Leading, ends and means

Those who set the purpose or the direction for a team need to exercise their authority and be absolutely insistent about the end states to be achieved, and then hold back and not dictate all the details of the means by which those ends are to be achieved.

And that’s tough for a leader to do. I know how to be an authoritarian and tell everyone what we’re going to do and how we’re going to do it. I know how to be a full-scale democrat and say “Okay, what would you all like to do and we’ll all try to come to consensus about that.”

But the right way to set a purpose is to be unapologetic about “This is the mountain that we’re going to climb.” And then not to follow that up by saying “And every time you get to a fork in the trail or a stream that needs to be forded, wait up for me and I’ll tell you how to do it.”

That’s a tough number for leaders to do but it’s really important.

Richard Hackman on the People and Places Podcast

What do you think? Maybe we could get consensus about it…

GNU-GPL – a base of code

Richard Stallman famously wrote the GNU GPL, which is a license based on copy-left, not copyright. His position is the freedom to work with computers and work with software and work with software is hindered by copyright.

That in fact these are useful tools, and there are people who want to make useful tools and remix the useful tools of people who came before. Everything you use in the internet – that website that you visited that’s running on Apache, that email protocol, you’re able to do it because so many other entities were able to share these ideas.

So the way copy-left works is that if you use software that has a GPL license to make your software work better, it infects your software, and you also have to use the GPL license.

So if it works right, it will eat the world. So as the core of software in GNU gets bigger and deeper, it becomes more and more irresistible to use it. But as you use it the software you add to it also becomes part of that corpus.

And if enough people contribute to it, what we’ll end up with is an open, inspectable, improvable base of code that gives us a toolset for weaving together the culture we want to be part of.

Seth Godin Akimbo, November 21 2018 – Intellectual Property

An open, inspectable, improvable base of code.

For software.

For tools for making software.

How about for educational outcomes? For assessments?

For a set of tools and resources for running an organisation?

Show me the money

Love it or loathe it, you’ve got to know where the money’s going to come from, and where it all goes.

Get it right from the start – it’s essential to the health and credibility of your project or organisation.

It also works like an extra sense, helping you spot trends, opportunities and issues earlier than you might have otherwise.

Financial Intelligence, Revised Edition: A Manager’s Guide to Knowing What the Numbers Really Mean by Karen Berman and Joe Knight is a really great place to start.

Learning

Here’s a theory of learning:

  1. A person**…
  2. meets something new…
  3. has some kind of interaction with it…
  4. and is changed in some way.

I think these are the bare essentials. You can’t have learning with less, and everything else is detail under one of these headings. 

** Or animal, or…

Some rules for future success

  • Know what’s important
  • …and know what’s for you (and what isn’t)…
  • … and act accordingly – NOW.
  • Be ‘on assignment‘ – make stuff happen, get stuff done.
  • Really – determinedly, doggedly get stuff done. Done is better than perfect.
  • Find the right people. Say the words. Collaborate. Coordinate. Lead.
  • All the time, be learning.
  • In particular, identify and work on foundations and fundamentals.
  • Communicate clearly and well.
  • Be attentive to feedback of all sorts.
  • Be able to use the best tools of the day to facilitate the above.
  • Be kind.**

** This might sound a bit limp at first pass, but really – If nothing else, what would you hope for in your interactions with yourself, family, friends, strangers?

Starting line

Where’s the starting line?

Sometimes we’re a few steps further down the track than the people we want to take with us:  we’ve given it more thought, we’ve done it before. We want it more.

We’re so keen to get people over the finish-line that we don’t notice that they’re still milling around at the start – or even that they’ve chosen to stay in bed.

How far away are you? How many steps backward will you need to take if you want to take them with you?

What do you need to communicate? What are the thousand other important things that you don’t?

When are you going to stop talking about techniques for crossing the finishing line and help them to put on their shoes?

 

*see also: Clarity. Simplicity. Focus.

 

Structure Counts: Information Architecture reading list and who’s who

I know almost nothing about Information Architecture, but I’ve been thinking a lot about structuring information recently.

Here’s the metaphor: Jacques Carelman‘s famous Coffee pot for Masochists.


See Impossible Objects at It’s Nice That


All the pieces are there, but it just. doesn’t. work.

We’ve all used badly put together tools, instruction manuals, software, doors. At best they’re slower and frustrate us. At worst, they cause us to lose out or harm us.

It’s the same with ideas. Whether we’re communicating simply to transfer knowledge or for emotional impact (your priorities may vary, but if you want to do either you really need to be doing both), the way they’re put together counts.

Let’s do a Zinnser on that last paragraph.

It’s the same with ideas: the way they’re put together counts. The structure of your ideas is crucial whether you’re communicating to transfer knowledge or to create an emotional impact, and really, if you’re serious about doing either you really need to be doing both.

Better? I think it’s a bit better. Must try harder.

So without further ado, here’s my Information Architecture Reading list:

Information Architecture: For the Web and Beyond, 4th Ed

 by Louis RosenfeldPeter Morville and Jorge Arango


Love that polar bear

The introduction and first chapter that are included in the kindle sample are pretty compelling, but I can’t find an short quotation from it that doesn’t make it sounds boring, so I won’t.

Oh okay, I think this bit is cool:

[The] abundance and pervasiveness [of information] makes our lives better in many ways, but it also introduces new challenges. With so much information available in so many places, it can sometimes be difficult to cut through the noise to find the information you need and understand it once you have found it.

Information architecture (IA) is a design discipline that is focused on making information findable and understandable. Because of this, it is uniquely well suited to address these challenges. IA allows us to think about problems through two important perspectives: that information products and services are perceived by people as places made of information, and that these information environments can be organised for optimum findability and understandability.

.

It’s possible that I like this book because it makes me feel like I’m in the matrix.

Intertwingled: Information Changes Everything

by Peter Morville

Big in Japan:

I’ve started this, and referenced Peter before. I thought I’d shared a link to a talk about the book on youtube, but can’t find the post, so here it is:

.

The Information: A History, a Theory,  a Flood

by James Gleick

So far: fascinating. Need to think more about it to say how it’s helped and changed my thinking – watch out for a future post.

Letting Go of the Words: Writing Web Content that Works 2nd Ed

by Ginny Redish

On the strength of the couple of chapters that Ginny shares for free on her website I paid £25 for this. It’s worth it for the first few chapters alone.

Don’t Make Me Think

by Steve Krug

It’s brilliant and funny. More from me about him here.

The Design of Everyday Things

by Don Norman

Look! It’s the coffee pot. This book is how I know about the coffee pot for masochists in the first place. It’s supposed to be brilliant, and it’s good so far.

Information: A Very Short Introduction

by Luciano Floridi

Stumbled across it on Amazon just now. Middling reviews, but Floridi directs a lab and straddles multiple chairs at Oxford; has well appointed office; wears tweed and high cheekbones). Might be a good starting point?

Two Websites

A Brief History of Information at The Register. At least one of my best tech friends reads this site often, so I expect this article is good. It’s on the list.

historyofinformation.com

HistoryofInformation.com is designed to help you follow the development of information and media, and attitudes about them, from the beginning of records to the near present. Containing annotated references to discoveries, developments of a socialscientific, or technological nature, as well as references to physical books, documents, artifactsart works, and to websites and other digital media, it arranges, both chronologically and thematically, selected historical examples and selected recent developments of the methods used to recorddistribute, exchange, organizestore, and search information. The database allows you to approach the topics in a wide variety of ways.

Pow.

Right, almost time to go – quit while you’re only five books behind and all that…

Surprise Bonus

Living in Information: Responsible Design for Digital Places

by Jorge Arango

This guy is supposed to be great, and I like the cover. He’s an actual (bricks and mortar) architect who became an information architect

Podcast: a few minutes to worldwide distribution

It turned out that when I got to 121 minutes I wasn’t too far off worldwide distribution and an audience (okay, potential audience) of billions.

Not that I want an audience of billions, but it’s amazing to think about it. Pow – you have distribution that the biggest media companies in the world could only dream of a couple of decades ago.

Back to the podcast – the morning after this post I installed the Seriously Simple Podcasting plugin for wordpress, and their stats add-on (both free) muddled through with filling things in, and then found this excellent article from elegantthemes.

And now I have an RSS feed that makes my podcast downloadable or streamable to anyone with a web browser or a podcast app on their phone.

I’m not on itunes or Google play yet – they’re not exactly the point, and take some extra registrations – but I’ll get there eventually.

For now, here are my amazing stats:

DC podcast stats

iphone users show up as iTunes downloads. I’m not actually on iTunes yet – I just serve a classy demographic.

The hope of Audacity

In my blitz session to get my first podcast episode recorded I struggled to get to grips with Audacity. I’ve since watched this, and I think I’ll be using it for editing the first proper episode.

Still not sure about the glitch with the file though.

Anyway, thanks to Pat Flynn of Smart Passive Income – there are links to a couple of his podcasting courses at the top of the homepage.

121 minutes to your first podcast episode

This is a different type of post – more of a howto or a ‘what I tried’, in the spirit of moving fast and getting something done. So here goes.

Start the clock.

Write the title: XX minutes to your first podcast (we’ll fill a time in the title when we put the full-stop at the end).

The Rules

Make a really short podcast, edit it, and distribute it to a global audience (hosted on this website, hopefully registered on itunes, stitcher and wherever it needs to be in order for me to listen to it on Podcast Republic) in as short a time as possible – ideally less than an hour.

Inventory

Fair’s fair – time for full disclosure. I’ve done a bit of recording audio on my phone before and been thinking about this for a while. My equipment consists of:

  • My Android phone – Motorola G4plus
  • A Boya BY-M1 mic
  • Voice recorder by Splend Apps – I’ve tried a few and found this to be the best functionality (records straight to .mp3, is easy to use, gives you what you need without requiring payment).

Steps

  1. Write the script
  2. Record the podcast
  3. Edit the thing
  4. Find out how to distribute it

Write the script

Intro music:

I love the first few bars of Everlong by Foo Fighters. As with my wonderful header image, I will consider myself an enormous success if the copyright holders ever ask me to change it, which I will gladly do.

Intro script:

Welcome to Driverless Crocodile, a podcast about making change happen, and building the future.  I’m Stu Patience, and this is episode 0.

Episode 0 script:

I’m making this inaugural Driverless Crocodile podcast to celebrate 100 blog posts about building the future. I’m hoping to run an occasional podcast series as part of the blog featuring conversations with non-profit leaders and others working to make change happen and build a better future. My particular focus is on community development and education in Indonesia, but I’ll interview anyone interesting, so please get in touch if you have a suggestion.

I’m interested in sharing the most useful knowledge and tools for building effective organisations and making things happen. By tools I mean ideas, values, practices, skills and qualities, processes and digital technologies – all things that we add to ourselves to extend our ability to change the world around us.

Paused the clock at 21 minutes 20s to grab a snack.

This is episode 0, so it’s just an introduction, and I’m on a bit of a tight deadline – read the companion post at driverlesscrocodile.com – which may or may not be linked to in the shownotes – to find out more.

And that’s the end of Episode 0 – thanks for listening and see you next time.

Driverless Crocodile – out.

Record the Podcast

Right. I’m upstairs in my office, and it’s 32 degrees centigrade and a bit sweaty. I’m going to turn my phone onto aeroplane mode (to avoid interruptions and beeps while recording), shut the door and turn my fan off now before I record the introduction and episode 0, hopefully in one take each – because it’s going to get hot with the door closed, but also because my phone’s battery is down to 11%.

Done! I was wondering all the way through how silly I’m going to sound, but I’ll worry about improving things next time.

The fan is back on, the door is open, and I’m up to 36 minutes and 49 seconds.

Edit the thing

Find free editing software online

Quick search… audacity looks best. I’ve used it before I think, but it don’t have it on this computer.

And.. Audacity is installed. While it was installed I listened to my recording. It’s okay… I sound a little more American than I probably should (sorry parents!) – I blame the Americans on the podcasts I listen to.

And I’ve shared the files I recorded to myself on googledrive.

So with audacity open in a parallel window, I’m ready to start…

Lost a minute waiting for files to sync…

Editing Episode 0 with Audacity

Hmm, trying to import the files and there’s a problem with the libraries for .mp3 files.

I followed the instructions in audacity, went to the download page, downloaded LAME for audacity, ran a quick virus check and installed them. And it’s worked. Intro is imported.

… but audacity doesn’t like the file.

This is taking too long. Switching to editing program number two on the list – Ocenaudio. Thanks TechRadar!

Trying again with Ocenaudio

It’s taking a while to download so I’m looking at making an RSS feed from wordpress while I wait. Looks a bit technical. Ah, found something that looks a bit easier here.

Editing with Ocenaudio

Here we go again…

The files worked straight away, but the editor wasn’t working for me – I was hoping to see both audio tracks and be able to drag and drop as on my old version of Sony Vegas, and couldn’t quickly work out how to do it.

Back to Audacity

I looked a little more carefully realised that I had only downloaded the export library, and downloaded FFmpeg libray by going to edit -> preferences, then clicking the download button for FFmpeg, downloading a zipfile, extracting it, then using the locate button to find the library in the folder I extracted the files to. It worked!

More problems

My intro works, but Audacity doesn’t like my episode, despite it playing as an .mp3 in my normal music player.

Okay, it looks like there’s a problem with the file – not sure what.

Going to try and get this thing done with the theme music and introduction.

Impatient Patience

Wow, neither of those were working. I’ve switched over to my old video editing software, Sony Vegas 10.1.

It might be because I’ve used it before but it just… works.

I now have an edited podcast episode in .mp3 format. A bit rough, but… ready.

Getting it online

Back to that wordpress howto… which wasn’t that helpful.

Found Powerpress by Blubrry and installed the plugin

Activated and started filling in the information… There’s more to do here than I expected.

And stopped for the night, at 2 hours, 1 minute.

The episode is recorded, and I could post it here – but I want to get the RSS distribution up and running tomorrow, so will sit on it for now.

Footnote

Phew. 2 hours. My timing was way over ambitious. There are tweaks to make to the episode, but overall I’m pretty happy with how it sounds, considering it’s a one-take wonder!