Moodle UI hacking

I’ve been doing my own little bit of user interface hacking on Moodle for work, since the layout we had before (below) didn’t work well for our purposes; specifically, the issue we had was with the “Enrolment (remote) database fields” section, which is supposed to map values from a remote database tables into Moodle’s local database tables so that students can be automatically enrolled in courses.  Before, the screen looked like this:


My user interface tweaks below include a new mapping category done by our in-house web developer Lucian DiPeso so that the full name of the course could also be used locally.  The new section, relabelled “Data Mapping”, has eight text fields instead of the original six for precisely this reason.


The only issue with this layout change is that the help text on the right-hand side of the new table isn’t in line with the rest of the help text on the screen, which I expect to correct soon.

There is one other change that we will be implementing on this screen, but that won’t generate as substantial a user interface change as our need to re-envision the data mapping portion did.

We do intend to commit these changes back to the Moodle core, but we’ll see whether they are accepted or not (this won’t be done until we’re absolutely sure the code changes required across several Moodle files are completed).

Reflections on Writing

As a writing tutor, I tried to be as honest and straightforward about my assessments of student writing as I could while supporting the art and act of writing and helping writers to see where they had room to improve.  This made me a very polar writing tutor: people either loved sessions with me or they hated it and never returned.  If I got lucky, students who hated it realized that they needed the level of candid feedback that I provided and returned for more sessions with different pieces of work.  If I got extremely lucky, the writers that I absolutely reveled in working with returned time and time again.  That is not to say that I did not enjoy each and every single session I had (there were bad ones, but 90% of them were enjoyable).  But the quality of the writing and the talent of the writer allowed me to engage on a much deeper philosophical level with several students over time, getting past mechanics into more complicated issues like flow, thesis development, voice, and assertiveness.

I have not offered to read many of my classmate’s papers in the MSIM program, partly because it was no longer my job, but partly because my group work and the quality of the writing that resulted from that work discouraged me.  It is not that I am dealing with more English as a World Language speakers (some of whom have a better grasp of the mechanics of English composition than I do!), but that I am left unimpressed by the devotion to the art.  I recognize in many of my classmates the same tendencies that I wrestled with as a writing tutor: an aversion to the skill of written communication in general, a lack of interest in complete development of ideas, and no realization of the power that the written word holds.  Again, I do not imply that these are bad writers — there is no such thing – underdeveloped, perhaps, where skill can be improved, but never bad — only that they seem detached.

The problem is this: the MSIM program is a professional program, and a core competency for professionals is to be able to write.  By this, I do not mean the ability to string words together to make a coherent sentence – it is a much higher level than that.  It is the ability to use words to convince, to argue, to assert, to discuss, and to realize.  I do not demand that they enjoy the act, that they pine for the days when they can pick up the pen or sit down at the keyboard and write.  I do not even demand that they do so frequently (the program does, but I don’t).  Instead, I demand that they respect the process and that they devote themselves to nothing less than the best they can achieve.  Half-hearted is not sufficient.  I prefer no complaints, but I will tolerate those within reason, for not everyone is as interested in writing as I am.  If I am to hear whining the entire quarter about how we have to write a paper, I am unlikely to be interested in working with that individual again, for such reactions are uninspiring and indicative of more than they might think.

This is not a complaint post – far from it.  I am not bemoaning my peers, nor am I taking any stance in particular as to the technical quality of their work.  I have merely realized that my skills in writing have influenced my perception of my peers.  I have also realized that perhaps I have failed at something small but nonetheless significant: it was not simply my job to promote the art and act of writing as a writing tutor, but to carry this effort on.  I owe this in part to Kevin Desouza, associate professor at the Information School, who tirelessly offers on a weekly basis to both his Change Management and Finance classes to read any writing sent his way so long as it is mechanically correct.  His devotion to his students and to supporting them is above and beyond some of the other classes I have taken here.  This is neither good nor bad from a program perspective, but from the perspective of a tutor who has, perhaps, let the art slip, is inspiring nonetheless.

Book Review: Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything

Book Cover for Wikinomics

This review is cross-posted from Kevin Desouza’s blog "Ideas 4 Change: Thoughts from an Info Mgmt Class".

Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything. Don Tapscott and Anthony D. Williams. New York: Portfolio, 2008. 315pp. $27.95 (ISBN 978-1-59184-193-7)

The essential premise of this work is that the business world as we know it has been changed irrevocably by bottom-up models of collaboration inspired and driven by the Internet. The authors, Don Tapscott and Anthony D. Williams, argue that businesses have two choices: yield to the power of distributed collaboration or die.

Wikinomics strives to set forth a new economic model that takes advantage of a collision of forces: the advent of cheap technologies that enable cheap, easy collaboration and a new generation of workers that have grown up in an increasingly digital world. It argues that collaboration itself has been redefined, that "[t]he new promise of collaboration is that with peer production we will harness human skill, ingenuity, and intelligence more efficiently and effectively than anything we have witnessed previously" (18). The pillars of wikinomics – openness, peering, sharing, and acting globally – replace a tired business method foundationally supported by the idea of the hierarchy and holding knowledge and creative power within companies, jealously guarding these resources as sacrosanct. Rather than companies dictating what they will and will not accept as goods and services to customers or suppliers, companies must now innovate and work alongside them. Organizations not working with the customer merely leads to customers circumventing organizations and designing their own products and services; the organization then misses out on an opportunity to vastly improve products and services and to innovate (149).

The core chapters of the book set forth seven competitive and growth models for corporate use, with an introductory overview, a discussion of what factors created the fundamental changes discussed within the book, one chapter devoted to addressing the arguments against the wikinomics model, and one chapter devoted to discussing how these models can be implemented in what the authors consider the organizations of old. The authors set forth the following seven models:

  • Peer producers, where individuals independently form groups to produce something (67);
  • Ideagoras, global marketplaces of ideas and innovations (98);
  • Prosumers, consumers that both consume and produce goods and services (126);
  • The New Alexandrians, embracers of the openness of today’s economies who construct new collaborative environments (156-7);
  • Open platforms, where companies open their wares for others to build upon (184);
  • The global plant floor, where companies no longer keep all their knowledge and talent in-house and instead farm out responsibility and risk to suppliers, who, in turn, become partners in invention (218);
  • And, finally, the wiki workplace, where openness, collaboration, sharing, and acting globally are creating a new workplace (240).

Elements of each of these models – which all bring outside resources into the center of organizational culture – can foster successful assimilation into the new open economy.

One of the major unacknowledged themes in Wikinomics is the idea that the modern worker suffers from an abundance of information overload, which is, in part, due to the way organizations operate. This is a particularly interesting thread from an information management perspective. In the Wiki Workplace chapter, the authors write that

. . . the vast majority of employees don’t do business processes anymore, at least not in the traditional sense. After years of optimizing supply chains, outsourcing, automation, and stripping costs and inefficiencies out of the back office, most employees spend very little of their day working on regularized activities. "What they do," says [Ross Mayfield, CEO and founder of Socialtext], "is they manage exceptions to processes. Even in the most mundane workplaces like a call center, people are constantly wrestling with new problems" (255, emphasis added).

Workers no longer deal with the routine; they deal with the rule-breakers, and that negotiation often ends up in a slew of information that is never documented or captured for organizational use (and in fact, often gets lost in the shuffle of daily e-mail) (256).

Open platforms really discuss empowering people with access to information that the companies themselves have only loose ideas of how to handle. Tapscott and Williams frame this along the lines of the adage in the Linux community known as "Linus’s Law" after Linux coordinator Linus Torvalds (which, surprisingly, given that they hold Linux up as a model of innovation, is never quoted in the book itself): "given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow". To restate this in the context of the book, given enough eyes, all solutions are shallow. Companies lack access to resources to realize all the potential that their data or inventions have – even if they had these resources, they would be unable to process the information. Thus, they are forced to open their walls and create scenarios where "ordinary people can create effective new information services that are more resilient than bureaucratic channels" with these "open platforms for innovation inviting unprecedented participation in value creation" (188).

So with all of the new information thrust upon us and with the advent of such broad-ranging technologies that enable collaboration cheaply and easily across geographic, technological, and ideological boundaries, what are organizations to do? Tapscott and Williams contend that the only things organizations can do – and the only way they survive – is to adapt themselves rapidly to the new models of sharing and cooperation that this "perfect storm of technology, demographics, and global economics" creates (54). The Net Generation, with drastically different norms than seen in business in the past – "speed, freedom, openness, mobility, authenticity, and playfulness" (54) – combined with cheap collaboration technology combined with a global economy that "demands and enables new kinds of economic cooperation and opens up the world of knowledge workers to every company seeking uniquely qualified minds to solve their problem" have created new and unusual problems for organizations to address (55). This storm means that "the new Web is inherently dangerous for the business models that depend on controlling the means of creation and distribution", and organizations must adjust (273).

This is a paradigm shift. Paradigms are mental models that constrain our thinking and are often based on assumptions so strong we don’t notice them. New paradigms cause disruption and uncertainty, even calamity, and are nearly always received with coolness, hostility, or worse. Vested interests fight against the change, and leaders of the old are often the last to embrace the new. Consequently, a paradigm shift typically causes a crisis of leadership (285).

Change management here is an essential trait. However, according to Tapscott and Williams, change management has to start from where companies are today, creating a map between what the company currently does and how it will innovate and collaborate in new economic waters (291). Companies must decide the extent to which they will release their reigns on their internal knowledge and intellectual property; however, the timing of this is vitally important (292). Failure to stage this transition correctly – or to release too much intellectual property – will send a company down in flames (177-8).

Most importantly, this sort of change starts from within. "When confronted with such an all-encompassing revolution in business most companies wonder where they should begin. Our answer is to start at home, by fostering collaboration in the workplace" (313). In addition,

Ignoring the cultural memes and norms of the organization is a common way to have the principles and practices of wikinomics discredited at initiation. Champions of this kind of change need to be sensitive to these concerns and structure their engagement with the enterprise in a way that allows the benefits of collaboration to manifest themselves in pilot projects that can be scaled up and help build further momentum for cultural change (313).

Tapscott and Williams clearly believe in the transformative powers of the innovations of Web 2.0. They recognize that a new generation of people raised with computers and electronics is fundamentally altering the economic landscape now and for years to come. This book made me think long and hard about some of the ideas they had for engaging the workplace in creation and change. They are, at least, realists who recognize that this sweeping change cannot and will not be immediate; for this, I give them a hefty dose of credit. They also recognize that there is a range of options that organizations can take to become more nimble in an economy that implements the ideas of wikinomics. One major challenge to their thinking is that they seem to frame the issue as if this generation were the first to realize the potential for drastic, sweeping change. There have been many instances in the past century where the idea of the old economy being swept away have presented themselves, with no particular action taken as a result. Wikinomics is not the be-all, end-all solution that it occasionally is presented as.

As a last note, I found myself strongly contesting one major theme of the book as I read. In talking about the "N-Geners" (people born between 1977 and 1996 inclusive, a generation that I am definitely part of), Tapscott and Williams assert the following:

N-Geners are not content to be passive consumers, and increasingly satisfy their desire for choice, convenience, customization, and control by designing, producing, and distributing products themselves . . . The ability to remix media, hack products, or otherwise tamper with consumer culture is their birthright, and they won’t let outmoded intellectual property laws stand in their way (52).

I took exception to these statements as I read, and I found myself reviewing the assertion throughout the book: it is unfair to paint the Net Generation in an "us vs. them" light, where the "them" is established cultural norms. This is a consistent theme throughout the book. I do not consider us at war, which this paragraph implicitly suggests. Instead, we are attempting to understand our place in the world as a generation, and increasingly, the answers have been evident in utilizing the existing culture in new ways. As a generation, we spur change not because we are rebellious or because we believe it us our birthright; rather, we do so because we know no better. Indeed, we do so because this perfect storm that Tapscott and Williams have described exists, and we are merely left to go along for the ride. We are simultaneously the instigators and the lost sheep that Tapscott and Williams discuss when they declare "the old multinational that creates value in a closed hierarchical fashion is dead" (214). We are as muddled, in many ways, as the organizations and corporate leaders that Wikinomics was written for: those trying to figure out how to stay afloat in an increasingly boundary-less society.

InfoCamp Notes – Day 2

Welcome Session (9:30, Theater)

Recaps of things learned yesterday:

  • Theory about why multimedia pods aren’t used in libraries: not social!
  • Creative Commons licensing – as soon as you put something online, it defaults to personal copyright unless licensing model is changed explicitly by the author
  • Legalese: “for when something gets really messed up” (hmm, what’s the lawyer to say to that?) – Complexity of language as a shield
  • Axure: “interesting” – Aaron Louie, a lot of interactions that can’t be represented:
  • Tamara Adlin: demoing Denim:
  • Privacy: it’s all about trust – user experience space hinges on the idea of trust

Plenary: Tamara Adlin: The Dirty Little Secret of User Experience (Theater)

  • “Things that you probably already know but that are too easy to forget”
  • Build something which provides information!  Therefore empowers users!
  • Problem: a lot happens before this is even possible, and all these things are handled by different people
  • If we don’t think about things that happen before design and build, we’ve lost a huge opportunity
  • We are Fish!
  • Waterfall method of designing software
  • Agile is actually “Agilefall”, since nobody’s actually doing agile, they just say they are
  • Information professionals (IP) should be there first understanding things and how they work before anyone else does anything
  • IP bring in their tools, but not much really works.  Why?  We throw our data into a hostile environment – nothing grows no matter what the IP does and no matter how good methods are
  • Environment: “executive staff” – if you don’t understand these, DOOM!
  • Dirty secret of UCD in real business: those that make the decisions haven’t decided what they want you to do! (there’s more to this.)
  • Executive: “Why the hell are you building X?  You should be building Y!” – they didn’t know they didn’t want X until they saw it.
  • Our job: help them figure out what they’re trying to do, then write it down!
  • In order to sell a process, someone has to admit that the current process is broken
  • Big honkin’ reports are still what we end up creating.  But data solves everything!  It’s totally the panacea!
  • We give big presentations with lots of bullet points, putting people to sleep – it’s our fault that they fall asleep!
  • Data solves nothing on its own.  Business speaks “Busineese”, you have to translate stuff in order to show them what’s obvious according to data
  • You can’t create great UX if the corporation is confused
  • In the absence of the forces of good, decisions will be made by a hippo – the (hi)ghest (p)aid (p)erson’s (o)pinion
  • Methods: doctor, heal thyself; make yourself usable to the people who are asking you to produce things.  Analyze your users, then create usable projects
  • Ask for business goals (usually have #s), brand goals (usually related to other brands, perception management), and customer experience goals (things you want to hear after people use your widget) – GET THEM APPROVED OFFICIALLY AT LEAST ONE LEVEL HIGHER THAN THE PERSON YOU’RE WORKING WITH!
  • Help customers get these three things written down – that’s your role as UX
  • Be the dumbest person in the room and apologize a lot.  Congratulate other people for your own ideas.  Remember that everyone in the room walks on thin ice and help them.  When you’re totally stuck remember that everyone else will think whatever you do next is the most inspired thing ever.
  • Do at least one exercise that forces people to play with sticky notes.  Put paper on the wall and sticky notes – it makes people feel important! (Adlin: “Maybe it’s because we deal with electronics all day and then they’re like ‘Ope, Paaaypeeer!'”)
  • Audience question: who needs to be in the room playing with the stickies?
  • If you pick the wrong persona, as long as you’re in the right neighborhood, you’re probably going to create something that’s better than you would have created otherwise.
  • Office: “At some point, someone’s going to want to put a pivot table on a birthday card!”
  • People who need to be in the room: those who care and the biggest pain in the rear available
  • Create personas, then show executives something that looks like Excel.  Create a persona-weighted feature matrix: ask people to weight the personas, then weight the features based on those personas
  • Get from business, brand, and customer experience goals through to actual features and functionality
  • You MUST be able to trace decisions back to the business goals
  • Hippos never go away, but if they sing the same tune, great!
  • When doing activities, go in cold – it shows confidence

Session 5: Geoinformatics: Why You Need the Science, Why the Scientists Needs You (Room 104)

  • Geoinformatics: geographic information systems, using GIS to describe environment – maps!  Find a spot on the surface and get information related to that location.
  • What’s going on with water quality, air quality, the amount of vegetation?  There’s not many piece of information about the environment at a particular location.  USGS has put together before and after imaging of different things – coastline lost, for instance
  • Discussion: we’re information consumers of this information – are we using interfaces to get information about our environment?  What opportunities exist for information professionals in geoinformatics?
  • Frustrations: people provide great data, but no underlying machine-readable files
  • We have precision to see this information, but the interface is bad – “Beautiful map, but we can’t interact with it”
  • UrbanSim:
  • Nat’l Weather Service relies on USGS data to provide things like flood warnings
  • There’s overlap and wasted resources because agencies work on the same issues.
  • Resistance to opening data to a specific standard: “I’m a GIS analyst and I use a complex system and I know that system well, so why should I turn around and give out the data?”
  • Does information get quashed out of fear?  USGS has no regulatory oversight duties – it doesn’t matter whether a volcano’s going to explode tomorrow, they present what’s happening
  • This is about information about the earth – what’s going on, not just what’s on the map
  • The data is completely meaningless without some hint of what that data is about – ideally, the structure given to that data self-narrates and describes what that data is about without additional documentation
  • There’s so much here and so much information that’s useful, but we’re so far down the road that there’s so much data in so many standards that it’s all very hard to start working with now that we’re actually interested in manipulating that data
  • “I want this data to be interoperable” – how do we get that to happen?  Contact USGS, congressperson, representative, anyone you can come up with – Department of the Interior
  • It’s not necessarily the data per se that people want, it’s the tool that interprets the data
  • Useful sites/resources: EPA SuperFund, Storet, National Water Information (NWIS), King County Parcel Viewer

Session 6: Some Database Design and Designing a Database About Everything (Theater), Quentin Christensen

  • How do we come up with a way that we can work with a lot of different diverse database sources?
  • First step: requirement gathering – what’s the data model we want?  What information do we need to have stored?
  • Relation: a table.
  • Normalization: 1st form: only one value; 2nd form: all rows have unique identifier (primary/candidate key); 3rd form: dependencies
  • Physical modeling: how much data do we have, how many times are operations performed, what types of operations?  These all have different costs – performance optimization!
  • Prototyping: create database tables, create operations, etc.
  • SSPiN: Wiki-inspired database system with different aspects that allow for linking generic aspects
  • User-generated content is great for the bottom line – you manage the infrastructure, but the users do all the work on giving your site data to work with

Session 7: Brainstorm: Solving the online identify crisis (Nick Finck) (Theater)

  • There’s you, your circle of friends, then groups of those friends (and networks that extend beyond that second degree)
  • Social networks: not really networks, but tools
  • Supposedly, UX builds these tools to help ease people’s lives… except we’re at the center of the hub and have to maintain all these tools
  • How do we manage all this information that these systems have that are not necessarily being shared but being used?  We really want to share this data across systems, connecting discrete pieces of information across systems.  These services are afraid to share data!
  • We need negotiators: things that take data and then share it with other systems – but systems are very protective against this.  OpenID is a translator, not a negotiator.
  • Common users aren’t programmers – they can’t get into APIs.
  • What happens if users can control and define data about social connections?
  • “I could go out and tell the system, ‘these are all my friends’, and it would just go out and figure out where all my friends are…”
  • We don’t want this kind of a system to be created by a company – we want it to be community-based.  There is no entity that we really want to give sole control over this sort of an idea.  Make it open source.
  • User should be able to control what data is used where and how it’s used – determine whether data should be shared.  System may be able to self-negotiate such a thing.
  • There’s no shared vocabulary that allows the definition of who is friends and other types of contacts
  • Next generation of social networks: it’s not just what’s connected, but the value and strength of those connections
  • If I’m connected to Bob and trying to connect to someone, it’d be interesting to know what that person has done as a result of creating that link.
  • Problem: APIs suck right now for social networks.  They just aren’t useful.
  • Creating separate identities for different purposes – one for professional interactions, one for “the dirt”
  • Services exist that combine all your phone numbers into one with various ways of manipulating where phone calls go
  • For gateway: first identify what accounts are yours, then categorize the accounts – note that some stuff would have to be stored by the gateway service – “the less, the better”
  • Forget CRMs, we need IMs – identity managers.
  • Challenge is where the borders lie: what information do you want/need to be different across services?
  • Define mappings between services, as well as mapping directionality: “this group on LinkedIn maps to this group on Facebook, and this is what I want copied”
  • (perhaps we could call this protocol “identity management protocol” or IDMP…)
  • Build the system based on what exists
  • Biggest problem for this system: membership – how many users does such a system have?

5 Minute Madness (interesting ideas, what we’d like to do, etc.):

  • Delridge Cultural Center has a great Halloween party in its space!
  • Not many blogs linked to the wiki…
  • Sessions touched on a lot of different parts of how we create user-centered information and experiences – these conferences can be overwhelming with “why don’t I, why should I…”
  • Where is your niche?  Not everything everyone else is doing matches every business situation or personality – know your gift and let your particular gift shine
  • What we really need for student research is a central, free tool
  • Idea: Crowdsourcing weather forecasting – put a bunch of transmitters on cars, if windshield wipers are on, where are they?  Anonymous data.  Idea: Metro has transit broadcasters already for bus locations – piggyback?  Washington Ferries do this for marine weather…
  • Idea: GPS track peoples cats – apparently this is already done…
  • Northwest Tea Festival coming up!
  • Refresh Seattle in Fremont

A Tribute to NP-Complete

Inspired by an xkcd comic, NP-Complete, and also because I was buying some DVDs from Amazon anyway, I decided that I wanted to place an order from Amazon that was as close to $100 worth of merchandise as possible after tax and shipping.

The rules:

  • The order must be as close to $100.00 as possible, including tax and shipping charges (note: using free shipping options is not considered cheating).
  • Items in the cart at checkout must be things that the buyer wants and will use. You cannot?????? simply select something that will round out the price tag.
  • All items must be sold by, not their resellers (this is because resellers tack on extra shipping costs for certain items).

This took a bit of work, especially since I already had three DVD box sets in the cart that I was buying via one of Amazon’s TV DVD sales. Values as follows:

  • Stargate Atlantis – The Complete First Season; DVD; $24.99
  • Stargate Atlantis – The Complete Second Season; DVD; $25.00
  • Eureka – Season One; DVD; $25.00

компютри втора употребаI tried first throwing stuff in from my wish list, originally throwing in a paperback copy of Weinberger’s Everything is Miscellaneous. After that, I realized that I had been looking for either a spork or a set of stainless steel chopsticks for home/travel use. I was able to add in a set of stainless steel chopsticks fairly cheaply. With the chopsticks, the book, and the three DVD sets, I got to $98.29 after tax and shipping – roughly $1.70 short.

I spent a bit of time trying to figure out if I could fill that extra $1.70 by buying something small, useful, and cheap – apparently Amazon doesn’t believe in selling individual packets of Post-its or M&Ms or something trivial like that (at least not without going through a reseller, which would break the rules).

I finally managed to get it to $99.75 total with free Super Saver shipping after swapping Weinberger’s book out with another book on my wish list. The breakdown looks like this:

  • Stargate Atlantis – The Complete First Season; DVD; $24.99
  • Stargate Atlantis – The Complete Second Season; DVD; $25.00
  • Eureka – Season One; DVD; $25.00
  • Serves One: Simple Meals to Savor When You’re on Your Own; Toni Lydecker; Paperback; $11.53
  • Global Decor Stainless Steel Chopsticks, 4 Pairs; Kitchen; $4.99

    Subtotal: 91.51
    Free shipping and handling
    Estimated Tax: $8.24
    Total for this Order: $99.75

This is actually an interesting exercise because it exposes information about what Amazon does and does not sell, and also gives some hints as to the usability of the site overall. While I was doing this, I was instant messaging a friend of mine that’s currently serving in Iraq (and coming home in the next couple weeks, I might add) – I originally described this as an “intellectual exercise in consumerism”; he shot back that this is actually interesting social commentary.

This was after calling me a geek/nerd/dork/weirdo/etc.

Old Blog Post

I wrote this for a class project around SharePoint in Fall, and I’m deleting the site, but it’s almost too good to let go of:

I Have “Blog Block”

There’s all this effort going into trying to figure out what I’m supposed to blog about. Drat it, I have no topic ideas. None. Zip. Nada.

And that, ironically, brings me to my topic – writer’s block. Writer’s block is a significant problem for many writers, especially in academic environments where the stakes are high. I suggest several ways of getting out of writer’s block:

  • Don’t write (at least not for a while) – give your brain time to recharge.
  • Consider freewriting for a set period of time – say, 20 minutes. Even if all you do is write the phrase “I have no topic” endlessly, at least you’re writing. When freewriting, don’t stop writing for any reason (unless your life depends on it – your house burning down around your ears is a good reason to stop).
  • Create a community of writers. Perhaps you’re not the only one experiencing writer’s block. Talk to others who might be having the same problem.


I went down to Olympia yesterday to interview for an internship with the Washington State Department of Information Services. This position would essentially be working with DIS to help them roll out services from their development to production environments; most notably, this would involve work with SharePoint and allow me to have fairly decent exposure to a lot of different projects across state agencies. I wouldn’t be dealing with “end users” per se – at least not in the traditional sense of “non-technical everyday people”. The work would support system administrators and developers in their efforts to use the offerings put forth by DIS.

The interview went about as perfectly as I could hope – after getting signed into the building and getting a visitor badge, I was shown upstairs and talked with the group about my previous experience in SharePoint and answered a few questions about what I thought the internship might entail. As it turns out, one of the people I would be working with in that position was actually an MSIM student in the past, so there was also a smaller conversation about the program itself. The next step is figuring out who I would report to, since there’s some deliberation as to who would be most effective. After the interview, I was given a brief walkaround to meet a couple of other individuals in the office.

On this one, I’m optimistic.

There is, however, still my original discussion with the Washington State Department of Ecology, which has turned into something of a hassle. While Ecology’s project is fascinating – involving working directly with the state’s sustainability initiatives – there are a couple major problems that are causing red flags to pop up in my head left and right:

  1. Communication. I get very random e-mails from Ecology, and not just from a single person – from multiple people, and it’s often fairly clear that they’re not talking to each other internally at all. While I was very comfortably dealing with multiple people at DIS, I have always had a primary contact at each step of the way, which moved from their HR department to a high-level supervisor to a supervisor closer to the work that I would actually be doing. I know at this moment exactly who to talk to and who to work with within DIS to make an internship happen. With Ecology, I have no idea who’s in charge of coordination or who I’d be reporting to. On top of that, they can’t seem to figure out the difference between a capstone project and an internship.
  2. Vetting. Whereas DIS put me through a state application process, the usual requests for references, and an in-person interview, Ecology has done nothing of the sort (and in fact, unless I’ve been misreading the last couple e-mails, seem to be assuming that they’ve already brought me on as an intern!). As important as the vetting process is for an employer, it’s actually almost as important for an employee – it tells me that DIS is taking this seriously and putting me through a standard process for hiring. Ecology hasn’t even so much as requested a resume, to my current recollection.

In short, regardless of what happens with DIS, I’m likely to withdraw my interest in an internship with Ecology – it doesn’t matter how great the project is if the planning process itself isn’t executed well, and at this point, it doesn’t feel well-executed in the least. I’ve had a couple e-mail conversations with people within the MSIM program who have both recommended talking to Ecology either over the phone or in person, but with the DIS interview having gone well (and, quite frankly, sounding like it’ll offer many more opportunities to get involved in different areas), I’m not sure it’s worth the effort.


I’ll credit Zach Hale for first making me wonder why the hell Twitter was really even worth thinking about (though I can’t appear to locate my original comment on his blog to that effect). 

After much resistance, I’ve finally set up my Twitter account (you can find it on my Profiles menu on this site’s navigation bar).  Why?  This series of articles had a lot to do with it, but I also decided that I’d take a page from the book of one of my co-workers, Martin Criminale, and at least try throwing my hat in the ring.  And, of course, Zach had a bit to do with it.

Now if they only had an import option that allowed me to upload contacts without sending out invitations (the Gmail contact import doesn’t appear to be working for me at this point).  I’m also curious about whether it might be possible to integrate my blog posts and my Twitter posts in such a way that they all appear in a continuous stream on this page (without necessarily being an entry in my WordPress RSS feed).  It’s probably doable, just a question of figuring out how.  Tweets, as they call Twitter entries, would have to be indicated, but that’s not overly hard.  Perhaps a combination of SimplePie and my standard WordPress template code?

Résumé Updated

My résumé has been updated. I’m starting to wonder whether I need to trim the damned thing, since it does seem like there’s a lot on there, and some of it may stop being entirely relevant after a certain period of time. I’m still very proud of being Eastside Journal’s Most Inspirational Graduate of 2001, but how long does a high school graduation award actually matter? This is a bit of a trickier question, since I’m still in school. I’ve had people look at that document and think it way too long, while others think it proves that I have a vast array of experience (let’s ignore my personal reaction to that last opinion for the moment).