A faithful reader of this blog, Tom, sent me a link to Orson Scott Card's article titled[PROGRAMMERS AS BEES (or, how to kill a software company)
]. "Is there any truth in this?" Tom asked?Having worked both sides of this fence as I approach my 22 year anniversary at IBM, I guess I can venturesome opinions on this piece. Let's start with this excerpt:
"The environment that nurtures creative programmers kills management and marketing types - and vice versa."
By this, he means "kills" in the UNIX sense, I imagine, and not the "Grand Theft Auto IV" sense.Different people solve problems differently. Some programmers have the luxury that theycan often focus on a single platform, single chipset, single OS, and so on, but Marketing types are tryingto come up with messaging that appeals to a broad audience, from people with business backgrounds to others with moretechnical backgrounds, and that can be more challenging. For programmers, "creative" is an adjective; formarketers, it's a noun.
"Programming is the Great Game. It consumes you, body and soul. When you're caught up in it, nothing else matters."
True. As a storage consultant, I find myself writing code a lot, from small programs, scripts, and even HTML codefor this blog. When you are in your zone, working on something, one can easily lose track of time.
"Here's the secret that every successful software company is based on: You can domesticate programmers the way beekeepers tame bees. You can't exactly communicate with them, but you can get them to swarm in one place and when they're not looking, you can carry off the honey. You keep these bees from stinging by paying them money. More money than they know what to do with. But that's less than you might think."
I have never tamed bees, but many of my friends who are still programmers are motivated by factors other thanmaximizing their income, such as: friendly co-workers, job security, casual attire, and interesting challenges. A few make more than they know what to do with, the rest have
girlfriends "significant others" who solve that problem for them.
"One way or another, marketers get control. But...control of what? Instead of finding assembly lines of productive workers, they quickly discover that their product is produced by utterly unpredictable, uncooperative, disobedient, and worst of all, unattractive people who resist all attempts at management."
False. Either marketing had control in the first place (ala Apple, Inc.) or they never had. "Control of what?" is the key phrase here.
"The shock is greater for the coder, though. He suddenly finds that alien creatures control his life. Meetings, Schedules, Reports. And now someone demands that he PLAN all his programming and then stick to the plan, never improving, never tweaking, and never, never touching some other team's code."
True. But if you don't like surprises, perhaps software engineering is not the right career path for you.
"The hive has been ruined. The best coders leave. And the marketers, comfortable now because they're surrounded by power neckties and they have things under control, are baffled that each new iteration of their software loses market share as the code bloats and the bugs proliferate. Got to get some better packaging. Yeah, that's it."
This one depends. I've seen teams survive and manage, with junior programmers stepping up to backfill leadership roles, and other times, projects are scrapped, or started anew elsewhere. As for marketers, it doesn't take much to get one baffled, does it?
Thanks for the link, Tom!
technorati tags: coders, programmers, bees, marketers, management, hive, UNIX
Last year, I posted about IBM VP Bob Hoey's three[Training Videos
]about selling to the mainframe customer.
Well, his team has done it again. Here are the next three in the series:
Of course, not all of our YouTube videos are this silly. Others are focused on serious topics.Take for example this IBM UK Whiteboard session:
Several of my IBM colleagues will be attending the "Virtual Worlds 2007" conference
today and tomorrow. This conference sold out so quickly that they have already scheduled a second one for October. The focus is on 3-D internet technologies likeSecond Life
. Attendance is expected at over 600 people.
IBM is investing heavily in this new concept of v-business. Last year, I was one of only 325 IBMers on Second Life. Now, according to this Better than Life blog entry from Grady Booch, IBM Fellow, the number is over 4000!
Of course, the challenge for IBM, and others, is learning to market in virtual worlds. Already, my team is in-world, and we meet several times a week. Using Second Life is quickly becoming an essential business skill, like participating in conference calls, or responding to instant messages.
What does meeting in-world entail?
- Scheduling a time and a place
Finding a time that people can meet is no different than scheduling a audio or video conference call. In general, you don't have to worry about travel, but you do have to be actively somewhere connected to everyone else.
Finding a place involves actually determining the island, region and coordinates to hold the meeting. You need to find a place with enough seating. You don't have to worry about daylight, each person can control how much or little sunlight shows up on their screen. You do have to make sure you pick a spot that nobody else plans to use at that same time. Just like scheduling conference rooms at the site or hotel, we have to schedule rooms in advance.
To avoid this hassle, I have created the "pocket conference room". This is a single object that I can "rez" onto the ground, from my inventory, with 40 chairs, a PowerPoint presentation screen, a podium for a speaker to stand behind, and stools for speakers to sit on if they are next on the agenda. Now, I can hold impromptu meetings in any sandbox, grassy knoll, or the roof top of a building.
- Ground Rules
As with any other meeting, you need some basic ground rules. I am not talking the usual "no shooting, no gambling, no selling" rules that you see everywhere in Second Life. Instead, rules like an avatar must stand up before speaking. Anyone with a question must first "raise their hand" and get recognized by the chair. These ground rules can be as formal as Robert's Rules of Order or more casual, depending on who is participating.
It costs 10 Linden Dollars (L$) per PAGE to upload a PowerPoint presentation. This has the immediate benefit of having everyone spend more time and effort on their presentation, trying to cut down the number of charts, and focus more on what they are going to say.
- Public Speaking Skills
It is amazing. People who are too scared to speak in front of an audience in Real Life have no problem having their avatar stand in front of other avatars in Second Life. This has greatly broadened the pool of speakers to tap into.Are you a woman with a husky masculine voice? Are you a man with a high-pitched feminine voice? Now, you can create an avatar that matches your voice.
- The Audience
This turns out to be the biggest challenge. In Real Life, organizing a face-to-face meeting involves time and effort making sure the venue has everything you need, a platform, a podium, good Audio/Video system, etc. All people have to do is show up, sit in a chair and listen.
In Second Life, however, the aspects of venue are all covered, but getting people to show up is another story. People have to sign up for Second Life account, create an avatar, wear appropriate virtual clothing, figure out how to teleport near the venue, walk or fly the difference to get to the exact building and room, master the sitting-in-a-chair and hold-coffee-and-sip-occasionally process, and pay attention.
Perhaps the best part of Second Life is that if you are not paying attention, your avatar noticeably falls asleep, into a hunched-over position, what is called "afk" (short for Away From Keyboard). On the other hand, if you do need to step away from your desk, you can put your avatar in "afk" mode immediately, tell everyone why and perhaps when you'll be back, and then re-activate when you return. This is one of the best improvements over regular audio conference calls.
I suspect the need for having places in Second Life to hold meetings will become more and more in demand.At a time when real-estate sales in the US is slowing down, Coldwell Banker's Second Life efforts are ramping up. I am not making this up. Coldwell Banker is one of the nation's largest real estate brokerage firms. They are trying to bring the same "adult supervision" to virtual real-estate transactions, offering to help people buy and rent properties in Second Life.
We live in interesting times!
technorati tags: IBM, Virtual, Worlds, VW07, 3-D Internet, v-business, Coldwell Banker, Real-estate, Linden Dollars, PowerPoint, Public Speaking, Grady Booch, marketing
I'm here at the Los Angeles airport on my way to Canada.
On my post last week[My Blook is Now Available],Cheryl Hagedorn comments:
I've just posted about your blook at Blooking Central http://blooking.blogspot.com/2007/11/inside-system-storage.html
I'll love to hear from you (I post letters from authors!) about how you put the blook together. Many folks have used cut and paste from blog page into word processor. Others have simply backed up their blogs, then cut and pasted. Some folks had the foresight to compose their posts in a word processor before posting!
Anyway, I'd like to know whatever ins and outs you'd like to share. Thanks.
Well Cheryl, I couldn't find any email address to send you a response, so Idecided to post here instead and post a traceback on your blog.
After learning about the Blooker Prize, I had asked our IBM Developerworks team if anyone else within IBM had published a blook, but nobody had heard of anything, so I had to look elsewhere.I got a lot of guidance from Lulu's [Book Publishing FAQs], and Don Campbell's[Five Steps to Publishing Your Paperback Book at Lulu],and how-to articles over at [bookcatcher.com].
- Decision 1: Defining the Container
Before you can cut-and-paste anything, you need a container file to put it in. Here were my key decisions:
- Page Size: Novel 6"x9" (15cm x 23cm) to support both perfect-bound paperback and dust-jacket hardcopy editions
- Colors: Full-color covers with black-and-white interior
- Fonts: 10pt Book Antiqua for the text, Courier for the monospaced computer examples,8pt for the "copyright" fine print
- Format: *.doc Microsoft Word file, using [Lulu's ready-to-use templates]
- Software: Office 2003 version of Microsoft Word on Windows XP system
- Front matter: Title, Copyright, Dedication, Table of Contents, Foreword, Introduction
- Back matter: Blog Roll, Blogging Guidelines, Glossary, Reference table, What people have written about me and my blog
According to Lulu, you could use OpenOffice instead with RTF files. I didn't try that. I did tryusing CutePDF to upload ready-made PDFs, that didn't work. I also tried saving text in PDF formaton my Mac Mini running OS X 10.4 Tiger, but Lulu didn't like that either.IBM now offers a free download of [LotusSymphony] that might be an alternative for my next book.
For my blook, the "Blog Roll" serves instead of a more formal [Bibliography]. I could have also includedonline magazines and other web resources.
- Decision 2: Chapter Configuration
I reviewed other blooks to see how they were organized. I thought I might organize the blog posts by topic or category, but all the blooks I looked atwere strictly chronological, oldest post first. This of course is exactly opposite as theyappear on the web browser. I decided to keep things simple, with just 12 chapters, one for each calendar month.
Each chapter was separated by a section break with unique footers, starting on odd page number. The footers have the page numbers on the outside edges, so that even pages had numbers on the left, and odd pages on the right. I also added the name of the chapter and the book, like so:
40 ................December 2006| |Inside System Storage.... 41
This was a lot of work, but makes the book look more "professional".
- Decision 3: Cut-and-Paste
People have asked me why it took three months to put my blook together, and I explainedthat the cut-and-paste process was manually intensive. My posts are either HTML entereddirectly into Roller webLogger, or typed in HTML on Windows Notepad and cut-and-pastedover to Roller later. I have access to the HTML source of each post, as wellas how it appears on the webpage, and tried cut-and-paste both ways. Copying theHTML source meant having to edit out all the HTML tags. I hadn't even looked into the idea of "backing up" through Roller all the entries, but they would probably have been HTMLsource as well.
In turned out that copying the webpage directly from the browser was better, which retains more of the formatting,and automatically eliminates all of the pesky HTML tags. I wanted the printed versions to resemblethe web page version.
Microsoft Word indicates all hyperlinks as bright blue underlined text which I didn't like, so I removedall hyperlinks, to avoid having to pay extra for "colored pages". This can be done manually, one by one, or pasting with the "text only" option butthis removes out all the other formatting as well. (Specifying black-and-white interior on Lulu might have converted all of these automaticallyto greyscale, so I might have been safe to leave them in,which I probably could have done if I wanted an online e-book version with links active, ... oh well)
To indicate where the hyperlinks would have been, I wrapped all the linked text in[square brackets]. I have now gotten in the habit of doing this for future blog posts, soif I ever make another book, it will cut down the work and effort on the cut-and-paste.
Some of the items I linked to posed a problem. I had to convert YouTube videos to flat imagesof the first frame to include them into the book. Older links were broken, and I had tofind the original graphics. I also sent a note to Scott Adams related about the use of one of his Dilbert cartoons.
I decided to also cut-and-paste my technorati tags and comments. For comments I mademyself, I labeled them "Addition" or "Response". A few people did not realize thatI was "az990tony" making the comments as the blog author, so I changed all to say "az990tony (Tony Pearson)" to make this more clear, and now do this on all future blogposts to minimize the work for my next book.
Because I used a lot of technical terms and acronyms, Microsoft Word actually gave mean error message that there were so many gramattical and spelling errors that it wasunable to track them all, and would no longer put wavy green or red lines underneath.
I did all the cut-and-paste work myself, but since the website is publicly accessible,I could have gotten someone else to do this for me.Had I read Timothy Ferriss' book The Four Hour Work Week sooner,I might have taken his advice on [Outsourcing the project to someone in India]. I might consider doing this for my next book.
- Decision 4: Numbering the Posts
I decided I wanted to standardize the title of each post. The date was not uniqueenough, as there were days that I made multiple posts. So, I decided to assign eacha unique number, from 001 to 165, like so:
2006 Dec 12 - The Dilemma over future storage formats (033)
Posts that referred back to one of my earlier posts within the book had (#nnn) added so that readers couldgo jump back to them if they were interested. This eliminated trying to keep track of pagenumbers.
- Decision 5: Adding behind-the-scenes commentary
- One of the reasons I rent or buy DVDs is for the director's audio commentary and deleted scenes. These extras provided that added-value over what I saw in the movietheatre. Likewise, 80 percent of a blook is already out in the public for reading, so I felt I needed to provide some added value. At the beginning of each month, I describewhat is going on behind the scenes, and then in front of specific posts, I providedadditional context. This could be context of what was going on in the blogosphere at thetime, announcements or acquisitions that happened, what country I was blogging from, orwhat unannounced products or projects that were being developed that I can now talk aboutsince they are now announced and available.
To distinguish these side comments from the rest of the blog posts,I decorated them with graphics. Searching for copyright-free/royalty-free clip-art, graphics, and photos that represented eachconcept was time-consuming. I shrunk each down to about 1 inch square in size, and changed themfrom color to greyscale. (LuLu conversion to PDF probably would have automaticallyconverted the color graphics to greyscale for me, in which case leaving them in full colormight have been nice for an e-book edition, ... oh well)
I did complete each chapter one at a time. So, for each month, I cut-and-pasted all the blog posts,tags and comments, then fixed up and numbered all the post titles, then added all the behindthe scenes commentary, and cleaned up all the font styles and sizes. I recommend you do this at least for the first chapter, so you can get a good feel for what the finished version will look like.
- Decision 6: Adding a Glossary
I sent early copies of the books to five of my coworkers knowledgeable about storage, andfive local friends who know nothing about storage.
Some of my early reviewers suggested having an index, so that people can find a specific poston a particular topic. Others suggested I spell out all the acronyms that appear everywhereand put that into the Reference section, rather than on each and every occurrence inthe book itself. Both were good ideas, and my IBM colleague Mike Stanek suggested calling ita GOAT (Glossary of Acronyms and Terms). Acronyms are spelled out, and terms or phrasesthat need additional explanation have a glossary definition. For eachitem, I put the post or posts that uses that term. Some terms are covered in dozens ofposts, so I tried to pick five or fewer posts representing the most pertinent.
The glossary was far more time-consuming than I first imagined, with over 50 pages containingover 900 entries. I struggled deciding which terms and acronyms needed explanation, and which were obvious enough. On the good side, itforced me to read and re-read the entire book cover to cover, and I caught a lot of othermistakes, misspellings, and formatting errors that way. Also, I have a large internationalreadership on my blog, so the glossary will help those whose English is not their native language,and will help those readers who are not necessarily experts in the storage industry.
- Decision 7: Designing the Covers
Up to this point, I had been printing early drafts with simple solid color covers. Lulu hasthree choices for covers:
- Just type in the text, upload an "author's photo" and chose a background color or pattern
- Upload PNG files, one for the front cover, one for the back cover, and chose the textand color of the spine.
- Upload a single one-piece PDF file that wraps around the entire book.
I had no software to generate the PDF for the third option, so I decided to try the secondoption. My first attempt was to format the front title page in WORD, capture the screen,convert to PNG and upload it as the front cover. I did same for the back cover, with a smallpicture of me and some paragraphs about the book.
I chose a simple straightforward title on purpose. Thousands of IBM and other IT marketing and technicalpeople will be ordering this book, and submitting their expenses for reimbursement as work-related, and didn't want to cause problems with a cute title like "An Engineer in Marketing La-La Land".
The next step was to use [the GIMP] GNU image manipulationprogram, similar to PhotoShop, to add a cream colored background, a slanted green spine, and some graphics that we had developed professionally for some of our IBM presentations.I learned how to use the GIMP when making tee-shirts and coffee mugs for our [Second Life] events, so I was already familiar. For newblook authors, I suggest they learn how to use this for their covers, or find someone who can do thisfor them.
I did the paperback version first, and once done, it was easy to use the same PNG files forthe dust jacket of the hardcover edition, adding some extra words for the front and back flaps.
The adage "Don't judge a book by its cover" seems to apply to everything except booksthemselves. The book cover is the first impression online, and in a bookstore. I have seenpeople pick books up off the shelf at my local Barnes & Noble, read the front and back covers, peruse the front and backflaps, and make a purchase decision without ever flipping a single page of the contents inside.From an article on Book Catcher [SELF-PUBLISHING BOOK PRODUCTION & MARKETING MISTAKES TO AVOID]:
According to selfpublishingresources website, three-fourths of 300 booksellers surveyed (half from independent bookstores and half from chains) identified the look and design of the book cover as the most important component of the entire book. All agreed that the jacket is the prime real estate for promoting a book.
While many struggle to find the right title and cover art, I think it is interesting that Lululets you post the same book with slightly different titles and covers, each as separate projects, and let market forces decide which one people like best. This is a common practice among marketresearch firms.
- Decision 8: Finding someone to write the Foreword
With the book nearly done, I thought it would be a nice touch to have an IBM executive write a Foreword at the frontof the book. Several turned me down, so I am glad I found a prominent Worldwide IBM executiveto do it. I should have started this process sooner, as she wanted to read my book in its entirety beforeputting pen to paper. I had not planned for this. I was hoping to be done by end of October,but waiting for her to finish writing the Foreword added some extra weeks. Next time,I will start this process sooner.
- Decision 9: Printing Early Drafts
You need to have Lulu print at least one copy to review before making it available to the public,and it doesn't hurt to order a few intermediary draft copies to make sure everything looks right.However, from the time I order it on Lulu, to the time it is in my hands, is over two weeks withstandard shipping, so I needed a way to print drafts to look at in between.
To avoid wear-and-tear on my color ink-jet printer, I went and bought a large black-and-white[Brother HL-5250DN] laser printer. Rather than buying specialty 6x9 paper, I used standard 8.5x11 paperusing the following 2-up duplex method:
- Upload the DOC file to Lulu, and get it converted to PDF
- Download the resulting PDF from Lulu back to your computer
- View the PDF in Adobe Reader, and print it using 2-up "Booklet" mode.
For example, if you print 60 pages in booklet mode, it prints two mini-pages on thefront side, and two more mini-pages on the back side of each sheet of paper, resulting in 15 standard 8.5" x 11" pages that can be folded, stapled, and read like a mini-booklet. My entire blook could be printed on seven of these mini-booklets, saving paper, and giving me a close approximation to what the final book would look like. Eachmini-page is 5.5"x8.5", so just slightly smaller than the final 6"x9" form factor.I fount that 60 pages/15 sheets was about the maximum before it becomes hard to fold in half.
So, if I had to do it all over again, I might have chosen 11pt Garamond (the default), or changedthe default to 11pt Book Antiqua up front, so as not to have spend so much time converting thefonts. I might have left out the glossary. I might have left in all the hyperlinks and graphicsin full color for a separate e-book edition. And I definitely would have looked for an author formy Foreword much earlier in the process.
I didn't plan to write a blook when I started blogging. I have started putting [square brackets]around all my links. I have started putting "az990tony (Tony Pearson)" on all my comments. I hadassumed that people were jumping to all the links I provided in context, but I learned that the blogpost has to stand on its own, so now I make sure that I either paraphrase the important parts, oractually quote the text that I feel is important, so that the blog post makes sense on its own.This is perhaps good advice in general, but even more important if you plan to write a blook later.
Lastly, I decided up front to write blog posts that were 500-700 words long, about the average lengthof magazine or newspaper articles. In my blook, the average is 639 words per post, so I hit thatgoal. I have seen some blogs where each post is just a few sentences. Maybe they are posting fromtheir cell phone, or don't have time to think out a full thought, but who wants to read a year'sworth of [twitter] entries.
Well Cheryl, I hope that helps. If you need anymore, click on the "email" box on the right panel.
technorati tags: Cheryl Hagedorn, Blooking Central, Lulu, Don Campbell, IBM, Developerworks, Book Antiqua, Courier, Garamond, Microsoft, Word, OpenOffice, Lotus, Symphony, PDF, CutePDF, OS X, HTML, Hyperlinks, blook, reference, glossary, Twitter, Timothy Ferriss, fourhourworkweek, outsourcing, India