 16.67 reams of copy paper or 8,333.3 sheets
- 1 ream (500 sheets) uses 6% of a tree (and those add up quickly!)
- 1 ton of coated, higher-end virgin magazine paper (used for glossy magazines like National Geographic and many others) uses a little more than 15 trees (15.36)
- 1 ton of coated, lower-end virgin magazine paper (used for newsmagazines and most catalogs) uses nearly 8 trees (7.68)
Source: Conservatree

Here are my suggestions to get this on track:

- Stop printing emails
- Get a better monitor (for $200) so you can read things online
- Only print the parts of a PDF that you need to read on paper
- Use best practices in web design to allow font resizing and optimizing layouts for print
- Stop printing ppt - you hate ppt shows, why print them out?
- Keep all the things you print out in your laptop bag each week - this should make it clear if you have a printing problem
- Make all your graphics and illustrations 72 dpi or 96 dpi - that way they look great on screen and they suck in print

And finally, check to see how much your local government is spending on printing things out, and see if you cant find some opportunistic technology solutions to help them address this obvious atrocity at the expense of the taxpayer.