Category Archives: Life

Why I work, not my work


Earlier this week, my wife and I finally got to see U2 in concert after purchasing tickets more than two years ago due to a mid-concert accident by Bono in 2010. I recall having a better time at the U2 concert in San Jose (Vertigo tour), but it was a good time nonetheless–could have been due, in part, to enjoying good seats… :-)

Oakland ( coliseum stadium, section 219, row 1, seats 11-12
U2360OAK is show number 94; the attendance number was approaching 63,000 at the time of this photo
U2 performing
U2 performing
U2 performing

This first video–all were taken with my Flip video recorder and uploaded directly to YouTube in HD–is Lenny Kravitz opening his act as the main opening band for U2 with “Come On Get It.”

The second video is Lenny Kravitz performing “Let Love Rule.”

The third video is U2 performing “Elevation.”

The third video is U2 performing “City of Blinding Lights.”

(Re)Balancing atoms and bits

Several years ago, I blogged about how I winnowed atom-based content at that time. When I consider my increasingly digital life now, I smile at how out-dated that post seems.

Maybe some day I’ll let go of my hardcopy altogether and go 100% digital.

Almost two years after my winnowing (paper-based) content post, I briefly waxed sentimental about personal content management. Judging by that post’s imagery, I’m not sure how much “evolution” had actually occurred. I do know that the binders of paper were eventually tosed outright, but even a quick glance at my current technical library at home tells me that I have far from reached any “evolved” state.

As a visual person, I tend to value what I can see and tangibly interact with. Books present a particular challenge to me. A good book, in hard cover format especially, is immediately available to give to someone else as a loan or a gift (e.g. from one generation to the next). The same book in electronic format is more subject to the winds of technology (e.g. will there be a reader for this format? what all is required to actually read the book in terms of supporting hardware and software? etc.). On the other hand, if I took the time to bookmark or otherwise annotate paper, this could distract subsequent reading by others–electronic metadata should be more distinctly layered and separable from original content.

Given the choice between hunter or gatherer in a shopping context, I’m definitely a hunter. Put me in the middle of a men’s department or clothing store and I’ll happily panoramically scan the selection, deciding in mere seconds whether there is something for me (to killpurchase), or not. (Thankfully, my wife is my primary wardrobe consultant; so, my hunter instincts are necessarily balanced and muted. :-) ) However, as much as I may be a hunter over clothes, I am a serious gatherer of books and music. Places like Barnes & Noble and Borders love guys like me.

So, you might think that my struggle over books (i.e. physical or digital) is a struggle I have with music, too. Perhaps, but I think that my music-as-content evolution is a bit more “advanced” and, therefore, may be informative.

Although I still buy physical CDs more than digital downloads, all of my music is immediately rendered in digital format and almost entirely consumed digitally thereafter. Going “essentially digital” has enabled me to take full advantage of classification software (e.g. MusicBrainz, freedb, etc.), playback software (e.g. Apple iTunes, Microsoft Zune, etc.), recommendation engines like Pandora, etc. and also various playback hardware (e.g. an Apple iDevice, laptop, PC, etc.). If I read the liner notes for an album, I do so once (typically after unwrapping the CD). From then on, interaction with music is based on bits rather than atoms (the occasional CD play through my high fidelity entertainment system notwithstanding).

Perhaps with the advent of The Undesigned Web, software like Instapaper, and hardware like iPad, etc., my interaction with reading material will tip to become predominantly digital. Certainly, as I use the Read Later feature of Instapaper, I find it to be a digital equivalent to my paper-based content winnowing approach from years ago. (Tapping into familiar workstreams is always an effective catalyst to change my behavior.)

…if I did go digital my office would be too Spartan.

Actually, I think another contributing factor to my attempt at balancing the gathering of atoms with gathering bits instead is the fact that there is limited physical space to house either. Today, it’s not really a concern over becoming Spartan, it’s about using limited wall and desktop space to display physical items of the greatest value (e.g. family photos, art, sculpture, etc.).

Just like I’m able to visualize the “height” (or “depth”) of, say, my iPod (i.e. the number of digitized albums stored in terms of a stack of CD cases), I’m beginning to visualize my iPad in a similar manner (i.e. in terms of the stack of print magazines and books available electronically instead). Virtually speaking, such devices “fill a room.”

Who knows, I may just have to invest in my own book scanner to help free up some shelf space… :-)

Allison ignited

The closing event for Day Ignite Chicago 2010 was a real treat: a private concert by the Bernard Allison Group at House of Blues Chicago.

Bernard Allison Group at House of Blues Chicago on 10/14/2010

The band, left to right:

  • Jose James (sax, backing vocals, percussion)
  • Bernard Allison (guitar, vocals, keyboards)
  • Erick Ballard (drums)
  • George Moye (bass guitar)
  • Toby Marshall (keyboards)

This first video–all were taken with my iPhone and uploaded directly to YouTube; so, the quality isn’t the best–is the group opening without Bernard, playing the first track off their latest album The Otherside: “Send It In” (2:42).

The second video above is “The Otherside”–track #5 off their latest album of the same name (6:01). At the beginning of the video, Bernard introduces the band.

The third video above is the group going Hendrix, playing the Jimi Hendrix classic, “Fire”–also the 11th track on The Otherside. Around the 5:57 mark, Bernard introduces Erick Ballard for a substantial drum solo that earned him the evening nickname of “The Energizer Bunny” :-) (12:34).

The fourth video above is a two-song medley that highlights various band members (8:39).

The fifth video above is a bass solo by George Moye (4:10).

I recorded another video that occurred in between the fourth and fifth videos above; however, it was 15:40 in duration and YouTube doesn’t accept videos longer than 15 minutes currently.

Adobe Community Action Week – RAFT

This week has been Adobe Community Action Week for Adobe employees globally. On Monday, I mentioned that I was looking forward to my particular action choice: RAFT. Today I had the privilege of serving local teachers with members of my team (LiveCycle) along with others from Adobe by investing time and energy into RAFT (Resource Area for Teachers).

Adobe at RAFT

RAFT provides thousands of Bay Area teachers and community groups with a wide range of interactive learning materials, enhancing math, science, technology and art programs. Materials are surplus items donated by over 1,000 local businesses and range from cardboard tubes to computers!

My Mom was a middle-school teacher for 16 years; so I know firsthand how great an impact teachers have on the lives of their students, yet how underappreciated teachers often are in broader society. So, it felt especially good to “give back” to such important individuals in the local community.

Adobe at RAFT

There were about 50 volunteers altogether and together, in just a few hours, we were able to make a significant contribution in the assembly of various kits that will be used by local teachers (e.g. glove-a-phone packs, sticker packs, etc.).

Adobe at RAFT

I was drawn, along with my project-teammates, to the adhesive paper station. Basically our task was to unroll, about 12 feet at a time, lengths of two foot wide adhesive backed white butcher paper, rolled up and rubber-banded for individual application by teachers. A full roll of this paper weighs about 350 pounds, and we proved this by finishing the better part of one roll and starting on a second, new roll before our time ran out. The photo above captures the state of the receiving bin for these individual rolls before we started with our contribution.

Adobe at RAFT

Adobe at RAFT

There were roughly four distinct tasks involved, although some of us on the team (ahem) were a bit more creative about “tasks.” :-) Unrolling was easily the most strenuous; cutting; re-rolling and rubber-banding; binning.

Adobe at RAFT

Adobe at RAFT

Adobe at RAFT

Adobe at RAFT

It may not seem like much, but when you compare the previous two images with the first bin capture, above, I’d say that we accomplished a fair bit of work. It’s fun to think about all the classroom projects that were enabled in the process, too!

Adobe at RAFT

Acts of service are always more rewarding to those who serve, and today’s experience at RAFT was no exception.

If you’re a teacher and can make your way to Sunnyvale, you should really check out RAFT. If you’re a parent of a student whose teacher can get to RAFT, consider giving a RAFT gift card. If you want to make an impact on Bay Area teachers, volunteer your time and energy at RAFT. You’ll be glad that you did!

Moving on

Tomorrow will be my last day with EMC after developing an 11-year career that began at Documentum.

I will always remember the Documentum of 1998. We were right in the middle of “Project Piper,” which released as Documentum 4i. My team was focused on delivering the first version of the Documentum Desktop (aka Desktop Client), the successor to Workspace. 4i saw the dawn of our commitment to Java in the middle tier, centered within the first version of DFC also released with 4i. Our first software acquisition (Relevance), also occurred around the same time. Some of my closest friends and colleagues since that time came from Relevance.

At roughly 650 employees when I joined back on 6/1/1998, Documentum had been public for awhile but hadn’t yet lost the startup ethos. It was the era of Jeff Miller at the helm. Perhaps our CEO’s most repeated statement was “we may not always be right, but at least we aren’t confused.” Jeff was a strong leader, who knew how to stay connected with employees and cared about people.

Every week featured the roach coach, which meant free breakfast, courtesy of Howard Shao. Eventually Howard became aware that certain engineers had decided to use the roach coach for their entire daily allowance of food; so, free breakfast became free espresso beverage and the need to rush to the food line to vy for that certain scone became moot.

There were food drives that literally involved flatbed trucks, palettes, and wiping out the local food stores of rices, flour, beans and other food stuffs that weighed a lot. You see, engineering was on a mission to keep Howard (one of our co-founders along with John Newton) at the top of the annual executive/department contests to provide the most food for area shelters. And trust me, we were all very motivated as some of the contests meant that those executives who didn’t “win” had to sing to everyone else at the Christmas party. You brought your significant other to these parties. You dressed up for these parties. You didn’t want Howard to sing at these parties. (Who let the dogs out?)

No long after 4i, it was clear that applications were moving to the web. Web Development Kit (WDK) was born to usher in the shift from client-server to web-based applications. Initially targeting application servers and browsers, WDK matured to become the basis for portal servers and integrations, as well as integrations into prevailing authoring environments. Application Connectors development during D5.x was all about changing the conversation with providers of content authoring environments.

Prior to D5.x, Documentum moved from its offices on Gibraltar into its current digs in Koll Center. While the new offices were much nicer, they never had the same feel as building 3. Never underestimate the value of good building layout, particularly how it can encourage or impact collaboration. There was an (unsuccessful) effort to erect a basketball court and/or a sand volleyball court. (We got a fountain and courtyard instead.)

Soon Documentum celebrated its 10th anniversary as a public company. Prior to that, Documentum stock saw a high (factoring in splits, etc.) of $120. I recall rebuking colleagues that sold at 40, 50 and 60. Clearly, they were the smart ones as the bubble burst and eventually the stock dipped below $12. However the company was growing both organically and by acquisition, and it largely led the charge to define and redefine what ECM meant. (Arguably there is still much activity and debate about how ECM should be defined to this day.)

It was the era of the rockstar. It was an era that I wish hadn’t occurred. Give me a rockstar company, not a company of rockstars, any day! (You can keep your Dirk de Wow campaign; thanks.)

Documentum had grown to 1150 employees and had grown accustomed to being the acquirer, most notably acquiring eRoom. Then EMC acquired Documentum.

Personally this meant working in violation to one of my career principles: always work at headquarters to have the best sense of business’s pulse and buzz.

However, I came to appreciate the broader EMC culture and its remarkable technology portfolio. Since Documentum’s acquisition, EMC has continued to develop a culture and a model of acquisition and integration that is the rightful envy of industry. Great people.

Perhaps the area most noticeable to me involves social media and collaboration both internal and external with the wider community. If it’s a secret how well EMC “gets” this stuff, it won’t be for much longer.

I had the benefit of a 5-year sabbatical from Documentum prior to EMC’s acquisition. During this great refreshment, I decided to delve into the emerging world of feeds, blogs, etc. Looking back on the beginning of this blog, I laugh aloud. I must have bored very few people. But I developed my voice and I began to migrate from tacit to tangible, establishing a concrete online reputation.

The vast majority of my experience online has been incredibly positive. Being able to interact with you my reader, to more personally support my partners and customers, to stay connected with colleagues, etc. has benefited me every bit it may have benefited you. I’m a far richer person for engaging.

Community is the thing I most cherish about how Documentum Foundation Services (DFS), Documentum RESTful Services, and Documentum Interoperability Services (aka platform CMIS support) have taken shape. Integration and composition have never been more relevant to today’s software solutions, and these technologies are well-positioned to deliver significant business value. You’ve partnered with the team through early access programs, and the software is better for it. Service-oriented development and support is in good hands as I depart, and I’m very optimistic about the team and these offerings.

So, why then am I leaving EMC?

Simply put, I’m due for a change. I never thought I’d be at one company for as long as I’ve been with EMC. EMC is, indeed, a good company with great people. However, a unique opportunity has found me, and I’m compelled to pursue it.

This post will probably be “it” for awhile from me, as I’ll be heads down, ramping up on my role and responsibilities. Once I’m settled in my new gig, though, you’ll know.

Thanks again for engaging with me, sharing your ideas, asking questions, providing constructive criticism, etc.

Until next time…