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helpstuff blog - April 2008

helpstuff blog

Helping end-users since 1981

Archives for: April 2008

04/23/08

Permalink 08:07:17 am, Categories: Just Stuff :-), 417 words   English (US)

Dr. Steven Squyres, Mars rovers, and team building

On 3 April 2008, I attended Dr. Squyres' keynote at the FOSE Conference in Washington, DC. I originally wanted to go because he was going to be talking about the Mars rovers...Dr. Squyres is the principle investigator for the project, which is still going strong more than 1500 days later (the original "warranty" was for 90 days).

And the presentation didn't disappoint on that aspect. Dr. Squyres described what was going on as he displayed lots of pictures...Mars, its topography, rovers at Cape Canaveral, map of planet alignment, launch and landing, team members. He also showed some videos...what he called "origami in reverse" as Rover unfolded, and another that showed the mobility system that the engineers created to allow the wheels to conform to the topography.

Then he talked about what made the mission work. The number one thing? "An incredibly strong team, absolutely committed to the cause." One thing that helped was having the "coolest project around," which drew a certain category of people.

He then talked about how everyone worked together. Leaders led by example with a light touch. Scientists were led by scientists, engineers by engineers. There weren't a lot of memos, orders, or directives. They created an environment where people could get their jobs done and protected them from day-to-day distractions, and trusted them to do their jobs.

What a concept ;-)

Dr. Squyres said that a crucial piece was knowing exactly what they were trying to do. A statement of mission success was posted for the $800USD million project...it contained seven points and was about a half-page long. (I've looked for it online, but haven't been able to find it.) I was amazed...a government agency that used seven points on one piece of paper as the guidelines for this huge project. Dr. Squyres said that every question that anyone had was analyzed against the statement of success.

Because the project was so big (and the team was so large...over 4000 people), there were lots of decisions. Their process was to bring all stakeholders (all...not just a few, not just the major ones, but all) into a single room and give every person a chance to have their say. Only one person owned the final decision. A consensus made the process easier, but if there was discension, the decision owner made the decision and that was it. No gripes. No should haves, could haves, would haves.

As I left, I kept thinking that Dr. Squyres should be giving sessions on building teams.

04/21/08

Permalink 08:30:48 pm, Categories: User Assistance, Just Stuff :-), 230 words   English (US)

Do you Twitter?

I've been seeing "twitters" for awhile now...news stories, Facebook updates, and so on. At last week's MVP Summit, I attended an Open Space session on social networking, and that night I got a Twitter account.

I keep thinking that it has possibilities for more than just social updates, but I haven't yet figured out how to use groups or channels or whatever it is that will let me filter the twitters so that they make sense. For example, I like taking a break every now and then and catching up on what folks have been doing...but I don't want hundreds of text messages sent to my phone with the same information.

I think that means I want the anti-social social networking connection ;-) .

I had originally thought that maybe a weekly "tip" of some kind would be kinda neat...I could maybe create a #helpstuff channel that folks could follow. Of course, there's also the character limit...with only 140 characters, "write tight" will take on a whole new meaning, especially if I have to give up 10 of them just for the channel name. (I can hear you all laughing now...I haven't been able to blog on a regular basis for the last couple of months, so how would I ever regularly post a weekly tip? You can stop now ;-).)

I just have to think on this some more.

04/18/08

Permalink 02:03:26 am, Categories: Just Stuff :-), 173 words   English (US)

Closing keynotes from the MVP Summit

Microsoft has posted the text from the closing keynotes of this year's MVP Summit.

  • Ray Ozzie spoke first. It's the first time I've heard him speak...he's more like Bill Gates than Steve B when it comes to presentation.
  • Steve Ballmer spoke second (or last, depending on how you look at it). Steve has an amazing amount of energy and has a lot of fun, and it shows. What the text can't show you is Steve putting on the Canadian jersey (the Canadian MVPs all wore bright red hockey jerseys, and gave one to him) and then the Simpsons' necktie. (He never put the cape on.) It also doesn't mention the number of hands that were raised when he asked how many people used Live Search (not many), Yahoo Search (one or two), and Google (everyone else). This, of course, led to his comment on the offer to Yahoo ;-)

Unlike previous summits, we received non-NDA information on some of the web-based things that Microsoft is working on. I'll have URLs for you soon :-)

04/15/08

Permalink 09:49:42 am, Categories: Just Stuff :-), 716 words   English (US)

"Travel day" takes on a whole new meaning...

I thought my travel day last Thursday would go well. (This may have been my first mistake ;-).) Yes, American Airlines had cancelled flights, but I was flying United...leaving LAX at 8:30 am to go to Denver, and from there to Minneapolis.

=> Read more!

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