Making Difficult Decisions

Making Difficult Decisions to Cancel Projects, Reschedule Events or Otherwise Impact Your and Others' Lives

It is often easier to let things just keep rolling along than to make changes. There are almost always drawbacks as well as benefits to making significant changes. It seems that most often the benefits have to significantly outweigh the drawbacks of making a change before people will make the decision to change.

Yesterday I met with someone to discuss an event we're helping organize. For several reasons the other person suggested it might be better to reschedule the event to a later date. My immediate reaction was to think of reasons that rescheduling was a bad idea. However, after discussing why rescheduling was suggested and the negative aspects of not sticking to our original target date, we agreed to recommend to the rest of the planning group that the event move from a spring date to a summer or fall date.

Difficult decisions usually involve several factors in which people involved in the decision have a personal and emotional involvement. Although passion is required to make all worthwhile things happen, people also need the ability to accurately determine when that passion may be preventing them from making smart decisions.

Why did I immediately object when it was suggested we reschedule the event?
- I'm really looking forward to participating in the event.
- I feel I didn't help manage the event planning well enough to allow us to hit our target date.
- Rescheduling may reflect badly on me since I was one of the initiators.
- At least one of the planners may not be able to participate if we reschedule.
- The event venue is arranged for, which is one of the more challenging aspects of planning the event.

There are good reasons for rescheduling the event
- An inadequate number of people on the planning team.
- A lack of primary sponsors for the event.
- A conflicting event being held only a couple days before our targeted date.

Truly difficult decisions are things such as deciding to not take heroic efforts to prolong your life or that of someone for whom you have responsibility, decding to change from your parents' religion to your spouse's religion, telling your conservative family members that you're gay, or giving up a $200,000/year salary to work with the poor and earn $10,000/year. But it's easy to forget what's important in life and think that everything one is working on should be considered high priority by those around us. Relationships are what matter, so build, feed and treasure yours.


Laptops, USB Flash Drives, and Security

Trusted Platform Module (TPM)

An article in InformationWeek on 15 Feb 2006 talks about new security measures for hard drives and USB flash drives. The article states that 1 in 10 laptops are stolen, and the new TPM encryption standard will improve the security of those stolen laptops.

Another mostly nice feature mentioned is that a "USB drive could be set to carry data between a person’s home and office machines, but not function when plugged into any other PC." This would decrease the chance of having your data stolen or copied if you lose your flash drive or external hard drive or have it stolen. The drawback is one might occasionally forget that a USB flash drive only works on specified machines, then try to run that flash drive on a non-authorized machine at a time when you desperately need to get the file from the flash drive.

Flash drives are convenient because they are so small. However, flash drives are also easy to lose because they are so small. The new TPM standard will provide great security for people who put business information on flash drives and only need it on a few specific computers.

Losing a laptop, flash drive, pda or some other portable computing device is almost certain to happen to you at some point. How do you make sure your data is secure and do you do regular backups of all your important data, including emails and bookmarks?


Communicating and Networking in the NewNorth

The Blizzard of '06.

I've seen blizzards, and this, sir, was no blizzard. Winter storm, ok, but blizzard, no.

However, the storm did cause cancellation of meetings for many of us in New North Wisconsin. Which leads me to wonder what online tools might have been or were used in spite of the storm to minimize the negative impact of those cancelled meetings. I'm actively working to find and develop skill with effective tele-collaboration tools for several groups.

In April I'm scheduled to participate in a virtual conference using Microsoft Live Meeting. I've not used Live Meeting before and am looking forward to using and learning more about that tool. If you've used Live Meeting before and care to pass on your suggestions about how to get the most out of it, please contact me.

For NEW NET, a weekly gathering of tech enthusiasts at Mister Churro in Appleton, we are scheduled to try out a couple means of having interested people participate in the NEW NET discussions from remote locations. Some of the tools discussed for the next meeting are web cams used with Yahoo's instant messenger or a VoIP (voice over internet protocol) program that will allow both video and audio connections. The VoIP program also allows people to view the computer screen of the person to whom they're talking. This allows you to easily use your computer screen as a white board for the other person.

Three events I'm involved with would benefit tremendously from effective tele-collaborating tools. Mind Camp planning team members are busy with numerous other projects. Conflicting schedules and geographical separation have resulted in slower-than-desired progress for Mind Camp planning. The event will still happen and be a fantastic experience, but the right communication and organizational tools would make things flow much more smoothly. The same can be said for the Innovation Breakfast Series and the NEW END 2006. Most volunteer-powered organizations and events that aren't driven by the need to make a profit would benefit from improved tele-collaboration tools.

In another year or two, some of the Web 2.0 tools and sites may be providing many of these communication and organizational tools. There are a number of online social collaboration tools available now, and more are being launched every week. Here's a site listing some of those tools: http://www.philb.com/iwantto.htm. In the upcoming weeks as we try out those tools, I'll share our experiences and recommendations. If you have any tools you've found to be effective at low or no cost, please share your advice.

As we learn to be more effective in a "Flat World", we extend our personal connections and experiences across every increasing distances of geography and culture. The Journey not only continues, it becomes more enjoyable and more interesting. Good preparation for the day humans venture out into space for frontiers unknown. Now there's an entrepreneur's dream of untapped markets and innovations waiting to be thought up...


Organizing Volunteer-based Events

Recent involvement in several volunteer-based events has resulted in a search for greater effectiveness in this area. Life is a journey, and along that road are many opportunities to get involved in or to initiate events that happen only because of the volunteers passionate about the events. Unfortunately for many of those volunteers, their passion, knowledge and skills are usually related to the event topic rather than to event organizing or volunteer coordination. As a result, what sometimes happens is those volunteers making events happen get unnecessarily burned out, frustrated and irritated because they are forced to spend so much time on organizational and managerial issues rather than on activities they are passionate about.

Because organizing and management aren't most volunteers' passions, one of the first action steps when planning and organizing a volunteer-based event should be to get one or two people on the planning team who are good at event management and coordinating and managing volunteers. Also important is that other people on the planning team should be working on activities about which they are enthused, areas in which they can be effective. They should not be talked into doing a job in which they are not interested and for which they are not prepared.

If deciding to organize or help organize an event put on by volunteers, one should develop a list of all the critical tasks for that event, then make a list of ideal organizing committee members and what tasks each member will coordinate. If the list of critical tasks is accurate, and you can recruit committee members who are passionate about their agreed-to responsibilities, the event will be a success.


Appleton Open Mind Source Camp taglines

Taglines and memes. Useful or ineffective marketing concept?

It's hard for an left brain engineer to know if taglines or memes add value to an organization or event. It would take a lot more marketing experience than and focused conversations with a wide spectrum of customers to gain an informed, and possibly even accurate, opinion regarding the value of taglines and memes. Also needed are a better grasp of what a meme is and what most customers think a meme is for this engineer to form a firm opinion about memes.

The first tagline for Appleton Open Mind Source Camp 1.0 came from Amy P --- Ideas. Energy. Fun! (It has not yet been discussed whether an exclamation point or a period belongs after Fun...) This tagline effectively conveys the main values of the Appleton Camp in a minimal number of words.

A second tagline for use at the end of all Appleton Camp correspondence was suggested today by Nancy P --- May you have an open source day! This second tagline, or possibly some variant of it, combines with the first tagline to bring a distinct flavor to the event.

Although my enthusiasm for Open Source is conceptual rather than based on extensive personal involvement, the concept seems apropos for the Appleton Camp. As mentioned in a previous post, many aspects of open source as presented in "Open Source 2.0: The Continuing Revolution" are conducive to innovation and to continuing improvement of the world around us.

If nothing else, Nancy's tagline may get northeast Wisconsin talking more about open source. What it is. What it means for innovators, entrepreneurs, knowledge workers and networkers in Wisconsin and in a global economy. How others have incorporated it into their organizations or passionate interests. How it might help them or someone they know.

As stated in "Open Source 2.0", "There is an important difference between open source commodities and those derived from raw materials (like wood or steel) that [are] harvested or mined...open source commodities are produced by creative and resourceful human minds. Not by geology, biology and botany. This means there is neither a limit to the number of open source products, nor a limit to the number of improvements." One needs to read the book to truly get the whole impact of that excerpt, but the possibilities contained in that concept are awesome, hopeful, and optimistic in the best sense of the word.

May you have an open source day!

(Update -- It was pointed out that since there will not be a majority or even plurality of the attendees from the open source sector, it likely does not make sense to incorporate Open Source into a tagline for the event. It is to be hoped that at least several of the participants will be doing sessions on open source, and future Appleton or other Wisconsin Camps might focus largely on open source. However, it might make sense to integrate a flavor of open source into the marketing materials for the Camp with the term 'Open Mind'. Possibly Appleton Open Mind Camp 1.0. Feedback is encouraged...)


Appleton Open Mind Source Camp 1.0

Ideas. Energy. Fun.

A group of enthusiastic networkers, entrepreneurs and innovators are organizing and planning a 24 hour camp in or near Appleton, Wisconsin, inspired by the BarCamps and Seattle Mind Camp 1.0. The concept, in my mind, is to gather a critical mass of the right people around the core concepts of Ideas, Energy and Fun. Put them together for a more or less continuous 24 hour period in a loosely structured setting, and see what seeds of the future grow in that rich environment. Each camp of this type will be subtley or drastically different, depending on the participants and the structure of the event. Participation in these 24 hour camps is not for everyone, but for those who plunge in, the sky's the limit. New ideas, new relationships, new collaborations, maybe even new companies.

The name of the first Appleton event is in a state of flux. Our initial name was Appleton Mind Camp, giving tribute to the Seattle Mind Camp. A Nancy White blog about SMC ignited the spark for the Appleton event. A member of the Appleton planning team is working through what the final name will be. If the event does not settle on Appleton Mind Camp, one of the alternate monikers suggested is Appleton Open Mind Source Camp. This nom de guerre reflects both the 'open mind' of its ideal participants and the 'open source' concept which is part of the camp's essence. (For excellent reading about Open Source, read the new O'Reilly book, "Open Source 2.0: The Continuing Revolution.")

The draft pitch for the event is as follows:

Appleton Mind Camp …A loosely-structured, informal gathering of 150 enthusiastic, open, smart, forward-thinking innovators, networkers and entrepreneurs from both inside and outside New North Wisconsin focused on Ideas, Energy and Fun. It is 24 hours of caffeine-enhanced conversations, brainstorming sessions and impromptu presentations about topics that are on our minds. Appleton Mindcamp ...what's on your mind?

Consider participating in a 24 hour camp or think about organizing one in your area. If you aren't aware of a 24 hour camp in which you can participate, do some searching online. Before starting your search, check out the following three webpages:


For more info about this event, send an email to me at bob [at] mydigitechnician {dot} com.