May 29, 2005
Is it a year already?
So already NotCon05, or as it's officially known,
Open Tech 2005
is upon us.
So how am I going to beat last year's "Shit I'm A Manager"? Will "Time Management for the Slightly Crap" cut it? (Do I have to pass it off as 'Open Time Management for the Slightly Crap'?)
Or do I make up something completely new?
The odd thing is that this year seems to be much more focussed on hardcore tech, and that makes me more of an observer than participant. It's not that I don't have some hardcore tech knowledge - the last 18 months of mobile game development experience can't have been for nothing - but quite a lot of my new knowledge is Stuff I Can't Share Yet.
June 10, 2004
Full talk now available online
The annotated version of the "Shit, I'm A Manager" Powerpoint is now available online.
For those without Powerpoint viewer, I'm also going to put it up here as a huge set of blog posts so you can link to particular slides or add comments and discussions on the individual items. Just need to play with CSS a bit first to get it to look nice...
June 09, 2004
So what *don't* I have to leave behind?
After my NotCon talk, one of the questions that was asked was
"So you seem to be saying that everything I currently know I have to ignore. Is there anything I take with me?
I'm not entirely happy with how I answered the question, and it's been bugging me slightly since. My answer was basically
- Problem solving and that's about it
- I only got round to learning CSS about six months ago
- You don't have time to read those big fat books, so get a member of your staf to train themselves and write you a 'what you, my boss, need to know about this technology in order not to screw things up' document that's a few pages long*
- Sorry if that's not what you want to hear
(*Remembering to read it, so you don't violate the golden rule: Never Piss Away Your Staff's Work)
What I should also have reinforced is that you bring with you a huge bunch of mental models of problems and scenarios, and also a million mistakes you've made where you've applied them wrong. So you take the broad generalisations of many different techniques, and how to focus on the differences between them.
Again, this comes down to perspective, the key skill of managers - spotting the assumptions your staff have made and, rather than relishing their failings, leading them into better solutions.
There's also the fact that, while you are often deal with bigger chunks of things, your background knowledge means that you can explain your assumptions clearly to the people below you, and drill down to find out whether things will work. If your staff can't explain the how and why to you in terms you can still understand, then the solution is probably a bit suspect and they can be encouraged to fix it, rather than poper over the cracks and hope you won't notice.
Also, there is plenty of new knowledge to be gained from books about managing technology and technology people. You still get to soak up those overviews and build the macro-bricks of knowledge, rather than focussing on the individual pieces of lego. I remember the joy of reading a book on interactive TV and realising that I could skip the rest of the chapter on the fine detail of how MPEG encoding worked because it very definitely *was* someone else's problem.
All this doesn't mean that you *must* give up technical knowledge, just that you shouldn't use it as a distraction from your day job. Wait till a personal project comes along that you need them for, and enjoy the fun of learning without the pressure that the business needs you to deliver a solution.
Now, where's that PHP book again?
June 06, 2004
It may be just because I can finally relax...
But I think Richard Holmes talk on Island Blogging was one of the finest pieces today. It was like listening to the wistful moments of a Looper or Belle and Sebastian album.
June 05, 2004
One of the ideas I'm kicking around at the moment is to put a copy of my presentation online for download just as tomorrow's talk starts. It would have the 'notes' section cleared out so that people can make their own notes on what I've said and keep the annotated PPT on their machines (or posted on their blogs) so that the 'formal version' and their annotation will stay in sync.
Aside: Bizarrely this would be kind of like a streaming-media chat application I'd envisaged a few years back (1999 - a *few*?), where user comments were stored on the server tagged with the timestamp of the relevant point in the media stream. So when someone else replayed the streaming media, the comments of others would appear in sync with when they had started typing. (We took the view that the time the thought was *had* was more relevant than the time the enter key was pressed after a message of arbitrary length had been entered.) Had forgotten about that - can't remember if the wierd combination of synchronised and asynchronous failed to capture the imagination in an ahead-of-its-time sort of way, or if people decided it was just a fundamentally stupid idea that nobody would use.
Anyway, there are two problems with this.
1) It involves writing a public-key style presentation, where it doesn't make sense if you peek ahead - which then ruins the point of allowing it to be downloaded to roam free.
2) It means that some people will be distracted by trying to get a feature of Powerpoint going they may have not used before, when they should be concentrating on listening rather than technology.
June 03, 2004
The extremely discerning Stuart Mudie is the first person to blog my talk "Shit, I'm A Manager" at this Sunday's NotCon.
This is timely, because it wasn't until 12:30am that it finally started to stand a chance of coming in under time. (It was about fifteen minutes over till then. For a fifteen minute talk.)
Piers, this is all your fault.
June 02, 2004
NotCon fallout: I could have planned this better
I am now fourth in google Searches for "shit manager"
May 30, 2004
NotCon - Progress
Last night I sat down and wrote out a list of interesting soundbites and points to add into the notcon talk.
So that's another hour added to a talk that was already running at 45 minutes, and needs to be cropped down to 15.
May 28, 2004
NotCon: The Game Is Up...
I'm speaking on the same stage as Brewster Kahle, Cory Doctorow and Bill Thompson.
Suddenly the 6th June feels very very close.
May 13, 2004
NotCon (temporary, nay interim) Smugness
I have just submitted some proposals for talks at NotCon.
Hurry up and get yours in too! Euan, PaulH, Yoz, MattL, XPT, Marv, Skip, JamieC, PaulC - come on. You have 36 hours left!
April 22, 2004
So here are the thoughts so far for presentations I could do at NotCon. Piers kindly tried to shift my powerpoint block, but I seem to currently have rebelled against most of what he suggested. And the one tempting idea he suggest I know I'm unlikely to be allowed to do by my current employers.
- Time Management for the slightly crap
Taking Danny's talk about "Tech Secrets of Overprolific Geeks" and turning it into things for those who aren't necessarily geeky, nor necessarily overprolific. And anyway, nearly all time management books are written by people who were organised already. And none of them have our wierd semi-ADD mindset.
- So what *are* they thinking?
The inner thoughts of the people who commission ideas - an overview of what they're looking for, so you can make sure your ideas fit the bill. Or not bother with that idea.
- Fifty Things in five minutes
A blisteringly fast list of tiny snippets of wisdom I've picked up over the years. For example: design multilingual sites in german as they have the longest words.
- Shit I'm a manager
A techie? No real social skills? Suddenly got staff? Some essentials for coping when the Red Dwarf T-shirt hits the bin.
- Jesus when will you learn?
Mistakes not to make again in interactive narrative, gaming or social software design. (But I'll lose all credibility when people find out I've only played about 5 games in the last few years).
- Now New Media is Old
A sort of inverse Carolyn Maryvn - I'll have been online for ten years by the time of the presentations. I could do 30s on each one of those years. It would even have sex in it.
There's still something to be got out of my old crusade around 'New Media for the stupid' - but I'm not sure if that's going to be mistaken for a usability talk and leave people disappointed. And I'm also not sure I'm ready or this would be the appropriate forum.
And yes, one day I'd like to work for the BBC again, and I know that if I started on 'a critique of the beeb's internal new media structure' I wouldn't be able to stop. To whit, I've already had to rewrite what was in the quotes because it had too much swearing in.
The sad thing is, I'm probably up to doing a full half-hour on any of these. Or one that fits a whole load of them together. And it would probalby be relatively witty, interesting and inspiring. I just don't know if I can be arsed.
April 13, 2004
A Lack of Perspective
I have this niggling feeling that I really ought to stop being a critic for a bit and get off my arse to put together a presentation on *something* for NotCon in June.
But I really haven't got much of an idea what at the moment.
There are god know how many pissed pub conversations floating around in my head, but could I pull together an entire presentation on one of them? Could I even be compact enough to do a five-minuter? Does anyone care what I think about interactive narrative? Management? New Media?
I have a month to make up my mind...