Monthly Archives: January 2006

Mind mapping

Recently I blogged about Mindjet MindManager and how this application has enabled me to realize the value of mind mapping. Well, until all of my colleagues become licensed users of this software, the folks at Mindjet Labs recently provided a useful bridge to the world of open source in the form of an integration for FreeMind. This integration allows a FreeMind user to import FreeMind maps into Mind Manager Pro 6. So now my colleagues can immediately install this Java application–on Windows, Mac OS X, Linux, etc.–to start producing mind maps, which can be freely consumed in MindManager. Kudos, Mindjet Labs!

Update 1/30/2006: FreeMind can import to MindManager X5 maps, too. So, with the Mindjet Labs integration and a willingness to not rely on version 6.0-exclusive map artifacts, this is a round-trip solution!

Update 2/9/2013: Apparently MindManager is now called Mindjet for Individuals.

Upgrade to latest Reflector for .NET with caution

Lutz Roeder announced the release of version 4.2 this afternoon. (If you’re a .NET developer and aren’t familiar with this tool, you must be living under a rock!) The previous release, 4.1.95.0, has been out for some time; so, I decided to jump in and upgrade.

Unfortunately all of my Reflector plug-ins threw exceptions upon attempting to load in R4.2 (i.e. FileDisassember, Goodies, Graph, Graph.Drawing, Rules, TreeMap, Diff, Coverage.NCover, and CodeSearch). Fortunately I can wait patiently for the plug-in community to catch up, but if you cannot, you may want to hang tight with your current version awhile longer.

While you’re waiting, be sure to check out the rest of Lutz’s fine, free tools.

Update 1/27/2006: The following R4.2-compatible add-ins are available: ClassView + CodeModelView, FileDisassember, Graph + Rules + TreeMap + CodeMetrics + ComViewer + DesignViewer, Diff, and CodeSearch.

Get out of context

In his latest business management strategy book, Dealing with Darwin: How Great Companies Innovate at Every Phase of Their Evolution, Geoff Moore exhorts: “Extract resources from context to repurpose for core.” Of course, he goes on to explain what core and context are, their mutual relationship, and strategies for extract-repurpose work depending on your market type and differentiation strategy.

As an EMC | Documentum employee, I’ve been exposed to Geoff Moore’s writing and management style since I first joined Documentum almost eight years ago when it was still a separate private company and he served on its board. New hires were given hardback copies of Crossing the Chasm (eventually this became Inside the Tornado: Strategies for Developing, Leveraging, and Surviving Hypergrowth Markets (Collins Business Essentials)). So, I wasn’t surprised to see Documentum and EMC referenced in Dealing with Darwin. In fact, I learned something from his references (e.g. how the author sees our markets and our need to innovate). But back to the book itself…

Four words echo from its pages: core, context, innovation and inertia. Here are some of the highlights I took away from the author’s definitions and explanations in their regard:

  • Core is that which differentiates your company to create sustainable competitive advantage, and context is everything else you do–even things that you may think generate revenue, create value, etc. Core is innovation in the service of competitive advantage; it is innovation that creates differentiation. Core competencies may not be core! Risk aversion concerning core increases the probability that innovation will go to waste. The worse form of wasted innovation is when differentiation costs are spent only to yield neutralization benefits.
  • Context is tracking to norms and herd mentality/activity; it plays host to the forces of inertia. “Overfunding context breeds more context, accelerating the decline into inertia stasis.”
  • Innovation and inertia are so deeply intertwined that both must be engaged concurrently for any progress to occur.” Innovation yields differentiation, neutralization, productivity or waste. “To innovate forever…is not an aspiration; it is a design specification. It is not a strategy; it is a requirement.” Innovation should be pursued with purpose and should achieve economic advantage; it should not be sought after in a vacuum nor should it be wasteful.
  • Inertia is work whose results are neutral or bad. Inertia is protective, controlling and deadening; it is impedance on the core circuit. Inertia is the legacy of the last innovation. It’s not the enemy of innovation, but it does resist it at the point of change.

The author states that the first order of business is to declare your strategy for differentiation (i.e. total alignment end-to-end around a single defining value proposition) as this act will establish core and consequently define context for your business. He discusses the role of outsourcing to realize “radical productivity”–how one group’s context can become another group’s core. Lastly he recommends a series of steps to execute–first a core/context analysis, second a resource-allocation analysis, and so on.

In closing, here are a few additional quotes/paraphrases that resonated with me:

  • “There are penalties for failing to execute context properly but no reward for performing it brilliantly.”
  • “Markets spontaneously organize to defend themselves against proprietary platform plans by promoting wherever possible open platforms.”
  • “It is easy to be in the platform business as long as you give up all claims to an economic return.”
  • Monetize a position of ubiquity only after it has been achieved (i.e. not, for example, while it’s merely assumed)–when switching costs are in your favor.
  • “If you are innovating in a growth market, you must focus on one, and only one, innovation type.”

Postscripts:

Update 2/27/2006: [via] Death by Risk Aversion, Kathy Sierra on 1/30/2006 (yeah I’m behind in my feed reading)

Update 12/1/2008: For more of my book reviews and to see what else is in my book library (i.e. just the business-related or software-related non-fiction therein), please visit my Books page.

Content attractors

In my quest to become more digital I’ve become accustomed to set of tools that allow me to create, annotate, manipulate, access, … content more on my terms. What I mean of this software is that it works with me, with the way that I think. Sometimes it even causes me to realize the implications of my thought process (e.g. realization of relationships to other thought and expression).

Here is a short list of software that attracts me to content:

Having come from a hand-made blog, WordPress was a delight to discover. No more worrying about plumbing and infrastructure. WordPress had all the features on my to-implement list, it was a breeze to install and it featured a team of committers that was helpful and supportive to newbies and oldies alike. Now I can focus on producing content, which is the essential premise of most blogs–certainly mine. And when I have the time to personalize my blog, adding and/or creating themes and/or plugins is straightforward.

I can’t attend a meeting without OneNote, and I’ve converted a significant number of my colleagues at work do have the same perspective. When you read the passion behind this new edition to the Office 2003 family in the form of Chris Pratley‘s and Owen Braun‘s blogs and then use the product a strong sense of design fidelity comes across. To say that OneNote replaces Notepad is a gross understatement; it changes the way I take digital notes on Windows–and I don’t even own a Tablet PC! Read the tips; install the PowerToys; download and activate templates; record an hour of voice-quality WMA in 6~7 MB; roll-up TODO items and lists; etc. OneNote has a bright future ahead of itself, too (e.g. shared notebook enhancements, OneNote Mobile, OneNote to PDF conversion, etc.).

MindManager is the most recent application to make the above list thanks to my colleagues at work. MindManager allows me to more effectively capture brainstorming that doesn’t lend itself readily to lists–and this happens more than I would have otherwise known. While I may not have formally “mind mapped” pre-MM, post-MM the value of mind mapping has become clearer and more familiar–except that my hand-written scrawls on scratch paper can be captured and circulated far more effectively (e.g. convert to PDF, Office formats, etc.) Now I just need to take some time to familiarize myself with the full functionality of this powerful tool. You can join me by tapping into the well-written newsletter and blog feeds here. (Yes, passion behind product matters!)

Omea has already been blogged by me. It’s a daily participant and guide in my efforts to stay current on trends, technologies and practices that will impact my architecture. However, this is another tool that I’ve not yet fully exploited where aggregation and annotation of “resources” is concerned, and here I’d like to see further usability (discovery and accessibility) improvements made by the JetBrains team.

Back in July of 2004 when I first became aware of and began to leverage Lookout, life in Outlook became significantly better where message and content retrieval was concerned–important for pack rats like me. Yes, MSN Search Toolbar is where Microsoft is investing now, not Lookout, but Lookout addresses at least 80% of my needs where Outlook-based search is concerned.

Just as Advanced Find in Outlook is inadequate to my needs, straight search in Windows Explorer is similarly insufficient. Enter Copernic Desktop Search. The CDS UI, its taskbar augment and its ability to be extended to index additional file types are welcome improvements (e.g. Mindjet Labs’ CDS integration for MindManager). A complaint I have with CDS, though, is its habit of holding a write lock on my PST file. IMHO, an indexer should be as passive as possible–and still perform, of course.

Who doesn’t use Google? I mean, who doesn’t Google? When your product becomes a verb, you must be doing something right. In a sense Google is to me like Lookout is to me: it just works and does so consistently. Yes, there are other search engines with auxilliary services out there, but I find no compelling reason to switch. So, why don’t I use Google Desktop Search instead of CDS or even CDS and Lookout? To be honest, there may be some habitual inertia in play. There are conflicting views, for example, about GDS and security (e.g. fine vs. concerned), and this has given me pause. The recent addition of the GDS Sidebar and the large number of useful plugins is nonetheless compelling, and several of my friends and colleagues benefit from GDS. What do you think? Worth the switch?

What tools attract you to content? How do they make content management a delight?

What tools do you tolerate or avoid where content management is concerned? Why are they so frustrating or limiting?

Blogging review and intention

2005

About a year ago, I acquired the “craigrandall.net” domain and set out to employ WordPress as my blogging foundation. Both moves have paid nice dividends. My domain has been easier for contacts to recall and WordPress has allowed me to focus on creating content rather than maintaining infrastructure.

Looking at the year’s content creation, I’m pleasantly surprised but also motivated to change my emphases a bit in 2006. I benefitted greatly over the past year by the writing of others, averaging over a solid read a month. I had more inspirational posts than posts about my site. Still I seem to spend an inordinate amount of time posting about my site.

Seventy-four posts in 2005 is an OK pace. There were only two months where I didn’t average a post per week. But I’m less interested in quantity and more interested in quality. Compared to 2004, I did post more about my thoughts in 2005 and less about aggregating the thoughts of others. However, in 2006, I intend to carry this trend further by writing more from the gut and perhaps somewhat less in quotes.

2006

“Resolution” is a bit strong; so, I’m going with “intention” instead… Having just reflected upon 2005, I intend to focus moving forward on the following subjects (in no particular order):

  • Areas of personal expertise and/or passion
  • More reflections on the books I read
  • Services and SOA
  • WinFS – Microsoft’s next-generation integrated storage
  • Enterprise content management (ECM) – including email archiving, identity management, basic content services (BCS)
  • Open source projects of note

I’m sure that I’ll still take some space to share aspects of my life outside work and to describe how my site continues to evolve. However, I intend to tip the balance in favor of professional content. Perhaps in the process I will benefit from more interaction with my readership, but I know what is in my control and what I can only hope to influence. :-)

My intention stated here is motivated in part by my recent read of The Success of Open Source. That is, open source credits its membership based more on creation (evidence of skill) than it does on credential. It’s still always a good idea to have an up-to-date resume and to leverage tools like LinkedIn, but blogging is living and evolving evidence of being “fit for purpose.”

More on The Success of Open Source in a subsequent post…