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Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Cool Tools

Here’s an example of using appropriate (not new) technology in new ways.

Kevin Kelley has self published Cool Tools: A Catalog of Possibilities, a book based on a ten year blog, and tells his story of publishing it.

If you would like to preview what is in the book, check out the Cool Tools blog.

I’m a tool junkie, started as a union carpenter, and still go to look at hammers when I can. Several Christmases ago, a unique gift was genuine Home Depot gloves, rule and APRON! 

You’re not supposed to be able to get the apron unless you are an associate. I have powerful friends.

Third post in Cool Tools was a next generation carpenter’s square I had never seen before, and reading the blog post I understand what an advance it is over the carpenter’s square. (I was a cutter, the guy on the crew who figures out the cuts using the square.)

These days I’m fairly literate on advances in organization and software technology, but seeing advances in my earlier field brings home the need for ongoing learning in every field. Education is being able to continue learning in an effective manner.

Which reminds me, Duluth Trading Company commercials are also a learning experience for the construction trades that I enjoy.

Kevin tells that many of the devices in Cool Tools are available from Amazon, and how one chain of bookstores refused to carry Cool Tools for that reason. What it shows me is how far Amazon has gone to provide what customers want.

Kevin has built a successor to The Whole Earth Catalog, which was the printed parent of the World Wide Web. He also notes that the catalog format may not be familiar to younger readers. Go figure.

I wonder what new inventions Cool Tools will spark?

Tools for Knowledge Workers - Your Journal

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Age Is Just A Number

When is the right time to make a scientific discovery?

Maybe after your education is out of the way? Whew, now I don’t have to learn any more!

It turns out that education isn’t so much about learning facts as about learning how to add to and make use of your knowledge. Education becomes a lifetime practice.

While still in his teens, Benoit Mandelbrot saw science as a game where he would bring knowledge from another field of study to create breakthroughs. Of course, he thought he was losing valuable time applying himself to several fields of study, and working directly with some of the scientific giants of his age.

Maybe working with the best is part of the formula. Stewart Emery says the second requirement for growth is to surround yourself with people who are committed to growth.

My friend Ben, who has been training to become one of your guides at the Smithsonian Museum, shared a video about a scientist who made a discovery which has greatly added to our knowledge of early human origins. That scientist was nine at the time.

In the video, his father, Explorer In Residence at the National Geographic Society, discusses the importance of really seeing what is in front of you, because discoveries aren’t “out there” somewhere else, they are generally right where you choose to really look.

Junior Academy – Important science is a habit. Start now!

Monday, August 5, 2013

The Lost Blogging Manual

Scott Rosenberg’s Say Everything How Blogging Began, What It’s Becoming, And Why It Matters is a homecoming book for me.

In a history of blogging, he explains why blog time is faster than print time, has great quotes from my forty favorite bloggers, friends, and heroes, and provides a context for some of the knotty questions I’ve read or thought about.

On journalists versus bloggers, he thinks it was unfortunate that blogs exploded as print media imploded, doesn’t think one has much to do with the other, and observes that most of the sniping is conducted by journalists ranting on their blogs. It’s tough to lose.

Rosenberg shows a dizzying range of uses and business models for blogs and how they worked out. I got a new appreciation for Sales Lab Posts and Through The Browser as well as ideas for where to go next.

If you blog or want to blog, read Say Everything. You’ll be encouraged and have a better context for proceeding.

Now I’m going to put in some of the pieces that meant a lot to me while reading the book (yes, it’s that good and that important), so I’ll now have a place to come back for them. They are a tiny part of the book.

Evan Williams of Blogger and Twitter implements the “ruthless simplicity” business model when its down to him, keeping Blogger going, alone in his apartment. 130

Dan Gillmor, journalist to blogger, My readers know more than I do 134

Andrew Sullivan, Peer-to-peer journalism, I realized, had a huge advantage over old-style journalism. It could marshal the knowledge and resources of thousands, rather than the certitudes of the few. 137

Kos, Blogs are a tool, nothing more. 142

Dave Winer, It was a mistake to believe that creativity was something you could delegate, no matter how much better they were than you, because it’s an important human activity, like breathing eating, walking, laughing, loving. 185

Joel Spolsky’s blogging formula, A series of essays delivered informally, blog style...festooned his technical discourse with recollections from his days in the Israeli army and references to the Yiddish folktales he cherished.. 172

Jon Udell, The demonstration of knowledge and expertise over time in a weblog is the modern equivalent of a resume. 173

Doc Searls, If you’re into blogs to make money, you’re into it for the wrong reasons. Do you ask your back porch what its business plan is?

Difference between making money with a blog and because of a blog.

This sort of blogging wasn’t really a media business at all, one in which you offer some creative material or “content” to gather a crowd and then sell the attention of that crowd to somebody else. It was more like a kind of low-cost direct marketing - an advertisement for yourself, by yourself. 173

Richard Dawkins, Meme – name for an infectious (or viral) concept or idea. 209

Clay Shirky, Power Laws, Weblogs, and Inequality. A mathematical explanation of why the top bloggers stay the top bloggers. 213

Clay Shirky, It’s not impossible to launch a new blog and become highly read, but it’s harder than it was last year and it will be still harder next year. 216

Insider’s Joke Instead of being famous for 15 minutes, being famous for 15 people 217

Chris Anderson, A passionate amateur almost always beats a bored professional. 282

Marc Andreessen, led the Mosaic browser development. When he was taking Ning to over 750,000 social networks, he was getting a lot of attention blogging. Andreessen’s blog was my first subscription, substantially changing my work process. I’ve said Marc was the Peter Drucker of the web.

After he left Ning, Marc took down his blog. Jed Christiansen liked Marc’s blog more (and more usefully) than I did, he resurrected it. I go back and read it often.

Marc Andreessen, I should have started doing this years and years ago.

Anyone who says blogs are not widely read is incorrect. I have been absolutely amazed at the range and diversity of the people who have been reading this blog, and so quickly.

It is crystal clear to me now that at least in industries where lots of people are online, blogging is the single best way to communicate and interact. 302

Clay Shirky, The web inverts the publishing structure. Say everything first, then filter. 318

Endnotes (links) are curated at

Thank you for reading the parts I wanted to save. Since you came this far, you might also like these posts:

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Change Of Command

A friend I started serving on a Board with 30 years ago, has been recruited (at 80!) and is relocating. I heard the story and said, “Somebody should throw him a party!”

Not being a party thrower, I asked our executive officer, an eager, hispanic Radar O’Reilly, “How much do I front you to get this done?”

The next day the XO called and said a lot of people from the organization wanted to attend, was that OK?

I had thought maybe a dozen of the old timers would be interested. In real time, I realized that this was more than recognition of a hard worker who stayed the course, more than a group hug.

This is a chance to show maybe a hundred people what good is. A change of command ceremony is a huge opportunity to teach culture.

Sometimes just getting underway opens new possibilities. 

Rainmakers – Five minute flashes of insight.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The Kepler Moment

Reading The Fractalist, Memoir of a Scientific Maverick, Benoit Mandelbrot’s autobiography, he was continually looking for the possibility of a Kepler Moment. If I had a science teacher who understood and communicated the concept, I probably would have ended up as more of a researcher.

Mandelbrot’s lifetime search for the Kepler Moment is the game of creative science.

When Copernicus developed the heliocentric model of the solar system, he posited that planet orbits were circular. As observational data improved, much of it didn’t fit circular orbits.

A century and a half later, Johannes Kepler realized that the oval shape of observed orbits were caused by two or more gravitational centers flattening a round orbit to more of an oval. That was the first Kepler Moment, assuring his scientific fame and opening new areas of research.

Another aspect of the Kepler Moment was how taking knowledge from one field of study (geometry) could overcome a block in another field of study (astronomy).

From an early age, Mandelbrot was looking for his Kepler Moments, storing knowledge from a variety of disciplines. His search to knowledge led him away from traditional fields of study and safe, tenured positions to seek the cutting edge of scientific inquiry.

Mandelbrot was never insulated from the world. His parents had to start over six times before he got to college, and his high school was spent dodging Vichy government in WWII France. With postdoctoral study at CalTech, Geneva, Paris, MIT, and the Institute for Advanced Study (Princeton), he got up close and personal with many of the leading scientists of post WWII, and saw their Kepler Moments.

He thought he was a slow starter taking years in the pursuit of knowledge to build his foundational base, but by the end of his career he had created over a dozen Kepler Moments, in a wide variety of fields, and invented the successor to calculus, the study of fractals.

Calculus is the measurement of infinite points in a line, fractals is the study of roughness of surfaces.

By the end of his career, he had bound together many fields of study, creating a string of Kepler Moments. That’s a career plan for a scientist.

Junior Academy – Home Of The Future

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Letters To A Young Scientist

Have you ever been called to give advice to someone just starting their career?

Heck, have you ever considered giving yourself a career checkup?

Letters To A Young Scientist by Pulitzer Prize winning author Edward O. Wilson is a delight. Twenty one “letters” (actually each is more focused than a letter, how about a great blog post?) shows how the author got into the science business, the coming importance of science and technology, how to work constructively, where career growth comes from, and mathematics.

Wilson is concerned that too many pre-scientists are scared off early by math bullies, who convince them they don’t know, can’t know enough math to be professional. He’s not against mathematics, just against using math as an early disqualifying tool.

As he sees it, most of research is data collection. After the data is collected and the hypothesis stated, there is some room for someone with a math toolbox” to assist. A researcher can call on just about any mathematician to get his math.

However, a mathematician without field data to work on is a theorist, scribbling on the white board.

Then magnanimously, Wilson identifies the scientific fields where theoretical math is most valuable.

I have read and watch enough misused math to know that No Matter How Hard You Do The Wrong Thing, It Never Quite Works.

How to pick a career? Start with your passion. That will make it easier to fill in your education. Ph.D.s without a passion have a hard road.

Don’t be afraid to jump to a new passion when it comes along, usually as part of investigating/developing your current passion. Hit hard every swing. Time’s awastin’

New work comes from what you discover in your current work, enlarging, creating context, joining knowledge, creating new opportunities.

This is a book that builds confidence to quit worrying and start doing.

I wish I belonged to a book club where we could give each letter its own session. This book is that good.

Read Letters To A Young Scientist and then give it to someone you love.

Junior AcademySource of the Future!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

2013 Junior Academy Innovation Leadership Awards

Every Science Fair is different. 

Long term change is difficult, requiring focus, sustained effort, and hopefully building on previous years’ achievements.

The annual Paint Branch High School Science Expo changed half a decade ago. Their problem was, nobody cared. The major reason for their annual science fair was to check off the activity.

The faculty, administration, and student scientists took on a program to make the science fair valuable and memorable for more than the presenters.

They decided to emphasize performance as part of science.

They moved to evening, like an athletic event or school play to get more involvement and support from families and community.

They changed the rules to get more participation. “Everyone does science!”

They went beyond the same old experiments to new, experimenter designed projects. Some worked, some didn’t, just like real science.

And over the years, some that didn’t work in their first year became experiments that paid off, just like real science.

We have seen their annual event turned into a happy, noisy, crowded, excited performance, with original science, competitive events, custom designed and built equipment, matching team uniforms, on-site ice cream making, and this year, a new high school.

The Junior Academy provides Science Awards to the student scientists every year. This year we thought we should also make a special Innovation Leadership Award to the producers and directors of the 2013 Paint Branch High School Science Expo, Pam Leffler and Brian Eichenlaub.

These awards started as an insiders’ acknowledgment, to recognize two people who have held on to a vision since before anyone else could see it. What we saw this year was astounding. The purpose of this post is to show what good is.


Whereas for several years you have been developing a new model of entertaining science fair, and

Whereas, the numbers of enthusiastic student scientists has been rapidly rising every year, becoming triumphantly louder, and

Whereas you have extended the demonstrated practice of science to parents, siblings, team mates, and strangers, while mystifying judges, and

Whereas, said science projects span the breadth of scientific endeavour, from oobleck, to space exploration, to floating bowling balls, tie die, egg drops, rollie bugs, and ice cream,

Be it known that you are hereby awarded the 2013 Junior Academy Innovation Leaderships Awards.

Make Noise!

Monday, March 18, 2013

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Great Science Fairs

Dannielle commented, Curious what do you think makes for a great science fair? Top 5-10 elements.

Really good question. The Junior Academy of the Washington Academy of Sciences provides judges for many school science fairs every year. I started as a judge in the program and succeeded the founder several years ago. I am pro science fair. thank you fer askin!’

The science fair is a social ritual of learning, like sports competitions or the prom. Everybody should get to blow something up, that’s education.

Science fairs allow scientists to use the scientific method. Like many good formal processes (say, knowing how to set the table or how to sit out), practice makes improvement leading to mastery, and repeated practice allows people to use a process to improve their results.

Education has changed
Where once finding information was a rigorous, time consuming process, involving travel (from travail, meaning painful or laborious effort), libraries, and reference books, today finding information is easy. Using information for a specific purpose is the new goal of education. Since information is so available, good education should include making something with your information.

A course without a project is a survey course. Making might mean not all parts of a survey course are studied, but what is learned holds together in a larger, project context. Projects provide an energetic context for learning information as well as practicing social skills for achieving results in groups.

I mean, who really cares about Grendel? I spent more time looking at aspects of Beowulf that are never going to matter. A survey course tries to prepare you for any eventuality, and ends up teaching little of value. However, I needed to learn a lot about Grendel when completing a project on SuperVillains.

I asked Jack what he learned in basic training. He said, “They taught us how to march. Never marched after basic. Wished they had showed us how to shoot a water buffalo. That would have been useful.”

Father Guido Sarducci has a video about the value of survey education, discussing what we remember from survey courses five years after college graduation. He offers to sell you the value of a university survey education, five years later for five dollars. Integrated learning comes from projects.

School science projects are like batting practice. It takes several attempts before you start to get the hang of the process. A good coach can greatly improve your results. Parents and teachers can take your batting practice for you, but you’ll eventually have to start somewhere.

An hypothesis is NOT a conclusion
We start the scientific method with an hypothesis, what we think is going to happen. The hypothesis anchors what we are experimenting. However, the results are what is important, and it’s important not to confuse the two.

I was interviewing a young scientist who had an hypothesis that a certain gene would have an effect on lowering Body Mass Index (BMI). She constructed an elaborate experiment, separating the right type of gene, introduced it in the right type of rat, and SHAZAM the only things that lowered BMI were diet and exercise. She was disappointed her hypothesis didn’t match her results. I thought she had discovered something that is very important to me every morning at 6am.

One of my science teachers, Enrico Fermi said, Experimental confirmation of a prediction is merely a measurement. An experiment disproving a prediction is a discovery.

Let the results fit the data
A great coach teaches that science is deductive, that conclusions comes from analyzing data, not inductive, starting with a conclusion and then gathering data to support that conclusion.

St. Bumpersticker wrote, Social Science is Neither. However, I think he was commenting on the amount of inductive reasoning done in social science research. That means that someone trying to repeat the experiment is unable to get similar results. I researched this in The Science of Liberty, by Timothy Ferris, while doing research for a project on improving science fairs several years ago.

The social sciences are about us! This is the good stuff! Reading a dedicated deductive social scientist like Charles Murray may show provocative results, you know where he got his data and you can repeat his experiments. He almost got lynched once for insinuating that half of all children are below average.

So what is a good science fair? It’s setting a date for having as many people as possible try to prove something and then honestly report what happened. It’s using your limited learning focus to create something, and we aren’t attached what you create.

If I had my way, young scientists wouldn’t have a science fair every year, they would have them every month or every week! Of course if they spent that much time blowing things up, they would all end up as fluent practicing scientists.

But then again, what would be the problem?

Tips 4 The Big Chair – Perspective 2.0

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Practical Science

It’s Science Fair season and judges from the Junior Academy of the Washington Academy of Sciences were evaluating projects at Washington Mathematics Science and Technology Public Charter High School.

What has changed in 2013?
The baseline projects are getting better. There are books and websites for improving science projects and the students are using them. That created a similarity of how the projects looked and headings for communicating the research, but understanding what had to be captured for presenting the experiments, has led to better architecture and execution of the experiments.

Having a more detailed idea of expected outcomes leads to better experiments.

These students are comfortable using the internet. They were using and showing resources from multiple sources, more than I could ever get from a library, which was increasing the precision and understanding of their scientific terminology.

The students know more. My judging partner (President of IEEE USA) and I were treated to an explanation of how one of the students had typed a sample of DNA. I turned to him and said, “We used to do that in High School, didn’t we?” The future is right here in our high schools.

Now that the baseline has been raised because students are mastering so many basic science skills, what else is needed for great experiments?

For me, they are the ones that solve problems that are important to individual students. One scientist was explaining a baby food safety experiment she had imagined, executed, and reported. During her presentation, she offhandedly said, “Babies like cool food.”

I asked her how she knew that. She grinned and said, “I feed my niece and she likes cool better than warm.”

Now that unlimited information is unlocked by the internet, great science is practical science.

Read more at The Junior Academy.

Monday, February 11, 2013

A Label Is Not A Solution

I hate when a CEO asks for an opinion of one of her people.

First of all nobody asks for my opinion of a happy situation. When it’s happy, they want to TELL me.

Not that we will disagree. How people are perceived is pretty straight forward.

However, if we come up with a different description of the same behavior, the chances are no action will be taken, so the situation persists. Paralysis by Analysis.

It’s better for me to get them to define their opinion of their situation. Then my value can come in recommending action to define a fix for our newly agreed situation.

Even if the fix is not the final fix, taking action notifies all concerned a change is gonna come, which they then generally create.

I love it when a plan comes together.

Check out Sales Lab Video. Enlightenment with grins.

Monday, January 28, 2013

A Tale of Two Makers

Ed is the flat out best manager I know. He’s low key and fast fixing.

Last week he called for a lunch where he told me he has to start something new. What was I recommending?

I went over the half dozen businesses he’s been successful in, and he had compelling reasons why each wasn’t working today.

He said, “I need a new model.”

That shook me. Ed and I have created over $10 million of happy customers, and I’m just an outlier for his life. I enjoy going to his projects just to watch him work. I learn something every time.

One time we flew to his ranch out west. We got in after midnight and his neighbor’s barn was lighting up the sky. We ran over and I got a crash course in how to rescue and calm race horses. He set me up with a string, turned around and ran back into the barn for more.

After the fire department put out the fire, Ed took the lead in getting the horses assigned new space. Then we went home and had a drink, business as usual.

Three years ago, Cory Doctorow wrote Makers, a fictional account that included new business model case studies for a half dozen industries. I called it a “near future business fantasy” and it seemed out of phase with my reality. That was because Cory was understanding better than I was.

October 2012, Chris Anderson released his book Makers – The New Industrial Revolution. Where Cory’s Makers was fiction, Chris’ Makers is a report from the field.

For the last ten years Chris Anderson was editor in chief of WIRED magazine. Think about the disappearing publications industry over the last ten years. Then look at WIRED’s growth during the same period. That alone would be a good reason to pay attention.

But there is more. Cory’s Makers had to be a near future business fantasy, a prediction, because the model hadn’t proved yet. Chris took what Cory predicted and proved it again, and again, and again.

If you need a new model, check either, check both Makers. Then take what you need. R&D also means research and duplicate

Join us this Wednesday for Talk Your Business - How to make more and better sales right away!Wednesday Jan 30, 11:45 - 1:00 at the Arlington Chamber Small Business Roundtable.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Like An Open Source Community

Neal was telling me about his most prized Christmas present. His kids had given him a book of the best scientific essays of the past year. Short, a couple of pages per thought, he was enthralled.

He was relishing the wonder of several pounds of other species that live on and in our bodies, how, in pursuing their destinies, they provide services that enable each of us to function.

Before he had read the essay, he had never thought about it, now he was noticing benefits all the time.

Sounds like an open source community to me.


New! Check out Sales Lab Video!