March 30, 2012

Margin Doodles No. 9

Today, we travel back in time to my high school Precalculus class. Considering that this class gave me the lowest grade of my high school career, there are surprisingly few doodles in the notebook. Apparently, I was paying attention, but not much was getting through.
Gotta love the math puns

I had completely forgotten about these. "Deadly Friend" was a series of movie
posters I made featuring long-nailed hands making bloody scratches, inspired
by perceived slights from my actual friends. It seems by my junior year the
franchise was on its fourth sequel.

March 29, 2012

New Media Pioneers Would Rather Live in Atlanta, Metaphorically Speaking

Back when I lived in Charlotte, I had dinner one night with a group of friends and met another recent transplant to the area. He was from Philadelphia and admitted that he really missed the city. I said that I'd just moved from Atlanta. He said that he had been to Atlanta before, but wasn't too impressed by it. "In Philly," he said, "there's so much history everywhere you look, you feel like you're standing on the shoulders of giants. In Atlanta, everything is too new. There's just no history there."

My immediate reaction was to say something about Sherman's march, but I bit my tongue and sipped my wine instead.

Urban Nirvana, Atlanta, GA 1992, photo by Dave Henderson
This photo is from Dave Henderson's blog
about Atlanta in the 90's, Return to Atlanta
His comment rankled, though, and it took me a while to realize why. What I liked about Atlanta was that it was so new, that the city was in the process of discovering its identity. I loved the feeling of being part of that discovery. I don't want to stand on the shoulders of giants - I want to stand among the giants whose shoulders others will someday stand on. I want to create history, not just appreciate it from afar.

This post by Brian Solis brought back the memory of this conversation. He warns that surfing the waves of change is as dangerous as it is exciting. He warns that a lot of people don't like the disruption and uncertainty caused by change. I know this is true. For heaven's sake, I've worn the same shirt for the last 14 years: I understand the appeal of the status quo.

But as much as I appreciate the comfort of a familiar shirt, I also love the excitement of novelty. I'm an optimist at heart and believe that all the changes being brought about by the information revolution promise an amazing future.

March 23, 2012

Margin Doodles No. 8

More recent work doodles this week: As long as I was scanning my work notebook, I went ahead and scanned a bunch of doodles. Here are a couple of friendly generic office workers, inspired by corporate videos and presentations:
Meet Linda and Bob
I also drew some fat birds that I liked so much I turned them into a new background tile for my Twitter profile:

It ain't over 'til the fat birdie tweets!

March 21, 2012

Fear vs. Fear

What if all the time and effort you put in turns out to be for nothing?
What if you spend the rest of your life wondering, "What if?"

When presented with an opportunity, you have to fight one of these monsters. Which one do you want to do battle with?

March 16, 2012

Margin Doodles No. 7

Here are some more recent doodles, taken from my work notebook. I think I was a little hungry during this meeting. We were having a potluck lunch at the office later, and I was thinking about all the yummy dishes I'd seen in the break room that morning.

March 6, 2012

Incentives Matter (or Why the Lab No Longer Has a Cafeteria)

Many people I know here in Aiken work at Savannah River National Lab. It's part of the Savannah River Site, an old nuclear weapon manufacturing facility that's currently being cleaned up and repurposed. SRNL is run by both the Department of Energy and Savannah River Nuclear Solutions, a consortium of companies put together to manage various aspects of the site and the lab.

Warning: This article may contain an
unsafe level of acronyms
After reading this article about problems at other national labs, I thought it worth writing about a couple of anecdotes I've heard about SRNL.

As a government-funded endeavor, the site and the lab have to get their funding re-approved every so often. It makes sense to have a set of goals the DOE and SRNS have to meet to ensure taxpayers are getting their money's worth. Theoretically, the success of the site and the lab can be measured by these metrics, and the funding and management contracts adjusted accordingly. Naturally, DOE and SRNS management work very hard to meet these goals and to collect the monetary incentives they get by meeting them.

Creating metrics by which the people managing SRS and SRNL can be judged makes sense, but only if the metrics themselves make sense.

Tear It Down

I know the chicken tetrazzini was bad,
but come on!
WSRC, the consortium which managed the site before SRNS, was charged with removing a lot of the old weapons manufacturing facilities. They were required to remove a certain amount of square footage and would get bonuses for removing more. Unfortunately, the contract did not specify what kinds of buildings they had to remove.

So WSRC bulldozed tool sheds, garages, even the lab's cafeteria - much simpler than removing manufacturing facilities full of old radioactive junk. They met their goal and got their bonus (though it's worth noting they did not get their management contract renewed), and the site was left with a bunch of radioactive junk that still needed cleaning up.

Fire It Up

Admittedly, there were problems
with the old procurement system.
This next anecdote particularly resonates with me, as I help program and install large enterprise IT systems.

The procurement system at the site is a mess. It was a mess before SRNS arrived, and it remained so after they took over. Something had to be done, so procurement was charged with installing a new software system to streamline purchasing and bill paying.

The software was built and installed, and the procurement department had a party to celebrate meeting their goal. Several weeks later, the department was in trouble because no one could figure out how to actually use the new system to pay bills and the past due notices were piling up.

Be Careful What You Ask For

In any large company, it makes sense to have goals and metrics with which to judge success. Upper management can't track the progress of every project and every group - that's why there are levels of management to synthesize things and present the big picture.

But success is only real if the metrics by which it's judged measure things that matter. It's important to spend as much care researching and drafting those metrics and goals as it is trying to meet them.

March 3, 2012

Best Practices for Responsible Pinning

With its usage numbers exploding, social image-sharing site Pinterest has recently come under more scrutiny. Just this week, I read about a lawyer and photographer deleting all her Pinterest boards because she was leery of the legal implications of the way images are posted and re-pinned.

It's true that Pinterest makes it easy for users to share images that don't belong to them without crediting or linking to the original source. If enough of this continues, Pinterest risks a backlash from photographers, bloggers, and other content creators. So for those of us who like Pinterest (or are hopelessly addicted) and want to keep using it, it behooves us to post and re-pin images responsibly.

After a few months of using Pinterest, here's the list of best practices I try to follow:

Check Links Before Re-Pinning

Don't just use the "re-pin" button that appears when you hover over a thumbnail on the Pinterest homepage. Before you re-pin something, click on it to see the full post, then click again to see where the original link goes. If it's just an image with no context or goes someplace shady, don't re-pin it.

Give Credit in Your Captions

When you pin something, tell your followers a little bit about what it is and where it's from. The sites you're linking to will appreciate your giving their image context and credit, and your fellow pinners will appreciate the extra information.
You can change a caption when you're re-pinning, so you can add context and credit info missing from the original pin. 

Unfollow the Worst Offenders

If someone you follow regularly pins pictures that don't link anywhere without giving any credit, just unfollow them. The more good pinning behavior is encouraged and bad behavior discouraged, the more Pinterest can be seen as a positive influence on the social media landscape. 

Mea Culpa

I admit that all of my pins don't necessarily follow these guidelines, particularly those made right after I joined the site. This is a list of best practices I've only adopted recently, inspired by all the attention brought to Pinterest by tech bloggers and others concerned about the legality of the site's business model. I like Pinterest and I don't want to see it crippled or sued out of existence, so I feel that I should do my part to avoid the problems that could bring the site down.

March 2, 2012

Margin Doodles No. 6

Another doodle from my AIA notes.
The basketball looks like a mutant, too.