Friday, April 23, 2010

Data Explosion - Great Story

I got this story from Scott Cameron of Hitachi Consulting, although I've heard it before:

The story of the man who invented chess can help illustrate the problem of data explosion.

The man lived in India, and according to legend his name was Sessa. The king of India was very impressed with the game of chess and asked Sessa to name his reward. Sessa's request was so modest that it offended the king: He asked simply for one grain of rice for the first square of his chess board, two grains for the second square, four grains for the third, and so forth, doubling the number of grains of rice for each of the 64 squares of the board. Of course, by the time the king's magicians calculated the total amount of rice needed to pay the reward, they realized that it would require a warehouse 3 meters by 5 meters by twice the distance to the sun to pay the reward.

The king gave Sessa a sack, pointed him to the warehouse and told him to go count out his reward - no rush.

When numbers increase geometrically (like they do in a data warehouse), they get large very quickly.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Business Intelligence Quote

"You can spend millions building the data warehouse, but if you don't have the back office under control, you are wasting your money."
Mike Costa
Corporate Director of Quality Process & Architecture
The Dow Chemical Company

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Feedback Loops - Donella Meadows

"Examples of compelling feedback is not hard to find. Suppose taxpayers got to specify on their return forms what government services their tax payments must be spent on....Suppose any town or company that puts a water intake pipe in a river had to put it immediately downstream from its own wastewater outflow pipe. Suppose any public or private official who made the decision to invest in a nuclear power plant got the waste from that facility stored on his or her lawn...Suppose the politicians who declare war were required to spend that war in the front lines.

There is a systematic tendency on the part of human beings to avoid accountability for their own decisions. That's why there are so many missing feedback loops."

She goes on to relate a story about Amsterdam:

"Near Amsterdam, there is a suburb of single-family houses all built at the same time, all alike. For some unknown reasons it happened that some of the houses were built with the electric meter down in the basement. In other houses, the electric meter was installed in the front hall.

It was discovered that the houses with the electric meter in the hall used 1/3 less energy."

She explains that this is because the feedback loop was available for all to see.

This is the main purpose of business intelligence. To provide a feedback loop that provides accountability at all levels of an organization.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Donella H. Meadows Quote

"Purposes are deduced from behavior, not from rhetoric or stated goals."
Donella H. Meadows
Thinking in Systems

"An important function of almost every system is to ensure its own perpetuation."
Same as above

Donella is not speaking of software systems, but rather behavior systems. She's speaking about the war on drugs, welfare, health care, national security, the environment, or any other societal or natural system.

"Keeping sub-purposes and overall system purposes in harmony is an essential function of successful systems."
Same as above

"We misperceive risk, assuming that some things are much more dangerous than they really are and others much less. We live in an exaggerated present - we pay too much attention to recent experience and too little attention to the past, focusing on current events rather than long-term behavior"
Donella H. Meadows
Thinking in Systems

"Usually the greater the discrepancy between the goal and the actual situation, the more emphatic the action will be."
Same as above

"The most damaging example of the systems archetype called "drift to low performance" is the process by which modern industrial culture has eroded the goal of morality. The workings of the trap have been classic, and awful to behold."
Same as above

"We know what to do about drift to low performance. Don't weigh the bad news more heavily than the good. And keep standards absolute."
Same as above

Microsoft OneNote, an Answer to Prayer

Since my business is growing, I find that I'm forgetting more and more things. If it doesn't fit neatly in a todo or a calendar event, I have trouble keeping track of it.

I've been asking people all over what they did to keep track of non-actionable data. Most of them had no answers for me. Beau Merseraeu said that he's using OneNote. I'm well-acquainted with the other Office products, but OneNote always seemed like tablet software to me. I was wrong.

If you read a quote that you want to remember, throw it in OneNote. If you see statistics to help you with a sales presentation....OneNote. I'm using it more and more. It's like having an online journal, but it is organizable, which allows for fast data retrieval. I love it and wish I hadn't wasted so much time not using it.

Monday, April 5, 2010

DigiGirlz - Blowing Away the Girl/Programmer Myths

I spent last Friday volunteering with DigiGirlz. This awesome event, sponsored by Microsoft, exposes High School age girls to technology. In one day, they learn programming, database querying, robotics, and video game programming. In between classes, they meet IT professionals who explain what life is like when you choose a career in technology. All of the girls had a great time and learned a lot.

Here are some myths that DigiGirlz helps debunk:

Myth #1: Girls don't like programming, math, or science.

False. While teaching some of these classes, I never saw a student waver in her interest. I never caught one texting on her cell phone. I never saw one not complete an assignment. When the programming class was over, many of them were disappointed that it ended. Many asked how they could program at home on their own time. Most of them thirsted for more.

Myth #2: Girls aren't good at programming.

Totally false. During a one hour SmallBasic class, I saw many students immediately understand the language constructs. Some girls only needed about 10 minutes of direction and they were free styling. By the end of the class, the girls were shocking me with the images and vectors they were programmatically drawing. They fluently understood the math, and could quickly grasp the creation of geometric shapes. I've seen adult programmers who struggled with concepts that the girls immediately learned.

Myth #3: Girls who do like technology and programming are basically boys (or aren't very cute.)

Lynn Langitt (SoCalDevGal) and Linda Routson (Microsoft Account Manager Extraordinaire) did a great job finding female instructors for these courses. They were all beautiful women who were professional, intelligent, and feminine. One was a programmer for a fashion company. These examples taught the girls that you can be good at traditional male professions without surrendering what you like about being a girl.

I think any girl would enjoy this event. Find more information here: